Pulp are from Sheffield and make rather outrageous records. Paul Mathur talks to them of dogs, wheelchairs, Nazis and baked beans.
There's a great big staircase at the back of Sheffield's Wicker. At the top there's two people settling down in the corners of the building. One of them is called Jarvis Cocker and he's hunched behind what appears to be a pile of pianos and a half-completed pigeon loft. "Don't come in," he says, rather overestimating my prowess as a mountaineer.
In another room there's a young man called Russell Senior lying on the floor looking at the ceiling. "Are you ill?" I ask. "No, just resting." These are two members of a pop group called Pulp.
Pulp take me to a room in which everything - walls, tables, sofa - is completely brown, except for a huge plastic bag full of empty Heinz Beans cans. They tell me that it's not an artistic gesture or a performance prop, it's just that the person who lives there likes beans. They furrow their brows and cross their gangly legs and wait for the questions. Pulp were kicked out into the world in 1980. Jarvis was young, fresh faced and just out of school. "I was so soft then. I used to write about love and all that stuff. Now I'm a cynical old get."
Last year Pulp had a single called Little Girl (With Blue Eyes) out on Fire Records. A theatrical trouserless romp around the scenery of love, it didn't get played on the radio and some people said nasty things about its sauciness. "I always thought it was a bit banal," says Russell. "It's a lot less dirty than most of the other records in the charts and yet John Peel wouldn't play it. I can't understand what the fuss is about myself. My mum likes it."
One of the songs on the B-side, The Will To Power, caused even more eyebrows to raise with its remarks about getting back to the spirit of 1933. So Pulp, are you really Nazi stormtroopers? "Well, they had good uniforms... No, of course we're not. The song was written in 1983 when we were living in a real SDP kind of environment, where no one had any opinions on anything. I wanted people to take sides, to get off the fence. I'd been reading about Germany at that time and the class conflict. I liked that atmosphere but obviously not from the point of view of being a Nazi. A lot of left wing statements are too wishy washy, too nice. I like the sharpness of the Moseleyite addresses. They were on the wrong side but they were better organised."
Pulp are better socialists than Billy Bragg and his little wooden guitar will ever be. Fact. "It was quite a commercial single, that one. We want lots of people to buy our records. Being an indie band is like pottering around the allotment. We're not proud of our independence." At this point a hundred thousand birds start to sing at once. Someone is playing a birdsong record but no one's quite sure why. Pulp mouth things silently at me which as the record ends tail off with "... come along to slag off your trousers and say 'look at that spaz in the wheelchair'."
Ah, the wheelchair. Following a particularly daft show of bravado in front of a young lady, Jarvis plummeted from his window and did a fair amount of damage to himself. He took to performing from his wheelchair on doctor's advice but everyone just thought it was a gimmick. "That," says Russell, "was cos you kept on getting up and walking off at the end of performances." "Aye, I suppose so. Playing in a wheelchair made me move my head more though. That's probably what's inspired our new Eurodisco direction."
Pulp's new single, Dogs Are Everywhere, is about as Eurodisco as a piano stool. It's a pensive, very nearly profound composition on, well...
"It's about dogs."
"Well, it's about dogs in society, male and female. As far as I can work out, man is nearer to dog than ape. The way they shit on your carpet, that sort of thing. Sometimes you feel like a dog, it's like low mindedness, brute instinct over higher values. It's a bit of a dilemma. You get the nobility of lions but dogs are stuck with walking down the pavements being dirty. There's no more pathetic sight in the world than a faithful dog."
What sort of dogs would Pulp like to be?
"Greyhounds, they're fast."
"I'd rather be a cat."
One of the other new songs is called Aborigine and it's about a man who gets married, has kids all through lack of imagination. "I'll tell you one thing about Pulp right. We're not about being grey and dull but we do a lot of wallowing in the dirt so that we can find something better. It's no use going on about the deconstruction of language. Your average man in the street doesn't give a shit about deconstruction of language. We want to convey love in the eggs, chips and beans, we want to carve something between the lines of the everyday world."
A mission, eh? "The only group we all like is Sham 69, especially Jimmy Pursey doing his future dance on 'Riverside'. He blew it all so spectacularly, looked such a total knobhead, it was brilliant. He's our hero."
Pulp. Pulp are...
"It's like when you go to a jumble sale and have to root around under all that Crimplene until you find a real bargain. Actually, I quite like Crimplene. My trousers are made of Crimplene..."