Please welcome back Jarvis Cocker, the original king of New Yorkshire
Few pop stars have ever wiggled their skinny frame quite like Jarvis Cocker. The ultimate rock 'n' roll dreamer, he inspired Arctic Monkeys, styled The Long Blondes and, with his wonky NHS specs, stuck up for every mis-shaped misfit in the land. It's over a decade now since Jarvis sneaked in pop's back entrance to storm the charts with 'Common People', headline Glasto and wave his bony arse at Jacko during The Brits. But the good news for anyone who ever cared about witty lyrics and spying on your next-door neighbour while she unbuttoned her blouse is that Jarvo is back. Firstly, he's got a mixtape out, 'The Trip', compiled with Pulp man Steve Mackey ("People might think it sounds like an iPod on shuffle but there is some rhyme or reason to it"). Better still, he has his own solo album written. Time for a catch up Chez Cocker...
NME: So what's a day in the life of Jarvis like these days?
Jarvis: "Well, childcare is now a major part of my life [he has a three-year-old son, Albert]. And I've started writing songs again. When I moved to Paris I thought I was gonna retire. I thought being in my 40s was too old to be doing music. And as I made that decision I started writing songs again, just to fuck myself off! Obviously it'd be more dignified to retire, but..."
How are they sounding?
"They're amazing (laughs). No, they're... well, I ain't gone skate metal. I just don't want it to be a moany record. And I want the songs to be short. With Pulp I thought we were writing these concise pop songs but they were all four or five minutes long. That's a shit length. To be almost five is like being overweight. It's always mystified me how people seem to fit all this information into three minutes and why I always seem to ramble on!"
No noodly solos, then?
"No, it's all very tuneful. I wasn't expecting to write songs, so the way they manifested themselves was in my head. I'd walk around for a few days and if I didn't forget the tune a few days after that then I'd think they must be alright."
Noel, Liam and Damon are all still making records too. How do you look back on Britpop?
"I try to avoid it! Due to memory loss, I can't remember that much of it anyway. But it's funny when you get people referencing it as an influence or something. 'Cos apart from making you feel very ancient, it's funny just thinking what a bunch of knobheads everyone involved was. It's strange to think about how that could influence anyone! And of course I'm including myself in that bunch of knobheads."
You never felt you were making 'great art'?
"When you start thinking that, you end up making an absolute pile of rubbish. Most good things you do you arrive at accidentally. When you go and see a band or listen to a record you don't want to hear any effort. You want to think they did it while having a piss or eating a sandwich. When you see people trying to impress you it's a turn off."
What are your best Pulp memories?
"Getting the first Peel session [in 1981] gave me the confidence not to go to university, although success wasn't as instantaneous as I imagined! And playing 'Common People' at Glasto in '95. That was a realisation that we'd made a connection with people."
What was it like walking out onstage to headline Glastonbury?
"It was terrible! I remember holding onto this chair because I didn't dare stand up in case I tripped over and broke my arm. I was so nervous that the only safe thing I could do was sit on this chair and hold it really tightly. I must have been there an hour! I can't remember much after walking on. The shows that only seem to take 10 minutes are the good ones because you get lost in the moment."
The cover for 'Sorted For E's & Wizz' came with instructions to make a wrap of speed and the tabloids went mad. Did it amuse you?
"It was daft, the whole idea that origami is gonna lead everybody to drug addiction. Around step eight I think there was a mistake so it was actually impossible to make. Just as well, otherwise a whole nation would have been wiped out!"
Did you enjoy the aftermath of showing up Jacko at The Brits?
"(Horrified) No! No! That was when it all went wrong for me. It was my own fault obviously for drawing attention to myself in such a way."
People thought you were a hero.
"And I'm very grateful to them. But on a personal level, the level of celebrity that came with that was just not good for me. Some people thrive on it but I hated it."
Because you started getting recognised by people who knew nothing about Pulp?
