The Twilight Zone
Words: Andrew Perry, Photography: RIP, Architecture / Imaging: Softroom
Taken from Select Magazine, April 1998

Jarvis Cocker has been hibernating in a netherworld of heroin rumours, fame anxiety and "hairy moments". Meanwhile, he and Pulp have made an album fixated on love, sex, death and porn. this, as the single title goes, is hardcore...

A grey Saturday afternoon in January, and the market around Portobello Road is a bustle of multi-ethnic bonhomie, fruit and veg transactions and men pushing around tomato crates. It's just getting dark, but there are no lights on at Pulp's management HQ. Its floor-to-ceiling glass facade, the apparent bureaucratic disarray within and the absence of a buzzer all lend it the air of a successful art dealership. Eventually, a tall figure looms into view, and Jarvis Cocker opens the door. "Yeah," he confirms, flat as a pancake. "This is it."

Jarvis looks better today. When he turned up for Select's picture shoot with Pulp two days ago he instantly vanished into the toilet to erase from his face two days' stubble and the grime of rush-hour London. On his return it was explained that any stray threads or strands of hair would destroy the desired photographic effect of pristine futurism. "Are you saying that I should use a comb occasionally?" he quipped good-naturedly. The answer was, frankly, yes.

Superficially at least, Mr Cocker is a changed man. The Jarvis of 1995 would've been planning his get-up for an occasion like this for days in advance. He's wearing roughly the same clothes today as he was for the photo-shoot - a black velvet jacket, a rusty red turtleneck jumper and a battered pair of black drainpipe slacks with mud on the knees and ankles (either he's rediscovered his love of oldskool raves or he's been spying on people from the bushes again). It's not exactly that he's gone to seed, more that his mind seems to have moved on to other things.

When 'Help The Aged' came out last November, two years on from 'Different Class', it didn't hang around in the charts for too long. Industry mutterings suggested the single was just business as usual - the same old song, the same old thrift-shop irony - and another great Britpop demise was blithely anticipated. With the benefit of hindsight - plus the opportunity to hear the rest of Pulp's new album, 'This Is Hardcore', and then receive further clarification from Jarvis - it will become clear that business as usual would've been a dream come true for him and the band. It'll also transpire that their music has achieved a whole new scope and intensity, and that right now, when talking about getting old and dying (as he was on 'Help The Aged'), irony is the last thing on Jarvis Cocker's mind.

For a few months in the middle of 1996, Jarvis Cocker had one of the most recognisable faces in the country. With the sick breath of Michael Jackson's empire at his hind, he toured solidly with Pulp up to V96 in August. Thereafter, he was invited to every two-bit fashion show, launch, premiere and aftershow party in London, and he attended many of them. He was still going strong when, at the beginning of '97, the band - now minus Russell Senior, one of its oldest and most identifiable members - reconvened to record the follow-up to 'Different Class'.

As happens to all celebrities who dip out of the public eye to do the thing that made them famous in the first place, a whole host of rumours circulated about Jarvis last year. He was suffering from a severe case of writer's block. He was on heroin. He'd had a nervous breakdown. He was packing in music. The handful of interviews he gave to promote 'Help The Aged' made little or no reference to such goings on. What did come to the surface was that Jarvis hadn't entirely relished what fame had brought him, that he'd been thinking long and hard about his own mortality and that the next album might be a fairly sombre affair.

The latter point, at least, is more than confirmed when Jarvis plays a few choice tunes from an advance CD of 'This Is Hardcore'. First up is the title track, a slow, seven-minute mood piece which boldly cocks a snook at the conventions of verse-chorus song structure and features implicitly pornographic lyrics. This is the single. He also airs the album's opener, a near operatic power ballad about drug comedown called 'The Fear', and then 'Dishes' - a quiet, melancholic song wherein Jarvis opts for housework over superstardom. It's music that will shock people who've found Pulp lightweight and trivial in the past. It's also music that, even in these youth-accommodating days at 1 FM (or perhaps because of them), could struggle to get on the radio.

