Pulp came second in this year's Mercury Prize awards list with their His 'n' Hers album. They made the MM writers' second favourite LP this year. They are, quite conceivably, the second best pop group in Britain right now.
Jarvis is very late, but immaculately dressed. Jarvis has insisted we meet in "The New Piccadilly Café", off Piccadilly Circus. It is very Jarvis. An authentic early Sixties coffee bar, complete with steaming tea urn, it looks less like it's been restored, more like it's always looked like this, and fashion, running cyclically, has been lapping it for 30 years. Right now, it looks immeasurably hip.
Jarvis is very apologetic about being late, but it doesn't matter because he's so immaculately dressed. Jarvis takes off his glasses, unwinds his scarf and puts down his book ("Strange People" by Frank Edwards, Pulp-spotters).
Come on, now, M-People aren't all that bad, are they?
"Yes, they are. They're absolutely terrible. I mean, aside from the fact that we needed the money and they didn't... you don't really like them, do you?" No. "Oh, I see. You were playing Devil's Advocate." Yes.
"Right. Well, the thing I hate about them the most is that you get the feeling that they really think there's some kind of 'quality' in what they do, when really, it's just complete blandness. I love disco music and that, but I like stuff like Whigfield, where it's just a pop song and it's not trying to be anything else. I mean, M-People must be really ashamed of the fact that they play disco music. They must be, just because they feel the need to aspire to this idea of 'quality'."
Did you have to shake hands with them and everything and pretend you didn't care?
"No, we just kept out of their way. I saw that woman with the pineapple on her head go past, and I just looked in the opposite direction. Later, I was particularly violent towards a fruit bowl."
When you did "Pop Quiz", what was the team spirit like between you, Chesney Hawkes and Des'ree?
"We only really met up 10 minutes before we went on; you just find yourself in this room with wine and beer everywhere and you've got about an hour to sling as much down as possible, and then they say, 'Oh, this is Chesney, this is Des'ree', and away you go. I was too pissed to notice, really. The thing is, they send you a form to fill in about a week before, saying, 'Who's your favourite group' and stuff, so they can ask you questions that won't humiliate you too much, and Chesney Hawkes got asked loads of questions about Suede, and he didn't know anything about them, so he obviously just wrote ''Suede'' as his favourite band to look smart. And then he punningly referred to John Travolta as ''John Revolting'..."
Which, in a cheap link kind of way, reminds me - what was it like meeting Quentin Tarantino? Did he have the foggiest idea who you were?
"Well, apparently. Someone had sent him a CD which he professed to like, but I dunno really. He was a bit of a strange man, I thought. He's the same age as me, which is a bit frightening, because he's the enfant terrible of Hollywood, and I'm still singing in an indie band. I thought 'Pulp Fiction' was great, though. I never went to see 'Reservoir Dogs' for ages after it came out, because I don't really like violence in films. Well, it's sort of like heavy metal guitars. You can use it in a really cheap, sensationalist way, or else a bit more intelligently. But I don't think Quentin Tarantino's films are about violence anyway. They're about talking. He gets accused of just making films about other films, old pop records, crap Seventies' TV shows and stuff, but sadly, people's heads are full of that stuff, and it's just lying if you have lots of dialogue and nobody ever alludes to that stuff. You go into a pub, and it's all people ever talk about."
What about your own cinematic adventures?
"We got a bit of stick for the fact that 'Do You Remember The First Time?" was about sex, but it just seemed like a good subject, because it interests everybody. I mean, everybody's had a first time, or if they haven't, they're always thinking about it. Everyone's got a story to tell. Except Stephen Fry, who refused to appear in it - we got told by his agent really gruffly, 'He does NOT talk about his private life!' Oh, okay, you know."
When I saw you at Reading, some fans ran up to you shouting, "Jarvis, you're God" and that, and you silently took an apple out of your pocket, handed it to them and walked away. "Did I?" Yes. Do you always carry pieces of fruit around to hand out to admirers?
"Oh no - the thing about Reading is that I don't really remember too much about it. You know when you wake up in the morning and you know you've had a good time, but you can't remember what you did?"
