Complete Strawberry Switchblade interview by subject

Jill Bryson interviewed 9 June 01
Rose McDowall interviewed 29 Jan 02
Bill Drummond interviewed 26 April 03
David Balfe interviewed 19 May 03
David Motion interviewed 2 Aug 02 & 15 April 03
Robin Millar interviewed 16 Feb 03
Tim Pope interviewed 22 June 06

Since Yesterday : The big hit

BILL DRUMMOND: Even though it seems I'm giving these negatives about the album, I also think the Since Yesterday single, it WORKED. And maybe there's a couple of other ones that did work, when it was very sparse electro and stuff.

There's a lot of weird sounds on there that give it a darkness, it's not just straightforward push-button electropop on there.

BILL DRUMMOND: Maybe I should go and listen to it again. With Since Yesterday, I remember when I first heard it I didn't think 'that's a hit single', but it was fantastic as a pop record.

DAVID MOTION: The moment that it really happened was with Since Yesterday. We did two mixes that were not quite right. The third one was the one, and that was a long mix, three days. By that stage we were also working with Trigger as engineer, and we were kind of trying to come at it more radically.

It is a very odd sounding record, even in the context of the album, it's not conventional pop by quite some way. The hardness of the drum sounds is really arresting.

DAVID MOTION: Well that was one of those moments, we'd been working away for three days and we were determined to try and get it to work. It was quite late at night, I was saying to Trig, 'it's not quite right, let's pull the faders down and start again'. We started with the drums and he was EQing the snare and he just said, 'maybe it should be something like that' [turns hand vigorously], and there was this moment we went, 'yeah! That's it!'. It was very mid-EQ'd, a short bandwidth so although there was a lot of top on it there wasn't much bottom, and from that everything else slotted into place, the bass drum and snare just suggested everything else. The stuff was already on tape, but it was possible to cut away all the unnecessary stuff and it became very clean and angular, everything was there for a reason and Rose's verse vocals just sail over the top of it.

And then there was a moment of 'what the hell are we going to do with the middle eight?'. It was basically the same as everything else. That was another three in the morning one, I said, 'why don't we try gating it off the hi-hat, gate the whole track?' That was fairly radical, and it was born slightly out of desperation! We were pissing round, but we were having such fun cos at that point the rest of the track was in place, everything was happening, there was just this one section that wasn't up to the same level as everything else. So we tried that, and that was it, it just sounded great.

I remember thinking WE thought it was great, but then thinking it might be a bit dangerous for the record company. We had no idea when we sent it off and all went to bed at six or seven in the morning. And then at eleven or twelve o'clock I got a calls from everybody, Max phoned, Balfey phoned, Drummond phoned, saying there might be a couple of minor reservations but it's fantastic. So I thought, yeah, goal!

So the album's done and Since Yesterday was the flagship single and the one really big hit. The record company were clearly expecting a lot more.

JILL: Obviously, I think they expected us to have another hit.

What's it like having a hit single? Anybody born between 1955 and 1985 and brought up in the UK has got to have wanted to be on Top Of The Pops. What's it like going on Top Of The Pops for the first time?

JILL: I was terrified. Shaking like a leaf. You've got all these twatty dancers round you and you want them to piss off! It was great. It was really funny. The BBC are strange, the dressing rooms are real utility, classic BBC. But the studio was just weird, all the cameras on us and cranes and things and we're just standing there going 'oh SHIT!'. We were SO SCARED. Really, if we'd had to sing live….

And yet on the performance you're grinning your heads off all through it.

JILL: It was dead exciting and absolutely thrilling, really thrilling. Really. I remember we went through it, the rehearsal was much worse that the actual thing. Once it all got going I just remember being 'MY GOD, what are we DOING?' Just being there, you know.

Top Of The Pops was such an iconic thing. Maybe it's changed now cos people are growing up with MTV and music television is freely available on tap, whereas at that time it was about the only thing apart from The Tube and Whistle Test.

JILL: I can remember seeing all sorts of people on it, and desperately waiting for it to come on, and we didn't have videos so you couldn't tape it when I was 14 or 16. You were there, you were waiting.

And not only was it on rarely and not tapeable, but music was so CENTRAL to youth culture up till the 90s

JILL: Any of it you did see you were glued to and everybody watched it. I remember as a young teenager watching Top of The Pops and seeing glam-rockers on it, T.Rex and Bowie, and when I was a bit older Be Bop Deluxe were on it. I really liked Be Bop Deluxe.

I remember the New Wave bands, you'd get all this absolutely shite puppetry pop, then on would come The Jam and I'd go 'THAT'S what it's about', the people who stood out, the people who look like the shouldn't have been allowed on there, those were the ones that were great.

JILL: I know! I know our song was poppy but we were a weird looking pair.

Yeah, but it's clearly not Dollar, clearly not employing stylists.

JILL: It was DEAD exciting.

Let Her Go came out as the follow-up and to me it sounds like such an natural successor. It really quite surprises me that you got such a huge hit with Since Yesterday and Let Her Go bombed when it's got a lot of the same kind of brightness and drive with a dark underside, and yet it's not just Since Yesterday Part Two.

BILL DRUMMOND: Well I'm not surprised. It didn't have what Radio 1 would want.

DAVID MOTION: You know how it [Since Yesterday] became a hit do you? You know the process politically at Warners?

No, not at all.

DAVID MOTION: Well, I think it was released in late September or the beginning of October, but it was very slow to build.

It hit the chart in mid November

DAVID MOTION: And then the Christmas thing all swung into view but it was high enough up in November that Rob and Max thought it could come and go before Christmas. It was showing enough build in the charts that it could've had a longer life. Basically, I heard this story that Rob had had a look at what was potentially doing stuff for WEA that Christmas and Strawberry Switchblade were there and he said, 'we're going to keep this record alive come what may over Christmas and then hit it hard, because it's the only thing for us in terms of new stuff that's even bubbling around'. So that's why they did TV advertising, do you remember that? There was a short campaign in between Christmas and the new year which is why, as the Christmas sales came and went, it survived and came again in January.

All the pluggers and everything just dropped everything else and it caused a lot of frustration around the A&R department, because other people had things coming out and yet they said 'we're withdrawing support from everything else and this is the one we're going to go for'. And so all promotion and budget kept it alive for that period, and then 'bang' in the new year. [Since Yesterday had an uncommonly long period in the charts, 17 weeks, about twice as long as most records that only got to the mid top ten].

It's impressive to see when they really decide to go for it, from a commercial point of view it was very impressive.

Let Her Go comes out two months later, which is similar sounding enough to surely sell to the same people but different enough that it doesn't sound like Since Yesterday Part Two, and it died, absolutely bombed. That makes sense now, hearing how Since Yesterday was pushed so hard.

DAVID MOTION: Obviously I could argue it was because it was the wrong producer, but other people could argue it was other things! There you go, that's ego!