UCR INTERVIEW: Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze

Legendary and eternally hipster U.K. band Squeeze bring their Nomadband Tour to Red Butte Garden Amphitheater on Thursday, September 2. Utah Concert Review had the opportunity to interview Squeeze’s lead guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist, Glenn Tilbrook. We had a really enjoyable conversation. Hope you enjoy it!

Interviewed by Kevin Rolfe

UCR: I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. I don’t want to get too effusive right off the bat, but it is a real honor. You and, and Squeeze are somebody who’s been a part of my life. I’m sure you have so many people like that. Anyway, my first question off the bat is, having this established career all this time, you probably get a lot of that of people being like, “I heard you when I was a kid or when I was a teenager, those formative to have years where you’re discovering music of your own, that’s not your parents. You’re that band for them. What does that feeling like? When does that kind of start to register for you?

Glen Tilbrook: You know, funnily enough, on the bus last time we were having a talk. One of my boys who’s 18 Leon, he’s a musician. There’s like, there’s a magic window of time. The probably happens from when you’re a kid to when you’re 21 or 22. And the stuff that gets you in that point is really formative to you and we’ll have trouble feeling that so that intensity again. It’s just, as I say, it’s a magic window and stuff that happened to me in that time has affected my whole life. So, yeah, it’s a wonderful thing to be part of that for someone.

UCR: It will be almost two years to the day that you played here last. You played at Deer Valley with X, which was just an incredible night. I was there. It was just really a special night on that hill. Now you’re coming back and playing Red Butte Garden which is a very iconic venue here. So I’m sure you’ve been asked this a lot recently, but in that span of time, since I’ve seen you last and when I’m about to see you, what has that been like for you? What has this experience of this pandemic been like for you as an artist?

Glenn Tilbrook: Again, I really relate it to all my kids. I have four sons between 30 and 14 years old. When I try to imagine what it must be like to be in their shoes, to have this chunk of time wiped out, for me, I took positives from the situation. It’s the longest time I’ve had at home since I was 25. I’m 63 now. So, I was grateful for that time under that circumstance.

UCR: It’s a weird situation because, while my experience is different than yours. I’m out covering concerts nightly. And at the beginning of there was kind of this feeling of, it’s kind of a nice, forced break. You get to be home with your family and, oh, this is different and this is nice. And then you start to see what’s happening to everybody else.

So then it’s like, I don’t want to be that selfish about it. Then it’s hard not to think, well, wait, what about my livelihood? Like, It’s just the whole, you try to find the silver linings, but then you start to notice, like you said, with, with your kids, these are those years that they should be out and about. And we all got to hang out and in some ways, it’s positive because you’re together, but then others, there’s just not a lot happening.

Glenn Tilbrook: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. At least we had it, you know, we were fortunate to have enough space. Not getting on each other’s nerves. And I have my studio. We’ll work there too. So I feel very fortunate under the circumstances.

UCR: Were you able to feel creative in that span of time? Cause I know I’ve talked to a lot of artists and they’re like I had the time that I normally don’t have. But for some reason, maybe just the tone of what was going on they just couldn’t get those juices flowing. Did you have that experience? Or were you able to kind of hone in on that since you had the time?

Glenn Tilbrook: Well, you know, what? What ended up happening is that I started doing cover songs. And putting them up every week on YouTube. And they’re still there. I started off doing it by myself and then gradually involved the whole family. So that became a great way for us to come together and have something, have a purpose and have something to do. So we all played and sang on it. The purpose was to enjoy it, have fun. It was really sweet to do that. I did lots of writing, but none of it has come to any sort of fruition. Yeah. Tons of stuff, stacked away.

UCR: Just some little seedlings at this point?

Glenn Tilbrook: Yeah. Yeah. That’s the way I always work. I like to not finish things up until I’ve got tons and tons of stuff. And I’m sort of approaching that point now.

UCR: That’s, that’s such a great idea, to play with your family and to cover songs that you and they like. It just sounds like a fun way to not only pass the time, but be creative and, and have an enjoyable experience in such a weird, totally unusual time.

Glenn Tilbrook: Yeah. Yes.

UCR: It seems like the end of July is when major tours started again. And the faces of the musicians, it’s a little different. It seems like there’s this feeling of like, “Ah”. Like this relief to be where they are, back on the stage and on the tour.

Glenn Tilbrook: Totally. Totally. I mean, it feels it’s, it almost feels unreal. The joy that we all feel and then seeing the audiences who are having that feeling too. It’s Fantastic.

UCR: That’s a great point. I’ve noticed that special energy from a crowd because it’s been built up for a year and a half. They’re ready to finally be out there. Hopefully, it continues. With all the build up again, you hope it just keeps going and, and all that. Cause it’d be terrible to stop again. I’m curious about the formula of a band. I don’t know if that’s the right way to put it, but basically, you start out as essentially kids or young lads, and you create all this stuff you get noticed signed. Which back in the day, was bigger than it is now, but it’s still a big thing. You hit the road and then from there on out, it feels like it’s album tour, album tour, break, tour, break, keep writing.

In your mind, are you constantly thinking we got to get new stuff out or we got to get back out there, or do you feel like you’ve kind of hit your stride where it’s like, there are people out there we know, want to see us, there are people out there that we know want to hear new music and there’s, there’s more of a, not a laziness, but just an ease to it where you just know you got the system down? Or is there still just this energy where it’s like, we gotta keep going. We gotta keep going, gotta keep going?

Glenn Tilbrook: Well, I think it’s a combination of all the things that you said. Because, of course, the music business has changed vastly since, uh, since we entered it and it’s almost a shadow itself as far as recorded music is concerned. As far as, because of the way we consume music, the university experience has diminished greatly for everyone. Choice is a wonderful thing.

Again, my kids have 60, 70 years of pop music to choose from and they choose from all of it. Why wouldn’t you do that? You know, it’s great. But the unifying thing that used to happen, even if it was a clicky thing is, is harder to come by now. Not for a band like ours. But I think for young people. We still have people, as you say, we were there at a special time for them. We carry those people along with us.

UCR: There’s this certain aspect where now where young people have this whole encyclopedia of music that you and I in our lifetime, we were part of something. Whether it was the British invasion or the Woodstock era, or for me it was New Wave and Alternative music that impacted me so much that you were a part of. They get to have all that as part of their history.

So it’s just such an awesome time to, in some regard to be in music. But I’m sure you have had this experience like I have when you just can’t wait for the album to come out. And then you go get that physical album and listen to it on your own with your friends. I don’t listen to new music with my friends anymore. I don’t say, Hey, this album came out, let’s listen to it together. But that was a real thing at one point, right?

Glenn Tilbrook: Absolutely. I’m on my bus. I’m going to reach out and get this album out. Which is, a BobbyCharles album. I just love this record. I mean, I’ve loved this record cause I heard about it and I listened to it online for years. I’ve been trying to track down. I finally got a physical copy of it and it feels so great! It’s so exciting!

UCR: That’s amazing! That’s so cool. Isn’t that such a good feeling to tangibly hold

Glenn Tilbrook: Absolutely! Yeah, yeah, yeah. The whole thing. There’s a certain sort of, it’s almost like a performance, isn’t it to take the record out, take the sleeve out, get the record out of the sleeve. I’ve often thought this about, people who smoke marijuana. If they roll joints, part of having the joint is the performance of the roll, you know, it’s the whole thing. I think that’s pretty much like records.

UCR: That’s a great analogy there. It’s very true. And that’s why I bring up that there’s
a great part of being in music today or listening to music today. So I don’t want
to sound like the old man being like, “It’s not as great as it used to be.” Now they
have access to everything where even a few years ago, I couldn’t find certain
albums. Now it’s everywhere. There’s a great part to it. But I do miss that
adventure of it and, and discovery of new bands.

Anyway, I wonder for you now, you have a family, you’ve had these long lasting relationships in music. What is touring like now? What kind of excitement does it have for you now that makes you want to keep doing it? Because I know like right now, from this part of the day until you go on stage, sometimes that can be the hard part. Right? But you
still have to do it because you want to get out there to that stage. What is the exciting part for you now?

Glenn Tilbrook: It took me a long while to really learn about what I am, who I am. There’s a lot, I didn’t know about myself initially. First thing is just how into music that I am and not everyone is. And some musicians aren’t. That’s a weird thing when you come across that. When you think, oh, okay, well ok it’s a means to an end. I get that. That works for some people. But for me it’s an absolute obsession and, I realized this… Actually. I’m going to tell you the story of exactly what I realized. This is in 1989.

