Before Richard Hawley found fame as a solo singer-songwiter, he was the guitarist in Sheffield indie rockers Longpigs. Back in October 1996, I spoke to him about the Sheffield music scene, the Longpigs’ debut album, The Sun Is Often Out, and touring America…
Imagine the clumsy and naughty fumblings of a young boy…
“My father said I couldn’t touch it, but I got it out one day and he came into the front room and I was playing with it – I was only six,” says Richard Hawley of Sheffield band Longpigs.
That was the day he first played his father’s guitar.
“He said, ‘do you like it, then?’, he showed me some chords and that was it,” says Richard. “When I opened the guitar case, it looked like a spaceship. I didn’t give a shit whether it caught rhinos, or made tea for me mum – it was what I wanted to do with my life. It was a good job it was a guitar and not something that you caught rhinos with, ‘cos I’d ‘ave had a bit of a job finding rhinos round ‘ere.”
Sheffield may not be known for its rhino population, but it has become a breeding ground for Britpop acts such as Pulp and Babybird.
“Sheffield’s never been famous for anything except steel and Joe Cocker,” says Richard. “The thing that’s beautiful about the city is that you can isolate yourself really easily – you don’t have to be part of a scene. There’s us, Pulp, Babybird, Blameless… That’s a pretty eclectic bunch, really. Just recently, Sheffield has kind of popped its head up again in popular culture. Pulp and Babybird have been knockin’ around for a long time and we’ve been going for three years. Sheffield seems to be a city that produces old men of rock.”
Longpigs have had a pretty tough few years, due to a string of unfortunate events and record company wrangles, but they now seem settled and comfortable and things are finally looking up for them.
‘There was a very dark period where we all nearly got killed in a car crash and we lost our record deal’
“We’re appallingly contented,” says Richard. “There was a very dark period in the past, where we all nearly got killed in a car crash and we lost our record deal. The company closed down in the UK after spending so much money on Police Academy 93 or whatever.
“In retrospect, all those things were quite cathartic. What was important to us was sticking together and making music. We believed that what were doing was good. I’m glad we did. I’d rather see us in the charts than Gina G.”
The band released their debut album, The Sun Is Often Out, earlier this year. The songs range from indie rock and pop to torch song ballads, folk and modern blues.
“Crispin [vocals/guitar and main songwriter] fancies himself as Cole Porter. He comes along with his nice songs and our job is ruin them. That’s it, really,” says Richard, who has also recently turned his hand to songwriting.
“Me and Crispin are co-writing stuff and that will probably flourish. It’s still mainly Crispin writing the songs. His twisted outlook on life is definitely something I couldn’t do.”
This December, Longpigs will be shutting themselves away to write new material for their second album.
“We’re looking forward to the next record,” enthuses Richard. “God knows what it’s going to sound like – it will just happen.”
Longpigs have recently returned from a tour of the US and also played in Canada with The Bluetones.
“We don’t hope to break America – we want to mend it,” says Richard. “The two main exports from the US are the beefburger and rock and roll. I definitely prefer rock and roll.”
The original version of this article first appeared in Splash! magazine in October 1996.