Squeeze frontman Chris Difford talks OnBlackheath, a 15th studio album and tinnitus
It all started when Chris Difford put an advert in a Blackheath sweet shop window looking for a guitarist. Glenn Tilbrook was the only person to respond. However, the lack of interest to join the band back then was no indication of the success they would experience. Fast-forward over 45 years and Squeeze are still touring playing to fans around the world, showing how they've left such a lasting impression on music. These fans include Mark Ronson, Kasabian, Supergrass, Lily Allen, The Feeling and Razorlight, as well as the millions of us 'normal' folk.
Last weekend Squeeze headlined ONBlackheath, a momentous occasion that saw the band return to where it all started. All Ears had a stand onsite, offering hearing protection and advice to families and adults at the festival. It was a great opportunity to speak with Chris ahead of the festival, getting his insight into the ever-changing perception of hearing protection, wearing ear plugs and whether there's a 15th studio album in the works.
Hey Chris, thanks for taking the time out of your busy tour schedule to speak with us. How has this summer festival season been?
Busy and fun!
Your incredible musical partnership with Glenn Tillbrook began following the ad you put up in a Blackheath sweet shop in 1973. How does it feel to be returning to your roots to headline OnBlackheath this weekend?
It feels like a turning point, another step in the right direction.
The opening lyrics to the opening track on your 14th Squeeze album are "The innocence of childhood / Should remain throughout my life / Then the freedom I've been gifted / Can surround me day and night." Is this a form of mantra you have always lived by, considering your consistent ability to stay current in music and tour over 45 years?
No this is all new to me, I like learning as I go along by making mistakes I find the right path to walk along.
Squeeze has had a plethora of talented band members coming and going over the years, but you and Glenn have remained the core duo. What is it that keeps you two so close?
I have no idea, I think we write great songs and that's our glue, our emotional tap.
Which artists, in particular, have been influencing your musical progression over recent years?
So many, I have no idea where to start.... Maybe with Dylan and Bowie.
Do you, Glenn, or any of your current band members suffer from tinnitus or hearing damage?
Yes, I do.
When did you notice it and was this due to music?
I have it from time to time. Sometimes it feels linked to stress, which is often these days.
What do you/them find helps you to cope with it?
I listen hard and try to cancel the tone from its position.
When did you realise you should wear earplugs and how often do you wear them now?
About 5 years ago.
Did anyone from your management/the industry suggest hearing protection to you?
Have you seen a shift in the perception of hearing protection since starting out?
Yes indeed. I'm pleased to say it's become the norm to protect ears.
Is there anything you think that could increase awareness and prevent more people from damaging their hearing? (without stopping people having fun)
Yes, spread the word, and listen for the peacefulness of nature.
Time for a plug, anything you would like the people to know about? A 15th studio album, perhaps?
Intro by Oli Katz