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Observer Music Monthly

Dead cert

The bookies, the pub, the late-night garage... Mike Skinner still plays at being Jack the lad but The Streets' new album reveals startling depths and secures his place in the ranks of the great British songwriters. Ben Thompson talks to him about addiction, celebrity and how his latest career gamble has paid off spectacularly

Sunday April 25, 2004
The Observer


'I love the name "The Streets",' muses 24 year-old Mike Skinner - at once the mercurial creative-director, canny CEO and flaky spokesmodel of that thriving entertainment brand - 'because it leaves so much to the imagination. But I suppose it did make a lot of people think I was trying to be something I wasn't.'

Whether it's the White Stripes proclaiming themselves direct descendants of the Delta bluesmen, Brian Wilson climbing inside the mind of a muscle-bound surfer or Afrika Bambaata and his fellow New York hip hop pioneers laying claim to Kraftwerk's teutonic electro legacy, people trying to be things they're not have traditionally ruled the school in rock 'n' roll's upper creative echelons. But for the performer who came to prominence by imposing a hilariously stringent suburban reality check on UK garage's materialistic fantasy world, honesty has always been the best policy.

Why else would Skinner have dropped the line 'You think I'm ghetto? Stop dreaming' into his first single? Why would he have been so specific about the fact that while 'not born with a silver spoon in his mouth', he has 'never lived in a block of flats' either? 'Because if you think about rap, and you hear the words "the Streets", continues the Bambi-eyed and suede-headed Skinner, 'it probably makes you think of the Wu-Tang Clan in New York or something. Whereas I suppose what my music is all about is saying life's not like that for most people.'

'It's normally easy to categorise something when you hear it for the first time,' insists the Streets' A&R man Nick Worthington. But all that was clear about the tape Skinner sent to the record shop Worthington used to run on Holloway Road in north London was that 'this was more than just a one-off thing'. The song was the irresistible call-to-arms to PlayStation-addled bottom-feeders everywhere which would become the Streets' 'Has It Come To This?', released via Worthington's UK garage imprint, Locked On, in late summer 2001.

The debut album which followed - 2002's Brit- and Mercury-nominated Original Pirate Material - was a superbly fresh and witty distillation of what it felt like to be young and British at the start of a new century. This record also performed a unique balancing act, somehow managing to be both the next step forward for the great domestic pop songwriting tradition which stretched back from Massive Attack's Blue Lines to Madness and the Specials, to the Kinks and the Who, and a disc with the power to unite the disparate tribes of UK dance music - the ravers, hip-hop heads, garagistas - in the volatile camaraderie of the late-night kebab queue.

So what were we to expect from the second album? Maybe that selling more than a million records, hitting the US Top 30 and successfully exporting his Brit-geezer gospel to places as far afield as Brazil and Japan would go to his head, and he'd swan off to America to make a record with the Neptunes. Or that he'd do an Eminem, and make a follow-up record about how strange it is for a person to become famous by giving vent to their feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Or maybe even (oh we of little faith!) that his determination to keep his rough edges would drive him on down the loud and lairy road signposted by Original Pirate Material's final single 'Don't Mug Yourself', until he found himself in a lagered-up cul-de-sac. After all, on his solitary Top of The Pops performance - fresh from being pipped to the 2002 Mercury Prize by the more coffee table-friendly Ms Dynamite - Skinner came on like Paul Gascoigne with a grudge.

But we were wrong on all counts. Original Pirate Material taught us to expect the unexpected from Skinner. And that is exactly what he's delivered. The second album, A Grand Don't Come For Free, is not a concept album. It's not a home-made West End musical. It's not the new Quadrophenia. It's not club culture's answer to James Joyce's Ulysses and/or The Office Christmas Special. It's all of these, and a lot more besides.

This is a record with a story, where each song stands alone to tell a tale of its own, then links up with all the others to keep the flow going. And the integrity of that homespun narrative places an obligation on anybody writing about it to avoid giving too much away. Not for the sake of any one particular Sixth Sense-style plot-twist but because listening to the album all the way through for the first time, without knowing exactly what's going to happen, is too special a pleasure to be compromised with a surfeit of prior knowledge.

If you've heard the single, 'Fit But You Know It', though, you've already experienced a riotously representative sample of the delights in store. While Skinner modestly insists that this triumphantly in-your-face celebration of package-holiday mating rituals 'gets boring really quickly', to me it seems destined to cause carnage on Europe's dancefloors for many moons to come. And if the purpose of a first single is to get everyone talking, this has certainly done the trick.

With everyone from the Sun's Bizarre column (which, with unusual perspicacity, devoted a whole page to proclaiming the song 'the anthem of the summer') to Radio 1's Chris Moyles (who doesn't like it, but Skinner allegedly calling him 'a knob-head' probably didn't help) caught up in the heated debate, a characteristically inspired promo video has upped the ante even further. As a suitably furtive-looking Skinner struts down the road, flicking through his holiday photos, only for this lager-tinged selection of 15-rated Kodak moments to burst into vivid - and intensely amusing - 3D life, it's almost as if he's anticipating the passionate but contrary responses this record has already inspired.

Sitting opposite Skinner in his Stockwell local (not the sort of spit and sawdust joint you might imagine, but one of those mellow, middle-of-the-range places with armchairs out the back), the question of why he should want to forsake Original Pirate Material's celebrated club-toilet-sink realism for a single linear narrative he describes as 'truthful, but fictional', becomes too pressing to ignore any longer.

'What it was,' Skinner replies affably, nursing an abstemious lunchtime Coke (he's not forsaken the party lifestyle which seems so integral to his muse, he's just feeling the effects of an epic bout of over-indulgence two weeks before), 'is that I didn't want to lie in the way that rappers lie.'

That's a pretty contentious statement, especially coming from someone who spent the best part of his West Midlands adolescence trying to make music which sounded like Run DMC or Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Skinner grins, in the engagingly lop-sided manner which makes you hope no US record industry tooth-Nazi (or Hollywood agent impressed by his undoubted screen presence) will ever persuade him to get his teeth capped. A doughty conversationalist, his speaking voice a felicitous blend of London twang and Brummie burr, he's never one to make a bold claim without a well-developed argument to back it up.

'Hip hop,' he explains, 'draws on different principles to other music. It's not purely sonic pleasure: it's conflict and action and story. It's the old way of making records - which is rhythm and noise - combined with a little bit of The A-Team, and that's exactly what I love about it ... The problem is, it tends to hit a brick wall with the second album. When you listen to 50 Cent, you're hearing a guy who you imagine goes around getting shot, and he doesn't, really - well, he did, but now he's doing pretty much the same as I am: being interviewed, collecting awards, going to parties. And the big question is, how to hang on to that excitement you had before becoming successful, without pretending you're still doing things you're actually not?'

Skinner's solution was to write himself into a story. 'I see the character on the album as being me,' he explains, 'with my opinions, and reacting the way I would react, just in a fictional situation. Apart from that, there's nothing all that different about it - the songs are just songs, the beats are just beats.'

Skinner claims that at least part of his motivation in taking his semi-celebrity self out of the lyrical picture was to 'stop his life becoming EastEnders', but it may already be too late for that.

He grew up in Birmingham in a family of Londoners. The youngest by far of four siblings (his dad, who is now 75, carried an unexploded bomb into a police station in the Blitz and lived to tell the tale), at the age of 19, Mike ignored the advice of everyone he knew and followed a girlfriend to Australia. He hung around Down Under for almost a year after she dumped him - scratching a living among the human navel-fluff of Sidney's scuzzy underbelly and developing a new perspective on the music he'd always loved - before coming back home, moving to London and creating a new kind of English hip hop.

When he started to sell a lot of records, everyone thought Skinner would go off the rails. Yet he seemed to go to ground in the aftermath of his early success - at one point earning himself the unlikely sobriquet 'The Howard Hughes of UK garage'. And this when everyone expected him to use George Best as a role model!

'To be honest,' he laughs, 'I did go a bit George Best for a while ... I just didn't do it where everyone else tends to do it. You see papers and magazines full of celebrities falling out of bars pissed, and you think "oh, that's terrible - all the photographers taking pictures of them", but then you realise if they didn't want that to happen they wouldn't have gone to the bars where all the photographers hang out ... I fall out of this bar fucking every week and no one knows about it.'

There's nothing neurotic about his devotion to his roots - his determination to protect the privacy of his girlfriend or his nieces. Indeed, his next album will be a more external affair - 'kind of the world as I see it' - also addressing the impact of his success. 'I'm not going to base my whole career on audio books,' he insists, wrily.

For the moment, though, keeping the music spontaneous is his priority. 'I spend an enormous amount of time taking things out,' Skinner admits, nodding a cheery welcome to a newly arrived Antipodean bar-keep, 'so as to arrive at something that feels like it happened really quickly. What you find with a lot of rappers is they work out their flow - the rhythm to their words - and the better they get, the more tidy the flow becomes, until everything has to fit in, the same way it would with a poem. But I tend to think that if it all gets too tidy, the words don't really stick in your mind when you hear them - the smoothness of the rhythm makes you lose concentration.'

The way Skinner describes his creative process, he sounds like a conscientious painter and decorator sanding a wooden surface to roughen it up a bit before applying an undercoat. But, while he would probably be uneasy about stepping across the craft/art divide, the combination of broad strokes and subtle touches in his lyrics is equally reminiscent of a more elaborate form of brush-wielding. Just as a Francis Bacon painting doesn't have to be an explicit self-portrait to reveal something about the man behind it, so A Grand Don't Come For Free - like any really good story - tells us a great deal about its author.

'It's very rare for someone to put themselves on the line the way Mike does on this album,' insists Nick Worthington. 'If you think of a song like "Dry Your Eyes", he's dealing very directly with things which other people would protect themselves from by taking a more conventional approach.'

It's true this song ('the one which'll get us on regional radio,' Skinner asserts optimistically) is probably the most fearlessly maudlin wallow in lovelorn sincerity since Paul Weller penned 'Nothing can ever tempt me from she'. But when Skinner asserts that writing the album meant 'admitting a lot of things about myself that aren't good', he was also referring to songs such as 'Not Addicted'. This is an uncomfortably accurate depiction of the pleasures and perils of gambling told through the eyes of a perennial optimist who, doesn't 'know the first thing about football'.

'I don't think I've got a problem with gambling,' says Skinner, 'but I think some people would say I have.' Readers are invited to judge for themselves on the basis of the following anecdote. 'I had this particularly funny week,' Skinner remembers fondly, 'where there wasn't really any football on, so I started betting on the Sri Lankan three-dayer or something, and I got absolutely stuffed. I was betting in all directions.' Skinner favours the especially risky form of gambling known as spread betting where your losses or wins can multiply very swiftly. 'Then I realised that the reason the prices were so good was that the game was about to end ... The truth is,' he concludes, not all that repentantly, 'is that I know even less about cricket than I do about football.'

None of this will break the mould in terms of Skinner's artful-dodger-about-town persona. But one revelation on the album does shed fascinating new light on this ebullient and charismatic personality.

When the main character talks about 'needing that medication for his epilepsy', it seems like an obvious reversal of audience expectations concerning Skinner's oft-avowed fondness for chemical stimulus, but it turns out that he does actually suffer from this much misunderstood condition. It started when he was seven and was 'pretty bad' by his early teens, he explains, though by managing his hectic lifestyle ('I'll still do drugs all night, but I'll be in bed before midday - 24 hours is enough: after that I'm being stupid') he hasn't had a fit in four years.