As he selects the tracks, Jarvis noticeably doesn't bother with any excitable hard sell. He just gazes down at his leather moccasins and, quite genuinely, has the air of a man who's beyond caring what anyone thinks anymore. As he settles down to be interviewed, with just a pack of Silk Cut and a litre of still water for protection, he becomes more the Jarvis of old, assuming a number of louche positions on the couch in his manager's office. Minor foibles - he wears his watch over the cuff of his jumper to stop the strap pinching - only serve to remind you of his beloved eccentricity.

If you keep schtum for ten minutes Jarvis will happily fill them with his own coherent, if pathologically tangential, musings. Even in such shaky times he is relentlessly entertaining and strikingly honest. He often camps up his Sheffield brogue into that of a back-garden housewife, almost in defiance of how a famous person should talk. And, ever the master mimic, he assumes numerous other voices which, sadly, lose much on the page.

Has fame done your head in, Jarvis?

"It does do your head, you know. It's obvious it's going to do your head in. And especially in my case where it took such a long time to come. You test it out. You don't know. The easiest way I can put it is this - it's like the first time you see yourself. If your dad's got a video camera, and you can remember the first time you saw yourself on a telly, and viewing yourself from outside... it's a funny feeling. You become aware of things you'd never thought of - the way you walk, the way you hold yourself, the shape of your face when you're talking... When you look in the mirror, you tend not to talk, you just look. So you kind of get taken outside yourself, and look at yourself. It's like there's two of you."

So there's two Jarvis Cockers - the famous you and the real you?

"Yeah. One of my favourite films, all through growing up, was this film called The Man Who Haunted Himself. It's a bit of a tacky film, but I've always found the basic premise really interesting. Roger Moore has this car crash and somehow his heart stops on the operating table, and it sets free his alter ego. And the killer is that everyone likes the alter ego more than the real bloke."

"Prior to the accident he was impotent, he couldn't get it together with his wife, and so he starts having an affair with this woman, and he goes out and plays snooker, and he's winning, and everyone thinks he's a right laugh. It has a bit of a cop-out ending, but I always liked that thing that people preferred the pretend one to the real one. It was funny, because I saw it again after all this fame business had happened to me, and it seemed a similar thing. You've got another version of yourself out there, and people know that one better than they know you. It's almost like you say, [dopey] 'I wish I could be like him. [Pregnant pause] Oh yeah, I am him.'"

But you did charge headlong into the world of celebrity, didn't you?

"I did go out a lot, yeah. Obviously there was that period when fucking Andy Coulson [The Sun's showbiz writer] was saying, 'If you see Jarvis out at a lig, ring us up and we'll give you a tenner,' and all this shit. But I've always had a bee in my bonnet about this thing of exclusion. It seemed that my generation went straight from school onto the dole, and you were an invisible sector of society, and you really felt compartmentalised and ghettoised. So to get the chance to take part in mainstream society was exciting to me."

"Now, after six months of going out and seeing what it was about, it dawned on me [laughs] that it was a pile of shit, but I had to go and look at it for myself. There's no point sitting there with your anorak on, slagging everything off in the corner of the pub. I think you have to grapple with these things. And you run a risk in those situations of becoming maybe something that you 'ate - that you hate, sorry, not something I ate - but I had to do it. It was dead funny at first. You'd be there seeing fucking Nicholas Parsons shoving all these canapes down his gob at these daft things. There were some good laughs, but then you realise you don't want to live in that world, otherwise in ten years' time, somebody else is going to be watching you shovel in the vol-au-vents. [Disbelieving voice] 'Fuckin' hell, he's lost it!' I'm just lucky that, through a combination of having friends who are quite feet-on-the-ground and experiences like those, I didn't go off into Chris Evans land."

Did drugs ever become a problem?

