by: Kenneth Partridge
Paul Weller has been candid about his distaste for shoegaze — the droning, distortion-rich strain of guitar pop he referred to as “rubbish” in a recent interview. Funny, then, that his new album, ‘Wake Up the Nation,’ out now, features contributions from Kevin Shields, guitarist for Irish genre champs My Bloody Valentine.
“I liked some of his stuff,” Weller tells Spinner. “I wasn’t a massive fan of that shoegaze stuff. I thought it was a bit boring. I got to know his work through the stuff he did with Primal Scream. He’s a very unique player. He’s got his own sound, and his own style and way of thinking. His instincts contradicted where I’m at.”
Indeed, theirs isn’t the most obvious of musical team-ups. Whereas Shields specializes in abrasively loud, textured playing, Weller, the mastermind behind mod-punk favorites the Jam and the suave R&B outfit Style Council, tends to be more of a pop traditionalist, working within a classic ’60s rock-soul framework.
“He just came in with his bag of tricks, really,” Weller says of Shields, whose signature guitar sounds are all over the track ‘7&3 Is the Strikers Name.’ “He’s got the effects pedals and stuff. He just plugs those in and plays and we see what we like. It wasn’t too much deliberation: ‘Yeah, that works,’ you know? We went through quite a few takes, and we just kind of edited that stuff down afterward and picked what worked. He’s just a really nice fellow.”
Weller says he enjoys working with artists whose methods and musical reference points run contrary to his own.
“I’ve never encountered many disasters,” Weller says, citing eccentric English songwriter Robert Wyatt as his all-time favorite collaborator.
“He asked me to come play on [1997’s ‘Shleep’], and I never would have thought I’d play on Robert Wyatt’s records,” Weller says. “That really blew my mind. That opened me up to lots of musical possibilities, and since then, I’ve played on all his records. So it was great.”
“People pigeonhole you and think of you as doing one style of music” he adds. “But with my taste, I really am quite eclectic. I am quite open-minded. Even the most unlikely pairings — they can work, if you’re a good musician. Anything is possible, really.”