Interview

Jarvis Cocker

Jarvis Cocker

Monday 9th August, 2010 12:51PM

Interview with Jarvis Cocker recorded for Radio Active 89FM in Wellington.

It seemed that after Pulp there wasnít going to be any more Jarvis Cocker. What motivated you to get back on that horse?

I couldnít think of anything else to do. I kind of toyed with the idea of stopping, and I just found I still had something I wanted to write about and inflict on other people. I do apologise.

Youíve always made music with a strictly English perspective. Was it hard moving from England to France and how did this affect your work?

Itís funny at first because I didnít feel that I fitted in. It was quite nice in a way because it gave me time to think. Iíd never lived in a foreign country and maybe I though about England in a more general way. I donít think from listening to those records you would think I was in France though - thereís no accordian in it.

In an interview with Under The Radar (American music magazine) you described the theme for the album as: ďpart of an ongoing process of accepting that struggle and revelling in it rather than seeing it as a problem.Ē Explain:

Most people you kind of think that maybe one day things will become easy and it wonít be any effort but if it wasnít any effort it wouldnít be worth doing it. When you see creative people who just give in, thatís when their work becomes dull. Youíre always going to have things about yourself that irritate you and maybe try to stop beating yourself up. Iím 46 now and Iím not going to change that much mentally Ė physically Iíll fall apart Ė but mentally Iím defined and for better or worse I have a certain way of looking at the world and there are parts o me I think arenít amazing. I know those things arenít going away so you have to find a way to deal with them and songs can deal with that. I donít want to think that my songs are therapeutic exercises for myself because Iím too mean to pay for a psychiatrist but you can use those unpalatable ideas and try and expand it into a song and that can kind of help you define what is you are trying to work out.

In the same interview you quote Leonard Cohen, who stated: ďItís easy to show a scar, itís harder to show a pimple.Ē Does this relate to Further Complications?

Itís just one big pimple ready to be squeezed. I think people tend to dramatise things and want to show themselves in a heroic light and I admire people who can show their vulnerability and the ridiculousness of being a human being and Leonard Cohen does that really well. Thatís more human Ė we are capable of great things and we should always strive for that Ė but we donít always do that and sometimes that striving and failing can be quite entertaining. Thereís a temptation to edit that stuff out to make it neater but that diminishes the things that people do.

You recorded the album with Steve Albini, and it definitely has a more Ďrocking outí appeal than previous releases. Why the hardcore?

It was down to the people Iíd been playing with. The drummer is really into Black Sabbath and the guitarist is into Ď60ís garage music and I kind of discounted rock music because that was the orthodox that you had to reject when the punk thing came around which got me to be in a band when I was 13 - I saw rock as the enemy. They tried to educate me, and they could play rock quite convincingly. Iíd never been in a band that could do that. Pulp were an interesting band but weíd learnt to play at the same time and we could play our own songs well but we couldnít play other songs well. I wanted to work to the strengths of the people we were playing with but it still be recognised as me. I suppose if you played this album to someone who was into real hard rock they probably wouldnít find it very rock at all but compared to stuff Iíve done in the past it is. I basically saw an opportunity to do something and I thought I better do something before Iím too decrepit to give it a go.

You have been creating Art gallery installations around live music in England and France recently - tell us about that?

That was an experiment really. People are saying Ďthe death of the music industryí and I thought maybe that means music goes back to being more of an art form. If itís an art form could it work in a gallery Ė I just thought it would be interesting to try. A lot of the things Iíve been doing over the last few years Iíve been trying to involve the audience Ė participation Ė so we had these hours when people could play with us and times when we would soundtrack an exercise class and it made us think about what we were playing because you have to ask what would be appropriate. A yoga class wouldnít be appropriate with a loud drum beat because itís considered and fluid, so we had to try help them and work with them, setting something that was fairly open ended. It wasnít a concert either because some bits of music would go on for like 40 minutes and people could sit down on a bean bag, stay for an hour, stay for ten minutes, stay for the whole day, rather than there being a beginning middle and end.

You were invited to lecture at the Brighton Festival last year - what did you talk about?

I got asked to do something at Brighton festival last year and it was actually a lecture about the function of lyrics in popular music starting from the tradition that words werenít that important in songs because even in your favourite songs you canít make out the words. Even though thatís true that songs can function pretty well without the words, good words can be a bonus and can make a song something else. So I compared the lyrics to something like an optional extra - like having a sunroof in your car. Obviously I write the words in music Iíve been involved in so there important to me and I treasure people who take trouble with lyrics so starting from that point I tried to present examples of people who write good words and how that works. It was something that Iíd vaguely thought about but having to deliver a lecture on it focuses your ideas so I probably learnt a bit about what I like and look forward to in songs.

Courtney Sanders




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