OFF THE SHELF REVIEW: Suede frontman on George Orwell, persona and the 'fame machine'.
Brett Anderson came to national fame in the nineties with rockband Suede – and he stopped by the Foundry in Sheffield to champion his second autobiography.
This year’s Off the Shelf literary festival displays talks, readings and more from some of the nation’s best creative minds.
None of these are much bigger than Brett Anderson, the frontman of Suede - a band that procured three number one album’s in the 1990’s.
His visit to Sheffield was preceded by the release of his second memoir, ‘Afternoons With the Blinds Drawn’, the book he, self-admittedly, “didn’t want to write” – the book about Suede at the height of fame.
‘Afternoons With the Blinds Drawn’ is an honest, introspective and intriguing inside take on the 1990’s British music industry, music press, and ultimately, what it was like to be in one of the biggest bands in the country.
The book is a follow-up to 2018’s ‘Coal Black Mornings’, which finished at the pinnacle moment Suede were signed to a record company.
His latest offering depicts the climb to success experienced by the band, and the first moment an audience were fully on their side – at The Joiners in Southampton in 1992.
Anderson describes the book as documenting the “journey through the fame machine”.
It is clear during the onstage interview with Joe Haddow that he finds the writing process therapeutic, his personable-calm endearing, and proving why Suede were, and still remain, such desirable acts to see live.
Anderson said: “Writing a book is much easier than writing songs
“I just splurged it out”.
The honesty laced throughout the book comes across in the interview, with Anderson admitting that he is no longer as relevant or as hounded by the press as he once was – but that he is comfortable with the ‘cult’ status that he, and Suede as a band, now have.
He said “To keep yourself relevant at 52 in an art form that is for, and by the young, is hard.”
During the Q&A session the vocalist refuses to tell audience members which football team he supports (as it is not overt in his book which mentions the sport), and denies any knowledge of whether rival ‘britpoppers’ Blur wrote their successful hit, ‘Charmless Man’, about him, laughing it of with a simple response: “I think you are asking the wrong person.”
He has regularly distanced himself from the ‘britpop’ tag that has been given to the likes of Blur, Oasis, Pulp and Suede, admitting in Sheffield that they saw themselves more aligned to the likes of the Manic Street Preachers.
Some areas of the book, however, clearly reference some of the other 90s groups (without mentioning names), branding one as a “groups of witless, opportunistic mockneys”.
The talk was an interesting insider view on life as a successful musician in the media spotlight, with Anderson admitting nowadays he spends more time reading, including regularly re-reading George Orwell's 1984, a book that bears clear significance for him.
He is still putting on some sort of Brett Anderson ‘persona’, but the ability to look at his success retrospectively and still write a poignant memoir about a subject well-documented is something one fan described as a ‘gift’.