COLOURSØUND, the collaborative project of THE CULT’s Billy Duffy and Mike Peters from THE ALARM have just released their long-awaited second album Coloursøund II. In the latest edition of Vive Le Rock!, Guy Shankland hears from Duffy. In this special online-only interview, we get a track-by-track rundown of the new album from Peters…
“I just heard that as being an instant piece of Coloursound music. It’s a great starting point for a classic Billy Duffy riff played on the White Falcon. It’s iconic before you even hear the vocals come in. It’s a cliche, but when I first heard it, I felt like I was in paradise. Hearing my favourite guitarist of all time sharing one of his brand-new creations with me, and that was the driving force of the album. At this point in our lives, we’re free people; we can go where we wanna go. We love and respect both The Alarm and The Cult, but we can work outside of those confines and let this one be an anthem for our time together.”
“What I like about working with Billy is, as a great guitarist, he’s not precious about where the source of the material comes from. So he’ll sometimes ask, “What have you got Mikey?”, and I’ll play him a riff; I do feel nervous about showing him one of my riffs (laughing) because he’s so great on guitar, but he sometimes likes loading the weapon with some ammunition that comes from another source. He listens to a riff I’ve recorded on my phone, and then as soon as he starts playing it… it goes up to twenty on the dial. He really does know how to place that riff into a space that you then hear as massive rock music. I wanted the lyrics to be more about, Coloursound are back in town. It’s like lightning strikes twice. We’re here now, we’re in this moment, and we’re going to make the best of it…”
“Again, this song has got a stamp on the darker side of where we’ve come from—the alternative music of the eighties which spawned a generation of influences if you like. I’ve always loved Killing Joke, and I thought it would be great to have something a little bit darker on the record. It was actually Billy’s guitar riff, and when we were writing the album, I took Billy up to this place near Carnarvon, which I’d found on the beach, a little beach house. The waves were crashing in, and it felt like we were right in the bosom of Mother Nature and the revelation of the waves hitting the sea and hitting the window of the house we were writing in. The song just poured out in an instant. Billy hit the coolest chords, and there it was.”
“I think ‘Addiction’ has a lot of ties with the original sound of Coloursound. We were originally responding to the Britpop generation that spawned around us in 1999. Billy and I came from a generation that felt we’d been pushed aside a little bit. When both our bands arrived in America in the late eighties and a big part of the nineties, we were the alternative, but then the next minute, you’ve got a new wave of alternative with Nirvana and Pearl Jam. In Britain, it was Blur, Oasis and the Manic Street Preachers and we just felt swept aside, and we had some songs on that first (Coloursound) album that were our way of saying, hey, we’re still here, still alive and still contemporary. We may not be in the bands you know us from, but we’ve still got a lot to give out, and that still comes across in what we’re doing. We listen to modern music – Sam Fender, Catfish And The Bottlemen… We listen to what’s going on and even though we’re elder statesmen of rock music if you like, we still wanna be on the front line, in the trenches where it’s all really happening. Also, we both work in an industry which has major issues with a plethora of habits and addictions.”
“We originally intended to freshen up and properly record some of the original songs that we had from 1999. The original recordings we made were really just demos, good production demos. We were going to go into the studio with someone like Bob Rock and do a big album. Unfortunately for Coloursound, Ian Astbury and Eddie Macdonald from The Alarm came to see a gig, and it was like, wow, better get these guys back where we belong! The phone started ringing, and opportunities started arriving for The Alarm. ‘Why’ came in at the tail end because we originally went in to write three songs and re-record some cuts from the original era, but we got a roll. Songs just flew out, Billy said, I’ve got this chord sequence here, and we were pretty much packed and ready to go, but he played me, and it just reminded me of something Bowie might have done around Ziggy or Aladdin Sane time. It’s almost got a Steve Harley Cockney Rebel feel in a way, and I just heard the lyric ‘Why. Why are we here after all this time? Why didn’t we walk away then after all this time?’ I think there’s a bit of sub-conscious reflection in it, the fact we both had to walk away from Coloursound in 1999 and go back to our real lives. The relationship we had was just as powerful, the pull; we knew we had to walk away, but it still hurt. In 1999, Coloursound was set up to become something like our generation’s version of the Foo Fighters or something. There’s a real relationship between Billy and I when we write together, and now it’s a relationship out of wedlock, as we say, but it’s an affair that’s got a lot of dynamism in it and has a real place in the world. There’s also a little piece of what would have happened if we’d met in 1983… and put our resources into each other at that time. I know I have to walk away from this at some point again because Billy’s too good not to be in The Cult. The Cult are one of our generations greatest bands, and he belongs in The Cult. I just have to appreciate that I’m lucky enough to have him in my camp when I can and make the most of it! The only thing missing from the song is the answer because we all know it has to happen.”
