‘The 90s seem like yesterday’: Saint Etienne on 30 years as pop auteurs


Jude Rogers

Sarah, Bob and Pete talk about recording their mesmeric new album via Zoom, the reality of the 90s and the oddness of pop parenthood

In the concrete balcony bar of the BFI Southbank on a late summer’s afternoon, three old friends are sitting on mid-century seats, talking about the passing of time. Thirty years ago this month, Saint Etienne – Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and Sarah Cracknell – released their debut album, Foxbase Alpha, which stitched together samples from Dusty Springfield, the Four Tops and James Brown records, clips from old films and electronic beats that had their heart and soul in the clubs.

Renowned music journalist Jon Savage wrote the sleevenotes, laying out how their approach to music-making could be a blueprint for a new kind of British pop culture. It might come from somewhere like London’s grimy Camden Town, home to “a myriad of sounds, looks and smells from all over the world, each with its own memory and possibility”. In Saint Etienne’s London, Savage wrote, you could immerse yourself in dub, reggae, old psychedelia and Northern soul, combining these sounds with contemporary ideas.

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