You could say Graham Coxon has been reborn, soaking up all the influences and bands he listened to as a child and spitting them out on his recent album "Love Travels At Illegal Speeds". Easily the best album of his career to date, including those of his former band Blur, Coxon has condensed everything into 3 minute punk songs reminiscent of the Buzzcocks and The Undertones rather than any of the zeitgeist bands of the day. Describing everything as "wrong since the day Thatcher got in power", The Smiths his only notable exception, he wishes he lived in the 1930s and is still trying to write the perfect song with the word deacon in it. Like his "Modern Life If Rubbish" days he's still doing anything to get on the nerves of the Americans. Read on for full Graham Coxon interview with Designer Magazine's Alex McCann
Q: Graham, I think the last time we spoke was when you phoned us to rebut the "Blur are reforming" story in the Daily Mirror. I take it you've been looking at Designer Magazine since then
A: Yeah, I mean that Mirror story was a load of nonsense wasn't it. I've been looking it at Designer Magazine occasionally though. There's links and all sort that the kids on the message board always put up so im always looking at those things.
Q: "Love Travels At Illegal Speeds", your pop album I guess is the easiest way of describing it
A: I suppose. Its not really that poppy subject matter though I suppose. It's a bit raucous. It depends what pop music you're talking about really. The sort of pop music I like was from the 60s and 70s really so it's a bit like that stuff. The stuff that was going on when I first got interested in the charts, when I was 8 or 9 and my sister was taping the charts. What was on there? I think it was like "Whatever You Want" by Status Quo and then there was Rainbow and The Buzzcocks and Sham 69. Then you've got some strange kind of disco music too. It was quite good the charts in those days, even the rubbish in the charts was really good by today's standard.
Its funny because I was looking at the charts and my album went in at 24 and I was like crikey, my record label were going on that it was going to be a lot higher than that. Then I had a look at what was in the Top 10 the other day and I didn't know any of it. It was all like really weird stuff like most of the X Factor.stuff, you know the dustman and bloody Journey South. I mean what does Journey South mean? It means going down on someone doesn't it. I just don't understand Journey South and I doubt they've even heard the original of the f**king song they've got in the charts at the moment.
Q: Do you feel totally detached from everything that's going on musically at the moment?
A: Sadly so and proudly so at the same time. I was just born in the wrong time. Everything is so rubbish isn't it. All these inventions that you don't need that make your life more difficult when they're meant to be more convenient. I just wish it was the 1930s again, without the end of the 1930s happening. I just wish it was back then.
Q: And this album is looking back to your childhood, what you were listening to and the music that inspired you
A: I'm just dealing with what my roots are. Dealing with things from the 80s and the 1970s. After 1980 it was just rubbish wasn't it. Basically when Thatcher got into power everything has been wrong ever since. Apart from the Smiths I guess. My roots stretch through from the punk stuff to the psychedelic beat stuff.
Q: There seems to be a huge Buzzcocks influence all over the album. Would you agree?
A: They've been influenced by bands that share my outlook. I've always been very influenced by Saints. Because the Buzzcocks have always just been there since I was so young that it would be daft to make an album that was influenced by them, whereas the Saints was something I discovered a little bit more recently. The Saint and bands like that....and the Monochrome Set as well. The Monochrome Set weren't anybody that I noticed in the 80s, I suppose in the 80s you had to dig a little deeper for good music.
Q: The album is kind of timeless - it doesn't fit into any set decade or time - was it something you were aiming for?
A: That's the subtlety of how I like Stephen (Street) to produce I suppose. I just like things to sound how they are. Drums to sound like drums, guitars to sound like guitars. I like to use traditional rock and roll instruments. I don't know whether I can consciously work towards anything cos Im getting really fussy.
When you start to write songs you're so thrilled that you can write songs and the process is quite new and exciting. It does become harder and you do get more fussy and harder on yourself, but with that you do get better at it. And then you start to think about how they need to be recorded
Q: How do you approach a new album - are you just continually writing or do you set time apart to specifically write for an album?
A: Well I didn't write this album did I. I wrote 25 songs and this was what.....it could have been a different record, but I just collected these songs together which seemed to have a common drive. The other songs that were left off seemed to be about other things. That's why it's not a concept album which pretty much has to be settled from the start or otherwise it's just not.
The record company said that 14 songs would be too long so I made it 13. I don't know exactly how long it is. Is it about 50 minutes or something? I do like those albums though that you play and you get to the end of it and it only seems as if 10 minutes as passed by.
Q: You've done a number of solo tours now....are you used to being the frontman?
A: Im still not very good at it. Im not that good at geeing up the crowd or talking to them. The audience has been quite quiet between songs and I like a cheeky audience so I can give them jip, but maybe we just get cheeky people in Manchester. I like sweaty little pubs which is what I did on the first tour and on this tour the audience have been a little too far away for my liking. We'll have to see how the Kaiser Chiefs dates go cos they're massive.
Q: Shouldn't it be the other way round - The Kaiser Chiefs supporting Graham Coxon?
A: Well that's what people are saying, but I don't see how it could be the other way round. They've sold millions of albums now haven't they.
Q: Are you a fan of the band at all?
A: (long long pause) yeah, they're fine. I'm still just a fan of the things I was a fan of when I was little really.
Q: Are there any new bands you like at all?
A: I like any of the Northern bands that are singing in a really Northern way. Everybody wherever they're from should be singing hell for leather in their own accents. That's why I like the Arctic Monkeys. And that and the fact they use words that are difficult for Americans to understand. And I try to use words that are difficult for Americans to understand, words that are from childhood. I don't know whether "dafter" has ever been used in a song and words like "flipping". They're good words to use and a code that unite the English British kids. Real English words and not buzz words. I don't think i'll ever write a song with the word "interactive" in it. Texting? Now texting is different. There's a kind of cultural pride.
Q: What word have you been trying for years to put in a song?
A: There's lot of them isn't there. Deacon - you could call someone a deacon in a song. I just like all those words we used to call each other when we were kids. Nowadays everybody just uses these American words don't they. They're so boring. I'd rather just use funny English words. Its much more fun, although some of that street language is quite funny though innit. What is (puts on bad jamaican accent) "gwarning" and "butters man". It's quite nice. That is the British new way of speaking...that ruuuuddde boy thing.
Photos: Karen McBride www.karenmcbride.com
The album "Love Travels At Illegal Speeds" is out now
"You And I" the single is out now
Graham Coxon plays European and Japanese dates over the summer
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