It’s 5 something in the afternoon and Gary Biddles and I are talking about the FIFA world cup. “Bloody awful,” gets thrown alot when I ask him about today’s match – draws for the US and England apparently.
For those that don’t have any idea, Gary Biddles was The Cure’s roadie in the early 80s, and later lead vocalist for Fools Dance with Simon Gallup (who formed the band when he left the Cure in 1983) and Presence (with Michael Dempsey and Lol Tolhurst, also of the Cure). And according to his bio,The first time I sang on stage was at a Cure Christmas party with Robert, Simon, Lol, Steve Severin & Budgie from the Banshees and Frankie Bell. We did “C’mon Feel the Noise” by Slade.”
His accent isn’t as thick as I expected, I can hear that trans American-Britishness (I imagine one would get from living 16 years in California) and according to him, I’m the first one who has. Now he’s worried about the American in his accent when he goes back to England. Well I think it’s charming. We talk about the ol’ UK for a little bit, and I learned that Lol Tolhurst (former Presence bandmate and former keyboardist for the Cure) came stateside soon after he did.
I imagine you keep in touch with Lol?
I just had breakfast and watched the game with Lol today actually.
What about Simon (Gallup)?
I’m trying to go see Simon when I fly back to London. I tried to see him at the Shrine with Lol when The Cure came here, but I could just do the Hollywood Bowl.
How would you compare the American music industry with the European one, especially in the UK?
It’s such a big place, it has more outlets. and Americans are more open. They have room for everything in the market – England is more dominated by big bands. Music is more accessible by everybody these days with YouTube and the internet. The media can be more close minded in england, like whatever band of the moment has their front page on the magazine.
I think there is such a huge market in America for all kinds of music, whereas the commercial UK market always seems to be very controlled. I do believe however that most of the best music comes out of the UK.
Most difficult band/artist to work for or with?
I’ve been lucky enough to have gotten along with everyone, and to have had a good rapport with everybody I’ve worked with. I would say my own band.
You can’t really run away from yourself, whereas with another person you could say okay and choose not to go with it anymore.
How did Presence and Fools Dance get signed? Fools Dance had a few labels, and Presence was under Smash (Island).
We had various European indie labels pick up the records. Before Smash, we started our own label for Presence – Reality Records under Pinnicle, a UK distribution company. In America, we played some shows and then Smash liked it and signed us.
It was kind of scary the first few times. I had sang on a couple occasions with the Cure, so I was a little prepared. With Presence, I was very used to live shows by then. It doesn’t scare me performing live.
For Fools dance I must admit I was a bit nervous because of all the hype and pressure but it went really well and after that it was always fun.
Again with Presence there was a huge amount of pressure, more so than before but I had grown in confidence and really felt they were my songs.
Fortunately I have always been blessed with great fans and every show has been exciting and fun.
According to Ron Howe (saxophonist for Fools Dance, sax for The Cure on “A Night Like This”), you were once supported by the Cult. Any recollection of details from that?
I believe that was a misquote! I spoke to Ron the other day.. no, I don’t think we ever performed with them. We’ve played football a few times though! Been on a few teams together, but I don’t have a recollection of a show.
Can you tell me what touring was like for Fools Dance, Presence, and The Cure?
Well with the Cure I wasn’t performing, so that was different. For each band it was the same group of people – same town, we’d known each other for a long time. The whole thing had that family feeling. It was like a sort of vacation with friends.
It’s hard to say – all audiences have been really good. Often, there isn’t a lot of time to spend in the cities to explore when youre touring so you dont get to really know the place. Hmm.. I did like Berlin alot.
During the Fools Dance tour, Ric Gallup did the lighting, correct?
Yes, that was him. Ricky? (mishears me) Oh he’ll like that.. I’ll have to tell him about that one! (laughs)
Oddest/favorite memory in these 3 bands? I remember Ron Howe saying you bought flowers at a gas station on the way to Belgium, and threw them at the audience. I really liked that idea! it reminded me of The Smiths and audiences throwing flowers at Morrissey except it was the other way around in your case.
And that was ways before The Smiths – I take full credit! We were years ahead of them! I remember with Fools Dance the drum kit would be dismantled at the end of each show and thrown around the stage. We were quite an aggressive band.
This would be a whole new interview, gosh from falling off the stage to dismantling drum kits the list goes on. I love playing live though and every one I have played with has always been like family to me. One day we will get into all the crazyness of it all!
And who could forget the “cure are dead” incident in 82?
How did you end up becoming a roadie for the cure? How many years did you do that?
