The Q "Cash For Questions" Interview

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He arrives, sharp-dark pinstripe and pink shirt, having caught the train from Surrey to his publicist's office. Hair immaculately dressed (if now succumbing to the grey), perma-tan and all, Paul Weller must cut an attention-diverting dash on the 11.48. Jawing away half-nervously on gum as he lifts the first of a never-ending succession of cups of tea and sparks up a B&H, he acknowledges as much.

"Yeah, but if I do get looks," he nods, "I don't notice it, 'cause I'm kind of used to it." Not for him, either, Paul McCartneys late-'60s tactic of jumping on the bus, keeping his head down and hoping no-one notices. "Nah. I try and hold my head up. I'm proud, y'know."

Still, never the most interview-friendly of rock stars, Weller admits that he woke up this morning "feeling anxious". He eyes the pile of Q readers' letters laid before him with a muted, but audible sigh. "Some people are used to this shit and some people enjoy it, but I've got a real problem with it. Some answers to some questions... I've really no idea, 'cause I don't sit around and think about myself as a rock' n roll dad or an icon or whatever. But then this sort of thing makes me think about shit"

Even his growing hunger, he realises, won't prompt a reprieve (an hour later, in an area infested with middle-class sandwich bars, he tellingly chooses to mix it with the hoi polloi down the chippie). And so the partly reluctant icon - who, it's important to note, releases Modern Classics this month, the third hits collection of his career-picks up the first letter.

Does anyone still call you John? James Davies, Cardiff
Nah. It's on my birth certificate, but no-ones ever called me that. My mum changed her mind a week later, but it was too late by then.

Did you really punch Sid Vicious in a club? And if so, why? Daniel McDermott, Whitby
'Cause he headbutted me. It ain't much of a story, to be honest. It was in The Speakeasy, down Marlborough Street... he came up and nutted me so I slapped him back. That was it, I got lobbed out the club or whatever. I'm never proud of getting involved in anything like that. But I wasn't looking for it.

Who's the best dressed man in music? Julian Appleyard, Wakefieid
Who gives a fuck? I wouldn't be so shallow to say if it's me or not. Liams a pretty good dresser. Yeah, and Noel as well, I guess. Them two have got pretty good taste, I'd say.

You've shunned all contact with Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler since The Jam split in 1982. What's so terrible about meeting up for a few beers? Mike Lewis, Aberporth
'Cause we didn't used to meet up for a few beers before we split up. It wasn't like we were three mates who formed a band - we were three people who just came together because there was a lack of musicians in Woking. Plus the fact, they were three or four years older than me. When you're 17 and someone's 21 or something, it's a universe away, innit? So it wasn't like we were that close and they certainly wouldn't be the first people I'd go out to have a beer with, especially since we've been in the courts in recent years. I wouldn't knock 'em on any musical level. I mean, they were the right people for The Jam. But as a social thing... nah.

What makes you laugh? Harry Reynolds. Hull
Right now, Brass Eye, Chris Morris, I just think he's a comic genius. His mind's almost frighteningly quick. Like Peter Cook, maybe, but far quicker and sharper. Surreal humour generally. I like Spike Milligan, stuff like Q.

Did you really taunt Martin Carr out of the Boo Radleys at Dr. John's Dingwalls gig by singing Wake Up Boo! derisively? If so, what were you thinking of? Tanya Roberts, Darlington
I don't remember doing that. To be honest with you, I was so pissed, I can't remember what went on. I probably offered to give him a fucking slap, but I don't remember singing. I'm not a fan, no. Anyone who writes songs like C'mon Kids, it smacks a bit of Jimmy Pursey. If you're 17 or 18, then you write teenage anthems. Not when you're fucking 28 or something.

Is it true that you deliberately made your last album uncommercial in order to get out of your record contract? Steve Carde, Walsall
No, that's bollocks. When I started making Heavy Soul, my contract was all up in the air. Go! Discs got taken over by Polygram, so I thought, fuck this. I'm gonna make the record anyway - same way I did when I made my first solo album. Didn't have a deal at that time either. I wouldn't make a record for contractual reasons anyway.

Cocaine: heaven sent or the devil's dandruff? Tim Vickers, Wrexham
Well, it depends how much you do of it. I'm sick of reading about all these different groups moaning about My Drug Hell. Don't fucking do it then! It can be fun, but you do anything too much, you're gonna fuck up. Simple as that.

Can you be a mod and smoke spliff? Jason Squire, Norwich
Well, I can.

How do you feel now Polydor have released the last Style Council album, Modernism: A New Decade, eight years after they rejected it? Nick Bird. Bristol
I just feel... yes, fucking justice. It puts a big smile on my face. I got a mastered copy a few weeks ago after they cut it and I hadn't heard it for a couple of years. It sounds alright to me. I wish it had come out at the time, even though it would've been slated, 'cause it was just made for that moment. It'd have been too early for a lot of people. What we call garage over here, deep house or whatever, it was still very much an underground thing at that time. I could hear the R&B in it, that sort of gospel thing. You had the Pet Shops doing Its Alright, so it was kind of filtering through, but it was still pretty much underground.

Did you think you were fucked when Polydor dropped you? Sally Goss, London E2
Uh... it wasn't just the fact they dropped me, l just felt kind of redundant. I could feel that The Style Council were an anachronism by the end of the '80s. Even I could feel it, y'know, how out of touch I was with lots of things. So I felt more fucked from that point of view. That was probably the icing on the cake when they dropped us. I wouldn't say it was devastating, but I was lost. All those years, I always had a deal. We were always gonna go on tour, we were always gonna make a record. Like any routine, you get used to it. But it worked out for the best. Gave me a kick up the arse anyway. Brought me down to earth in lots of ways.

What's the best and worst things about having your dad as your manager? Cath Bramwell, Oxford
The best thing is he's my best mate, and I know he'll always do right by me. And that's just his role as a manager. Outside that, I love him just as the geezer he is. Probably the worst thing is you can't have a real stand-up, fuck-off row. Well, you can, but there's still that thing where I don't want to upset him too much or he doesn't want to upset me too much.

Any tips on being a rock 'n' roll dad? Ion Homage, Redditch
Dunno. Try and split them up, y'know. Do the rock 'n' roll and then, obviously, come back and be a dad. You can't be a dad and be off your tits. But you can do both.

On pain of death, you have to reform either The Jam or The Style Council. Which is it going to be? Simon Ibison. Stockport
Fucking hell. I'd take the death, mate. Take my chances with the angels. I think groups getting back together is naff. It never works. I think everything has a time to shine and you have to know when to move on.

There's a photo of you during the early-'80s with a loincloth, tribal make-up and a spear. What for? You looked like a twat. Vinay Talwar, Marylebone
Basically I felt just like being a twat, d'you know what I mean? I wonder if Vinay Talwar's ever been a complete fucking twat. You should try walking round Marylebone in a loin cloth and tribal paint, man. It's good for now and again. I think it's a cool photo. I'm not embarrassed by it all. I don't give a fuck. The only thing wrong with it was it was compromised. I wore a loin cloth. I should've had me fucking tackle out.

Why did you smash up that hotel room in Paris?
Drink, I'm afraid. Excessive amounts of booze. All I'll say in my defence is, I wasn't alone even though it was reported as such. We got let off. We just paid the bill and fucked off and made the gig. It was a lot of money. I don't know how much. (Laughs) Oh alright... about four and a half grand. The enjoyment of it was spoiled because I was too pissed to remember it. I'm not proud of it neither. I think it's sad in some ways, but there you go. Shit happens.

A couple of years ago, you helped deliver a washing machine to my cousin's house. Does this hint at a Future career when your musical ideas dry up? Paul Burnett, Blackpool
Did I? Oh me secret's out, I've been doing a bit of moonlighting in my spare time, delivering spare parts. I've no idea what he's on about. Dunno, it's possible. But I can't remember going to fucking Blackpool.

Musically, have you become a stereotype of what you would have hated when you were 17? L. James, via e-mail
Not at all. I'd have dug what I'm doing now when I was 17 and I wouldn't have liked much else that's around. Maybe I wouldn't have liked some of the ballads because I'd have been too young to appreciate You Do Something To Me. But I'd have definitely liked Into Tomorrow or Changing Man and I would've liked Heavy Soul as well. They've still got the bollocks that I wanted at that age, they've still got that energy, they're concise. You can talk about solos, but still, most of my songs are three-and-a-half, four minutes.

Does it get any easier being in the public eye all the time? Jon Ricks, Bristol
Yeah, I would say it does. I get less uptight about it. The papers... that's a drag. There was a time when they were hanging around outside my ex-wife's house... I can do without that. But I've never used the daily press. If you use them when you're starting off, they'll come back on you. What I do is more serious than that. They write about lifestyles and personalities, y'know. They never write about music.

Why is it that you selfishly never indulge your audiences with the odd Jam song? It would obviously give a lot of people a lot of pleasure. Isn't that what it's all about? Jason Broodstock, London N8
Mmm. Well it is kind of about that, but I wouldn't totally agree with you, 'cause you've go to get pleasure out of it yourself. And people would see if your heart wasn't really in it. I did this Charidee gig for Crisis recently and I played That's Entertainment. It felt good, but I wouldn't want to play it the next night. I guess it would be cool if I could just play them when the mood hit me.

Was it true you snogged or had it off with Marilyn? Michael Brewis-Levie, London SW15
No. He did offer to give me a nosh, but I declined. I was mildly interested, but when it come to the crunch, I wasn't interested.

You always seemed so certain about everything. From socialism to Sta-Prest trousers. Is doubt a symptom of growing older? Linda Goodson, London N1
Yeah, I think possibly that's right. Possibly doubt, but it's also that kind of grey area as well. Its easy to see things in black and white when you're younger - you're either for this or you're not. Things are much simpler in that sense. The older you get, the more you see there's this big grey mass as well. I've always had doubts about the whole process, the whole machinery of the business. I don't really doubt the music. I'll still always have faith in the music. But sometimes I doubt my place in it. Then I've only got to do one good gig and I think, Fucking 'course I should be doing this... this is what I'm supposed to be doing in life. But nevertheless, those doubts still come into my mind.

How old do you feel? Phil McMinn. Midhurst
I feel my age, but quite comfortable with it, y'know. I'm 40 now and I had my sort of crisis last year when I was 39. I kind of got over that, drank my way out of that one, and I was alright. But this is a good age. I don't know how it's gonna be past 45, 50. It might be a different thing altogether. But now I'm still young enough and fit enough - touch wood, man - to still be part of life, y'know. I have to say... I like it.

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