I come from a time when people used to make double albums and there was nothing wrong with it. I like the fact that it’s an antidote to the ridiculous download culture happening now. What would happen if something like The White Album or What’s Going On were released today? Would either album have the sort of impact it had at the time or would its power be diluted because of something like iTunes?
* Was it always going to be a double album?
Yes. I wanted to give people a big body of work and something that they can really get their teeth into. There are a lot of musical styles happening in this album that I haven’t done before. It’s a really f***ing indulgent album and I love the fact that I didn’t hold back this time. I wanted to get off the touring treadmill I’d been on for a few years. It felt a little bit too easy and I liked the idea of reinventing myself completely.
* Belated happy birthday. Does reaching a milestone like 50 help you to take stock and look back over your life and career?
I can’t look back for too long because it’s too f***ing scary. If the next 20 years go as quickly as the last 20, I’ll be 70 before I f***ing know it. I don’t like the idea of looking back — it messes with your creativity and makes you retreat into safe little corners. I like the idea of taking myself out of a comfort zone.”
* What would the 19-year-old Paul Weller make of you today?
I think I would have thought that anybody of 50 would have had nothing valid to say. But if I’d been blindfolded or not told who made the album and I was made listen to this album, I think I would have loved some of the songs. It was that whole punk thing — that anybody over 25 just didn’t matter. Kids today are actually far less blinkered than they were in my time. My 16-year-old daughter listens to stuff from all eras. She loves The Beatles and Arctic Monkeys and doesn’t give a f*** about what age any of those musicians are.
* You talked about taking yourself out of a comfort zone, but you’ve also done that with Noel Gallagher and Graham Coxon who appear on your albums and play instruments that are alien to them.
Yeah, Graham came down and played drums and Noel was on bass. It’s always very stimulating when musicians challenge themselves that way — the results can be surprising and good and I think that’s the case with what they did on this album.
* Coldplay recently gave the lead single of their new album away for free. Is that something you would consider in the future? Absolutely not — I think it’s f***ing stupid. Anybody doing that is demeaning their own art. If I had my way, I’d actually charge double for my album, but the record company wouldn’t let me get away with it. Nobody expects to get into a cinema for free, do they? Why do they think it’s okay to steal music? n
Paul Weller plays Live at the Marquee, Cork, on July 6 and the RDS, Dublin, on November 10. 22 Dreams is out now.
– John Meagher