'Tiredness is actually what sets me off,' Skinner notes, matter-of-factly. 'Tiredness and TVs. That's why my house is all flat-screens - because they're a different technology and they don't flash.' Beyond the ensuing debate about whether flat-screen TVs should be available on the NHS, it's fascinating how many of pop's greatest and most original lyricists - Jarvis Cocker, Neil Young and Johnny Rotten among them - have been set apart from their peers at an early age by severe childhood illness.

'I think it is one of the reasons why I'm so focused,' Skinner nods, 'as it forced me to be less social throughout the period when my mates didn't know what they were doing. Music is kind of like my best friend - it's probably the reason I didn't go mad when I was a teenager, and it's probably been the one constant since things have kicked off.'

Meeting Skinner for a second time, a couple of weeks later - as he puts his backing band through their paces for upcoming live dates - he seems somewhat heartier. He's lost a bit of weight (Skinner 'always porks out' towards the end of making an album, apparently) and, clutching a bottle of water in his snappy designer sportswear, might almost be at the gym. The Southwark studio foyer is alive with the erudite chatter of Blazin' Squad. ('They're doing all right, aren't they?' Mike asserts benignly. 'For a pop act.')

With a whole new generation of young UK MCs already lining up behind him - from Bow roughneck Dizzee Rascal (who sometimes calls Mike 'Frank Skinner' by mistake, in subconscious tribute to his Midlands antecedents) to Wembley teenager Lady Sovereign - by rights, Skinner should be feeling the pressure. In fact, he has nothing but good things to say about any of his potential rivals. Dizzee Rascal returns the compliment: 'We may come from different places, but Mike's just trying to tell the truth about his life in the same way that I am.'

It would be easy to come up with some slightly bogus theory about the instinctive empathy which is the key element in the Streets' lyrical armoury. For instance, you might argue that the very factors which have kept Skinner at a distance from his peers throughout his life - the epilepsy, the older parents, being part of the cockney diaspora - are the same things that have allowed his work to get so close to the truth of what it is to be a human being.

But such a neat biographical explanation does nothing to explain the way his records manage to reorganise the building blocks of the past 15 years of dance music history (acid's random bleeps, the euphoric piano sound of Italian house, jungle's spiralling sub-bass, trance's psychotropic drum surge and UK garage's salacious string stabs) into bold and unexpected new shapes, just as the Beatles did with American R'n'B. Nor can it tell you how A Grand Don't Come For Free also somehow taps into a proud British underground rock tradition of which Skinner himself seems entirely - if not blissfully - unaware.

Yet while he has no memory of ever hearing a record by Arab Strap, the Fall or Robert Wyatt (all of whose work seems to echo though his new album, on occasion), he does testify to one unexpected formative influence: Jimi Hendrix. 'Not so much every detail of his music,' Skinner enthuses, 'as the man he was, and the fact that he became so good because of practice. I just figured that if I practised as much as Jimi Hendrix at something that was more appropriate to my generation, then one day I'd be as good as him.'

Skinner essays a self-deprecating shake of the head, eyes flashing in the reflection from a CCTV screen on which a member of Blazin' Squad can dimly be discerned, going innocently about his business. 'Obviously,' he smiles. 'I've got a few years to go yet.'

· 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' (679) is released 10 May
[PR]
by scummy | 2007-04-17 17:45

thisislondon.co.uk

Arctics blast back, bolder and beefier
By Paul Connolly, London Lite 16.04.07

Last summer some people became concerned about the Arctic Monkeys. Just months after they released the fastest-selling debut album in UK history, the sales of Whatever You Think I Am, That's What I'm Not fell off a cliff while their laudable propensity to hurl prodigious amounts of new product at the market seemed to be dimming their star.

The Who The F**k Are The Arctic Monkeys and Leave Before The Lights Come On EPs not only underperformed commercially but were worryingly light on memorable tunes, not an accusation that could have been levelled at their output up until then.

Alex Turner, so insouciant about his band's elevation to voice-of-a-generation status only a few months earlier, was also starting to sound a little weary of all the attention and the awards.

So, displaying an instinctive grasp of music-biz nous way beyond his 21 years, Turner responded by taking his band off the market and back into the studio to record this, their second album.

Instead of trying to break America or touring the rest of the world endlessly - a certain recipe for increasing tension and lessening a band's grip on reality - the Monkeys headed for east London with James Ford, the producer responsible for the Klaxons' recent debut.

Surely the band which famously refused to change their silly name in the face of record company pressure would have the pips to pull themselves together.

Having heard the lead single, Brianstorm, I'll admit I was slightly alarmed. Even 20 listens on I can't hear much in the way of a tune and although the Monkeys have probably coined a new teenage catchphrase in "See you later, innovator", it's just not up to scratch.

Fortunately, this is the weakest song on Favourite Worst Nightmare, even if the beefiness of the playing foreshadows the album's increased muscularity.

This addition of muscle tissue to the Monkeys' limber musical frame is not the only enhancement. They are also much more flexible. Only Ones Who Know, for example, is a bittersweet ballad about moving on that is filigreed with woozy surf guitars.

Yet nothing will prepare you for the shock of album closer 505. Ushered in on a three-note devotional organ figure, Turner's voice croons - yes, croons - "I'm going back to 505/If it's a seven-hour flight or a 45-minute drive/In my imagination you're waiting lying on your side/With your hands between your thighs..." before the lushest rock song this side of Arcade Fire unfolds. True, he pronounces "your hands" "yer 'ands" - but still.

There's plenty of more typical Monkey fare, though, if you're not quite ready for them to take such giant steps.

Teddy Picker, savage surf-punk rock framing Turner's barbed X Factor-slating lyrics, is a standout but next single, Fluorescent Adolescent, will be the song of this year's festivals, with its gigantic ska-pop tune and lyrics about sexual dysfunction.

The Monkeys have done it again. How could we have ever doubted them?
[PR]
by scummy | 2007-04-17 01:54

Telegraph

Is Jamie T pop's answer to Jamie O?

Rising punk-pop singer Jamie T is polite, talented and hugely enthusiastic. But can he conquer America? He talks to Helen Brown

He'll probably hate me for saying it, but rising punk-pop star Jamie T is the Jamie Oliver of the new Thamesbeat scene, bursting out all over with infectious nice-guy-getting-stuck-in, estuary-English enthusiasms. I'm not sure Oliver would approve of his diet though, which, in the four hours we spent together on Treays's (his full name) US tour consisted of a steady stream of lager and Camel Lights.

He has a bottle and a cigarette on the go when we meet at 1pm outside his suburban Texan motel, beneath a Scalextric-swirl of flyovers. Pasty-faced Jamie gazes up at the cars from beneath the peak of his baseball cap. The smell of spilt beer steams steadily from his jeans.

The man recently described as "the bastard lovechild of Billy Bragg and Mike Skinner doing his best Joe Strummer impression" is a London boy, used to the hustle of a city, and the lack of pedestrians is freaking him out. As is the absence of his bass player, whose very minor criminal record saw him barred from the US. A roadie will pluck the big strings in his absence.

Treays actually plays bass himself. The first track on his critically acclaimed debut album, Panic Prevention, is all about his battered acoustic bass guitar. So as we settle at the bar of a scuzzy downtown saloon, I ask Treays why he doesn't play the thing himself instead of drafting in the untried roadie.

"Oh," he grins, "I can't, y'know, bah bah, bah-dee-da-dee dah [he mimes playing bass] and sing. It's too much. I could if I practised, but I like running around and strumming. The bass is meant to stand still. Plus I don't like the idea of looking like Sting. That's uncool. He's like a pure alpha male, man."

Treays pulls a face, and then veers off into a rave about how much he loves the Police - "They're wicked" - but not Sting's solo work: "Jeez! It makes me wanna be sick, but hey he's good, he's good..."

For a 21-year-old lad, proudly waving his passport at our fender-moustached bartender, Treays knows an awful lot about music that was made decades before he was born. He talks about Squeeze, Bob Dylan, the Pogues, Tina Turner and Tom Waits, spilling over with passions, opinions, obscure anecdotes.

He's continually excited by the idea that all the musicians he admires "wrote those songs in their bedrooms, just like me!" He high fives me each time we find a band or song in common.

He's totally uninhibited and yet incredibly polite; sings phrases; theorises; gesticulates emphatically. He's nostalgic for the days when he was just beginning, dragging his guitar from pub to pub and shouting down a hostile crowd. I suggest that this must be a fun time to be his age, because music is all cross-fertilised and kids aren't expected to adhere exclusively to any one scene.

"Yeah," he nods. He likes the fact he can "wear a hoodie and Reebok classics and still play acoustic nights". He hates music snobbery: "I can't stand it when you go to some little club and some DJ behind the decks thinks he's more musically aware than you - he's just looking down on the crowd thinking he knows best.

It's a beautiful breath of fresh air when somebody puts a bit of Kylie on and you think: 'I know this!' But things are more randomly interconnected these days. I feel I missed out on the fun of scenes, y'know?"

When Treays was growing up, his friends were always a little bit older than him, "and everyone I know has always been into music and searching for new things.

One of the most enjoyable things for me is to go back home with one or two mates and put records on and listen!" He widens his eyes, stretches his palms apart, cat's cradle-style. "And if they talk over things, then I just put on the headphones."

I ask if his parents, with whom he was photographed in the family's nice Wimbledon lounge on the sleeve of his second single, are into music. "No," he says, slightly bewildered, "it doesn't really compute. They had a few Pretenders records and my dad has a great Elvis box set - if you pull all the records out it makes a big picture of the King!"

Treays refers to the "pelvis white boy" on Dry Off Your Cheeks, a typically brawl-voiced cheeky-tuned track on Panic Prevention. These are songs of alcohol-doused, wild-youthed nights on the city streets.

The neon dazzle of all that "tip-toe dancing" and "pressure prancing" is reflected in a gutter grimy with tears and physical fear. His top 10 hit Calm Down Dearest has a protagonist who sings of having "sedated hatred" with whisky and sitting in corners sulking his socks off. For a while, Treays suffered from anxiety attacks.

He admits to a fascination with the seamy side of British nightlife. "I went through a long phase where I took photographs of the graffiti in toilets," he says. "I got obsessed. In Soho some of it's weird.

Next to the usual dull stuff you'll see something that says 'My girlfriend's outside getting on really well with my best mate, and I know they're shagging and I hate it.' And you're just trying to take a piss. Just expecting to be humiliated by a wall and some guy's poured his heart out."

Even though he's "all peace'n'love now", there's also something in Treays that loves the after-hours scuffle too. "Although I haven't been in a fight myself for two years," he says, "the last was when some guy said something rude about a girl I was with. I criticised his Ugg boots. We both insulted each other. I apologised and he hit me! Then he went to shake my hand and I spat in his face.

Then I got the shit kicked out of me. I woke up in the middle of the road. The other guy was on the pavement with a perforated ear drum. He couldn't walk straight for three weeks. When you're young, you're testing the waters. I kinda realised quite quickly I can't fight - I shouldn't say that in the papers should I? I'll get the shit kicked out of me now."

He hands me a half-smoked cigarette. "Finish this," he instructs his interviewer, "I'm having a wee." He pauses. This is America. He puts on an accent. "Sorry, I mean I'm going to use the washroom." Treays has no idea what America will make of him.

