Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Peverett Phile Interviews: John Bentley From Squeeze

Hello, kids, welcome to another entry of the Phile with another interview. First I have to say tonight I went to see The Barenaked Ladies in concert. It was weird to see them with just four members and without Steven Page, but they were great. One of my favorite concerts ever. My next concert will be Kelly Clarkson. Man, I cannot wait. Now for today's interview. It's with the bassist for Squeeze from 1980 to 1982. He played on the albums "Argybargy" and "East Side Story", generally considered to be the band's best by critics, as well as the darker and less acclaimed "Sweets from a Stranger". The Peverett Phile is pleased to bring you John Bentley.

Me: Hello, John, welcome to the Peverett Phile. This is a huge honor as Squeeze is my all-time favorite band. So, how are you? Busy it seems, right?

John: Just embarking on a 37 date tour with Chris (Difford). And also concentrating on writing new material for "Mind Your Head". I am also collaborating with the surrealist David Milner on films to accompany my solo album "The Man Who Never Was" which we intend to bring out as a DVD. Some of the films can be viewed on my Myspace. 

Me: I checked out your bio and didn't know you had the same birthday as my dad... April 16th. Happy early Birthday. 

John: Sorry you've lost your dad, and I remember to Foghat.

Me: For the readers of the Phile, correct me if I am wrong, but you were with the band originally from 1980 to 1982, right? Did you know the boys before hand, or did you have to audition?

John: I joined Squeeze early in 1979 and continued to tour and record with them until late 1983. Then had a short break (24 years) from the band. I auditioned for Squeeze at SUMA rehearsal rooms in Chelsea. Squeeze Management sent me there to audition for the job, but Squeeze had already finished the auditions and were rehearsing with their new bassist who they had chosen from 60 applicants. So I was just sitting in the control booth with Chris Difford watching the rest of the band rehearse. It was one of those moments. I could have simply walked out of there and left them to it, and that would have been that. But as I chatted to Chris, some magic happened, and I convinced him that I would be a better option than the guy they had chosen. So they set up a special audition for me the following day. And the rest (as they always say) is history.

Me: You played on some of Squeeze's biggest albums, John. What was your favorite album you played on?

John: My favorite Squeeze album is "Five Live", followed by "Argybargy".

Me: The band broke up in '85... and when they reformed a few years later they had a new bass player named Keith Wilkinson... was that your idea or theirs for you not to be in the band anymore?

John: It certainly wasn't my idea for Squeeze to reform without me and hire Keith Wilkinson. I could have easily got them someone much better.

Me: What did you do in that time? Did your own band?

ohn: I did have my own band (Luxury) for a short while and we had a recording deal with Polydor. After a couple of singles that flopped our album was never released, and then we were dropped. After that I realized that if I was going to sustain a successful career in music I would be better off returning to being a backing musician rather than a front man. I have continued to play and record and write music with many well known and successful musicians including Big Jim Sullivan, Garth Brookes, Chris Spedding, Keith Emmerson, B.J. Cole, Frankie Ford, Akasha, Mind Your Head. etc...

Me: Did you buy the other Squeeze albums after you left the band?

John: Squeeze put out several new compilation albums with 'bonus' previously un-released tracks. And many of these tracks have me on them. I would phone up to try and get free copies from the record company, and they would say 'who are you?' And I would reply - 'John Bentley - world famous and critically acclaimed X Squeeze bass player'.  So I ended up having to buy my own records in order to hear them.

Me: It was a big surprise to me as well as pretty much every Squeeze fan when Glenn and Chris decided to get back together. Who called you to rejoin the band? Were you hesitant, or did you jump on board right away?

John: Glenn called me up out of the blue one day. He said 'I've got this band - they're called Squeeze, do you want to join?' I said 'I'll have to think about it... (short pause)... Yeah - O.K.'

Me: Squeeze had a successful reunion tour and a live album called "Five Live", right? I had to order that album from England as it is hard to find here in Florida. Is Squeeze working on a new studio album?

John: "Five Live" is a must for any Squeeze fan, and the reunion tour was a great success. We've been back to the States three times since then. And at the end of the last tour we played a sell-out gig at Radio City in New York. Plans for a new album have been discussed, but nothing is set in concrete (apart from Keith Wilkinsons feet).

Me: John, do you still live in Deptford, or have you moved out of London? I was actually born in Balem, Gateway to the South.

John: The names Deptford and Squeeze have become synonimous. It's an urban myth. Ironically nobody from Squeeze ever lived in Deptford. I used to live in Worthing - gateway to the incontinent.

Me: Let's talk about your new album called "Mind Your Head". It's an album you did with Duncan McKenzie, right? Do you do the singing, or does he?

John: Neither Duncan or myself do any singing on the "Mind Your Head" album, as we are an instrumental group. Dealing with cinematic and psychadelic style themes - Mind Your Heads music takes you on a journey. (To Penge via Norwood). We have done a few gigs in England and there is a vid of one of our tracks on Youtube, called "Mousehole". 

Me: When did that album come out, and where would a reader of the Phile and myself pick one up?

John: The album was released just a short while ago. I am selling it on my Myspace.

Me: Is "Mind Your Head" your first solo album?

John: "Mind Your Head" is a collaboration with Duncan McKenzie. My first solo album is also a psychadelic cinematic journey called "The Man who Never Was". It's the best thing I've ever done. Still available on Myspace.

Me: John, is there any other projects you are working on right now?

John: I am working on another solo album. I have all the titles for the tracks. Now all I need is the lyrics, arrangements, a band of professional session musicians, a record producer, and some really good music...

Me: Is there a website you would like to plug?

John:, Email There is also some great footage on A&E TV Sessions with Lynn Hoffman taken in NYC last Summer 08... the behind the scenes is defo worth a look. Bye for now.

Me: I wish you the best, and am so glad you are back with Squeeze. Tell the others I said hello, and keep in touch, sir.

That was one of my favorite interviews so far, just because I am such a huge fan. Thanks to John for taking part and for his assistant Sara for helping out as well. The Phile will be back tomorrow with Untamed Youth. Then on Phriday the newly approved Phile will have the usual stuff as well an interview with actor Johnathon Schaech. You know who he is, right? He was in That Thing You Do. So, spread the word, not the turd. 

No comments: