Cross Words: Battle of the bands

Head to head: Is the cover album the ultimate tribute or tragic rip-off? Stephen McGann of The McGanns defends their debut album against Tony Szuminski of Puressence

Pro-cover-albums

"I've been in all the parts of arts and entertainment, and music is the only area where people get pretentious about reinterpreting work. Are you going to slap Kenneth Branagh and say, 'You should never have attempted Henry V because we already have a wonderful version by Laurence Olivier?' If the Royal Shakespeare Company were in music, they would be a covers band.

One of the problems of the music industry is that it's plagued with ideas about what is 'cool'. If it's old it seems you've got to preserve it in aspic. But the lovely thing about music is that it's all open to individual interpretation. Reinterpreting work is simply part of the creative process. Everybody thinks they own pop music and they bloody don't. No one is forcing punters to buy cover records. When we do covers we are telling the songwriters what is cool about their song. The only person with copyright is the person who wrote the song, so ultimately it is their decision whether they get covered or not.

If you don't like the interpretation, you can easily pull out the original. The song itself does not suffer. There is some art that is primary and some that is essentially secondary and interpretive. Both require a certain amount of skill. People might think it lazy not to do your own stuff, but have you ever tried to do a Temptations track? The challenge lies in doing it as well, if not better. If I could sit the world down and have them listen to all my own stuff, that is exactly what I'd do. But people have to be a little realistic about the industry. Some punters simply like familiar tunes."

The McGann brothers' album, `The McGanns', is out on Monday on the Coalition label

Anti-cover-albums

"Hardly any covers are better than the original. I can only name one that has been any good and that is 'All Along The Watchtower' by Jimi Hendrix, which was a Bob Dylan song. But most covers are done badly and without any soul. A large proportion of songs in the charts are covers and the kids don't even know where they came from. That French song [`Lady Marmalade'] by All Saints, that's a cover, isn't it, but I bet their fans don't know that. The original is miles better.

Badly done covers damage the credibility of the original songwriters. If bands keep doing covers, our concept of music's evolution is going to be destroyed. Being in a band is about being pioneers and pushing music forwards. If you've got to make it through other people's songs then that is pretty sad. The Fugees are massive but they have made their name through covers. I simply cannot hold any respect for a band that does that. It's just glorified karaoke isn't it?

There are realms in music where a certain amount of borrowing is acceptable. Oasis and the Stone Roses have utilised Sixties songs, but both bands took the idea to another level and brought it up to date. Nicking whole songs and ripping off melodies just shows the artist's lack of creativity. I'm in a band where we want to take music forwards rather than peddling backwards. If we did covers we couldn't be proud of ourselves and if some naff idiot tried to copy one of our songs we would definitely try to stop them. You wouldn't want Mr Blobby doing a cover of your song now would you?"

Puressence's single `All I Want' is out on Monday on Island Records

Interviews by Fiona Sturges

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

    £12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

    Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

    Day In a Page

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders