From GQ Magazine - November 1997

To go straight to the pictures that accompanied the article- click HERE

Past the village green, the cricket club and the football pitch, leaving the smell of curry back in the curry house, the white Lambretta bumps across the gravel track, winding its way around potholes towards a cluster of dark outhouses. Inside one, a converted barn brushed by trees and scattered with cobwebs, thick power cables and the blink of neon numbers tell us we are in a recording studio. In the corridor, an electric fan cools down amps, stacks of musicians' magazines explain how to play XTC's back catalogue and two guitars rest patiently on their stands. But our guitarist is out the back poring over his Lambretta and wondering why it won't work.

"You're not mechanical, are you?" he asks, before offering a welcoming hug. Hopping from one white, shell-toed Adidas trainer to the other, he nips back inside and reappears with a pre-rolled spliff between his lips. "Sounds like Brendan's tab's come on," he says nodding towards the studio where producer Brendan Lynch can clearly be heard struggling with a Stylophone. As the steely buzz of the Rolf-machine drones on, Paul Weller laughs and surveys the field stretching before us. "I like it out here, you can see the sky, you don't have to wait in traffic for hours..."

.. .And you can bomb around Surrey on your white, 1959 Lambretta, fully decked out in green US Army parka, with your home-town name splayed across the windscreen and never worry about what people might say. "I don't mean to sound like a hair spray advert, but it does feel good having the wind in your hair."

Weller has spent the afternoon riding up and down the street he grew up in for a cameo role in his new promotional video. "It's a story about two people getting ready to go out on a Friday night, and it's filmed in the actual house where we lived," he explains. "They're always potentially embarrassing, these story videos, but if anyone can do it, Douglas can. He'll home in on the details."

Douglas Hart, the former Jesus & Mary Chain bassist (who looks like Dennis The Menace and thinks like Orson The Wells), has been filming Weller for a couple of years now and is, along with photographer Lawrence Watson and producer Brendan 'King Of The Acid Stylophone' Lynch, someone Weller trusts to wander in and out, do his own creative thing and have some fun along the way.

The idea that Paul Weller has fun might have been lost on some people. "Not people," he retorts, "your lot, the press.

I wouldn't mind if it was 19-year-olds having a go, but it's the same blokes who were writing about Duran Duran 14 years ago. They've got to be my age at least. I dunno about you, but I couldn't stand the music in the Eighties... Anyway, this," he says, taking a plate of curry from Clive, his flat-topped and tattooed guitar roadie, "is proof that mods and rockers get on."

Later, the plates are cleared away and Clive, Brendan and engineer Max head off to watch England stuff Moldova. Weller, meanwhile, takes a sip from his glass of red wine and slumps back in his pink shirt (untucked, naturally) and white Levi cords to answer a few questions.

Do you think you've become what you wanted to be at 18?
"Yeah, I wanted to make records and be in a band. I don't think I would have disliked myself. As an 18-year-old I couldn't have written 'Peacock Suit'. You've got to have some bollocks. I'm still quite a pushy, edgy person. I think that comes through in the music. Even in the slow songs, my music's still got an edge to it."

Do you still get angry when you 're recording?
"I haven't been this week, but sometimes, yeah, frustrated when things go wrong."

I don't think your music sounds as angry as it used to.
"Are you sure about that? What about 'Peacock Suit'? It's not even that fast a track, but it's got an anger to it. I don't wish to be pedantic, but I think it's more varied now. If you compare it to The Jam and stuff, where every track is full on, it is more mellow. You just haven't heard the tracks enough yet."

I think it's all over when you stop feeling angry.
"Maybe. I wouldn't like to be 24/7 kind of angry, though, like I used to be. It's tiring, time-consuming, time wasting - do you know what I mean? You shout so much. But disinformation still makes me fucking angry, personal attacks in the press, the way the world is. But I also try and see more positive things in it as well. When I was younger, it was more negative a lot of the time. There was frustration at not always being able to do what I wanted. A lot of my satisfaction came from the fact that I got to keep on playing, and playing better I can express myself more. This isn't muso bollocks but this is my craft. I had to wait all this time to get to this point and it'll take another 20 years to get to the next one. But at least I'm still passionate about"

Do you think you ever lost your passion ?
"Yeah, at certain times. It comes across on the Style Council Cost of loving album - it's good but there's something missing. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time but looking back. ..It's always easier to say these things in hindsight, but I lost it then. There's no life in it. It wasn't a joy to come to the studio. We were going through the motions. It's about timing though. Something makes it the right time and it's not always going to stay that way. I've had my resurgence, but in a year's time, three years time, five years - whatever it is - I'll take another dip. I'm more prepared for it now, and I accept that that's the way it runs.'

Do you still get nervous before you play ?
"Every time. Just as much as I always have done, if not more. I drink rum and coke to combat that, not so that I'm drop down drunk, but a little steadier. I can't drink spirits neat. I don't wake-up every day thinking, I've got to get a drink.' I'd get sick of that. It would be nice to have some self-control, but there's always that thing of getting more high. I haven't had a drink for four days but I've always been a piss head. I like getting pissed. It's not the pressure, I'm sure you are the same... I like the feeling of euphoria rather than liking the taste of a particular beer or short. It's not macho drinking."

What do you make of 'Call Me Tony ', as John Me Vicar calls him ?
"I don't know about him, really. Who knows? They're a bit interchangeable these days. It's weird though, everyone has been fighting for a Labour government for fucking years, and when they finally get one they start moaning about it. They don't really run the show anyway, at the end of the day, do they? But it was always going to be an anticlimax after the Thatcher era. It wasn't like he toppled her; it was cushioned by John Major. It's too early to see what happens, though. After 18 years of Tories - I'm not sticking up for anyone here -but I still think they'll never undo that much damage in four years." What about that poster you did: "Monogamy is unnatural. Yeah, that was top, that was. Fortunately, or unfortunately, that's the way it is. I don't think it's a male cop-out, it's just the way it is."

What car do you drive ?
"I've got a Seventies soft-top Mercedes Benz. I'm quite happy with that and I'm quite happy with my Lambretta. I'm not being Mr. Street Cred - if I want a fucking yacht I'll go and get one, it just doesn't appeal to me. The Merc's a beautiful work of art."

And what's your house like?
"I've had a look round Noel's, round the Heights [Gallagher's North London town house], and I haven't got a rock star's pad, but I'm going to fucking buy one though - tomorrow! I've got a halfway house, a stopgap halfway between London and here. But I'm a mod, it's a different perspective, do you know what I mean? OK, I made a film Jerusalem, but it wasn't rock star stuff - we were taking the piss out of it all."

When you are riding your scooter with your parka on, do you ever pull up at the lights and someone does a double take? "Fucking hell, that's Paul Weller on a scooter?"
"No, they don't recognise me. Once you've got those crash helmets on, the feeling's lost. I can't tell you how fast the scooter goes because the speedo's bust, but I can tell you it moves."

Have you ever thought about doing a different job ?
"Yeah, I've thought about gardening."

Fuck off!
"I have, seriously."

For a living? Do you know anything about it?
"Fuck all, but I like the hours. That's the only thing I can think of. It has to be something you can do outdoors. I'm fucking serious man, I love it."

So, do you walk round your garden at home marvelling at it?
"Yeah, I marvel at a lot of gardens, don't you? I'll have me own mod gardening firm. I've tried to get Innes [Primal Scream's guitarist] involved, but the rest of the Primals won't have it."

What would you call it? "Talking 'Bout My Geranium"?
"We'll get a big, psychedelic Transit van, back doors open, the drawbridge comes down, we come out on the motor mowers, down the drawbridge and say, 'Right mate, where d'you want it?' You know, motor mowers with huge great wing mirrors."

I think your influence goes way beyond music. By having the guts to pack The Jam in when you did, it certainly gave me the confidence to leave things when you 're sick of them, even when other people tell you it would be madness.
"You just know when things have run the course. Some things are right for the time, aren't they? I don't want to get labelled as Eighties bashing, but it was all fucking crap back then, wasn't it? That whole corporate thing really kicked off about that time. Instead of bands getting in a van and going off on tour, they'd get the whole band image together and decide, 'This is the first single, this is the image we're going to have...' It's a much better time now, there's much better music around. The bands actually seem to be into music. That seemed to start with The Smiths. People looked at The Smiths as though they were a proper band. Before that, it was all posing and music biz parties. People out there are a lot more passionate about music now. You can't get fucking passionate about Howard fucking Jones, can you?"

Well, Mrs. Jones might.
"I hope she does, and for Jed's sake as well."

Who's Jed?
"He was Howard Jones' mime dancer. He was all dressed in white, with white make-up. He was dancing with him on Top Of The Pops. He was like a forerunner to Bez."

I think a lot of people buy your records for reasons that aren't just to do with the music. I can't imagine people doing that for Elton John.
"Well, I can't really answer that. Whatever you want to call it, attitude or whatever, to me the music's so much bigger. And I always put more into the music than I would the other side. When attitude overshadows the music, as a musician, I can't understand that. I just want to write the best song ever."

Sometimes it's the quickest thing you do.
"Well, I'm not sure about that. You can work on something for months and then it comes together and you think it's brilliant. That's the best, that is, when it comes together after months. I tell you something else about attitude, to come back to that, I find it really hard these days to say that everything is just this, or that. Because the more I see of things, you realise there isn't that much of a pattern to any of it.

Which are your favourite songs?
"They're the ones that stand the test of time. Sound Affects is a good album and I like My Favourite Shop. The solo albums, obviously. But I always think the last song I've written is the best. Look, I'll play you "He's The Keeper" That's what we're doing here."

Is it about David Seaman, then ?
"Yeah, very funny. It's about Ronnie Lane. I'd started writing the music and then, the next day, he died, so I wrote the lyrics about him."

Before Paul Weller can hit the playback button, backing singer Carleen Anderson arrives in the studio. "I've never seen you in trainers before, Paul," she says. "I keep thinking you'll be wearing those red and black bowling shoes you used to have."

"I tell you what," he replies. "It was Marco's [the bassist's] birthday the other day and we went to some bowling arcade and I quite fancied the shoes, so I just walked out in them at the end. I still wear them round the house, with the numbers on the back and everything."

We leave him laughing with his guitar slung round his shoulder, working on the chorus to "He's The Keeper". By his age, most rock stars have been in and out of rehab, bought a castle, crashed a sports car and sunk a yacht. Some even prop up their ageing stage shows with a snake.

"Oh yeah, that's me in five years, down the pub," he laughs. "Doing 'Eton Rifles' with a boa constrictor round me neck."

Paul Weller's latest album. Heavy Soul, (Island) is out now.

The Pictures

Detail of the much spoken about cuff - links, as seen on the cover