I couldn't help but notice that, when you were on "Top Of The Pops", you'd written "I hate Wet Wet Wet" inside your jacket. Why them particularly?
"Well, I always hated Wet Wet Wet, actually. Even when 'Wishing I Was Lucky' came out, I thought they were one of the worst groups in the world. It's Marti Pellow's smirk, I suppose. But you see, I found that 'Top Of The Pops' was going to go out live, and I thought that if I didn't do something to surprise the powers that be, even if it meant we were banned from the show for all time, I'd never forgive myself."
Were you banned from the show for all time? "No. They all thought it was quite funny, actually." Oh dear. "Mmm."
There's a fairly good chance that in 1995, Pulp are going to become bona fide stars isn't there? "Thank you very much."
Ah, but what happens when you become remote, glittering idols, cut off from the kind of characters and situations that pretty much constitute your source material?
"I dunno, I'm living in Ladbroke Grove now, and while it's not really true that I walk around sort of, y'know, OBSERVING everyone - I mean, you'd get run over for a start - you do pick up little stories, you do see these little dramas everywhere. I think I could write some quite good songs about the high life."
What if you got really hilariously huge - would you be happy as a Vegas type band, you know, cabaret, a lounge act?
"When I'm older, maybe. I quite fancy it."
You're one of the few people who would pull it off.
"I'd like to play the Top Rank clubs and that. Actually, when we first started in Sheffield, and no one would give us a gig, and we were all really broke because we were always playing those places where you had to pay to play - I've got this horrible memory or us stealing a crate of milk stout from somewhere and getting into a fight over it - and none of us even liked milk stout - anyway, everyone used to say to us, 'Oh, you should learn a few covers, play the Top Rank clubs, that's the way to make a bit of money'. At the time it sounded horrible, but nowadays I think it would be quite an experience. I've always liked that sort of English cabaret thing. There's something very poignant about a big show where you can see the joins."
What ARE you doing next year? You're not going to be really boring and take two years off or something are you?
"Oh no. We're hoping to record a new single really soon, actually. We've written lots of songs, it's just a matter of getting them up to the stringent quality control standards we've set for ourselves now. Once they've been Kitemarked, we'll release them."
What did you think when people started writing you up as a "glamorous" band - I mean, to me, Pulp were always about desperation, failure, people reaching for the moon with their tails trapped in the door...
"Absolutely, yes. But we always presented ourselves onstage with a bit of a flash, I suppose. Just because I always thought that if you don't do that, you're cheating the audience, really. Especially if you live somewhere really boring, you don't want to go and look at a bunch of lads, now do you?"
Are you starting to get a bit sick of being "Rent-A-Funny-Northern-Man"?
"That's always the danger, isn't it? I think that's starting to happen to Mark E Smith now, he just gets patronised by everyone and no one really listens to what he's got to say. But then again, this is the entertainment business, and you have got to have some recognisable image, I suppose. You can't just tell people f*** off all the time."
The one thing everyone who meets you seems to say is that you're the most impeccably courteous man they've ever met. "Well, I was brought up to be polite. You know, it's so much easier to be polite than to go around swearing at everyone."
So who was the last person you told to f*** off?
"Oh no. I'm really ashamed of this."
Come on, who was it?
"It was the beggar in the street."
Jarvis, that's terrible!
"I know, I know. But it was in America, and I was really tired, and I wanted to go back to the hotel for a rest before we played the concert that night, and I was feeling terrible, and everything went wrong, and then after all this, I was on my way back to the hotel and this man started asking me for money, really rudely. And I just, umm, snapped."
Well I hope you're thoroughly ashamed of yourself. "I am, actually. Oh dear."
Last time I looked, you were running away with "Sex Symbol Of The Year" in our Readers' Poll. "Oh really? That's very nice."
I heard you were getting bored with being a sex symbol... "Not so much bored, just bemused. Cos I was always considered a bit of a spaz at school."
Is that when you first became obsessed, so to speak?
