Interview: Simon Dine (Noonday Underground)

by Modculture 7 September, 2011

Simon Dine

Simon Dine

David Steel caught up with Simon Dine to discuss Noonday Underground, Paul Weller collaborations, northern soul and much more.

Not many of us will know much about your background, Simon – can you give us some basic ‘Simon Dine’ facts? Age? Birthplace? That kind of thing?

Born in late 1969 in Gosport – near Portsmouth. Scorpio. 7lb 6oz.

When did music first make an impact on you? What sticks out in your memory as first ‘turning you on’ musically, so to speak?

Was really into 2 tone which was huge in portsmouth and also the jam. Madness & the jam were the biggest bands at school. My first gig was darts at portsmouth guildhall for my 10th birthday. They played ‘reet petite’ as an encore and I remember thinking it was the best thing I’d ever heard. I didn’t realise it was a cover.

Did you grow up playing in bands, or were you getting into the DJ thing? How did a career in music become an option for you?

Did a fanzine at school – found out about press officers and free records and tickets! Portsmouth was a bit barren musically. I did get interviews with pete townshend & rem along with the mandatory billy bragg & redskins stuff. The miners strike & all that! Through the fanzine I started doing live reviews and small interviews for record mirror – mainly as an excuse to go to london. When I left school I started work at Go! Discs, then a very small label with billy bragg and a new band called the housemartins.

So prior to the Noonday Underground (which we’ll come onto in a minute), what did you do? You were in Adventures In Stereo with Jim Beattie (ex-Primal Scream) weren’t you?

Between spells working for go discs I managed a band called spirea x which featured jim beattie & judith boyle. After one album on 4AD that fell apart and I went back to go discs. I started making music at home just for fun and in time amassed loads of backing tracks. I played these to jim – who I had kept in touch with – and he wrote some lyrics and judith sung on top of them.

How did your involvement in the Adventures In Stereo come to an end? Did the Noonday Underground come about as a direct result of leaving that band?

Jim & Judith agreed deals with labels called marina & creeping bent to release adventures in stereo records without telling me. I went mental at jim and haven’t spoke to them since. That’s pop! I had to start again and that was how noonday underground started.

I feel a bit daft asking, but I presume the name is a direct link to Tom Wolfe and Mod, yeah? How much of an influence is Mod on you personally? Do you dress Mod, for example?

I really like that tom wolfe story and as I spend many sunny days digging in record shop basements so it seemed to fit on a couple of levels. I’ve always been into mod culture since school, the music of course, the look and the outlook. I don’t dress mod, I’m not really a clothes person. If I had loads of money i would be but clothes come further down the list after music, travel & socialising (& paying the bills).

Tell me how the Noonday Underground crew came together. How did you hook up with Daisy Martey, for example? She must be an important part of the band given her obvious vocal talent!

A very important part. I met her through barney calman who wrote the words to ‘london’. She had never recorded her voice before so it was exciting.

The Northern Soul feel and influence on the first record, ‘Self Assembly’, is pretty apparent to me – was that the idea or just how it came out? You must be into Northern Soul, yeah?

Yup. I love the energy, arrangements and the voices. Plus there’s just so much of it. Every year I discover a load of great tunes.

Do you collect soul 45s, and if so, what’s your current top 3 tunes? Ever done any soul djing? Could you be tempted if asked?

I have a really varied record collection but most of my northern stuff is on cd (now mp3). It’s just too fucking expensive and hard to find. I am very lucky to know some great people who spend a fortune on amazing and obscure records and let me tape them. My current favourites (they change daily) are:

Linda Jones ‘Just Can’t Live My Life’
Eddie Holman & The Larks ‘I Surrender’
Patrice Holloway ‘Stolen Hours’

Were you surprised by how well received ‘Self Assembly’ was? I’m not talking sales as such, rather from the critical response it got?

I am always surprised when people like my stuff!

The latest record, ‘Surface Noise’, immediately struck me as coming from a different angle – like a soundtrack feel, almost – again, was this a conscious thing? “Oh, we’ve done Northern Soul so let’s try something else” kind of thing?

I wanted something a bit slower. The first album was kind of acid & speed and the latest record is dope! I envisaged it as a record to play after coming home from going out.

Daisy obviously sings on this record, but so does a Francis Reader (‘Barcelona’ is a *brilliant* track!) – who he?

He sings with a fine band called Trash Can Sinatras.

Of course, Weller’s a fan of your work isn’t he? In that respect, was it easy getting him on the record and on to the tracks ‘I’ll Walk Right On’ and ‘Thunder Park’?

It wasn’t really planned, it just kind of happened. I played hime some backing tracks to get his opinion and he offered to write something on the backing track that became ‘i’ll walk right on’. Thunder park was initially going to be on ‘illumination’ but ended up on ‘surface noise’.

The favour in return was your work on ‘Illumination’, right? What was it like working on *his* record? What do you make of that album? Any future collaborations planned?

It wasn’t really like that. both album were made roughly in parallel. Engineer/mixer stan kybert worked on both records. I think ‘illumination’ is a great album. I still enjoy playing it – it’s very uplifting, has some great textures and sounds and I like the way it is not too polished. I wouldn’t rule out any future collabotations although nothing is planned – there’s no masterplan.

Which one of the two Noonday Underground albums do you prefer, and why?

I like (and dislike) them equally! Technically I still feel I have a long way to go but I like the songs on both records. I was having quite a hard time when I made the first one so the second one was more fun to do.

What’s your favourite Noonday Underground track, and why?

London as that’s the one most people like the best. I go with the flow!

Who would you say are your biggest influences? I’ve read elsewhere that you’re keen on The Who, Curt Boettcher and Phil Spector, for example – do you look to producers for inspiration more so than bands?

I have loads of influences, as a rule of thumb the sound of hip hop and the sixties.

What are some of your all-time favourite songs?

‘River deep mountain high’, ‘I can see for miles’, ‘God only knows’, ‘Tomorrow never knows’, ‘Town called malice’, ‘Say no go’, ‘Witchi tai tao’, ‘Subterranean homesick blues’, ‘There she goes’, ‘Bring the pain’.

So where now for Simon Dine and the Noonday Underground? More work with other artists, perhaps? Another album?

‘m doing loads of new stuff. Some with daisy on and some with some new people. I’m doing something for a film too.

What is your opinion on the state of current music? Are you generally optimistic for the future or pessimistic?

The charts and major label stuff is pretty foul on the whole but there are tons of fantastic records around. I’m very optimistic for the future. Once there are ways for artists to make a bit of money by selling their music over the net things will be much better.

Finally, if you could produce *one* track by any *one* single artist or group, what and who would it be?

I don’t know. As a creative experience, if it were one album I would really like to make an album with the wu-tang clan. I would also like to get all the beach boys smile tapes and stitch it all together.

Thanks for your time.