Part one of Qthemusic.com's exclusive interview with Paul Weller to talk about his tenth solo album, Wake Up The Nation finds the Modfather in good spirits, talking about the way he and Simon Dine approached it, railing against reality TV/X Factor and politicians aswell as telling us how he ended up collaborating on two tracks with Bruce Foxton, the former bassist in the Jam.
It's Paul Weller Week on Qthemusic.com this week...
Paul Weller interview - part 2. Paul on his father, his next album and the demise of Oasis.
Q: It was quite an unplanned album wasn't it?
Paul Weller: It was yeah, it was only when Simon Dine who produced it and co-wrote all the songs sent me down a cd of 10 different ideas which were very short, almost like sort of mood pieces really, and I just got really excited and straight away I could hear an album on that. We went in the studio for two or three days and came out with eight different ideas, not fully formed but getting there, and it just sort of rolled from that.
Q: Did you go in just because these pieces caught your attention then?
PW: Yeah, probably borne out of our conversations me and Dine, moaning how boring music was at that time, you know. I thought it's been quite dull in the last few years, we started in January last year  - I think it's sort of picked up again recently. I was just bored of what I was hearing, it was just the same old post-indie stuff going on, either that or X-Factor shite. It was borne out of us wanting to make the music that we weren't hearing, that was the vision - just imagining what kind of music we'd like to hear. Hopefully it's caught that.
Q: Did you discuss the sound you wanted?
PW: It just came out of the conversation, we were unhappy with what we were hearing and wanted to try and make it a bit more experimental and tougher really. Dine's thing was like he wanted to make more of an urban sounding record, something a bit harder sounding than 22 Dreams that had its pastoral moments. So his thing was like "no acoustic guitars" and just a full on record, which I think it is - it's 16 songs but it's still only about 40 minutes cos they're very short tunes, two, two and a half/three minutes at the most. I think it fulfilled the brief we had for the record, it's caught the urgency and the energy in the music and it's got a kind of swagger and an anger to it, alot of the things we think were missing.
Q: It covers broad ground in terms of genres aswell, was that deliberate because you felt alot of contemporary bands were sticking to the same thing, you could've easily made a safe record yourself at this point in your career?
PW: Yeah, I could've done but personally I was encouraged by the response I've had for 22 Dreams, the last album. I was very surprised - pleasantly so - at how much people liked it because I thought it was quite indulgent and there were more experimental times on that record. That encouraged me and I thought we could take that further really. Because it is more experimental sonically on this new record but there's still that pop sensibility, there's still good tunes on there, so I think it's challenging for people but I don't think it's impossible to get into, takes a few more listens maybe...
Q: Your surprise at the reaction to 22 Dreams, was that because you weren't sure your audience would follow you there?
PW: It was really because with 22 Dreams I wanted to make something for myself. I was coming up to my 50th Birthday and it was my present to myself to make the most indulgent record I could possibly think of, and em... to make it a double album - it's 21 tracks so it's quite sprawling. So I was surprised that people got it, I'm glad they did aswell. But I think also that fact it's a proper album, you sit down and take 70 minutes out of your life, turn off your computer and all that shite and just listen to this record, and I think people got that, so for all the talk of people's low attention spans these days people actually sort of dug that record, which is very encouraging. So I guess the new one follows on from that, that was the ray of hope really... and hopefully we've taken it that stage further, hopefully.
Q: Triple album for your 60th?
PW: Well if I'm still here mate, yeah... who knows? ... If I can still walk. [smiles]
Q: Bruce Foxton from the Jam is back on this record on two tracks, how did that come about?
PW: Em, it came about because we started speaking again because his wife, bless her, who passed away last year, she was very very ill the Christmas before last. She was very ill and I heard about the fact she was having treatment and stuff so, that's how I kind of got back in touch with him and I actually spoke to Pat his wife, as Bruce wasn't around and I spoke to Pat. It was good to hear from her as I hadn't spoke to her for a long time.
But it kind of opened up a bit of dialog between us anyway and he was really pleased that I'd taken the time to call and see if she was ok and stuff. So, I think it was kind of, and then I lost my dad last year, he passed away sort of April, this time last year actually, so I suppose in some ways, we'd both lost someone very close to us you know so I guess it was that whole thing of mortality and like life's too short and... but more than anything we had started to speak again.
So either me suggesting it, or him, I can't remember it was who said "Listen if you ever get a track you want me to play on" or me saying it, whatever it may have been. And we had, we thought with Fast Car/Slow Traffic which he played on, we thought was like perfect for his style of bass playing really and that was it really man, he just came down we had a couple of drinks and a laugh and had fun, two or three takes and he'd done his bass part. And didn't really sit around reminiscing or anything, and all that stuff, we just dealt with the job at hand...
Q: That sounds kind of quite automatic there, was there any moment during it that you felt was a bit surreal, or kind of like I've got you know, "my bass player's back from the old days"?
PW: It wasn't for me, I can't speak for Bruce obviously, he was very nervous, and I know that because he told me he was.
Q: How many years had it been?... 28/30 or something?
PW: 28 or something, yeah. [smiling] That's a short time in rock'n'roll you know, it doesn't seem that long, it's incredible. That's sort of what scares me more than anything, or sort of freaks me out more than anything else, 28 years you know where's that gone? But once we started playing and the music started sounding good, all those years evaporate for me anyway, personally.
I mean, I guess I've always - because I've never really stopped, because I've always just been forward looking, always making records, always been out on the road and just doing what I do, I've never really sort of had too much time, or certainly not any inclination to stop and look over me shoulders and see where I've come from, maybe every now and again I do that. So all those, when people say to me "how does it feel being in the business for 33 years?" or whatever it is, it's kind of like wow, has it been that long?
