Thursday, April 17, 2014

'Listen to the Stars' newsletter, circa 1994

Check out the first issue of The Verve's Listen to the Stars newsletter from late 1994. Kudos to Craig, a.k.a. patgarrett from the Northern Souls forum.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Nick McCabe wouldn't rule out working with former Verve singer Richard Ashcroft again

Former Verve guitarist Nick McCabe says he would be up for working with singer Richard Ashcroft, 42.

The band split in 2009, and Nick now plays in Black Submarine alongside Verve bassist Simon Jones, 41. 

Nick, 42, told me: “I don’t see why I couldn’t work with Richard again.

“Richard’s very black and white, and I accept that’s his way of doing things."

"He’s a good soul with a lot of good qualities, so I can never rule out doing more with him.”

Black Submarine have just released debut album New Shores.

Nick said: “I can’t claim to have shut the door on Richard, but right now it’s the furthest thing from my mind because Black Submarine are so happy.”

Thursday, April 3, 2014

‘The Verve imploded, so it’s going to be hard to be involved in another band’

One of St Helens’ most successful musicians is back with a new band and challenging debut album five years after his last release.

Guitarist Nick McCabe, who was formerly part of Wigan alternative rock band The Verve, formed Black Submarine with former bandmate Simon Jones on bass and violinist Davide Rossi shortly after his previous group’s final live appearances.

The new group, completed by ex-Portishead drummer Michele Schillace and Bristol singer-songwriter Amelia Tucker on vocals, is now about to release debut full-length album New Shores.

However, although the new band has some elements of Nick’s previous work in its mixture of dark, brooding elements and upbeat outbursts the electronics, ominous chanted vocals and layered strings of Black Submarine may come as something of a surprise to his fans.

Nick, 42, said: “The lesson we’ve learned is not to force yourself into a genre or style, because what doesn’t come out then is your own ideas.

“There’s so much music that goes into the blender, so there’s no conscious effort to do a specific thing, it’s just what comes out naturally.

“What I’m looking for is a fix out of music, a transcendent experience. I want to get out of an album what I get out of film, that experience of sitting in the cinema for two hours.

“There’s a lot of well sung, well executed, well produced stuff around but it doesn’t speak to me, I want that sense of escape from music which I liked when I was young.

“The new band came about because Davide had virtually become an extra member of The Verve and after the band split we felt we had unfinished business and wanted to do more together.

“I’ve worked with Mig over the years and we’ve got a rapport, so with Simon that was the core of the band.”

The five-year break since The Verve’s last album Forth has given Nick time to reflect on how that band ended, and says a love of music persuaded him to give it another go with Black Submarine. He said: “The Verve imploded and it’s been pretty hard for me to get involved in something as political as a band, but the reason for doing it is the good old fashioned one of being absolutely in love with music.

“Before the singer said whether the band was active or not, and there was a reluctance with Black Submarine to appoint someone to that position, and when we finally found Amelia she was a collaborator and a strong artistic force in her own right.”

The band has also released Here So Rain as a single with accompanying music video, and will head out on the road with Echo and the Bunnymen in May.

Despite Black Submarine bringing in influences from far and wide, including the Bristol scene and the 1970s German progressive movement known as krautrock, Nick says his outlook and approach to music is still very much influenced by his home town and region.

Nick, who was brought up in Haydock and now lives in Telford, said: “The lack of things to do in an industrial town like St Helens is a big part in the North West’s musical success, because bands have to create their own world.

“Culture is massively important to people from the North West.”

New Shores by Black Submarine is out now.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Follow the Black Submarine

WIGAN bassist Simon Jones has joined forces with his former The Verve band member to form a new group.

Simon, who hails from Hindley, and Nick McCabe are part of experimental rock group Black Submarine, along with string arranger and violinist Davide Rossi, former Portishead drummer Michele Schillace and Bristol singer-songwriter Amelia Tucker.

The group has just released debut album New Shores.

Simon, 41, told Goss: “It’s been a long time getting it all together and it’s fantastic to get out there and play. It’s the start of something new with great musicians and it’s very exciting."

“The Verve played Glastonbury with Davide and we knew it was coming to an end after the festival season, but Nick, Davide and I still wanted to carry on making music together."

The drummer from The Verve was thinking about joining but decided he wanted to stay out of the politics. Mig was an old friend of Nick’s so he was the obvious choice.

“Finding a singer was very difficult. We thought about a revolving door of vocalists and guests, but it was quite difficult to get an identity for the band. Mig knew Amelia so he sent her a track to give her an idea of the free-flowing way we worked, but she turned it into a song and we were gobsmacked when she sent it back.”

Simon, whose parents live in Up Holland, added that he always reflects fondly on his time with The Verve. He told The Sun: “We loved that band. Being in The Verve was an amazing experience for us all.

“We used to have this analogy that we were cavemen coming from Wigan, down to London. We’d only eaten pasties and fish fingers and chips and suddenly our record company was taken us to posh restaurants in LA. The Verve certainly broadened my horizons.”

