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Inspiral Carpets back for first shows since 2015

Intended to be “a celebration of the music we created, which has brought so much joy to people over the last 34 years”, iconic ‘Madchester’ quintet Inspiral Carpets’ new live shows will be their first since 2015 and their first since the tragic passing of drummer Craig Gill in 2016.

Stephen Holt of Inspiral Carpets. Picture: Ian Rook
Stephen Holt of Inspiral Carpets. Picture: Ian Rook

Fronting the reformed collective is original lead singer Stephen Holt. Stephen joined in the early ’80s and left in 1989, to be replaced by Tom Hingley until the group – for whom Noel Gallagher famously ‘roadied’ before founding Oasis – first called it a day in 1995.

The engaging frontman, who was also in a band called The Rainkings – as well as being involved in social work while taking time away from music – notes that rehearsals for the tour, which kicks off in Northampton tonight (March 23) have been going “brilliantly”.

He continues: “We’re really, really pleased at the moment with how things are sounding. It was a big decision to start playing again after Craig’s death; if you’d asked me a year ago if I thought we’d ever play again, I probably would have said no because we weren’t in the right headspace really.

“We got some good offers to come back and it felt right for us to do something. When we got back in the rehearsal room and started playing... It’s quite a difficult decision to make; I think if it wasn’t sounding right and felt right with the people we’ve brought in to help out, it probably wouldn’t be happening.

“But it’s sounding so good, I think things have gelled really well and we’re all really excited. It’s like being in a new band again, when you’re starting out and you’re really excited and you want to get out and play the songs.”

Lining up alongside Stephen in this current incarnation of the Inspirals are founding member guitarist Graham Lambert and long-term keyboard player Clint Boon. The “people we’ve brought in to help out” are Jake Fletcher on bass and Kev Clark on drums (long-time bassist Martyn Walsh declined to take part in the reunion).

As part of the famed ‘Madchester’ scene of the late ’80s, early ’90s, Inspiral Carpets were contemporaries of the likes of Happy Mondays, The Charlatans and The Stone Roses. The music of these acts generated quite a following and remains extremely popular to this day – as anyone who has attended a recent gig by any of these bands can attest.

“Yeah, it’s weird, isn’t it?” agrees Stephen, “People had a great time in the ’80s, the ’90s and whatever – went out, they bought the records, really enjoyed gigs like G-Mex and other iconic gigs, and then now maybe they don’t go to watch as many bands.

“But when those bands come back round again, it’s almost like a little bit of a nostalgia trip out, isn’t it? You meet your mates, you go for a few beers, have a bit of a dance and you sing along to old tunes and whatever, so it’s nice. We’re all for it, it’s a great night; I go and watch quite a lot of bands that are playing now that I loved at that time as well.”

Stephen, who doesn’t just go and see established artists from back in the day (“There are some brilliant new bands out there”), recalls his departed bandmate, Craig Gill: “After Craig, I think we all just thought, as I say, that we’d probably never play again, because Craig had been our drummer since he was 15.

“A spotty little kid on a mountain bike, he came to an outside gig we were doing which unfortunately was rained off, but our drummer hadn’t turned up that day and these lads were hanging around on mountain bikes – or BMXs, as they were at the time, I think – and we were thinking, ‘Oh no, they’re going to come rob our gear’ but Craig rode up and was like, ‘Has your drummer not turned up? I’m a drummer’.

“The gig that day was rained off but what we said to him was to come along and have a rehearsal with us and he was with us ever since. So trying to replace someone who’s been with you since 15, been through so many different things in years and years of being together, it was just so difficult and, as I say, I don’t think any of us felt we could probably play with anyone else.

“But we really want to celebrate [his life], I suppose, because we’ve done a lot of mourning, all of us, and probably regret, thinking we could have done more or whatever, but I think now it’s definitely time to get out and celebrate his life, and what better way than to play the tunes that he played on and with people who obviously loved and adored him and loved the tunes?

“I think there’s definitely an appetite out there for it as well – I mean the Manchester show sold out in about half an hour and I think about seven gigs of the tour now have sold out and limited tickets available for the others, and we’re going to Australia and Australian gigs are sold out on the tour as well.

“There’s definitely an appetite out there and obviously we want to celebrate what we’ve done as well, for the fans, for ourselves, but definitely for Craig and the family.”

Formed in Oldham in 1980, Inspiral Carpets have had three top 10 albums (Life, The Beast Inside and The Revenge of the Goldfish) and 11 top 40 singles to their name, including This Is How It Feels, Saturn 5, Move, Caravan and She Comes in the Fall.

Dedicated fans and those discovering the band can enjoy all these songs and more on a new compilation, The Complete Singles, which came out on March 17. It contains all of the band’s 24 singles remastered and on one album for the very first time.

Stephen Holt of Inspiral Carpets. Picture: Ian Rook
Stephen Holt of Inspiral Carpets. Picture: Ian Rook

Stephen says the band is not writing new material at the present time “but we probably will do”. He elaborates: “Just before Craig died we’d started writing a new LP – we had about five, six songs that we’d demoed, we were doing little bits, ideas and things like that.

“So we have got some stuff that hopefully at some point we might be able to do some work on, polish up, get them finished off and hopefully released. There’s definitely an appetite to maybe have a sit down and see what comes out, writing-wise.

“I’ve not actually written anything for quite a while – I know Graham hasn’t as well – but I’m sure once we get back into the routine of regular rehearsing and playing live, ideas will probably start to come from that. We’re definitely not ruling it out.”

[Read more: Tim Burgess of The Charlatans: ‘The fact that we’re still making music is an amazing thing’, Happy Mondays roll back the years at Cambridge Corn Exchange]

Inspiral Carpets will be appearing at the Junction’s J1 on Friday, March 31. Tickets, priced £29, are available at junction.co.uk. For more on the band, go to inspiralcarpets.com.

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