The Think Tank: Russell Senior
Words: Pat Reid, Photographer: Retna
Taken from Select Magazine, October 1996

Pulp's fiddle maestro Russell Senior dispenses earthy wisdom on Lovejoy, pastry dishes, Tony Blair and Cinzano.

Which are worse - pigeons or rats?
I'd say rats. Pigeons wouldn't survive a nuclear holocaust, and rats would. I think that's got to be against rats really.

What's your favourite haircut?
I always think Stuart from Menswear's hair looks very nice, a kind of centre parting that doesn't make him look like a swot.

What's your favourite non-UK country in the world?
I like Italy very much and I found Iceland a place I'd like to go back to. Apart from that, you can stuff it really... In America the generosity of spirit is totally genuine, they do want you to have a nice day, they really do. And anyone who's got a little cafe, they want it to be the best cafe and they want you to enjoy it. And you don't get that on the M1 at all.

What is the secret of being really well dressed?
Go to a lot of jumble sales. This suit was made by a tailor in Sheffield called Ashley Rogers. I think the London East End gangs used to go up there to get their suits made in the '60s. He effs and blinds, makes a chalk mark on you, swears, drops his fag, and goes and does it. I'd formerly never paid more than 10 for a suit. This one was the princely sum of 250.

Is there any cause that you would be prepared to die for?
No. Other than rescuing my loved ones from a bad fate. I have in the past been involved in left-wing things and put myself in mild amounts of danger, but I'd never be the one at the front of the picket line. I'd always be three or four rows back, pushing.

If you could invent a new recreational drug what would it be like?
It would put you in the frame of mind that you're in just as a thunderstorm breaks, when the electrons in the air dissipate and you get that unaccountable euphoric feeling.

What do you reckon to Lovejoy? Is antiques dealing really like that?
Not in the slightest. He trolls about in his aimless fashion and 17th century bronzes and ancient manuscripts just happen to turn up on his doorstep. Most antique dealers basically buy junk for 10 and sell it for 20. My specialist field was glassware, which is hard to provenance because it doesn't have marks. That stuff is rare and valuable cos there isn't much of it. There's lots of great things that aren't worth a lot of money, like potatoes. If potatoes were rare they'd be worth a fortune, cos they're delicious.

Which is better - rock music or dance music?
I'm not a massive fan of either, I prefer pop music. I used to be a rocker, I still like Motorhead, actually. I don't like dance music particularly, cos I find it difficult to dance to. I don't claim any knowledge on the subject.

If you had to do national service, which regiment would you choose to serve in?
It'd have to be the SAS, because apparently they get shaved every morning no matter where they are.

If you had to give up your life and go and live in a novel or film, which one would it be?
Film: probably La Dolce Vita. Novel: Possession by AS Byatt. It's about these two researchers, a bloke researching a nineteenth century male writer and a woman researching a nineteenth century female writer. They don't like each other's authors very much, but they uncover letters that show the two writers were lovers. As you might guess, the two researchers end up being drawn to each other's writer and therefore to each other. Rather like the owners of the dogs in 101 Dalmatians. I didn't know it was a 'post-feminist novel', or I certainly wouldn't have read it.

Is Tony Blair selling out the Labour Party?
Well, he does have the distinction of being the first Labour leader to have sold out before getting in office, so he might be a total subversive like the Tory posters make out. God, those posters are so racist. This sinister black figure with red eyes, behind a red curtain. I think they're definitely trying to play a subliminal race thing. I wish Labour were as the Tories portray them to be - I'd probably vote for them. I'm more of a Scargillite. I didn't vote for Kinnock because he was too right-wing.

What do you make of the new Suede album?
Haven't heard it. I think Bernard was a hard act to follow. They were just so hot, and now they don't seem to fit into the lineage and canopy of 'britpop' that's been defined. It seems like it could have all been there without Suede. I thought their singles were great. I remember thinking at the time that they were better than ours. I didn't think their albums were as good as ours, though.

Going to Knebworth?
I'm not, no. I just fancy a night out in London. I haven't been for ages. It's the most exciting city on earth, everybody you meet around the world wants to live in London, and Londoners say 'It's so boring'...

Who are your violin-playing role models?
I'd be hard put to emulate even the worst busker. I don't like Nigel Kennedy's playing very much. I like classical music as it's habitually performed, I don't like all that extra fortissimo.

Say something in a foreign language.
"L'erba dell baccino e siempre piu verde." The other man's grass is always greener. It's from an Italian version of the Furry Freak Brothers comic.

It's the night before the Warrington gig and you've got 'gout'. Who do you nominate as your replacement?
Anybody who could play the guitar and the violin to the standard of the average 15 year old. Someone able to master the rudiments of the notes, the squeakiness of the noises and the random element.

If pop music was made illegal tomorrow, what career would you pursue?
There's a number of possibilities. One is being an inventor; I do invent things. Just domestic appliances, little gadgets to amuse myself, like a new kind of pastry dish. I do like to think that at some point in my life I will (a) write a novel, (b) do some inventions, and (c) open a restaurant.

Do you know anyone who's had cosmetic surgery?
Me. False teeth. Three front ones. I lost the originals on a piece of wholegrain bread. Apparently, after assault, the second biggest cause of tooth loss is wholegrain bread.

What's the most erotic moment you've ever seen in a film?
A film called The Beast by Walerian Borowczek, I remember that being quite saucy at the time. It was the less explicit things that were the most erotic, the heaviness of these oak-panelled rooms, it might have been Bach playing... I don't find squalor erotic. I know it's a Pulp thing and I recognise the truth of Jarvis' lyrics, but I like sophistication, Cinzano, these kinds of things..."

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