Sheffield's finest are back with a therapeutic new album, which they made just because they wanted to. Jarvis Cocker tells us why Pulp love life, and want to get back to natureHere he comes, walking down a west London street, six foot tall and dressed in brown. In the space of 50 yards, he is recognised twice. Jarvis Cocker may have rejected the hyper pop star life of the mid-'90s that disagreed with him "like a nut allergy", but pop culture is unwilling to give him up yet. And it's just as well, since Pulp, his band, have a new album out, titled 'We Love Life'. Intended to evoke a new Pulp spirit of simplicity and hopefulness, its overriding theme is best summed up in the final line of its last song (and first double A-sided single), 'Sunrise': "You've been awake all night, so why should you crash out at dawn?" Awash with imagery of birds, rivers and trees, it sounds like it's been therapeutic to make.
NME: At first the album was called 'Pulp Love Life', then 'Pulp'. Now it's 'We Love Life'. Why all the dithering?
"I initially wanted it to be called 'Pulp Love Life', but making that work on the cover... it always looked like, the name of the band's Pulp and the album's called 'Love Life'. And we tried it with this heart but that just looked a bit too tacky, so I just sacked it and thought we'd just call it 'Pulp'. And it stayed like that and then... to be honest, I was really freaked out, like everybody, when that World Trade Centre thing happened. Basically it was like staring into the abyss, weren't it? All the things you expect to be there forever... suddenly you think anything could happen. So in the aftermath of that I thought, 'Actually this 'Love Life' business isn't a bad sentiment at this particular time.' So I had one more go at trying to make it work. Calling it 'We Love Life' seemed better. It's more inclusive. So, much to the record company's displeasure, I changed it again."
The album itself has been quite a long process...
There was a low ebb just before Reading (2000), because we stopped working with the producer we started with. We had a couple of goes with other people and it didn't really work out, so then you do start thinking, 'Oh god, does that mean the songs are no good?' So we thought, 'Well, there's one way to find out whether the songs are any good or not - play 'em in front of an audience. They'll let you know immediately whether they're any good or not.' We ended the set with 'Sunrise' and everybody went crackers, so that really gave us a lot of confidence. So I'd like to thank the Reading Festival and the people who were there for helping us out."
When did you last feel at one with nature?
"While we were doing these concerts in the summer, I went up to the very north of Sweden, inside the Arctic circle. I went for a walk in this kind of wilderness park and I came across a herd of about 40 reindeer, and I just didn't know what to do. Because they were on the path, and I thought, 'If I go any closer are they gonna charge me? Should I make a noise and then they'll run off, or will that enrage them and they'll charge me even more?' So I do find it in a way quite scary, nature."
What did you do?
"I just kept walking and when I got within about 30 foot of them they just all bolted off. During that trip we had to stop once in the car because a reindeer was blocking the road, and I took a picture of it through the windscreen [right], and when I got back and we were trying to put the sleeve together I suddenly realised it was a perfect picture to illustrate the song 'Roadkill'. That's what I like more about the way we've worked on this record. You get on with your life and ideas spring from that."
You were on CD:UK recently, Cat Deeley seemed a bit wrong-footed.
"Really? I don't know. I'm sorry to admit that because I'm so lazy I'm hardly ever up to watch that. Why?"
The funniest bit was when she asked you whether you like Robbie Williams and Britney Spears. You just sighed and went, "they're alright".
"Well, you know, the thing is, I don't slag other bands off any more, which you may say, 'Well, that's a bit boring, Jarv, but I just can't be bothered. I mean, to me Robbie Williams and Britney Spears... I don't recognise it as music, really. I don't want to be snobbish about it. I just think, you know, it's OK for children, but I can't take it seriously as music."
Would you be upset if 'The Trees / Sunrise wasn't a hit?
