Approaching 40, with his mid-life crisis behind him and a baby on the way, newly-wed Jarvis Cocker is entering a mellower phase.
In the dark basement of an east London bar, the team from Marie Claire waits for an appearance from Jarvis Cocker. He's been held up - almost two hours - but is on the way now, pedalling his pushbike through the Hoxton backstreets as hard as those spindly legs can manage. He finally ambles into the shadowy room, chuffing on a cigarette and talking into his mobile. He's classic Jarvis: black-rimmed specs, skinny jacket, even skinnier jeans, a rumour of a smile and a whopping John Lewis bag crammed into his hand.
"Sorry I'm late," he apologises, "And sorry for being on my mobile. How rude!" Actually, Jarvis is rarely rude; he's ironic, droll and cryptic, but when I ask him if he minds doing the interview in a noisier section of the bar, he looks bemused and replies: 'Well, I'm not planning on shouting... are you?'
There are certain things you may know about Jarvis - that Common People was the national anthem of 1995; the album Different Class went triple platinum and won a Mercury Music Prize; Michael Jackson is not one of his favourite people; and a make-up artist once told the News Of The World, 'In bed, he satisfied my every need.' More surprising is that Jarvis recently got married, he's into gardening and is losing his contract with Island records. Life is taking an about-turn for one of fame's most unlikely heroes.
So, Pulp are releasing a 'best of' album...
The perfect Christmas present! There's also a DVD showing all the videos, some home-movie stuff and daft telly things.
Is this Hits album a semi-colon in your music career?
Yes, this is the end of a phase because it's the last thing we'll do with island. It covers the story so far. I'm hoping to move to Paris soon with my new wife (French fashion stylist Camille Bidault-Waddington), so things will be different all round. I've no plans to make music for a while, but if lyrics suddenly come to me, I'd be daft not to write them down. I've now realised that you need a balance between your work life and private life. I never used to have any time for myself and that's not right. I used to feel that I had to work all the time and now - God, I sound like an American self-help book - I've realised you have to work at your life, too.
Have the band split up?
No. We're going for that longevity award. Our first concert was in July 1980, so we are in the running. As soon as Status Quo give up the game, the way is clear for us.
What do you think about that manufactured pop thing?
I was in Spain when a friend told me that Will Young was at number one. I thought he said Paul Young, so for a few hours I was walking around thinking he'd had a revival with Wherever I Lay My Hat. The cover versions these people churn out are very worrying.
What's your response to Robbie's £80m deal?
Good luck to him - he's a nice person.
Why did you do Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes?
It was gentle persuasion on their part. Pulp were working on the video for Bad Cover Version and I wanted loads of lookie-likie famous people in it. We approached Stars In Their Eyes and they said they'd help us if I agreed to appear on the programme.
Did you choose to be Rolf Harris?
Lionel Ritchie was in the running for a while. I considered singing Hello, but then I thought I'd have a problem with the voice. I went for Rolf because I thought my face was fairly similar and I wouldn't have to be too long in make-up.
Were you shocked to win?
Well, I didn't pay attention when they were telling us what staircase to walk down so, when I won, I went to the wrong one and had to jump across. I was glad that people thought my appearance was funny, and I suppose the competitive part of my nature was quietly chuffed. When it was on the telly, we had a party for our friends. We were going to have a barbie, in keeping with the Australian theme, but it rained.
You've also diversified into modelling.
I did this TV ad for BT Broadband where I'm hanging off a lamppost. The guys who directed it also did a few of my videos so I'm familiar with their work and I thought it would be a laugh. I did all my own stunts. Also, I got asked to appear in some Marc Jacobs magazine adverts. I'm mowing the lawn wearing one of his coats. He did me a suit for my wedding so it was a fair exchange.
Jarvis continually fiddles with his wedding ring, a simple gold band. "As you've already noticed, I'm still getting used to it," he admits. Due to turn 40 next September, he reckons age has mellowed him. "The other morning, I looked out of my window and saw a little Robin hop by and I thought, 'How lovely!' I realised I've turned into a softie." Without sounding cruel, it's difficult to imagine Jarvis's new life among the supremely sophisticated French. His style manner and speech are quintessentially English eccentric - tea and Marmite are almost his life-force - but Jarvis raises an eyebrow at the suggestion of being a misfit, and claims he's perfecting his French and will only need to buy a big bottle of Aramis to become pseudo-Gallic. "At least I already enjoy a glass of wine on a very regular basis," he says.