We were friends from way back. So they were gonna go on tour – they were gonna start the ‘Seventeen Seconds’ tour. I think they took me to the pub to talk about it. So I sold all my records to get some money, and then I followed them on tour. I slept on the floor, all that.. I went to Europe with them. I think I was somewhere around 17, I wasn’t working. And then as soon as they started tour in Europe during the ‘Picture’ tour, their roadie – Click, had to go, and back then they only had one roadie. I was already there, so I became the new roadie. I worked with them from the Faith album up to The Top, which is where I did some promotional television work with them. Somewhere around this time, Fools Dance was formed and I chose to go with Simon.
Who wrote lyrics for Fools dance? Was that something you and Simon shared?
I pretty much wrote everything I sung. He wrote the lyrics for the two songs he sang – one of them was “The Ring.”
I think Simon didn’t want the role of singer, and that’s why he asked me to do it.
(photo right: First Fools Dance gig, left to right: Stuart Curran, Gary Biddles, Simon Gallup)
What was working with Lol, Michael, and Porl like? It must’ve been a unique experience to have Porl play drums on your record.
That was another Paul Thompson actually, we called him Tot. He joined after Simon left. Porl did play guitar on a couple Presence songs though. I can’t remember if Lol or I talked to Porl about it. We didn’t have a guitarist back when Porl played for those songs. Initially, Michael (Dempsey) played guitar, but then he left. So I played a portion of the guitars until we found someone else.
Can you describe the songwriting processes of Fools dance and Presence and how they differed?
Yes I can! Next question! Just joking. Simon was primarily the music writer, and I wrote the lyrics. Stuart (Curran, guitarist) wrote some as well. With Presence I took on a more musical part of the writing. At first it was me and Laurence (Tolhurst). On the last recording, “Inside” I wrote more music. Lyrically, I did almost all the writing for Fools Dance and Presence.
What were the feelings from the band members when Fools Dance and Inside (1993 Presence album) were released?
I think as with any band its nice to actually put something out. It’s a lot easier now – you can just download anything from the internet or YouTube. In fact, the other day, I saw on YouTube there was a song of ours (Fools Dance) that I didn’t even know had been released! Back then, the only way people could listen to your music was tapes and records.
Why were some songs not released for Fools Dance? Why just EPs?
I don’t really know.. its probably because we didn’t have enough time. It would’ve been nice to have more released, but thats just the nature of these things.
What other work have you done after Presence?
I’ve worked with a bunch of bands on more of a financial side along with some writing. I’ve done lots of different things but haven’t committed to anything. I’m gonna start writing again actually. I might put something out like next summer, it’s time. I was doing financial stuff like business management with touring and things of that nature, with Jane’s Addiction, Porno for Pyros, Korn, Stevie Nicks. linkin park and the Cranberries. I did a little bit with GusGus for one tour they did in America. Marilyn Manson… nothing shocked me, I’d been through it all with The Cure. I can’t remember half the people I’ve worked with. Oh, I liked Stevie Nicks alot! Right now I’m looking at avenues of what I want to do – I’m reversing – instead of doing something for other people, im looking to do something on my own.
Favorite Presence/Fools Dance/ Cure songs at this moment?
At this point in time, I would think I love “The Kiss” from Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, and “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep”. I love the cover by the Deftones, I think it’s one of the best Cure covers I’ve heard. I can get in modes where I can listen to The Cure all night.. I pretty much like all Cure songs. For Fool’s Dance, I like “The Priest Hole”. As of right now, “Ocean Hill” and “Closer” are my favorite with Presence.
I was just about to ask you about that one! What was that all about?
If you think about the circumstances of which Simon and I started the band, and listen to the lyrics.. I’ll let you work that out. I want people to make their own meanings of of the songs.
(laughs). Oh really? Then I’ll tell you specifically what it’s about!
That reminds me of when i would listen to a song, and have these images in my mind, and then I see the music video and it would be nothing like I imagined.
That was the beauty of before the internet – you could lie down and make your own video in your head. Now there’s YouTube and you can see a video for everything.
And about “They’ll Never Know” – the title track off of the same EP, I loved that.
Jean-Jaques Burnel from The Stranglers played bass on “They’ll Never Know”. That was also after Simon left.
Towards the end of the call, I’m trying to explain that the published thing won’t be word for word – “I’m not sure how interviewers do this, you can’t write down every single word everyone says. To which Gary replies in that perfectly British punk manner, ” Well normally they take the parts they want, and twist the truth so it’s nothing like you said. Then we go – you bastards! All you’ve done is taken out one stupid thing I said and played on that!
Many thanks to Gary Biddles for lending some of his summer afternoon and being a part of this.
Fools Dance: The Ring
Fools Dance: They’ll Never Know
Presence: Act of Faith