“You don’t really want to talk about that, do you?” says the soft voice, instantly dismissing a transparently out-of-politeness enquiry as to the nature of his recent activities and future plans. John Squire, once the most active member of his former band (as well as the one who, as the architect of The Second Coming, was expected by many to go on to the greatest things), is now close to being the most reclusive Stone Rose. He seems quite happy to keep it that way. The Seahorses, Squire’s first post-Roses band (formed with Chris Helme, a busker he spotted outside Woolworths), were the focus of much attention, but split in 1999 after one album, the Tony Visconti-produced Do It Yourself, and little commercial or critical acclaim. 2002’s Time Changes Everything, his first solo record proper and the first time the world would hear his singing voice, was a downbeat, stripped-back folk record that was difficult and largely ignored.
By the time of 2004’s Marshall’s House, a concept album based on the paintings of Edward Hopper, John Squire had seemingly been forgotten by all but the most curious of Roses obsessives, certainly not endearing himself to a new generation of fans, as Ian Brown has so successfully. Subsequent output has been limited to the paintings that he sells through his website, the latest offering being a limited edition print of the Spike Island poster that he designed. Clearly, this is a man who has come to terms with the fact that he will, barring a minor miracle, always be the guitarist in The Stone Roses.
“Obviously I’d rather that wasn’t the case, but if I really cared about what people thought, I’d get the Roses back together and get on the oldies’ circuit,” he says, pre-empting the question he must be sick of answering. Although it was he who, in an interview in May of last year, claimed that he wanted to “make a ferocious guitar record, then get the Roses back together.”
“Umm, well, sometimes you just say things, don’t you?” is his response to that. “It’s not going to happen, I don’t think.”
Are you sick of the endless nostalgia for the Roses? The fact that in “Best Album Ever” lists your debut is always there or thereabouts at No 1?
JOHN SQUIRE: “Well, there are a lot of lists these days, aren’t there?” he says with a smile. “But nah, it still means a lot to me. It was a great thing to be a part of, and it’s good that it still means so much to people. I still think about those times a lot – just the little things we used to get up to when we were starting out. When we were all living together in London, making that record…”
Do you still listen to it much?
“Nah, I haven’t listened to it since the day that it was mastered.”
Whether or not this is true, those songs still resonate for other people as surely as they must for Squire himself. After all, he was the first Stone Rose to introduce them to his live shows, startling audiences on his 2002 tour by opening his set with “I Am The Resurrection”. Many viewed this merely as a desperate attempt to re-ignite interest in his career. Not least Ian Brown, who cited his former best friend’s “butchering” of their co-written songs as his own justification for performing them again. Of course, Brown’s renditions, backed by members of tribute band The Complete Stone Roses, were greeted with euphoria and helped propel him to a level where, earlier this year, he picked up a Godlike Genius gong at the NME awards.
“Well, I heard some live versions of him doing the songs and they sounded awful, so y’know,” retorts Squire, aware that he’s now unfairly seen as the villain of the piece. “I don’t think he’s in a position to criticise. Anyway, I don’t want to get into a singing contest with the singer of The Stone Roses!”
Do you foresee a time – reunion or no reunion – when you’ll be on speaking terms with Ian again? Or, indeed, the other Roses?
“I bumped into Reni at an Arthur Lee gig in Manchester, and I still see him now and again. We’re friends. And Mani’s godfather to all three of my children. As for Ian… well, it’s all very well him saying in interviews that he’s still got the same number and that I should call him, but if the kid keeps slagging me off…”
It was a long time ago. Wouldn’t you like to get in a room and just shake hands?
“Yeah, maybe. Why not? I’d like to be friends again. Let’s see where we are after 10 years.”
The resurrection may be some way off, but maybe the reconciliation will be sooner than you think. Keep on hoping, people.