Remembrance of Things Present
There’s an uncanny symmetry to be found in the opening and closing chapters of the key moments in Doves history.
Reflecting on thirty years of music and friendship, brothers Jez and Andy Williams and Jimi Goodwin start with a chance meeting in the emergent 80’s dance culture of The Hacienda and end with another beginning, just over three decades later in the stately Royal Albert Hall, the setting for their return to the stage after a decade away.
Despite their differences, both venues provide a metaphor for their musical journey from Sub Sub to Doves to today. Inspired by the dance music they heard at The Hacienda’s Hot Night, Sub Sub landed a top 5 hit with “Ain't No Love (Ain't No Use)” before finding themselves being dropped from a major label deal and seeing their studio burning down. Once the dust had settled, they reinvented themselves as Doves, adding grandeur to the mix in the shape of epic guitars and Goodwin’s sonorous singing voice, resulting in their incredible debut Lost Souls at the start of the century.
After their fourth record, 2009s’ Kingdom of Rust, they took a break that would somehow turn into a decade. Goodwin returned with a solo album Odludek, and the Williams’ recorded as Black Rivers, but there was a nagging sense that each was missing the presence of the other. Now they’re returning with The Universal Want, a record that bristles with vitality, where rather than playing the comeback card and resting on their laurels, it’s once again the sound of three friends picking themselves up and being greater than the sum of their not inconsiderable parts.
Over the hour we spend talking, the bond of friendship between the three of them is wonderful to behold, to that extent that it’s easy to forget we’re all in separate places chatting over Zoom. Instead it feels like being sat around a pub table listening to friends reminiscing on their past, as well looking to the future. There’s a series of hilarious debates as they recall the details of these pivotal moments, including that fateful meeting in The Hacienda, where Jimi tells the Williams’ he’s convinced they agreed to start a band together on the street outside at the end of the night, whereas Jez and Andy are sure it happened on the dancefloor.
Along the way, we take in other pivotal characters, including their long-term manager Dave Rofe, the late Rob Gretton, a crucial figure in Manchester’s musical legacy, Heavenly Records’ Jeff Barrett and Martin Kelly, and Roger Daltrey of The Who, but ultimately Doves' story is about its three central players, their ongoing love for each other and the music they create together.
So rather than a trip down memory lane, these moments are indelibly linked to the here and now, which has a brilliant new chapter in The Universal Want.
Andy Williams: We were really lucky to be that age at that era. We were 18, 19 and we’d just started to be able to get into the clubs, it was the perfect age to soak all this up. It was still quite underground, certainly in ’88.
Jez Williams: My life at the time was Manchester, The Hacienda and Windsor, I was in a band in Windsor and there was a big Boys Own thing there. There was definitely a scene in Shoom when the Hot night at the Hacienda was happening and there was all kinds of ecstasy traveling up and down the M6. It was interesting to see the parallel between what was going on down there and the North West.
Jimi Goodwin: I hadn’t been to the Hacienda since a wet Wednesday night, when I saw Zodiac Mindwarp and whatever his band at the time were. I’d go with my friend Harry and it was never a full gig at The Hacienda, it was always sparsely attended.
Jez: Dave Haslam used to run an indie night on a Thursday before the whole dance movement came in, that’s how I remembered The Hacienda. We met at the Hacienda at a Hot Night on a Wednesday and it was weird, because we weren’t expecting to see Jimi in there and Jimi wasn’t expecting to see us in there. We both said, ‘What are you doing in here?’
Jimi: I remember seeing you on the pavement, when everyone spilled out at the end of the evening. We met on the corner outside, we didn’t actually even meet in the club and it was ‘Oh God, have you just been in there?’
Jez: I definitely met you near the dancefloor!
Andy: I remember that, it was on the dancefloor, the old cliché!
Jimi: Maybe we sealed the deal outside afterwards.
"There was definitely magic in the air for those two summers in ’88 and ’89, just feeling the heat when you walked through the doors. It was wild, it was unbelievable.” - Jimi Goodwin
Andy: We’d been in bands together at school, not a proper, official band, we were in different bands, although Jimi’s band was a lot better than ours.
Jimi: No, your band had some chops man.
