It’s dusk in the sleepy Surry village of Ripley. Down a path by the green Paul Weller is making a cup of tea in the kitchen of his Black Barn studios. When that task is fulfilled with only a minor spillage, he turns his attention to filling a half-pint glass with red wine. The tea is not for him, but the wine is.
Today, work on his ninth solo album, 22 Dreams, wrapped up and Weller is celebrating with some gusto. His first double-disc album, 22 Dreams was made entirely at Black Barn, with Weller assisted by long-term guitarist Steve Cradock, engineer Charles Rees, Simon Dine of soul tinged electronica duo Noonday Underground, and an assortment of guests including Noel Gallagher and Graham Coxon who plays drums on Black River. Gallagher, meanwhile, co-wrote one of the most memorably melodic pop songs, Echoes Round The Sun, as well as adding bass to it.
The approach of Weller’s 50th birthday in May contributed to a desire to play with as styles as possible, “since I’m coming up to my half-century, I didn’t want to make anything commercial,” Weller explains, “I wanted to make something totally self-indulgent”. Containing 22 songs that in part could be viewed as a career summary, ranging from the psych-rock of his more out-there Jam output, to Style Council-ish soul, to the reflective folk of his solo years, 22 Dreams also stretches out into more surprising directions.
“It’s only subconsciously that some of it’s a career summary”, he says. “There’s also songs like One One One and Night Lights that have an avant-garde, free-form feel, which was a new experience”.
One One One was particularly experimental, with Weller and cohorts facing different directions and just playing whatever they felt like. “It was liberating”, he insists.
Before returning to the party that’s now in full swing in the studio, Weller surmises his feelings about 22 Dreams, his most ambitious project yet. “I see the album as a journey. It’s a year in a person’s life, from spring to spring. And it’s a journey that you have to take in one sitting. In these days of downloading one track at a time, it’s good to have to take a long journey, don’t you think?” and he refills his glass and makes the rather shorter trip through the door into the control room.
Article & interview by Ted Kessler.