Forming in 1990 Coventry’s Adorable had the confidence, the drop dead cool, and most importantly the songs — epic, emotional, dynamic songs — of a great rock ‘n’ roll band. Fourteen years after their untimely demise we feature an in-depth interview with all four former members to celebrate the release of the first ever Adorable compilation Footnotes 92-94.
In 1992 Adorable were briefly touted as the next big thing after a twelve-inch demo EP and a series of scorching live shows resulted in them being signed to Creation Records. Their first release was the near flawless, “Sunshine Smile”, a sublime mix of melody and distortion which was rightly praised by everyone within earshot including the NME and Melody Maker who both made it single of the week.
In an effort to distance themselves from the current personality-free shoegaze scene assertions such as their debut album was “gonna go down as one of the best debut albums of all time,” backfired and the mainstream press, not prepared for this pre-Oasis arrogance, would never interview them again. Their debut album Against Perfection, a bold, anthem filled work released in 1993 was also given a lukewarm reception, although it did scrape into the UK top 75. In support they toured extensively making inroads in Europe, The US, Canada, Japan and Australia.
However things went from bad to worse the following year when record company conflicts coupled with lack of press or radio support led to Adorable being dropped by Creation following the release of the underrated Fake album. The band disbanded soon after receiving the “Dear John” letter following a gig in Brussels on November 11th 1994.
Earlier this year Cherry Red released the first ever Adorable compilation entitled Footnotes 92-94 (Review) which features all their singles, plus choice B-sides and album tracks. Webcuts has always had a soft spot for Adorable and is proud to feature a brand new interview with all four former members of the band. Your host for the proceedings: Caleb Rudd.
Had it been a while since you had heard the records? What feelings did re-listening to Adorable evoke?
Yes — the only time the records came out were on drunken evenings with our old T-Shirt seller, Danny Latham and Tour Manager Simon Harper. The main feeling the re-listening evoked was annoyance. During the band days, both Kevin and I had never had a job and were resentful of what we perceived as Pete’s military regime. I now work 50-60 hours a week and so look back on Pete’s more than reasonable suggestion that we rehearse/write songs for 6 hours a week with different eyes. Kevin and I never understood that the band was our job and that Creation weren’t paying us handsomely just to go record shopping and watch Goodfellas. W
Piotr Fijalkowski (vocals, guitar)
I don’t listen to Adorable albums except when very very drunk. I haven’t been that drunk for a while. The tracks make me feel very nostalgic — it’s like looking back through old photographs. PF
Kevin Gritton (drums)
I always found it very difficult to enjoy the tracks first time round, too close to them I suppose. I have really enjoyed hearing them now with a bit of perspective KG
Robert Dillam (guitar)
I didn’t play guitar for a year after the band broke up, I was too sad, so I didn’t play the records much either. After that though I’ve been listening to adorable, as an appreciator of the music. When I hear the music I remember things in the band a lot of the time, or I remember playing the songs on stage. That’s always interesting. RD
Adorable – “Sunshine Smile” (UK) (1992)
There is mention of the “disastrous” 1993 Australian tour (“Kangaroo Court”, Footnotes) yet Pete mentioned a highlight (Select 1996) was playing to a 1200 strong crowd in Melbourne? What specifically happened on the Australian tour?
We were all very tired, suffering from dreadful jet lag that none of us had ever experienced before, and I had a major falling out with the other members. I think if there were two stages to our career, this was certainly the pivotal point, and it was down from here to the end. It was during this tour that I realised our new songs weren’t up to scratch, and maybe due to the tiredness and tensions I think our gigs were lacklustre. To top it all, whilst some of the gigs were well attended — Melbourne was our biggest ever headlining gig — some were very sparse, and the promoters did a runner on us and never paid us. We waited for them at the departure lounge at the airport, waiting until the last call for our flight. As a result we ended up having to pay for the tour out of our own pockets. I loved the country but it was a low point for the band. PF
Adorable – “Cut #2”
What didn’t happen? Basically we were kind of fucked by then, so we had a holiday in the end. Melbourne was great. I got to the gig, fell asleep with jet lag, woke up and played the gig and went back to sleep again. Big crowd and a good show considering. RD
I had a great time, personally. The promoters were DJs who had never toured a live band before. They flew us around and put us up in good hotels, including a week on Bondi Beach. If they’d have done their maths, they’d have worked out they could never have made a profit, but we were having such a good time nobody noticed this until the end of the tour. I think Pete was referring to tensions within the band. I don’t remember the argument he mentions in the van, but I do remember stubbing out a cigarette on Kevin’s hand in a hotel room in Perth. This incident probably indicates that all was not well between us. As for the promoters, they stole my records and tried to run off without paying us! We recovered the money, but I never got my Lyn Collins or Vicki Anderson albums back. W
Footnotes makes it clear that there were often arguments amongst the band. What were they generally about and who was the band member most likely to play mediator?