Jez: Meeting at The Hacienda was a pivotal moment for us, because the last time we saw each other was at school, well, briefly. I only saw you at school for two weeks Jimi, you were going across Europe, selling swag or something.
Jimi: I wasn’t going around Europe quite just then, that was about six months later, but no, I didn’t go to school much in the last year. I was in a lot of bedrooms and a lot of pot was being consumed, listening to Crass, Gong and all sorts of weird shit. Then we met at The Hacienda, and it was obviously fortuitous. They said, ‘Come to our house and hangout, we’ve been starting to dabble in this music’ and I thought, ‘Well, that sounds like a plan.’
Andy: It was ‘I know somebody who’s got a keyboard, I know someone who’s got a sampler…’ We didn’t have anything really at the beginning.
Jimi: I’m not one to get misty-eyed, but it really was special. There was definitely magic in the air for those two summers in ’88 and ’89, just feeling the heat when you walked through the doors. It was wild, it was unbelievable.
Jez: New Order got sick of using their studio in a place called Cheetham Hill, it was rough and they weren’t interested in going there anymore. So Rob said, ‘Why don’t you have it for a bit? and we were ‘Cool, we’ll have our own place.’
Jimi: Plus, we were all bang into New Order, so we were pretty thrilled that we got the chance to work in their space.
Jez: One of the first things we did was go to the backroom where all of their old stuff was and we rifled through it. We came across a cassette of “Thieves Like Us” with Bernard dropping different lyrics in.
Jimi: There were loads of floppy discs, I think we came across a tape of Hooky singing on a track. Finding Emulators and seeing some of their old equipment in the garage was amazing.
Andy: Stephen Morris’s Joy Division drumkit was there.
Jez: That place was a godsend. Even though it was rough and it didn’t have any windows, that was a good thing round there, because you could just lock the door and get into a bunker-style mentality. It wasn’t like it was a shithole, it was relatively pleasant. It had carpet, a separate control room, a working toilet.
Jimi: It had a little kitchenette and skylights. I remember the scallies used to try and get in via the skylights.
Jez: They did, there were scallies on the roof.
Andy: Didn’t they block the skylights?
Jez: They had to block the skylights off because they tried to smash through them!
Jimi: We had some money, because the studio in Ancoats had burned down. We got an ADAT, a Mackie 16 track audio desk and some new equipment. “Break Me Gently” was the first song that we wrote with me singing, then we wrote and recorded “The Cedar Room” in Cheetham Hill.
Jez: We finished “The Cedar Room” in there, but we actually started writing it in the studio in Ancoats.
Jimi: Did we? I can’t remember that.
Jez: I’ve got a memory that we did.
Andy: I think we started it in Cheetham Hill…
Jimi: …We definitely started it in Cheetham Hill.
Jez: As you ask these questions, it’s ‘Fucking hell, it’s all coming back’, but “The Cedar Room” was definitely a pivotal moment, we put it out on an EP and a lot of people liked it.
Jimi: We made up the name Casino Records because we wanted an imprint of our own and Rob let us do that, but ostensibly it was Rob’s Records that released it. The Cedar EP was a mysterious 10”, with a purple image of a still that we nicked. It’s a photo of a TV screen showing Rosemary’s Baby on pause, but maybe don’t mention the still!
Andy: We’ll be alright, I think Roman Polanski has got bigger fish to fry at the moment.
"Bob Geldof played “The Cedar Room” on XFM without an edit, and I thought ‘Bloody hell Bob, that’s a bizarre, random one. He played a Van Morrison track, then us, then a Bob Dylan track." Andy Williams
Jimi: I’m looking at the sleeve on the wall of my studio now, what was on the B-Side?
Jez: "Zither" and was it “Rise”?
Jimi: It was three tracks, you’re right, it was “Rise”. “The Cedar Room” was so strong and we felt it was a lead single, it felt like a good introduction to what we were up to. It was a really nice calling card and it definitely opened up some ears.
Jez: It’s got a lot of sonics going on, with a slow, laidback groove beat. It was us finding our way through a door and thinking ‘This sound feels cool and comfortable for us.’ We spent a long time mixing it ourselves and getting it exactly how we wanted it to sound. It’s an important song.
