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Brian Higgins interview (Popjustice, 2004)
Posted at 4:10 PM, 07 September 2010 -

In antecipation for tonight's £20 Music Prize, Popjustice has provided a download of the 2004 Twenty Quid Music Prize programme, which features interviews with Brian Higgins, Cheryl Tweedy, Richard X and many others. Click here to download it.

You might learn that Richard X and Hannah Robinson actually wrote "Some Girls" with Girls Aloud in mind, instead of Rachel Stevens. Since they knew that Brian Higgins was doing the whole of What Will The Neighbours Say?, they didn't even send the song to Girls Aloud. In her interview, Cheryl Tweedy says that Brian Higgins should be on the back of the £20 note, as well as Miranda Cooper, who is "an unsung hero of Girls Aloud". She is also left wondering if "The Show" is indeed a song about anal sex.

Here is Brian Higgins' interview:
Popjustice: Is Ricki Lake often 'on play' down at Xenomania towers?
Brian Higgins: Only when Sugababes are in attendance. They tend to watch a lot of the American shows like that when they're not singing.

If 'Hole In The Head' wins the Twenty Quid Music Prize, who gets the money - your lot, or the band?
The band.

Which shortlisted singles are your favourites?
'Leave Right Now', 'Sweet Dreams My LA Ex', 'Some Girls' and 'Superstar'. Having discussed it with the team, we think for overall sincerity and delivery, Will's record wins.

Is there anything that the shortlisted singles all have in common?
The majority sound like British records - they're not attempting to ape the huge volume of American product we're being served. And the majority are sincerely trying to give the artist a definite individual identity, which is what it's all about.

Why did 'Hole In The Head' get to Number One and 'The Show' Number Two? Was 'Hole in The Head' better?
There are two contributing factors: firstly Sugababes have the full support of all UK pop radio and Girls Aloud do not. Secondly, 'The Show' is a quirkier record and less easy to get your head around.

Why was 'Hole In The Head' eventually a Sugababes song rather than, say, a Girls Aloud song?
The music was pretty much there before the song was written. We'd gone away to write for three days just to focus on Sugababes - I brought all of the backing tracks we'd made over the last six months and as soon as the 'Hole in The Head' track came on I instantly knew it was the single. Writing the melody and lyrics was easy, so sure were we about the music. Those moments of clarity are the best bit about the music business. We try to find perfect matches unique to the artist we are working with. It doesn't always work, but that's the aim.

The word 'shit' stayed in 'Hole In The Head', but was removed from 'No Good Advice'. Why?
I'm sure that when Girls Aloud sell as many records as Sugababes have, their work won't be so readily edited. Sugababes definitely have a lot of adult buyers, which is a credit to them - and hopefully Girls Aloud will get those same people over time. The record company would have made the decision to delete the word.

You've told us in the past that, currently, pop groups aren't getting a big second chance in terms of making a big impact. You worked with V on their second single. Was that their second chance?
The story started last year when Island asked us to work with V. We were right in the middle of Mania's album so we were unable to do it. In April they asked me again, as they still felt that they didn't have an ideal second single, and we agreed to meet the band. We thought they were great. Bright and motivated, with a lot of charisma. We've done four tracks with them and we're very happy with all of them. I think V have the potential to be very big. When we decide to work with an artist it is normally a decision based on personality and the challenge we feel it holds for us. I think V's first chart entry of Number Six wasn't bad.

How much cash do labels spend marketing duff track into the charts, blind to the fact that a decent song does a lot of the legwork itself?
Marketing is a murky word - one in which music, great or poor, definitely takes a back seat, and money spent seems to start at six figures, although I think the general public is more discerning than it was three years ago. And don't forget that good pop records are as hard to come by as good records by traditional bands.

You wrote Cher's 'Believe'. What's Xenomania's next global hit?
I have genuinely no idea. We're working with some very big international artists at the moment so I would say the chance to do well internationally over the next 12 months is definitely there - we just have to be as good as we can possibly be, and make sure we stay fresh and don't get too tired. I am not sure at all if we would ever do something on the sheer scale of "Believe", but I would love to have another big hit in the States.

Is the pop single ever likely to die out completely?
In the case of hard copy CDs, I suppose the answer is yes. Over time, methods of delivery will become easier and everyone will have downloadable music at their fingertips. In terms of the pop single as a piece of music disappear, I think not. Pop music just goes through phases. At the moment, it has become very trendy to slag it off as a genre and the word 'manufactured' is pulled out at every opportunity. But over time a new set of producers and writers will emerge - these people will be influenced for a high quality modern sound. Bands had it all going on in the mid 90s and then, a couple of years later with Spice Girls, modern pop dominated. In the last couple of years we've seen the resurgence of those bands, which is the legacy of Britpop. The same will happen with pop music over the next few years as the bands start to fade creatively. I think it's inevitable.

What role have the Sugababes played in Xenomania's road to success?
A crucial role. We first met them in October 2001 and we'd spent the previous twelve months working on our own musical direction. We were getting quite desperate as we were struggling to connect with the predominantly R&B artists we'd get sent. Our ideas seemed a bit out of place, and for that reason we connected with the Sugababes as I felt they too were a little out on a limb from the pop mainstream at the time. To me they represented something superior to what was out there. As a result, the Sugababes undoubtedly brought the best out of us as we always felt under pressure to produce results that would do justice to their voices and overall talent. As it happens it was the pressure to match 'Round Round' that led directly to 'Sound of the Underground'.

What role have Xenomania played in the Sugababes' road to success?
We found a way to make their songs more accessible without removing too much from their characters. This crossed them over to a larger audience which helped them sell loads of albums. 'overload', 'Freak...' and 'Stronger' have also been crucial songs too - we're just very, very happy to have played a role.

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