The Gibson Interview: Paul Weller
Michael Wright | 10.29.2010
Paul Weller has been at the vanguard of British music since the release of the generation-charging single, “In the City,” in 1977. Angry like a punk, stylish like a Mod and soulful like an R&B man, Weller has consistently followed his own muse, even when that meant breaking up the very successful Jam and dissolving his hit-making follow-up outfit, The Style Council. Worshipped ever since by songwriters (most notably, Noel Gallagher), the “Modfather” continues to make finger-popping, hard-charging, yet elegantly soulful records to this day. Gibson.com caught up with Weller recently to discuss his illustrious career, his famous disciple/drinking buddy and the possibility of a Jam reunion.
What are your earliest musical memories? What were Mom and Dad listening to around the house?
I can always remember hearing music around our house. Records and the radio. The Beatles, Nat King Cole, The Kinks and Elvis!
What artist or artists made you first want to pick up a guitar?
The Beatles. They got me and the rest of the world into it.
How old were you when you got your first guitar? Was it a present? Did you save up for it?
My dad bought me a cheap, second-hand one when I was 12 and that was it for me.
Can you describe that first version of The Jam? You were, what, 14? How good were you guys?
We were dreadful! We just played cover versions of rock ‘n’ roll and R&B. Slaughtered them, really.
What do you remember about your first gig?
It was a Wednesday night in the local Social Club to seven or eight disinterested punters. Only two of us and our first taste. I was only 14 years old.
When did it start to really click for you – the songwriting, the playing? When did you start to look around and think, “Hang on, this could be something…”
Probably by the time I was 21, really – by The Jam’s third L.P. That’s when I realized what it really entails and took it seriously.
How comfortable were you with being lumped in with punk? From a songwriting perspective, especially, you guys were light years ahead of the punk scene.
Well, originally, punk was great – it was my generation’s wake-up call. I was really into it, man.
When did you start to think about incorporating more soulful, R&B elements? Was that a popular move within the band? Was everyone onboard with that creative shift?
Well, we’d always had that influence, right from the start, so it was very natural.
Ultimately, why did The Jam dissolve? You were on top of the world at the time.
I needed to move on. I’d been with the same band for 10 years. I wanted to go out and find the other parts of my life. I was still only 24.
How long was the idea of The Style Council in your head before you actually formed the band? Was it a musical itch you’d been wanting to scratch for a while?
Yeah, at least a year or so. I was listening to other types of music. I felt constrained by The Jam.
When The Style Council ended, it was the first time you’d been without a band since you were a teenager. Was that exciting or terrifying?
Both, I guess. Though mainly terrifying. I was lost. Didn’t know what I wanted to do.
When ’90s bands began lining up to pay homage to “The Modfather,” was it a bit disconcerting? You were still a pretty young guy.
No, I loved it! I felt “wanted” again. I’d been out in the cold for so long I felt glad to come in and be loved a bit.
How did you and Noel Gallagher first meet? Did it click right away? Was it an instantaneous friendship?
Pretty much, I think. We were both doing a lot of partying, too, and that helped/hindered!
Do you reckon this is it for Oasis or do you think eventually the brothers will work it out?
Speaking of which, you and Bruce Foxton recently played together onstage for the first time in 28 years at the Royal Albert Hall. How did that come about?
Well, Bruce came down and played on the new L.P. and it seemed natural to extend that to a couple of gigs. It was fun.
You know what question’s coming next…so I apologize–truly…but is there any chance that the three of you, as a group, will ever tour or record again?
Bruce appears on Wake Up the Nation. What does he bring as a bassist?
He has a very recognizable sound and style, and he was definitely the right man for those tracks.
The title track is a pretty rocking song. Can you tell me a bit about it? Were you thinking about any particular feel or artist or song when you wrote it?
Not really – it’s in the spirit of the album. We were trying to make music we weren’t hearing anywhere else.
“No Tears to Cry” has such a cool, late-’60s soul feel. What is it about that music still resonates with you?
It’s timeless, man. It rings true through the ages. It’s the heartbeat of the planet.
What still drives you to make music?
Because I absolutely adore it, believe in it and hold it up to be the truth amongst the bulls–t.