Jimi: I remember mixing it with two or three days of turning it up, turning it down and getting it to sound as good as it does.
Andy: The intro was a latecomer, do you remember that? We had the slowed down harmonica and tagging that at the beginning was an afterthought, but it was ‘Wow’.
Jez: And putting the electronic breakbeats into your drums Andy.
Jimi: We were playing that in by hand, live to tape. It was amazing, playing a breakbeat on one finger on a keyboard.
Jez: With technology now, you can do it in twenty seconds, but it was really difficult in those days, it was technically challenging, but it gave the song a certain sound.
Andy: We resisted having an edit, so it was quite a long song.
Jimi: It’s six minutes fifty, something like that.
Andy: “The Cedar Room” was a big moment for us, we got a lot of love for that song, Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley played it during the day on Radio 1.
Jimi: They made it single of the week and played it in its entirety every day. We were buzzing. We were thrilled it bits, it was ‘Wow, this is amazing.’
Andy: My mate James sent me a tape from London, where Bob Geldof played “The Cedar Room” on XFM without an edit, and I thought ‘Bloody hell Bob, that’s a bizarre, random one. He played a Van Morrison track, then us, then a Bob Dylan track and he was going on at the end being really complimentary about the track.
Jimi: I never knew that.
Jez: That’s the first I’ve heard of that!
Jez: Rob was such a character. The first time we met him was hilarious, we’d just been dropped by Virgin Records and ironically, we’re back on Virgin now.
Jimi: I’ve only just clocked the irony of that. Sub Sub recorded the Coast EP for Virgin, which we were really proud of. We thought it was a great EP and we sent Virgin the demos and that was it, we got dropped.
Andy: I took the demos down to Virgin and had a meeting with them. They were like ‘This is hot, you’ve really nailed it!’ I rang you two from a phone box in London going ‘They love it!’ Then I got home and a day later the letter arrived saying we’d been dropped.
Jez: It was a handwritten letter saying, ‘We wish you luck in your future endeavours’ and I said to Andy “What? I thought you said they liked it?!’ It was a very confusing time.
Andy: Our A&R guy at the time, maybe he genuinely did like it and went to his boss who said ‘No chance’, I don’t know what they were expecting.
Jez: I'll tell you what they were expecting, another “Space Face”, which was our first one, and why we got signed. We were a bit lost at the time and were ‘What the fuck do we do now?’ When we got dropped Rob said, ‘I suppose I better bloody put it out then, if none of those London fuckers will. As long as it doesn’t cost too much money.’
"Mark and Lard had made “Sea Song” single of the week again. It came on the radio and I burst into tears, it was so strange that I’d just been told that Rob had passed as they played our record." - Jimi Goodwin
Jimi: The Coast EP did pretty well didn’t it? I think it sold about 12,000, which wasn’t bad back in the day.
Jez: It was great with Rob, it was ‘that’s New Order’s manager’ and we got to see the whole of Factory - the Dry Bar, The Hacienda – from the other side of the curtain, which was really exciting for us.
Jimi: His office was right above The Hacienda, so we’d make this pilgrimage nearly every day. It was a hangout, there’d be members of A Certain Ration knocking around, Mr Scruff, whoever they’d sign would be hanging out, drinking tea and smoking weed. Rob couldn’t skin up, so he’d throw his weed at you and say, ‘You’ve not skinned up in ages.’
Jez: That’s what he used to say - “You skin up, Pete get those files in here, how many records have they sold?”
Andy: And ‘How much do these fuckers owe me?!’
Jimi: For all his gruff, he was a really sweet, honourable and decent man, Rob was ‘actions speak louder than words’, he did so much for the city. His mantra was ‘You’re not a proper label until you’ve worked with A Certain Ratio’. He was always a refuge for bands who’d been around the block, he was still there for them, and obviously rightly so, because ACR are a really special band. It was devastating when he passed, everyone was in such shock. It was dreadful, absolutely dreadful.
Andy: He was a champion of a lot of musicians around Manchester who couldn’t get their foot in the door anywhere else. Like Jimi said, he was an unsung hero for that. For whatever reason - maybe we were a bit too leftfield - we couldn’t get our foot in the door anywhere else, but there was a home at Rob’s.
