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Super Fuzz Big Guff

From Sounds magazine, 7 July 1990. Article by Leo Finlay.

Blur have been British music's worst kept secret for months. They've attracted rave reviews from all quarters, been hailed as The Next Big Thing, and now they're on the cover of Sounds. All without the benefit of a record or a full year's experience! But anyone who thinks this is the result of record company (in this case Food) hype, has obviously yet to see the band play live.

They are, of course, breathtaking. Comparisons thus far have been drawn with everyone from The Stone Roses to The Undertones and My Bloody Valentine. Needless to say they sound bugger all like any of the aforementioned, but share a skill for writing classic pop tunes and turning them into dynamite live.

I first saw Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave almost a year ago when they were operating under the name of Seymour. Then it was singer Damon hunched over a mini-keyboard, plinking out an insane piece of Satie-esque doggerel, while the others built and demolished a wall of noise, that caught the ear.

Their set was astonishingly tight and imaginative for a debut gig, and even headline act New FADS - probably the only UK act who can touch them live - found it hard to follow. But just as they were starting to get a name for themselves, Seymour vanished and the guys were back as Blur.

What's the difference between Blur and Seymour, then?

Damon, in typically forthright mode, is unequivocal about the answer: "The difference is Blur are going to be hugely successful."

Alex: "Seymour were just this big esoteric thing."

"Whereas Blur is more focussed," adds Damon without a hint of a smile.

Seymour was a very anoraky-type name.

"Oh, yeah," mumbles Damon, "it was given to us by someone in an anorak."

"Blur was just a good name, and that's important for getting into the press. We just moved away from the idea of people in college being in a band."

"We weren't aware that Blurt existed really," he adds.

"The first time I saw their name in a paper, I thought it was a misprint and it was us," continues Dave, drummer and the band's old timer at 25.


Blur are convinced that they are going to be massive. They find it inconceivable that they won't sell millions of records. And while their arrogance seems to echo that of the pre-hysteria Stone Roses, they've got enough charm to carry it off.

So you see yourselves as a big chart act?

Damon: "Yeah... it's inevitable. We're just a band who are gonna sell records to people, and the only way you can gauge that is through the charts."

Graham: "You don't play with the charts in mind, but they are something that happen."

Damon: "Put it this way, we'd like a lot of people to buy our records... and they will."

Holed up in a Willesden studio, Blur are spending up to 18 hours a day recording their debut single. As yet they're undecided between 'She Is So High', a majestic rhythmic classic, and 'I Know'.

Damon: "It's gonna be played in the clubs before it's released to get a bit of a vibe going, but it won't be a dance remix or anything."

Graham is equally adamant: "We wanna be in control of the sound, we don't want anyone else fiddling around with it."

"Our idea of a 12-inch is playing ten minutes of a song and packing loads of ideas into it," insists Damon. "Obviously the music is paramount. We have no intention of duplicating our live sound. The record should be something great, while live is more of an exhilarating thing.

"There's gonna be more mileage on the record. Live we can't play more than four instruments at a time, but here we're able to overdub and get a brilliant sound. It's just nice that we've gained all this experience playing around without having a record."

"We'll be disappointed if it doesn't chart," finishes Damon, and the nods and grunts around the table prove it.


All the band are big music fans, but are reluctant to name names.

Graham: "We talk about The Who and The Kinks and The Beatles, but you can't do that all your life."

Damon picks up the thought: "We're not about telling people what they already know, we wanna tell them about us. That's why we're in a band, this band... that's why we're doing interviews.

"I'm not really interested in other bands, I don't enjoy going to see them. I do like music, but it's not important to us as Blur. It's not relevant. Of course there have been great songwriters, but we're just trying to start it all over again."

Damon takes credit for writing the songs and lyrics but states, "It's not me saying, This is how it's going to be guys. I finish writing the songs, and then Graham takes over and makes them psychedelic," he adds before collapsing in laughter.

"No I don't make them psychedelic," Graham says haughtily. "I just use my head for music and nothing else, he (Damon) does the other job."

It's easy to believe this: Graham is one of the country's finest guitarists. He won't readily accept the accolade, but Blur's sound on any given night stems from his six strings.

A recent Bath gig saw him whip up a demon psychedelic rage, caused in part by an excessive intake of Newcastle Brown, while on other occasions he and Alex have come up with the kind of dance rhythms that Happy Mondays could only achieve with a flock of so-called producers.

Live, Blur are one of those bands where you just have to check out what each member is doing. They may be tight as f***, but there's always room for improvisation, and Dave (whose drumming hero is My Bloody Valentine's Colm O Coisoig) never fails to get the beat going.

Damon, however will always be the star of the show. Current shows find him dividing his time between a 19th Century harmonium and centre-stage dancing lunacy. In his more excitable moments he has been known to knock both bassist and guitarist offstage, and the only mystery so far is how he has avoided serious injury from his antics.

"I'm a bit embarrassed by it really," he admits. "But I just feel like doing it. It's not very ordered. I'd like to be able to dance properly, but jumping around like a lunatic is the only thing I can do with any feeling.

"These days I steer clear of Graham cos I'm terrified of him killing me. Alex just pushes me off the stage. One gig we did, I jumped up on his shoulders, the stage was about four feet high and he just decided to jump. It was like a double stagedive with bass guitar, everyone got out of the way... and I got quite badly damaged."

If I didn't think it would backfire on them, I'd claim Blur have the potential to be Britain's biggest export since The Beatles, but what does that mean anyway? They've got the looks, the attitude and the songs to be massive.

Only an ill-conceived tour of post-tremor Iran can stop them.
by scummy | 2008-03-20 17:01 | interview

Same again?

Well, yes - but then again, no. Blur are something more than just your average indie, dancey, jangly, one-syllable-namey new pop band. "We have," they announce, "a natural strangeness about us..."

From Q magazine, October 1991. Article by John Aizlewood. Photos by Chris Taylor.

"If you say that again, I'm going to hit you hard. Really hard." Blur's singer Damon Albarn issues a deadpan threat to Blur's bassist Alex James, who's just leaned across his various spiced delicacies to whisper something offensive. James does it again. And Albarn hits him hard. Really hard.

Everyone laughs and orders more Indian lager.

Despite three sprightly hits (She's So High, There's No Other Way and Bang) and a splendidly accomplished debut album, Leisure, life for Blur is not as easy as it may seem.

"No, it's not," asserts Albarn. "We have to put up with each other. We're four very different personalities and it's difficult if you come heavily laden with your own personality. But there's a fundamental chemistry between us and it makes things work."