They were about four people with different world views, priorities and personalities bought together by fate and common interests not always seeing eye to eye on a particular stream of issues that crop up when you are in a band. There was pressure and we let it out on each other. Nobody mediated, we just got on with it. RD
The arguments were mainly between Pete and the rest of us, but in retrospect, I have to say Pete was mainly in the right. Kevin and I lived together in a bit of a haze and felt the band was an imposition on our free time and were too busy enjoying ourselves to give the kind of commitment that the band deserved. This used to drive Pete mad, and quite rightly so. Had the band been four Pete clones, it would have had several platinum albums, two Grammy’s and a sold out stadium tour by now. Sadly, we messed it up for him, which I now regret. The arguments with Rob were more about a clash of guitar styles but I’m sure Pete and Rob will have their own views on this. W
I think almost all of the arguments had me involved in them. There never really was a mediator which was part of the problem, so a lot of the problems just remained unresolved. The one person that everybody got on with best was probably Wil, which many people outside the band might find surprising, as to the untrained eye he can come over as very confrontational. Some of the arguments were really ridiculously petty, some were due to me trying to lead the band by the scruff of the neck which Kevin in particular didn’t like. I wanted the band to work so much I tried to push everybody really hard to take it seriously and focused, but my management style left a lot to be desired! Looking back on it now I didn’t really enjoy being in the band — a lot of the experiences we had were great but being in Adorable wasn’t too hot. But it was all character building stuff. PF
I was a bit of an angry little fellow and directed most of my vitriol at Pete. I suppose I felt a little bit intellectually sidelined as a mere drummer — I hardly featured in any interviews. Having said that I did play up slightly to the crazed drummer role and was not particularly an authority on the genre of music we were playing. Wil would often be the one to try and keep the peace. KG
How did Footnotes and especially the track listing come about? (I was surprised “Road Movie” didn’t make the cut).
Adorable – “I’ll Be Your Saint” (1992)
Cherry Red contacted me to say they were putting out a compilation and invited us to get involved, so we chose the track-listing and wrote the notes. I had been in contact with EMI a year or so before with a view to buying back the rights to the back catalogue but a lack of funds meant I had to put it on the back burner.“Road Movie” was our nineteenth favourite song on a eighteen song album. PF
Basically we were sent a first track listing that amounted to a worst of rather than a best of. Cherry Red then very generously agreed to let us choose the tracks and the order, which is where the band came in (up to this point they had be liaising with Pete and I had no idea a best of was in the pipeline). We all put forward our favourite tracks and decided on the top eighteen quite amicably. “Road Movie” made the first cut, but somehow got bumped out by “Man in a Suitcase” when we listened to the tracks back to back as “Man in a Suitcase” was slightly different to everything else. “Road Movie” was originally planned as a single, so it’s had quite a fall from grace to not make it into the top 18. W
Do you hear Adorable’s influence on any current bands? What do you make of Crash Into June wearing Adorable’s influence on their sleeve, naming a track Adorable and covering “Homeboy”?
I hear bands that sound like us, although it doesn’t mean they are influenced by us. I heard an Editors song on the radio and thought it was Adorable before but they probably just have Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen (and The Pixies) in their record collections also. I hope some bands are influenced by us though. I hear Air Formation and recognise a bit of our sound. RD
Never heard of this lot and not sure I want to — I wouldn’t want to be influenced by me! I mainly listen to jazz music these days and I can’t say I’ve noticed any Adorable influence on John Coltrane! W
I would like to think of a few of the bands around these days as having been influenced by us. I did read somewhere that Ash were fans. Occasionally I hear a familiar riff or vocal line/melody — not sure if its coincidence or if we really are pulling the strings on the modern day music industry. KG
It’s nice to know bands still use us as an influence. Not sure how “Check your head, it must be clouded/do you know how bad it sounded/you’re so vain and, oh, so horrible” from the track “Adorable” sits with us! PF
Adorable – “Homeboy” (1992)
In a similar vein to the liner notes to Footnotes could you each say something about the songs that didn’t make it onto that album.
