Interview: Mat Osman of Suede

We spoke to Suede’s bass guitarist as the band prepared to arrive in São Paulo for a show at 2012's Planeta Terra festival

Press image/Paul Khera
Hello Mat – thanks so much for speaking to us. You’ve just played in Mexico City, at the Corona Capital festival ( – how did that go?

It was fantastic. It’s always strange coming to a place where you’ve never played before, because you have no idea what’s been gestating over the last 20 years – you have no idea what kind of people are going to come, whether they know the songs, whether they’re going to see you as a kind of nostalgic thing or as a new band. But it was great – it was very loud, with lots of singing, lots of dancing. It felt like a first gig. The crowd was young, probably the youngest crowd we’ve played to.

We’ve been very deliberately trying to keep the shows as simple and as rough and ready as they would have been in 1992 – when we started playing again, we didn’t want to make it something you just sat and looked at, ticking it off, like, ‘I never saw them and now I’ve seen them.’ So there’s no orchestras or samplers, no backing tracks, nothing like that. It’s just the five of us in a room, even down to the fact that we keep very close together on stage, very tight.

What about São Paulo – have you been here before?

No, but the weird thing is, living in London I know tons of people from São Paulo – there seems to be a real connection between the two cities. Almost every Brazilian in London, and there are loads of them, seems to come from São Paulo. I’m really excited about going there, because I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

Who are the people you know in London, from São Paulo?

I’ve met loads of graffiti writers, graphic designers and writers who come from there – it seems to produce a collection of very creative people. Even my hairdresser is from São Paulo! I don’t know anyone from Rio, though – maybe it’s because Rio’s so beautiful that people never leave. Every time I meet someone from São Paulo, I say, ‘What the fuck are you doing in London?’ But they always just say they come for work.

The thing about London is that you can be a graphic designer, you can be a painter, you can be a writer – you can make yourself something. I don’t know, there’s lots of things in life that you do because it’s where you were born, or what your parents did, or what you were taught in school. I love the idea of big cities like London or São Paulo being made up of people who aren’t from there – lots of people escaping to the city to do exactly what they want.

Will you have a chance to take some time off here in São Paulo, or are you heading straight off?

We really don’t have much time, because we’re coming from Chile and then go straight to Buenos Aires. We’ve got a TV show to do [Altas Horas] and we’re doing the Q&A with you. People always ask, ‘What have you seen of the city?’ And you end up saying, ‘Not much, because I spent most of it on the phone.’ It’s a shame, but I’m sure we’ll go out on the night after the gig – that’s usually when everyone calms down a bit. I definitely want to see some of the architecture – I love that brutalist, modernist style. The idea that you have something like that in this warm, Latin country is really intriguing.

Is there anything you look for in a new city – something that makes it a top-class city for you?

My favourite thing, really, is to go and get lost. The cities I love most in the world are the ones where you don’t really have to do anything. There are a few cities where I can wonder, quite happily, through the streets, just soaking up the vibe of the place and that’s enough for me. Just putting your headphones on and walking around Tokyo, getting the Tube – I do love to go on the underground wherever I go. Or I can quite happily walk from one end of Paris to the other, not doing much more than stopping to drink a coffee, and be quite happy.

You were the editor of le cool ( [a London culture and entertainments newsletter] – are you still doing that?

Yeah, I still do it. But to be honest, other people do 99% of it now – I’m an ‘editor at large’. I was really involved when this Suede stuff wasn’t happening, but it’s pretty full-time doing this.

Did you interview any pop stars for le cool?

No, I really, really make it a rule that I don’t do anything with music. I find it impossible to write about – you know, if it’s bad then I don’t want to write about it, and if it’s good, I don’t want to dissect it. So there’s nothing left to write about. Also, I find it tricky because I know a lot of people who are involved. Writing about people that you’re going to bump into at festivals is not a great idea.

I read on the le cool blog where you said that when le cool started out, you thought it might become a huge thing like Time Out, but that it ended up being smaller, much more intimate.

I’m a total Time Out reader – it’s impossible to be a Londoner without being one. It can be difficult to write about stuff in London that Time Out hasn’t already covered. The other side of that is it’s kind of monolithic: it tries to be universal and cover everything. The idea for le cool was to do something much more curated – it’s about finding those little oddities that make the city what it is. But you know, you can only do that if there are things like Time Out covering things that are mainstream incredibly well.

But I think it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens in the next year with it going free [Time Out London became a free magazine in September 2012]. It’s difficult to get people to pay for something once they’ve got used to not paying for it. For me, being in music and journalism at the same time, I’m in the two businesses where the internet has literally – you know, there’s this generation of people who have no idea of paying for these things.

  • Read more on Planeta Terra 2012
  • Love Suede? Feeling lucky? For the chance to win a ticket to the Planeta Terra festival on 20 October, and to join a live Q&A with the band the day before at the Queen's Head, head for our Facebook page, give us a like and suggest the perfect day or night out for Suede in São Paulo. But do it quick – the competition closes at 4pm on 18 October 2012.


By Claire Rigby


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