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Critical acclaim isn't everything

Beta Band: Part Two

[Part 2 of 2]

Here is the second part of the interview with the Beta Band's Rich Greentree ...


 

[more:]
Prefix Magazine:
Some artists are known for their creativity. I read that the band wanted to work with some of the more inventive hip-hop producers such as RZA or Premier. Is that something you guys still want to do?

Beta Band:
Rich Greentree: Definitely, yeah. But again it goes back to us being not able to afford it. We produced this album and are very happy with it, so we'll never need a producer again in the way we did originally or the way bands do to create that product.
But it would be nice on another album to have individual songs with different producers. To have RZA on a song would be absolutely fuckin' fantastic. The music he has produced to me is just seminal. It's the stuff in my lifetime, the stuff produced while I'm actually in the market of buying and listening to records. It's as important and timeless as Jimi Hendrix or the Who. You just think the world would be a dark place without this record. I listen to the RZA stuff, Wu-Tang and ODB. Fuckin' hell.

PM:
You guys sample a lot of weird things such as washing machines. Are there other artists out there that you're impressed with in terms what types of sounds and samples they use?

Beta Band:
It's Jamaica, really, where the foremost originality of sound is. The money, the face of it, is in America. It's a shame that hip-hop has bitten off its own ass a bit. But music is still getting made. OutKast are the saviors at the moment. They're the only ones at the moment that I look at and think, Fucking hell, they do it proper. It's nice to have someone like that about. Normally there are more people like that about.
But people have lost their way. It's happened to my favorite artists. Hip-hop music's all being consumed by the system, the money-making craze that is hip-hop. I think the place for hip-hop now is shifting. There is some great hip-hop coming out of the U.K. now. A lot of British hip-hop coming out ten years ago was embarrassing.

PM:
Are the Streets and Dizzee Rascal big out there? They're pretty big here for being U.K. hip-hop.

Beta Band:
They are, but not as big as they should be. The radio and tele are flooded with things that people really don't need, or really want, when you think about it. Britney or the Spice Girls and all this crap that's dripping out the radio takes too much goddamn space.
Roots Manuva is fucking huge. Jest is gonna be massive. He's a young kid that I met on the train one time and he just started freestyling. Raw British talent. What's happened is that now British rappers have confidence to talk about their lives in Britain instead of trying to emulate the American story. It's just making it really interesting.
And that's what's probably making them bigger in America as well, in the same way that it was great growing up in England and listening to early hip-hop and feeling as if you were down in the Bronx, it was a slice of life that you could hear. But it's not like that anymore. They're just chatting fucking rubbish about Crystal. In Britain, they're the people talking about life at the ground level, and it's interesting to people.

PM:
People can definitely relate to that more. Where's your favorite place to play?

Beta Band:
That is Glasgow, Scotland actually. Not anywhere in Scotland, but specifically in Glasgow, in this place called Barrow Lands. It's just the best venue in the world.

PM:
You guys got a lot of publicity from High Fidelity. Did you see the movie and read the book?

Beta Band:
Yeah, I read the book before I saw the movie.

PM:
Which did you like better?

Beta Band:
The movie.

PM:
Yeah, I completely agree.

Beta Band:
I fucking hate Nick Hornsby as an author. He's a fucking little cunt and I've got no time for it. There's just a falseness to his voice that just sickens me. The narrative of the book and you just think he's writing out the narrative of the guy he thinks he is or wants to be, and it that's the case then make it a character and not yourself. Enough of that old twat. John Cusack is much better at being that character. It's a strange thing -- it's almost always the book, nearly never the movie. But in this case, it's definitely the movie.

PM:
I don't think I've actually ever met anyone that likes the book more than the movie.>

Beta Band:
Nick Hornsby probably does.

PM:
Yeah, probably so. I found it interesting how Oasis gave you guys some great comments in the past. They're usually in the press putting another band down. How did you guys take it when you heard what they said?

Beta Band:
It didn't make any difference to us. We're in completely different spheres. Noel Gallagher is a great songwriter. I think he knows the stuff he writes is in a certain vein and his influences are very apparent. And I think he would like to write something a bit more original, and I know this from his own mouth. I've had conversations with him.
A few years ago in Glasgow he said he'd give his right arm to have written a song off any of our last albums. I was just like, "That's bullshit. You're a great fucking song writer. If that's what you really want then get a different band and stop trying to sound like the Beatles. 'Cause in essence your songwriting is amazing." I think he's a little trapped in the posturing, and his brother's a vag. But they are a fucking great band. It doesn't make any difference to us what someone says.