“I Know You Too Well” (Against Perfection)
One of the few tracks where I was”‘guided” on what to play. I usually played my part in the music making process by coming up with my own drum parts. Pete came up with this one for me and it turned out to be one of my favorites. KG
I like this one a lot, especially the drums and bass. Had we not used most of our best songs as B-sides, this probably wouldn’t have made the album though. W
Whilst a lot of our other stuff were rough sketches that were then fleshed out in rehearsals this was written in a different way to the others. I demo’d it on my 4-track with Wil and a drum machine, and had it pretty much asit was. It was about someone I knew who was just so transparent and predictable it drove me crazy. PF
“Still Life” (Against Perfection)
We really liked “Summerside” and wanted something in that style for the album, and so wrote this — but it isn’t as good. PF
“Go Easy on Her” (Fake)
Written about local heroine Tracy Tracy of The Primitives who the NME rounded on after years of championing. Even when the Primitives, who I thought had moments of pop greatness (“Crash” is possibly one of the best singles ever released), announced they were going to split, the NME started a piss-taking petition week after week calling on them not to give up. Her crime was she tried to go for something, and she didn’t make it. I really like the track, and I’d have been happy for it to be on the best of…but space (the temporal concept, not the band) was our enemy. PF
Alan McGee really loved this one and I have no idea why. W
Em Em 7th 9th Em 7th Em — B C. RD
“Radio Days’ (Fake)
This was recorded as a B-side, but we needed something fast for the album, so this made it on through the back door. W
This songs sounds like the cure’s “Inbetween Days” to me. RD
Diet “Crash Sight”. It kind of typifies for me a lot of what’s wrong on the second album, tracks trying to do the same as something on the first album, only not doing it as well. Production is one of the weakest off Fake. Alan McGee makes a guest appearance in the lyrics “A father figure put a gun in my hand, saying ‘aim high, but don’t aim for the sun son’.” I suppose the lyrics summed up where we were — “If it’s all the same to you/I’m going to do what I want to do/I’d like to crash my car my way.” We knew we were headed for a brick wall, and people were trying to get us to turn off, but we (or certainly I) wanted to be allowed to fuck-up in our own way with no outside assistance. PF
“Road Movie” (Fake)
Maybe this song should be on Footnotes, however you only get 77 (or so) minutes of music on a CD. RD
This is about the film in my head of an alternate reality. I have always been a film fan and did a degree course at Warwick University where I met Wil and Kevin. Quite a few of our videos and covers have some kind of cinematic reference. I used to walk around the streets of Coventry at three in the morning listening to my walkman pretending it was the soundtrack to my own private movie. PF
We paid for one of my housemates to come down to London to play on the first (Pat Collier) mix of this. He was a classically trained violinist. Sadly, we realised after he’d left the studio that it was all out of tune, so we had to scrap a very expensive violin part. W
“Have You Seen The Light?” (Fake)
I think this is thoroughly average and self-indulgent. Trying really hard, but failing. PF
I really like the noisy ending to this one — you can hear Pete’s frustrations pouring out on top of my layered bass lines. A fitting ending to a frustrating career. W
The feedback at the end is me throwing my white jaguar at my amp in the studio. That’s what being in the band felt like in the end. When Pete recorded the vocals bit at the end listen our for “…be the KLF”. I can’t remember what else he said, but I remember listening to him putting it down before we buried it in the mix and i thought “wow man, fucking hell…” RD
“Dinosaur #3” (Kangaroo Court) (A Third version of a song?)
I always liked “Dinosaur #2”. If you want to hear it, get to 1991 and come find us (say “Robert said Hi”). “Dinosaur #3” doesn’t sound like “Dinosaur #2”. I never heard #1 but I presume it sounded like Dinosaur Jr. RD
This reminds me of Wayne (Peters, Candy Thieves guitarist) and a gig we played at Warwick University. I always loved this song particularly in its second incarnation. KG
Yes it was a third version. Version #1 was a song that sounded vaguely like Dinosaur Jr, hence the name. The lyrics stuck, and the tune was jettisoned, in favour of something distinctly unlike Amherst’s finest, but the working title stuck. PF
“This House is Rotten” (Vendetta)
This was about someone very close to me who bought a house with his girlfriend, but the relationship was completely screwed. With desperate misguided logic he tried to do up the house to make it beautiful in the doomed hope that it would make the relationship fine. PF
I like the melody where Pete sings “I’m gonna tear it down.” I think it’s about a house that I shared with Pete and several other people in Coventry. If so, I guess the title suggests it wasn’t the happiest period of Pete’s life. W
What musical projects have you been involved with post-Adorable? Are the Viet Cong Blues Project still going?
