I first saw Mark playing live in the Wallflowers at the Hacienda in Manchester back in 1991.
HIS STORY Tim Burgess, 45, singer
On stage there was something typically Mancunian guitarist about him, which I thought was really cool, like Johnny Marr. We needed a new guitarist for the Charlatans and I asked a mutual friend to let him know.
He joined the band and we quickly became inseparable. I was 23, he was 25. We were free – young men in the wilderness, in a band and ripping up the rule book. I remember reading Jet Black's Seven Days in Nice and getting stoned and naked while we partied. As you get older, you forget about all that kind of stuff, but it's part of being friends. I witnessed his first serious relationship and saw him have kids.
We agreed to do the video for "North Country Boy" in New York with a £50,000 budget. We rented a cameraman and a director and blew the rest on first-class flights and a week at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. We were smoking whatever we could get our hands on, having parties every night. The video looks like it was made with £2,000. Watch it and when you see us in the back of the car you can tell we're having a good time.
There's a blurred line between our working relationship and friendship. I've been pretty demanding on Mark. I value that we are still close. He probably understands me better than anyone else. As my own relationships come and go, Mark's been a great friend. When I moved to LA I thought he'd come, too, but he didn't. I guess I was pretty crazy to think he would. I realised that was as far as I could push him. He used to come to LA and we'd write songs. For me that was very cool, because I was doing a lot of drugs and Mark prised lyrics and music out of me when no one else would have been able to.
He's my favourite guitar player. He probably doesn't know that. He'd never think highly of himself. He needs someone who can push him and get the best out of him, and I can.
HIS STORY Mark Collins, 47, guitarist
I got a phone call saying that the Charlatans needed a guitar player. Tim rooted for me to join – I think he wanted someone with a Mancunian accent rather than another Midlands one. We ended up hanging out and talking and listening to records. Tim's an avid collector, and he was my jukebox. We spent a lot of time going out, listening to music and getting smashed.
We were on holiday somewhere on the Mediterranean Spanish coast in the summer of 1994. We drifted out on lilos and the sun was beating down on us. We plotted the making of The Charlatans, the fourth album – we spent a week doing that. When we got back home we spent ages on Tim's futon in Chalk Farm, getting up every morning and writing songs.
I think I encourage Tim and I hope I push him. I can translate for him. He might have an idea he doesn't know how to get out of his head, and I'll help him do that. That's how we write songs.
This winter we hired a place on the south coast of England for a week and took our guitars down. It was absolutely freezing. We just holed up, stoked the fire 24 hours a day, drank a lot of coffee and made music. We got five new ideas. We can still handle being in the same room for weeks at a time. That's a test of whether you are true friends.
He's a free-spirited man and a positive character to hang around. Tim's good for you. He's not obsessed with money – it doesn't matter if you've got it or you don't have a penny. I love his desire to explore new things. It's what he's always had.
I don't know what "best friends" is – it sounds a bit playground. We're good mates, and I'm sure we will be to the end.
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