"Er, I try not to be bothered. But if you have had Number Two singles, which we have had, it's just a statistic, innit? I mean, it's in the Guinness Book Of Hit Singles - it's a fact. So everything you release after that is going to be judged against it. Now, rationally, I say to myself, 'But that's not what it's about,' and it isn't but still, at the back of your mind you do worry a bit. But we'll see. I mean, I do buy chart records - the last one I bought was that Eve and Gwen Stefani single which I think is a really great record. But that's a real rarity. Most of the stuff I buy would never go within 600 miles of t'charts."
"Making this record - there was no other reason to make it other than that we wanted to and it would be an enjoyable thing. After 'This Is Hardcore', it wasn't like anybody was thinking, 'Yeah, them guys are gonna come back with a commercial album, aren't they?' There was no people gagging for us to do another record. So there was no commercial pressure. We kind of did it for its own sake."
But you, still watch Top Of The Pops every week. What have you loved and hated recently?
I hated that fucking... that fucking really bad version of 'Smooth Criminal'. Fucking... I can't get with that American stuff, that does me in, that. That 'Heaven Is A Half-Pipe' thing, it made me want to kill somebody every time I heard it. I was very impressed when Wyclef was doing that 'Perfect Gentleman' song, because the song I thought was OK, but he was performing on Top Of The Pops and suddenly he started doing, like, backflips and tumbling. I'm always impressed when someone can do a little physical stunt like that. I didn't know he could do that. He kind of just stopped, and then did a few like, fucking tumbles. I just thought, 'Respect to Wyclef, I like it'."
There's an allusion to (glam '80s soap) Dallas on ' Bad Cover Version'. Do you still watch loads of telly?
"No, I don't. I think that we've moved away from the television age. Now there's so many channels and you can watch a video or you can watch a DVD or you can play some games, I think it's healthier, to be honest. It's such a waste of time, and telly's so crap now - all these lifestyle programmes. Sitting there watching somebody strip wallpaper. I mean, fucking hell, doing it's bad enough but watching somebody else do it... I've made a conscious effort to wean myself off telly. I watched it so much as a kid and your head gets littered with all this shit. I'd rather my head had some useful information in it like how to build a wall or something. At first you think, 'Oh, it's great, there's loads of space, I'll just cram my head with whatever crap I can get my hands on.' Then suddenly you realise it's not infinite, after a bit you get information overload."
"(Emphatically) And then there's the killer, which is that you can't erase bits you don't need any more. You can't say, 'All my knowledge of Star Trek and Dr Who, I'll wipe that and I'll fill that space with something more interesting'. You can do that on a computer but you can't do that with your brain. So yeah, no more telly for me."
The Michael Jackson incident (when Jarvis rushed onstage as Jacko performed at the Brits) is now nostalgia for TV fodder...
It was I Love 1995 on telly recently weren't it? But I didn't see it. I don't know if we were on that. They asked if I'd go on it and I said '(Comedy emphasis) No thank you. I'm living in 2001, mate. Don't know about you.' The last time I saw one of them, one of them knobs they get in - it's always the same people, innit? - is there talking about Friends. Friends started in 1994 or summat. And he's going '(Mimes someone racking their brain) Oh god, how did the theme tune go now? Oh how did it go?' And I'm thinking, '(Aghast) It's still on telly! What the fuck are you on about? You're not going back into the mists of time - it's fucking on, every Friday!'"
Would you do any more TV presenting yourself?
"No. I enjoyed doing the Outsider Art thing 'cos that was an idea that me and my mate came up with, so that kind of thing, yeah. Just to present something or do an award ceremony or whatever... I don't know. Maybe if I get a bit hard up."
Are you happy with the way it's all turned out?
"Yeah, I do feel alright, actually. Life has its ups and downs, doesn't it? Part of the interest is trying to work it out. I'm really pleased we made another record. We could have stopped after 'This Is Hardcore' but I think it was worthwhile doing another one. Regardless of how it does, I think it's kind of relevant. I'm not saying it's cutting edge, or bleeding edge, or whatever they call it nowadays. But I don't think it's redundant. That pleases me."