Apologies if posted before, but I did a quick search and didn´t see it posted.
Is there a thread for interviews ?
Anyhow I enjoyed this interview with Graham if anyone likes to read :
There’s something weird about Blur. At least that’s how the band’s guitarist, Graham Coxon, sees it. That word — weird — comes up a lot in his conversation, particularly when the 46-year-old musician is waxing lyrical about his very English group, the one that battled so valiantly with Oasis for the Britpop crown during the 1990s.
Aside from a seven-year gap in the noughties when bickering with other members and an alcohol problem caused him to quit, Blur has been Coxon’s most successful and enduring outlet since the band formed in London in 1988. He is well respected as an innovative and dexterous guitar player, even by early nemesis Noel Gallagher, and had a hand in creating all of Blur’s albums, albeit minimally on Think Tank in 2003. Never content with putting his feet up, as he puts it, the prolific songwriter, painter and multi-instrumentalist has impressive curriculum vitae outside of Blur that includes a string of solo albums and credits, largely on album covers, as a visual artist. It’s his musical talent, as well as his restlessness, that is partly responsible for The Magic Whip, Blur’s first album in 12 years, which is released later this month.
This year also marks the return of Blur to Australia, as headliner at the Splendour in the Grass festival at Byron Bay, NSW, in July. It’s a welcome announcement for Aussie fans, who were left disappointed when the band, because of a contractual squabble, cancelled its appearance at last year’s touring Big Day Out festival.
“It was disappointing not to come that time,” says Coxon. “We were all psyched to come, so it’s exciting to be travelling this year.”
Today the good-natured Coxon, who reunited with singer Damon Albarn, drummer Dave Rowntree and bassist Alex James in 2009, mainly for select large-scale performances, is central to Blur’s renaissance. The band’s eighth studio album would not have been made without Coxon’s persistence. The bare bones of The Magic Whip, no more than primitive jam sessions, were recorded almost two years ago, when the Tokyo Rocks festival in Japan at which Blur was to appear was cancelled at the last minute and the band members found themselves with five days to kill in Hong Kong.
“We figured we had five days off and we couldn’t just jet about the place, even though I was quite attracted to that idea,” says Coxon. “ ‘Let’s record this flippin’ album that people keep asking for.’ That was the spirit in which we went into the studio. Then no one said anything about it afterwards.”
The recordings were left untouched for 18 months. Albarn, who spent last year pursuing his solo career with an album, Everyday Robots, and a world tour, was quoted as saying he was unsure if the recordings would make the public’s ear. It was Coxon, in another moment of boredom last November, who convinced Albarn to let him work on the tracks with English producer Stephen Street, a regular collaborator on Coxon’s solo albums who also produced Blur’s self-titled fifth album in 1997.
“When I got bored of putting my feet up for a while I remembered those jam recordings,” he says. “I was scared that all of these things we’d recorded in Hong Kong, all of these exploratory sessions, would just disappear and we’d move on and we’d never get to them. Jam sessions can be really boring, so we had to cut all the crap bits out and keep the good bits. Stephen and I spent about four weeks going through the songs and putting them into shape and experimenting with some crazy Garageband ideas, structuring them, putting dynamics in there and writing different sections with new chord progressions.”
Armed with these new versions of the tunes, they then had to convince Albarn that he should write lyrics for them.
Coxon describes that process as being “quite nerve-racking”. “I was quite nervous and excited because I thought it was really great,” the guitarist says. “Stephen was scared to death that Damon wasn’t going to like it. It was a weird experience.”
Albarn loved the music. Following his solo appearances in Australia in December he went back to Hong Kong and spent two days writing lyrics. “I’m amazed at how Damon committed to writing the lyrics,” says his bandmate. “He wandered around in a daze for 48 hours and went on little trips and journeys. As much as you can absorb any of your surroundings and convert that into music — I don’t know if that’s possible — but that was the idea. It made me feel good because then I had done my job.”
The resulting tracks, such as Go Out, Lonesome Street and Ice Cream Man, are ruminations on loneliness, alienation and ecology and often gloomy futuristic visions set to psychedelic, spacey pop music. One lyric, for There are Too Many of Us, was inspired by the Sydney siege in Martin Place, which caused one of Albarn’s gigs at the Sydney Opera House to be postponed. “He could see the siege out of his hotel window and see it on TV at the same time,” says Coxon. “In the media everything nowadays is seen through the filter of the internet and I think there is a lot of that feeling on the record.”
