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How Ricky Gervais ended up managing Britpop legends Suede

The English comedian, writer, actor, producer and director Rick Gervais’ journey has been full of explorations. Arguably best known for his character of David Brent in the iconic series The Office, which Gervais co-created, he rose to prominence at the close of the 1990s, but, in reality, his ties with the entertainment world dates back to the ’80s. Fun fact, Gervais was neither a comedian nor an actor back then. In truth, he harboured a dream of becoming a pop star.

His early days in the music industry came to the surface when an episode of The Graham Norton Show saw the host reveal to the audience a picture of young Gervais and his bandmate. In 1983, while he was in his final year at the University College London, Gervais and his best friend Bill Macrae, tried their luck by forming a new wave pop duo Seona Dancing. While they did release two singles with ‘More to Lose’ and ‘Bitter Heart’ after being signed by the London Records, the material failed miserably. “The post-signed years were a bigger influence than the signed years because we played every gig we could get, and I invited A&R men to every single one,” said Gervais in an interview with Louder Sound. “I remember going to one gig with our equipment in a shopping trolley and the guitarist said, ‘This is my lowest point ever’. He had a point,” he added. In order to stay in touch with his dream world, Gervais briefly managed the Britpop band Suede shortly before they became successful in the 1990s.

Brett Anderson, the band’s frontman, in an interview with the Shortlist, answered: “Well, he was funny back then…The level of his success has been pretty stellar, but good luck to him — he’s a very charming and talented chap,” he said when asked if he ever detected Gervais’ potential to become such a huge star. “He came to a show a few years ago, and it was nice to see him,” added Anderson.

However, the band’s bass player Matt Osman had a slightly different view of Gervais as their manager. In an interview with Time Out, Osman said: “Yeah, he worked for our management company back in the day, sending out Suede demo tapes and stuff. He was a very pretty boy, like a young Bowie – you have to check out his band Seona Dancing. When he made it on TV, I did the longest double take. He was always a really sarky bugger, he really was. I’m really glad he’s a comedian rather than a manager because he was a fucking shit manager!” However, the band was indebted to Gervais for finding them their first and last permanent drummer Simon Gilbert.

When Suede received NME’s Godlike Genius Award that took place in London’s O2 Academy Brixton in 2015, Gervais recalled his time with the band in a video clip. There he said, “Well, I did help out this band a little bit in the early years and manager is a very strong term…When I told them I couldn’t manage them anymore, there were no tears, they didn’t beg – and that’s when their career really took off. I have liked them from the very beginning, and I still like them now. I think they are fantastic. It’s a pleasure to present Suede with the Godlike Genius Award…as an atheist, I wish it wasn’t called that! Can’t we call it Doglike Genius? Dogs are brilliant, and so is Suede.”

Although Gervais has now drifted to another field altogether, his musical misadventures still define a part of him; “I still have a little bit of punk in me,” he said. “I like people being offended by stuff.”