After a brace of diverse albums in the mid-1990s, UK post grungers Headswim called it a day, seemingly for good in 2001. However with a long-overdue expanded reissue of their debut ‘Flood’ due in October as 'Flood #Redux', the band are reuniting for a one-off gig at the Camden Underworld to celebrate. “It’s pretty mad, actually”, exclaims Daniel Glendining as we sit down for a chat; “I really didn’t think it would ever happen.” Talking the band’s history, evolution, and return, we caught up with the singer, guitarist and front man. Gone to pot; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Daniel, it’s a very welcome back; how does it feel to be the front man of Headswim once more?
I know! It’s pretty mad, actually. I really didn’t think it would ever happen. I had no designs on it at all. It’s all Clovis [Taylor]’s fault really, the bass player! I was just going about my business and Clo, in the background had been on some Facebook group which had about hundred people in it, and he was looking at getting someone to reissue the [debut] album.
That’s the forthcoming reissue of debut album ‘Flood’.
He thought it was a good thing to do, so he’s making these inroads with Sony, and releasing the music to us and stuff like that, so we got together to meet about that, and we had a discussion and a guy from Trapped Animal [records], Joel, and he agreed to release it.
So how did the gig come about?
Originally we were just going to have a listening party. None of us thought that we were ever going to try and play again. So, that was the initial thing we were doing, and when I went back home, I thought; “fucking hell, I’m not sure I’m ready to stand in a room and talk to people about this!” So I said; “let’s do it, let’s give it a go!” Everyone was very surprised, including me, and its actually turned out really well. I didn’t think I’d be able to summon the energy to do it, but it’s been fucking amazing, really.
The band’s original tenure had two very distinct eras, so what’s it like going back to the beginning?
Yeah! And revisiting the songs, for a long time I kind of wanted to distance myself from it. I don’t know if I’ve been that kind of enthusiastic about listening to my own music, so I kind of shelved that. Because we changed direction so dramatically, I guess I never thought we’d go back there, but actually, we could see it, and the lyrics and everything, it’s been really cathartic, and very healthy for me. It’s been good.
‘Flood’ is a beast of an album, something of a lost classic.
Yeah, I mean, the playing on it, just our energy, it’s through the roof, really, especially compared to [follow up] ‘Despite Yourself’, which is much more structured and sane.
From ‘Flood’ to ‘Despite Yourself’, it’s almost like two different bands; the screaming guitar solo in ‘Gone to Pot’ wouldn’t have made it to the second album.
Yeah, and I’ve really been missing that, so when I do listen to ‘Despite Yourself’ now, I can see how it must have been such a shock for a lot of our fans. Yeah, it’s a balance.
What was it like during those early years during the band’s rise?
It’s kind of a mixed bag because me and Tom [Glendining, drums] had lost our brother and we were really smoking loads of pot in those days, as a band. It was the first thing we did before we went to rehearsal whenever we could get the weed in, so it was quite hazy! But it was just great, great fun, and yeah, touring Europe with the likes of Monster Magnet and stuff, and playing with Rage Against the Machine, it really was ace, and we didn’t give a fuck about record sales or charts or anything. We were just really like a little gang together.
You also played at Donington in 1994.
That was nerve wracking. I remember that being a very nerve wracking gig, actually. It was quite early in the afternoon. I’ve loads of recordings from it, and we’re playing at like, double speed; everything’s pretty quick! But yeah, it was great. No one threw anything at us, which was a surprise! I can’t remember who was on the bill, but there was bands like Biohazard and The Wildhearts, who I wasn’t really into, but it was great.
‘Despite Yourself’, as you say, was a very different album, and a lot more introspective; was that the approach going into it?
Yeah, it was reflective, I suppose. A lot of the songs were written and demoed, and they did sound more like ‘Flood’. It got cleaned up in the production quite a lot. We had more label pressure, but there’s kind of this Venn diagram, and there’s a few tracks from ‘Despite Yourself’ that slot in, like ‘Devil in My Palm’, ‘Torniquet’, ‘Hype’ and stuff, and we’re playing a few of those live for this gig, and they really fit as well. ‘Beneath a Black Moon’, which is at the end of ‘Flood’ is kind of like the precursor to where ‘Despite Yourself’ was going.
We got more into beats and stuff as well, I guess Nick [Watts, keyboards, cello]. We were listening to a lot of Beastie Boys when were in our ‘Flood’ days, and that kind of bled over and we ended up with the producer of the Happy Mondays [Steve Osbourne], believe it or not, doing ‘Despite Yourself’.
So was Steve Osbourne responsible for that change in sound?
With ‘Flood’ I was 22, and by the time I recorded ‘Despite Yourself' I was 25 and I was listening to stuff like Jeff Buckley, and I wanted to sort of spend more time on the craft of song writing, I guess, so it wasn’t as calculated as it seemed.