In the 1990s, what Coxon calls more innocent times, the internet was still a fledgling technology, but Blur was a phenomenon. Between 1992 and 1995 the albums Modern Life is Rubbish, Parklife and The Great Escape and a host of hit singles that included Girls & Boys, Country House and The Universal made the band a household name. Alongside acts such as Oasis, Suede, Pulp and Supergrass, to name only a few, Blur brought a fresh strain of Englishness into pop music, one, in its case, inspired by acts such as the Kinks and to an extent the Beatles, who could also consider Oasis among their keenest devotees.
Britpop was the name of this rock ’n’ roll revolution. Like punk before it, Britpop had originality as well as copyists and fuelled the media, not least in the rivalry between Blur and its Manchester rival Oasis, a frenzy that hadn’t been heard of since the Fabs and the Rolling Stones divided fan loyalties. Headlines blazed whenever one group outdid the other at the top of the charts or when one band member let slip a comment about the other group. It was working-class lads Oasis v middle-class nice boys Blur. Coxon didn’t like it one bit.
“There was a weird competitiveness,” he says. “I guess when young men are put against each other they turn into these silverback gorillas and they start to beat their chests. There was a competitiveness that I didn’t really enjoy. I didn’t enjoy the lad movement. I thought it was pretty regressive and a bit boring.”
The best part of being in Blur in that era, he says, was “earning some money and not having to live in a squat and being able to eat and maybe I bought a beer or two. It was a great experience and to meet people all over the world was amazing.
“The worst thing about that era, and this was a big missed opportunity,’’ he continues, “was that everyone was trying to make [the Beatles album] Revolver, which was a weird obsession in a way. Everyone was saying, ‘The new record’s great, it’s our Revolver.’ ”
As the 90s progressed, so did Blur, marching on from the Britpop jangle to a more lo-fi sound on the Street-produced Blur. That was followed in 1999 by 13, the group’s most radical departure from that early Kinks-inspired, English kitchen-sink drama style. In its place came a broader palette of experimental sounds and structures, with producer William Orbit at the helm. It was also Coxon’s biggest contribution to a Blur album. He was largely responsible for shaping the music, just as he has been on The Magic Whip.
In both instances, he says, “I was just left alone to do my favourite job, which is structuring songs — how it ends, how it begins, what happens in the middle, what happens after this chorus. That’s my favourite thing and is one of my jobs anyway, but this time I had more time to think about it with a producer. Trouble is, I can’t stop. I keep thinking about how I could have put this bit there and so on. That’s what happens.”
Last month in a tiny club in west London Blur took the first step in launching this new phase of its career by playing The Magic Whip in its entirety to 300 fans who had entered a ballot for the privilege. The show’s execution and reception was further confirmation for Coxon that his musical constructions had not been in vain.
“Now I know we can play the record I’m really looking forward to it coming out,” he says. “Before, I was dreading it a little bit. It’s all very well jamming, but releasing it after it has been restructured can be hard.”
Small clubs are not Blur’s natural habitat these days. Since that 2009 reformation, performances have been restricted mainly to headline spots at festivals such as Coachella in the US, Glastonbury in England and T in the Park in Scotland. The band held its own shows in Hyde Park in London in 2009 and will play there again in June as part of the British Summer Time festival that includes Taylor Swift, the Who and Paul Weller in the line-up. After that there’s Splendour in the Grass and a handful of European festivals.
With an album and a touring schedule in place that includes all four members for the first time since 1999 it’s looking like Blur could once again become a full-time occupation, but Coxon stops short of making that commitment. He has a new solo album ready to go, Albarn is never short of a new project, while James, whose autobiography Bit of a Blur gives a warts-and-all overview of the Britpop period and his indulgence in it, now makes cheese at his Oxfordshire farm and is much in demand as a newspaper and magazine columnist. Rowntree works as a solicitor in London when not behind the drum kit.
“For a while Blur has been our playground that we come back to when we haven’t got other things to do,” says Coxon. “Not everything we do is as good as Blur. We can make some pretty nice stuff together. The pressure is off because we ae not on a conveyer belt.”
Coxon is happy to be back in the Blur fold, however, and this time as a creator as well as a performer.
“What I have found out is that Blur thrives on an unfamiliar process,” he says. “We don’t really like going back to old ways we’ve done things before. The process for this record took us by surprise a little. It was quite accidental and weirdly fortunate. I don’t know whether it’s the last thing or the start of a new positive thing. We are going to treat it like the last thing and do everything we can with it. We’ll do a bit of travelling, otherwise we might regret not having a good time with it.”
No doubt, as well as having a good time, things will still get a little bit weird.
“We’re a little more appreciative of each other and what we do,” he says. “The weirder side of our natures is quietly amplified. We’re slightly more grotesque weird.”
Blur’s The Magic Whip is released through Warner Music on April 24. The band plays Splendour in the Grass Festival at Byron Bay, NSW, on Sunday July 26.