John Bentley is best known for being a member of Squeeze. John played bass on all the classic Squeeze albums (ArgyBargy, East Side Story, and Sweets From A Stranger) then left the band for a bit and then came back in 2007 to play sell out shows around the world. He has just released a splendid new record. Find out more by visiting here: http://www.planegroovy.com/planegroovystore.html and here: www.johnbentley.tv but before that why not read this funsize interview...
The Rebel Magazine: Based on a True Story is your 3rd solo album. Are you proud of it, do you think it's your best record yet?
John Bentley: "As you can imagine - its a quite a challenge to put out an album of songs that has to stand alongside people like Difford & Tilbrook.(not Difford & Tilbrook but people like them)Now I know how Bill Wyman and Ringo must have felt! ...Based on a True Story is a labor of love, and I am very proud of it."
The Rebel: A lot of the lyrics seem dark - you talk about sinking into quicksand, hangmen wanting to be free, nurses telling you it's going to get worse etc. Are these dark times for John Bentley - or is it that when you're feeling happy you tend not to want to write a song about it?
"Yes - some of the lyrics are bitter-sweet. The track 'Things could only get worse' attempts to expose the fragility of the human condition (pretentious moi?) - but it's all tongue in cheek. But I must admit - I always look at the darker side for inspiration. I recently went on holiday with my daughter, and our chosen destination was Transylvania! It was a lot of fun in a creepy kinda way!"
The Rebel: Chris Difford writes sleeve notes for the record. Do you go to his songwriter group sessions, does he ever suggest changes to your lyrics?
"I've been on a couple of Chris Diffords song-writer workshops. One was in Italy which was an emotional rolla-coaster and would've made a riveting Reality TV Show. The other was on the Queen Mary II where I managed to get arrested and then interrogated by an armed security guard on suspicion of terrorism. CD's workshops are never boring - I dont think Chris would suggest a lyric change to anyone - but he does inspire and encourage song writers to step out of their comfort zones."
What's the story behind your song Elvis & Me? Do you remember when Elvis Presley died?
"I'm talking about the other Elvis! And (more significantly) I do remember where I was when John Lennon was tragically shot in 1980 -
in the studio recording East Side Story which was produced by Elvis Costello. Later that same year Squeeze were touring America with the Attractions, and Glenn Me Elvis and his bodyguard all went on a break to Las Vegas. No, I'm not making this up.
So the song Elvis & Me is about that 'nefarious crew'."
The Rebel: Bill Wyman has said there are a few Stones songs like Satisfaction where he felt his contribution was such that he felt he deserved a share of the royalties. Did that ever happen with Squeeze? Were there songs like Someone Else's Heart where you felt your contribution deserved a writing credit?
"Wow! Nobody's ever asked me that one before. The details are a secret between Me / Chris / Glenn and my accountant. But I will tell you that Glenn & Chris acknowledge my creative contribution to Squeeze and reward me very generously. My situation as far as I am aware, is totally unique - just like Glenn and Chris I suppose! Bill Wyman keeps cropping up then!"
The Rebel: Elvis Costello co produced East Side Story. What are your memories of him and do you think it would work if he produced a Squeeze album in the future?
"I appear to be answering your questions before you're asking them. It's a bit like The Two Ronnies on Mastermind Sketch.
Well assuming you've read my answer to question 5, then you already know that I was inspired to write a song called Elvis & Me - I will continue...
There are lots of 'East Side' Stories - here's another one of them:
One day I marched into the studio with some newly purchased singles (those were the days!) and Elvis Costello who is continuously and hugely interested in records wanted to see what I had bought. Amongst the 45's was a cover version of Billie Holidays Strange Fruit recorded by Robert Wyatt. EC was intrigued - surprisingly he had never heard of Robert Wyatt. We played the record through the studio speakers. It's a great great record - so emotional. I could see that EC was really impressed with the record. I thought no more about it until a few months later I heard 'Ship Building' on the radio, which EC had written especially for Robert Wyatt. Imagine my surprise!! Well... thats Showbusiness!"
