Interview: Graham Coxon

Interview: Andrew Trendell
Monday 14 May 2012
reading time: min, words

Graham Coxon will be seeing off the Olympics with  his old band in the summer, but not before swinging through town to promote new LP A + E at the Rescue Rooms this April...


You’ve chosen local unsigned bands to support you on your upcoming tour. What made you decide upon that approach?
I wanted a bit of variety. If you take a support band on the road with you, sometimes you get on really well and it’s like a big family and other times it works less well. This time I thought it would be fun to have something a bit more varied. On this tour, we’ll have everything from progressive rock to punk rock to metal to electro to a ventriloquist. Sometimes support acts can get a bad reception from people just waiting for the main band, but if they’re local then the atmosphere will be good and we’ll all have a better time. That’s the formula behind it all. 

What are you going to be looking for from local bands then?
Anything, within reason. As long as it’s decent. 

As an album A + E sounds full of life and like you feel really comfortable in your own skin. Would you say that’s fair?
I would, yeah. Well, I probably wasn’t 10/10 – I’m always a bit nuts. But playing-wise and in terms of the music it was just a lot of fun. We had loads of synths, guitars, drums and I just moved from instrument to instrument, pressing record. Ben Hillier, who produced it, had a lot of old synths lying around so we were mucking around with a lot of technology and bending stuff so it worked. In terms of quality control, if it sounded fun then we kept it and if anything sounded boring then we didn’t.

Were the songs written with a more care-free sense of fun than usual? Is that where the dancier, electro elements of the album came from?
I put down a lot of my demo riffs and ideas on the bass as I got a bit bored of what I was doing with the guitar. I also got bored of what traditional drum sounds had to offer me so I thought I’d play with different things. My last album had a lot of weird sounds and Indian instruments, so using just bass and drum machines I got it down to a pure and expressive state. I wasn’t signed and I didn’t have a particular audience in mind – I was just entertaining myself. It’s not dance music - with most dance music people have to be really, really rat-arsed to get it.

So if you’re bored of the guitar, how do you feel about people constantly referring to you as a ‘legendary’ and ‘iconic’ guitarist?
To be honest, I think that when people see me live, they prefer the bits between the singing when I’m playing the guitar. It’s all about the noises I make with effects and sounds, people are into that and what you can get out of it. You can do quite a lot of things with the guitar, really.

But you’re still more of a songwriter than purely an expert noise-maker.
Ha! Well I still write songs, yes, but I also still enjoy adding my noise as a collaborator, because I can just ‘be there’. I still enjoy interpreting Damon’s ideas and backing them up with guitars. It was the same with Pete’s [Doherty] album. I like it more when I’ve got more roles to play. I can sing different songs by getting into that character.

Speaking of yourself as a collaborator, has Damon ever asked you to appear on a Gorillaz album?
He hasn’t, but that’s probably because Gorillaz are his territory. We do our own things, but if he asked me, I wouldn’t say no. I doubt he would though, because he’s curating more than anything. He knows where people fit in with his ideas and it’s a completely separate thing entirely.

Since the reunion, has having your fingers back in the Blur pie helped you form a stronger and more clearly-defined identity of who you are as a solo artist?
I’d say it’s definitely given me more confidence - it’s a matter of having your cake and eating it! Doing Hyde Park and Glastonbury in 2009 with thousands of people out there in the audience without having to do much apart from sit there, play and do a few backing vocals; it’s a really wicked job. Then I’ve got my trashy, sweaty other outfit out there playing in smaller clubs with dirty toilets and there’s a visceral energy and connection with the audience that I really love. I can have the best of both worlds.

Before the reunion, where there many moments when you were working on solo material where you thought “I would love to take this to Damon and the lads and see what they could do with it?”
Not really. Musically, Damon singing something that I’ve written would make it totally different. We are two completely different personalities; I’m more self-deprecating with a bit of a sense of humour in my songs whereas Damon’s message is more… large, almost. In my songs I can’t help but poke fun. I think the band would do a really good job though, but it just wouldn’t be what it is now.

So what can fans expect from Blur’s Olympic gig this summer?
A really great, big show with some unusual songs that people might not expect. I’m quite aware of what Blur fans want and we’d like to play some rarities, but it’s also quite a big audience and a lot of them just want a bit of a knees up and don’t want to think too much about it. I get that when I see bands sometimes, you know, you think, “why are they playing this?” So it’s a difficult one. We haven’t really done much preparation for it, so we need to work on that but it should be a good one. 

What else do you have in mind for Graham Coxon in terms of goals you want to reach both with Blur and as a solo artist?
I don’t know. I suppose that eight albums is quite a lot, isn’t it? Some might say it’s too many. I can’t really think about what’s next or look too far into the future. When something comes to me I start working on my little demo machine. I want to take this album to as many people as I can and so much is happening this year. The future just seems miles away. 

A + E by Graham Coxon is out on Monday 2 April. Graham Coxon plays at the Rescue Rooms on Saturday 21 April. 

Graham Coxon's website

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