In 1996 Sony gave me 90k to record an album and another 90k to be me. My manager and I had a thing about multiple of nines. That’s why we went for 180k rather than 200k. We made a similar deal with the publisher. Nine is still my favourite number. I hate even numbers. Four being the worst of a bad bunch.
Sony gave me a house and bought me a recording studio. In my bedroom was a 24 track recording studio. I fed the wires down the chimney to the living room below, and covered the walls in thick curtains to keep the noise form spilling out onto the street. At night I sang my lead vocals with the company of the red flashing record light and the green lights of the compressors. I needed the confidence to be vulnerable, and I only had that kind of confidence when I was alone.
I called my microphones ears and had a lot of them. Each vocal was sung into a different one. I was obsessed with getting a warm full fat sound for the acoustic guitars. The album was recorded in 8 weeks, mixed at Olympic Studios – by Jeremy Wheatley who’d been trained under one of my favourite mixers, Mark Spike Spent – then released a few months later.
It was unusual for a company as big as Sony to give an artist so much artistic freedom. At the time I was told that I had more artistic freedom than Michael Jackson. This was told to me in a “it shouldn’t really happen kind of way, don’t quite know how you slipped under the radar.” kind of way.
Then the predictable story began. Mike Sault, the man who had signed me, left to work for a publishing company. No one knew what to do with me. I was taken out for lunches in Soho with potential new A&R men. The one I liked was Rob Stringer. But he was too busy running his label and looking after the Manics. Also, I don’t think that girl’s music interested him. My art director, who had become my good friend, said, “Let’s face it, they’re all a bunch of idiots,” He was referring to the marketing woman who stroked the cardboard cover of my single and said it reminded her of pubic hair, and when she asked me what I was going to wear for my video, and I replied “Jeans,” looked horrified and said, “Pop stars don’t wear jeans.”
I wanted to be free and creative and I thought that’s what music was and when I realised it wasn’t I felt as if I’d walked into the wrong room. I realised the music business wasn’t so much about making music but about being strategic and clever. And I wasn’t clever. I was embarrassingly naive. I’d expected the Sony offices to be a creative space with pianos and paintings. I couldn’t understand why it looked like an insurance office. I think it was only when I was standing in amongst the grey drabness that I understood why the most successful artists are the ones who can’t really sing.