As the assorted starters begin to disappear, it becomes as plain as a non-spiced popadom that Albarn (whose father once managed Soft Machine) is Blur's leader and spokesperson. Exhibit A: "There's nothing more up to date and relevant than Blur. We're like The Jam, The Smiths and The Stone Roses were in place and time. Next year we'll have to recreate ourselves and we'll either be clear enough to know what's going wrong to get it right or we'll be too detached."

Exhibit B: "I feel an all-consuming feeling that we're laying our world to waste and there's little I can do about it except say there's nothing I can do, and eat Indian curry."

The other band members, to labour the analogy, represent something of a thali. Graham Coxon, guitarist, is more remote and detached than Albarn. His head swims with Beatles/Blur comparisons and, for a 22-year-old, he is oddly familiar with Ten Years After.

"Imagine picking up a great big marrow at the end of a gig," he mutters in awestruck reverence, with apparent reference to Alvin Lee's combo, "and saying, This is my gift from me to you, and just going off stage..."

James was the last to join and, unlike the others, hails from Bournemouth not Colchester. His role seems to involve provoking the others or making them laugh ("Responsibility? Knickers ... I want to travel at relativistic speed."). Dave Rowntree graduated from the Charlie Watts Silent But Nice school of drummers. He's the only one to finish his curry. "He's lovely," explains Albarn before delivering the Blur manifesto.

"We say nothing," he says, straight-faced. "Dave just says nothing. Alex says nothing in an Alex way. Graham says nothing in a very negative way. I say nothing in a roundabout way."

Blur, they recall above the gentle sizzle of many main dishes, began saying nothing in Coxon and Albarn's bedroom.

"The first thing Damon ever said to me was that his shoes were more expensive than mine," remembers Coxon. "Eventually he went off to work in drama school in London."

Coxon went to university in London. Albarn had met Rowntree while doing a "very theatrical" one-man show in Colchester. Meanwhile, guitarist and bassist were student friends.

They became Seymour, a none-too-wonderful indie group, named after the Salinger story of the same name in which Seymour gets married, goes on honeymoon and blasts his brains out.

"We killed Seymour and changed our name," claims Albarn. "Seymour was our obtuse side. It's like if you're schizophrenic and spend six months in an institution; they cure you by leading you to the conclusion that you're better off with one side of your personality than skipping between two. I didn't think we'd do well with our obtuse side, so we made less of it. Half our personality is latent, like the sort of relationship where the physical side works best if you both dress up in leather."

There is, unsurprisingly, a simpler explanation.

"When we signed to Food Records," admits James, "one of the conditions was that we changed our name."

"It was inevitable we'd end up in the Top 10," states Albarn, wrestling with a tandoori king prawn and summoning the courage to order a creme de menthe. "I'd been brought up in an off-centre way, so I understood the whole machinery. We're early '80s nuclear children, a product of our times, and our time is now."

"We're a very post-modern thing," he extemporises philosophically. "There's a line in Repetition, Try try try, all things remain the same, so why try again?, adapted from Beckett. I sensed that one Christmas morning when I was 18 being chased across my old school field by my old girlfriend's irate father. I was drunk and had wanted to tell her I loved her. There's an enormous emotional reason behind that song, but does the world give a f***?"

The creme de menthe arrives. He wisely decides against it.

"At the end of the day," he concludes, confidentially, "not only do we write great songs, but we have a natural strangeness about us that makes us interesting."

"It's like electricians," smiles James. "They know everything about electricity except what it is."

"Alex just tries to be contrary," offers Albarn.

"I am contrary," he says, hurt.

"No, you're not," declares Albarn, "because you try. And that's contrary to contrariness."

Blur will continue, they predict impressively, until one day, when they will stop.

"It's easy to say this now," concludes Albarn, "but we find this very stimulating on a cerebral, physical, and a very spiritual level. As soon as one of those disappears off the equation, it's over."
by scummy | 2008-02-15 15:22 | interview

Lambretta from America (part 1)

From the NME, 8 October 1994. Article by Keith Cameron. Photo by Kevin Cummins.

Rudy Salinas has driven his scooter all the way from Pasadena, zig-zagging through the Sunday morning traffic for the best part of 45 minutes. His friend Colin has come along, too. It is, they insist over coffee and cigarettes in the lobby of Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel, no problem.

After all, they know the route well from the night before. Then, Rudy and Colin had hared it home from The Palace just round the corner from here, drenched as much with euphoria as sweat, on a sense-smooching high from seeing their favourite band play an awesome show.

Not only that, but their heroes had spotted Rudy's bike parked up against the fence by the backstage entrance to the venue. It was hard to avoid: a secondhand Lambretta, not unlike the one Phil Daniels rode in 'Quadrophenia', painstakingly customised to incorporate a red, white and blue arrow motif and the name of Rudy's favourite band stencilled on the visor. It would, his favourite band insist, make the perfect prop for the next morning's photo session.

Bands, by definition, are always late; similarly their fans make a point of being early. So Rudy and Colin sit in the Roosevelt lobby and talk. Their conversation revolves around England, of which the two young men have a meticulous knowledge typical of obsessives who have yet to set eyes on the object of their obsession. The recently acquired football results are dissected. "Manchester United lost to Ipswich?!" Rudy shakes his head in disbelief. He asks whether Camden Town's mod mecca Blow Up is as good as it appears from the magazine articles he's read. And how is Carnaby Street these days? A tourist trap? He nods and smiles but the look in his eyes says he'll go and check it out all the same if - no, when - he comes to visit.

Rudy's heroes arrive and we make our way outside. On the way, Rudy points to the football on the television and says he much prefers the version that originated in England in the 19th Century and was soon embraced with enthusiasm by virtually every country on the planet, with the notable exception of the United States of America.

Yes, he had been to see some of the World Cup matches. "My father's Argentinian," he smiles. "So it was real exciting. We saw them play Greece, y'know, when Maradona scored? They had a good team but without him they totally lost heart."

Suddenly, under the glaring Hollywood sun, the wonder of what is happening becomes apparent. This Argentine-American kid is besotted with the music and culture of a nation his father's countrymen were sent to wage war against a mere 12 years ago. His Lambretta is adorned with several Union Jack flags, that nation's most potent, and confused, symbol of identity. And sitting admiringly on his scooter is his hero, the singer in his favourite band, England's pre-eminent purveyors of post-Modernist pop.

"It's very kind of you to have brought it all this way," he says. Rudy's face glows with pride. This is the 1994 reality of Blur in Los Angeles and it feels bloody magic. Just ask Rudy Salinas.


