How we met: Gale Paridjanian & Olly Knights
By Simmy Richman
|INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY
|October 27, 2002, Sunday
Gale Paridjanian (left), 25, was born in Clapham, south London, to a family of Iranian/Armenian descent. He sold guitars in a London shop before realising that playing the instrument was where his heart really lay. When his friend Olly Knights needed some music to accompany a film he was working on, the pair decided to form a band. Turin Brakes’s debut single was released in 1999. The film was never made.
Olly Knights was born around the corner to Paridjanian in 1976. He boasts `English, Irish and Norwegian’ blood and looks forward to the day when he ends up, along with the other men in his family, looking like `a huge Norwegian bear’. Turin Brakes’s debut album, `The Optimist LP’, was nominated for last year’s Mercury Music Award.
Gale Paridjanian: I went to this nice Church of England primary school in Clapham called Macauley, which I joined just after everyone else; something to do with needing a letter from a priest to get in, or some scam like that. About a year after I joined, Olly turned up. We were in this woman’s class, it’s probably best I don’t name her, and I remember once asking if I could go to the toilet, and she said, “No.” So I weed myself, and then she made me clean it up. I think she’s been fired now.
I had this sort of girl power thing going on at about eight or nine years old, and I remember that my girlfriend at the time really liked me but fancied Olly, and his girlfriend really liked Olly but fancied me. At one point we lived on the same street which meant we hung out together after school, so we developed this friendship based on lots of different fantasy adventure games that we made up. We would pretend to be ghost detectives, then the next week we’d be ninja warriors, and then we got it into our heads, after seeing Back to the Future, that we wanted to be guitar heroes. We had a Casio keyboard and we made cardboard guitars and we’d pretend to be Michael J Fox pretending to be Chuck Berry.
One Christmas, me and Olly were given real guitars and at around the same time we joined the choir at Southwark Cathedral. Living on the same street, our parents all being friends, sharing guitar lessons and choir practice, we saw a lot of each other growing up, that’s for sure. I often wonder where all that enthusiasm went. These days someone has to write a massive thesis for me to even begin to consider the idea of being excited in the slightest way. Anyway, Olly went off to a different secondary school to me, but we still saw each other at choir practice and I kept up the guitar lessons while Olly decided to be a singer.
When I left secondary school, I hadn’t really made any friends like Olly. I had this dream about getting out, going travelling and living this crazy, free life. Which I didn’t do. I got a job in a guitar shop and went for the odd holiday with my girlfriend. I thought I was happy just having 100 quid in my pocket and being able to go to a pub but then, at about 19, I had this sort of emotional crisis where my brain suddenly said: “Start using your hands; stop drinking; stop being a waster.”
And then both of my hands started peeling, so I went to the doctor and he told me to get smart about myself. He said: “If you want to play guitar, play guitar. Don’t do drugs and don’t be drinking just for the hell of it.” He was a good doctor. The one I’ve got now would probably just give me some cream. So I quit my job, started doing little courses and that all led to hooking up with Olly in Turin Brakes.
We hit the rock’n’roll thing a little older than most and we weren’t trying to be rock stars when we got a deal, so it would be a lie to go around acting like rock stars now. We keep each other in check because we’ve known each other such a long time – which hasn’t stopped the Gallaghers. Not that I’m saying they’re tossers or anything because they’re hard. But then, me and Olly did used to be ninjas.
Olly Knights: I remember walking into this evil teacher’s class and being made to stand at the front because I was the new boy. It was horrifically embarrassing and I felt like a very strange person. But there was Gale, sitting around this table with a couple of very nice- looking girls. That was a big deal for me, even at that age, I was quite interested in girls.
Then I got in with this guy who was the school hard case, and it was Gale, about a year later, who saved me from that. He used to run a group called the Monday Night Club, and I knew that when I’d been accepted into that, I’d entered Gale’s world. Beside the club, the choir, the guitar lessons and the fantasy stuff, we also shared girlfriends, and now, for the first time since those days, I can feel the old power coming back. It’s an amazing thing being in a band: you can walk into a room full of girls, looking like an old man, and it doesn’t matter. You can get away with it.
I remember really well the time Gale was freaking out after he’d left school. But I think everyone has these mad psychotic teenage episodes. I used to every summer. They should warn you. You’ve been in school, and been secure with people looking after you the whole time, and then suddenly you’re out there and you realise how big the world is and how hard it is to make your way in it. Getting back into the learning routine and finding my voice in cinema helped me massively.
And then there were years spent recording songs in our bedrooms and that gave us a common aim. One thing that has changed is – because we see so much of each other now – we don’t immediately get home and phone each other to go out. Though often we still do, actually. Which is amazing. Sometimes, Gale phones and says, “Do you want to go for a beer?” and, if my girlfriend lets me, we go out and sit there thinking, “How much more time can we possibly spend together?”
Our girlfriends are really good about it. They’ve both been part of the crew for years, so they are part of this relationship and it’s never really in question. Plus they get thrown together by us quite a lot, so I think they’re used to it by now.
Humour plays a really big part in my relationship with Gale. No matter how tough the day has been, how many hours we’ve spent together, we can end the day in these proper, deep, manic, major, painful laughing fits. And there’s no one else I can do that with. And now we’ve got this band and that’s made our friendship even deeper. We’re best mates and business partners, and only Gale knows what this experience is really like for me. We never talk about a grand plan. We don’t have to.
We both know that cool rock’n’roll things are not really what we’re trying to achieve. Without wanting to sound like a tosser, it’s more of a spiritual thing than that. For us, it’s much easier to sit in a chair and have a cup of tea than it is to act like asshole rock stars. I want to get to be an old man. A happy old man who’s done something. I don’t want to die in a blur. It’s the rock’n’roll dream, kids!
Turin Brakes’s single, `Long Distance’, is out now.