He worries that his humour might not cross the Atlantic. "But what do I know," he ups palms, "I've only been here five hours." He's more worried that America won't live up to his fantasy. "The New York I'm thinking of probably isn't there any more - I'm hoping its going to be like Tom Waits, Nighthawks at the Diner. Ha."

He's off again. Quoting Waits. He likes songs to tell stories. "People always take me so literally," he says, "but the stories are about playing with reality, amusing yourself, thinking about stuff. I wrote a song pretending to be an old woman," he says. "Its not on Panic Prevention but I've got, like, five albums' worth of material.

Anyway, the chorus was: 'If I had a penny for every young man who'd left me on the sidelines I'd be a rich woman.' She'd been young at the time of the Second World War. Anyway, I pitched my vocal up until I sounded like a granny, until my gobby voice has got that vulnerable quaver in it."

We gaze out across the bar. I think Treays is experiencing a rare moment of reflection. But he's actually caught up in the hip-hop tune that's playing on the bar's jukebox. "I love this song!" he says.
[PR]
by scummy | 2007-04-14 22:32

rock-city.co.uk (12/07/2006)

Larrikin Love - The Keep Foolish Interview!
Posted by AlMachine on Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Larrikin Love who have been on tour together since Mid February and are set to release their new single Downing St. Kindling. While the World Cup is in full swing we take a break from all of that and get back to the music side of things. We have a chance to talk about the never-ending tour, new album and Top Of The Pops.

So then you looking forward to tonight then lads?
(Edward):Yeah,
(Coz): Yeah !
(Alfie): Oh Yeah!
First night of the tour is it?
(The Band): No, no ha ha
(Coz): Towards the end now?
(Edward): No I would say about halfway, em it’s been a permanent one since February 17th.
So what was supporting The Zutons like then?
(Coz): Yeah it was good, they are like really nice
(Edward): Yeah it was fantastic, really nice guys
(Alfie): A really good set up
(Edward): And like they are like music people real musicians who take it really serious, which is nice.
So I have noticed that you are doing every festival under the sun!
(The Band): Yes We Are
Which one are you looking forward to most?
(Edward): The Latitude festival, have you heard of it?
(Me): No not really!!!##!!
(Edward): Yeah it’s amazing, Patty Smith is playing and its in Suffolk Tom Verlain is Playing
(Alfie): Erm I think The Zutons are as well
(Edward): Anthony And The Johnsons, Mystery Jets.
So obviously you should get some time to see some of the over artists, who would you most like to see?
(Edward): eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
(Coz): Anthony And The Johnsons
(Edward): I wanna see Tom Verlain he should be nice, should play some classics and I would like to see errrm Giant Drag, I would like to see Gullimots and I would like to see Rumble Strips (Hmmm Supporting them at this who were fab actually!!!!!) I would like to see Jamie T
So who wouldn’t you like to see (followed by a nerves laugh)?
(Edward): Oh no don’t know
Obviouslly you have got the single out Monday
(The Band): Yes!
How do you think that it will fair in the midst of the World Cup Craze?
(Edward): It will, oh, er I don’t know it probably won’t even make the charts we don’t know; we don’t really care do we (Looking at the rest of the band for back up)
(Edward): We don’t know how popular anything in at the moment so I don’t know
(Alfie): yeah don’t know much about life outside the band
I’ve seen the video.
(Coz): Oh yeah, oh it was awful!
Who was the input in that?
(Edward):Oh it’s along story, really actually I really don’t want to go into it
(Alfie): Frustrating
(Coz): Loads of rows
(Edward): Yeah shitty
So you don’t like the video then?
(The Band): No
So you have got the album, out, no sorry coming out, where did you get the title name from?
Errm, we wanted to go with this under lining theme, like err err ya know FREEDOM and errm and there is something about the word spark that I really like!
(Coz): It’ look good down on paper
(Edward): Oh yeah it does I didn’t realise that until I actually wrote it down, and emm it sounds good, yeah and should spark something off
So if you were to describe the album, how would you describe it?
At this point Edward is pointing a plunger at me!!!!
Getting worried now, if you were asked to describe the album how would you describe it?
(Edward): Emmm shit on the radio
(Alfie): It’s gonna shit on your head
Band laugh
(Coz): and Edward): Yeah shit on ya head
(Edward): I don’t know, but we are really happy with it. until it’s out, I don’t think we can describe it
(Alfie): The sound we got I really like it
(Coz and Micko): Nod in agreement
(Edward): Yeah and it sounds really nice and it’s got some good songs on it and emm each song connects with the other and it all makes sense. Well we hope it makes sense.yeah.
Can we… expect to see Raggedy Anne, or Six Queens on the album?
(Edward): No
(Alfie): Six Queens, yeah!
(Edward): Lets not tell lets not tell
But I know Six Queens is on I know that much (laughing)
(Edward) Yeah Yeah!
(Alfie): That’s the least of your worries
So emm when you were supporting The Zutons, do you think that you got a good reaction from the crowed?
(Edward):
(Micko): Yeah, we got quite a surprise on that
(Coz): Loads of feedback
(Alfie): Yeah it’s great
(Edward): Yeah I think that we picked up quite a lot of fans on that tour, people coming up to us saying love you guys, got all your CDs and T-Shirts and stuff like that
So anyway let me just ask the metal thing with the arm hanging on the end of it, what is that all about then?
(Edward): It’s a cow bell, the arm is my grandmothers and when she passed we kind of got it stuffed and em we keep there for sentimental value (A look of disbelief on my face!!!)
(Micko): She was an amazing woman
(Alfie): Nods in agreement
(Edward): Amazing, and she was a professional cowbell player, so it was we all like to support
(Alfie): British cowbell player
(Coz) yeah, international cowbell player
So how would you consider yourself a Singles or an Albums band?
(Edward): Albums band
(Coz): Albums
(Alfie): Definitely albums
(Micko): Albums band totally
Cause you know, you have some really strong singles and some great tracks on myspace, do you think the album is gonna surprise people?
(Edward): Definitely yeah, there’s em after releasing the singles which are kind of poppy there a lot more depth to the songs on the album a lot more thinking behind them and they have been constructed differently
What sort of direction have you gone with it, cause let’s face it you can’t nail down your style?
(Edward): Emm there are some songs that are kind of folky
(Alfie):Laughing
(Edward):…and emm some Russian gypsy element to it, we have got horns on it. There is a lot going on on it.
So do you think by album three that we will see a post rock album with massive instrumentals?
(Edward): You never know,
(Micko): I think we will have a full orchestra by then
(Edward): You never know, I quite like the idea of like each album going into a different direction, which may not fall into what the fans want us to do, but that’s not what we set out to do is it.
So what do think to things like myspace, you know your guys have 15,000 friends and if that was transferred to record sales?
(Coz): Yeah would be nice if they all went out and brought the record?
What do think to sites like myspace, with Top Of The Pops announcing it is stopping because of sites like this?
(Edward): I know can you believe that (More or less shouting it)
(Micko): What?
(Edward): Top Of The Pops is finishing!!
(Micko) When, why are fuck!
(Alfie): It speaks!!!
(Edward): yeah it’s finished it recording, its like an institution
EDWARD PHONES RING
(Micko): No more Top Of The Pops!!!!! When the fuck did this happen? (With a very confused and shocked look on his face)
(Alfie): Yeah
(Edward): I don’t think it has a direct affect. So there is nothing now really only Jules Holland, and that is not really Poppy.

I would like to thank the guys for being a great bunch of people, and on behalf of Rock City wish them the best of luck in the future. Hopefully we will be hearing a lot more from the boys from the South.

Mark Moore
[PR]
by scummy | 2007-04-13 13:36

Time Out London (Sep 18 2006)

Larrikin Love: interview
Eddy Lawrence

Forget Britpop’s ’60s revival, today’s coolest bands are looking further back. No one does it better than London skiffle-klezmer-polka-punks Larrikin Love

Maybe it’s something to do with the success of the revamped ‘Doctor Who’, or some kind of fashion variant of the Millennium Bug, but the vogueish era for today’s hip young instrument slingers is the noughties – the nineteen-noughties. Indie bands now profess to love skiffle, klezmer, polka and folk, and all the other kinds of music that would normally have got their heads kicked in.

Larrikin Love are one such band – you may already be familiar with their raggle-taggle-tastic single ‘Edwould’ or the folksy, maidens-a-roving-in-the-dales-isms of latest single ‘Happy As Annie’. Their sound, a collage of sonically, geographically and temporally disparate styles worked together without fear or favour, takes in reggae, calypso, folk, bluegrass and even some good old-fashioned punk. It’s a peculiar mix of things ancient and modern. Take the track ‘Downing Street Kindling’ from the band’s debut album ‘The Freedom Spark’, for example, which boasts the chorus ‘Everything I adore came before 1984’. A statement of retro intent, surely?

‘It’s more of a bookish reference, really,’ says LL singer Edward Larrikin. ‘It’s a nod to the state that some people think we’re in at the moment, that Big Brother world. But also musically, I haven’t really been into anything since then. The Smiths were all right, but…’


Culturally speaking, over the last decade, history has been repeating itself. Britpop devoured the ’60s, nu-disco consumed the ’70s, electroclash gorged on the ’80s. Recently, bands like Kaiser Chiefs’ reanimation of Britpop mean we’ve had to go through the whole sorry cycle all over again, and suffer through a ’60s revival revival. But now something intriguing seems to have happened. History has clocked itself. Rather than pilfer from their parents’ or elder siblings’ (practically interchangeable) record collections, a new generation of bands are looking to distant eras and faraway places for inspiration.


‘They come from everywhere,’ says Edward of his cohorts’ influences. ‘[Guitarist] Micko [Larkin] and [drummer] Coz [Kerrigan] are both from very strong Irish backgrounds. They’ve both been born and bred on old jigs and ceilidh and salmon and potatoes. Also Coz’s father is a jazz drummer so Coz does this crazy drumming which is very improvised and exciting. [Bassist] Alfie [Ambrose]’s big influence is Motown and ’60s pop. With me, I’m a bit of a folkie.’There’s a definite folk influence to the band’s storytelling, such as the twisted reveal at the end of ‘Happy As Annie’.

Edward’s musical palette was broadened by exposure to music that your average teenager just doesn’t get to hear. It certainly helped that his family are all heavily involved in the trade.‘I’m reading this book about Richard Farina,’ muses Edward, ‘who was married to Mimi Baez, who was Joan Baez’s sister. He was amazing because he was a poet, and then he started putting poems to music and he was of Cuban and Irish origin, so he had this mad concoction of sounds going on, it was just crazy, and I think that’s like me. My Auntie Jodie was the tour manager for [Zimbabwean jit-jivers] the Bhundu Boys, and their music always had an influence on me. Also my Uncle Jacub is a saxophonist who lives in Paris but is originally from Cameroon, and my uncle Herman’s also a musician… there’s a lot of musicians in my family.’

It would be a mistake to think of Larrikin Love as aural Amish, railing against musical progress. The album features guest appearances from some very ‘now’ names, including Time Out favourite (and long-time friend of Ed’s) Jamie T, pure rocker Vincent Vincent (of …And The Villains) fame, former Villains The Rumblestrips, avant-garde vaudevillian Patrick Wolf and electro-folkstress Mechanical Bride. This revolving cast of characters reflects the Larrikins’ often chaotic live shows, during which numerous guest musicans are often invited up on stage to perform their party piece.


