Interview at Preston (UCL) Students Union – 13/10/02

Rob Allen.

If you are amongst those who jumped aboard the Puressence express in the mid-nineties you’ll have endured a ride which, took on the all characteristics of a roller coaster, one that occasionally stuttered to a halt atop a towering peak and dangled precariously for what seemed like an eternity. You’d then find yourself doing a loop the loop before hurtling backwards, given a chance to catch your breath and then taking off again, hitting a blind corner at 100mph. It’s a journey that has required stamina and patience but the highs have been of dramatic proportions, the lows have allowed the band and their fanbase to regroup and take another shot at getting to the promised destination when we bought our ticket all those years ago. “It’s like being a City fan isn’t it?” says Puressence front man James Mudriczki. It can’t be that bad, can it?

October 2002 has seen the release of a fine record in the shape of “Planet Helpless”, the third album from a band that the record buying public has toyed with like a kitten with a ball of wool. It’s not been fair on a group who, in 1998, filled The Ritz and scored a number one hit with “This Feeling”. But the band are well aware that life in rock and roll isn’t fair when you balance integrity, a genuine desire to take a place amongst the big boys and the absence of lady luck in their lives. So, with many lessons learnt along the way, subtle directional changes have clearly been made with the latest record. Where there once was a searing guitar sound to accompany the burning choruses, there is now rolling bass grooves. Where once there was angst, there’s a defiant smoulder. There’s the same dedication to a crowd-pleasing repertoire of anthems though and the voice of Mudriczki still defies belief. 

“It’s about trying to move on a bit and be a bit more fluid, a bit more soulful and less contrived” explains Mudriczki when the subject of the album content arises, “It’s good to have an agenda of what you want to sound like. But, sometimes it’s a bit too rigid for me”. The growth of the band into the more mature, confident unit that is currently taking to the stage was beginning to take shape after the second album “Only Forever” with the gentle boil of “Make Time” making it’s way into the live set, a strong feature of the new LP. “I was listening to the early demo’s of “Make Time” the other day and it’s unbelievable really, the way that it’s come on from that.” Says Mudriczki, highlighting the way the band is always evaluating the progress of their huge talent and taking note of their directional changes. Going all the way back to their debut in 1996, Mudriczki can see where the formula has altered in order create such a complete body of work 6 years on, “The first album is a culmination of everything you’ve been doing before you get signed. On the second album we went more towards the songwriting side, we’d get Kev (Matthews – bass) and Tony (Szuminski – drums) to come in and add the parts to the songs. This time it’s a culmination of both of those. We wrote together a lot, it’s more of a mixed bag but a more honest appraisal of what we do as a band. Musically, I’m more confident in this album than any other album that we’ve done”. What you are listening to here is 100% proof Puressence, undiluted and more intoxicating than ever.

But, where the hard-core fans run around celebrating the return of the band the rest of the nation appears to be in the same indifferent slumber that waved them into the distance last time around. After all, the peak of the comeback single at number 40 doesn’t inspire much confidence does it? “If it went top 10 or top 20 then that would be amazing. It was a set-up single to see where we were as a band. We didn’t receive a lot of radio support but we got a lot of club support. We got top 40 off the strength of a few people who heard it and people who love the band. In the scheme of things it did really well, when you’ve got bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club who are on the front of NME, on MTV and the radio a lot.” Says the optimistic singer. “It means that when we drop a big hit like “She’s Gotten Over You” or “How Does It Feel”, added to the fanbase who are going to buy it anyway, it should do really well”.

Indeed, he speaks the truth when he highlights the obvious saleable qualities of either single selection. “She’s Gotten Over You” being a superb example of Puressence’s pop sensibilities. That irresistible quality of remaining lyrically tight to a theme, following the emotionally sensitivity combined with chart friendliness of New Order and The Smiths. “How Does It Feel” is similar in the way that it melts hearts without losing the all-important swagger of a Mancunian band telling you the way it is, fuelled by immense self-belief. For Kev the plan couldn’t be simpler with a backdrop of such quality songs “Get the album in the shops, create some momentum from the tour and then drop in the main radio single.” Once you hear the record, you’ll find yourself getting sucked into the grand plan.

Although there has been a lack of recorded material, Manchester has been graced with the presence of the band on the live circuit for a healthy percentage of the lost four years. Shows at the Witchwood and Middleton Civic Hall are highlighted as prime examples of the bands continued live prowess; “It’s nice that a level of support is still there” explains Mudriczki “We’ve not played London though for four years. It’s good to go to a venue like the Scala and sell it out and they’re asking you to do another night”. You can see the obvious lift in confidence that news like that brings to the band, they know that with responses like this from the live audience outside Manchester will see a return in the success of forthcoming releases. They are relaxed in their gentle ascent to a second brush with national fame. Tony Szuminski sees enough from behind his kit to be happy saying “The support in Britain is probably as passionate as it has ever been in London, Manchester and the North West. But, you can go to Wales and not many people know you there”. No reason for lost sleep, if you only have to conquer Bangor to complete your British isles following.

The bad timing and general failure to make a long-term attack on gaining arena status have constantly amazed those on the sidelines watching the movements of the band and the tag of “underachievers” is visibly boring the band. They appeared at the back end of Manchester’s indie renaissance during Britpop and didn’t find it easy to fit into the Blur and Oasis dominated climate. The second coming found them shining in the middle of a Verve and Radiohead led emotional rock whirlwind, but the competition saw them accept the wooden spoon before disappearing into the mire of record company based trauma. This time around they arrive in a world built on nu-metal, trashy dance and “Simon Cowell’s wankers” as Mudriczki eloquently put it. But, in the middle of the dross is a gang of grown up merchants of alternative style and taste, such as Doves and Coldplay, which could provide a ready made extension to the family. 

“I can’t jump on the success of a band that we’ve had no direct influence on, people do like a few bands and see a common thread. I’m cool with that, it doesn’t matter, live and let live” says Mudriczki, somewhat distancing himself from being packaged and labelled. To follow has never been Puressence’s way of doing things and that doesn’t appear to be changing if their most prominent voice has anything to do with it. “We don’t make it easy for ourselves you know. I don’t want to do anything that’s going to make us more marketable or easier to pigeonhole. That’s the way it is, it has to happen on our terms. If it doesn’t, I’ll have my integrity and I’ll know I was doing it for the right reasons”.



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  interview by rob allen - photos/images courtesy of puressence / island records / karen mcbride -  (c) (p) musicdash 2002