INTERVIEW: Chris Difford


Squeeze are back on the road again soon to promote the release of their upcoming album ‘From The Cradle To The Grave.’ It takes it’s inspiration from Danny Baker’s autobiography, ‘Cradle to Grave’ which is being adapted into a sitcom.

We spoke by phone with lyricist Chris Difford, asking him about the album, sitcom, tour, and surprising him with a question from guest interviewer and close friend, Kathryn Williams.

In fact, the whole interview came as something of surprise to Chris who, apparently had not checked his emails that day and was blissfully unaware that he’d be spending part of his morning fielding our questions. Like a true professional though, he was generous with his time, even though he’d been expecting a day off.

So, concerning the new album, due for release later this year, Chris had this to say; “Danny went to the same school as me and we grew up in similar circumstances so to write with him in mind has been a real treat. I can’t keep up with him as a writer or his sense of humour, he’s so screwy, but I’ve tried to lyrically take things back to that time in our lives.”

We wondered if Squeeze had worked to a script before?

“No, not really, I mean we’ve dabbled in it in the past but not particularly successfully. I personally wrote lyrics for a film called ‘Still Crazy’ which I was lucky enough to win an Ivor Novello for. Working through a script is actually quite good fun because you have boundaries that you have to work within.”

How did the commissioning process work, were Squeeze operating within a very strict structure, writing certain types of song to suit certain scenes? “On this occasion, strangely enough, they asked us not to write specifically for the script but just to be influenced by it, and I think that’s what we’ve tried to achieve.”

I don’t think we’ll ever put on a show where people would be sucking their thumbs between the new and the old

We wondered how the writing process between Difford and Tilbrook had developed over the years, if at all. “It’s developed quite drastically in that I used to write all of the lyrics and give them to Glenn who would then write the music and the band would rehearse the songs and that would be the album. With this album it has benefitted from Glenn contributing lyrically and that has enhanced the record. I think because Glenn has had some success as a solo artist and lyricist himself, and him bringing his ideas to the table has only been good for the band.”

What is the setlist for the upcoming tour likely to include – new and old songs? 

“I think it’s fair to say that people buy a ticket and want to hear songs that they bought into when they were growing up and part of the entertainment of the show is to provide that. And of course there will be a combination of new songs from the album, which stand up really well, so I don’t think we’ll ever put on a show where people would be sucking their thumbs between the new and the old.”

Cool For Cats by Squeeze 

Having recently seen Sophie Ellis Bextor exclusively perform her new material for the first 45 minutes of her Sage Gateshead gig, followed then by the better-known ‘hits’ we wondered if Squeeze might follow that path? Chris was intrigued, “That’s a very interesting proposal – I hadn’t really thought about that. The first 45 minutes of the show could definitely be the new album, but I think the audience would be disappointed….” We interjected that Ellis Bextor’s performance had been well received and that the old and new material (being so different) might have jarred somewhat if interspersed. “That’s an interesting point of view. We’re months away from the tour so we’ve time to think these things through. I wouldn’t be averse to trying that.”  

Support on the tour comes from John Cooper Clarke. We romantically imagined that Squeeze had hand picked the punk-poet but apparently it was at the suggestion of promoters SJM. That’s not to say that Chris isn’t excited at the prospect, “he’s someone I greatly admire as a lyricist and I got to meet him when he came along to a couple of Arctic Monkeys shows I was at.”

we’ve many, many happy memories of Newcastle because the audiences there are so brilliant

The tour includes 22 dates in a month, with lots of travelling involved. We wondered how the band coped, being away from family. Chris is unfazed.

“Our family is the band as well as having our own family. I’m kind of used to being on the road, I’ve been doing it for 40yrs, it is what it is, I mean I don’t like to be away from home for very long but when you are in the UK you can always nip home for a day or two, its never that far away. Glenn and I then go on a 6 week American tour which is slightly different, obviously being away that long is more pressurising.”

The Gateshead date is followed by a spare day and we asked how Chris and the band would likely spend their free time? “I may travel after the show to the Lake District for a bit of quiet time. Glenn will probably do something similar.” Not party animals then? “Not me personally, no I am beyond all of that.”

Chris has good memories of Newcastle. “Geordies have always made us feel very welcome. We recorded a live album at City Hall (‘A Round And A Bout’) and we’ve many, many happy memories of Newcastle because the audiences there are so brilliant, but also because Jools (when he filmed ‘The Tube’) was based in Newcastle on Fridays and we flew up and hung out with him; we’ve always felt very at home there.”

At this point we ambushed Chris with a question from his good friend Kathryn Williams, who we were interviewing in Newcastle at the same moment. She asked, “Where will you take me when we run away together?”. Chris laughed heartily before responding “I’ll take you to the Isle of Wight. Because it’s not too far.” When invited to ask a return question Chris enquired “When we run away together, what will be the first meal that we will have?” 

Our chat at an end we promised to text Kathryn’s answer later. If they’ve ran away together yet they’ll be dining on fish and chips whilst watching cows in a field. If the elopement hasn’t yet occurred the two will have a chance to become re-acquainted when Squeeze visit the North East and play Sage Gateshead on 21st October 2015. 

Interviewer: Russell Poad  

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