‘I like people to come and play their thing,’ says Edward. ‘There’ll be a part which I hear and I go: “Gosh, wouldn’t it be fantastic to get Patrick to play a bit of viola on that, or get Lauren to sing a bit of harmony on that?” I have a really close circle of a few friends but they’re all very talented at what they do. It’s nice to involve them in things. They’re a clever old bunch.’


Despite this pan-generational cultural melting pot, Larrikin Love used to be most commonly compared to The Libertines, thanks to their louche skiffly bits, but these days they are more often lumped in with their friends and neighbours Mystery Jets as part of the non-existent ‘Thamesbeat’ scene (actually a joke cracked by Larrikin drummer Coz). Their closest contemporaries, however, are probably Gogol Bordello, who opened the floodgates for this sort of thing with their raucous gypsy-punk and noticeable facial hair, and ‘boozy Balkan wedding band’ The Mules. Gogol Bordello are now able to sell out Brixton Academy, while The Mules’s gigs are notable for their uninhibited party atmosphere and displays of carefree oompah dancing from people otherwise fashionable enough to know better.


Whether this becomes a sustained trend remains to be seen. We can’t even be sure if Larrikin Love will be doing it in a year’s time. ‘I’m happy with it as a debut album,’ says Edward. ‘Now I’m looking forward to moving on. We’re already writing music for a film, and hopefully I’m publishing a small anthology of poetry in the new year, when I’ve got time to concentrate.’ But for now it’s fun to head to a rock venue to watch a rock band who don’t use rock music as the template for their sound. Of course, there’s the chance it could become a new form of world fusion prog, which would be even worse than tribal techno. But hey, by that time we’ll all have moved on to the monochord revival.


‘The Freedom Spark’ is released on Transgressive on Monday
[PR]
by scummy | 2007-04-13 13:34

Silent Uproar [ February 8, 2005 ]

ADAM GREEN interview

I was never into the Moldy Peaches growing up, so the solo work of Adam Green is my first introduction to the man. In fact, the first time I heard his wild lyrical style was when I saw him opening for Ben Kweller several years ago. Whether in person or just listening to his albums, the first time you hear Adam Green you aren't quite sure what just hit you. Do you laugh? Do you just wonder how the hell he comes up with these little ditties? One thing is for sure…you remember it.

We recently placed a very long distance call to Germany to talk with Adams about his latest album, Gemstones. As you will see below, he was very eager to talk to us about his music.

Silent Uproar: So what is it about Germany that you like so much? I know you're doing some throwing there, but the word is that you're quite fond of the place.

Adam: Well, I don't know. I mean, you know there's just so much demand for me here is why I'm here the most. Mainly.

SU: So it's just about the people over there being really into your music?

Adam: I mean I just get better offers from here, and I have the decision whether or not I'm going to take it, so I usually just take them up on it when I get a show offer.

Adam: Where are you calling me from?

SU: From Raleigh, NC.

Adam: Yeah, see over there in NC, no one's ever sent me an offer before. I've played The Cat's Cradle before, you know. I've played places in Raleigh, but at the same time, it's like, they're not hunting me down, you know.

SU: Well, why do you think they [Germans] are so into it?

Adam: Well, you know, a few reasons. One of them is just that the words in my songs, a lot of them can't get played on the radio in the states. So, they can play my stuff on the radio here, and they do. And they play my videos on TV a lot and I'm in a lot of magazines. Like this month, I'm on the cover of Rolling Stone here. So, I've just gotten really exposed by the media, and it's not the case in the States that my stuff got out there to so many people and they decided they don't like it. It's not like that. They just have never heard it. And maybe they never will hear it, I don't know.

But I think if it did get exposed by the magazines and TV and radio over in the States, a lot of people might find that they relate to it. I mean, I'm writing it for my neighbors and my friends in some way. I live in New York, in Brooklyn, and in some ways, the Germans are just eavesdropping on that stuff, you know.

SU: Yeah, but do you ever think it really will have that appeal over here because part of the reason things don’t get exposure in the U.S. is that the media outlets are just so filtered through these channels of trying to make only the stuff that's going to be huge and sell millions and millions of copies. It's hard for the smaller bands that maybe have something better to stay to break through that, you know.

Adam: Yeah, I mean I don't know if it will. I hope that it will eventually. But then, over here in Europe, I'm seeing it happen right before my eyes, you know. So, it doesn't seem impossible for it to happen back home.

SU: So what have you learned about yourself in the two years since your last album?

Adam: Uh - you know my latest album was a little over a year and a half ago, I guess. I guess a big difference, most of my new ones [songs] I wrote on tour. When I was recording Friends of Mine, there was nothing going on really. I mean like I had two albums out, and I wasn't on tour for about 7 or 8 months, so I did a few dates with Ben Kweller during that time. But mainly, I just kinda walked around my neighborhood and made up songs, and I had a lot of free time to just dream up this big orchestral album - strings and everything, and that's what Friends of Mine was.

Just like finally a signed deal with my record label. I had been putting off signing a deal with them for a while; just saying, just let me do it one at a time. But financially it made more sense for me to sign a deal at that time so they'd start paying my rent. Besides, what I started doing is I kinda just signed a deal where they'd pay my rent, and then I said, “Can I hire a string arranger?” and “Can I hire the musicians I want to play on this thing?” and they said yeah. So I just went in and recorded Friends of Mine in a real studio, which was the first time I ever got to do that.

Then that was the original plan. I was going to go on tour for Friends of Mine with the string section. But pretty soon, we found out that that wasn't financially feasible after about seven shows. It was too expensive to continue. They said if I wanted to keep on trying that I would have to find a different way to do it. So the next move was to put together a touring band - you know, four guys that were just good players who could pull off playing my music. We were looking for a way to sort of solve this problem of the missing strings part, and we found that Mason, who plays the Werlitzer, you know a Werlitzer, a kind of a 60's keyboard? It's nice cause it's not a synthesizer, it's got these little metal wreaths inside so it makes a sort of a natural sound. It's an electric piano is what it is. So, he plays a lot of the string melodies on that. And then we started touring like that, and I've kind of been just with them ever since, and in a lot of ways I wrote the new album for them. I wasn't thinking about the strings or any of that. I just wrote it for the band to play, and also in a lot of ways I wrote it to play live because I played, like, 120 shows last year.

So, just trying to write stuff that would reach out and grab people on the first listen, so that they could compete with songs from Friends of Mine that they already knew. I started doing these songs with all these twists and turns, rhythmic changes, surprises - all that kind of stuff I got into for that reason. I guess the first one I wrote like that was the song “Gem Stones” and after that stuff like “Over the Sunrise,” “Choke on a Cock.” There were a number of different ones like that on the album - Carolina. I don't know - the thing is we even did try to demo the new album with strings. We did, like, four or five different tracks like that, and I found that it just didn't sound…it sounded too cluttered. It was like I hadn't written the songs with any space or strength. So I guess that is the biggest differences between the albums. I think in a lot of ways it is a continuation of many of the ideas that I started working with Friends of Mine.

SU: It feels like when listening to it, and hearing you describe it too, that it's kind of been a natural progression of you were here starting out, and then you pushed it here a little bit, and then you maybe backed away from that a little bit and went more towards a live feel for it. Or in the sense of writing the songs, there’s just kind of an evolution of going through it.

Adam: Yeah, it's a natural thing for me. I just write in a way that feels comfortable, and that's the most important thing - that I can get on stage and not feel like a jerk. When I'm singing, it's a balance. You know what I mean? Like, I'd feel foolish singing a lot of other people's songs. You know, they're just not real to me. They just don't have any depth. The stuff I make up for me to sing, it's like I feel like it's a real person. It's like how real people are, so I feel comfortable with it.

SU: Well, when it comes to writing the lyrics for a song. Do you write it kind of like a single stream of consciousness, or is it written in parts and then put together?

Adam: A lot of different parts. I always write the words and music at the same time. I write the words while singing, so it's always with the sound in mind to. But then it's always a test to try to find words that are interesting in both an intellectual and an emotional way. A lot of time the song starts out with an emotion, and then it's like there are certain symbols that I attach to that emotion, and that's what becomes the words - whatever symbols I attach to the kind of music, the kind of groove that I'm getting into. I could spend a month on it.

I kind of enjoy just relaxing with a song and allowing myself the time to try out a lot of different possibilities as far as where it goes. What's nice about a song is that you write it from left to right. It's not like a painting. It's like you start at the beginning and you go to the end - at least that's the way I do it. I'm always deciding what comes next, what comes next. And that's why I think it takes a long time cause, especially when you write these songs with twists and stuff, you don't want it to sound too forced. You want it to sound like a surprise. You don't want to sound artsy. I was pretty conscious not to make it sound overly artsy. I wanted the changes to be musical, and I want them to feel smooth but surprising.

SU: Yeah, you still want it to flow but…

Adam: I want the flow; I don't want to kill the flow with a sudden quick decision. So, that, for me, takes time. I don't know if I could do it faster. I suppose I could write a song faster; it's just there's never been a need for me to, and I've enjoyed spending longer on them. I can write about an album a year. There's like two songs of Gem Stones that we left out because they just didn't quite work. They did in my head, but we just couldn't get them to sound like I thought they should sound. Mainly, almost everything I write, we release. It's just that I spend a lot of time editing it.

SU: Do you think it'll always be your style, at least with this Adam Green stuff, to have that feel lyrically? I mean, does that define the music?

Adam: Oh, I don't know. I imagine it could change. I guess in some ways it will change. In some ways, it's like I'm kind of drawing from a similar source of inspiration I was doing when I was writing the words to the Mouldy Peaches, you know. It's just kinda like the stuff that stands out for me, and that's what I'm writing about, just things I'm interested in.

SU: That's cool. Well changing gears a little bit. Tell me about the Adam Green magazine. What's that all about?

Adam: Yeah, it started out just as a magazine. I would just put it out myself - three different issues - at a certain point I had three of them out. They were different. Some of them were like carrying a pocket notebook. I've been carrying around a notebook in my pocket for years. Just writing down one-liners. Just stuff I didn't want to forget. So the first magazine was sort of like a collection of one-liners. Just a long list of them. Like eight pages. And the second one, I typed for, like, an hour a day for ten days as fast as I could, and then edited it down to something much shorter than that. Then the third one was a poem that I wrote on tour, and at some point, this publisher in Germany bought all three issues, and they asked if I would be interested in putting it out in a book form, and that's kinda what happened. I just met with them in Frankfort and they're very highbrow publishers. They were more than qualified to put it out. They asked me if I wanted to do the book. So, I said sure. I even gave them some additional material. Kind of like a long poem that I wrote at my apartment in Brooklyn over a few weeks. Now it's come out - it's also bilingual. They got a translator to translate it, so the first part is my original English text, and the second part is the German text.

SU: So is it always meant as a commercial thing or is it just something that you decided to do, and it's kind of turned into that?

Adam: Well, I don't know. I guess it's a thing I did to organize my thoughts. I guess I thought that people would maybe relate to it in some way. I guess it's just that the only way I've ever really made any kind of money in my life is by doing artwork, so it was kind of natural for me to take stuff I thought people would find entertaining in some way and compile it into something and put it into a book like that.

When I started out, it wasn't like I was making money at it. Every magazine was a dollar to buy. We sold a lot of copies, but it was pretty much the cost of printing it. It was more just a way to communicate with people, and I guess the way I'm running it is so that I get to pay my rent and stuff.

SU: I didn't mean it as a negative thing. It’s just in reading around things, I had seen some comments from people just talking about how you'd gotten more popular, and one of the things they sited was this - that it went from kinda this small thing, and now it's going to be published, and blah, blah, blah.