"The stage that we're at now is where loads of people have done that, they've done that drugs route. Maybe you just exhaust that way of trying to find out something, and you have to look somewhere else, maybe just look at yourself, get something from yourself with no aid at all... [smirks] He said, drinking this [peeks disdainfully over rim of glass of water]. But it has to stop, because where's it going to go? Are you going to keep doing that for the rest of your life? It's alright doing something that just enhances having a laugh or enjoying yourself or... I don't know whether you can really get any spiritual insights, but if it becomes too much of a habit in your everyday life, it can become a problem. I don't think it ever got to that stage. It's boring to talk about."

But everyone does. The rumour persists that Pulp and heroin are no strangers...

"Oh, I've heard lots of rumours. That me, Mark and Steve are supposed to be addicted to heroin. It's quite amusing to hear the stories. [Extra Yorkshire] I don't really want to talk about it, because if you talk about it, I doesn't really help anything really, because any one person's experience is going to be completely different to somebody else's. One thing I will say about it is this. I think that what happens is, say, you've got a group of ten people who're friends and they all do that kind of thing, everybody eggs everybody else on, but if you talked to each individual person out of that group and said, 'Are you really wanting to do that?' they'd probably say, 'No, I think I'd be better off without.' It's peer pressure. Like when your mum says to you, 'If Martin Hunt jumped in some dog dirt, would you?' The answer is probably, 'Yeah, I would. If he said it were a good laugh, yeah, I'd do it.' You have to make your own decision. It's not for me to say. That's all I'm going to say on the subject."

It's also been rumoured that you suffered some kind of breakdown. Did you?

"No. Well, I've not been in hospital, if that's what you mean. I had a funny period where I went to New York for three weeks at Christmas last year [1996] - on my own, which in retrospect wasn't the most sensible thing to do. But it was to get away from everything, and to have a think about what I wanted to do next, or even if I wanted to continue doing it anymore."

"There were some hairy moments there. You have to go through a crisis point, I think. I thought I'd go away and do it in private. I think I was just trying to get my head together, ready to go through this whole process. First of all, it's going to take you a certain amount of time to make the record, then it's going to take you quite a lot of time to go out and play to people. You're talking about two or three years out of your life. So if you're going to go through that, you have to make sure that it's what you want to do, because if you go into it a bit half-heartedly, you're going to get really screwed up. So I just wanted to go off to decide if it was what I wanted to do. But I probably could've done it in a less traumatic way. [Smiles ruefully] That's as far as I'm going to go on that one. Anyway, I'd better go for a wee. All this water."

When he thanked Select readers for voting him Man Of 1996 with the caveat that "'96 was sick, '97 will be heaven", Jarvis was giving a pretty frank description of his state of mind. Sadly, he wasn't prepared for the fact that last year would be no bed of roses either.

It was a year the band had to begin without Russell Senior, the violin player and conceptualist who'd first joined Jarvis in 1984. Russell had decided to give up the touring and look after his children instead. While the extent of his musical contribution has often been in question ("Pulp's Eno?" chuckles bassist Steve Mackey, I wouldn't quite go that far"), Russell's presence is missed by all the band. Speaking to the four remaining members, it's fairly clear that it's Mackey who now occupies the lieutenant's role. Where drummer Nick Banks, keyboard player Candida Doyle and, particularly, guitarist Mark Webber are circumspect virtually to the point of comedy, Steve comes across as the feistiest.

Sequencing the album alone with producer Chris Thomas at a Shepherd's Bush studio, he says he's been keen to "modernise the Pulp sound", pointing out the horn loop he took from the Peter Thomas Sound Orchestra's Raumpatrouille TV soundtrack album which provides the backbone to 'This Is Hardcore'. A few days earlier, he'd brought along his own copy of the Li'l Kim album to jolly along the photo shoot - not a traditionally Pulp-esque selection. Perhaps he just likes the album's title - it is, after all, called 'Hardcore'.

