Guy Chadwick is currently moving in two directions at once. His band, the House of Love, released an eight-CD retrospective, Burn Down the World, centered on the three albums they recorded for Fontana between 1990-1992. All well and good, you might think, but he’s also in the middle of promoting a brand-new album, A State of Grace, due for release in mid-September. And to make matters even more interesting, he’s gearing up for his first proper tour since 2018 with a new version of the band, made up of musicians from his current location of Hastings on the southeast coast of England.
You may be forgiven for thinking that all this activity might ramp up his anxiety to stratospheric levels, but he seems sanguine about the whole situation. After all, he’s fought with record labels, had band members leave mid-tour, and is constantly told that he’ll never do anything as good as the record he made in 1988, so his resilience is well established.
Chadwick seems pretty nonchalant about all of the above. While the UK was suffering from an uncharacteristic heatwave that threatened to melt the roads and has forced all its citizens to shelter in place in front of their refrigerators, he was happy to chat to PopMatters while enjoying a cool, coastal breeze and polishing his beloved Epiphone guitar for its first outing in four years. Probably.
How did you feel about revisiting the 1990s for the Burn Down the World retrospective?
I wasn’t involved in it too much – I got a copy sent to me last week – so I thought I’ll have a listen to that. It’s interesting. I heard things that I like and things that I didn’t like at the time.
You’ve probably forgotten about all the stuff that annoyed you about those records in the thirty years that have passed.
Absolutely. It’s interesting now that I’ve got a more objective overview. It’s always difficult to be objective about your own stuff.
Do you feel those Fontana albums are overlooked in favor of your Creation label debut record?
I kind of just accept that that is the way it’s perceived. Apparently, there was a little tiny review for the boxed set in a magazine, and it just referenced (former guitarist) Terry Bickers leaving and how the band wasn’t as good after he left. I thought, “Pffft, that’s someone who has an opinion, and they haven’t listened to anything.” That was the only comment they made about a retrospective that is so big – I mean, it’s over eight CDs. It’s just a spiteful little aside, but you just have to go, “OK, thank you!” Ultimately, I don’t care anymore. It’s so long gone. It is what it is.
There’s some really good stuff there, and I think it’s well documented in this collection. It wasn’t an easy time for the group to be on that label, but at the end of the day, we did our best, and some of it sounded really good.
On the subject of reissues, it seems that your 1997 solo album, Lazy, Soft and Slow, is out of print.
Yeah. It’s one of those things that has never really had a good attempt at getting reappraised. It’s down to time at the end of the day, from my point of view. It’s also a bit complicated because legally, I’m not sure where I stand with that – I’m not sure if I own that record, but I think I may do! I haven’t looked into it. It’s always been a little bit of an odd one; an underground release. There are some good songs on that. It would be good to try and do something about reissuing it.
Historically, House of Love recording sessions are fraught with much inter-band squabbling and fights with producers. Were the sessions for State of Grace like that?
It was an easy record to make. The good thing about it is that there was time. I wasn’t giving myself a deadline; I just kept working at it until it sounded good. The music had the time to develop – that was the main thing. I parted company with Terry [Bickers] about three years ago, and he wasn’t involved with making the record.
The 2022 version of the House of Love is made up of musicians from Hastings – not a town we normally think of as a hotbed of musical activity.
That’s actually not true: the music scene in Hastings is better than any scene I’ve come across anywhere. Music in Hastings is huge. It’s a small town, but there is something like 75 venues. You can see a band every night of the week, and the standard is unbelievable. It just knocks you out. And it’s mainly free. And there are three to four festivals every year, and the whole town gets involved. It’s amazing. Better than London, and I lived there for 30 years. It’s a vibrant place: I go out a lot, and you can wander about and hear great music.
There’s a great picture on your blog of the tour dates for the House of Love’s tour of 1989-1990, which was 141 dates. Do you fancy doing a tour of that magnitude in 2022-23?
No! Definitely not. I don’t really go on tour anymore. There are some UK dates in September and an American tour in October. I did a five or six-date tour about four years ago in the UK, and even that was split in two, and that is about the most that I’ve done in the last ten years. What I do know is that Covid has had a really, really big effect, and a lot of people are struggling.
You’re taking a more comfortable approach to live dates then?
In actual fact, the UK tour is two weeks with just two days off, and I was very aware that I was going to be pushing it a bit, but I thought, “I’m gonna do it as I’m probably not gonna do it again.” America’s not quite so intense, as there are a few more days off. It’s not going to be easy, but the traveling isn’t too bad. Touring is one of those things – you just do it. When you’re a young person, it’s a completely different thing – it’s exciting – but when you’ve done it a few times, it starts to feel… You still enjoy the moment on stage, but you have to live with the daily travel. You have to change your mindset.
I don’t specifically listen out for that, so I really don’t know. A lot of bands really liked us when we were around 30 years ago and were inspired by us. That’s going to have a knock-on effect—bands like Radiohead, the Verve, and the Stone Roses.
I don’t listen to commercial radio. When I do listen, I never say, “This is shit.” You have to be pretty good to get on the radio or to get people to buy your music, and that’s the way it’s always been. I know a lot of people who, when they get a little older, say, “Oh, music isn’t as good as when I was a kid,” but I don’t feel that. Music evolves. Occasionally, you’ll hear a brilliant song, and I’ve always been more into songs than production. There is some great stuff around. I have two daughters, and they both play music to me, and I always like it. Good music is good music.
Even after being buffeted by the ill winds of countless storms, the House of Love remain one of the quintessential two guitar bands of their, or indeed any generation. Their forthcoming State of Grace album is a testament to that, with Burn Down the World adding in some context. If Chadwick is curiously nonplussed by all the activity, you shouldn’t be. You’re in for a treat.