Jez: He had an underactive thyroid, so we knew he wasn’t well, but it was a very sudden shock. We’d just finished Lost Souls and he financed the album out of his own pocket. We wouldn’t have gotten that from anyone else.
Jimi: I remember being told the news on the phone by Rofey and I was sitting on my back step, taking it all in. Mark and Lard had made “Sea Song” single of the week again. It came on the radio and I burst into tears, it was so strange that I’d just been told that Rob had passed as they played our record, it was really poignant. It was a massive loss to the world.
Jimi: We played the Heavenly bar, The Social, when it was a venue, but I never went to any of the Heavenly club nights. The Chemical Brothers used to DJ at The Social, did either of you get to go to them?
Jez: We were busy going out in Manchester, but The Social’s and The Heavenly Jukebox were legendary. I remember meeting Jeff Barrett and Martin Kelly from Heavenly and thinking they were definitely music people. We were a bit nervous about signing to someone else, but we wanted our music to get out to a lot of people.
Andy: Signing to Heavenly was a turning point. It was a very different set up to Rob’s Records. Jeff and Martin were real music fans, as Rob Gretton was, so looking back, we definitely made the right choice going with them. They had that whole infrastructure around their office in Soho.
Jimi: It’s worth pointing out that we were talking to labels whilst Rob was still alive. We didn’t look to other labels because Rob had passed away, he was aware that people were sniffing around us, and he was OK with it. He said, ‘I’d rather you stayed here for the album, but if you want to go, then it’s up to you.’
Jez: You’ll probably need to explain why we made that decision.
Jimi: Were we worried that they couldn’t handle it?
Andy: We were getting reports that with the distributor they were using, the records weren’t getting into the some of the shops. We were getting played a lot on the radio, but people couldn’t get hold of the singles. Meanwhile we were working on the album and it was almost last chance saloon for us.
"Lost Souls was another shot - a shot at redemption - and we were really, really serious about it." Jimi Goodwin
Jimi: It was definitely do or die. We’d made the record that we wanted to make with Sub Sub. Your first album is meant to be a really special calling card, where you lay out your wares. The Sub Sub album was a bit of a flawed debut, there’s stuff on there that I’m proud of, but some of it was wide of the mark, if we’re honest with ourselves. Lost Souls was another shot - a shot at redemption - and we were really, really serious about it. We knew we had a great debut record on our hands, and we knew we’d done the best we could.
Andy: Jeff and Martin were obsessed with music, but also, they could make a record happen and they convinced us they could.
Jimi: I remember meeting them in The Britons Protection pub in Manchester, sat in the beer garden on a sunny day. A few people were courting us - Grand Royal, The Beastie Boys label were sniffing around.
Andy: We were massive Beastie Boys fans; I was thinking about that when I was playing them the other day.
Jez: My favourite gig ever was Beastie Boys at Academy 1 in Manchester in 1995, it blew my brains. It was quadrophonic sound, they came up from under the stage, clasping each other’s hands in a band format, it was fucking wild.
Jez: The Mercury Awards was a good night out on a free piss-up in a nice hotel. We didn’t win, but it was nice to get nominated.
Andy: The Mercury’s was a small little chunk in that time, like Jez said, it was a good night out, but the main thing when we signed to Heavenly was that Jeff would get journalists to their office and play them the record. The office was party central at the time.
Jez: Jeff’s great for that. He’s a real vibe-merchant and he made the office feel like a pub.
Andy: A lot of people got introduced to our music through that, so it was organic. Rather than someone getting the album through the post he had people in the office and he’d be putting Lost Souls on at four in the morning.
Jimi: Most of that tour was on the proper American gig circuit, but our first gig night in America was a bit dodgy. We were flown into the middle of nowhere in Florida, because Coldplay had pulled out of this gig.
Jez: When we got there, we knew why they pulled out! Apparently, they had the flu.
Andy: It was a music convention and weren’t too happy that our first gig was a music biz thing. We were told ‘With all the radio people there, if you play this there’s a good likelihood you could sell up to a million records.’ We were told a lot of bullshit basically. There was hardly anyone there and you could see people in the kitchen making burgers while we were onstage.
Jimi: We had to get changed in the kitchen, because that was our dressing room.