"Yeah, when there was nothing happening in mine, I suppose. I was a virgin when we made our first LP, and it shows - I had, shall we say, a rather idealised view of these things. You see, where I grew up, it was all suburbs, so all the houses looked exactly the same. Now, when you're walking home, there's nothing much to look at, so you have to start imagining what things might be going on behind the curtains. Of course, there's probably nothing going on at all, just people eating chops."
"Although - I'll tell you this story - Russell (Pulp guitarist) told me once that his mum had been looking for a new flat, and she went into this place where everything was perfect except for this terrible smell in the room, like off meat or something. She never took the flat, and a week later the estate agent told her they'd found that this old lady in the flat upstairs had died and fallen onto her electric fire, and all the fat out of her body had melted and dripped through the floorboards, and made this horrible smell. Now, when you're on your way home through really boring streets, thinking that that sort of thing might be happening in all those houses can really help you through."
We were talking about sex, Jarvis.
You've been hanging out with Cynthia Plastercaster (legendary American groupie famed for making plastercasts of rock stars' erect penises), haven't you? "She sent me a Christmas card this morning, actually. Here, have a look. 'Having a wank, wish you were here. Stay hard, love Cynthia'."
Were you ever, umm, immortalised yourself? "Nah. She didn't have enough cement..."
That's enough! Is there a particular kind of girl you go for? "I like bossy girls. I don't like girls who just do whatever they think you want them to do, and follow you around trying to please you all the time. Because that's just really insulting, and it gets to be hard work after a while. I like girls with a bit of personality."
Didn't you once go out with a girl who used to beat you up after every gig?
"That's true, yes. She used to get terribly angry that I was singing about the intimate details of our relationship in front of a crowd of complete strangers. Which I suppose was fair enough. I mean, you've got to be fairly personal in your songs, otherwise it's just a load of rubbish, but there is a thin line between that and just reading out your diary. I feel horribly guilty about that now."
Given the choice between sleeping with Deirdre Barlow, and changing the name of your band to "Jarvis 'Big Dog's' Cocker And The Slam City Rockers", what would you do? "Depends whether anyone would find out."
As a famous international playboy and general all-round ladies' man, have you got any tips for any desperate and inexperienced Pulp fans out there?
"Well, speaking as someone who has only risen to that particular role relatively recently after years of being a spaz, I suppose my only tip is: Never Be Afraid Of Your Individuality. All you need is patience..."
Okay. You're in a room with Eddie Vedder. "Right..."
You have five minutes to stop him being a twat or else you die. "Okay..."
What the hell do you do? "Am I allowed to kill him?"
Yes. "Well, there you go, then. Simple. Sorry, Eddie, you or me. I suppose you could give him a special gun done up to look like a microphone, which fired when you applied pressure to the handle, so that when he started singing, and got really intense, he'd squeeze the handle and - boom! Or you could use gas."
No, because you're locked in the room with him, remember? "Oh yes."
What about Danny Baker - what should be done? "I think maybe we should drop loads of Daz on his head so he dies."
You're in a feisty mood today. "I think it's the coffee."
When was the last time you went to the doctor's and what for?
"It was a few years ago, actually. I woke up with a cricked neck, and so I was walking like THAT all day, so I went to the doctor and he gave me painkillers. But the thing was, I was in the finals of a Karaoke competition that night, so when I got onstage, I was hunched up, and out of my head on painkillers, trying to sing 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town'."
Did you win? "No. I lost. Dismally."
Why do you think the Manic Street Preachers hate you so much? "I don't know. I can't work out why. I mean, I've never looked at his pint funny or anything. I've never chatted up his bird. It's a bit of a shame, really, cos we love them."
Oh well, it's Christmas. Have you seen the Christmas lights on Regent Street this year?
"They're crap. It's all sponsored by West End theatres and that, so it says 'Five Guys Named Moe' everywhere and stuff like that. Actually, that reminds me, this'll have to be the last question really, because I've got to meet my girlfriend soon. We're going to the pictures to see 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'."
Finally, then. Can you, unlike Sonya Aurora Madan, imagine the world without you? "Umm... yeah."
Really? "Oh yes. But it would be a much duller place."
Of course. "Yes. It would be... monochrome."