When, in early '97, the five of them reconvened at their rehearsal room in Farringdon to begin writing the album, Jarvis was still plagued by self-doubts after his break in New York. As the music began to take shape, he suffered an agonising bout of writer's block. "He'd given himself a hard act to follow," Mackey observes. "He'd written all the lyrics for 'Different Class' in two days." Jarvis avers that the problem didn't last too long. Mark Webber suggests that the lyrics he wrote later in the year, like the twisted relationship expose 'Sylvia', were more in line with the Pulp of 'Different Class', but the earlier ones - 'This Is Hardcore', 'The Fear', the B-side 'The Professional' - tended to be bleak, desperate and death-obsessed. Yet, death has always been one of Jarvis' preoccupations. It's all there in early Pulp titles like 'Death Goes To Town' and 'They Suffocate At Night'.

According to Martin Aston's biography, Pulp, Jarvis even spent 20 long minutes at primary school pretending to be dead - he only stopped when he heard an ambulance arriving. The Jarvis of 'Help The Aged', 'This Is Hardcore' and 'The Fear', however, is a very frightened man, one who has felt the heavy jolt of his own mortality and has at least temporarily moved on from arching an ironic eyebrow at petty suburban scenes or curling a knowing lip at modern sexual mores.

'This Is Hardcore' begins like a funereal update of Ravel's 'Bolero' and, when the Cocker voice finally creeps in after a full, airplay-unfriendly 1 minute 40 seconds, it barely sounds like Jarvis at all. It tells the story of a man who realises his sexual fantasy for a woman by making a pornographic movie with her before, in progressively despairing tones, the voice wonders what else there is left to do now they've done it every which way. And what was the point anyway?

It's seemingly as commercial as yesterday's pants, but it's a staggering piece of music which stoops so low it can't help but be strangely uplifting. The same goes for 'The Fear' which Jarvis opens in a burnt-out, 'Kowalski'-style whisper. "This is the sound of someone losing the plot," he croaks, "Making out that they're OK when they're not / You kind of like it... but not a lot." Then the chorus practically bursts into tears on you, aided by a fullblown female choir. It's like you've run into the character from 'Sorted For E's And Wizz' two years down the line and they're telling you how those cumulative weekends of oblivion have plunged them into a world of psychosis.

With their lavish arrangements and orchestration, not to mention their existential torture, these tracks make Britpop seem a very distant memory. They place Pulp more in the world of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, late-'60s Scott Walker, maybe even Spiritualized - ambitious creators who make a mockery of the mainstream. You can almost hear the distant stampede of accountants, estate agents and stock-brokers beating a hasty retreat from such challenging music. 'OK Computer'? Ideal when you get in from work. 'Urban Hymns'? Lovely with coffee and liqueurs. 'This Is Hardcore? Could be too much for the ulcer...

Still, let's not run away with the idea that Pulp have gone all 'In Utero' on us. There's a track called 'The Professional' (sample lyric: "Cocker is short for sucks c...) which Jarvis says they've put on the B-side of 'This Is Hardcore' because, "I don't want to be one of those whiney rock stars - y'know, so tortured, so terrible that I've got all this money..." He says he's been at pains to shoehorn his own feelings into narratives that are relevant to the wider world. On 'Dishes', a far gentler beast, there speaks a lover who can't pretend to be God's gift to his partner, but can offer a simple, domestic happiness. Between the lines, mind, you can read pretty much where Jarvis' head is at in 1998. "I am not Jesus, though I have the same initials," he sings, "I am the man who stays home and does the dishes." Later, he confesses: "I'm not worried that I will never touch the stars / Because stars belong up in Heaven, and the Earth is where we are... I'm happy just to be alive / And that seems possible."

Jarvis returns from his toilet break and settles back down on the settee.

You've said that you didn't want to write about fame. Why is that?

"It's not particularly interesting, is it? And also there's a certain mean-spiritedness in it, really. I could say that in some ways I've been a bit disillusioned by my experience of fame, but if I wrote about it, it could seem like I'm saying, [seen-it-all voice] 'Don't bother aspiring to anything, don't bother trying to get out of the rut you're in, because if you do it's shit anyway.' That's not a nice thing to say, is it? There's nothing to say that my experience of it is going to be the same as someone else's. So I had to stop myself. I've touched on it a bit, I suppose. I just had to, in some way."

You've always written about what's around you, though, and you've been a famous person ever since 'Different Class'. Is that what made it difficult to write this album - maybe why you had writer's block?