It don't seem like that you know, I'm still talking about things from '94 like they were yesterday and people go "look, you know that was 16 years ago, don't ya?"
Q: The fact that you did that and it worked well, does that leave the door open to maybe [do it again] on the next record?
PW: I dunno really, who knows? It was nice on this record and we enjoyed doing it and I don't see why we wouldn't do it again but it certainly wouldn't be under the... wouldn't be any kind of reforming of any bands at all, certainly not.
Q: It's quite a direct title, did you have that from early on?
Q: And does that reflect your feeling about society then, having talked about attention spans and technology and things?
PW: Definitely, yeah. It's also born out of us having a lot of pissed up rows or conversations, whatever they may be, in the studio talking about the state of play and then putting that into the song, but I feel generally it's a very dull time really, everything seems very bland and homogenized and whether it's talking about music, or media or politics, whatever it may be - Tv's shocking really - I just thought we're all kind of settling for second best really. I just thought it was something to maybe jolt people, maybe excite people, turn people on, hopefully it'll do all those things.
Q: In terms of TV then is it the reality shows and that sort of culture that bothers you?
PW: Yeah, There's always been that kind of 'opium of the masses' thing about tv hasn't there? But I think it's at a pretty low ebb. I mean I think it's just very cheap programming and the lowest common denominator stuff and I think it's just to take people minds off the real thing that's happening, the real stuff that's happening. I guess that's part of tv's role anyway but I think it's just cheap and it cheapens us as a race aswell really, to get caught up in that.
Q: To pay it so much attention, and attach a value?
PW: You know... 12 Million people watching a talent contest is very disturbing I think.
Q: Do you feel that's bad because when you started out and were playing clubs, bands could play clubs every weekend as part of the entertainment?
PW: I don't think it's a great role model for any aspiring up-and-coming kids who want to be musicians or artists because you haven't gotta be that talented, you haven't gotta put too much work in it, you just gotta get your boat race on tv and you could be famous next week... for about five minutes, you know. What was wrong with a band getting together and working their balls off three or four years, learning their trade and making it. And when you do make it you know why you're there, how you've done it and why you've done it and why you're doing it.
Q: It's creating something more wholly borne of you...
PW: Yeah, and something also that lasts aswell. That's got some longevity to it and meaning to it, I think.
Q: In terms of politics... the current state of politics, is that something that bothers you aswell?
PW: Well it always bothers me because they're just sort of, such lying hounds really, but I mean that's hardly any revelation - I guess it's always been like that. I think politics is very bland - it's hard to tell the difference between them all. We've got the election coming up you know - I know I'll be voting for Labour but it's only a vote against the Tories, but it doesn't make too much difference really does it? They're all pretty much the same sort of people, the same policies, it's just the way it seems culture's become really.
Q: The loss of idealistic politics
Q: And a left and a right?
PW: Yeah, just someone with a bit of vision anyway, you know. I think we need someone, it'd be nice if we had someone who matched how I think people are - how people really are - I think we're quite a modern race, quite forward thinking people really but I don't think we're represented in any way, in terms of politics anyway. [They] Certainly don't represent me.
Q: In 7 & 3 Is The Striker's Name you get the feeling some of your anger about that is vented there, the Monarchy gets a dig aswell, you're not a monarchist then I take it?
PW: Not at all, no. Again I don't think they're representative of me, whatsoever. I think we represent them, I think the people represent this country not the monarchy. I think they're so far removed from reality, it's sort of quite scary really... whether they've got any power or control these days, but I think they have more than what they probably let on. I think it's a shame like I said, that we're not properly represented, that's what I feel about it.
Q: On the record, in Find The Torch/Burn The Plans it still seems you're hopeful and optimistic that you believe in the power of the people vs. the establishment and the systems, that you still have faith in that?
PW: Yeah, definitely, yeah. How you channel that, and how you use that I ain't got a clue. But I definitely think that you've got an awful lot to be proud of but I'm not talking about the politicians but the people really, and I think it's me just speaking to them in my own little way...
Q: Without getting directly involved in politics, how do you see what you do musically in terms of political comment and what your role is?
PW: I don't think I'm in any shape or form involved in politics and I wouldn't want to be. I kind of went through a little bit of that in the eighties and after doing it once, I wouldn't want to do it again really, but I see it in the same way I saw folk music really. I think pop music is the modern day folk music and folk music has always spoken about current issues and tried to inform people, to entertain people, to make people happy or sad, you know it's all sorts of things, multi-faceted and I don't see why pop music should be any different really.
I always thought it was the same thing you know, all the bands that always informed me when I was growing up and being influenced by 'em all had something to say, they had far more to say than any politician ever got through to me or any teacher come to that. So I grew up in that tradition of music doing that, you know, it was entertainment and it made you feel good but it also at times informed you and it made you look at the world differently, and as far as I'm concerned that's what I'm doing aswell you know. I don't think it makes me anything special or that I have any special world view it just means I'm following that tradition.
Second part of our chat online tomorrow...
Interview: Andy Thomson
Paul Weller Week on Qthemusic.com featuring:
Paul Weller week on Qthemusic.com:
- The new video for Wake Up The Nation
- Track of the Days chosen by Paul
- Our exclusive interview with the Modfather himself...
- A Competition to win signed deluxe editions of his album (Friday)
- "Late 60's Lovlies" Spotify playlist chosen by Paul for Q Readers. (Thursday)
2:46 PM | 20/04/2010
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