I seemed to meet up with a lot of young bands in Coventry, and then Scotland after I moved North, so I’ve been doing a lot from that point of view. Best band i’ve worked with? Alamos from Dundee. They have just recorded their second LP for Pet Piranha records with Steve Albini. I also follow the bands on ClubAC30. Post Adorable I did Viet Cong Blues Project as a rolling on/off project with Chris from Mercury Tilt Switch (also Pet Piranha) and we are “still going” but I have also played for The Zephyrs. I played guitar for them a few years ago but have been rehired for drums. I’ve helped them record their fifth album, I also played on their third. They are an excellent band, you should listen to them. We’ve been offered a festival slot in spain in June so I think we’ll start to prepare for that. Also, for those into their indie trivia, I also have a playing credit on a couple of songs on Snow Patrol’s second CD (for those of you that are interested: yes they are nice people).
What was it like playing with Mogwai? Did they acknowledge Adorable as an influence?
Mogwai are also fine people, and my favourite band, possibly ever. Seeing them over the years has been a good thing, they totally deserve to be as influential as they are. Were Adorable an influence on Mogwai? No, not at all. They have Slint and Codeine to thank for how they sounded when they started. Now though, they have their own sound, as Adorable had theirs and they don’t sound alike to me.
How did you divide the guitar parts between you and Pete? You mention in Footnotes that you both have different styles of playing, could you expand on that?
I’ll try. Basically Pete played his stuff and Wil and myself filled in the gaps. We wrote the parts live and we each did our own thing. It was listening to what was going on that made it happen, then being inventive in the context of the song. It was easy to fill the gaps though. Pete played horizontally and I played vertically, so we sounded different anyway. What does that mean? Well, I understand it so see if you can work it out. Listen to the songs.
What guitar players are you influenced by?
Me? Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth and Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) and J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr). And the Pixies. Nick Drake. Although, I don’t really sound like any of them. Wish i did though.
What have you done since Adorable? I have you down as an English Teacher.
I did teach English in Korea and Spain, but that was 10 years ago now. I’m currently Senior Liaison Officer for Institutional Relations at the University of Warwick. This involves traveling around the world setting up collaborations with other universities. It’s a great job as it means I get to travel to lots of interesting places such as India, Argentina, Brazil and Australia, but for free!
The bass style for Adorable was pretty distinctive especially at a time when prominent bass wasn’t particularly fashionable (as compared to now). You mention Andy Rourke’s bouncy bass lines, were there any other bass players that influenced your own playing?
I think my bass style was distinctive because I was self-taught and had very little musical knowledge. Most of our songs either came from me playing a bass line to Pete and him writing a guitar and vocal melody to fit, or Pete playing a guitar melody to the band and I would just play the bass melody that came into my head rather than work out what chords he was playing. Although I wasn’t a great New Order fan (Joy Division were infinitely better), Peter Hook would probably have been the biggest influence on my bass playing as many of our songs involve bass chords as well as single notes.
Do you still play/practice the bass?
No. My only musical outlet nowadays is dreaming up #1 hits for my neighbour and ex-Adorable Tour Manager, Simon Harper, to record in his home studio. We’ve been working on a cover version of “Never Understand” by the Jesus and Mary Chain done in the style of the Sugar Babes crossed with the Beach Boys for about two years now. When it’s finished we’ll move on to a Dub crossed with Gospel Choir rendition of Echo and the Bunnymen’s “My Kingdom”.
What are you up to these days?
Working at an 11-16 secondary school in Cornwall, I am a Maths teacher although I am currently the Deputy Head teacher so I don’t teach as much these days
Do you still play/practice the drums?
Got them set up in the garage and often play along to anything from the Beastie Boys to Jurassic 5 to The Stone Roses on my laptop
In the notes for “Feed Me” you mention that performances could sail close to the wind with Pete and Wil out front — can you explain that more? (I assume it to be that those two could get out of time?)
It was more likely to be me out of time actually. No, I was referring to their tendency to bait the crowd — they were always a bit confrontational which is great until you go to places like Newport, Aldershot or Middlesborough.
As a drummer, what was the most challenging Adorable song to play live?
None of them really as I wrote pretty much all of my drum parts so they were pretty simple. The use of the word “challenging” would probably relate more to how sober I was while playing — which was sober most of the time with the occasional lapse in meticulous preparation. Then, just sitting at the drums uptight was quite challenging.
Pete has released two albums with Terry Bickers as Pete Fij / Terry Bickers, website.
Go to Part II of our extravagant Adorable special for a Pete specific interview where the status of Polak, his solo album and more juicy Adorable tidbits are uncovered.
If that still isn’t enough read a 1998 interview with Pete that explores Adorable in even more depth and the genesis of Polak.