Patrick Horan talks to a newly shorn Martin Rossiter of Gene, a man who says he'd do anything for a beer.
"I can see the headline of The Sunday Sport now; 'Gene seen smiling! See pages 7 & 8'". Martin Rossiter is in a jovial mood, not unlike his band. Their new album "Revelations" is a more rambunctious affair than previous offerings, but it remains unmistakably Gene.
"I think we felt less restrained with this record, we actually mucked about. We recorded it in a month which gives a record its own momentum, keeps your interest levels up, keeps it fresh".
Martin is in the recording studio, where the band also are, once again, "mucking about with new songs and stuff" and preparing for what Martin terms as their "post-tour soiree" with dates in Belfast and Dublin.
Martin Rossiter has always been, how can I put this, different in the eyes of the music press. With his lofty claims of eclipsing U2 and REM in terms of song-writing and his claims of depression and harassment by the press, he has been set up for consistent lampoonery by the music weeklies. Plus the fact that he's bisexual.
"It's a mystery to me, this whole sexual ambiguity thing. I've never hidden the fact that I've slept on both sides of the bed and people find that very odd that I was quite happy to say 'yeah, I'm bisexual and it doesn't really matter'. I suppose you become what they want you to become and I'm always willing to oblige, anything for a beer."
Ah, yes, beer. Martin has been rather fond of playing up the 'lad' image in recent times, culminating in a fracas with Paul Kaye (AKA Dennis Pennis) during which said Pennis' nose came into violent contact with Martin's forehead.
"Yeah, well, you know, just a bit drunk wasn't I".
But does the hard-man tag not clash slightly with Gene's, for want of a better word, foppish leanings?
"Well, it's all in a haircut really. That's not a deliberately flippant answer, it's shockingly true. We, as people, and myself especially, we haven't really changed any more than you would do over that period of time. I chopped me hair off and everyone thinks I've been down the gym".
Martin is not fond of the music press and the way in which it has tended to pigeon-hole him over the years.
"You can get into that discussion of 'can anyone be three-dimensional in the two-dimensional world of the media' and the answer's probably no. I've got personality and I've got those contradictions that everybody has and it's just there on the records".
Reviewers have not received Gene's current record "Revelations" with rapturous applause; but then again they haven't done so for most of Gene's output. Their body of fans is large and fiercely loyal and while they've never really had that top-ten smasheroonie hit single they do frequent the upper regions of the Top 40 and have firmly established themselves as a fixture of the British music scene.
What is noticeable about the new album, or 'disc' as Martin's mother likes to call his records, is a penchant for political pop songs. Any particular reason?
"It's not something we haven't tackled before. They're difficult things to write, political pop songs, without sounding like you wear a tweed jacket and are standing on an orange box. It's taken a lot of practice and a few failures over the years to have the courage to put your convictions on a record, hopefully with some humour".
In tracks such as 'Mayday' and 'As Good as it Gets', New Labour comes in for a fair bit of stick. So does the man who lists Aneurin Bevan's biography in his Desert Island top three not feel that this sort of thing should be left to younger men?
"I'm going the opposite way, though. As I get older I'm becoming more radical which isn't supposed to happen. I'm devouring political tomes at the moment to try to put some weight behind my mouth".
So this is the new Martin Rossiter - fuelled by a passion for politics, yet mellowed by the joys of fatherhood. Yes, Martin's a daddy of 8-month-old Evie who he lists as one of the three females he'd like to take to a desert island. Hardly the most laddish of quotes, Martin?
"Oh, but she's an angel, I was prepared for the ubiquitous sleepless nights and I haven't had any, she's wonderful".
Martin returns to the lads in the studio, apologising to your correspondent that he was slightly nonsensical during the interview. No more than could be helped for a man of such contradictions. For Gene, happy days are here again.
by Patrick Horan