The Rebel: I've interviewed a few bass players for The Rebel (Horace Panter, Bruce Thomas, Fernando Saunders) do you have many bass player chums? When you meet one do you talk about guitars and techniques?
"I hope not. When Bass-players collide there's bound to be a bit of banter - but that doesn't include: "do you boil your own strings?"
As Nick Lowe famously said " a Bass is just a piece of wood with some bits of wire attached"
...and I'm sure that's as true then as it was now."
The Rebel: When you're playing live with Squeeze are there many songs like Hourglass where you play differently to how Keith Wilkinson did on the record. Do you rate his style of playing?
"I never thought anybody would have the balls to ask me that! But its an insightful question... And here's the answer...
Glenn Tilbrook has very sharp ears. He hears EVERYTHING every musician in Squeeze plays ALL the time. - and during rehearsals in 2007 he turned to me saying that he noticed I had changed the Bass line to Hourglass. I replied that this was true but my bass line was in fact much better than the original. There was some eye contact, then he just turned away and didn't say another word about it. I've been playing it my way ever since.
In the battle of the Squeeze Bass Players Harry Kakoulli comes out on top in my book. 'nuff said..."
The Rebel: Glenn and Chris both say in interviews that Some Fantastic Place is their best song. Do you have a favourite Squeeze song or a top 5?
"My Squeeze top 5 in reverse order...
No.5 the apocalyptic - There's No Tomorrow
No.4 with Biblical proportions - Tempted
No.3 the adolescent pubescent - Touching Me Touching You
No.2 it's Non-PC - it's sexist - it's got the best guitar solo ever! - It's So Dirty
No.1 Earth Shattering - The Knack
(please note that this list goes down to zero)
No.0 from the album 'Live at the Filmore' - Hope Fell Down."
The Rebel: I've always been a fan of Steve Nieve - what's he like to go on the road with? Is he a decent fellow?
"I once had the honour of interviewing Mr. Nieve for Bentleys Blog. Here's a section from that exclusive/intrusive interview:
JB "Hi Steve .. and welcome to Bentleys Blog! Now I'm sure there are lots of things Squeeze fans will want to know about you...
so I hope you dont mind if I ask you some rather personal questions about your childhood?"
SN "No no no .... fire away!" (Bang Bang - Bang Bang)
JB "It must have been very difficult for you growing up with the name 'Nieve' ....
how did you cope with all the cruel jibes you must have had at school?"
JB "As a young boy - was your mother very strict with you?"
SN "Let me make one thing very clear to you John - my mother was NEVER a young boy!"
JB "It must have been amazing working with Elvis .... what was it really like playing in the Jordanaires?"
SN "You mean the Attractions?"
JB "I vill ask ze qvestions"
hmmm? an interview within an interview! Is that a first?"
The Rebel: You offer your services as an engineer, producer and arranger to other bands and singers. Where is your studio based and who have you had in there recently?
"I had my wife in there the other night..
Well most recently Tony Smith came over from France to record in my studio. He is the Singer/Composer/Frontman from French based group - Gone Dead Train www.gonedeadtrain.bandcamp.com
Together we recorded 6 backing-tracks for their 2nd album.
I played a bit of bass and drums on the tracks - or should I say Drum & Bass Innit
And we wrote a song together called 'Running Outa Beatles' - which is FAB!
Inde Band the Picardy popped in the other day in to record a few tracks - then they had to get back to work at Currys.
Lord Craig Dacey is omni present in my studio recording music for his new musical 'TOWBAR'.
The studio is located at the top of my house in East Preston which is on the South Coast of West Sussex. For more details go to:
The Rebel: What are your hopes for "True Story"? What next?
"Putting out my record ...based on a true story on Vinyl is a dream come true.
Having a record deal with Plane Groovy is just ... plane groovy.
Anything else that happens with this record will be a bonus.
We'd like to hear it played on the radio wouldn't we?
And we'd like to play some of the songs from the album live with our beat combo - Officer Bentley.
I would love to get Bentleys Blog published... as a semi-autobiographical surreal coffee table graphic novel