The 1994 unreality of Los Angeles is hitting Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree firmly between their hungover eyes as we stroll along Hollywood Boulevard. Seeking to clear the collective head after the rude early afternoon wake-up ordeal of a press conference held for the benefit of local college media pups, they are instead bombarded by a succession of quintessential LA booby traps.

First, it's a polite "thanks but..." on the vast selection of OJ Simpson paraphernalia, from tapes of the 'OJ Rap' ("free!"), to maps of the murder scene, to a huge range of pro-OJ T-shirts; even the most outrageously pro-OJ designs which more or less say, 'The bitch deserved it - we love you, OJ!'

A little further on, Alex, Damon, Dave and Graham stop to gawp at a shop window displaying an exhaustive, nay exhausting, range of flimsy linen scraps apparently intended for use by women as underwear. A video screen confirms that those of the species who have chosen against enhancing their breast size with the latest radioactive compound need not apply.

Then, a man wearing a T-shirt that reads 'F*** God. God can suck my little black dick' warmly greets us and asks to have his picture taken with Damon. He then inquires whether anyone would like a game of chess. All around, the food is fast, discs compact, petrol unleaded.

Perhaps inevitably in this environment, some of the so-called freaks and weirdos seem a good deal better adjusted than those deemed by mainstream society to be 'normal'. At a pedestrian crossing a well-dressed man sidles up to a young woman and tells her that his dinner date for the evening has blown him out but he'd be happy to take her instead. The girl ignores him. "C'mon," he says, in all seriousness, "I'll pay you!"

Damon, unusually, is lost for words. Not so Alex. "Imagine this for nine weeks," he says, negotiating a generous slice of pizza, his American tour sustenance of choice. "It f***ing does drive you nuts."

So nuts did America drive Blur two years ago that ever since they have taken positive steps to ensure it will not do so again. Most pertinently, they decided to have nothing more to do with that archetypal totem of Stateside roadlife: the long, gleaming, silver, tinted-window penis substitute that is the tour bus. Now they fly. LA is the third port of call on a short nine-city hop that encompasses most of the major, relatively cosmopolitan population centres: New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto,...

All are selling out well in advance. Audience reaction varies from enthusiastic to hysterical. And Bumfluff, Idaho is conspicuous by its absence from the schedule. For the good of their health, Blur have decided to leave America's homogenised heartlands in blissful ignorance of their charms.

"We'd rather pay a little more money and retain our sanity," says Damon, back at the calm of the Roosevelt's David Hockney-styled pool. "I suppose it's just that we don't have that romantic idea of getting completely wasted and travelling across deserts. I mean, we have done it and it is a mad spin but we're not in search of anything here. A lot of bands come in search of something they haven't found at home - we're quite content with what we've got at home and this is just a bonus. We're just not that kind of band. The word was used at the press conference today, but we are quite 'civilised'. We're what we are. I'm a middle-class, educated white. I'm looking for different things out of pop music, not what it appears you should be looking for... But you've seen it from being around us for just 24 hours how it can wear you down."

In that short space of time Blur had shown the sort of form that helped salvage their career from the doldrums of 1992 and sent them on the way to their current happy situation: namely, an inexhaustible taste for being Blur at all times. Barely two hours after checking in at the hotel following a five hour flight from New York, Damon was happily whisked away in the NME's snazzy rented Chevy convertible to Santa Monica beach. There he braved the surf for some drenched-jean photo-ops (as indeed did 'All In The Line Of Duty' lensman Cummins) and generously got the ice-creams in.

Stopping over briefly at the Roosevelt for a change of trousers and to collect Alex, Dave and Graham, it's then off to Pasadena for a live radio interview at KROQ, LA's "world famous" "alternative" radio station. Like many establishments in this city also claiming global renown, it's debatable whether KROQ's fame really extends much beyond the boundaries of the US, or even California, far less the entire planet. Such is the hubris of a nation whose multi-ethnic patchwork has left it prone to the delusion that most of the world now lives here anyway - and why the hell not, buddy?!

What is beyond dispute is that KROQ provides gainful employment to one of LA's rock'n'roll institutions, who also happens to be a major Blur fan. Back in the '60s, Rodney Bingenheimer was Davy Jones' stand-in on The Monkees, but would soon make his name as Ligger To The Stars. The GTOs, Frank Zappa's groupie protégés, immortalised him in one of their earliest songs: "We have a friend named Rodney Bingenheimer / He has a dutchboy haircut and he's five feet three... He's so amazing you should see his walls / It just screams 'Get in there with the pop stars!'"

Over a quarter of a century on and these details still apply. Rodney is a little guy with bobbed hair and he insists that Blur come and see his KROQ locker, adorned as it is with snapshots of himself with stars of the brightest magnitude, from Elvis Presley down. Actually in most of these "with" translates as "slightly behind and to the left", but it's an impressive array nonetheless. The impulse to enquire whither the incongruous inclusion of Twiggy sitting on a giant radio is tempered by the suspicion that Rodney was in fact there all along, but obscured by the radio.

Blur pose for the obligatory photos with Mr Bingenheimer, stoical in the knowledge that when Rodney is 70 he'll be pointing them out to the bemused class of 2015 and saying, "There's that Damon Albarn - what a guy he was!"

While at KROQ, the band successfully negotiate a pre-recorded interview with Rodney, as well as the on-air stint with a DJ known as Sluggo. This proves enlightening for several reasons, not least Sluggo confirming the status - in America at least - of 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' as Blur's lost album by raving about the huge change in style between 'Parklife' and "the last record 'Leisure'."

Also revealed is the boys' aptitude as agony uncles. In an attempt to whittle down the number of callers vying for free tickets for tomorrow night's show, they suggest repeating the formula of the Lovelines show they had done the previous day in New York. Cue Misty, a girl who lived on the same street as Guy Of Her Dreams and thought he shared her feelings but just wasn't sure. What should she do? "Well that's a hard one, guys," guffaws the gamely irreverent Sluggo. "Whaddya say?"

"Flash yer tits at him, love," comes the response of tall, sensitive, doe-eyed Alex. We make our excuses and leave.

The evening's festivities took us first to the Rainbow, a moderately obscene restaurant popular with Hollywood's teased hair and tits brigade. Apparently we had narrowly missed sharing airspace with the drummer from Motley Crue, but all was worthwhile when Alex caught the fancy of a gaggle of the aforementioned TH&TB (Ladies Chapter).

"Bachelor party?" enquired one, hopefully.

"Yeah," replied Graham, "it's Alex's last night of being a bachelor."

"Him? Oh wow!" She returned to her posse, fluttering eyelids and muttering to the effect of "what a waste!"

