The Coral drummer Ian Skelly talks about the past and future
Renowned rockers The Coral, famous for hits including ‘Dreaming of You’ and ‘In the Morning’, will perform in Liverpool this month as they continue to promote their latest critically acclaimed album, ‘Distance Inbetween’. Your Move caught up with the band’s drummer, Ian Skelly to find out more about their early days as well as their comeback and current projects.
After a five-year hiatus The Coral made a live return and released the studio album, ‘Distance Inbetween’ this year. What brought the band back together?
The break was welcomed as we had been touring, making albums and then touring again for over a decade. We all felt it was the right time to get back together and agreed that we had all had enough time away from each other. It just seemed like the best time to regroup and get back to making music together.
During the break each band member explored other projects alone after a relentless decade of activity. What did they get up to?
During the break James Skelly established his record label Skeleton Key and made a solo record called ‘Love Undercover’ which I worked on and produced for him.
Paul Duffy, the bass player, turned to soundtrack composition and went on to play with some other bands.
I also made a solo record during this time, and founded Serpent Power with Paul Molloy.
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Everyone ventured off and did other things and I really do think that the break was great for us all, especially when we spent so much time together.
The band is about to launch an exhibition in Harrogate documenting the music, artwork and stories behind the new album. Where did the idea for the display come from and are there any plans to bring it to Liverpool?
I’ve always done all the artwork for all the albums, but with this album it was the first time I’d had the luxury of time. In the past I just received a phone call saying ‘Ian, we need an album cover in three days’, but with this album I had more time to get everything together.
As for the exhibition, I met this guy from Red House Originals Gallery and we got talking about maybe doing a whole retrospective exhibition of the entire history of The Coral. I have all the original artwork from all the covers so we thought this would be really interesting.
However, it just felt like it wasn’t the right time to do that yet so we thought about maybe waiting until the 20th anniversary of the band’s debut album, ‘The Coral’ which was released in 2002.
Instead we got talking about the current album and we thought about maybe doing an exhibition to celebrate the new record as well as the band’s comeback.
Nick, the keyboard player, does all his own poetry and both he and James wrote all the lyrics on an old typewriter so all the original lyrics are in the exhibition as well.
When we started compiling the collection it gradually shaped up to be a really good show. The exhibition is at RedHouse Originals Gallery in Harrogate from 8 December and if it goes well then we’ll move forward and try something bigger. The plan is to take it to Manchester, London and Liverpool.
You’re returning to Liverpool this month as part of a UK tour. How has being from the city region, which has such a renowned musical heritage, helped your career?
When we started there seemed to be something in the air. There are still bands around now, but that whole Oasis explosion just happened in the 1990s, so every gig venue wanted to play music. Being in a band from Liverpool, that whole heritage of the Beatles and all those great local musicians definitely helped us as we were able to pick things up from other bands.
In the late 1990s we played gigs at The Slaughter House and had a summer residency at the Cavern. We also played the Zanzibar which was a major venue. It had a club night called ‘The Bandwagon’ and that’s where we met loads of other local bands like Tramp Attack, The Bandits and The Hokum Clones. There was definitely a little scene going on there.
When we were younger so many styles influenced us but it was mainly Oasis and the Beatles. We could relate to them as they were just a bunch of local lads who became hugely successful. They made us believe we could achieve something like that.
“If I had to pick one song that I think defines the band I’d have to say that, as good as ‘Dreaming of You’ is, our first release, ‘Shadows Fall’ opened lots of doors for us.”
You released ‘Distance Inbetween’ earlier this year. How did your experiences writing it compare to that of its predecessor ‘The Curse of Love’, and are you pleased with how it has been received?
‘The Curse of Love’ wasn’t really an official album, it was done in about 2005 and then shelved. The songs were initially just demos and were done after Bill Ryder-Jones left the band at the end of ‘The Invisible Invasion’. When he returned in 2006 we chose to start from scratch and work on ‘Roots and Echoes’.
When Bill left the band in 2008 we then did ‘Butterfly House’ and revisited ‘The Curse of Love’, which was recorded on an eight-track cassette player. It was kind of a middle album in a way.
The new album’s sound is definitely heavier than anything we’ve done before, but the original character of The Coral is still there.
We are pleased with how ‘Distance Inbetween’ has been received. The reaction we’ve had to all the songs has been really positive, so I’m really looking forward to performing it with the band at Liverpool Olympia.
You’re promoting that new album on this tour, but when you’re playing the classics like ‘Dreaming of You’ and ‘In the Morning’ how do you keep it fresh?
‘Dreaming of You’ is just a great song and if you play it in a bar everyone loves it. When you’re playing a song like that live it’s a bit above you as those types of songs belong to the audience in many ways, and as a musician you just have to go with it.
As a band, we don’t really think about it, we just love the fact that the crowd is really enjoying it.
How has the band’s attitude to writing music changed since it formed in 1996?
I don’t think it has, I just think it’s improved. For example, James was always good at writing so in a way you can never beat the stuff you did when you were younger. If you’ve always been good at writing then it either improves or is just as good later on, in my mind.
If I had to pick one song that I think defines the band I’d have to say that, as good as ‘Dreaming of You’ is, our first release, ‘Shadows Fall’ opened lots of doors for us. It was a three-part harmony that didn’t sound like anyone else at the time. After that everything else just blossomed.
What are you most proud of and is there anything else you would like to accomplish that you haven’t already achieved?
I’m proud of the body of work we have put out. I love gigs but in a way they’re only a fleeting experience – you do a gig, you play to loads of people and it’s great on the night, but then it’s like ‘well, what next?’ A record, on the other hand, lives on forever. I’m particularly proud of the band’s extensive body of work beyond music as well as the albums we’ve produced. My aim for the next couple of years is just to continue making music.
The Coral will play at Liverpool Olympia on 10 December.