AS frontman of the Inspiral Carpets, Tom Hingley was one of the faces of the ‘Madchester’ music scene of the late 80s and early 90s.
After their initial split, he joined the band for a series of reunion shows in the noughties, but departed from the band acrimoniously last year, before they began to surf the wave of a ‘Madchester’ revival with a string of major festival appearances.
But while Hingley, who has just released a warts and all account of his time with the Inspirals, talks about bullying and shadowy Machiavellian conspiracies within the band, he told Mail reporter TIM FLETCHER he is definitely ‘not bitter’.
MOST musicians resent being lumped in with a particular music ‘scene’ but ex- Inspiral Carpets singer Tom Hingley is ambivalent about the cultural happening which brought his former band to fame.
Hingley says the post-acid house blossoming of Mancunian bands of which the Inspirals, along with the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, were at the forefront, was a creation borne of that old gripe, ‘lazy journalism’, but accepts he and his erstwhile bandmates owe a big debt to ‘Madchester’.
“People like (Mancunian scenester) John Robb said that we casually benefitted from that scene but in fact we contributed a lot to it,” he says.
“We wouldn’t have had a career without the Roses’ first album, but there were other factors like (late lamented Manc venue) The Hacienda and New Order choosing to stay in the north.
“It was the biggest movement since punk and was very anti-London. I prophesise that there could soon be a similar movement because we have a Tory Government again and the whole country is being run by the south east.”
Hingley, the son of an Oxford don, joined the Inspirals after moving from his native Abingdon, Oxfordshire, to Manchester to study at university, teaming up with the working class Oldham boys who completed the band’s line-up.
The Inspirals’ organ-driven garage rock sound would earn them 15 top 20 singles and more than a million sales worldwide, but the future of British music could have panned out very differently if their roadie, a certain Noel Gallagher, had been successful in his audition to be the band’s frontman.
Hingley claims Gallagher was kicked out of the band’s entourage after smashing up their tourbus, and says he was deliberately kept in the dark about the fact the future Oasis mainman had auditioned for the job.
“The rest of the band didn’t tell me,” he says. “Why? Maybe some of them were a bit manipulative and maybe they thought Noel was a good person to have around.
“Maybe they thought they could draft him in at some point to replace me. Bands are quite Machiavellian things — they’re not the Chelsea flower show — but in any event Noel learned to be a pop star working for us.”
The band’s 1990 debut album Life reached number two in the UK charts while its successor, The Beast Inside failed to achieve reach those heights. However it’s the latter album Hingley has chosen to play in its entirety on his current tour with his band, The Lovers.
“It’s often the case that the second album doesn’t do as well as the first but we’ve carried this cultural cringe around about this album for the last 21 years, it’s never been revisited and it’s greatly loved and missed,” he says.
“We were a great singles band but that was our only great, coherent album.”
So how did Hingley arrive at this point, from being the frontman of one of the leading indie bands in the country to ploughing his own furrow while his former bandmates capitalise on a resurgence of interest in Madchester following the reformation of the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays?
After the band split in 1995, Hingley worked for a while ‘selling incontinence pants for ladies’ while holding down a job with a catalogue company.
“I was 30, redundant and didn’t have any skills,” he says. “It was incredibly hard — I couldn’t go and work in McDonald’s because I’d just have been laughed at.”
After resuming his musical career with The Lovers, Hingley eventually rejoined the Inspirals for a series of well-received reunion shows during the last decade, but parted company in acrimonious circumstances in February last year.
Clint Boon, organist and songwriter, responded to Hingley’s comments on his departure by Tweeting ‘Inspiral Carpets have not split up — it appears that one member has chosen to leave’, but Hingley tells a different tale.
“Graham (Lambert, guitarist) sacked me,” he says. “He forced me out of the band through years of bullying and he also tried to bully Martyn (Walsh, bassist) out of the band.
“There are various versions of what happened, some which stick to the truth more than others, but I don’t talk to them at all.”
At this point, Hingley, unprompted, insists on reading out one of the 60 or so text messages and emails he claims to have received over the previous weekend from his fans, following the Inspirals’ performance, with his replacement and the band’s original frontman, Stephen Holt, on vocals, at this year’s V Festival.
The sender of the message apparently pleads with Hingley to return to the Inspirals, asserts that Holt ‘cannot sing a note’ and is ‘killing the reputation of the band’, but does Hingley share this view?
“It’s not for me to say,” he replies, enigmatically. “Does it matter what I think about it? What matters is the people who have followed the band for 30 years.
“The music doesn’t belong to me or Clint or anyone else in the band. It belongs to the people who went to the gigs, bought the T-shirts and got beaten up in the toilets for having stupid haircuts.”
While he may sound it, Hingley insists that he is not resentful about the way things have turned out and his icy relations with his erstwhile bandmates.
“I don’t feel bitter, because when something is over, it’s over and you have to recognise it,” he says. “The passing of something is one of the great things to recognise in life, whether it’s a parent, a season or a career.
“There’s a saying that all political carers end in failure and I think you can say that about bands too, but I don’t regret it at all and I’m extremely proud of what we did.
“If you’d said to me at the age of 23 I could set out and do all this again, I would.”
A feature in the Burton Mail, 31 August 2012