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Inspiral Carpets: Back In the Groove

01/04/2014 14:54 BST | Updated 01/06/2014 10:59 BST

It's the morning after the night when Aziz Ibrahim held his 50th birthday celebrations at Manchester's Roadhouse, and Inspiral Carpets' lead singer Stephen Holt and keyboardist Clint Boon are in conversation over coffee around the corner from Sackville Street, a place immortalised by their 1990 song.

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Clint, who DJ'd at Aziz's bash, is bright-eyed and as sharp as a tack. "I couldn't live my life without music. I could live without football, but not music." As an original member of the Inspiral Carpets, as a DJ for XFm Manchester and in his role as educator as he tours schools to deliver talks about the music industry, Clint puts his money where his mouth is. His immersion in the music world is very much Mancunian in spirit.

"Manchester is steeped in music history from the 1950s and '60s. It's the city that gave the world The Hollies, The Buzzcocks and Joy Division," he says. "The fact that we've also had a massive airport here and a big port meant that music was coming here from around the world. American soldiers during World War 2 brought jazz and swing records with them. And right up to the 1980s we had DJs from Detroit and Chicago playing at the Hacienda, which is why Manchester became the first UK city to become a house music capital with bands like 808 State and A Guy Called Gerald."

The organic musical fusion found in Manchester comes as a refreshment after the stifling cliques of the capital. Clint agrees. "Bands like I Am Kloot, The Tapestry, Elbow and The Courteeners are just doing their thing. There's no similarity between the sounds. The city's uniquely creative because of a combination of geography, history and the fact that the weather's always a bit grim which means we spend a lot of time in doors listening to records."

And the record in question today is Dung 4, the band's 1989 mail order-only cassette which is being re-released on CD and vinyl on Cherry Red Records. Originally issued on the band's Cow label, the tape was never released on vinyl or CD. "Being in a band was all we did at the beginning," says Clint. "If a single didn't make the top 40, we'd be gutted, but today our lives don't depend on that anymore."

Today, the Inspirals have neither a manager, a tour manager nor an agent and they travel light when touring. It's a formula that works. "In the beginning we started off in Oldham and began gigging in Manchester. We were this contemporary indie band with a 14-year-old drummer," he says.

"He was doing a paper round when he was playing with us," adds Stephen.

"We'd pick up Craig [Gill] from school and drive straight to London to do gigs. But he was the one who embraced hip-hop. He brought that right into the band, so we had this cutting beat with a Beastie Boy on drums and a page boy psychedelic Sixties look front of stage. We had a definite dance element and were pioneers without realising it."

"Up here people do their own thing," adds Stephen. "It was a scene that just happened."

Clint nods. "We didn't see it at the time, but Madchester was a baby that was bound to happen. The three key bands were the Inspirals, the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses. Us and the Roses were into psychedelic music while the Mondays were into funkier stuff. When all the major labels came for us around 1989, we were reluctant to jump into bed with one of them."

Instead, the Inspirals signed with Mute Records with whom they recorded four albums. It was a label that let them be themselves. Stephen says: "I started the band with Graham Lambert in 1983, but just as things began to kick off, I left in 1989. I rejoined the band in 2011 after Tom Hingley left."

"Stephen's story is the most fascinating," adds Clint. "He left to do a day job where there was stability, whereas we were paying ourselves £10 a week for bus fare and bacon butties. We took a chance, not knowing what was coming next."

Stephen got married and, even now, is the manager of a drug and alcohol treatment service. "I was out of the band for 22 years. When I rejoined in 2011 my first gig was in Buenos Aires when we supported Interpol."

With a new album being written and recorded - to follow the release of Dung 4 - they're once again busy, but were they always a hard-working band? "We were and are. I mean, look at Clint, he never stops."

"My dad always had several irons in the fire when he started a family," says Clint. "One of his jobs was shooting rats in allotments. A gun for hire. So I have a family background of hard graft. It's normal."

"The bands who jumped on the scene after us fell apart because they were incapable of doing their own thing," says Stephen. "They were bandwagon jumpers, so nothing held them together."

Which is something of which the Inspirals can never be accused; just ask their ex-roadie Noel Gallagher. "It's a matter of doing things the right way now," says Stephen. "Gigs are where you make your money and we're making more today than when we did at the beginning. It's exciting because we feel like it's a new band."

The two old mates lock eyes and laugh. "Our circumstances are different now, and it can be all too easy as a band to forget why we made music in the first place...but we haven't."

Photograph by Paul Cliff c/o Cherry Red Records