“A Lot of Coloursound material happens because Billy challenges me with an amazing guitar riff, and I just said to Billy that I was going to throw some lyrics at him, and then you see what music you’ve got in your consciousness or memory banks that might apply. I think The Cult start around Billy’s riffs or Ian’s musical mood. I don’t think they start with the lyrics first when they’re writing. So this was a role reversal, and ‘Action’ is what came out of that. Billy is a fan of The Stooges, Ron Asheton, Johnny Thunders, New York punk, and it’s got that kind of swagger to it that you get from being a fan who was there at the beginning. We were both (separately) at the Iggy Pop gig at Manchester Apollo when Bowie was on keyboards. It influenced us massively; Iggy with his top off, with leather trousers on and Bowie on keyboards it was an incredible gig, and Blondie was the support band…That instigation into music in us both we both love Slade and Glam, but we also love that New York Punk scene.”
‘The Other Side.’
“Again, that’s another Billy riff; it’s a little bit ‘Search And Destroy’. Billy and I are both football fans, and we follow teams from the opposite side of Manchester, and I wanted to write a song… We’re different but very alike. We want to be inspired by each other and explore our differences that bring us together as Coloursound and as friends.”
‘Start A Fire’.
“This was a song from Billy’s songbook; he started the whole song, really. Again, he played me the tune he had, and it was quite high pitched, so I said, why don’t we try this on a baritone guitar which I learnt through doing acoustic shows. Billy really took to the guitar, and I think it opened a new world to him in terms of the tones he could get from the guitar and also where the singer could pitch himself over Billy’s guitar playing style. When we had a body of work, I said, unlike last time, I’m not going to play rhythm guitar. You’re gonna play it all. To adhere to you and your vision. The listener can only hear Billy Duffy playing the guitar; you don’t want to hear Tony Iommi and then have Ozzy playing the guitar underneath, filling all the space. So I just stayed out of the way. One of the guitar solos on ‘Start A Fire’ highlights Billy’s versatility because it’s such a great solo, and you wouldn’t normally associate Billy playing like that in The Cult, which just shows how dextrous he can be.”
‘Eye For An Eye’.
“Another Billy Duffy-meister riff, and I hear it as an out and out rock song. I think was trying to channel a bit of my inner Jack Bruce. It’s a bit of a Cream number. We spoke about making a simple rock album, and what’s better than that seventies British rock period Sabbath and Cream and then from America we both love Montrose, and I wanted to sing it in a way that you don’t normally associate Mike Peters with singing either. It’s quite high-pitched, and it demands a big vocal and a big roar. (laughing) Fill the lungs and go for it! Lyrically it was inspired by the music. I didn’t want it to be too introspective, and I wanted it something you can sing live, plus the fans could relate to it as well. Eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth is kind of what we do, Billy and I. When he presents me with a riff, I want to extract everything I can get from this and give as good as I get. I feel I’ve got to raise my game to play alongside Billy and have the honour to sing with him. I’m a massive fan of Ian Astbury. I think he’s an incredible talent, and I have to think about what The Cult fans will think when they hear me singing with their man, y’know and The Alarm fans as well. I wanted there to be some surprises for Alarm fans. I can sing like this because there is a different guitar dynamic going on that inspires a different performance from me, and I think I’ve also taken Billy to certain areas that he wouldn’t usually take in. That’s the beauty of Coloursound and our relationship.”
“When we’d finished, this is a song that we couldn’t get out of our heads. It has this amazing droned in Billy riff that was almost echoing the chorus. It was so catchy it was almost too good. I thought the song was too melodic for the record we’d done, but it just felt like we needed to approach it very differently by the time we got to that part of the recording process. So we sacrificed quite a lot of its original conception and turned it into something a lot more interesting and deeper. Originally I called it ‘Morning Call’, but Billy sat down and said, Mike, this m-o-u-r-n-ing call, let’s take the song in that direction. That’s another example of Billy being able to look at you as a lyricist as well. He can cast his eye over what you’re doing and spot little nuances and turn the song from night into day or, in this case, day into night.”
Coloursøund II is available now from couloursound.co.uk
Read a full interview with Billy Duffy in the latest edition of Vive Le Rock!