Marko Kutlesa sat down with the band's bassist William Potter to talk about the band's past, present and plenty more.
Last updated: 20th Jun 2018. Originally published: 19th Jun 2018
If Leeds outfit Cud are a band with any kind of fault it is that they were born too soon. With the benefit of hindsight, their records now sound like the archetypal Britpop band; accessible with catchy songs, a strong identity, they were very British-sounding and, in a manner attributable to many of the era, Cud were bags of fun.
Championed by John Peel, not least over the course of three Peel Sessions, they earned a hugely loyal following, particularly in the north of England, from the late 80s. Theirs was a time when audiences still danced and grooved at guitar band concerts and Cud were among the best to be able to make them.
They bothered the charts several times with singles like 'Magic', 'Oh No Won't Do', 'Rich & Strange' and 'Purple Love Balloon', recorded five great albums and several EPs.
After a few years away from music the band reconvened in 2006 and since that time have toured consistently to packed audiences of teary-eyed and grateful original fans and new converts alike. Sounding better than ever, they take their vibrant, smile-inducing live show on the road again for a UK tour in October and November, calling at Night & Day in Manchester on 26 October, The Castle and Falcon in Birmingham on 2 November and also Leicester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Leeds and London.
Promising to play 'All The Good Ones' from their back catalogue, it promises to be yet another Cud band tour to remember. Prior to the dates, Marko Kutlesa sat down with the band's bass player, archivist and renowned comic book writer William Potter to discuss the tour and some band history.
There was a long gap in Cud band activity before you starting back playing together a few years ago. Thanks for coming back! What were Carl, Mike and William doing in the interim?
Well, we’re happy to be back from gardening leave! During CUD’s wilderness years Carl played occasional gigs with friends and entered the wine trade for a while, very useful for sourcing the rider. Mike made a good go of writing songs for other people and managed the band Cube before using his experience of corralling three unruly bandmates by becoming an educator. I turned to writing and editing children’s magazines, books and comics.
You got back together to support the release of a greatest hits compilation and then the re-release of your albums. You no longer have that excuse, so why are you still performing?
We have no excuse but the best one – it’s huge fun!
You're embarking on a full UK tour where you will be playing “only the good ones”. Why DID none of you think of doing that before?
In the heyday, we’d tour in support of a new album, but while a new one brewed slowly, we concocted themes for tours. The classic, album start-to-finish was one. We did All The Singles last time round, but this time we just thought ‘Sod it!’ why don’t we play what the audience want and we enjoy – the most popular live songs, essentially.
How do you know which are the good ones? Your songs are so beloved by your dedicated fans, might not they have differing opinions on the songs you select?
Of course we’ll disagree on what’s good and what’s not with our fans. But, in the end, we’re right, ha ha! It could be a two-song set, or two hours. It’s very likely we’ll play some songs that our fans have not yet heard, and these will be good too.
Which do you think is the best Cud album and why?
I think we agree on Leggy Mambo. The songwriting, playing and production were all on the mark and there was no pressure or interference to push us to deliver anything but an album that expressed ourselves. We still play live more songs from that album than any other. Best sleeve too.
How or why did you choose the name Cud and where did the udders come from on your logo design? Who in the band has a cow fixation?
See Black Crown Quarterly #2 (available through all good comic shops) for the mostly true tale of the name. The ‘udder’ came naturally with the cow connotation. Despite the name’s lack of glamour, I do like the fact we can use that single ‘U’ as a logo.
Hot Chocolate, Jethro Tull, the Everly Brothers, Queen, The Kinks, Bonzo Dog Band, Status Quo, The Family Cat. You have quite varied sources for the cover versions you choose. Do you like all of these groups?
Many were chosen out of perversity, some due to requests, few because of a liking for the original. Of the list, my favourite would be The Family Cat song ‘Remember What It Is That You Love’ because we recorded that alongside our mates in the band over a weekend, with them recording (Cud's) ‘Strange Kind of Love’. Apart from the Cat, I can’t say I’m a fan of any of the above.
You don't do straight cover versions, your versions are often quite different to the originals. Why is that? And how do the Cud band arrangements come about?
The best example of the CUD method was when we recorded ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (which I don’t recall the band choosing!) We thought it too long so we threw out every other line, then used just a portion of the song as a recurring riff. Recorded for 50 quid, in less than a day, with little respect for the original. No surprise that Sir Brian May never replied when I sent him a cassette of it.
Which is your favourite song to play that you didn't write yourselves?
It changes. We enjoyed Lola on the last tour. Living In The Past is fun live too, with a good outro, and the longer we’re together as a band, the more apt it seems.