Adam: Well, you know, it's true - I mean I always had in my mind that those magazines could be a book because, like I said, they're very concise. I really pared it down. It's not like some journal or something. You know what I mean? It's really edited down stuff. I thought they could be like chapters in a book. But I didn't expect that it was going to be a book so soon. That just fell into my lap, you know, and you’d have to be retarded not to sign that book deal and put out the book that you have been writing that someone wants to put out. People are just totally insane, or just too young to understand that things work.

SU: Well, as far as art for the albums, do you do all the art work for the albums?

Adam: Yeah, well the Mouldy Peaches one and my first one, yeah - just on a copying machine. And then with Friends of Mine, I sat down with my buddy at the computer, and we kind of worked on it together. I had an idea to use that picture and to make it yellow and to make a band. He has a good sense of design. He made it much better than probably I would have made it if I had been at the computer. He really knew what he was doing. And with Gem Stones, yeah sure, I picked out this picture, and what I did was - it's kind of unfortunate because in the States it's not going to come out how it's coming out here with this sparkly paper. Yeah, over here in Europe, it's coming out like - I tore a sample off a Colgate Toothpaste container, and I got the record label to find the actual company that makes it, and they bought like a million roles of this paper, and they printed my album cover on this kind of holographic paper. It looks really cool. And they wouldn't let me do it in the United States because they said I don't sell enough units.

SU: That's really cool.

Adam: It's too expensive.

SU: Well, do you consider the art an important element of the presentation of yourself as a musician?

Adam: Yeah, sure, absolutely. Because I myself am really into visual art. I'm having an art show in Sweden in a month - it's 100 of my drawings. When I was younger, I thought I was going to go into that. I guess when I'm working on an album, I'm always thinking like, “If this was on a CD, what would the CD look like?” - and that's kind of what it ends up being.

SU: Well what, or who, was it that made you decide you wanted to be a musician?

Adam: Well, when I was younger I got home-schooled by my Mom and older brother. My brother taught me how to play different types of classical instruments like piano, trumpet, tuba, violin. I played sheet music. And when I was twelve, I got a guitar, and I was interested in guitar because you could make sounds on it. I don't know. I guess the stuff that I grew up listening to is not anything that would surprise you. It was just the pop music of that time, like MC Hammer, Heavy D and the Boys. It was C and C Music Factory, Chris Cross. I just grew up with things like the top ten. You know, Brian Adams. I don't know. Just like, whatever. I guess I just tried to write rap songs and tried to write pop songs. One of the first shows I ever saw was The Grateful Dead. We went to see them with some of my friends and his dad. I was really surprised by how many different ages of people were there. From kids like us, like 12-year-olds, to 60-year-olds. And when Jerry Garcia came out on stage in this big purple shirt, people went fucking ape shit, you know? The biggest star I had ever seen in my life. People couldn't believe that he was real. That was like a mile away. It was a giant stadium or something. And, you like just saw this little purple dot freaking out. So, I guess, stuff like that.

SU: I know you've done at least one Mouldy Peaches gig recently. Are there any plans to make that more regular?

Adam: I don't think so. I mean, something would have to change for us to do another show. That show was for charity. That's different. We were all into that. That was just to help out the store. It was one of the first stores to carry our record that had a flood, and the merchandise was damaged, and they needed help paying the rent, and they asked us, and we said OK. And that was fun. But there'd have to be new songs. We'd have to write new songs together and to write new songs together, we'd have to hang out all the time like when we were young. I'm on tour most of year and so is Kim (?). We used to pretty much live at the same house where she stayed on my couch. We used to wake up all the time and eat breakfast together and eat dinner together and then go to sleep and then wake up the next day, you know what I mean? And we found part of our relationship like that. Like part of what we did was our routine. And that would have to come back for us to do something again.

SU: So, what lies in the future for you?

Adam: Maybe a nursing home scenario. A nursing home scenario might suit a Mouldy Peaches reunion.

SU: Are there any other projects you're working on or new things coming up other than touring for this record?

Adam: I hope to make another record by the end of the year. It's pretty good writing on tour. We've been playing a lot of the new songs on this tour. I don't really know what lies ahead for me. I guess I'm kinda just living one month at a time. I mean, I'm missing home right now, so I don't know.

SU: Are you happy where you are as a musician? I mean, would you still like to achieve more or are you pretty content with where you are right now?

Adam: I guess musically. Music is more like my hobby, you know. I feel like in some ways like I'm more like a fortunate kind of amateur that got exposed by all this media. I mean, I'd love to think of writing some really good songs in the future.

SU: Well, I guess I mean more like in terms of popularity or fame, or whatever you want to call it. Just that, I'm sure you'd want to keep making music throughout your life, but the level of success you've had as far as that - are you still looking for more? Do you think there's still room to go or are you happy kinda being somewhere in the middle of has attention but not totally?

Adam: I don't really know. It's different. Like now all of sudden this morning I awoke in Germany. You know, you get recognized in the hotel lobby, and I'm on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine at the newsstand, and it's a different world. Of course, there's room to grow. I mean, I guess that could happen in every country if I wanted to or if I worked hard at it. I don't know. I guess part of me just kinda doesn't really want to be a…

SU: Go ahead and say it - Rock Star.

Adam: Yeah, or even just like an indie rock star or something. I just want to continue to be... I don't think of myself like that. I'm just Adam. Sometimes I draw pictures, and then I'm, like, a drawing pictures person. And then sometimes I'm, like, singing, and I'm a singer I guess. But, I don't really think of myself as…. You know, just because music's my bread and butter, I don't really know what to think about it.
[PR]
by scummy | 2007-04-13 13:18

Time Out London (22/01/2007)

Jamie T interview
Chris Parkin, Mon Jan 22

Bass-slinging patois punk Jamie T samples Betjeman and turns his panic attacks into a positive. Time Out raises a glass

‘This is like being at school or something,’ yawns Jamie Treays, pen and paper in hand. Oh dear. It would appear that our plan to sit the 20-year-old bass-slinger through John Betjeman’s ode to suburbia, ‘Metro Land’, has backfired. Fresh from an early morning session for Radio 4’s ‘Loose Ends’, he arrives at the Sir John Soane's Museum for a photoshoot, pours a pre-noon beer down the drain and whispers his way around the resplendent Victorian building (‘If I had my bag on me, I’d nab half of this stuff,’ he cackles). Then it’s off to a basement to watch the DVD, part of a recent Betjeman exhibition that the people at Sir John Soane's have kindly unearthed for us. Sadly, a restless Treays grumbles that ‘it’s one of the most boring things I’ve ever seen.’

It’s a surprise because Treays is a Betjeman fan (‘I’m interested in the way he talks about things. It’s quite different to what I’m used to. He talks about countryside tea parties and shit’). His great-aunt left him the famous Betjeman record ‘Banana Blush’ in her will, from which he sampled ‘The Cockney Amorist’ for his booze anthem ‘Sheila’. Then, after Time Out included that song in our ‘50 London Songs’ issue a fan sent him a Betjeman book. Still, turning off the DVD, it’s off to the cramped Seven Stars boozer – pubs, of course, being Treays’ leisure-time venues of choice – to talk about some of the similarities between him and Betjeman that people have been noticing, even if Treays himself hasn’t.

Far from suggesting that Jamie T is the next poet laureate, his poignant tales of modern suburbia do point to a shared worldview with Betjeman that belies Treays’ guffaws at the late poet’s more sentimental work. One of the poet’s great achievements was to celebrate the old, obscure and overlooked London – something that Treays himself is fond of doing. From the suburbs (Northolt and Wimbledon) and the scrapes he and his bored friends get into, to London’s forgotten buildings, it’s all there in his life-affirming debut, which paints a vibrant, Stella-lubed picture of the capital.

‘I complain about London sometimes, but at the same time I love the place, man. I like old listed buildings and shit. If you stop looking at some of the stuff in the sense of, “Oh, it’s old,” and start thinking: Why the fuck would you ever spend the time to do something up in that manner, it really gets you going. It’s crazy, over-the-top shit, man. It annoys me when they get rid of stuff. I heard they’re knocking down Elephant & Castle and that kind of made me sad. It’s proper old, ’70s London.’

His panic attacks, which have inspired Treays to give both his album and his riotous club night the name ‘Panic Prevention’, have also come in for the same kind of weary optimism with which Betjeman treated his subjects. It was once said that depression was to Betjeman what daffodils were to Wordsworth.

‘I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m happy having it,’ says Treays. ‘It’s part of who I am. When I get anxious, I have problems, like thinking I’m going to bite my tongue off or finding it hard to walk. Simple things become incredibly hard. I get problems with fainting, confusion, not being able to use my hands properly. I’ve had it for the last five years, although I think I’ve had a bit of it all of my life. But, y’know, everyone’s a bit fucked up.’

With the sort of positive thinking that could seriously help out My Chemical Romance, he’s an idealist who holds little stock with the gloom mongers at the Daily Mail who say that today’s youth are coalescing, en masse, into a lawless mob fuelled by binge sex and yob drinking. Sure, drinking, drugs and pulling might be a big part of Jamie’s life, but so has it always been for a demographic that forever gets a raw deal.

Says Treays: ‘When you’re young you don’t sit around thinking: Am I worth something? You make yourself worth something. Young people are always pushing things forward. Look at the beat and hippy generations. At the time everybody thought: Look at those fuck-ups, taking drugs and all that. Now half of them are doctors, solicitors, people who actually shape what’s going on in the world. It’s easy to tag kids, but you don’t know what they’re going to become.’

Even after the ‘Big Brother’ race row, he’s refusing to believe that the wheels have fallen off the multiculturalism wagon. He acknowledges that London isn’t quite Utopia City, but, confidently states that ‘we’re still one of the most multicultural cities in the world.’ And it’s something he’s used to his advantage, exploring the spread of cultures and music that exists in the capital. Like the rest of today’s web-reared, iPod-listening youth, he’s part of a growing non-tribe into every kind of sound. He’s been into reggae and Afrobeat, the energetic bounce of drum ’n’ bass, punk’s give-a-fuck attitude, hip hop… and on it goes. It manifests itself on his debut in the skanking rhythms, scratchy, full-blooded strumming, ‘real life’ skits and, most notably, his patois-infused vocals.

‘I don’t do it on purpose, it just came with the music I listened to,’ he says. ‘It does make it easier to rhyme certain words, though. Some people say, “You can’t do that”, but I don’t give a shit. I’m not trying to be Jamaican, y’know? Some of my favourite tunes come with that patois thing, like everything on ‘The Harder They Come’. I didn’t even realise I did it until people kept bringing it up. Then I noticed on ‘So Lonely Was The Ballad’ that I go: “Girls singing on the bus/Fellas kicking up a fuss/Crying outside but they’re still looking dangRUSS.” It was like: Ah, now I understand.’

It’s not gone unnoticed by fellow reggae enthusiasts, Clash legend Paul Simonon and Damon Albarn. They invited him to support The Good, The Bad And The Queen last year, after which Albarn took Treays to Mali for what he calls a ‘real eye-opener’. Returning with plenty of
new ideas he’s itching to get writing again, but for now he’s got his debut album to tour and a sold-out gig at the Astoria on Thursday. We, here at Time Out, might prefer the unaccompanied Jamie T solo experience, which allows all his nuances and wit to breath, but this show with his full band, The Selfish Sons, still promises to be a right old knees-up – providing he contains his bowel movements.