"Exactly. When you've been in a tabloid, bus drivers recognise you. Before that, I knew I could only get recognised if I hung around the indie section of HMV. But once you've crossed over into that kind of other territory you're kind of like Jordan, but without the breasts. Everybody recognises you. It does your head in. Especially as a lot of my writing was based on eavesdropping. I couldn't eavesdrop on people anymore because everyone was staring at me!"
Music's officially good again. Agreed?
"Well, I have to like Arctic Monkeys because they're from Sheffield. They're great, although it mystifies me how everyone's like, 'God, it's amazing what they're writing about'. Because it's just normal stuff! Singing abut normal things in your own voice should be the most natural thing in the world!"
Sheffield's the hottest city in rock 'n' roll right now.
"That's a joke, innit?! It's funny to think that Sheffield's happening. When I was in Sheffield, being in a band was the shittest thing you could do. People used to say they were in a band just to avoid saying they were on the dole."
In a weird way, The Streets do a similar thing to Pulp...
"I admire Mike Skinner because he's managed to adapt to his changing lifestyle and keep that as part of the music. I never managed that. I just fell into drug and alcohol addiction and blew it all! Actually, I was never an addict. But I found it very hard to adapt to my changing circumstances."
Do you feel sympathy for Pete Doherty?
"In a way, he did that same thing of becoming Jordan. He'll get abuse from lorry drivers on a regular basis. I feel sorry for him, basically. He's in danger of giving too much of himself away. He's subscribing to that rock 'n' roll myth, but it ain't drugs that make people write good songs. The drugs thing is just people not being able to handle being famous, or thinking it'll solve their problems and it doesn't. People take drugs because something is missing in their head. The link between drugs and creativity is very tenuous."
It's true that rock stars are courting celebrity a lot more these days. Will we ever see Jarvis on Celebrity Big Brother?
"I was asked to do I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. And I told them where to go."
That would have been brilliant!
"Pfft! I can't imagine anything worse. What's interesting, though, is how musicians like Bez and Preston always seem to do well. Musicians are always getting slagged off and are supposed to be bad role models and the dregs of society. But you put them on those programmes and usually they're the nicest people. Us lot, the work-shy farts, actually end up being quite likable. And the people like George Galloway, those in a responsible position, are the tossers. So basically, put musicians in control of the country and everything will be alright."
Is it weird being a fashion icon to new bands like The Long Blondes?
"Please don't blame me for that! I think music should keep away from fashion. I think that all that fashion does is take the top superficial appearance of things and doesn't bother about anything underneath that. And that's bad when you get that knobhead who designs Dior making out he's Pete Doherty's best mate, and he'll just drop him if at any point he thinks he ain't cool anymore. And all these bands with stylists, like Keane or whoever, are just terrible. The point of it is you need to make it up for yourself. You shouldn't have someone telling you to look blandly cool. Blandly cool is the most terrible thing in the world."
A lot of bands seem quite career-orientated these days...
"That's terrible. The whole point of being in music is to avoid a career. That's why I did it! Ain't done an honest day's work in my life! So to think about it in those terms is very capitalistic. They start thinking of themselves as a product and how they can sell it. I say, 'Fuck capitalism, do something different.'"
Do you think music's lost its rebellion a bit?
"Yeah, it's not right. They're always on the radio talking about their equipment. It's like listening to someone talk about their car or something. If a plumber came around to mend your toilet and started telling you about his spanner, like, 'Yeah, I've had this spanner for about 20 years' you'd say 'Shut up, you boring bastard.' But music people think it's alright to talk about guitars and computers. That's nothing to do with music as far as I can see."
Looking back, Pulp were the coolest Britpop band...
"But at the time we weren't considered cool. We weren't cool. We'd been around for too long and wore funny clothes. We were considered quite a joke for a long time."
So do you not feel like you were the perfect pop star?
"No way! I'm an absolute wreck! It's funny how anyone could say that knowing what an idiot I am."
And what does the future hold?
"For the world? Death, destruction and bird flu."
And for you?
"I'm excited about doing music again. I've resigned myself to making a fool of myself, right into a ripe old age."