WE'RE NO WETS
MY, my, my, Marti Pellow is such a touchy fellow. This guy recently had half the world singing Love Is All Around - but ask him if he has ever really travelled into the centre of love or does he merely dance around its periphery and he responds as though you've violated the inner sanctum of his soul.
"I've been dancing with it," he says, sharply. Ask if he's in love at the moment and he retorts, "I'm in love with many things; let's leave it at that." Inquire as to why he seems so afraid to talk about the subject and he snarls, "because it's none of your business!" Suggest that, nonetheless, many fans of this particular pop "heart-throb" might be interested in the subject of what actually brings a throb to his heart - particularly as the new single, Love Is All Around, has just gone into the British Top 10 at number three - and he almost leaps over the table in the lobby of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, in Dublin.
"The fans? You only give so much. It's down to the individual. And you can keep asking as many questions as you want and I'll just fire back these answers, he says. Then, right on cue, fellow band member Tom comes to the rescue and you suddenly begin to suspect why, in advance, you were told that "individual members of Wet Wet Wet don't do interviews". Cut to Tom, the drummer.
"Moving quickly on. It all comes down to the individual. It's easy for me to talk and say I'm married and I've got two kids, and certain relationships; but Marti doesn't want to. C'est la vie. Simple as that," he interjects.
So is this the real reason Marti and Tom do interviews together - so they can attempt to ward off inquiries into Marti's private life?
"Do you think people should share their private lives?" he replies. "You ask me about fans? Wouldn't they respect my privacy? Or do you think you should have access to all that? You've just walked into my company and asked me about something that, frankly, I don't want to talk about. And it's not a case of paranoia. It's a case that it is none of your business.
Fair enough. So let's shift the focus back to the music and, in particular, Marti's singing which fans do, indeed, seem to "like" so much. Marti sang, say, the vocal line of Love Is All Around relatively straight, free from the tendency towards "vocal aerobics" too often heard in the work of singers like Michael Bolton. But does he ever feel that he himself tends to err in that direction?
"I always remember when we were working with Willie Mitchell, who produced all that Memphis stuff with Al Green and so on," he responds, suddenly smiling. "He said, basically, there's the line and there's A and there's B and you should just be direct. There is no need for all that other shit. He told me, `sing on the beat, sing on the breath'. And he said, `be a good liar'. You have to be a good liar, to convince people that what you are singing is true, whether you have or haven't been in love. That's the real secret!"
So, is Marti Pellow a good liar? "No!" he says, laughing. A joking comment, much later, reveals that Marti is planning to marry, which may account for his hypersensitivity on the question of relationships. But then again, maybe all members of Wet Wet Wet have reason to be tentative when it comes to the press. They sure have been the target of critical bile, with a "credibility" factor among rock snobs, in particular, which is less than zero.
"The whole idea of `credibility' is a jacket we'll never be able to wear," Tom suggests. "When we started we were NME Single-Of-The-Week, four unemployed guys, influenced by the Clash, `cool', all that. But as soon as we went Top 10 all the teenybop fans came on board and that was the end of our `credibility'."
Marti: "But we're constantly trying to change people's perception and I think the songs will prevail and do the talkin', as opposed to all that other stuff. We're still here, 10 years on. Seventeen million records down the line, who needs `credibility' as long as they pay my mortgage?"
Tom: "It is the music that matters, not whether someone who goes under the name of a `critic' says whether you have `credibility' or not. I know my capabilities; I know we write all our own songs; and if you don't see the wood for the trees, then f. . k you.
Most of the tracks on the new album, 10, invariably fit into the Love Is All Around romantic pop song tradition. Do the members of Wet Wet Wet feel that song has become an albatross, a pattern they now must slavishly follow? Would Tom, for example, ever feel like really! experimenting musically - maybe even dashing back to the dissonant days of the Clash? Or do a "dirty" industrial or techno track?
"Well, no matter what Marti said about money, the point is that now we all are financially secure, so it's gone full circle for me. All that matters to me is the music. Andy I do still feel like I did at 16, watching bands like The Jam, whoever," he says.
As for experimentation, we do. The type of music you mention is very `now'. Whereas we touch on big band sounds, country, r `n' b, soul. So, no, I don't feel hemmed in by Love Is All Around. That was the best thing that ever happened. God bless it. You may say we don't experiment but look at Beyond The Sea; that's the kind of `standard' song Marti loves and thought he'd try his hand at. And our way of experimenting is taking on music that is technically difficult, because we are cowboys when it comes to beings musicians. We're self-taught and the experiment was: break that song down and do it from a cowboy's perspective! And we've worked out our own musical language for that song. Then we decided to give that big band arrangement to Baby I'm In Love With You. That, to me, is Wet Wet Wet experimenting."
MARTI describes the music on the new album as "eclectic," claiming it also taps into "classic 1980s pop, and so on". Tom cuts across. "Someone last week said to me, `Wet Wet Wet songs are like a comfy jacket, you know where they're coming from and that made me want to punch the guy, he says.
"Okay, we're celebrating 10 years but we're not content to coast on all that. We'll stand up and fight. A lot of doors are closed to us, because we haven't jumped on a bandwagon, don't do techno. We're told we're `retro' but a song like Julia doesn't belong in the 1980s, the 1970s. How can it be `retro'? Right, it isn't techno or the punk of the 1990s but it's relevant, as far as I'm concerned, because it's got a melody and that's what Wet Wet Wet do best. Strong songs, strong melodies."
Back to Marti: "That's what I mean when I say we're `eclectic'. But whatever the style the thread that ties it all together is a great song. Look at something like Love Is All Around. That lyric is so simple, so naive. "I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes." That's the kind of simplicity Wet Wet Wet go for, in our own songs.