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Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Heaton's new band takes the biscuit
Biscuit Boy
Heaton teamed up with members of Strummer's band
The way Paul Heaton says it, working with new musicians for his latest project is like cheating on four different partners.

Heaton has been head of the Beautiful South family for the last 12 years and his strong, incisive lyrics helped them become one of the most successful British bands of a generation.

But a new Beautiful South album would be a flop, he thinks, so he has found some different musicians, written some new songs, and created Biscuit Boy.

The Beautiful South
Heaton will still record with Beautiful South

"It is not the end of Beautiful South - it is just the right time to try something new," Heaton says.

"The idea to have a solo project had been milling around in my head for the last five years."

"The reason it happened this year was because I really didn't think radio or the media were ready for another Beautiful South record."

Although the 39-year-old songwriter calls Biscuit Boy a solo project, he has enlisted two members of Joe Strummer's band, The Mescaleros - Martin Slattery and Scott Shields.

Beautiful South fans should not be afraid that the songwriter has gone off on a tangent.


It has exposed the members of Beautiful South a bit - they just stand there till they're told to do something

Paul Heaton

"It sounds like me," Heaton says.

"I think most of Beautiful South's ultra-fans like us for our lyrics anyway."

Heaton is taking full responsibility for the band and its fortunes, pointing out that it is the first time he has really had to trust his own judgement.

There is no-one to play his compositions to and no-one else to blame if it goes wrong.

The finished album, Fat Chance, is "all right", he says.

"Listening to the whole album, I don't think there's much weaknesses."

He also says it took him a while to remember not to ask hotel receptionists which rooms his Beautiful South band mates were in.

Biscuit Boy CD cover
Heaton has created a solo project called Biscuit Boy

Songwriting partner Dave Rotheray did help out on new single Mitch, but was not involved in any of the other songs.

"He's obviously really envious and quite sad that he's outside the project," Heaton says.

"He really encourages me - 'That sounds really good, that, Paul' - But you can just see this little disappointed look on his face."

Thanks to the two new musicians, the songs are more "dynamic", Heaton says.

This means the music itself plays a much bigger part than with The Beautiful South, where it is usually a pleasant background for a strong song.

"This is what is good with working with new musicians," he says.

He had to bite his lip when he wanted to tell Slattery and Shields that a song they were working on sounded "like Chris Rea", though.

Persistence

"I thought, nah, you can't say that, it's one of the first songs we've written.

"We persisted with it, and it sounded great.

"They were really interested in creating all these little sound pictures. With Beautiful South, if the song isn't perfect, we just bin it."

As a result, the new musicians - who play at least four instruments each - have opened Heaton's eyes.

"It has exposed the members of Beautiful South a bit," he says.

"They just stand there till they're told to do something."

Heaton describes one song on the Biscuit Boy album, Proceed With Care, as "a real dull song to me", but one that Slattery and Shields transformed.


I want to write things that make sense to people, particularly women

Paul Heaton
"It sounds good. You can listen to it and it's got loads of little bits which I keep noticing."

Despite the enthusiasm, he adds: "But I haven't got time for loads of little bits at my age. I need the song out front."

Heaton continues to write songs in preparation for when the time comes to reconvene The Beautiful South.

When that happens, he is going to go back to his tried and tested methods of writing and recording, he says.

But whoever he works with, Heaton still taps into the English consciousness with his wry chronicles that have mass appeal.

Negative

"I want to write things that make sense to people, particularly women," he says.

"There's very few records in the charts which target women, other than in a negative way.

"What about pensioners? What about 40-year-olds who have split up with their husbands?"

He then decides that 40-year-olds who have split up with their husbands must be too distraught to go into record shops because not many of them are buying his music.

When they get over it, The Beautiful South will return.

Until then, Biscuit Boy will keep the fans happy.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Biscuit Boy
Debut single Mitch (30 seconds)
See also:

16 Aug 01 | Music
Paul Heaton puts band on hold
12 Mar 00 | Scotland
Beautiful South legal battle settled
13 Oct 98 | New Music Releases
The Beautiful South
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