And the image change; was that part of it?
Yeah, but, I just got my hair cut, basically, because I wanted to pick up a girl or something, you know what I mean?! My hair was so long, and I just had a haircut and that’s what happens; everyone follows suit. I think the label were quite happy though that we cut it. It was an image change, but times were changing as well.
The first single released from ‘Despite Yourself’ was ‘Torniquet’, and it became something of a minor hit.
Yeah, it’s definitely a minor hit and our best known track. I still love that song. We were never going to be a singles band, I don’t think, but that was probably the closest thing that got to a single, even thought it’s very slow, but I guess it’s got a big chorus.
‘Better Made’ followed it up, and that’s a really melancholic one.
Yeah, it’s another tune that’s got quite a big chorus, and we were definitely thinking; “yeah this could be on the radio”, or whatever. It’s just the way I write, I guess. I think a lot of the grief that I experienced, I sort of held onto it a bit like a blanket, and actually lived my life thinking; “oh, this is how I’m going to feel for the rest of my life”, so it came through in pretty much all my writing. I never went out of my way to be that kind of person; it’s just how it came out.
It's a great song to those more down moods.
I get a lot of that, actually, from people, stories about how the music has really helped them, and it’s usually people that are going through some shit. I don’t have a problem with that.
Were you disappointed that the album didn’t have the success that perhaps the record company had hoped for?
Yeah, I think we would always struggle as a band to be that marketable. I hated being interviewed, and I hated being on TV, so from the record company’s point of view, that was; “oh shit!”. We did probably shoot ourselves in the foot, to a degree, but we’d also spent a whole year touring it in American and having a great time, and then when we got back, I think we were ready to do another record in our heads, whereas we went back out on the road. And then we were put on kids TV and stuff, Saturday morning TV, and I think the label at one point after ‘Better Made’ would have re-released ‘Tourniquet’, but it was just like; “we can’t really do this anymore. It’s not really us”. We came down to the office to a guy who was waiting to take us to all those sunbeds, and we just walked past him! We were always dirty rockers at heart, really!
Did you know in yourself that it was time to end the band?
Yeah, I mean, we’re kind of used to being the underdogs, but yeah, by the time we came to record a third album we didn’t know whether we were coming or going, and yeah, we called it a day.
You are, however, back, and what has the feedback been like since the news broke on the Facebook group?
I’m so excited, and it really does feel like a family. When I joined the group, that was Summer last year, and yeah, it’s really lovely to have all these people, to be able to talk to them about music. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone there. It really is like a family.
Given what we’ve talked about; the change in direction etc, it must feel nice to be able to reclaim Headswim as the band originally was, gain.
Yeah, and it’s great that it’s at the Underworld as well. It was probably the last gig we did as the ‘Flood’-era of Headswim. It does full like it’s full-circle, in a really mad way because we put together a little independent video for the song ‘Dead’ at the time, and most of the footage is from the Underworld. It’s really cool.
Was the choice of venue on purpose, or was it more of a coincidence?
Yeah, it was not really on purpose but we were looking at a few other venues, like the little Academys and stuff, and they seemed quite soulless to us, and this just seemed like a good place to start.
Have you had many rehearsals, and has it taken much to get you ready?
It’s been pretty easy, actually. We did a few in my brother’s little shed without vocals to refresh ourselves, then we moved into a little shitty studio in Essex, and I don’t think I started singing until the forth rehearsal in. We were doing it once a month, basically. In the last four rehearsals we’ve really come together and it sounds fantastic. My voice is still up to the job; it’s probably because I haven’t used it in this way for years. I really doubted that I’d be able to bring it back, but I guess it’s just like a muscle, and it’s working very well.
So, the big question is; will there be more shows after this one?
I don’t know. It really depends on whether or not we can make that work. So, just doing this one-off gig just to promote this album just feels like a really good place to start and none of us are suddenly jumping back into that world and trying to be rock stars again. So, who knows? It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any youngsters in the crowd. Maybe grunge will come back and our album will be an influence on new bands. For me, that would be absolutely incredible if that could happen. But I don’t think any of us are really dying to go back in a Transit!
Have you held a copy of the ‘Flood Redux’ reissue in your hands yet?
I haven’t, but I’ve seen the artwork, and it is fantastic. Me and Tom’s brother Matt did the original artwork, so to see that regenerated and updated, and it’s gatefold and stuff; it looks the bollocks, yeah!
Will ‘Despite Yourself’ get a reissue?
I don’t know. I really don’t know what the deal is with that. Possibly. We’ll have to see.
Like this interview? Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for regular updates & more of the same.
To pre-order 'Flood #Redux' on three different double vinyl formats, double CD, and download go to headswim.co.uk. There are also bundles available that include a ticket for the Underworld.