Europeans & How We Live

Interview with Steve Hogarth



Steve Hogarth


Back in May 1999, I was very excited when Steve Hogarth dropped me an e-mail. He very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his role in Europeans and How We Live for this site. This exclusive interview is a great read, and I hope you enjoy it. Many thanks to Steve for taking time to reply.




Your first appearance as "the Europeans" was on the John Otway album "All Balls and No Willy." What are your recollections of those sessions ?

Otway's a diamond, although I think he still owes us money... We recorded some of it in a silver mobile and some of it in a studio in Chelsea. Some of it was quite punky. Then he did a Roy Orbison song called "In Dreams". I remember him singing the "Candy coloured clown" intro and thinking "Jesus! ..he really is barking mad!". We toured with Otway as "The band behind the curtain." We were behind a white screen and Otway was in front. We were backlit so the audience could only see our silhouettes. Colin used to wear a tea-towel on his head under a top-hat so they all thought it was Willy Barrett. I guess it was my first real tour. We worked hard but it was a blast. All our friends came to see us. They were mostly Scots. They're all millionaires now.

How was the recording of the "Vocabulary" LP, and what are your favourite tracks ?

We thought we'd cracked it! We were in the Townhouse studios in London for recording and then on to The Manor in Oxfordshire to finish and mix. It was euphoric although producer Vic Coppersmith-Heaven was a bit strange. He would spend ages on the phone while we hung about bursting to get on with it. Big mistake doing it with him. We had recorded the "Animal Song" with a producer called Trevor Vallis and we were encouraged to dump him by A&M. Terrible mistake. Dishonourable too. Favourite tracks.. hang on I'll have to go and listen to it - I haven't heard it for years. ..Wow that came as a shock - I think I must have mellowed a little. Fave tracks are "American People", "Recognition" and "Kingdom Come" although "AEIOU" was a blast.




How did the writing process work in the Europeans ?

We used to write separately most of the time. Geoff came up with the chord structures for "American People" and the jazzier stuff. I came up with the songs I sang - "Going to Work" and "Kingdom Come". It all sounds a bit naive to me now, but then we were young. "The Animal Song" was written out of a jam in rehearsal. It was the most important song in the sense that we wouldn't have got a record deal without it.

Why was a Live LP chosen as the second release ? Were you keen to earn a reputation as a tight live act ?

We had toured by then and we were sounding great live so we wanted to make that point. I remember some journalist in the NME saying the live album sounded like "a coal-scuttle full of vomit". That was typical of the general level of music criticism at the time.


Steve Hogarth in 1991




The song "Listen" doesn't appear on an album. Was this planned as a single only release, or were other tracks recorded with Chris Tsangarides ?

I think he only did that one but I can't really remember. It was planned only as a single. I think it's a good song. Great sleeve by Daevid Western.

On the "Recurring Dreams" album, the overall performance sounds more confident and assured. During the recording, did you all feel that you were getting better as a group ?

I think we all felt more comfortable apart from Ferg who was in hospital! We started the album with bassplayer Steve Greetham while Ferg convalesced. We had a great production team in David Lord (who'd just done the Peter Gabriel 4 album) and Warne Livesey engineering (who went on to produce The The, Midnight Oil and Mark Hollis) and it's a much better album than "Vocabulary" on the whole.

Which tracks stand out for you from "Recurring Dreams" ?

I'll have to listen that aswell. My favourite song is "Hometown". Ferg's finest moment. The sax player turned up again later on Paul Simon's "Graceland". I was quite pleased with "Acid Rain" and "Burning Inside You".




Europeans and How We Live's Steve Hogarth


Why exactly did Europeans split? Was it your wish to pursue a separate project ?