Jez: It was like in the film Casino, where people are in the back getting their tuxedos on and I still look back at that with a kind of fondness. We had this guy saying, ‘This is the difference between selling one record and a million if you play tonight!’- at the equivalent of Burger King.
Andy: The rest of the tour was amazing though.
"We had this guy saying, ‘This is the difference between selling one record and a million if you play tonight!’- at the equivalent of Burger King." Jez Williams
Jimi: Our first night proper was the next night in Philadelphia. I remember us walking into the venue and seeing The Strokes onstage and I could tell instantly that they were going to be massive.
Andy: I remember that.
Jimi: It was a great experience, because it was The Strokes first time touring America and it was our first time. There was a real excitement in the air, and we got on really well with The Strokes, we had a good laugh with the guys. They supported us for the whole tour. It was magical, going to Portland, Philly, New York, staying at The Hyatt Hotel. It was all we ever wanted to do, we were doing what we’d always dreamed of doing and it was all becoming dead real.
Andy: I remember you stayed in Little Richard’s room in The Hyatt Hotel.
Jimi: I did, in Room 101. It had a fish tank, that’s all I remember of it.
Jez: Was it an empty fish tank?
Jimi: No, it had real fish in it!
Jimi: You two really stepped up on that record.
Jez: We all did. The Last Broadcast was a surprisingly quick album to make and I think that was because we got a lot of confidence from people’s reaction to the first album. We turned the writing and the recording around in about eight months, and for us that’s really quick.
Andy: Well, it was quick for us!
Jez: We were on a roll with the massive confidence boost from Lost Souls and people turning up to see us play live gave us that feeling of ‘We’re a proper band, a proper, touring band who’ve toured a bit of the world now’. It was like there was a wind in our sails, there was a real momentum and we felt that. I knew it was a great album, I was really proud of it and I was very confident about the songs. Obviously, that doesn’t translate into meaning it will go to Number One, so I was very, very happy.
Andy: People said it was genius move to put out “There Goes the Fear” for a day and then delete it, but we didn’t come up with that idea, it was the label who came to us and suggested it. We were like ‘What? You want to delete it on the same day?’ It was getting loads of radio and we couldn’t understand it. I don’t know if it was Jeff, Martin or someone from EMI’s idea, but we were dead set against it for a day or two.
Jez: To us it was like ‘Guess what? We’ve got a great idea, we’re not going to make it available to anyone, no one will be able to get hold of it’ and we were ‘What? That’s good is it?’
Andy: But it was a total stroke of genius in the end, there was genuine excitement around it.
Jez: That was our first introduction to a marketing gimmick, but without tooting our own horn, we had the tunes on that album to back it up.
Jimi: We needed a break. Did we know it was going to turn into ten years? Certainly not. I can’t believe that amount of time has passed.
Jez: We needed it though, after Kingdom of Rust I don’t think we had anything left in the tank at that time to do another album. I suspect if we’ve had gone straight back into the studio we’d have ditched the whole thing and it would have never seen the light of day, because we wouldn’t have had the energy to do it, or it would have been substandard.
Andy: I think we needed it too, but maybe not for so long, time just got away from us. Obviously, we all put out records in between, but it was just one thing and another with life really. We suddenly looked and it had been ten years and it was ‘Jesus.’
"We’ve raised families as well haven’t we? That’s what happened, we were certainly around a lot more for our families but before you know it ten years has flown." Jimi Goodwin
Jimi: We were burnt out by touring, well I was certainly burnt out by touring, at the end of the tour for Kingdom of Rust and twelve solid years of working together on album / tour / album / tour. I don’t want to make it sound like it was tedious, because it wasn’t, it was great.
Jez: I suffered from writer’s block on Kingdom of Rust, that happens to everyone at some point doesn’t it? Kingdom of Rust was a drawn-out process and if you remember, Some Cities before that wasn’t easy either, so it takes its toll.
Andy: I enjoyed making Some Cities and all those trips up to Scotland.
Jez: That was the nice bit after the hard bit, which was the writing.
Jimi: We’ve raised families as well haven’t we? That’s what happened, we were certainly around a lot more for our families but before you know it ten years has flown, it’s incredible.
