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Material Boy

Suede's Neil Codling is a model citizen

''What am I? Rent-a-pout?'' muses Suede keyboard player Neil Codling. ''Brett [Anderson, singer] writes the lyrics, Richard [Oakes, guitarist] does interviews with guitar magazines and,'' he laughs, ''I do the pin-up stuff. It's just how it works out.''

Since he joined the band in 1996, the fey, slim, finely cheekboned 25-year-old has been labelled the ''archetypal Suedeboy'', a physcial incarnation of the band's elegant, decadent sound. It still bemuses him. ''Perhaps it means I'm this walking fashion statment they send out,'' he reasons, ''so the rest of the band can stay at home.''

Neil was discovered mooching around rehearsals for Suede's last album, Coming Up, invited by his cousin Simon Gilbert, the band's drummer, who tipped him off about the band's search for a keyboard player. After graduation in English and drama at Hull and spending six months on the dole, Neil seized his chance and mastered the Suede songbook.

More than just a flamorous mascot, he plays a significant role on new album Head Music, which features a Codling solo composition, Elephant Man, and three songs co-writted with Brett, including singles Electricity and She's in Fashion. His newfound pin-up status also deflects attention away from recent goddip linking Brett with his old flame Justine Frischmann, recently split from Blur's Damon albern.

''There's been a lot of crap in the press about people's personal lives,'' says Neil. '' I'll never worried about attraction that kind of attention myself. No-one concetrates on keyboard players.'' But it's Neil, and not Brett, who appears on the cover of Head Music, shot by fasion photographer Nick Knight then mutated by graphic design kingpin Peter Saville. ''Well it doesn't look like me, does it?'' he says. ''I'm not noticeably human. I'm the big blob on the right and the blob on the left is Sam, Brett's girlfriend. It was his idea -- we made the right shape together.''

It's not his first taste of medelling -- shortly after joing Suede, Neil was spotted in the street for The Face's fashion pages -- but he doesn't relish photo-shoots. ''You turn up and the stylist always has this long rack of leather trousers, '' he sighs. ''Yes, I've been offered the leather trousers. No, I've never worn them. It's a rock cliche: 'Man in band -- must weear leather pants.'Which is not what it's about. Style is such an individual thing.''