PM:
You were saying you want to do bigger things but are financially strapped. But you guys seem to do everything that goes against mainstream music philosophy and convention. One of the members of the band declared your first album "fucking awful." You avoid publicity and pictures, you don't sell your music to the Gap. But you guys really want to reach the masses, correct?

Beta Band:
You gotta believe there is a different route to take, and we do maybe represent the opposite of mainstream mentality. Firstly, it's not like one day we could ever say, "Let's write commercial songs and get a number one song and get some money and then go back to being a band again." We couldn't do it. I'm not saying we wouldn't do it, I'm saying we couldn't. We wouldn't know how to. We try to represent how things could be, and it'll probably be the death of us. We will always believe that rather than change to fit into things, things will change to fit around us. You have to think like that in order to maintain your position.

PM:
You guys do a lot of deejaying too. How long have you been deejaying?

Beta Band:
I've been deejaying since about twelve years old. For me, the greatest time you could have is your out with friends having some drinks and getting stoned or whatever and then going back to someone's house. And whoever's house it is has to keep everyone as amped up as possible by playing the songs that everyone wants to hear, even with just one turntable.
While everyone else was doing whatever, I'd be sitting there going through thinking, What's the next record that's gonna make someone enjoy this time more. That's the same for everyone. We've always been intensely interested in the effect of music and how it affects your mood. In that sense, I've always been deejaying. John actually had a club and stuff back before the band started. John is an actual deejay who mixes and scratches like a motherfucker. The rest of us ... I couldn't mix two records to save my life. I just got a lot of records, and I just play one that's going to sound good right after the first one.

PM:
Do you stick to certain genres or do you run the gamut?

Beta Band:
Not at all. Bob Dylan to Old Dirty Bastard in a split second.

PM:
How would you describe your relationship with Astralwerks?

Beta Band:
They're a great company. They're very small, committed. I really like everyone that works there. I'd rather be with them than a bigger label. Although there would be benefits to being with a bigger label, since they would have that much more money to put into publicity and stuff. But in a way it's better to be with Astralwerks, 'cause they're on a budget and everyone who is there stayed there because they're hard working and committed to what they're doing. And they know what we're about and appreciate us. It's a good relationship.

PM:
What's your relationship with other bands from Scotland, like Mogwai and Belle and Sebastian?

Beta Band:
I don't know Belle and Sebastian. I'm sure I've had a drunken night at a festival with one of them at some point. It's not like all the bands in Scotland live on one street and play football on Saturday. Mogwai, that fuckin' ... . Stupid name, quite ugly and a bit fat. Apart from that don't know much about them. Mogwai slighted us at one point, they said some bad things about us in the press just to try to be clever. I called them out somewhere and they said sorry and started backtracking. Doesn't matter, they're just little boys.
There's a band from Edingburgh called the Magnificents and they're pretty interesting. There isn't any particular relationship between us and the other bands. John used to share a flat with one of the guys from Travis.

PM:
The Beta Band has been together for a while now. Did you go through a lot of in-fighting or do you get a long?

Beta Band:
We get along better than ever, really. We're all a lot happier and more comfortable in our position. We all put our input into the band, and we get along better than ever. You have to in order to be a success. You spend so much time living in each other's pockets that you have to have an unwritten law that you have to be good to each other.

PM:
Do you guys still speak with Gordon Anderson, who left the band before the Champion Versions EP was released in 1997?

Beta Band:
John tried to work with him, but found out it was nearly impossible. John is still good friends with him. But I barely see him. I get bored with people calling him a member of the Beta Band. The guy never even played on a fuckin' record. He was instrumental in getting Steve off the drums and onto the guitar at some point. Steve's talent grew from that point. Gordon doesn't harp on about being the missing member of the Beta Band, the people around him do. We're all friends.

PM:
You're married with a child. How old is your child?

Beta Band:
A little boy. He's only fourteen weeks.

PM:
Are you worried since you're headed on tour?

Beta Band:
Of course. I miss him and I'll miss out on all his development, which is upsetting. So I'd rather have him. But it'll give me the strength to work and continue what I'm doing. But I've got a reason to do it now, rather than just buying more beer.

PM:
Have you thought of how you'll raise him? Are you going to give him a guitar or record player?

Beta Band:
I'll show him everything that I've enjoyed that I think is worthy of being pursued. He'll be shown the same thing. But he'll have his own choices, but he'll definitely have a guitar as soon as he's old enough to hold one.

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