The first time I saw Suede was at the legendary Free Trade Hall show in Manchester. It was the first tour since Bernard had left and the band were on a mission to prove that a 17 year old guitarist really could fill his shoes. That gig cemented my opinion that Suede were one of the truly great British bands and with 5 albums now behind them, they fulfill the contractual obligations for Epic Records with a Singles Collection. It may be a begrudging move, but what a collection of singles and coupled with the B-Side collection "Sci-Fi Lullabies" it shows Suede in their broadest light. Designer Magazine caught up with drummer Simon Gilbert to find out the highs and lows of being in Suede.

Q: Suede have been around for over a decade now and there's still no sign that you'll ever fit in with any other bands or scene. That's been your strength really hasn't it?
A: I think if we ever did that would be time to give up. That's been our strength because as you know through the years the press has tried to latch us onto Brit Pop and Glam Rock or whatever the thing is that week and we just never wanted anything to do with it. Luckily when the whole scene dies we stay away from dying with it. I never really wanted to have this army of bands around us because I think we are unique and stand on our own.

Q: The whole Suede story has been one of extreme highs and extreme lows. How's that been for you?
A: Exactly that really. It's either fantastically high or fantastically low. We've got this book coming out on November 4th and i've just finished reading it off and there really are some bizarre situations that we've been in and enough to kill off any band really. I think there's an inner strength and belief in the main heart of Suede.

Q: Are there going to be any real surprises in the book or is it just expanding and elaborating on the basics of what most fans will know already?
A: It's really hard to say because I've known everything forever. It's hard to see if it's shocking or not, but there are the stories of the drug intake, when Bernard left and when Neil was ill. And I suppose it's hard to say because I've never known what it's like not to know all this stuff and quite a lot of our fans are interested in the inner workings of the band.

It does seem incredibly real because we did take part in the writing of the book. It is a real true thing. I took a lot from my diaries so it is like reading a diary of your life and it's quite good because you do seem to forget a lot of things with the amount of drugs you've taken over the years. It's quite nice to see someone else's views on it.

We waited over 10 years to release our Autobiography and the mad thing is pop acts today are releasing the biography before their first single and then a greatest hits after 2 albums. I think it was Hear'say who had their greatest hits out and they were only together for a f**king year.

Q: Over the years Justine, Bernard and Neil were in the band and successively left the band. Who was hardest for you personally to see leave?
A: God, that's a hard question. The most difficult was Bernard because nobody believed we would be able to carry on and we were so determined to carry on that to make the rest of the world believe it was really hard work. Even up till "Coming Up" came out nobody believed in us again and it was really frustrating.

It's really hard to say to say it was really hard to see them go or them go, but everyone who left or anyone who was in the band it needed to work to make Suede what it is really. We didn't fall with Neil or anything. We saw him the other night at the aftershow of the last gig at the ICA and it was really nice all of us being together again. The thing that was hard about Neil is that he didn't want to leave and he had to so that's always really sad.

Q: The singles collection is out this week. What's your personal favourite on the album and why?
A: I think "We Are The Pigs" because around the time people thought we were done in and finished and we suddenly got this guitarist and turned things around. Within about 4 weeks we were ready to go again. We probably chose the wrong single to start off with, but the band actually chose it so we were really proud to sticking it out with our new band member and stuff.

Q: The Five Night Stand recently saw you play all 5 album in full. What was it like playing an album like "Dog Man Star" which hadn't really been performed that heavily live in the past?
A: It was quite moving to be honest. Especially "Black And Blue" because it's one of my favourite tracks ever by Suede. I don't play on it for a start which means I could actually go and sit down and listen to it. When we played "The Two Of Us" you could see half of the audience were in was phenomenal really.

Alex had the biggest job because he had to do all the stuff for "Head Music" which was all on keyboards. Obviously he hadn't played any of the songs before, Richard had, he didn't find it difficult but he certainly had to do his homework. So while we were down the pub he was sat in fiddling on his computer.

Q: Doing these 5 gigs has it changed the way the tour is going to work in terms of a setlist?
A: It was great doing them because instead of choosing from the normal 35 songs we can choose from 78 songs. I think "This Hollywood Life" will definitely get in there and up until these gigs we hadn't played it for 6 or 7 years. It just sounded fantastic.

Q: And the new songs. A real step out in the dark for Suede?
A: We've got 3 new songs recorded. "Attitude", "Golden Gun" and "Love The Way You Love". "Attitude" is like old 20s Reggae bluebeat sound with almost a hip hop beat as well. It's a bit different for us, but playing it live was fantastic. There's another 5 or 6 that we have been trying out on the Festivals over the Summer. There's a great track called "Music Like Sex" which is quite new for us because Brett was playing a loop of his own vocals all the way through the song which turns into a big chant. The kids are loving the new stuff!!!

The single "Attitude" is out now on Epic
"Suede - The Singles" is out on October 20th
Suede tour the UK throughout December
For more info

Post your Suede reviews / comments on the Message Board