"It was down to that thing of not wanting to repeat yourself, and trying not to be self-conscious. But then again, the things that are worth writing about remain the same through the ages. Love. And sex. And what else? Death [laughs]. Human things. Basically, there's no new emotions being invented. And you've got to think, although it's only four years since we've been successful, there were 12 years before that when I was writing stuff as well, so I have covered quite a lot of ground. It does become a bit harder to come up with a new angle on something."

There's no shortage of words on 'This Is Hardcore'. Tell us about them.

"'... Hardcore' is a bit about fame, actually. It's starting off point is porn. I could see some parallels there. I ended up watching a lot of porn - hah! - on tour. If you get back to the hotel and you've got nothing to do, you put the adult channel on and have a look. You learn that what's permissible in some countries is not permissible in other countries. It was weird. You'd sometimes see the same film, or the same actors - well, 'actors' in inverted commas - and you'd see the English version, which will basically just show you the faces. You maybe see just a bit of bodies, then you just see faces and people going, [fake orgasmic] 'Oh yeah, oooh yeah!' Y'know, and a bit of slapping and that. Then you see the same one in Sweden and you've got the full monty, as they say. It's all out there."

"It's the way that people get used up in it. You'd see the same people in films, and they'd seem to be quite alive, and then you'd see a film from a year later and there's something gone in their eyes. You can see it, that they've done it all and there's nowhere else to go. There seemed to be something really poignant about that to me. It seemed to be very similar to the way people get used up in the entertainment business. Obviously, television and everything thrives on these life stories of people. It doesn't matter whether it's a film star or a rock musician or anybody, it always seems to end tragically and you can't hide from that fact. You think, 'Is that going to happen to me as well, then? Am I going to be the alcoholic in the mental asylum, or in a completely catatonic state through too many drugs, or am I going to kill somebody in a car crash, or whatever?' There are certain exceptions but generally that seems to be it. There's something to do with realising an ambition that seems to curdle somebody's spirit in some way. So it seemed appropriate to write about that. I was really relieved to be able to write about it without referring to it directly, to have found some kind of image for it."

In the course of your research did you find that there's good porn and bad porn?

"I don't like Japanese pornography. It's really about demeaning women, a lot of it. It's like watching a rape or something. But some porn is quite funny. They sometimes even bother putting a story in. There was this mad American one I saw. This bloke was being told to do things by these woman's lips on a TV. There was this weird scene with a giant cereal box and two blokes dressed up in fly costumes - green stretch bodysuits and these fly headsets. And then they both shagged this woman at the same time - I'll leave it to your imagination how they did it. Really explicit. They just had their genitals hanging out of these green stretch costumes... It did my head in. I just thought, why? And y'know, 'Have I lost it? Am I just imagining this? Or is it some terrible thing from my subconscious coming out?'"

So does a porn-athon make a man feel guilty?

"I do think it can be a kind of brutalising thing for a human being to watch, because I think human nature is that you want more, and that could lead you down some very sordid alleyways. Maybe you're not supposed to see that. They always seem to want to use angles that you'd never be able to see in real life. They always go for that one behind the bloke's balls, and you can see him doing it. It's horrible. It's not a very nice, aesthetic image to see. It's like a thing that you shouldn't see, because you never would - unless you had a very strategically placed mirror. Maybe that's why people want to see it - their curiosity to see what you shouldn't. It's human nature, isn't it?"

Were you worried that 'Help The Aged' was a rather un-rock'n'roll thing to be saying on your comeback single?

"That was the oldest song, and I was beginning to feel like if we didn't get it out soon, it'd be past its sell-by date. All that hype around when Oasis came back with their album and everything - I think it turned people off in a way. That it can't be reviewed in the review page, it's got to be on the front page of The Observer. I thought, 'Gawd. It's just a record, isn't it?' So I thought it would be quite nice to just release something without too much hoohah. Just put it out, and allow people to make their own minds up. I thought we did alright to have a song about death in the Top Ten - I count that as an achievement. Maybe we overestimated the British public's ability to face up to their own mortality a bit, but I still think it was worth doing."