At the special request of one of its weaker-willed members, Alex's party then moved on to The Viper Room, the allegedly cool celeb hang-out owned by Johnny Depp and forever doomed to be remembered as the place where River Phoenix took one hit too many of crap drugs.

Until the members of Blur visited, that is. As far as they are concerned, The Viper Room will forever represent an over-priced piss-poor suburban disco with knucklehead security. As Kevin C got into big trouble for daring to take a photograph and the less than star-studded crowd shimmied uncertainly to an old Prince record, Damon observed that he didn't need to come to LA for a night out like this.

After roundly booing the Viper, alternative plans were hastily drawn up to visit a bar-with-DJ affair called Smalls. Here it was more like business as usual, as locals of varying degrees of loveliness strived desperately to impress each other while the drunken Brits staggered around, against their better instincts, being impressed. A noble scene that your reporter would have missed thanks to the doorman's petty minded insistence that ID be produced in order to gain access to his illustrious establishment, were it not for Alex smuggling me his passport.

The only trouble then was to convince our local friendly enforcer that the cherubic chap with the cheeky grin could possibly have been me at some point over the past 15 years. By no means surprisingly, he was having none of this, but eventually relented out of boredom and granted access to this gilded place of sin.

My reward? The chance to drink mini-bottles of Newcy Brown and frug desperately to 'Neat Neat Neat' by The Damned. "I think I've turned into a donkey," said Alex as I returned his passport. Time for bed is ever I heard it.


America has long been regarded as Blur's nemesis. It was here in 1992 that their tour disintegrated into alcohol psychosis and brought the band as close as they have ever been to splitting. In interviews it has been pilloried as the exporter of junk fashion and sub-standard standards of music, while on record it has been blamed for the slow asphyxiation of England's essentially decent indigenous culture.

The sole instance of crassness on the otherwise superlative 'Parklife' is 'Magic America', a pointedly snide dig at the place "where there are buildings in the sky and the air is sugar-free".

How, one wonders, do Blur's American fans take to it? Are they aware of the ironies? Or do they think this is a song saying America is magic?

"I can't believe they would," says Damon. "You've got to remember the audience that comes to see us are... I mean, they drive around on Lambrettas! They're slightly out of place as it is. I think that's what we like about them. The Blur audience in America is the most dysfunctional of all the dysfunctional tribes."

A close appreciation of Blur's LA tribe was afforded at soundcheck time on Saturday afternoon. Left with the task of transporting the band to the venue on time, we cram the four of them on to the back shelf of our Chevy and set off on the short drive from the Roosevelt to The Palace. "Great fun, this," enthuses Alex. "Just like The Monkees."

Matters turn a good deal more Monkee-esque as we approach the Palace. Noticing a sizeable gathering of diehards, here four hours before the start of the gig solely to catch a glimpse of the band, our folly becomes apparent. He we are, with the hottest British band in America virtually standing up in an open-topped car, thinking we could casually drive up and stroll in unmolested. Oh no...

"OH NO!!!" the band chorus in horror. "Kevin!" yells Damon. "Get us f***in' out of here!" To the anguished screams of several hundred, predominantly female, Blur-ites, Cummins puts the foot down and we speed away from the gig, pursued down the street by a string of excited fans who aren't about to give up on their quest so easily.

We turn the corner and for the car park via the back entrance, but this ruse has already been spotted and Blur are authentically mobbed as we pull up. Girls are quivering with hormonal agitation, and the lads ain't so steady on their pins either.
by scummy | 2008-02-15 15:19 | interview

Lambretta from America (part 2)

In the safety of the dressing room, Alex reveals that such instances of teen mania are not unusual.

"In Chicago I went out of the gig and got in a taxi, and the car got completely swamped. The driver couldn't move and the police came along and arrested him for obstructing the highway!"

"Toronto's like this," considers Damon. "Probably worse. It's only in areas where the record has been big. You know what it's like in America, we're big in LA but you go 50 miles down the road and we're completely meaningless. In Canada 'Girls And Boys' was a Top 20 hit, so it's a sort of teeny thing there."

"People get the mickey taken out of them here if they say they like us," chuckles Graham.

"But it's great to be seen as exotic," adds Damon.

Which is ironic when you consider that the modern notion of America grew originally out of human seeds transplanted from England.

Damon: "It's great landing at Newark Airport. My grandparents live near Newark in Lincolnshire and it's extraordinary to see this sprawling metropolis and think of a little market town in Lincolnshire.

"Sometimes, like today when we were walking down Hollywood Boulevard, I just suddenly realised how impossible it would be to live here. I get scared."

Graham: "I don't think I'd ever go out. I haven't really enjoyed going out in the evenings here either. I don't understand the bars here."

Damon, sympathetically: "They're not like The Good Mixer, are they? It's just that in Britain you do to a degree have a choice whether you go to McDonalds or not. But here there is absolutely no choice, however you try and avoid it. This is their culture, they haven't got an alternative. This is what they are."

And you do still have a choice in England?

"Well, I don't think we necessarily have a choice, but it is very clear that it's something that has grown over something that's a lot older - and not necessarily better, but a lot older. There are just more layers, whereas here it's one mass." He sighs. "But I'm tired of making those pre-elementary comparisons between the two."

Because you realise it's more complicated than that?

"Yeah, I do. I think on 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' it was a little naive, the sloganeering. I mean, it worked, to a degree, for us. But this album has moved on from that now. It's not really what we're saying anymore. In a sense the rebellions have happened and are happening. Kevin's car was sitting there today and this black guy was walking past. I literally walked towards the car and he said, "I'm not gonna steal it'.

"There's these mechanisms that everyone in this country has. I suppose it's just their way of dealing with it. But this is a culture where everyone's just dealing with it. You don't get the sense that anyone's got any idea of how to change it or how to improve it. So everyone's got these defence mechanisms constantly going off."

Your antipathy towards the so-called Americanisation of English culture is well documented. Isn't there a sense of guilt here, because you realise that a lot of people back home find it attractive and seductive?

"Yeah," sniffs Damon, who sounds like he might be coming down with a cold after yesterday's ocean frolics. "I think everyone finds it attractive. In that sense, America's willingness to share its culture with everyone has resulted in everybody being American. The whole world is American. And the only reason that happened is because Americans were such a disparate bunch of people. Everyone is American."

"It's strange how Americans find European things glamorous," ponders Dave. "I was thinking about the shampoo bottles at the hotel - they say 'European Shampoo'."

It's an attempt to convey sophistication. You see it in other countries originally colonised by England, like Australia where the TV ads for upmarket products will often have English accents but for stuff like beer or cheeseburgers the local patois takes over.

