Andy Couzens has been in a lot of bands over the years with the most famous being The Stone Roses and The High. For Record Store Day 2018, Andy is releasing previously unreleased tracks from The Waterfront the predecessor for the legendary band we now know as The Stone Roses for the Christie cancer charity and two new tracks from The High on vinyl. Mark Millar caught up with Andy to talk about the releases and the early days of The Stone Roses and The High.
What music did you listen to growing up?
All sorts of music such as old soul stuff and Rock n Roll. But I suppose the thing that really got hold of me was Punk rock when it kicked off.
Did Punk inspire you to pick up a guitar?
Yeah probably. Its been that long ago I can’t remember when I picked a guitar up. (laughs) I do seem to remember doing what everybody did – trying to learn the Sex Pistols songs by putting the record on and trying to play along. I could never work it out – the records always played at the wrong speed.
When did you meet John Squire and Ian Brown?
When we were at college, I was eighteen.
Did you all hit it off immediately or did it take a while to get to know each other?
We got on straight away pretty much. They had started a punk band called The Patrol. Ian Brown was on bass, John Squire was on guitar, and they needed a singer. They didn’t know me because I wasn’t from around their way I just went to the same college. One day they asked me if id like to try singing for the band. I always wanted to be in a group, and I didn’t care how so I said; “Yeah no problem.” and it went from there. But yeah we got on okay.
One of the early bands you formed with John Squire was called The Waterfront which also featured Mani. For Record Store Day you are releasing two tracks Normandy on the Beach + Where the Wind Blows. These songs where only previously available on cassettes handed out to friends and are very rare. Why are they only seeing the light of day now?
I found the tape which I’ve had for the last thirty-five years, and I was asked by Vinyl Revival if they could put it out to raise money for Christies cancer charity which is a big cancer hospital in Manchester and it seemed like a good idea. It is a limited release, so there’s not going to be any digital downloads or anything like that – it’s only restricted to Record Store Day.
What state where the recordings in and did they take much work to get them cleaned up?
They were on a quarter-inch reel that I had from the studio at the time, and they just needed baking. That’s when they put old tapes in an oven to bake and then send them to a mastering suite. There wasn’t a lot of time spent on them, but they got them as clear as they can be.
How did it feel listening back to the songs after all this time?
It made me laugh I hadn’t heard them for thirty years. (Laughs) It was hilarious especially the song When the Wind Blows – with the whistling chorus – very funny.
Listen to ‘Normandy (On the Beach)’ by The Waterfront – BELOW:
During your time in the Stone Roses, you recorded the Garage Flower album which featured early versions of ‘This is the One,’ and ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. Did you realise how unique those songs were at the time?
Yeah, I remember recording This is the One in the studio and coming out that night and Ian Brown, and I was absolutely buzzing on the song and saying; “that’s a football anthem.” And even to this day, Manchester United run out to it at Old Trafford which always makes me smile. Although we were playing the song live to about five people, who weren’t interested in the slightest. (laughs) Just before I left we recorded Sally Cinnamon and nobody was interested in that at the time either.
What other songs on the ‘Garage Flower’ album did you contribute to?
All of them – we used just to bash them out in the rehearsal rooms. It was all very much a learning experience – learning how to fight with each other I think.
What was it like working with the legendary producer Martin Hannett on the album sessions? (did he have legend status then?)
Yeah, he did then. We all knew who he was because he had worked with Joy Division and New Order although we were more interested in the fact he had worked with the Buzzcocks and Slaughter and the Dogs and all the bands from the time of Punk. He was a mess, but I think he was always a mess. I went and worked with him with the High as well. I always liked the way he worked – it was complete and utter chaos, but he always got something from us.
Why was the ‘Garage Flower’ album shelved?
I think we realized that there are probably only three or four good songs on there and the other stuff wasn’t quite right. It was what it was, and that was us just starting out and learning. They were all the songs that we had at that time – it was everything we had ever written together. It’s one of these urban myths, but it was released under license by the band through Silvertone. Everyone thinks it was bootlegged in 1996, but it wasn’t at all. The tapes reverted back to the band, so it is the band including myself who own those tapes, but Ian Brown won’t put them out again, so that’s that.
There have been a few rumours why you left the Stone Roses. Some being it was over songwriting royalties, You flew on a plane from Dublin and left the band behind. Band manager Gareth Evans offered you ten grand to go. Can you clear those rumours up?
All of the above. (Laughs). The reality is I felt let down by Ian Brown and John Squire their loyalties had disappeared, so that’s why I left.
I recently watched the Stone Roses documentary where Gareth Evans is interviewed. He seems to be a bit of a character and reminds me of David Brent.
Gareth Evans is definitely something that begins with a ‘C,’ but I wouldn’t have said ‘Character.’ (laughs)
How did you feel when it started blowing up for the Stone Roses, and you heard the self-titled debut?
You know I didn’t listen to the debut album in its entirety until the 20th-anniversary release. I wasn’t really interested before. Obviously, I had heard stuff when I was out or on the radio. It’s always difficult to listen to because all I can hear is the thing that we started and it was our imagination that put it all together. I still kept in touch with John and Ian for a short while after id left. I would have gone down to rehearsals occasionally.
Was it hard to listen to the album after everything that happened?
No, I was disinterested, and I really couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about at all – I had lost interest.
What did you make of the Stone Roses comeback a few years ago?
I was very surprised but in the next breath maybe not. It was quite nice to see John, Ian, and Reni back talking at that point – Mani never fell out with anybody, but I know those three all fell out.
Nothing has been confirmed, but it’s rumoured that they have split up for good and Ian Brown is making another solo album. Do you think they have called it a day or will we hear from the Stone Roses again?
No, I don’t think we will ever hear from the Stone Roses as a band again.
Listen to ‘Say It Now’ – BELOW:
In 1989 you formed The High with John Matthews, Chris Goodwin, and Simon Davies. And signed to London Records after only one gig. The band’s debut album ‘Somewhere Soon’ received rave reviews. The band also had three minor UK chart singles before hitting the top 30 with the re-vamped infectious Box Set Go. What was it like being in the band during those times?
I always loved recording but I liked playing live, and I still do like playing live. The gigs were really good. I’ve not got any amusing anecdotes about it.
The High is releasing the brilliant track ‘Say It Now’ on 12″ double vinyl with the song ‘Sugar Puff’ for RSD. ‘Say It Now’ was written in the early nineties after the release of ‘Somewhere Soon.’ Why is it only getting a release now?
Say it Now is one of those tracks from that time that I always felt was unfinished business. We never really recorded it. We have done some gigs over the last few years and dropped it into the set. I had forgotten how good it was and I wanted to record it. Then there was this opportunity for Record Store Day to put it out which was fantastic.
After a lengthy split, The High reformed in 2015. Have you recorded much more new material and is there an album on the horizon?
We have recorded a few things, and we are still writing as well. So we will have a body of work. We can put stuff online or put something out with either five tracks or ten tracks. Whether or not we put an album out these days is another matter. But there will be more new music from The High yeah.
Will there be any live shows?
We will but the only thing we’ve got booked so far this year is the Kendall Calling Festival, but there will be a couple of warm-up shows in Manchester before that.
What have you been listening to recently that you could recommend?
Sunflower Bean. I liked the first album I thought it was good but the new one Twenty-two in Blue is the dogs bollocks it really is. I can’t stop playing it. I went to see them live a few weeks ago they are really good. My son turned me on to the first album, but when the second album came out I thought “fuck this is great!”