Suede’s Brett Anderson: Fatherhood As An Act of Optimism

Barry DivolaBy Barry Divola.
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Back in 1992, Brett Anderson appeared on the cover of Melody Maker with Suede under the headline “The Best New Band In Britain”. They were yet to release a single.

Suede went on the galvanise the English music scene, helping to birth Britpop with their glam-infused indie rock, creating a world of sex, glitter and passion set amid the grubbiness and grime of working-class England.

After enjoying huge success, the bottom fell out in the late ’90s as Anderson slid into drug addiction (heroin, then crack) and the band imploded in 2003. But they had a rebirth eight years ago and more recently Anderson, who is 51, has found a new muse. His six-year-old son Lucian is the impetus behind his memoir, Coal Black Mornings and the latest Suede album, The Blue Hour.

You became a father in your mid-forties. Was fatherhood something you thought about before?

Not really. I didn’t really think about what I was going to do in the future. In my 20s my decisions were based around my career rather than personal ambitions.

Did anything surprise you about becoming a father?

There’s this assumption that having children is the end of some sort of creative process, the whole pram in the hallway metaphor, but it depends on how you approach these things. When you have children you can look at it as the start of some kind of middle-aged malaise or you can see it as an incredibly brave and hopeful act to say that the future is worthwhile. I think it’s an act of optimism.

You’ve said that you wrote the book for your son and these last couple of Suede albums have been inspired by him too.

Yes, I found it fascinating becoming a father. Before I became a father I didn’t care very much about where I’d come from. But I became a father and started thinking about it a lot. Having a child reminds you of your own childhood and stirs up all these thoughts about mortality and those big questions in life. You have a very blasé and ungrateful view of your parents until you become a parent yourself and realise how bloody hard it is and how thankless it can be at times. I found it very much inspiring.

In the ’90s I wrote songs about lovers and crazy romantic entanglements and now I find passion in reflecting on family. That might sound boring but I’m trying to do it in a way that doesn’t use the old clichés. I use the darker moments and self-doubt and hesitation.

There’s definitely some pretty dark stuff on The Blue Hour. Are you singing through your son’s eyes or are you singing to him?

A bit of both, actually. I thought it was an interesting device to write through a child’s eyes, but it’s not that straightforward. I wanted to use a child’s perspective to reflect a sense of vulnerability. Life Is Golden is a song from me to him. I’m very proud of it. I can genuinely say it’s our favourite song we’ve written since The Wild Ones (from 1994).

I assumed that song was about your son with lines like “the same blood runs through your veins, the same strange way of talking.” Can you tell me about writing it?

It’s a song where I’m trying to give a message of hope. It goes back to mortality. There’s going to be that moment which will inevitably come when you die and you won’t be there for your child. That song is me saying to him that in some way I will always be there for him. It may not be a literal way or a physical way but in a spiritual or metaphorical way, because I’m part of him. It’s a tricky song for me to talk about because I can come across as sentimental and I really don’t want that at all. But it has a warm heart, that song. It’s the warmest song on the album by a long way.

Your son is only six, so I’m guessing he’s too young to have read your book, but what does he make of the record?

He actually loves As One, which is the opening track. Whenever I try to play any more of the album in the car, he won’t let me play any songs after it, but wants that song over and over again. I think he likes the drama of it and it probably reminds him a bit of The Lord Of The Rings because it’s one of his favourite films.