What brought on your morbid fascination?

"Well, it comes to us all, you know. I know that's a very obvious and glib thing to say, but you don't tend to think of it in everyday life when you're just walking down the street. If you do, you end up hospitalised. It just came upon me. I became a bit aware of the fact that I was older. You get some physical changes, and mental changes. You have to start looking after yourself a bit more, which is something I always never wanted to do. And then, on a daft level, it came from touring and sleeping in a coffin every night, because the bunks on a coach are the same dimensions as a coffin... except it's got curtains on one side. So I used to be scared the bus would crash during the night and that was it and I wouldn't know anything about it. I know it sounds a bit morbid, but if you start thinking that way I think the way to get it out of your system is, instead of ignoring it, you have to try and turn it into something."

Are you worried your younger fans are going to find this stuff too 'adult' or heavyweight?

"Well... [pause] Obviously I don't want it to go in the charts at 32 and then fuck off the next week, but there's no point in thinking that way. You can't imagine your audience. You imagine it as a mass, but it's made up of individual people, and you don't know what their reasons are for getting into you in the first place. You can't pick your audience. It was a bit of a surprise when we got loads of young people at our concerts, cos I wasn't trying to write teeny-bop anthems. And we got loads of Townies coming to our concerts as well. Like, we'd written a song, 'Mis-Shapes', which was basically saying, 'Townies are shit.' And they're all there, going, [gumby voice] 'Yes! Com-mon Peo-ple are yeah!'"

"I saw this bloke at the Verve concert. They're playing 'The Drugs Don't Work' right, one of the more mellow songs. And he's there [shuts eyes in scary rapture], gurning away. It's like, [leans forward like menacing teacher] 'You haven't really taken any kind of message on board here, have you?' The drugs obviously were the only things working for him. He's fucking shaking everybody's hand... A strange thing to see, but that's how it goes. People get into it for different reasons."

Is the Jarvis Cocker that the teenies idolised no longer with us?

"You'll laugh at this now, right, but I believe there's a grain of truth in it. You know they did a waxwork of me for the Rock Circus? I kind of agreed to do it, because I thought it would be a laugh and because I quite like that place - it's funny. But it was unnerving the way they did it. It was crackers, really. [Shrugs disbelievingly] They sent the head in a box to the studio. So this box arrives, and I fucking open this box and it's my head in it, looking at me. And they've done a really good job. I know sometimes they do them and they look nothing like... But this one's pretty realistic."

"So I'm looking at this head, and it's freaking me out, I couldn't really look at it too long. And they came and matched the hair up and the eyes and stuff like that. I asked them to get rid of a few crow's feet, obviously... And it's up in there now, and to me, I'm really pleased because in a kind of a way, that period is there, like a voodoo doll or something. That's that period, and if people want me to be like that, I just say to them, 'Go to Rock Circus and look at that dummy with your Walkman on and that's it. If you want something else, we're here, still alive.' It's a semi-Dorian Gray thing, isn't it? Except the other way round. I'm the one who's getting more twisted and messed up, and the dummy can stay untouched."

The litre bottle of water has run dry and, consequently, its consumer has run back downstairs for another wee. He returns with a khaki parka on and wheels out his battered old bike into the remnants of Portobello market. The blokes are still pushing around their trolleys, not even noticing this remarkably tall fellow with his fur-lined hood up.

Jarvis switches on the yellow plastic radio that sits between the handlebars, and an unlistenably distorted version of Radio 2 blares from it. On top there's a buzzer, which sounds like Monty Python's raspberry and he presses it twice to warn a couple of stall-holders to clear the road ahead of him. Waving awkwardly behind him, he cycles off into the darkness for a night in with the dishes.

Nick Banks

"We were all in the studio the whole year. Even if you're sat reading the paper all day, you get some sense of a binding. Sometimes you look up from the paper and think, 'Shall I even bother raising my voice?' - you know, 'What about trying this?' But you know nothing will ever be done about it, so I just go off back into my cage."

