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POP QUIZ: Paul Weller

SFGatehome of the San Francisco Chronicle
POP QUIZ: Paul Weller

Aidin Vaziri

Friday, July 25, 2008

Paul Weller has just made one of the best albums of his career, which is quite amazing, considering that he started doing this more than three decades ago as the front man for seminal British punk band the Jam (a.k.a. the Greatest Band Ever). While most of his contemporaries have succumbed to death and making music with pan flutes, Weller has mostly stayed on course through the pop-soul years of the Style Council and his Britpop solo career. If all goes well, “22 Dreams” will finally get Americans to rediscover his genius, sadly overlooked around these parts since “My Ever Changing Moods” scraped the charts. He’ll be at the Fillmore Sept. 4.

Q: How do you always manage to look like you’re 21?

A: I don’t know about that. It’s amazing what they can do with photography these days. The grim truth might be a lot different.

Q: So it’s not the copious amounts of drugs you’re taking?

A: No, not at all. I’m on nothing stronger than vitamin C these days.

Q: You recorded your last album in two weeks. Was “22 Dreams” a more painstaking process?

A: It took a while. With the last one, all the songs were written up front and we had rehearsed and all that stuff. Whereas with this new record, “22 Dreams,” we just kind of made it up as we went along, so it was kind of a longer process. But every day was just as enjoyable.

Q: You said you made it strictly for yourself. What does that mean?

A: I just thought as I was coming up to the grand old age of 50 I was going to make something totally and entirely indulgent and follow my nose and see what happens. This is the result of it. Ironically, everyone seems to connect with it.

Q: You had throat problems a few years ago. Did you think you would never sing again?

A: No, not at all. I think I was just overdoing it. Too many late nights. It wasn’t like life threatening or anything. It would be devastating, man. I suppose I should take more care of it, which I sort of try to do, but I still smoke and drink. I would find it extremely hard to be on the road and not drink and not stay up and not have fun. I think it takes a lot of courage and discipline to do that. I don’t know if I’ve got it. I haven’t reached the age yet.

Q: Did you think you would be doing this when you were 50?

A: No. I couldn’t even imagine being 50 anyway, regardless of what I would be doing or not. It’s old, isn’t it?

Q: If you could go back, what would you say to yourself when you started out in 1977?

A: From my standpoint now? Just keep on keeping on. Through the good times and the bad, you just have to keep at it. But I kind of knew that. There was always a pretty strong work ethic in what I do anyway. I think even at 18 or 19 I thought I wanted to improve as a songwriter and get better at my craft. That hasn’t really changed.

Q: So you wouldn’t maybe say, “Try not to wear a loincloth in the Style Council promo photos in 1984”?

A: No, not at all. I would be all for it. I would say this is exactly what you should do and stand the consequences. They’re all rites of passage. It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes on the way; that’s part of life. It’s part of growing up. The only difference for me is I got to do it in public.

Q: What do you make of your former band mates from the Jam going out on tour under the name From the Jam?

A: It’s just like, why? What can anyone hope to regain? It’s like any moment in time. It’s gone. You have the beautiful memory. You can’t recapture any of those things. Time moves on. I just kept on working. I never stopped working. Isn’t that what musicians do? They keep on working, don’t they? For me, I just need to move forward. I’m not really one to look back. I find it all a bit weird, to be honest.

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