When you think of the dominating discourse of (Greater) Manchester’s musical heritage, the most common names that come to mind probably include those such as Joy Division, Happy Mondays, The Smiths, The Stone Roses and latterly Oasis.
One thing that they all seem to have in common is a kind of ‘zero to hero’ trajectory whereby the natural path of a rockstar is some kind of inevitable transition from pub and club venues to stadium-filling world conquerers.
But when formulaic splits and reformations, greatest hits and B-side compilations, and the most tenuous of ’17th anniversary reunion’ tours start to become the order of the day, a refreshing DIY ethos can quickly turn into cash-squeezing drudgery.
However, there are others who will always put their principles first, possibly even to the extent where they may only ever exist within a kind of ‘underground’.
To many, this is rock ‘n’ roll in its purist form and one cult Manchester institution (oxymoron?), which can certainly never be accused of deserting its artistic morals is Gabrielle’s Wish.
Now 20 years down the line, this shape-shifting post-punk outfit – who were originally signed by Rob Gretton – are back with a brand new record but the the very same ‘we do what we want’ attitude.
Far Out spoke to the band’s esteemed leader Robert Corless about what DIY really means to him…
Was it always your intention for Gabrielle’s Wish to have a ‘DIY’ approach?
Regarding the DIY thing, yes definitely. It’s always important for groups to have the freedom to do what they really want to do. You can fall into it. But trying to be creative and DIY at the same time is quite a difficult thing to achieve.
A lot of the time, unless you’re fucking rich and already have something behind you, it’s really hard work. Without that kind of luxury that a lot of bands have now it can be difficult. Artists who seem nostic or forward-thinking often go even further beyond that.
They’re seers. They see things that others don’t. I like that in art, music, religion. They’re the ones who don’t just follow. They see things before you do.
When commercial goals become a factor, can that destroy such an ethos?
From a musical point of view, as soon as you want something you’re never going to attain it. That’s never been something I’ve been interested in. Sorry if that’s a disappointment, but I’ve just never been bothered about any of that shit.
It’s something that for me has to be true, you just feel like it has to be said, rather than being a career. No lies, no bullshit.
For you are there too many around at the moment pedalling ‘lies and bullshit’?
Yeah there definitely are. Including myself in a way. I’m full of fucking shit, but I’m full of fucking goodness! I oscillate between the two. At times I can be weak and be a wanker, but at times I can be a God and be strong.
The truth smacks of something wonderful. Exactly what that wonderfulness is, I don’t know, but it’s a kind of energy.
Does that truth and sincerity help build a fanbase that – although perhaps modest – is more loyal than others?
Yeah, exactly, that’s interesting what you’re saying there. The people who come to see Gabrielle’s Wish turn up, and if they like it, they like it. If they don’t I couldn’t really give two fucks.
Everything has gone. It’s all gone. Doing an interview with someone who thinks that might be pointless, but there you go!
What do you mean by all gone?
In terms of music, in terms of recording, in terms of the industry. That’s all sat over ‘there’, and I’m over here, moving forward.
So do you try and make every gig focused on the body of work that is most relevant at that exact point in time?
Indeed. You go to venues and you have to tune into them straight away and pick up on them. You play that game with with the place you are performing at.
The setlist usually gets written about 15-minutes before we play in an ale house around the corner or something. Nothing’s rigid, it’s more interesting in a way because you play a fresh set all the time. If you’re playing at a shit-hole ale house in like Bury or somewhere then you’re not going to play with fucking double distortion.
Recently I have been trying get into the whole ‘mantra’ thing, but most groups like that seem to just be about melody. Melodic, melodic, melodic, you know? There are so many fucking groups like that in Manchester!
You’re the only constant member of Gabrielle’s Wish, does that help freshen up the energy you were talking about?
Different people come and bring their own energy, yeah, but they’re playing with fire in a way. You bring you’re own energy and skills, but it’s always about ‘us’. If it’s about ‘you’, then you’re never going to win. But that depends how much I want enforce my male menopause energy!
It’s no different to hanging around with you’re mates really. If you get some twat who suddenly turns up one week, you’re not going to knock about with him the next. They’re basically a shower of bastards, but that’s ok because they feel the same about me!
Do you think a certain amount of antagonism helps with the music?
Yeah, antagonism, yeah! You listen to all these cunts who cry murder about everything they’re doing, and it’s not for me.
The only group I’d like to see at the moment is Showaddwaddy, they’re playing Holmfirth soon. The first tour was 30 years ago, I’m going to be devastated. And that’s the point of seeing Showaddywaddy… to be devastated.
Gabrielles Wish release their first LP for eight years, Hypnagogic, on Eromeda Records, September 18th & the career-spanning documentary ‘A Kind of Existence’ – featuring contributions from Peter Hook, John Cooper Clarke and John Robb.