"In England too, even," observes Alex. "The Mr Kipling ones are the most intelligent, where he says 'exceedingly good cakes'. You know nobody with any taste eats f***ing Mr Kipling cakes, but it kind of made you feel secure."

So are we looking at an irreversible trend here?

"Oh completely," says Damon. "It's no longer a trend, it's a way of life. And in a sense we're making our living out of giving an occasional rant to the press about it. I just wish I could understand what I was really angry about. I'm not really sure. But I don't think any of us are anymore, and that's the reason why it's so all-pervading, the sense that we've arrived in the future but none of us know exactly why we did arrive here. We stopped being optimistic as a species."

How else are we supposed to live with the chaos we've created?

"Yeah. When the body suffers pain endorphins are released. So these are mental endorphins we're living on."

The preliminary title of 'Modern Life' was 'Britain Versus America', wasn't it?

"Probably would have sold twice as many over here if it had America in the title!" guffaws Alex.

Blur aim to start recording their next album in December or January. They already have 15 songs written for the mooted final part of the 'Life' trilogy and anticipate it will be out by early summer 1995. Three albums in three years - an atypical work rate these days when record companies prefer to milk each album dry for up to two years at a time. They ascribe the phenomenon to single-mindedness, discipline in the studio ("We get there are 11, have lunch at one, finish at 10 and go down the pub") and the fact that they don't do serious drugs.

"Well, I just hope we never have Evan Dando pestering us," says Damon. "We're not really in a band scene at all and it is mostly because of that. It's just the way we choose to live our lives."

"We're just boozers, really, that's what we are," shrugs Alex. "It's as bad as anything else but you get spared the claptrap. It's a good pop drug."

"And," adds Damon, "the best thing about it is you can't even pretend to be creative on alcohol, because you just wanna go down the pub!"

Isn't it odd that heroin is somehow regarded as a glamour drug here, whereas popular British culture deems junkies the lowest of the low?

"Like smokers over here!" laughs Alex.

Exactly! You read about junkies in LA who won't smoke because they think it's bad for them.

Alex: "It's a no-smoking taxi of a place."

Dave: "They're very big on getting you to turn the sound down as well. All the club-owners are permanently paranoid they're gonna get sued by someone who goes deaf."

Damon: "Everyone can sue everyone. And unfortunately the rights that people tend to make the most of are the ones that enable them to make money. Like the woman who sued McDonalds for $2.4 million because her coffee was too hot. It burnt her lap, she tried to open it as she was driving along in her car."

Dave: "Basic human right, isn't it, to drink your coffee while you're driving!"

Alex, fuming to the subject: "And what the f***'s going on with the milk here as well?!"

"But in Britain," counsels Damon, "she would be the one in the wrong. Here it's McDonalds. It's an insane set of opposites that apply here."


Maybe so. Nonetheless, Yankee and Blighty seem united in their fulsome appreciation for the Blur-band right now. They do admittedly lay on a quite magnificent show - and the Palace crowd had been warmed up to singe-point by the estimable Pulp, support act for the whole US tour - but as 'Parklife' spirals into the hearts of a generation as 'its' album, Blur are obviously on hem-tugging acquaintance with Him upstairs. What can possibly be beyond them now?

Alex: "This sexline show in New York with people phoning in their problems - the answer to every question was 'talk to the other person!'"

Damon: "Yeah. 'I think my girlfriend's a man'. 'Have you discussed it with him or her?' 'No'. There was one brilliant woman who rang in saying, 'I like to swallow - I just wanna know, how many calories is it?'!"

Graham: "She could tell what the bloke's diet was, as well. We told her it was a pleasurable way to go on a diet. Stay on the spunk!"

"So you see," says Damon, "we are interested in this country. And maybe one day Blur will do an American album which is all about American people and it'll go on and sell as well as 'Parklife' has in Britain. David Bowie did it brilliantly with 'Young Americans', and I've always thought at some point that will happen. But it can't happen until it's right, otherwise it's... Primal Scream."

Ha! You're not seriously thinking of betting against 'em are you? 'Central Parklife' - they'll lurrrve a bit of it.
by scummy | 2008-02-15 15:17 | interview

Altered States (part 1)

Melody Maker interview with Damon, 21 June 1997. By Mark Sutherland.

As moments of looming cultural significance go, the timing couldn't be better.

You join us on Virgin Airlines flight V009 from London to New York, where we are tuned to the in-flight 'CD Review' service. As luck would have it, this month's featured album is none other than 'Blur', the latest album by the band of the same name, and the reason Melody Maker is on this flight in the first place.

We've been in the company of 'Blur' on and off for over five hours now. We've chortled as Graham Coxon declared, "This album will scare small children," just before the dreamy pop of 'Beetlebum' leaked through the headphones. We've cracked open the Red Stripe to the snarling rock soundtrack of 'Song 2'. We've flicked over to watch 'Men Behaving Badly' on Channel 12 as the atonal racket of 'I'm Just A Killer For Your Love' threatens our aerodynamic equilibrium. Mere minutes ago, we sucked on a complimentary Werther's Original and pondered the majesty of the Hudson River as we began our descent to the oddly comforting drone of 'Essex Dogs'.

We've come a long way with this album. Quite literally. So, we know that anyone who listens to 'Blur' all the way through usually ends up a tad confused. Anyone who listens to it on Virgin's 'CD Review' slot, however, is in danger of suffering permanent bewilderment.

Why? Because, after 'Essex Dogs' has finally muttered and Hoover-noised its way to a halt, you find yourself confronted with something even weirder than the hidden track that usually follows it.

'E lives in a 'aus, a very big 'aus in ver count-er-ee...'

Yes, they've decided to jolly things up a bit by including some of the band's greatest hits. Specifically, the chirpy, cheeky, Cockernee knees-up hits that represent some of the best pop music of the 20th century, but those that Blur would rather we forgot about now, thanks all the same.

Fortunately, on this occasion, the pilot is on their side. Just as 'Country House' strikes up, the in-flight entertainment system is shut down and their none-more-POP! albatross is severed with an almighty screech of 'underground'-friendly feedback. Two minutes later and we've landed in America. Where Blur, conversely, are just about to take off.

Today, Damon Albarn is King Of New York. Yesterday afternoon his band played alongside REM, The Beastie Boys and Alanis Morissette at the city's Tibetan Freedom Festival. Despite the heavyweight competition, it was Blur's spiky set that proved the highlight of the day. As proof, New York's 24-hour TV news station has spent this morning pumping out an hourly bulletin which states, seemingly without irony, that they "rocked", "kicked ass" and generally "ruled".