So is there a future for The Verve? Nick said: “Richard kind of just went ‘I don’t know why I’m doing this.’ So I don’t think it could ever happen again. I’m just glad we have Black Submarine now and we’re already looking ahead to the next album.”

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Black Submarine's Nick McCabe says arena tours were wrong for The Verve

Former Verve guitarist Nick McCabe and bass player Simon Jones enjoy touring small venues with new band Black Submarine more than playing arenas with the Brit-rock heroes.

Nick, 42, told me: “I had a working-class guilt – arenas were the wrong place for The Verve.”

This week’s debut album New Shores features Nick’s daughter Elly, 20, who sings on the track "Lover."

Nick admitted: “It could be a leg-up for her own stuff.”

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Elements Of Confusion: Nick McCabe Of Black Submarine's Favourite LPs

With New Shores, the long-awaited debut by Black Submarine, out this week, the former Verve guitarist goes from teenage mainstays to recently-heard favourites in his top 13 albums

Nick McCabe is one of the greatest guitarists of his generation. The only person who might argue the toss over that proclamation is the man himself, who is often humble to the point of seeming to disregard his own talent. (Simon Jones, bass player in The Verve, once implored a guitar journalist to tell him how good he was: "I think he's the greatest guitarist around and he won't have it. Tell him he's amazing!") McCabe's place in musical history is guaranteed – as part of The Verve he inspired awe with his incredible guitar playing, somehow overshadowing frontman Richard Ashcroft's planet-sized ego. Ashcroft acted like he was the focal point, but the majority of eyes were on McCabe – how the fuck did he make his guitar sound like that? McCabe was the sonic architect of the Verve's sound and while the music the band made may have drifted from the celestial space-rock and ambient doodling of A Storm In Heaven towards the more prosaic "classic" rock sound of Urban Hymns, McCabe's fretwork was always dazzling. Never one to strive for technical excellence, his favourite guitar players are the idiosyncratic ones – Funkadelic's Eddie Hazel, Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column and John Martyn.

McCabe grew up in St Helens, Lancashire, in a family of music lovers, starting out under the influence of the records brought into the house by his older brothers. "I was lucky that there was a surfeit of music in the household," McCabe tells me, over the phone from his home in Shropshire. "There was a real diversity. My eldest brother was into Northern Soul and metal – you couldn't really have got two more polar opposites. So he had Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin records, and then all this Northern Soul. Then my other brother was a product of his time really – he was a Pink Floyd fan who was into punk."

But McCabe was soon developing his own tastes. "There were a couple of moments in time where it suddenly became my thing, rather than something inherited from my brothers," he reveals. "That became really important to me. A lot of my life I've had the younger brother syndrome, being in the shadow of… literally as well, because physically they were the sporting types. I was the runt really. So it was really important to me to find something of my own."

That something came when he got into electro music at school in the early 1980s, following that movement into Detroit techno and then Warp Records, with a particular love of Autechre. This may not be reflected in the music he has made up to this point, but he says that, "I wouldn't play the guitar the way I do were it not for the fact that I like electronic music so much."

He also discloses that he has a vast backlog of electronic music that he has made over the years that has never been released. "I always kept the two strains separate in The Verve," he explains. "I didn't want to confuse matters. Plus I've always been worried that I'm a dabbler or a dilettante or whatever and my lack of confidence has stopped me from seeing it through."

This diversity is perhaps more apparent in his latest musical project. McCabe has formed Black Submarine (formerly Black Ships) with Simon Jones, the former Portishead drummer Mig Schillace and Davide Rossi, strings visionary for Goldfrapp and Coldplay, whom McCabe and Jones met during the recording of The Verve's swansong, Forth. An initial plan for a Massive Attack-style revolving roster of singers was abandoned in favour of permanent vocalist Amelia Tucker. The heavier, rockier side of the Massive Attack oeuvre isn't a bad reference point for Black Submarine's brand of murky, string-laden psychedelic trip-hop, with elements of folk, electronica and even industrial thrown into the melting pot.

"It encompasses genres rather than switching between them I think," McCabe says of the band's debut album New Shores. "There's an element of confusion about the record that we might have tried to squash in an earlier lifetime, but now we kind of embrace it. It's more honest."

There are elements of confusion in McCabe's choices for his Baker's Dozen. It reflects his diverse tastes – Funkadelic to Steve Reich; John Carpenter to Mobb Deep – and eschews records by The Beatles, Stones, Dylan and VU that are usually commonplace on lists like this compiled by his contemporaries.

"I think everybody goes back and does their homework. We definitely did that in The Verve. You want to find all the best stuff and you want to be an expert in your field. So you go back and find all these incredible, classic records. And while it would be nice to say that you weren't listening to The Human League in 1982, and that you were actually listening to something that is now in the pantheon – the canon – I may as well be honest about it. These are the records that were important to me, the pivotal ones."

New Shores by Black Submarine is out now via Kobalt Music; below are Nick's top 13 choices

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Black Submarine confirmed to support Echo & the Bunnymen on upcoming tour

Echo & the Bunnymen are taking to the road in May 2014 for a string of live shows across the United Kingdom, and Black Submarine have been announced to support the iconic band on tour.

Tickets can be purchased at and