It's true. We mean what we say. Every note. Every beat. Every syllable. We believe it's time for a change. It's time to break the cycle, turn over onto a fresh page. Time to get up off our arses, stand up and be counted. All of us, no exceptions. Don't get us wrong, we don't mean to come across all high and mighty, all holier than thou. It's just that we care. We care about people, we care about each other. We want to get to know you. We want to become a part of your lives. We want to laugh with you when you're happy. We want to comfort you when you're feeling sad. We believe everyone should tell their own story. Everyone should sing their own song. We are here for a good time, not a long time. It's a fact, embrace it. Dont be scared, just dive in. Go on, you can do it. Come swimming with us, the water feels beauty!
There are many places this biography of The Hours could begin. It could begin in Sheffield, at the fag end of punk, where a ten-year old Ant Genn is standing at the stage door of The Top Rank waiting for The Clash to turn up so he can grab Joe Strummer's autograph. Then again, it could begin in 1999 as Ant Genn settles into a swivel chair as he clocks in for day one producing Joe Strummer's solo album.
It could start across the Pennines, in the early '80s, where another "Northern lad", Martin Slattery, is carving a reputation as a prodigious teenage jazz pianist and saxophonist player, performing in Manchester's Working Men's clubs alongside his dad, an organist. Or it could kick off in the back of a tour bus in 1995, somewhere on Planet Earth, where Slattery is earning a living as the (still prodigiously) talented keyboardist in Shaun Ryder's Black Grape, living life to its very fullest in any number of places. But not getting much sleep. For two years.
Let's start this tale on the road, where Genn is playing across the world with first Elastica and then Pulp (with whom he also played as a 16 year-old) and gradually losing his teeth to a crack and heroin habit. Too negative? Probably. We could start at the sessions for UNKLE that Genn produced, or on the road with Joe Strummer, where Slattery is an integral part of the Mescaleros, until Joe's untimely passing. How about we start on the night of their first meeting, at Metropolis Studios in London, where Ant has taken his flatmate Robbie Williams (long story) to meet Black Grape's producer Danny Sabre, but has instead met Martin Slattery and recognized a kindred spirit...
Actually, no. All that's well and good, and fascinating in its own way. But that's not where we're starting. We need to tell you why The Hours mean something, why they're driven to communicate with as many people as they can reach with big, sweeping, straight-talking and beautiful music, and why you mustn't ignore them. So we're starting at a Radiohead gig in Shepherd's Bush in 2004.
Martin Slattery and Antony Genn are in attendance and they are absolutely blown away by the power of the performance. It is, literally, awesome. So Martin turns to Ant and says, 'If I have one regret it's that I never played in my own band and we never got to that level.'
Let's do it, says Ant. Let's start a band. Martin looks at him - but what are you going to do, he asks incredulously. Sing, says Ant. I want to sing. Martin's not so sure. While Ant finishes producing a Grace Jones album and Martin continues to work alongside the gilded likes of Brian Eno, Sly and Robbie, Tony Allen, the idea begins to gather weight.
Pretty soon, their bluff is called as a studio in West London is booked for a fortnight. Nobody could've have predicted how well things would turn out.
They went into the studio without a note of music written, with Slattery thinking they'd be doing experimental stuff, messing about on the fringes for fun. Instead, they started to write huge anthems, with Slattery playing any instrument he could lay his hands on and Genn joining him on guitar - sending out his bold, occasionally dark, usually illuminating words about life, death, love and all points in between. They are both totally gobsmacked.
"I'm the spark and he's like a deep sea oil rig," says Genn. "I just drop a match on him and kaboom! He's all over it: on the drums, bass, piano, everything and it's amazing!"
This is not the cockiness usually associated with a new band, because these two aren't like any old new band. They've played with great bands before and they know what that's like. They know what the competition really sounds like when you're lost in the moment playing something amazing for the first time. But as they hammer out the insistent riff of Ali In the Jungle, the dagger in the heart of Back When You Were Good or the knife's edge melody of I Miss You, they know they've stepped into an arena flooded with light. They know they've pulled off the hardest trick of all: they've written a collection of glittering pop songs that have something fundamental and important to say.
"It was really important that we communicate something with these songs," says Genn. "I want to communicate to people about reinvention, resurrection, loss, growing-up...late: The human condition. Me and him have been in groups with three of the greatest British poets and front-men of all time: Shaun Ryder, Jarvis Cocker and Joe Strummer. So, I always told myself, unless you've got something to say, mate, don't even step towards that mic."
But despite their sense that these songs were the business, they couldn't be absolutely certain until they'd run it past a few people whose opinions they knew they could trust absolutely: Jeanette Lee, who runs Rough Trade with Geoff Travis and former Pulp bassist Steve Mackey.
"That was really important to us," says Slattery. "Because they didn't expect anything and would've had no qualms telling us we were crap. But they said there was something there, they told us which songs to bin and when Jeanette said, 'Ali In The Jungle sounds like a hit', it meant everything to us. It made it tangible."
Rough Trade started managing them and after only a handful of shows they found themselves being offered a deal by a revived A&M records. "The great thing about A&M," says Slattery, "is we'd finished the album by time we signed and they didn't want to change a thing. We had complete creative control."
Genn takes up the thread. "I want to see how far good songs can take you... I want a massive hit record and this is just the start."
"The Hours are Antony Genn and Martin Slattery. They understand what music is for - it's for human beings to communicate with other human beings. It's that simple, it's that important. Let them into your life. You won't regret it."
Jarvis Cocker, 2006