How did you meet your wife?
We first met when Camille was the stylist of the sleeve of This Is Hardcore - although she's never tried to style me. Even these days, she knows better than to suggest ideas for my wardrobe.
How was the wedding ... ?
We got married in July in Normandy in the woods near her grandmother's house. It had been pissing it down the week before, but on the day it was lovely. It was good - a really nice experience. I was a bit nervous, but mainly because we'd organised a sequence of events and we wanted them to go well. I'd planned to let off fireworks at midnight and then, of course, Camille disappeared and I was scrambling around searching for her.
Did you consider yourself to be the marrying type?
I like tradition but I don't like convention. I went into this marriage believing it will be for the rest of my life. Otherwise I wouldn't have done it. I never used to think I'd get married because my mum and dad weren't great role models [his father left the family home and emigrated to Australia when Jarvis was seven], but then I decided I was taking things too seriously and got on with what was making me happy - Camille basically. Living with her adds another level to my life. She bought me a coconut the other day. She doesn't like coconut but she bought it because she knows I do.
Have you become more house-proud?
Not exactly, but I've come a long way since my old pervy flat in Maida Vale. It was all mirrors, smoked glass, leather sofas and overflowing ashtrays. That suited me at the time but now I try to be more tidy and not pollute the environment. If I'm left to my own devices, the house would get full of carrier bags very quickly and I'd never clear them up. I think being organised is putting everything into a carrier bag.
And now you're going to be a dad.
Yes. I'm delighted - but it always makes me want to puke when people go on about becoming parents, like the rest of the planet aren't always having babies. But I'm pleased, privately pleased.
Although he looks like a geek, a tangle of elongated limbs in thrift-shop garb with scuffed shoes and lank hair, it's obvious why women should find him attractive. Jarvis gives good chat - he's interesting, for God's sake - and he has an incredible aptitude for a quirkier, more diagnostic slant on life. By his own admission, he suffered a mid-life crisis when he was 33, but, as his forties approach, he admits he feels more comfortable in his skin than ever before. Whether that's due to his new marital status, only Jarvis knows, but the cynicism that marred the early years of his success seems to have disappeared. "Growing old isn't a problem for me," he shrugs. "It's my intention to make sure I remain interesting and interested."
Although he may no longer be snapped quaffing champagne at some extraordinarily hip art gallery, and there's little chance of him appearing on Top Of The Pops for a while, Jarvis's casual, frequent laughter suggests the best is yet to come. It's just a shame it'll be heard on the Left Bank rather than echoing around the backstreets of the East End. Au revoir Monsieur Cocker. Come back soon.
Best Christmas: In Sheffield, as a kid, at a party at my grandma's house next door. All the family would be there and we'd play a game called Beetle Drive, which I'm planning to revive because it's dead good. When I reached twelve, my mum would let me have a drink as a treat. Always half a larger.
Best Pulp Memory: In '95, when we went on stage at Glastonbury after The Stone Roses had pulled out at the last minute. I was nervous before hand and the crowd were singing so loudly, I could hardly hear myself. We really felt like we'd arrived.
Best Way To Spend A Friday Night: It's a bit hectic in London, so I tend to get out of town for the weekend and stay in a B&B. I love out-of-season seaside resorts. I've resigned from continual partying because I don't want to live on canapés for the rest of my life.
Best Wedding Day Memory: The fact that Camille actually turned up.
Best Wedding Present: The one that we use the most is an old Sheffield knife given to us by a friend. It has chopped quite a few things in our house.
Best Friend: My best man at the wedding, Martin. I met him at school in Sheffield and we moved down to London together about fifteen years ago. He works with people who have mental problems.
Best Thrift Shop Find: My relationship with thrift shops has gone downhill. You just can't get the stuff these days. Clothes from the 1960s and 1970s are up to 40 years old so the only ones that have survived are the nasty resilient acrylic things that crackle when you put them on.
Best Investment: My house, I suppose. Just as I never thought I'd get married, I never thought I'd buy a house - it acts like a giant skip for all my rubbish. This is dead boring, talking about investment.
Best Pair Of Glasses: I've only got one pair - from Cutler & Gross
Best Thing That Anyone Has Ever Said To You: 'I Do'