Volume 4 - August 91
"From what I can gather," says Alex Lee of Strangelove, "people do perceive us as really menacing or dark or strange. Or some sort of suicidal, tormented Joy Division revival. But you know... the last the last thing I'd want to be seen as is that kind of fucking dreadful, y'know, worthy but dull whatever."
Out of the pub, 15-odd doors down the Rulham Road in the Maison Rouge studio, the rest of Strangelove are trying to think up titles for their debut EP (due for release on the Sermon label in October). "I think it should be called 'Nail Me To A Tree'," suggest bass player Joe Allen, who talks in a trippy kind of Bristolian slow motion. "Or 'Excuse For Abuse'..."
"But to me," continues Alex, alone here in the boozer, "it's like this is the 'She Loves You' phase of The Beatles. So when we reach the White Album phase, what are people going to think then?
"Having said that," he adds hastily, "I'd be surprised if the band lasted five years. I hope we do. But... er, it doesn't strike me as the most stable environment."
Hunched over a beer in his all-purpose green skinny clothes, Strangelove's singer Patrick is greeting any news with his usual display of uptight economy of emotion. His own 'Zoo'd Out', one of several acoustic tracks which they've yet to feature live, has been deemed the one for Volume. He's pleased.
There's a bit of history to 'Zoo'd Out'. It's the song that finally got Strangelove together, after years of heart-sinking flakiness and (for Patrick) alcohol abuse. It's a peculiar way to make your debut. It sounds like an unusually sad young man looking in from outside at a hedonistic generation; words grimmer than anything Morrissey could have come up with, brushing the pathos of 'Pink Moon' period Nick Drake. It sounds awfully unhappy.
Alex is happy. Strangelove are taking off. The 20 or so gigs they've played so far have caused people to scatter around phrases like "best live band in the country", "weirdest songs I've heard in years" and "is the singer really like that?". People are already infatuated, and meanwhile Strangelove can sit around in Alex's back garden and hang out. They have loads of time to play, and scare, and wow some more.
Nervous virtually to the point of catatonia, Patrick first led Strangelove (then toying with the name Words and Pictures) on to the stage of London's Camden Underworld one night in July last year. They were incredible. This freaked-out kid, crooning pure paranoia over dazzlingly unusual chord structures, while fags were smoked solemnly onstage and eyes unwaveringly levelled from the tiny crowd at the cadaverous, tensed-up shape of Patrick going publicly mad. Without screaming or throwing himself around, he radiated fear, danger and fury. He was unquestionably a huge star of the future, and the band were simply the business: the dark, brooding, immaculate business.
"I don't really like myself," says Patrick at this point, wired up to the necessary level he needs to have an ordinary relaxed conversation. "But I like myself enough to feel that I can make myself something that's good, or something worthwhile. I want to do this, you know? I don't think there's any point in doing what you don't want to do. I mean, that's really obvious, but sometimes you're just left these really obvious things at the end of everything. All your thought patterns."
This is an everyday paragraph for Patrick. He doesn't seem to talk like anyone else, least of all a potential star. Intensity, schmintensity - this guy is stricken. Just to see him onstage is to feel naggingly voyeuristic. Spend 20 minute chatting to him about it all and it's clear that it's authentic. It'll be interesting to see what kind of letter he gets. Will people understand him?
"Well, that's a bit too much to ask. But's that's what I'd like. I've made the words pretty understandable. You know, it's not abstract people. To me it's real people... people that I know, you know? Who don't understand me, who I really hope will get... I dunno... (losing patience) Oh, they won't fucking understand it, they won't give a shit and they won't know what it means. But I always feel that I create scenarios, I suppose, that they will, you know?"
A weird, intuitive, deep-thinking guy, whose onstage mania parallels the demons inside, Patrick talks of being "in" songs, such as 'I Will Burn' - "when I'm in that one, I'm just not here. I'm just those words."
Some weeks ago he got home from a trawl of Bristol's clubs and, as the clock struck two or three, got the old guitar out. Bassist Joe Allen was there, with his girlfriend Catherine (Patrick's sister). Someone suggested Patrick do 'Zoo'd Out'. He played it really sweetly, his rick voice dancing round the strange word, until he came to the bit with the screams.
As it was three in the morning, everyone just assumed he'd leave the screams out. Wrong. He screamed his guts out - horrible animal screams that must have terrified the neighbours. They certainly terrified everyone in the room. Patrick got to the end of the song, and looked up. Everyone was staring at him.
"Sorry," he said, and started to laugh.