How was the experience of listening to the old records again?
Jarvis Cocker: I didn't listen to the actual albums. When they told me they wanted to do expanded versions I thought, rather than just have some shit remixes - well, some of the remixes were OK, some haven't dated so well - I thought, let's dig through and see if there's anything else worth putting on. I was quite surprised. I don't know whether it's just that quite a lot of time has gone by or whether my critical faculties have completely deserted me. But most of the stuff I thought was kind of interesting. Hopefully they shed a bit of light on the proper records.
The songs seem to provide a soundtrack to the '90s.
Maybe - I tried to write about things that were going on. I was very aware that, after spending the '80s out of touch, and then suddenly breaking through, it was our time to be involved with the culture of the time, and I wanted to comment on that. The song, "Cocaine Socialism", is a kind of case in point.
It got replaced by "Glory Days" on ...Hardcore.
It did. I just copped out really. It was a weird thing. It was probably complete rampant egotism on my part. Because the song was written before Tony Blair got in, and in my rampant egotistic state I thought,'Oh, I don't want to put people off voting Labour - I would like them to, really.' In retrospect, we should have just been bold and put it out, because the way things turned out, it was pretty...
Were you acutely aware while making His 'n' Hers that this was what you'd been planning for half your life?
It had taken us such a long time to get to this situation, we thought, better not screw it up now. We hoped it'd work, but it still seemed a bit of a pipedream. It's weird talking now, just a few days after it's been announced Top Of The Pops is going to be axed. It was very much a thing of wanting to be on the show. It's weird - I feel like a bit of a dinosaur now. It's like that thing of there being some kind of official pop music and an underground pop music, and now, I guess, that doesn't really exist.
"Deep Fried in Kelvin" seems like a key song...
It's certainly very long! I'd come up with a riff I really liked. And I'd just seen Weekend by Jean-Luc Godard, and there's this bit where they're in a forest and the guy gets a drum kit out and it sounded really good, so I decided the song had to have this 3/4 drum bit in the middle, while I told a story about a guy who tried to have a garden in his flat. I lived just round the back of Kelvin flats for about a year, but I had no experience of high-rise living until I moved to London. We first moved down to this squat in Camberwell on the 15th floor, and on the first night we moved in, I was really scared of living in a tower block. And we put the telly on and Crimestoppers was on, and the main story was about a guy who had broken into a flat and thrown the bloke who lived there from the window of the 13th floor. So I was convinced something like that was going to happen.
Did you instantly know "Common People" was a special song?
I was very pleased with it. It was the simplest song I'd written and I always think that the simplest songs are the best ones. And it was fast - and it's difficult to write fast songs. So I was excited. But I had no idea it was going to be this great thing. And as soon as we played it at Reading, we knew if we did it right we could have a hit on our hands. The whole dynamic of the next record came from that.
"Catcliffe Shakedown" from the Different Class extras, is an odd song.
[NB: The song contains a lyric Jarvis later recycled for The Wickerman: "Pudgy 12-year-olds addicted to coffee whitener and frankfurters..." as well as "Who is watching this docu-drama? A middle class couple sit in wonder as the titles roll. All the beer bellies and nicotine stains in this programme were real."] That was the song that made me piss myself when I heard it again! Musically, it's ridiculous. Lyrically, there's some interesting little bits. It's funny how your attitude changes to your background. For a long time I couldn't wait to get out of Sheffield - songs like "I Spy" are rooted in that. But you start to get an affection for the place and realise that the place has made you, so you can't slag it off too much. I think that's why "Catcliffe..." apart from its silliness - got left off. 'Cos it's snidey really.
Were you worried about turning into a self-parody?
That was part of what lead into This Is Hardcore. I remember vividly having to move flat: I was packing all the stuff up, I came across a few magazines with pictures of me, and I remember thinking, if I was someone else looking at those pictures I would just think 'what a twat'. And I realised that I wasn't very keen on being me. And I think you can hear that on some of This Is Hardcore, especially some of the things that didn't make it onto the record. Some songs I sing into a vocoder - it's like I can't even bear to have my own voice on them.
The record seems to have a kind of obligatory uplifting ending...
I don't like that last song, really. The problem with This is Hardcore really is that it's a very uneven record. It's got some of the best stuff we ever did, but also some of the worst. The first five tracks are pretty good, and then it just kind of goes off the boil, really. It doesn't hang together as an album. Maybe you're right - there was some attempt to lighten it up or something. But it's still pretty dark.
Do you feel any pride or satisfaction In the new Sheffield pop scene?
I'm pleased that it's happening, yeah. All the stuff about writing lyrics about what you know, and singing in a voice that's yours rather than an imitation of someone you've heard off the radio, all that stuff. I'm really pleased to see that's happening. But I can't claim any credit for it.
Will it all be worth it when they finally do unveil the blue plaque on the site where you first touched a girl's breasts?
It would, yeah. If only I could remember where that was...