In the first few years that the Cud band were starting out, what were each of your influences? Were they similarly disparate? Did you each have similar tastes?
Can’t speak for the others, though I know their tastes were different by rifling though their record collections. In the early days Carl and I were listening to De La Soul, Public Enemy, Fire Engines. Hard to avoid Beefheart and The Fall as a starting point but there was never a shared plan for us to emulate a band. We just turned out how we did to be awkward.
The original line up of the Cud band appeared as footballers for NME's 70s themed Christmas 1992 issue. The original band members are all from different corners of the UK. Did you appear in the NME as players for the teams that each of you supported? If not, which teams did you each support?
The NME chose the kits for that shoot. (I wore Kevin Cummins own original Man City Brian Kidd shirt.) Mike, as a Geordie, suited the Newcastle United top, and fake ‘tache. Carl is a West Ham United fan not Leeds, though we’re big supporters of our adopted city. Current drummer Gogs is a Leeds fan, to his regular despair. I don’t give a toss about kickabout.
From the concept album When In Rome Kill Me and the song Bibi Couldn't See, what do you think happened to recurring character Bibi after her flight from the bedroom in Rome?
Bibi saved up for laser-eye treatment.
The Oh No Won't Do EP is among the Cud band's greatest triumphs. Why did you choose to release that brilliant material in such a format and not on an album?
It was our first recording with the new major label, testing the water. We changed producers afterwards, so that’s probably why we kept those songs off the album..
Each of the original members of Cud have, at some point or another, been replaced in the band. Except for singer Carl. In an alternate universe, Carl is the member that needs replacing and you can call up anyone, alive or dead, to attend rehearsals. Who do you think would make for a good replacement for Carl?
Actually we’ve played two shows without Carl, both by inviting members of the audience to take the mic. Karaoke CUD. It has legs. Despite that, I can’t see us ever replacing Carl, except with a hologram.
How did life change for the Cud band after you signed with major label A&M?
I treated myself to a new bicycle (which I still use). We didn’t have to plan tours around signing-on days. We began to have meetings with people that had no idea who we were or why.
William, why did you leave the Cud band after the Showbiz album? Do you still do comics and, if so, what have you been working on recently? Do you like DC and Marvel comics in the movies?
I left a year or so after Showbiz. We’d been demoing new tracks for over a year, getting demos rebuffed by the record company, not being able to tour in support of new material. It was a tough time for the band. I saw the writing on the wall and decided to move on, move to London and work in comics, if I could. The band continued to demo (with bass player Mickey Dale) but never played another show or recorded an album. I think I missed the most disheartening months.
I’ve been writing the comic tale CUD: Rich and Strange with Carl for Black Crown Quarterly (Black Crown Publishing), with the amazing Philip Bond on art, and have just delivered an extra page of something for issue 4.
I’ve not enjoyed the DC movies (too humourless, bad CGI), preferring the chirpier Marvel movies (better jokes, sense of fun and aware of the silliness of super-heroes). After relentless blockbusters, it’s a relief to get away and watch some honest, realistic human drama on screen.
Which do you think is the best single that Cud released?
My choice is Slack Time, a perfect 3-track 12” in a cool sleeve – the first with the long-lasting CUD logo. It has perennial favourite I’ve Had It With Blondes on it – as a B-side?! It has a good tinny AM pop mix.
Your amazing Leggy Mambo album sounds a lot more polished and a lot more psychedelic than the material which preceded it. Can you explain why that is?
XTC’s Dave Gregory (the producer).
From that album's song 'Not Exactly D.L.E.R.C.' what does D.L.E.R.C. stand for?
Don’t Let’s Ever Reveal Conundrum.
Ho ho! Also from that album, what is 'Carl's 115th Coach Trip Nightmare' about?
It's the follow up to his 114th.
Ha! Who writes the lyrics to Cud songs and do the rest of the band members know (or care) what each of the songs are about?
Carl writes the lyrics, sometimes finishing them quite late. The studio is often the first time we get to hear them clearly, sometimes with amusement, sometimes with bemusement.
What's the difference between the expanded reissues Not An Actual Elvis Belt and the Cherry Red Elvis Belt/Elvis Handbag one and how did these different creations come to be curated in such a way?
Not An Actual Elvis Belt is us making it clear to buyers on Amazon who were disappointed that our CD did not hold up their trousers.
You're funny! You've been active again for a decade now and though you've released two great new singles in that time, there's not been a new Cud album. Why? And will there ever be one?
Yes, that’s the plan. Half an album’s worth is recorded, more songs being rehearsed for imminent recording, though I’d hesitate to name a date for a release. But, dare I say, I am very excited by the new tunes – catchy classics. All good ones.