I met this guy called Ted. He was in his seventies and he was an old musical performer. He used to be in a double act with his brother and he used to get up at this local pub, and just get up and sing and he was fantastic. A real inspiration to me. And then the same year I met Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones. And I played with him. And I thought wow. You know, there’s two ends of the spectrum and I feel I’m both of those people. And I feel like with meeting Keith Richards it didn’t matter who he was, what he is, is he’s a dedicated musician.

And I thought I’m like that. But I’m also like Ted, the guy gets up in the pub. My career could take me anywhere, but I’m good with that. And it has taken me back to pubs and back to massive stadiums. It’s an up and down business. I’m absolutely square with that because this is my life and I won’t stop until I stop. That’s all I want to do.

Copyright 2019 Danny Clifford.

UCR: I Love it. That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing that. It’s so true. You have to love
it cause there’s a lot of it that’s not easy. But I’ve seen, seen guys and they perform every weekend here in town. And they’re as dedicated as you or as Keith Richards, as you said. It’s just, you are what you are. If you’ve had the chance to make it your profession, that’s amazing. But if you still just love to do it, you’re still brothers in that love.

Glenn Tilbrook: Totally! Absolutely. Absolutely. Up and down sideways, it doesn’t make any difference. It’s about passion.

UCR: Amen. Do you remember the first band that you ever saw live?

Glenn Tilbrook: Yes, I do. The first proper gig that I went to was seeing T-Rex at a local theater. I was a 14 and they just had Electric Warriors, so “Bang a Gong” and all that was current when I saw them. Girls are screaming at them. Just to experience that as a teenager, was massive. I remember the feeling of elation. I remember tingling with excitement literally. And just having this great experience.

After that, I saw in the same year, I went to a place called The Oval and The Who headlining. So Who’s Next was the new record. So it was The Who, it was The Faces, it was just a fantastic day of music. That was my formative years. In fact, The Faces were
probably the closest to a template for Squeeze as could be. Because their thing up on stage was a bunch of mates on stage having fun.

UCR: So when you saw these shows did you think, “Hey, I think I want to do this.” Or were you already in the throws of trying to do it?

Glenn Tilbrook: You know, I’d always wanted to do it. Really since I was about nine or 10. I was playing guitar. I was a bit of a loner as a kid, so I had plenty of time on my hands to do nothing but play guitar and keyboards. I taught myself, I was really happy doing that.

UCR: Can you recall your first time performing with a band on stage?

Glenn Tilbrook: Yes. Yes, I can very well. Well, Squeeze’s first gig was in 1974 and we played at this pub close to us. And all our friends came along. I think I was shaking for two weeks before the show. Literally shaking. I was so nervous, but I really wanted
to do it. We all wanted to do it. That gig just showed you know, now I look back
on, it shows me the power of friendship. Kids at that age can spread the word
really quickly. And we got our following pretty quickly. So it was fantastic.

UCR: That’s so cool. I just love hearing those stories because now, I mean, I’m sure
there’s still nervous energy or an excitement once you go to walk on stage, but
that initial time, to think, “Wait, so I’m going to do this in front of people I know
or complete strangers”, it just has to have this, crazy feeling that’s easy to recall.
Because it just was not traumatic, but just so impactful, you know?

Glenn Tilbrook: Totally! Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you go onwards and onwards and onwards there are still moments you have. When we walked out on stage at the Ryman that’s, as you know, been over 16 months, since we last gigged. To see the audience feel the buzz in the crowd, the buzz in the bad, you know, it’s just, it’s wonderful.

UCR: I’m really excited about your show here on September 2. My last question is just,
what is for somebody who hasn’t seen you and this is going to be their first time finally getting to see you, what can they expect from this tour?

Glenn Tilbrook: We’ve put a lot of work into this show and set. We’ve got some really left-field things, songs happening. Some we’ve never done before. And, I’m judging by the reaction we’re getting so far. It’s been amazing. We keep on, I think we’re getting better and better as a band. Paying more and more attention. And that’s what we have to do. Be really strict about ourselves.

UCR: Nice. Well, as I said, I can’t wait. Thank you so much for your time

Glenn Tilbrook: It’s been a pleasure. Really nice to talk to you.

There are a few tickets remaining for the September 2 Squeeze concert w/ special guest Colin Hay. To purchase tickets go to redbuttegarden.org

2 Replies to “UCR INTERVIEW: Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze”

  1. Excellent in concert as usual , Squeeze truly are a magnificent band , full of originality, great lyrics and music . Hard to find a tighter band live . I hope they continue to tour and come back to Utah .

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