Meanwhile, a few channels down the dial, MTV regales its army of Beavis & Butthead-esque viewers with an hourly heavy rotation Buzzbin alternative-crossover screening of the 'Song 2' video.

As a direct consequence of such things, this week another 50,000 US citizens will allow the off-kilter charms of 'Blur' into their homes, sending sales of the album soaring towards the half million bare minimum requirement for gen-u-ine Stateside success.

Damon is smart enough to know that, by this evening, The Big Apple will probably have clasped someone else to its rotten core and proclaimed them il capo di capos. But, for the next few hours at least, he is The King Of New York and, to celebrate, he has come dressed as an American.

If you want to know just how seriously the 'ex-kings of Britpop' (© every magazine in the world, ever) are about finally making a dent in the American consciousness, you don't need to interview them. You just need to look at what they're wearing. In fact, you need look no further than Graham Coxon's chin, where a few gingery hairs betray his imminent acquisition of the ultimate Stateside alterna-rock status-symbol. Yup, Graham Coxon, erstwhile Ace 'Face' On The Camden Mod 'Scene', is growing a goatee. They'll never let him in The Good Mixer again. If only because the one-time Patron Saint of the all-day session has packed in the sauce all together. Blimey.

All right, so stout-hearted drummer Dave Rowntree still sports the Colchester Geezer look he had made his own, but will you just look at Damon. The one-time purveyor of football terrace casual chic now dresses like one of those B-Boy wannabes you see in the background on 'Beverly Hills 90210'. He looks cool, of course, but clad in floppy Kangol hat, swimming goggle shades and the sort of voluminous skate 'pants' that could conceal an Uzi automatic, a Big Mac and a cherry red Corvette convertible (whatever that may be), he's more East Village Dude than EastEnd Boy. Yikes.

Still, here comes bassist Alex James, fashionably late and floppy of fringe as ever, to save us and - yesss!! - he still dresses like a particularly seedy member of the sixth form at a minor English public school. He, at least, can surely be relied upon not to cop any US underground straight-edge 'attitood' or NYC-style accessories.

"I've given up drinking," he states, dramatically. "But I still can't get rid of the twatty affectations that go with it."

And then he lights up a Big Apple-sized cigar and suggests we walk to the photo shoot. The horror!

All this comes as a bit of a shock, quite frankly. It was only five years ago, after all, that a tour intended to break Blur in America ended with America very nearly breaking Blur instead. Even less since Blur press photos consisted of dressing up in a series of 'British images', while the accompanying interviews consisted largely of vitriolic attacks on "Yankee mall culture". At the height of their UK notoriety, if Damon had started going on about 'Big Apples', we'd have thought he'd lapsed into Cockney rhyming slang to describe a particularly large staircase. Then again, only one year ago, he famously opened his mouth, inserted his foot and mumbled through a gobful of toenails: "The only thing we've got in common with Oasis is we're both doing shit in America."

The States fell for the Gallaghers about five minutes later. Now, it seems, America finally loves Blur and Blur, at last, have learnt to love America back. Nowadays, when Blur declare 'There's No Other Way', the way in question is the American one. And the questions in the way are: How did this happen? How did they get here? And: do you want fries with that, buddy?

"Yesterday, I felt like I'd arrived at a totally new place, both emotionally and musically. I finally left that whole headspace of Britishness."

Today, Damon Albarn is the happiest bunny in the whole of Manhattan. Curled up on the Philip Starck-designed sofa in the lobby of his swank midtown hotel, he exudes good health, mental confidence, proper pop star charm and personal contentment.

But this is not the old Damon Albarn. He no longer spits out soundbites left, right and centre. He regularly thinks long and hard before he speaks. He's humble about even his most spectacular achievements and honest about his mistakes. Later, he'll even be quite nice about Noel Gallagher. Sort of. But for now, he's enthusing about America like a native.

"It's so exciting coming here nowadays," he grins. "It's nice to be seen as a new, young, up-and-coming band and have 16-year-olds think 'Song 2' is our debut single. In the past, we've come over here, played to our friends and consoled ourselves with the fact that we're a cult. Now the gigs are just full of... punters."

And not many, one imagines, of the same 'punters' who bore witness to Blur's disastrous US tour of 1992, when record company politics, personal disarray and public disinterest pushed them so far over the edge that they could only recover by making three whole albums about how rubbish America is.

"Yeah, it is a bit different over here now," ponders Damon. "There's a fraction of the drinking, which helps, obviously, and we're not deliberately spiting ourselves. And we don't have to do all those meet-and-greets and in-stores which drove us up the wall. Not that I remember much. I've erased all memories of the early Nineties."

Well, let's refresh your memory. At one point, your hatred for the place was so strong the original working title for 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' was 'Britain Versus America'.

"I know. God. And we were going to call 'Parklife' 'London'. Phewee, eh? God knows what I was thinking."

Damon claims his new-found love affair with America actually began at the end of the 'Parklife' era and was triggered by leaving their American record company and actually acquiring some American friends at their new label. As a result, one of the best tracks from 'Blur' urges us to "Look inside America/It's all right".

The admiration is mutual. 'Blur' has already sold more copies in America than all Blur's previous albums put together. Although, ultimately, that's not really very many. The US success of Oasis, let alone Bush and the Spice Girls, is still a long way off.

"Well, yeah, but I don't want to be THAT massive. The thing is, you can sell one million records here and not really be that big. We've got credibility here, and I don't want to lose that. Same as I know we're cool in England again - and to get that back from being in our position is incredible. It's taken me a ludicrously long time to realise this, but all I really want to do is make the music I want to and not get so uptight about being the best and the biggest."

In other words, Blur just do what they do and if one million Americans like it, that's a bonus. If one million Brits like it, however, they'll be very surprised.

"'Blur' will never sell a million copies in the UK," asserts Damon. "It's just too darned good."

Well, so were 'Parklife' and 'The Great Escape' if you ask this journo, and they secured Blur back-to-back million sellers in their homeland. But this time around, 'Blur' is still limping forlornly towards single platinum status and is already perilously close to dropping out of the UK Top 50. Still record sales most bands would kill for, obviously, but practically a flop by their standards.

But then 'Blur' is an awkward bugger of a record, obscuring the band's traditional strengths (cracking tunes, ironic pop swagger, the usual) under an avalanche of influences from weird-beard lo-fi folk that no one's ever heard of. True, it's got Blur across to people who always hated them previously (including half the Maker office and John Peel - who has never played any previous Blur record) but it's also confused the hell out of the teenage girl and terrace lad element of their fanbase.