Jimi: The Stone Roses did all of their comeback rehearsing in our studio, Cherry Ghost made Beneath This Burning Shoreline in there and bands were rehearsing there. There were interesting things happening in our space, it’s just that we weren’t there. We got back together behind the scenes in 2017 and we knew when we sat down at the table that it was going to happen. That’s how I felt anyway.
Jez: The first time we got together in the studio, we played some old songs at Eve Studios, we all just grabbed an instrument and a crappy amp.
Jimi: I think “Black and White Town” was the first thing we attempted.
Jez: I remember asking ‘What key is it in?’ and Jimi saying, ‘I don’t know’, but something happened when we played. It was like ‘that slotted in quite easy’. I could feel, ‘Wow, something’s happening.’
Andy: It was like time hadn’t really passed, we all slotted back in with each other.
Jimi: That’s what Bessie mates do isn’t it? We made a vow, which was ‘If you’re not feeling it today, or you’ve got to do something else, like let the gas man in, do it.’ That would have been an anathema to us years before, where we had to go to the studio every day and turned up whether we liked it or not.
"It was like time hadn’t really passed, we all slotted back in with each other." - Andy Williams
Jez: The albums took longer and longer to do, and I think that took it out of us as well. With this album, we all went in thinking ‘Let’s keep it light on its feet and not think of it as an album, let’s do two songs at a time, try and have fun, not get too precious or heavy about ir.’
Jimi: This time, because we’d given each other that slack, it came together so quickly when we decided we were doing it that way. We were getting together two or three times a week, but we were getting major results weren’t we? Every time we got together it was really productive.
Jimi: When we were offered it, we looked at each other and were ‘Oh my Lord, it’s a big gig.’
Jez: I shat myself It was ‘What? The Albert Hall?’
Jimi: For our first gig back in eleven years that was some platform. It was magical.
Andy: Chris York from SJM Concerts is an old friend, he helps Teenage Cancer Trust and Roger Daltrey put it together every year. I think Chris got word that we were back working together, he asked us if we’d be interested in playing and we immediately said no. We didn’t feel like we were ready, did we?
Jez: That was probably me shitting it, saying ‘We’re not ready!’
Andy: We were all like that. Then Roger Daltrey wrote to us and we’re big Who fans, and then our manager Rofey convinced us. We all had the fear really, we were making the record, we didn’t think we’d be ready, but Rofey said ‘This is the perfect way to come back’ and he was right. We’d been offered decent money at festivals to come back, but it felt right, we’d done stuff for them before and it was for this amazing cause.
"The Royal Albert Hall was one of the best gigs we’ve experienced playing and I think I speak for all of us saying that. There’s nowhere to hide on that stage... it was fucking mind-blowing." Jez Williams
Jimi: We did a warmup the night before at The Parr Hall in Warrington to iron out any teething troubles and it was great, it just felt right.
Jez: The Royal Albert Hall was one of the best gigs we’ve experienced playing and I think I speak for all of us saying that. There’s nowhere to hide on that stage, you can see the whole audience, because it’s stacked up and it was fucking mind-blowing.
Andy: When we played there in 2003, we did “The Seeker” with Roger Daltrey and that fulfilled a childhood dream for us.
Jez: We asked him to do the arm spin, and he said ‘Alright, I can fucking do that if you want’, it was amazing, I was just watching him.
Jimi: I remember turning around to you Jez and grinning ear to ear. Doing “The Seeker” was incredible, it was a really good night.
Andy: He didn’t play with us in 2019 and we had our work cut out getting back up onstage as it was. The first time round we were on tour constantly, so we were in that mode, but apart from Warrington Parr Hall we hadn’t played together onstage for ten years… And he didn’t offer this time either!
Jez: I had in-ears on, I took them off twice during the gig and the noise of the crowd was like a wall of noise. I saw Martin Kelly when we played our last gig last year and he said it was like a permanent jet engine taking off.
Andy: I had a Spinal Tap moment where I got locked in the bog before the encore.
Jez: I remember that, you had to press the green button to open the door.
Andy: Nobody told me about the green button! I was hammering on the door, but I got onstage in the nick of time.
Jez: We were definitely shellshocked when we came offstage, we were like ‘What was that? What just happened?’