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Surreally Saying Something

This is the dawning of the age of "Asqaurius". Or something. Or nothing, as we are now entering the Random Thought Generator where left-field pop pranksters CUD are babbling indecisively and completing their transformation from obscure Weddoes proteges to minor cult on major label. By dressing up as pig-monsters. Squarial adjustment:- STEPHEN DALTON. Comic cuts: STEVE DOUBLE

Spend an hour inside the Random Thought Generator that is Cud and you emerge none the wiser. Evasive, neurotic, undisciplined and barely on speaking terms with the cast-iron strictures of syntax and grammar which define reality for most of us - such are the Leeds-based foursome in conversation and, indeed, in the spiralling grooves of their uniquely chunky corner of the pop tablecloth.

Two momentous yews have trundled by since we first sat dawn together in a Leeds park to conduct Cud's first proper NME interview. The Soviet Union is in tatters - Europe has forged Itself into new and volatile shapes. Baggy and shoe-gazing enjoyed their 15 minutes of blinding limelight before slithering off down the plughole of history. Techno ate the charts alive.

Cud, meanwhile, dutifully fulfilled their contract with indie midget Imaginary, in the shape of 1990's fabbo 'Leggy Mambo' LP, before surrendering to the advances of hungry giant A&M. Their drummer, Steve Goodwin, enjoyed a brief and bizarrely faceless brand of notoriety in these very pages. Bassist William porter suddenly found himself too busy to pursue his comics career in Deadline and grew a comedy Shakespearean beard instead.

Guitarist and band foreman Mike Dunphy became even more disgruntled at Cud's simmering, unrealised potential, while megaphone-lunged frontman Carl Puttnam moved house from his tidy student-style pad into "a scuzzy old back-to-back".
"He's trying to get back to the streets," deadpans Mike. his refined Durham accent charged with sarcastic contempt. "Back to his roots far inspiration."
"We've nearly gone to America four times." recalls William wistfully. "We've been told to expect it, get our passports ready ... I'll have to read through my back issues of NME to work out what I've been doing. I hardly know what I was doing last month. I know what we were doing yesterday, we were making a video."

A promo for spunky new single 'Rich And Strange'. no less, from Cud's forthcoming and rather super first album for A&M, 'Asquarius'. Might one ask why this nonsensical moniker was chosen?
"Because it's the opposite of Squarius," nods Carl, helpfully. "We like to have things that don't have any literary allusion in the title. The joke we have is if someone's got a dog on their record sleeve that means we can't use a dog on any of our sleeves, ever."
Mike elaborates. Sort of. "We were going to call it 'The Square Album', then someone suggested 'Capricorn On The Cob'. Lots of bands use titles to say something about what they are doing.
"But we don't." Right.
"We don't even write songs to say things about what we're doing. but we know that it's right."
Oh good. "Sometimes." Ah, ripping, cut-and-thrust stuff so far. William has more - "It's going to take us quite a while to get to the stage of the Cocteau Twins. where we write whole songs in made-up words." He explains the LP title as the product of a recent band obsession with rock-gospel musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell So have Cud found God on the road to rock 'n' roll? Has God found Cud?
"We couldn't get any television anywhere," Mike shrugs, "so we thought we'd find God and try and get a spot on Highway."
"It's a crossover audience A&M were trying to get us into," chimes in William, "the huge Christian market in America..."
The appropriate phrase here. I believe, is - NOT!

"I don't sound like Mike Hucknall, I've just got the same colour hair. I've been compared to Tom Jones occasionally, which I like, and Elvis... I'd like the body of Tom Jones and the haircut of Elton John." - Carl

AMERICA WILL have a cough task figuring out these pop pranksters when they finally get to play over there next month. Their fellow Britons found it hard enough sifting through bonkers concept-album japery like 'When In Rome, Kill Me' and in-joke compilation 'Elvis Belt', never mind the chugging sonic assault and sartorial holocaust of Cud live.
But if you think you've got problems, just try sitting down in a pub by the murky old Thames, asking four wigged-out pop eccentrics how they view themselves and reeling in a thousand flailing minnows of non-description. Here is a foursome whose bassist once stormed out of a band meeting after slamming the drummer for being "a Random Thought Generator, the product of alcohol and drugs." and the singer for "just thinking anything that's stupid is good". Both true enough, but this only scrapes the scaly skin of Cud's elusive. slippery nature.
"If we looked too hard for a definition we might not like it and we'd have to split up," coughs Mike earnestly. "If we went on a self-awareness course we'd probably say 'bloody hell' and jack it in straight away. We always get asked similar questions, but it doesn't get any easier to assess why we make records and play live like we do. We're just floundering."
Carl is more constructive. "We used to think we were Led Zeppelin crossed with INXS. We really did think that, that's how we used to describe ourselves to each other! Ha ha ha!" Mike sneers. "Yeah! We used to sit around for hours and describe ourselves as that".

Cud sound nothing at all like Led Zep or INXS. Their brutal bulldozer tunes resemble 70s disco whacked out by super-talented hippos on humungous great anvils, while Carl's operatic wail spirals ever closer to the Kevin Rowland school of impassioned yelping.
"That's good, I like that. Anything other than Mick Hucknall really. I don't sound like him. I've just got the same colour hair. I've been compared to Tom Jones occasionally, which I like, and Elvis, but that was only the presentation... I'd tike to have the body of Tom Jones and the haircut of Elton John."
Mike is aghast. "What? a 55-year-old body?"
Carl protests, "But it was good once. I'd like to have the memories of a 55-year-old body." You will one day, Carl. In the meantime. try and talk sense. "Doing interviews is strange," moans Mike, "you don't associate it with the product I always find it strange on programmes like This Morning, some woman rings up and says, 'My husband's beating me up but I don't want anyone to know about it and I don't want him to find out I've rung you' But she's ringing in front of two million people and he's probably in the next room watching! That's one of the things you have to come to terms with when you do interviews..."
"What, domestic violence? What the hell is he on about?" William injects a welcome note of snack-related levity.
"I'd like everybody in the world to know what my favourite type of sandwich is. Avocado and salad."
Quicker than a coiled cobra, Mike joins the debate - "Chicken ones are good - chicken or turkey."
Food talk stirs Steve from his century-long slumber - "Banana and brie."
Now we're getting somewhere. Carl? "I saw one that looked good today. Crab-apple and celery. I wondered whether it was crab, apple and celery or just crab-apple and celery."
Mike sighs at life's bewildering riot of conflicting information. "Now there's a dilemma."

Pathetic Sharks. That's what Cud are. Onstage they might be the four hoarse men of the rock apocalypse, bellowing energetically over some of the beefiest guitar grooves in Christendom but, confronted with the demands of normal conversation, they become indecisive babblers on the banter bus to Non-Committal City. Mike and William stake their claim as the band's serious element, while Steve dozes off and Carl wonders how he became a minor pop star in the first place. "I'm just along for the ride. That's the weird thing, we never really formed a band, it just kind of happened . . . I've never had any ambitions When I went to art college they said 'You're not coming to Leeds Poly so you can join a band. are you?' I said I wasn't going to join a band because they're full of wankers. So they let me join the course." And now, having formed a band and met hundreds of other musicians, do Cud still think pop groups are full of wankers?
"What, literally people who masturbate?" gurgles William. "Probably the bands who make it are those with wankers in them." - asserts Carl. "I don't know how Carter managed to succeed. because they're such nice guys.

Surely Mike is Cud's token wanker. Why has he been christened the "Geordie Hitler" by their road crew?
"Because I'm the only one who gets out of bed," he snarls. But what about rumours of the guitarist, erm, punching other band members when the mood takes him?
"I hit Carl in the stomach the other day. I pointed out that Harry Houdini actually died in the same way, so it really wasn't such a good idea...
Indeed not, so why did you hit him?
"Because I was wrong and it's very rare that anything like that happens, so I was frustrated." Oh well, fair enough then. When Carl is asked to psychoanalyse Mike, the guitarist predicts "this is going to end in a punch-up". But it doesn't.
"Stomach ulcers," barks Carl. "He's a nervy guy, he doesn't lack confidence but I think he's... over-prudent. He should take more drugs, chill out more, go on holiday. I'm like a caged animal when we're in the studio... I'd probably start wanking if I wasn't so inhibited."
Mike sits back in triumph, "if that's not stress, I don't know what is."
It's been no bed of roses - no pleasure cruise - for Cud these last few years, transforming themselves from obscure Wedding Present proteges to minor cult on a major label. Very slightly richer, just a little stranger, they watch Old Father Thames rolling an by as time trickles away and their appointment to dress up as surreal pig-monsters for NME lensman Steve Double looms ever closer. All in a days work for the Random Thought Generators of left-field Brit-pop.
"We were thinking about getting Ernie, the computer who does the premium bonds, as our manager," insists Mike, as last drinks are downed. "Just programme in a few random numbers and wait until he spurts out ideas..."<
Fantastic concept. But he could never - not in ten million centuries of wild calculation come up with a pop group as unlikely as Cud.