Which was almost certainly the idea, but at what cost? Britain was booming - why let Blur blow it? Time, surely, to put Damon in the dock and try him for crimes against Britpop.

Accusation 1:

That you did wilfully and deliberately tailor your music to the US 'market'!

"I just don't understand that. I mean, 'Song 2' is the song doing it for us here and I never imagined for one minute that Americans would like that. It hasn't even got a title, for f***'s sake - that's how throwaway it was.

"And, y'know, we've also cracked the German market for the first time with this album. I suppose we deliberately geared it to the Germans, did we?"

Well, there was the much touted Krautrock influence...

"Oh, piss off. We've made it in Spain as well, but there aren't any flamenco guitars on it, are there?"

OK, not guilty. But wait, there's a counter-charge (possibly from your record company)...

Accusation 2:

That you did deliberately attempt commercial suicide without due consideration for the knock-on effect on the British economy!

"Oh, come on. It's sold nearly 300,000 copies and given us one Number One single and another Number Two - and that was only 800 copies off being Number One, actually. At the time, I didn't give a f*** if it was commercial suicide, but if it had gone completely down the toilet I would have found it pretty traumatic. I mean, I did used to think, 'Well, we're going to be as big as U2 around the world soon,' which just seems insane to me now. But, even so, by the end of this campaign, this album will have outsold all our others worldwide. That's a lot of records for commercial suicide."

OK, we'll let that one slide. But there's still more to answer to The Maker. Let's try this one then.

Accusation 3:

That you insulted your loyal teenage fans who made you millions by assuming they only want to touch your bottom and won't 'understand' all this Pavement gubbins.

"I have no problem with 12-year-olds screaming at me and I believe it's totally possible for them to grasp what we're doing. I hope they do. But at the same time, we made this record for ourselves. Why should I give a f*** if people are insulted? It's none of their business, really."

Hmm. We'll call that one a plea bargain. But surely you must cop for this one. Right then,

Accusation 4:

That you did spoil the Britpop party by making a 'we are weird' album and causing everyone from Supergrass to Radiohead to copy you.

"In the past, I probably would have claimed that everyone was copying us but I know full well they were making those records anyway. Anyone with any sense realised that Britpop was getting to be an embarrassing MOR thing. And all it requires is for this LP to end up being successful and people won't be making bland conservative records in Britain, because they won't have to."

Damn it all! But this one will get him...

Accusation 5:

You're a right cocky little bleeder, aren't you?

"I'm aware that people think that about me, obviously, but I don't really understand it. The funny thing is, I'm a lot more genuinely confident now, but I don't seem to wind people up as much. But cocky? At what point was I 'cocky'?"

Well, the 'Country House' point certainly springs to mind.

"Ah, yes. The thing is, at that point, there was a genuine chemistry between me and Liam. We were these two larger-than-life characters vying for attention. In any other walk of life, if we were at school or something, we'd either have had a big fight, or we'd have become mates. But because of who we were, it went on 'News At Ten'. Within my own persona, I understand what was going on but, yeah, if you look at it from the outside, it just looks like I was off me head."

Gotcha! And while we're here, what about...

Accusation 6:

That you shamelessly adapt yourself and your music to whichever way the Zeitgeist breeze is blowing. In other words, you are the Tony Blair of pop.

"Oh God," he stutters, "I don't like that at all. I mean, I do these things before the climate changes, rather than afterwards. I can always see these things sort of coming. But I suppose, having met Tony Blair and had a G&T with him, I can relate to that side of him. It made me smile to see him with Clinton and Yeltsin because that's all it takes to get there - having the ability to understand what's going on and what people want. But does that make him a great person or a great leader? Probably not. Maybe I have been guilty of that way of perceiving things. But now I'm just interested in being honest."

Ha ha! Guilty as charged! Clap yourself in irons and go directly to Britpop jail! Or, as an alternative punishment, go and 'check out' Radiohead live.

Oddly enough, considering a couple of years ago the two bands were practically polar opposites, Damon sees Radiohead - who he does, indeed, 'check out' at New York's Irving Plaza this evening - as one of Blur's few kindred spirits on the UK scene.

"We've got a lot in common, actually," he smiles, while at the show. "We're similar sort of people, and we've got the same sense of adventurousness in our music. Every other British band is so loutish."
by scummy | 2008-01-25 01:06 | interview

Altered States (part 2)

Mr Albarn has precious little enthusiasm for anything else 'happening' back home, though. He "doesn't understand" the fuss over the Spice Girls, although he does have a favourite ("Mel B - she's the best looking by miles"). He can't stand New Grave ("I had enough of Goths when I was trying to avoid them as an 18-year-old in Colchester. That Marilyn Manson guy was at the Tibet gig, ordering champagne. And I'm like, 'Champagne? F*** off! You should be drinking cider and black like the rest of your kind!'") Oddly, the one person he does have a little sympathy for is Crispian Mills.

"Not too much, though. I mean, he does come across as a bit of a twat, doesn't he? But I'm very grateful to him for replacing me as everyone's favourite whipping boy. At least, he's a proper public schoolboy - that was the only thing people have ever said about me that wound me up. I don't mind being called middle-class, but I didn't go to f***ing public school."

Aside from that, it seems, nothing much bothers Damon Albarn these days. Tonight, he's relaxed in the company of the most stellar guestlist ever created (Winona Ryder! Courtney Love! U2! REM! Jamie Theakston! How did he get in!), even when Liam Gallagher spots him in the crowd and ambles over to mumble the usual variations on 'I'm mad for it, me!'

Does this mean there's a truce, then, Damon?

"Well, we're not big pals or anything. I don't relate to them at all. But it's a bit different over here - they're mere mortals like the rest of us. We're playing on the same bill as them at a couple of gigs, which is fine by me. We'd never do it at home, but it's a chance for a less partisan crowd to judge us on our playing abilities."

For a minute, it looks like the old Damon might sneak in through the back door, but instead he clamps his gob and heads off to do a radio interview. Professional at all times, that's the new Blur credo. Even when they later attend a party thrown by Rock Chick Inc - a group of New York lasses apparently on a mission to take the word Anglophilia to its natural sexual conclusion. In days of yore, you might have expected Alex James to stay here roister-doistering till dawn. Tonight, he goes home on his own, just as most people are arriving. The old Damon might have got legless and into a ruck about something, but tonight he just gets pleasantly tipsy and chats about football.

Make no mistake, this is a happy man. A far cry from even the start of this year, when a series of interviews saw him talking about his clinical depression.

