An Interview with Squeeze’s Chris Difford

Okee dokee folks… Have you ever been “Tempted”?, felt like “Pulling Muscles From A Shell”?, had “Black Coffee In Bed”?, or thought that you were too “Cool For Cats”? If the answer to these is a resounding “YES” then you owe it to yourself to get to Vets on Sunday, February 23. Starting in the late ’70s Squeeze began to provide the airwaves and MTV with some of the most memorable music to make it to US from the UK. I had a chance to talk with Chris Difford, who with Glenn Tilbrook, was responsible for most of Squeeze’s songs. 

John Fuzek: Hi, are you there? Just checking…I am all confused, I had to punch in about 30 digits to make this call!
Chris Difford: (laughs) It’s a conundrum…well, here we are!
JF: You’re at Greenwich Mean Time, you are at the center of where time revolves.
CD: Well, you could say center of the universe I guess. 
JF: Where are you, London?
CD:  I am on the South Coast, where are you?
JF: Rhode Island, I am in the colonies.
CD: (laughs) Those were the days.
JF: I was actually called a colonist a few times when I was in England. So, your tour that is coming up will keep you on the road for months, correct?
CD: Well, there’s nothing new there, Squeeze are a touring animal these days, we seem to tour an awful lot which is kind of good in a way because people want to hear the songs and we want to play them so it’s a good combination.
JF: You are performing the Songbook Show this time around, the hits and a few, choice deep cuts?
CD: That’s exactly right, yeah, we play hits and we play deep cuts too and that’s what people will appreciate.
JF: You have your latest album, The Knowledge, when did that come out? I gave it a listen just before I called you.
CD: Two years ago now.
JF: One of the songs, “The Ones”, had a line in it “the fake news keeps coming”, can you tell me about that?
CD: Well, that was one of Glenn’s lines, really, I think that Glenn has very astutely joined some of his lyrical ideas with mine and we just picked up on one of his, which is great.
JF: Is it a reference to the current political atmosphere?
CD: I don’t know, you’d have to ask him, he is more political than I am, so it’s hard to say but he has a very apt hand about putting his point across. We are in a very difficult time, obviously, for many reasons around the world, and sometimes it’s good to express your point of view about those things in songs because that’s what people like to hear, when it’s done right it makes sense I think.
JF: So, you primarily write the lyrics for Squeeze songs, correct?
CD: For the past 12 albums, yes, definitely.
JF: What is your process? I am a songwriter as well and I am always curious about another writer’s process, especially since you cowrite with Glenn.
CD: When I have the time to stand still, or sit still, as a lyricist I just sit at my desk and hope for the best, and see what ideas come to me, luckily things normally turn up, interesting and different stories come into my head, lots of different parts of my imagination, but these days trying to find the time to write are golden moments and it’s quite rare, whereas when I was a kid there was nothing else to do but write songs, you’d just sit around all day writing lyrics with a pen and a piece of paper, but in this modern world things are coming so quickly you don’t get a chance to stop spinning.
JF: What I do is i always have note cards and constantly write notes, lines, lyrical ideas and such, often when I am driving, do you do that as well?
CD: I do keep notes and usually ideas come to me later in the day and what I tend to do is try to remember them for the following day. If I can remember them the following day then they were worth remembering, and if they weren’t then they are gone forever, I like to tease myself, it’s good for the memory.
JF: So, you actually started the band by putting up a note that you were looking for a guitar player for a band that didn’t actually exist, is that right?
CD: That’s correct, I did that…I was looking for someone to come together with…I never imagined that that would the person I would spend my entire life working with, it was one of those very special moments.
JF: I basically did the same thing and just celebrated 30 years a couple of months ago.
CD: Congratulations, that’s amazing.
JF: How long have you and Glenn been working together, 40?
CD: 47
JF: Wow, that’s great!… You have a very interesting voice, I really like it, it is the lower register voice that we hear on the albums
CD: Yes, I can scrape the barnacles off a boat with my voice.
JF: (laughs) I like the combination your two voices (Glenn & Chris), it is a really interesting mix, that’s the signature Squeeze vocal sound, that blend, it’s very original and I like that.
CD: Yeah, I like it and I have grown to like it even more as the years unfold, I am very fortunate, I was very flippant when i was a kid and expected whatever to happen and whatever did happen and had that kind of thinking, but my, God, that was amazing.
JF: I took a couple of questions from my readers and someone wanted to know if you remember playing at the original Lupo’s?
CD: I remember the name, but I can’t remember the venue off the top of my head, but I can remember playing, probably 1979…we were playing up and down the coast there.
JF: On the latest album there is a song called “Elmer’s End” that is the last song on the disc, it’s an instrumental. That’s an interesting way to end an album, how did that one come about?
CD:You will have to talk with Glenn about that one because he devised that piece of music, there are no lyrics for it so it remains an instrumental…he’s kind of lost in his own space creating wonderful music…he can take melodies and his music is ultra-intelligent, I think. If we were to have an instrumental album that would have that kind of melodic movement would be just awesome. He has the ability to do strange stuff like that.
JF: It’s a very somber piece.
CD: It is, it is a bit of a slow march, but I suppose at that point of the album that is where our heads were at, but I didn’t actually play on it, it was all of Glenn’s.
JF: You run song retreats, do you do them just in the UK or in US as well?
CD: They are mainly in the UK, but I am looking to do a couple in America, maybe Nashville but there’s already lots of songwriters. I am looking for the right venue to do a songwriting workshop and to invite people along, so I guess it will come but this is such a busy year, with Hall and Oates and our own shows there’s really not enough time to breathe.
JF: You have the tour with Hall and Oates and KT Tunstall, you’ve got a Scot, the American and the Brits!
CD: (laughs) Yeah, I went to see Hall and Oates last summer, and I was blown away how many hit songs they had, it’s just incredible, it was a great show, they have an amazing band, I think with them and KT, we have already played with KT…she is amazing.
JF: I have not seen her yet, I have seen you a few times and Hall and Oates as well, that should be an amazing tour, that seems like it will one of the hottest tickets this summer…so, there is a reference to cheese sandwiches on your website, what does that mean???
CD: Well, two pieces of bread with a bit of cheese in it…who knows…
JF: I thought cheese toast with Lee & Perrins was the big thing out there
CD: Exactly…I love it… cheese toast is amazing! I am a cheese entrepreneur!
JF: Anything else that you want to add about the show coming up, we’re almost out of time? This is just Squeeze, right, or is there an opening act? I don’t think that I saw one listed.
CD: I don’t have my notes in front of me, but I am looking forward to coming back to that part of the world. We’re just packing our bags and getting ready now to head out there, yeah.
JF: Well, I have to say that I love the band and have seen you many times, though it has been a while since the last time, my own gigs get in the way a lot.
CD: Well, come out to the show and bring everybody that you can!
JF: Anything else that you would like to add? My friend Ken is next up to talk with you. Tell him that you told John everything and you have nothing left to say! (laughs)
CD: (laughs) This has been great, thanks for your time.
JF: Thanks, take care!

For more about Squeeze at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence on Sunday, February 23, “Slap and Tickle” to That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.