"We never hear any of the lyrics till it's vocal day. What comes first is the music. There's no lyrics, just basic mumbling with a tune. When the lyrics arrive, it's like, 'Aaaah, so that's what he's been mumbling on about the whole time.' And sometimes it's a clearer sense of 'Aaah!' than other times. The difference this time was that Jarvis got to work on them a bit more, rather than a spontaneous gushing of diarrhoea. It's an album that looks at the world through slightly more worldweary eyes. Couldn't put me finger in it. Lovely spirited music for all types, haha."

Interesting personal details: owns a pub in Sheffield called The Washington which is "very much vinyl seat" and boasts a large collection of radios. Has a 16-month-old son called Jackson, named after singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. "Don't know anything about his music. Just sounds presidential I thought, Jackson Banks..."

Steve Mackey

"I feel I can talk about this album because I've been very involved in it. Politics of bands are something you can't explain to anyone, but, unfortunately, bands aren't democratic. If they were, it wouldn't lead to anything. There's a point where someone has to take the lead. When we started it [November 1996], I was in quite a state for the first few months."

"Since we finished touring [August 1996] I spent nearly all my time concentrating on using technology. There's still a lot of people who are very old-fashioned, even in our band - it's like using something from someone else's song is somehow not how it should be done. Mark despises my musical taste. Anything involving beats - Mo'Wax, Aphex Twin and that kind of stuff - he just can't cope with it. Two or three songs started from the sampling process, but the basis is still the five of us writing songs. It still does feel quite similar to me."

Interesting personal details: has a little boy aged 21 months. "The way I coped with it for the first six months was just to be really healthy. In every aspect of my life, I really looked after myself." Has bought a painter's studio and an old Mercedes.

Candida Doyle

"The LP's taken so long. It's all been writing and recording the LP and trying to keep yourself occupied. If I was really into mixing, I'd be expected to be in the studio doing me bit, but I just sit around in the studio doing cross-stitch. Sometimes I do have an opinion on mixing - 'that sounds really bad'- and because I don't say much I know it'll be listened to. The LP's not a 'Different Class', is it? It's not 'Disco 2000'. I never really liked that song anyway, to be honest, and it's the most popular one! There's always some songs you don't want to play. 'Babies' - I never want to play that again, sorry! I like 'Common People' best. And I like 'This Is Hardcore'. 'The Fear' I don't like too much, but it's really popular."

"I can't see us being really so appealing to 11-year-olds and stuff this time. I'm not bothered if it's not the same as last time because it was a bit too much - it's not real life. This one feels more us. I don't know if Jarvis has just trusted us all a bit more, like a group effort. I think he needed more moral support this time."

Interesting personal details: has bought a flat in Stoke Newington. Saw a job going there in a toy shop over Christmas and almost went for it: "It doesn't make sense, every day trying to write songs. I suppose it's just not what normal people do." During recording, she developed a serious cross-stitch habit.

Mark Webber

"I had a horrible year - quite a few people have had quite bad years in the group. And that obviously shows on the record - it's not really all sweetness and light, is it? 'The Fear' is my favourite track and that gives a very good indication of the mood of the group at the time it was written, but I'd also say that Jarvis seems to be a lot happier now. This time last year he wasn't a very happy bunny. I don't really know the reasons, he's not always that good at communicating them."

"I'm not sure what I think of the album, because we haven't had the argument yet about which songs are actually going to go on it. I'm hoping there'll be one. I suppose I wanted to make 'Sister Lovers' by Big Star, but no one else did. Some of the album is really good, and some of it I personally find not very interesting. It's obvious when you listen to something whether you have any empathy with it or if it's not worth the time of day. It's a very different group now from the one I saw in 1986 and joined in 1991. It's good to come into a successful group and have the opportunity to try and impose your tastes on it. What percentage success rate do I have? About one per cent."

Interesting personal details: has bought his own house in Kentish Town. "It's made life more comfortable, but it hasn't made me any happier or anything. There's still far too much to worry about."

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