The Honeymoon Is Over: how The Cruel Sea set themselves up for success

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Tex Perkins reveals the mindset of The Cruel Sea before making their double platinum album in this excerpt from his new memoir.

Nirvana’s arrival had marked the end of the old guard.

All those established ’80s bands had had their time and the music industry was noticing the old stuff wasn’t selling as well anymore and there was all this other fresh meat around.

The Cruel Sea by Tony Mott
The Cruel Sea. Photo by Tony Mott

The Cruel Sea were fortunate to have come along just before this revolution happened, and when it did grunge was what the record companies were trying to sell.

The Cruel Sea were very definitely not grunge but we fitted in at a time when an independent band playing good music could actually pull crowds and sell records.

So in those early ’90s everything was coming together for The Cruel Sea. We’d been touring everywhere and steadily building up crowds.

The line-up was settled and the band was playing great, with all the trappings of a group on the move – a manager, a record company, great album and show reviews and a fast-growing fan base.

With everything solidifying I’d started to see the potential of the band to do the mainstream thing.

There were a few records around at the time – Lenny Kravitz’s Mama Said and Diesel’s Hepfidelity – that weren’t so much an influence on our music, but that had got me thinking that if records like that can get played on the radio then why the hell can’t the music of The Cruel Sea?

On a grassroots level every time we went out and played   I could see the momentum picking up and the band getting bigger.

I never really got thinking about whether I actually wanted real success. Or what success actually might mean to me. When you make music you naturally want people to hear it, and to my way of thinking at the time, the more the better.

But believe me, somewhere in that process there’s a line you cross. And when you cross that line and it goes to that next level, boy, you better be ready for it.

The Cruel Sea by Tony Mott
The Cruel Sea. Photo by Tony Mott

By the time we got around to recording The Honeymoon Is Over, we all kinda had the attitude that this album was gonna do the business.

We as a band, along with Tony Cohen, were trying to get people to embrace what we were doing, rather than saying, ‘This is our sound, take it or leave it.’ We were making appealing music that we liked. So why shouldn’t others?

By now I’d worked with many different people and used many different writing techniques. But the most tried and true for me had proved to be adding words to existing music as I had from the outset with Cruel Sea instrumentals inspiring the sound of the words.

Working that way, I heard the music with fresh ears and it spoke to me on an instant and emotional level.

Where does this music take me? What does this music want me to say? How can I serve the song?

That’s the bottom line for me. Because I’m not someone with a burning need to SAY SOMETHING.

I honestly don’t know what is going to be said when I start writing a song. I simply get a sniff and then chase that rabbit wherever it goes. For me, that’s the fun of it.

 

Writing songs can also be like writing jokes. I love a good punchline or one-liner. 

The song ‘The Honeymoon is Over’ is all based around the lines:

Gonna send you back to wherever the hell it was you came
Then I’m gonna get this tattoo changed to another girl’s name

Before we went into the studio to record, I had met a bloke that had gone through this very dilemma. What to do with the old girlfriend’s name written on you after she’s not your girlfriend anymore and you now have a new girlfriend who wants HER name there instead?

 

I thought that scenario was pretty funny and so that was the beginning of that song. Before the music, even before the name of the song, that line was enough to give me a sniff.

This is an extract from TEX by Tex Perkins. Available now.

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