Daring To Dream
Paul Weller is at it again, refusing to be buttonholed into one style of music, reports Kylie Northover.
From WaToday.com – Australia
Paul Weller has no interest in nostalgia.
The musician dubbed the “Modfather” – he led Britain’s Mod revival scene as an angry young man in the late 1970s and early ’80s as leader of the Jam, continued his success with mid-’80s pop-soul outfit the Style Council and then as a solo performer in the ’90s – has outlasted many of his peers.
Last month he released his ninth solo album, 22 Dreams, which sees him once again branching into new territory – or many territories, to be precise.
An eclectic “double album” – yes, the concept still exists in the CD era – 22 Dreams runs the gamut of musical genres from electronica, instrumental jazz, Krautrock and even a daring/ill advised (it’s a fine line) spoken-word track.
Apart from one review in New York’s Village Voice last week, which said the album was “an exercise you could either call ‘ambitious’ or ‘masturbatory’ “, his daring new work has been widely acclaimed.”
I thought now was the right time to make a departure of some kind from what I’ve been doing and to try to expand my horizons, push the boundaries a little bit,” Weller says on the phone from his West London home. “I thought it was the right time to have a change, to try something different.”
Weller, who retains all of his south London geezer charm and accent, says the album is a reflection of the music he’s been listening to, rather than an effort to embrace multiple genres.”
I listen to all sorts of music, from jazz to classical to pop to whatever,” he says, “and that’s just the way it turned out.”
There’s even a touch of ohso- fashionable folk in the album, although more your old-school Pentangle style than your latter day neo-folk.”
I’ve really started to listen to folk music in the last sort of four or five years – it’s kind of like a new world to me, really,” says Weller. “There’s definitely some shades of folk, and of Pentangle, in there – I love some of their stuff.”
It has been touted as something of a concept album, but Weller says that wasn’t his plan. “It sounds a bit poncy but I think it’s like a sort of musical journey,” he says. “I like the thought that people put the record on from the start and get taken off on a 70-minute journey and get brought back to pretty much the same point. I don’t think it’s a big concept or anything. It’s just to get people to concentrate for an hour or more, to hear a record from start to finish. If they do that, they’ll get an awful lot from it.”
At the suggestion that it’s an album that takes a few listens, Weller agrees. “And I think that’s a good thing – it’s good to come back to a record, hear things again and hear something different each time, or feel differently about,” he says. “I think it’s important, especially in this day and age where everything’s so quick and immediate and automatic. I wanted it to be a lot of information and songs on there for people – people can keep coming back to it, dipping in and out of it, hearing different things.”
The record is heavy on collaboration; Britpop buddies Noel Gallagher and Gem Archer from Oasis, Graham Coxon from Blur, Steve Cradock of Ocean Colour Scene and former Stone Roses guitarist Aziz Ibrahim all feature.”
Collaborating wasn’t too much of a conscious decision – a lot of the record is really spontaneous,” Weller says. “And it lightens my load, makes things a lot easier! We just kind of really made it up as it went along, to be honest with you.”
Actually, he says “to be honest wiv ya”.”
As well as the tunes which I cowrote with people like Noel, there’s also lots of other people that played on the record that people maybe don’t know who are equally as brilliant, and all brought something to the record.”
On the eve of a big tour taking in Japan, Australia and the US, Weller is keen to get out and play the album live. “It’s been decades since I’ve been to Australia – it was back in the ’80s when I was last there. I’ve got a lot of explaining to do, a lot of catching up to do,” he says.”
The ticket sales have been amazing. I just hope I can live up to people’s expectations. I’ll do my best anyway.”
Despite turning 50 last month, he says playing live still gives him a buzz, and he’s not about to retire any time soon. “It’s early days but I’m quite enjoying it at the moment,” he says of the landmark birthday. “I was a bit scared before it, but it feels all right.”
Weller has always been something of a fashion icon – that Style Council-era loin cloth and spear photo shoot aside – and age clearly has not wearied his sense of style.”
It’s not a question of keeping up with fashion, it’s in me blood, really,” Weller says. “When I was a little kid in the ’60s, music and fashion just went hand in hand, you know? You loved the band, you loved the way they looked and dressed, their hair, their attitude – it was all part of it, really. So I come from that background and I can’t imagine that ever changing.
I don’t think I’ll ever be walking around the streets with a tracksuit and pair of slippers, you know what I mean?” The Modfather is appalled to learn that tracksuits are also worn as everyday wear in Australia. “It’s rubbish! I don’t know where it came from, if it was America or what, but it’s rubbish,” he says.”
Everybody dressed up when I was a kid, whether you had money or not, everyone made an effort and I think that’s really important.”
So we’ve established he’ll be looking dapper, but will Weller play old Jam hits as well as songs from his solo career?
One assumes it might be a contentious topic, given his well-known feelings towards the re-formed, sort of, Jam. The Jam’s original bass player Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler now perform Jam hits with a new vocalist and guitarist as From the Jam.
When I mention that I recently saw a sign outside a local venue plugging “From the Jam” and thought it was a cover band, Weller is delighted. “I think it is a f—ing cover band! I’m not really for this reforming thing,” he says. “I don’t understand the need for nostalgia and people getting back together – I think it’s a load of old bollocks.”
The great moments in life, he says, can’t be recaptured. “I think you’ve got to go forward in life, haven’t you? It’s best to move on and look for other good moments. For me, it cheapens our legacy. I don’t like it at all.”
But, he adds, he still performs the Jam’s biggest hits himself. “And I’ll tell you why – because I wrote them,” he says with a laugh. “I can think of them as Jam songs or Style Council, but at the end of the day, I wrote them, and I think that does make a difference.”
Paul Weller plays Challenge Stadium, August 13.