Honk If You're Gay, Dad

Is the UK's Gay Dad a nurturing rock patriarch or the Pop that embarrasses you in front of your friends?

So who's fascinating to the British press these days? "It's going through another quiet patch at the moment," Hoyle sighs. "They've gone for Travis in a big way recently because they've proven to be popular and everybody likes them. The real darlings of the British press are Posh Spice and [UK soccer star and beau] David Becker. The press go mental for them. They're a kind of nouveau riche prince and princess who just go around buying loads of really expensive jewelry for each other because they're multimillionaires. And the press just tut-tuts about it and just hounds them mercilessly. Oasis gets a fairly hefty dose of press coverage, even now."

Very telling, that "even now" bit. Not long ago, a friend visiting London noted that Noel Gallagher's house had been marked with its fair share of physical graffiti -- like the word "Wanker" spray-painted all over it. Does that mean the Wonderwall nuts are on the wane?

"People do like to hate their pop stars here," says Hoyle, laughing. "They still buy their records, but they do like to call them a tosser. That's the big difference in attitude between the UK and America. In the UK, they hate for anyone they know to be successful. They'll say, 'You've got no right to be a success, you're from Britain.' In America it's more like a good luck sort of thing. It's kind of difficult to tell whether Oasis are popular or not. [Oasis' new] single and album have only just come out here and I've only heard the single, which doesn't feel like classic Oasis. Seems a bit tired."

Music press whipping boy Gay Dad: Would you let your daughter marry one of them?
courtesy of London Records
Music press whipping boy Gay Dad: Would you let your daughter marry one of them?

There's not much love lost between British pop stars, apparently. This past November, Gay Dad announced that it had recruited Andy Bell (Hurricane, Ride, Erasure) to fill its vacated lead guitarist slot only to see Oasis announce the following week it had snatched up Bell as its new bassist: "Gay Dad's loss is Oasis' gain," was all the group said on the guitarist poaching. In truth, Bell's talents would seem wasted in a dictatorship like Oasis where most of the teamwork involves keeping the Gallagher brothers from strangling one another. In Gay Dad, the process is apparently more democratic with everyone coming in with ideas, creating a diversity of style and sound that's become second nature to the group. It's exactly what gives Leisure Noise the eclecticism that Be Here Now strove for and so miserably failed to achieve.

"Being in a band, a lot of your vocabulary of music will just come off of being in a room together and sparking off each other," explains Hoyle of the process by which group compositions come together. "Occasionally someone will just bring in the majority of a progression and will go through the mill of the band and come out unscathed if it's good enough."

The jam of "Pathfinder" came largely out of Hoyle's contribution, while "New Age Panic (Joy!)" was an in-studio composition based on a synth groove. "That song literally took on a life of its own in the studio," remembers Hoyle. "It became this great big hydra where you had to try to knock it back into shape. There's quite a lot of stuff going on underneath the track, and the more overdubs you put on it, the more it seemed to want. We had to take weeks off the track and work out at what point we got it right and what point we'd gone too far."

Such excesses also marked Gay Dad's disastrous first gigs in 1994 and 1995. "We did several that were quite hilarious," chuckles Hoyle. "One was at a hospital where we basically did a free-form jazz jam and Cliff preached fundamentalist Christian views for an hour or so and scared away any potential audience. Another gig we were so smashed on white wine we spent the entire time tuning up and then the promoter just switched on the disco and the lights and said, 'Thank you very much, Gay Dad,' and we hadn't even started." He is quick to point out that the band has done hundreds of shows since the album's UK release last May. "We got our act together more than that. We're quite rocking now. We're big in Belgium and we're big in Japan as well."

One of the people drawn to Gay Dad before it was big anywhere was Andrew Loog Oldham, the legendary producer and manager of the Rolling Stones in their headline-grabbing early "bad boy" period. It was Oldham's edict, "If you can't be charming, you may as well be horrible" that liberated the Stones and ultimately rock 'n' roll from the stifling early '60s show-biz conventions. Clearly he saw the potential for outrage in the androgynous-as-they-wanna-be Gay Dad and offered them some early support.

Hoyle downplays the former Stones Svengali's involvement in Gay Dad as being anything creatively related. "We were in the practice studio in Shepherd's Bush. He came along and we just kicked out a few tunes and he sat there in the studio with sunglasses on and said basically, 'Keep playing the rock operas, boys,' and gave us a wad of cash and we went off and recorded demos."

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