press image

Hits and Missiles

Meoldy Maker June 29 1991

For many people, CUD were the definitive indie band. But now the Leeds quartet are brooking into the mainstream with a major deal with A&M and a recently completed tour supporting The Pixies. DAVE JENNINGS charts their progress out of the indie ghetto. Pic: STEPHEN SWEET

So You think Cud are a bit of a joke. You think those records that stayed high in the indie charts for months, and earned the Leeds quartet their shiny new major deal, were a great big smelly pile of garbage. Well, if you dared to say as much to the bloke who song on those records... he'd totally agree with you.
"We make crap records, Carl Puttnam tells me, matter-of-factly. "The songs are good, but there's something wrong with our recordings. I sometimes think 'If I heard that wouldn't want to see us'. I don't think anyone would have signed us if they'd just heard the records.
"But," he adds hastily, "I think we're the best band live - I honestly believe we're absolutely brilliant. There was a time when, at every gig we played, we'd get a stage invasion. We played the Futurama in Bradford last year with The Fall, James and Primal Scream, and people jumped up and down a bit to them. But then we came on, played two songs and the stage was packed!"

WE meet as Cud are finally leaving the indie playground behind, via a series of major live dates supporting The Pixies and a freshly-signed deal with A&M That deal represents o huge step for Cud, who've long been seen as the definitive indie minnows; and, not surprisingly, there's still an element of mutual mistrust in the relationship between the band and their new employers.
"We like them," Puttnam hells me. "But we're wary of them as well. They want us to do scams - the guy who signed us is keen for us to do things other than music."
"We've only been signed to a major for about a month, and already we're realising why artistic control is worth fighting for," adds guitar man Mike Dunphy, "It's not that you have things imposed on you, but the pressure through implication is very strong. You know, they'll say, 'Maybe that wouldn't be a good idea...'We get on with them very well, but that's the way they work, they kind of nag away until you doubt what you've done.
"But, there again, we've never had a record company that could push and distribute us in America before. And now I really think we could be massive in America - be a big prog-rock band! Although we'll probably have to lie about our ages, pretend we're older than we are..."

"Prog-Rock" is hardly the most obvious phrase to describe the undeniably unique sound of Cud. In a sense, they're part of the indie-dance phenomenon, with their supple rhythms and sturdy guitar noise, but the surreal sense of humour revealed in Carl's lyrics and his spectacularly uncool dress sense, keep them a safe distance away from the baggy brigade.
"We don't get seriously morose," says bassist William Potter. "We smile, we enjoy playing in the band, and we make fun of ourselves and other things. For a while, it wasn't cool to have a good time, you were meant to be Serious Artists, be in it for the drugs and the noise, and end up making yourself ill."
Steve Goodwin, the almost legendary Drummer Out Of Cud, takes up the theme: "When the Manchester thing was on, I could easily have played with that drumbeat, and we could have gone that way; but we've steered clear of that. We don't want to be like anybody else, and nobody wants to be like us! It's all the most crap bands who've tried to be The Stone Roses or Happy Mondays - all they have is a traditional dance rhythm, some groovy basslines, wah-wah guitar and weedy moanings over the top of it. At least we've got a singer who can sing and some songs that are singable."

HE has a point there. Carl's booming, resonant voice is about as far removed from the stoned mumble of a Shaun Ryder as could be. He is, I tell him, the alternative Tom Jones. He's flattered.
"I like to be compared to Tom Jones,' says Carl, "because he used to bellow a bit. I've been compared to Pavarotti, but I don't think 'operatic' is quite the rightward for my voice... "I'm just the singer, and I don't think that's a particularly important part of a band. I think I'm a better performer than I am a singer - I like dressing up more than I like singing. "I've listened to hardly anything but jazz recently,' he continues, "and prior to that I wasn't listening to anything but soundtrack music. There are only about three or four singles I listen to that have singing on them - I can't stand hearing voices. I can't stand hearing myself singing at the moment, either."
Fortunately, for all concerned with Cud, an ever-increasing number of feel differently. With the possible exception of Carter USM, there's no other around at present who can so consistently provoke wild responses from indie audiences; and both Cud and Carter are certainly still playing to archetypal indie audiences, despite their new major contracts. That said, there is something distinctive about the demographics of Cud's following. "We get a mixture," muses William. "We get student indie-dance fans, and spotty fat-bellied beer drinkers who follow us on tour and go 1o real ale festivals on the way. We get old hippies at our gigs as well. Even some of our own friends like us!"

I meet William again after Cud's performance at Crystal Palace Bowl, the first of their big dates with The Pixies. The day's been a strange experience for Cud - a band who pride themselves on the number of stage invasions they provoke, proving to an anonymous mass of people separated from the stage by the width of a sizeable lake. Cud are well received, and Carl's reasonably satisfied with the days work, but he admits it's taught him a lesson or two about life in the first division.
When we toured with The Wedding Present," he remembers, "I got fed up with the way David Gedge would say the same things on stage every night. I thought it was really false. On the last night, I told all his jokes during our set!
"But now, I can understand why you need to do that kind of thing. It is strange when you don't have any contact with the audience, when you're singing to a crowd you can't really see."

So where do Cud go from here? Castle Donington?
"The new stuff we're writing is sort of Rock with a capital 'R', says Steve. "I think we've always seen ourselves as a standard rock bond, really - a kind of reborn Led Zeppelin." Goodwin's looking forward to confronting the internationally celebrated names that Cud are now competing with. "We might get to meet them at the A&M Christmas party," he says with relish. "I certaintIy hope so, I want to tell Chris Rea that he's a c***, and Sting that his new songs are rubbish. I liked the one that went 'Do do do da da da'. He should have stuck with that."
Carl, who says he shocked himself with the raunchiness of some of the lyrics he wrote for Cud's last LP, 'Leggy Mambo", has been revisiting favourite themes in his newest material, "I try very hard to write songs that have some meaning,' he tells me. 'It's hard, but I have written one or two just recently. There's 'Oh No! Won't Do', which is about capitalism and having a chip on my shoulder about various things. I tend to write about love, sex, money, or not wanting to work - there's another new song called 'Profession' about that.
"Work is probably the worst thing that happens in the world! There's not many things worse in life, unless you're talking about war and things like that."
Carl's quiet for a moment. An odd thought's just struck him.
"Actually," he says eventually, 'war' and 'work' are very similar words, aren't they? I've just thought of that...'
The connection's absurd, apparently trivial, but maybe just a little profound. Rather like Cud, in fact.