This is an interview with Dave Couse I published in Hot Press in 2003. Dave was releasing his solo record Genes, which I listened to that year more than any record except I Trawl The Megahertz. This interview was a big one for me — just meeting Dave for a pint was big for me. I *loved* A House and they sound tracked huge swathes of my teens and early twenties and Dave’s lyrics were central to the connection with the band. The wit, the sharpness, and the lyrical full-throated raw emotion. I was at the last A House show in 1997 and I’ll be at the A House Is Dead show in the NCH. I heard Dave on EoghanO’Sullivan’s TPOE podcast and it reminded me of the esteem in which I held Genes. I also remember the nights of transcribing afterwards. Dave packed a lot of talk into an hour and a half’s chat down the pub.
It’s the early evening of Tuesday April 2nd, and Brian Kerr’s all-new Ireland are pluckily fending off the mighty Albania as I meet Dave Couse locking up his bike outside Ryan’s of Sandymount. Dave knows the venue for our interview well, it’s a couple of minutes from his PR company’s HQ, and you might expect the author of the World Cup 2002 anthem to be aware of the national team’s Euro 2004 timetable, but no: he pokes his head inside the stuffed pub, clocks the crowd and looks disgusted. He had no idea, and anthem or no anthem, he’s not a fan. “I find football incredibly boring. Repetition beyond belief!”
Dave is disgusted because, for the conversation he has planned in this particular pub, we need a bit of hush. There’s a reason the ex-leader of A House has trekked here from his home in Rathfarnham, and it’s not to share an hour of low-quality international football with hotpress. As becomes clear even as we stand on the street debating whether or not to go in, it’s because this is a place with a recently acquired resonance for him.
Dave’s dad Greg Couse, who for years worked down the road and for whom Ryan’s was something of a second home, died last year. Dave’s warm, tender debut solo album Genes is dedicated to him and today his family is foremost in his mind. “I cycled over thinking it’d be a nice idea to do it here. The old man’d be with me, you know?”
As we find a quiet corner, Dave casts his eyes around the room. He says he feels the presence of his father.
“Oh yeah definitely. The last few times I’ve been here, you know what I mean? There’s a real sense that he’s here. You can hear him laughing. He conducted a lot of his business from here, and you could imagine that his meetings with all his mates would pretty much revolve around him. That’s the kind of character he was. So I get a real sense of him. I haven’t had that since … since the day he died.”
How long is that?
“It’s about ten months now. That kind of thing takes a long time to settle in; the realisation of the whole thing. You’re just left numb when something like that happens. In the next album he’ll be featured in the way of a song. This time all I could do was honour his memory with the idea of it. The whole genes thing.”
The title and the design of Genes both form a tribute, the artwork largely comprising a touching, time-spanning family portrait. You open the CD sleeve to pictures not only of Dave, but of two sepia-tinted strangers and a bright big bald baby peering out at you.
“My father is there, as a 21-year-old man. The man with the banjo in 1900 is my grandfather; 1935 is the old man. Then me in ’64 and then there’s my daughter. There are four generations of the Couse family in the hundred years.
“The strangest thing was, I was going down to the office, and I had proofs of the artwork in my bag, and I had taken them out in here, just to check them and look at them, and it was like I brought him back in for one last look, if you like. Because unfortunately, he had a long illness, it took a long time, it was pretty horrible. But it was weird when I took out these things and… there he was, you know. Back, and I know it was only a photo, but here again.”
You said you’ll write songs about your dad.
“Oh, undoubtedly, yeah,” he avers. “I’ve already written one, in my head. Got a lovely little title for it and everything. I mean it’s a big thing, I’ve never experienced anything as big – well, the birth of my daughter was pretty massive. Add it all together, not long after that he died, it’s a pretty bizarre experience. To have two such massive events so close together focuses you as a human being. I was a no-nonsense person anyway; I’m undoubtedly that now. Because you realise what life’s about, when something like that happens.”
And feelings this huge, this bewildering: can you can express them in song? In words?
“Yeah, you can. Always simply, as simple as possible. You just blurt out what’s in your head, right, and then try and tidy it up a bit,” he laughs, “so it’s not written by a four-year-old. You just tidy it up a little bit, but the honesty has got to be at that level, like a four-year-old, nearly, because young kids have this amazing knack of honesty, which I’ve found with our little one. They don’t hold anything back at all. There’s a beauty, and freedom, and strength, you know?
“The same thing, when I wrote ‘For Sale’, for Eva. I remember seeing her for the first time, when she was born. I just felt,” he says, slapping his hand to his heart, “this bang, you know. If you listen to the lyrics, it’s all about: Seeing you now, the whole world is here for you, and it’s my responsibility to look after it for you, and if you just hold on to the truth, and love, and passion, you’ll get through life.”
‘For Sale’ will be known to anyone who has seen any of Dave’s comeback shows over the last two years – roughly the same period as Genes has taken to gestate, from the initial ideas through writing, then recording with Edwyn Collins, through finally releasing it on his own Beep Beep label, a move away from the tangles with majors that dotted A House’s career. “I am now chief executive of the record company, the CEO, I am the A&R department, I am the artist. I’m the talent. But I’m also the post boy, you know?” he smiles.
As befits the cottage industry supporting it, Genes is an extraordinarily intimate record and, by ‘When I First Saw You’ standards anyway, remarkably happy. The comparison I keep making is with Teenage Fanclub’s spectacular Songs From Northern Britain, an album about the inestimable thrill of waking up beside the same old face every day for fifteen years; the likes of ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Peaceful’ and most immediately ‘Intoxicating’, are the sound of a man supremely gifted in the art of writing pop songs, overwhelmed by love for his wife and daughter, who would like to tell them, and us, all about it with as little fuss as possible.
With any luck at all – and if ‘Intoxicating’ is a single – it could be huge; if not, as long as it’s being heard, he’s not worried if the hit never happens. If he’s reading the economic tea leaves right, he’ll muddle through.
“This is my theory,” says Dave, “and it could be fucking horseshit for all I know – that music, music does really well in hard times. In the ’80s, when it was hard, that was when bands were getting big advances. I was wealthier in the recession than I’ve ever been. Then the boom came in the early nineties and we started running out of money really fast. So I’ve kind of ridden this boom time pretty much as a pauper, you know. So if there is less spendable income for people, to be into music is really cheap! It’s a really cheap hobby.”
So, Dave, the imminent depression has its up side.
“I’m praying for a recession, yeah!” He looks imploringly upwards. ‘Please God make the recession come quicker.’ Everyone else in the world is going ‘Please God, Jesus… if this recession comes in I’m homeless!’ I’m going ‘Make them homeless, Lord!’ At least I’ll be successful.“