‘To be honest, I’m shitting myself. It’s either going to feel really intimate or far too big. I know that people do like me playing solo but you get lonely, especially on bigger stages. Not long ago I was playing 800-capacity venues as a support act and I was finding it hard to shut people up. So I got a band together ’cos I want to dance and run about like an arse.’

With that, he sinks his pint and heads off to meet his bandmates for a rehearsal – he’s already an hour late. Before he goes, though, he promises to give ‘Metro Land’ another go and damns his impatience. ‘It’s been too manic of late,’ he says, ‘I can’t concentrate.’ Life for Jamie T is about to get even more manic, so it could be quite a while before he gets around to it.
[PR]
by scummy | 2007-04-13 00:46

Pitchfork Feature: Interview (04-02-07) <Part 2>

Pitchfork: Are you comfortable and pleased with the level of celebrity that you have now? You seem like you get to engage with people professionally whom you want to deal with; you're away from England's tabloid culture; you're on Rough Trade. You seem to be settled.

Jarvis Cocker: I'm pretty pleased at the moment, yeah. Obviously, when I released the record I was nervous, and I didn't know how people would take it, what they would think of it. But yeah, I have to say that I've played concerts and I felt comfortable performing. I haven't felt like a fake or something. And I felt involved in singing-- cause I didn't know whether I'd still want to twitch about on stage, and unfortunately I do. And stuff like getting the Meltdown or whatever, I'm very excited about doing that.

Pitchfork: You've certainly taken to these curatorial roles. Even your last Pulp show was that sort of event, wasn't it?

Jarvis Cocker: Yeah, it was. We got the chance to put quite a few bands on up in Sheffield in what used to be a big steel factory. There are these kind of forces at play in the world today which are kind of sucking the juice out of some aspects of culture, but there's still a lot of good stuff going on. And it's a case of digging it out and creating scenes where that stuff can be presented in a way that you don't feel like you're being ripped off or something. And that interests me a lot.

Pitchfork: These exterior forces definitely color your record, do you feel like it's more of a western thing or just a UK/U.S. thing? Do you feel the same sort of cultural negativity in Paris?

Jarvis Cocker: It's weird, France is different, because they have this kind of rule where they're very protective of their own culture, and on the radio for instance, at least 40% of the music played has to be French. You can think, "Now that sounds quite a noble idea," but actually in practice, it's terrible because the radio is shit.

So I don't know what the answer is. But I don't think it's rampant commercialization. But then again, I don't think some kind of protectionist thing is the answer, either. So what the fuck is the answer? I don't know what I'm talking about, do I? We're going to have to have lots of very lively debates about this.

Pitchfork: Does it feel like it's getting worse? I was in England recently, and it's always been situated between America and the continent, and it feels kind of like it's culturally lurching more toward America and away from Europe in a sense.

Jarvis Cocker: Yeah, it's weird, I mean obviously it's physically nearer to Europe. Don't get me wrong: I'm not anti-American. I mean, obviously the administration that's in charge at the moment is pretty dire. I suppose some of that was on my mind when I did my record, because my son was born about a week before the Iraq war kicked of. I was excited to have a kid, and then kind of worried that he probably wasn't going to live very long, like everybody else.

Pitchfork: You said you've been happier now, but the record seems, maybe because of these issues, a little angrier in some ways than some of the other records. And not just toward the west in general, but also the class issues you've always addressed: Ten years ago you wanted to sleep with someone's wife as an act of revenge, and now there's murder creeping up in a few songs.

Jarvis Cocker: I don't know if it's angrier. Well, you could take a song like "Cunts Are Still Running the World": I believe that statement. But I also think-- when I first came up with that title, I kind of laughed and said to myself, "Well there's no way I can write a song with that title. It's too stupid." But then in a way, that became a challenge to actually finish the song. So there's humor in that song as well. I don't know, because I generally don't like people that write songs that attempt to deal with social issues, you know, and so I'm kind of horrified that I do it. But then again, if you feel strongly about something, you've got to say it, haven't you? And I hope that song at least has the saving grace of being entertaining by swearing a lot. But at least I' not there with my acoustic guitar playing a ballad. I don't know, too many people bland out when they get older. Not just artists, but people in general. I think that's bad.

Pitchfork: You recently did a series of Pulp reissues. Did you enjoy the process of combing over the past in such detail?

Jarvis Cocker: Yeah, it was more pleasurable than I thought it would be. I went and sifted through a lot of stuff that was up in my loft. Because I knew they wanted to do some bonus discs, and they were going to put all these shit remixes on, and I just thought, "Who wants to listen to a dance remix from 1996"? So I went and found some demos, and I kind of expected-- I thought, "Well if we didn't release them at the time, they must be shit." But I was actually quite pleasantly surprised. I mean, some of the songs weren't properly fully formed and stuff, but I thought they were interesting enough to let people hear. I thought it would be better for people to hear that than some bad attempt at a hi-NRG mix of "Disco 2000".

And I thought, I wasn't ashamed-- I mean, some of the songs are stupid, like there's a song off the Different Class disc called "Catcliffe Shakedown", which is just ridiculous. It goes on for about seven minutes, and it's got about seven different bits of music, and they're all really stupid. But it's got something about it. Kind of interesting. So I was pleasantly surprised, because I generally don't listen to old stuff. You spend so much time recording something and then performing it. I'd rather suck off a dog's knob than listen to one of my own records.

The biggest surprise that I got was a track that was on the bonus disc of This Is Hardcore, which I think was the only studio outtake we've ever had, which was a song that we just abandoned called "It's a Dirty World". And when I listened to that, I realized that I must have been pretty fucked up at that time, because it's better than about six songs that actually ended up on This Is Hardcore. So that was the biggest surprise, really. I thought it was a really good song.
Pitchfork: Do you have any plans to do a similar reissue of We Love Life?

Jarvis Cocker: We could do quite a good one of We Love Life. There were loads of songs that never went onto that record.

We haven't got any outtakes of the stuff we did with Scott Walker, but there were songs we did-- because we had abandoned doing it with [producer] Chris Thomas before then, and we also tried some things with other producers-- so there's quite a lot of stuff. It might see the light of day one day.

Pitchfork: Is that whole Pulp period of you career completely closed off? You still work with [bassist] Steve [Mackey]...

Jarvis Cocker: Yeah, I mean, I saw Nick [Banks] the other day, the drummer, he's in another band up in Sheffield. And I saw [keyboardist] Candida [Doyle]-- she's even played on stage with me a couple of times. The only person I really haven't seen is [guitarist] Mark Webber, but then he never goes out of the house, so it's not surprising. I mean, Steve lives only about 250 yards away from his house, and he never sees him. But I mean, we're all still friends and stuff, so if we all suddenly have some weird, collective hysteria, we could play together again. But I'm certainly not planning it at the moment.

Pitchfork: Sheffield's had quite a bit of attention lately with the Arctic Monkeys and Long Blondes, both of which consider Pulp a kind of a touchstone. How does that feel to be a statesman figure in a way?

Jarvis Cocker: Oh dear, you make me sound like I'm about 150 years old. Well, I'm glad that Sheffield's got some attention. I mean just because somebody's in Sheffield doesn't mean it's good. I think the Arctic Monkeys are pretty good, I heard the new track by them ["Brianstorm"] the other day, which I liked. The Long Blondes, I can't listen to more than about three songs. They're nice people, but there's just something about the frequency of their voice. In a way it reminds me of Barbara Streisand. You know how Barbara Streisand obviously has technically got a great voice, but she's a master of the held note, so you've got a note that will last about eight seconds, and it fucking drives me insane. And it makes you feel out of breath as well. And somehow [Long Blondes singer] Kate [Jackson] seems a little bit like that. There are some good songs on that record, but I can't listen to the whole album.

There's a group called Little Man Tate, who are an absolute pile of shit.

Pitchfork: When you do the Meltdown Festival, what sort of ideas do you want to explore? Any specifics when it comes to-- like you said, audience participation?

Jarvis Cocker: I just want to jumble things up a bit. And, yeah, get people involved-- and a wide range of people as well. I don't want it just to be the people who normally go to the South Bank, who are theatergoers or whatever. I think life is more interesting when everybody's jumbled up together. When people separate out into cliques and things, it's okay, but it's a bit limiting. You can always learn things from other people. This is my theory, anyway.

Pitchfork: You're testing a lot of theories these days.

Jarvis Cocker: One of them's going to come true one day, and I'm going to make a breakthrough.

Pitchfork: Right, all you need is one, and then you're a genius.

Jarvis Cocker: And then my name will live forever.

Pitchfork: Do you have any other outlets, besides the Observer thing and Meltdown, to explore these ideas about how music is changing within the fabric of the cultural landscape?

Jarvis Cocker: I don't know. I might just let it lie after that. I don't know what I'll do. I had an idea for a book the other day. It's brilliant. I can't tell you though, because otherwise somebody else will nick it. But I might try and do that after I finish doing the touring for this record.

Pitchfork: Do you have other outside music projects that you're working on at the same time?

Jarvis Cocker: I haven't got plans, but I never really planned any of those other ones. It was just people approached me, so if somebody interesting comes and asks very politely, I might have a go.

Pitchfork: Now that you're writing again, are you going to try to work on another record after the promotional cycle of this one?

Jarvis Cocker: I'd like to. We're going to rehearse, and I've got this scheme that I'm going to write a couple of new songs and maybe we could rehearse them, and maybe we could play them in Australia and then in America. You know, just to keep going with it rather than doing this thing where you do a record and then wait a while until you do another one. So I'll just have to see how it goes, but in theory that's what I'd like to do, yeah. As I say, I did a bit of soul searching, which lasted about three seconds, about whether to carry on doing it, and once you've decided to carry on writing and performing, you may as well not waste any time and keep on with it. Because you know Pulp have always been a sluggish band, and I guess that's because I'm a sluggish character; I'm a bit slow. For some reason I find it hard to work quickly, and it's the one major regret that I've got, that for a band that's existed for so long, and for someone who's been involved with it for so long, our actual recorded output is pretty dire really, as in, there's not that much of it.

Pitchfork: Well, you've said you can't just turn on the creativity, but it seemed like the one moment in your career when you had to-- after "Common People" was a hit and you still had yet to write most of Different Class-- you rose to the challenge of being in the spotlight, and having to write knowing that you're going to have an audience. Were you conscious of that? Did it feel after more than 15 years of plugging away that this was a make-or-break moment?

Jarvis Cocker: Yeah, very much so. The knowledge of that really affected the way that record turned out and the kind of songs that went on it. I was very excited, you know. I'd been waiting for my moment. I didn't want it to slip away. So we did capitalize on that. And I suppose, you know, this record I've just done was kind of exploratory in a way, because I didn't really know what people would make of it. I feel like I've got a bit of a better handle on what people make of it now. And from playing it live, I feel I've got a vague idea of what I'd like to do next. But I haven't done it yet, so it's pretty hard to talk about it, I suppose.

Sorry, I've been eating a lot of nuts during that.

Pitchfork: I was worried it had been 45 minutes of nothing but chocolate.

Jarvis Cocker: No, I've moved on to almonds. Have you been feeling sick through the whole interview then, thinking he's laid there...

Pitchfork: Right, you're on the couch with bon bons or a box of Milk Tray talking about your sluggish output.