A&M records were in crisis. Most of the staff had been fired including the Managing Director and we had ran out of money. I had the manager coming to me and saying that none of the labels in London were interested in signing the Euros so I felt like if we stayed together we would have to sign on the dole and sell some of the equipment. Then the manager came back and said that the A&R guy at CBS had expressed an interest in me as a solo artist. No one wanted to split the band but, the way I saw it, there was no viable alternative. As writers, the Euros had become increasingly split into two camps Hogarth/Woore and Dugmore/Harper, so I asked Colin if he wanted to join the new project and rehearse up some songs. "Dry Land" came out of that collaboration and I was very excited about that song. All in all it felt like it was time to move on. Looking back, it still feels like I betrayed Geoff and Ferg and maybe I should have stuck it out for a year longer and lived on fresh air to make certain we had to split. The irony is that the Europeans at that stage had never sounded better and no one in the business was interested. Geoff recently told me that Siren records wanted to sign the band but I never saw anything at the time to suggest that it would happen. I guess we'll never know.




Where did Europeans end and How We Live start ? Were many of the "Dry Land" tracks written in mind for a possible third Europeans studio LP ? ("Lost at Sea" for example is credited to the four of you.)

There was definitely some blurring of the two phases from the songwriting aspect. I honestly can't remember.

You finally decided on the name "How We Live", but what were some of the other prospective band names floating around ?

"Jump the Gun" was the name we were signed under. We changed it to "How we Live" later. I also had "The Stimulus Brothers" which I still think would be a good name for a band.

What did you particularly enjoy about the making of the "Dry Land" album ?

Being in Bath in the sunshine with David and Warne. I borrowed a mellotron from XTC which is how I came to meet Dave Gregory. His modesty is overwhelming for one so talented. I met Peter Gabriel a couple of times around then. He was lending us equipment 'cause we didn't have much of our own. At the time we thought we were hiring the stuff from him but, to my knowledge, he never sent any invoices. Thankyou Peter. Colin and I went up to his old house one day and he had just finished mixing "Red Rain" - a track from the "So" album. We were the first outsiders to hear it. Nobody could know how successful "So" was about to be. What stands out about the recording of the album was Manny Elias drumming on "Games in Germany". We put the drums on last and it was terrific being in the room with him pounding through the song and feeling the song come to life and take on his awesome power. I also found a dulcimer player busking in the town. I invited him over to the studio and he played on "Working Girl". He was about 25stone - a huge guy who consumed several gallons of coffee during the session. We fed him the click track through the headphones and he said in a loud Canadian drawl "What's that TICKING?". I still smile whenever I hear click tracks today.




You started writing a second How We Live album in 1988. Had you assembled much material before you decided not to continue? Have you used any of the ideas in your work since ? (e.g Easter)

You're right. I had written most of "Easter" at that time. Also I had a sketch for what was to become "Nothing to Declare" many years later on the "H" album. There were half a dozen demos of songs that never saw the light of day. "Emotional", "Feels like Saturday", "Nothing to Hide", "In the Middle of the Night", and a rocker called "In between the Lines" which I would still like to record. I also had a song about The Saint called "Simons' Car" which I nicked the verse from for "Cover my Eyes". I'd written a song for the Euros called "Wrap Me in the Flag" the chorus of which became the end of "The Space" on "Seasons End" and the verse of The Space came from a melody idea I had had for a song called "So Far Away" which was a co write with Colin and caused all sorts of trouble...


Steve Hogarth from How We Live in 1986




Geoff is a busy session drummer, but what are Ferg and Colin up to now? Do you still keep in touch?

Ferg's a steward with British Airways and flies long-haul all over the world. Touring without having to write songs! Colin is still writing and collaborating. He played guitar live for Joan Armatrading and he wrote with Curt Smith. We all got together recently and had dinner. It was a really nice evening and we reminisced like a bunch of old men talking about the war! Nobody looks much more than a year older! Ferg puts it down to us being a bunch of vane bastards! We decided we'd try and persuade Phonogram to licence the catalogue back to us so that we can make the albums available again. Watch this space!




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