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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 wasn’t going to be any more Jarvis Cocker. What motivated you to get back on that horse?

I couldn’t 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.

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

It’s funny at first because I didn’t feel that I fitted in. It was quite nice in a way because it gave me time to think. I’d never lived in a foreign country and maybe I though about England in a more general way. I don’t think from listening to those records you would think I was in France though - there’s no accordian in it.

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

Most people you kind of think that maybe one day things will become easy and it won’t be any effort but if it wasn’t any effort it wouldn’t be worth doing it. When you see creative people who just give in, that’s when their work becomes dull. You’re always going to have things about yourself that irritate you and maybe try to stop beating yourself up. I’m 46 now and I’m not going to change that much mentally – physically I’ll fall apart – but mentally I’m defined and for better or worse I have a certain way of looking at the world and there are parts o me I think aren’t amazing. I know those things aren’t going away so you have to find a way to deal with them and songs can deal with that. I don’t want to think that my songs are therapeutic exercises for myself because I’m 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: “It’s easy to show a scar, it’s harder to show a pimple.” Does this relate to Further Complications?

It’s 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. That’s more human – we are capable of great things and we should always strive for that – but we don’t always do that and sometimes that striving and failing can be quite entertaining. There’s 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 ‘rocking out’ appeal than previous releases. Why the hardcore?

It was down to the people I’d been playing with. The drummer is really into Black Sabbath and the guitarist is into ‘60’s 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. I’d never been in a band that could do that. Pulp were an interesting band but we’d learnt to play at the same time and we could play our own songs well but we couldn’t 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 wouldn’t find it very rock at all but compared to stuff I’ve done in the past it is. I basically saw an opportunity to do something and I thought I better do something before I’m 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 ‘the death of the music industry’ and I thought maybe that means music goes back to being more of an art form. If it’s an art form could it work in a gallery – I just thought it would be interesting to try. A lot of the things I’ve been doing over the last few years I’ve been trying to involve the audience – participation – 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 wouldn’t be appropriate with a loud drum beat because it’s considered and fluid, so we had to try help them and work with them, setting something that was fairly open ended. It wasn’t 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 weren’t that important in songs because even in your favourite songs you can’t make out the words. Even though that’s 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 I’ve 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 I’d 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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