Jarvis Cocker: No, I was eating nuts...I'll dispel that unpleasant image from your mind.
[PR]
by scummy | 2007-04-13 00:30

Pitchfork Feature: Interview (04-02-07) <Part 1>

Interview: Jarvis Cocker
Interview by Scott Plagenhoef

For a brief moment in 1995, a number of UK youths incredibly drew battle lines over the question "Blur or Oasis?" One week that August, Damon Albarn and the Gallagher Brothers' war of words spilled over into a race for No. 1 between two of their weakest singles-- "Country House" and "Roll With It". The UK music press dressed it up as class warfare and it's still considered the Britpop tipping point, the moment when it went from the domain of the weeklies to becoming a fixture on datytime radio and in the mainstream press.

The correct answer to the above question, however, should have been "Pulp." And it was their 1995 Glastonbury performance-- they slotted in as late headline replacements for the shell of a band formerly known as the Stone Roses-- that, with hindsight, serves as the peak of Britpop. Jarvis Cocker had formed Pulp in 1978, when he was 15 years old. After plugging away at a musical career long after most sensible people may have stopped, around the start of the 90s he hit upon the right combination of players and developed the low-rent sex god personna that carried him throughout the rest of the decade. When he stepped on stage at Glastonbury, his anthemic "Common People"-- one of the only moments of real wit, vitriol, and anger among the earnest back-patting of Britpop-- had made his band a household name, and that performance, at which they aired for the first time much of their late 1995 release Different Class, made them stars.

Almost ever since Cocker has fled the stardom he for so many years sorely desired. After the release of Pulp's 1997 hangover record This Is Hardcore and the band's highly underrated, Scott Walker-produced swan song We Love Life, Cocker stepped into a prolonged semi-retirement. He's since married, moved to Paris, and became a father, ocassionally surfacing as a songwriter or guest vocalist on a wide range of projects, including collaborations with Air, Richard Hawley, and Charlotte Gainsbourg. He's appeared in a Harry Potter film alongside members of Radiohead, contributed to documentaries about Walker, Leonard Cohen, and Britpop, offered recordings for compilations of pirate songs and children's music, and oversaw the expanded reissues of three of his former band's albums. Earlier this year he guest edited the Observer Music Monthly, organizing a panel to determine whether "music still matter[s]" and later this year he'll serve as curator of London's Meltdown Festival, a task that in the past has been filled by such fellow iconoclasts as Walker, Nick Cave, David Bowie, Morrissey, John Peel, and Lee Perry. It has even been suggested that Cocker would have been the one person capable of carrying on the legacy of Peel himself.

In short, he's been free to indulge in any number of opportunities that present themselves, picking and choosing projects based on the personal satisfaction they'd bring rather than financial gain or a need for the spotlight. That changed late last year when Cocker issued his first solo album, simply titled Jarvis. Even then, Cocker has managed to do his own thing, promoting it with a series of podcasts that found him reading Icelandic folktales and teasing it with the combative yet lovely (and all too truthful) single "Cunts Are Still Running the World". The album finds Cocker in dark comic mode and it rewards patient listeners with an exquisite set of songs on its second side, most notably "Big Julie", "Quantum Theory", and "Running the World", included as a bonus track with a truncated title.

As Cocker prepares to issue the album in the U.S. on Rough Trade-- and make his first American concert appearances in a decade-- we sat down with the legendary singer and songwriter to discuss his new solo album, the role of music in contemporary culture, and the past and future of Pulp.

Pitchfork: You enjoyed a few years of being a working musician and songwriter rather than a public figure and having to go through this promotional cycle. Have you enjoyed swinging back into this process, having your name in lights and on a record?

Jarvis Cocker: Because I haven't done it for a while, I've been able to kind of appreciate it. But I've been leading quite a domestic existence for the past four years. To think of going out on tour and stuff like that actually seems quite a good laugh; compared to child care, it's easy. So it's been interesting, you know, like, a couple years ago I went to the Brit Awards for the first time in 11 years, and--

Pitchfork: They didn't invite you back right away I guess?

Jarvis Cocker: No, but, it's just kind of-- sorry, I'm eating a bit of chocolate now, keeping the blood-sugar levels up. Is that a big craze in America?

Pitchfork: Chocolate?

Jarvis Cocker: No, people in England have developed this massive obsession with blood-sugar levels.

Pitchfork: No, we're still counting carbs.

Jarvis Cocker: Right, in the pharmacy in England you can buy these kind of portable gauge things, which you can, at any given point during the day you can monitor your blood-sugar level, and decide whether, you know, you're running low or something like that.

Pitchfork: But you're living now in Paris. Are you spending a lot of time going back and forth between France and England?

Jarvis Cocker: Yeah, I travel backwards and forwards quite a lot. I live very near to the train station. I'm kind of playing at being an expatriate, I suppose. But anyway, to return to your question, yeah, so to go to a big awards ceremony after such a long time, you know, it was kind of funny. I could appreciate it as a bit of a laugh. But I'm glad that I'm signed to Rough Trade now, and I'm not signed to a major record label. Because that seems a bit more kind of friendly and human. That kind of corporate side of the music business, I haven't missed that at all. And it reminded me a bit, 'cause towards the end of it when they all got drunk and took their jackets off and were like dancing around, and they just looked like a lot of stockbrokers together having a party. It didn't feel like a creative atmosphere, I'll put it that way.

Pitchfork: What made you begin recording again?

Jarvis Cocker: I just realized that I still had the compulsion and the urge to do it, I suppose. I'd been in Pulp for about 25 years-- as man and boy-- and kind of knew I was going to give that a rest. And I thought, "Well maybe you should just stop doing music and do something kind of useful with your life." Then apart from the fact that I haven't got any other skills, I realized that I actually missed it.

It was almost like as soon as I'd said that to myself, that I was maybe going to retire, then something subconsciously triggered and said, "Haha, no you're not." And I started having lots of ideas for songs, so I got on with it.

Pitchfork: In those years that you were picking and choosing projects to work on, you felt like you were in a state of retirement? Because you'd never really stopped writing then.

Jarvis Cocker: No it's true, but I was kind of, I wasn't in retirement. I was looking after my son quite a lot as well, so it was like in the back of my mind, I suppose I just had to pause to kind of check myself out, check my motives, and check whether I wanted to do it. And also to live a bit of a normal life, because I've always felt that, well the way that I work anyway, my stuff has to be kind of a byproduct of a life, because if anything I suppose it's my attempt to make sense of my life-- the only attempt I make. So you have to have a life to write about. And so I just let the songs come when they were ready, really. I didn't sit there strumming an acoustic guitar saying, "Yes, I will be creative." Often, a lot of the songs weren't even written on an instrument; I just kind of came up with some words in my head and hummed a tune, and then worked out the musical bits later. So they did seem to come more as a kind of natural byproduct, you know, like a snail leaving its trail on the ground.

Pitchfork: And you just kind of picked up the bits you liked?

Jarvis Cocker: I picked up all the horrible, silvery snot, yes.

Pitchfork: Despite saying music isn't useful, when you moderated the Observer Music Monthly roundtable, you said you were driven by the suspicion that music isn't as central to peoples' lives as it once was. Perhaps the act of listening to music is more passive now, and it's not the youth or pop culture force it once was. You kind of presented those ideas but let others comment on them: Were you coming at that agreeing with those thoughts?

Jarvis Cocker: It was just a question that had been on my mind a lot at that particular time, because there seems to be a contradiction in the fact that there's more music around and more channels or downloading music or more channels on TV, and yet at the same time, in some ways it doesn't seem to be as vital as it once was. It seems to be just another entertainment option or lifestyle enhancement aid or something. And it's something that I've been thinking about. I just got given the curatorship of this Meltdown Festival in London, where I can kind of program all the music and art stuff at the South Bank for eight days, and I think it's something that I'll probably continue investigating a bit there.

Because culture shouldn't be a pacifying thing. It shouldn't be something that you just passively accept. I think it should be something that, in some ways, is quite disruptive-- makes you think and question things, and actually sparks debate. And a lot of the time now, people use culture and music and films and stuff in the same ways you use them on kids. If kids are driving you mad and chucking stuff around the house, you put a Disney CD or DVD on, and then they shut up and watch it, and you get some peace. I've done it. I feel guilty about it sometimes, but I do it. And I think that kind of thing, in some ways, has moved into adult culture as well. In a way, if you're watching a film on DVD, the time passes, and-- do you know what I mean?-- there's a bit too much just letting things wash over you rather than actually engaging with what you're watching, or what you're listening to.

That was the point of having that debate, because I don't know the answers, and I still don't know the answers, and I'll try and do further investigation. At the Meltdown I want to have as many events that involve some level of participation from the audience as possible. Because I do want to have that feeling that people are actively involved in something, rather than just consuming something. I suppose that's what it comes down to, because it's such a dominant capitalist society now, everything becomes a consumer product. And I don't think that's really appropriate to the creative arts, really.

Pitchfork: Does any fault lie with the musicians? Are there not enough people doing something that demands more attention or is more disruptive?

Jarvis Cocker: There are people who are doing it. I don't want to be like the prophet of doom, but I'm trying to look at a bigger picture of things, I suppose. But I think that's the way it works now: People do things, but they do it in a very underground way. That's also a question as to whether a counterculture or an underground culture can survive in this kind of climate where things are pounced on so quickly, because people are kind of employed to go out and look for new trends in order to identify a new demographic that you can then pitch products to. And it's that wave of people having something that they can feel they own themselves, that they've invented themselves, that isn't something that-- yeah, it's the difference between being a creator or a participant, or just a consumer I guess.

Pitchfork: Do you think that the internet has had a bad effect on that? That it's so easy for people to sort of browse...

Jarvis Cocker: Yeah, but still it's more-- going on the internet you still have to decide where to go. It's not like switching on the TV and just letting it come out on you.

Pitchfork: No, but you can find out everything you want to know about, say, you, in a matter of seconds with very little need to hunt, or talk with anyone, or investigate. That kind of hunting that you used to have to do to find out about an artist, the whole process is so accelerated, that it seems maybe there's a little less magic to it.

Jarvis Cocker: Maybe, yeah, I mean it's like that thing with, you know, now you can get lots of songs on the internet that at one time you'd probably have to search through record shops for years and years before you found a copy of a certain record, and now you can probably Limewire it in about a minute. But you know, in the end, I think it's better that things are accessible, because sometimes things just get valued because they're rare. And when it's made more available then things get judged more on whether it's any good or not, and not the fact that, "there was only one pressing of this record of 300 copies in Bulgaria in 1956, therefore it must be good."

Pitchfork: Is the [2000] Meltdown Festival where you met Scott Walker?

Jarvis Cocker: That's right, yeah.

Pitchfork: During the recording of We Love Life did you have conversations with him about the act or the decision of stepping away from fame, of not being a pop personality, disengaging with the idea of wanting to be a celebrity?

Jarvis Cocker: Not at the time. I've discussed that a little bit with him since. I think there's a point where-- we live in an age where people are kind of a bit obsessed with celebrity and stuff. You can't help but be curious about it. And there are some quite funny things about getting famous and stuff, but I think there comes a point where you have to think to yourself, "Well, am I doing this because I want to go to a party and meet Britney Spears? Or am I doing it because I want to create something that excites me?" And that's what he talked about in a way, that he just-- you can kind of experience that fame thing for a bit, but eventually you have to decide why you're doing something. Are you going for the Duran Duran lifestyle, in which case fair enough, do it, or are you trying to create something a bit more than that? I don't think that necessarily means you have to become Mr. Serious, Mr. Every-Word-I-Say-Is-the-Truth or whatever, but you do have to check your motives, I think.
[PR]
by scummy | 2007-04-13 00:27

Pitchfork Feature: Interview (03-19-07) <Part 2>

Pitchfork: You're all extremely well respected musicians. Is it unique to be able to take criticism from each other, or is that just necessary. Tony, when Damon turns around and yells to keep on time, is there ever an impulse to say, "listen kid"...

