The Uncut Interview November 2002
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UNCUT - Illumination masks your quarter-century as a recording artist. Does it feel like a culmination of the last 25 years?
PW - No, definitely not. You're only as good as your last record. As soon as you sit back and think you've done it then you lose your focus, you've always got to keep your eye on it. You make good records and bad records and that's it. From my side of it, if I make a not-so-great record I don't think, 'Oh dear, my career's down the drain, I'm washed up.' I just think 'Well, sort it out next time. I just see it all as a continuation.
Last year's acoustic tour and the live Days Of Speed album seemed to be a catharsis for you?
It put a lot of demons to rest in some respects as it enabled me to see all my songs as just one body of work, it just all seemed to fit in as part of this lineage that I’ve done. When I first went solo 10 years ago, I didn't want people to think I was making it on my past efforts. I wanted to make it on what I was doing then at that time, which I did, so I don't think that's a big deal any more. With the old songs from The Jam and The Style Council, I just feel free to play them again now. The acoustic tour was nice because there wasn't any pressure or anything. I got back into the tunes more, and because it was such an intimate set-up just me and the audience, it just felt like they were 'our' songs again. Even on the new tour we'll be doing the whole of the new illumination album plus some old songs, "In The Crowd”,” Pretty Green", stuff which I think will fit in really well.
A few years ago you were visibly disenchanted with the music business, to the point where you were threatening to release your next album on the Internet?
That was just because of the whole corporate thing. I mean, that ain't gonna stop, it'll always be a part of it but it just fucked me off. Around that time was when Go! Discs, which was a really good, happy label, got taken over by Polygram. All of a sudden this great label was washed out overnight- so it was a disillusioning time. But things have changed. Now I’m on lndependiente, which is essentially the same people who used to run Go! Discs, so it's a better vibe straight away.
You're often quoted as being critical of your last album, 2000's Heliocentric. How do you feel about that record now?
It leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth because it took so long. Not the actual recording, but just the whole mixing process which is a shame as there are some good tunes on there, like, "Frightened" which I think is really good. I mean, I do like Heliocentric, but where it falls down a bit for me is the tempos and the dynamics stayed a little bit on one plain. With Illumination, I’ve just been more conscious about wanting to make a record that made people feel good again without being trite. It’s a very difficult thing to write a really positive tune without it being sloppy- but I wanted to do that, to make something that'd turn people on again.
How did the making of Illumination differ, then?
There was less time to sit and pontificate on whether the hi-hat's too quiet and all that nonsense. It was more spontaneous, a case of getting the song down and doing a rough mix the same day. Nine times out of ten that was the mix that we based the rest of the track around. It was more enjoyable. Whereas Heliocentric was something like seven weeks of mixing. I never want to go through that again, sitting at the back of the room listening to some poncing about the bass drum.
It's clear on some of the new tracks - like on "All Good Books'' and particularly ''A Bullet For Everyone'' - that you're still motivated by international politics?
It's not like I still don't have an interest in those issues - l just don't get quite as involved as I would have done before. How can you not be aware of what's going on? But I wouldn't get involved with specific parties anymore. I realise there's broader, bigger things than just any one manifesto.
As a veteran of the class of '77, how did you feel about this year's Golden Jubilee celebrations?
I couldn't believe how popular the Queen still is. It really, really astonished me. I really thought that the Royal Family were a thing of the past, but evidently not. I never thought she had that much support. And Brian May on top of Buckingham Palace giving it "God Save The Queen", what the fuck was that all about? It was surreal wasn't it? What fucked me off more than anything was that when she came on stage at the end, she couldn't even say, "Thanks for coming to my party". And with the old Queen Mum going as well, the fuss made over that. The weirdest thing was even friends of mine, normally rational people, were going, "well she did a lot for the country". And I was saying to them, "Well, what exactly?” There's lots of old girls who live to 101 who die in a fucking hospital corridor or of hypothermia. They went through two World Wars and brought up children a well. Let's hear about them for a change.
How did you react to the recent deaths of George Harrison and John Entwhistle, both heroes of yours?
Well, to think two of The Beatles are gone is really weird for me having grown up with that band. They sort of become immortal in your mind, you don't expect it. And now there's only two of The Who left. Time marches on, y'know. But I did get to meet John a few times. We did a cover of circles for the Who tribute album a few years ago which we recorded down at his home studio. He had this great big bar, like a proper American job, with all these replicas of the fish he'd caught up on the wall, all these fuck-off sharks, it was bizarre. We ended up boozing all night: with John serving us drinks and playing Mein Host. He had this great big amp stack, the one he actually used on stage, right down the other end of the bar. We were all pissed so we got him at it, just to see him play a bit. The whole place was shaking with the vibrations! It was like an earthquake. But he was a really, really nice man. Really hospitable.
You've always been a big supporter of new younger bands. Who's caught your attention recently?
I like The Coral. I know they're a bit trendy at the moment, but I really like their album. There's one track called "Dreaming Of You" which I think is wicked, it's got a real Motown feel to it. I mean, they're 18 or 19, but it's quite sophisticated, all the vocal harmonies. The problem with a lot of these young bands today- it's never their fault - is all that hype that kind of puts me off sometimes. Like John Peel talking about the kid from The White Stripes as ''the new Jimi Hendrix". That's fucking ridiculous, to put something like that on someone anyway. It's a stupid quote and that old c*** should know better.
Yourself and Johnny Marr were the only people Noel thanked on Heathen Chemistry. Are you still something of a father figure to Oasis then?
What? How can you offer advice to somebody who's sold 20 million fucking records! "Do you know where you're going wrong, son?" That lot never listen to advice anyway. At the end of the day we're just mates who play music. We all just take the piss out of each other. . . in a nice way.
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