"I'm just starting to really sort myself out," he says now. "It takes ages until you can actually identify what you want out of life. I don't even think the information is available until you've been through a lot of different experiences. Occasionally, the symptoms of my depression come back, but I know what they are now so I can deal with it, whereas before they scared the shit out of me."

Good. For a while there, what with Justine complaining about her press treatment, the Coolest Couple In Rock were starting to look like the Whinging Couple Of Old Camden Town.

"The Whinging Couple Of Old Notting Hill, purlease," he smirks. "We've never lived in Camden. But when you're being interviewed you either completely lie, don't say anything or open yourself up a bit. All three will land you in the shit one way or another. And, y'know, Justine has had to face her own demons.

"But we have a unique relationship. Justine's a very relaxed and open-minded person. Which makes me a very lucky man."

Blimey. Is that wedding bells I hear?

"I don't know. All I know is I no longer want to be the biggest band in the world. I just want to be happy, have a family and be good at carpentry. But I've got to get off this world tour first."

You could always have a quickie marriage in Vegas...

"It's funny. I admire Noel for that cos he actually seems stimulated by the big classic rock'n'roll gestures. Like having that bit of stained glass saying 'Supernova Heights' outside his house."

He's got a new house now. Well, mansion, really.


Oh, Buckinghamshire or somewhere.

"Ooh, very nouveau. That's what you do when you're rich, buy loads of houses but never live in any of them. It's ridiculous. I've got three now - one in Notting Hill, one in Cornwall and one in Iceland. I'm a millionaire but I don't feel like it cos I've been in Melody Maker since I had 5p."

But it's not all happy families, wedding plans and property investment chez Albarn & Frischmann. Otherwise the new Elastica album wouldn't be taking so bloody long, surely?

"Oh, I think they just want to make sure it's absolutely right and allow everyone to speculate wildly while they're doing it."

And speculate wildly they do. Wild Saloon Bar Theory No. 1 for the day is: you write all the songs for her.

"Well, I don't," he snorts, looking annoyed for the only time all trip. "They only say that because she's a girl, don't they? They'd never say 'Oh, Justine writes all Blur's songs'."

Well, if that one gets your goat, how about Wild Saloon Bar Theory No. 2: that the reason for the delay is both you and Justine are heavily into heroin.

Oddly, the reaction is anything but angry.

"Oh, I heard that one," he smiles. "There's quite a lot of spicy gossip about us, isn't there? Well, of course I'm going to answer 'No'."

Why "of course"?

"What else do you think I'm going to say?"

Well, you might get angry. Have you ever taken heroin?

"Er. Um. [Huge pause] Er, I can't answer that really, can I? No. The fact that you ask a question like that... it's implicit that I'm guilty."

Well, are you? You're saying no, but the way you're saying it...

"...suggests I'm shooting up? Well, here are my arms," Damon smiles, proffering limbs with nary a pockmark on them.

There are other places to inject.

"Well, yes, you can, but I couldn't. I'd faint at the sight of a needle. My pulse rate rises uncontrollably whenever any surgical instrument comes near me. But you know, this goes back to what we've been talking about all day - it's a life choice whether you want to just play music or do all the other stuff that can help sustain your career. In the past, I've let the other stuff do the job, manipulating the media to my own ends, but I don't want that any more. I don't want people camped at the end of my road again.

"But I would say that, as far as heroin is concerned, I've seen so many people erase huge chunks of their lives as a result of it... I just think it's a very dangerous drug for people to take."

You don't seem that bothered by the rumours, considering your vitriolic attacks on people you suspected were using it in the past.

"You mean Brett?" queries Damon. "Well, I do regret that and I've said, on many occasions, that I was wrong. But I'm not puritanical. I've been through a lot in the last few years - all the things the tabloids love. But I've never taken a lot of drugs. I'm one of life's moderates. I'm actually very lucky - I'm one of the few people I know that can take drugs then walk away from them.

"I agree with the whole debate that was kicked off by the Brian Harvey thing because he actually spoke for a huge number of people. There really isn't a huge problem with taking E every weekend - I used to do it. I don't do it any more, but I used to. But then again, I come from a very emotionally stable background and a 16-year-old hasn't got the experience I have. I... I just wish you hadn't asked me that question, really."

Weird. Damon is clearly far too healthy, alert and driven to be abusing any drug at the moment, let alone smack, the ultimate fool's choice. Yet he can't bring himself to give a straight 'No'. Oh well. They don't call him the Tony Blair of pop for nothing.

"It's brilliant, America. All you do is play all your punk rock songs and they love you. It took us eight years to figure that out. Mind you, this set we're doing now reminds me of being in Seymour - fast songs played aggressively with lots of spazzy dancing from me. The only difference is we're not f***ed up, pissed-up and 18 any more."

Damon Albarn is about to go onstage at Philadelphia Electric Factory. His mission: to use punk rock fury to scare the life out of the mall honeys and Britpop wannabes that constitute Blur's old US fanbase while thrilling their new MTV alterna-rock converts. Only a few Britpop chestnuts survive. The message? Never mind all that bollocks, here's the Essex Pistols!

And they're brilliant. The likes of 'Girls And Boys' and 'Stereotypes' actually benefit from the sonic rocket up their arse, while even the weirder songs from the new album finally begin to make sense. They even play 'She's So High' in a style that's alarmingly close to Oasis ("It IS an Oasis song!" Damon smirked earlier. "Just six years before they did it"). By the time they get to 'Song 2', the jock-friendly chorus of "Woo-hoo!"s is deafening and Blur have passed the first serious examination of this American campaign with flying - nay, hurtling - colours.

Afterwards, everyone is so excited they actually go out to a club - except for Damon who has one puff of a spliff, gibbers briefly about Paolo Maldini's imminent arrival at Stamford Bridge and then feels so giddy he has to go to bed. Aw, bless.

Meanwhile, those that do stay up late are treated to the unusual spectacle of an utterly sober Alex James heading off to a drum'n'bass club.

"Just because I'm not drinking doesn't mean I can't chase girls and make a fool of myself," he grins, sagely.

Despite the teetotalism breaking out around him, Damon is the only member of Blur to make breakfast the next morning.

"I wish I was going home today," he says fuzzily, eyeing your correspondent's plane ticket.

No, you don't.

"Well, no, I don't really," he admits. "After all, I do want to be in a position soon where I can say, 'The only thing we've got in common with Oasis is we're both doing great in America'."

Any day now, surely. Blur, this is American Air Traffic Control: you are officially cleared for take-off. Have a nice day now, y'all.
by scummy | 2008-01-25 01:04 | interview


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