Allen: Oh, no no no. [Allen looks hurt.] If such a thing happens, I'm not gonna take it on him like that. I would never because if he was like that, we would never be playing together in the first place. I must respect him, because two captains can never be in one ship. There must be one captain leading the boat, so that the boat can reach its destination. We must all drop our egos at the door.

Pitchfork: That seems to be difficult for other musicians:

Allen: It's hard, yes. I mean the way I look at it: Damon could be my son, but he has something there. And you always have to respect that, understand? I don't care if Damon shouts on stage [<[>laughs]. I would take it to be part of the show.

Pitchfork: Simon, you've played with some, well, very strong personalities and seem to be able to fit in comfortably everywhere. What's the secret to dealing with them?

Tong: I don't know. I just see that as being an advantage of being a musician, really, to work with people who aren't necessarily leading things, but who have a strong idea of what they want to do. I'm a musician and that's what I need. I need to feel like I'm in a venue or a project where I can express myself and express my feeling., where people aren't scared of that.

Pitchfork: Damon, was it more difficult than it has been in the past being in a leadership position? Given that there are so many people in this band that you admire?

Albarn: I'm not the leader. I don't really call the shots. We all just hang out. I call shots, but not the shots. I don't think it's possible for one person in this kind of group to call all the shots. [Danger Mouse] tried, but he learned his lesson.

Pitchfork: What's your comfort level now in terms of songwriting? Do you still get nervous about presenting songs?

Albarn: No, I mean I know when one isn't working. I'm the first person to say, "This is shit, stop it." It was a nightmare when I was a kid though, playing my stuff in front of the band. To test run clever kids like [Blur's] Graham [Coxon] and Alex [James]. It was awful, I'd be so nervous. And there would be this silence. But I know when its good and when its shit.

Pitchfork: The writing on this record felt like a return to what you were doing on Parklife and Modern Life Is Rubbish. Was there apprehension about that?

Albarn: I think I know why I'm doing it this time. I just had a feeling why I was doing it the last time.

Pitchfork: What's the difference?

Albarn: With all the trouble around the world I feel very protective of my own culture. I love our culture so much that you have to stay back at home, not always out. Life is not one big nightclub-- it's a bit of that but its other things as well. For me the sort of anti-exotism in its rawer sense was very compelling subject matter.

I love stuff about my city-- doesn't anyone? Great literature, great art, about your city, it's fantastic. You can create your own paradise--not completely, but words and music can really help with that. That's why we do what we do.

Pitchfork: It seems like there are quite a lot of albums being made now that are referencing Britpop.

Albarn: Trying to imitate [British music]. [The Good, the Bad and the Queen] is different. This is trying to get the spirit right. That's transitory, the spirit, and I think it's very important that people start thinking about what sort of country we live in. People don't take much responsibility for anything. It's really quite shocking.

Tong: I think there is a general movement toward that here in making music. British music has been so heavily influenced by American music that it's harder to do something that's solely English-sounding-- it's so easy to slip into something that's American. Though I love American music as well. The Stones and the Beatles had a completely American sound, even though they had that English feel about them. They were very much drawn to American rhythm and blues. I think there's a general thing in the country right now as well of Englishness rather than Britishness. The English have kind of given up on that. I've always been quite shy to be flag waving, it tends to be seen as a kind of right-wing thing to celebrate your Englishness. Which is good, in a way. To be too proud of your country can lead into some very narrow-minded behavior.

In England, if you have a St. George's cross on the car, there's this thing where you assume the person is a completely racist bigot, and, I suppose they usually are. It's always been a very delicate subject, trying to present Englishness without coming across as being kind of right wing about it. There is a long tradition of it though. You think about in the 60s, people like Syd Barrett were so quintessentially English, and I suppose part of this was to recreate that positive thing about being English, that slightly dark but slightly magic quality, something melancholic. A band like the Smiths, you couldn't imagine them coming from any other place. They just sound so English even though Johnny Marr's guitar plAying was often trying to sound American.

Pitchfork: And now he can help Modest Mouse, an American band, feel like they're trying to sound English.

Tong: [laughs] Yeah, I suppose so! But, in general, I do think there is a bit of a movement in music about celebrating being English without being bigoted and right-wing about it.

Pitchfork: Do you think that's also influenced by concerns about national autonomy as far as policy is concerned-- getting caught up in other agendas? However obliquely it's expressed in the images, this is a pretty explicit anti-war album....

Tong: Damon feels very strongly about the whole issue. I'm not going to...I'm not a particularly political person. Who knows what's right or wrong with the war.

Pitchfork: But you were comfortable with that?

Tong: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean it needs to be addressed. To begin with, I do think that pointing out the fact that we're at war is a step in the right direction, do you know what I mean? [laughs] Whether it's a just war or an unjust war, people just tend to kind of forget.

Albarn: I don't think people really fully understand. Not that I think I'm a war veteran, but people need to fully understand the violence that is going on in peoples' lives, and we're party to it and we're almost self-consciously ignoring it. Not just ignoring it but...maybe we're subconsciously ignoring it.

Pitchfork: In America, when George Bush got re-elected there was this collective sense of deflation-- you knew what you were in for. Maybe I'm misreading this, but with Tony Blair, there seemed to be a real sense of possibility earlier on. Did that increase the disillusionment with what the situation is now?

Albarn: You know, I've talked about this so many times, but I met Blair before he became prime minister. He asked me to come in and meet when he was the leader of the opposition. And to be honest, I was totally flattered that the next prime minister wanted to have a chat with me privately. It may have been a mistake, but I went along, and I was just completely shocked by the nature of the beast-- not him himself-- but the nature of that. And I abandoned ship very quickly after that.

Pitchfork: Paul, given the political leanings that were expressed in the Clash's music, was that another draw here as well?

Simonon: I'm completely in line with Damon's feelings-- they've always been the same as my own. In fact, part of the reason I went down to listen to those tracks Damon had made with everyone in Nigeria was that he had refused to go to No. 10 Downing Street when Tony Blair got into power. Later, Blair had invited a bunch of celebrities when he came to power, and Damon sent a letter saying I'm not coming-- have a nice party, but I'm not going. [The note actually said, "Enjoy the schmooze, Comrade"-- Ed]. That would be my approach too.

[Allen nods]

Pitchfork: You agree, Tony?

Allen: Yes, for sure. I don't want to mingle with those people. That's no good, because as soon as you do you're not just a musician. As soon as you do that...

Pitchfork: You're bound for better or for worse.

Allen: Yes.

Simonon: Yeah, exactly. Because if they start doing really outrageous things, then you are forever linked.

Pitchfork: But it does become complicated, doesn't it? Take Bono, for example, who does a huge amount of good, but is also indelibly linked to the figures that he has to negotiate with to make some of those things happen.

Simonon: He's trying in his own way, I suppose. But I don't feel the need to do that, to be in the pockets of prime ministers and politicians. It's better for me personally to be outside of that and have my opinions, and if people are willing to hear them then fine. If not, then there's other ways of expressing...see that's the great thing about music, there are other ways of expressing these things through the music. With painting, it's a lot more difficult. There are probably only a few paintings that could really express what we're talking about. Maybe Picasso's Guernica, Goya's Disasters of War. Music's a lot easier, though-- especially because with music, generally, you're touching base with young people. They're the old people of the future.

Pitchfork: Still feel optimistic about them?

Simonon: Oh yeah, you have to be. Don't you? Or else you might as well jump off Tower Bridge or Something.

Pitchfork: One of the cool things here is this element of theatre about this record. You seem to enjoy the characterization of this music.

Albarn: We have, yeah, and you have to, really. I mean how else are you going to do it, if you can't enjoy those mannerisms? I suppose there is a sense in which I've written a specific kind of song and gone and then been that person.

Pitchfork: But even in the sense of becoming a character in writing a song-- you really seem to enjoy that process, and you still write character songs, which is a very British tradition.

Albarn: Yeah, it is, definitely. You have to write songs about your life and the lives of those around you...to make it better. See, the character is part of who I am. This is a part of me. Though this band doesn't have a band name, for example, we are many different affiliations of the same club around the world.

Pitchfork: Along the lines of role-playing and characters, one of the things that is discussed with regards to both Blur and the Clash is the idea of working-class identities being represented by no- working-class musicians.

Simonon: Well I can solve that for you easily. It's like this. People used to that say about Joe Strummer: "Well, he went to public school". I didn't. I went to a crummy school, but when I met Joe, he was as poor as me. The only thing that was different was that he had a really good education and I didn't. I had to sort of teach myself, really, and that would be the only difference. Joe experienced the same things as far as being hungry or trying to find some place to live, and all those things that people have to deal with daily, you know?

Pitchfork: But what if he hadn't? Could he still express those feelings in his music? Is he still entitled? Is the whole hegemonic appropriation thing beside the point?

Simonon: I suppose it is beside the point in some ways. If you can come up with the goods in a song, then that's what matters. But it does seems that it's going to be hard for a person who's from a privileged background and still lives in a house with chandeliers to actually express anything on a ground level that would communicate with people other those with chandeliers and guilded mirrors.

Picasso, for example, did many different styles and it wasn't, "Well he's a cubist, or he's this or that"-- he's just Picasso. And that seemed to be enough. Bob Dylan is just Bob Dylan-- whether he's making a punk record, or a dub record. Who you are on that track is what matters. When you come up with the goods, you can transcend that. I think it's the same way with Damon. Damon is just Damon-- he just does what he does.

Pitchfork: What are you listening to right now?

Allen: I listen to everything. I don't want to limit myself to listening to one particular artist. That artist would always bore me after five or six songs. I'd be bored for sure. I need to listen to all of them, different artists, different ideas.

I just listen. I don't have to judg and I don't have to criticize. I just advise, and if they take it, it's cool, if they don't, it's not a problem. I don't want to advise anyone on this side of the world, because they know everything, you know? [laughs]. If I was going to advise anyone, I would be my people at home.

Pitchfork: What would you tell them?

Allen: I would say they would never play this kind of music better than it's played here, so they have to find their own way, and find a market that would make it penetrate into this side of the world; have an exchange of ideas. We have been bombarded so much by Western music, but African music in Europe or America, really, it's still very minute. That's what I would tell my guys at home: Here, the market is for the people here and what they are doing. So what I said was, if you cannot beat them, join them.

Pitchfork: Damon, do you feel like you have fulfilled what you wanted to do here?

Albarn: Yeah, I suppose. I mean I never feel fulfilled, sadly.

Pitchfork: What's the future of this collaboration? Could you see yourself make another record?

Simonon: I don't know what the future holds. We may make another record, I don't know. We're just doing it day by day, really, and we just started touring this one, so it's early. It would be nice to make another record. We all get on really well, and musically we communicate really well. Who knows? Damon's going to be off doing other work and I've got some painting to catch up on, and then we'll meet back up in America and tour-- everybody's got their own work. It's quite healthy really, as opposed to a situation where we're just all on this bus and it keeps going until it decides to crash.
[PR]
by scummy | 2007-04-13 00:00

memo


by scummy

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