Interview: Graham Coxon on his eighth solo album A+E
The guitarist also discusses Blur's headline gig at the 2012 Olympics
Blur guitarist Graham Coxon is releasing his eighth solo record as the band prepares to play the Olympics. He talks to Ryan Drever about having his cake and eating it
So, you’ve reunited with your hugely successful former band, are playing some of your biggest shows to date and have been chosen to lead the closing ceremony of the London Olympic games; you probably don’t need to be sitting in a studio playing with crappy drum machines and unreliable vintage synths. Right?
In Blur guitarist Graham Coxon’s case, his motivation for making his eighth solo record, A+E, was far more about self-entertainment than necessity. (‘We drank lots of tea, ate loads of Double Deckers and just sort of had fun.’)
Recorded with producer Ben Hillier – coincidentally the man responsible for producing Blur’s last album, Think Tank – A+E is a departure from the largely acoustic song cycle of 2009’s The Spinning Top and instead is built on largely improvised demos, socially-anxious lyrics, and bass. A lot of bass.
‘I think my last album was just mega-expressive in every way,’ says Coxon. ‘As soon as I picked up a guitar I was like, “Argh, bloody hell, I’m doing the same kind of thing, how am I gonna get out of these habits?!” So that’s why I just put my guitar away.
‘I have this old Rickenbacker bass and it’s got flat-wound strings on it so it’s got a kind of honky, clonky sound. I really enjoyed it, so I was just having fun on the bass really. Then sort of shouting and singing, or whatever it is, over the top until these melodies came along.’
The album also benefited from being free from virtually all restraints; Coxon having been label-less at the time of making it, and picked up later by long-term affiliates, Parlophone.
‘I suppose we didn’t care,’ says Coxon. ‘There was no one from record companies coming in and going, “Whoa, I don’t know about this”, because I wasn’t signed’. He chuckles, summing the process up as ‘two sonic perverts doing whatever they want, surrounded by noise-making gear and recording gear’.
After February’s Blur-gasm at this year’s Brit Awards, followed by the announcement that the band would essentially be headlining the Olympics, it would be safe to say that Blur’s stature since reforming in 2009 has risen well above the nostalgic novelty of too many reunions. But where does this fit in with Coxon’s solo endeavours?
‘I think it might be just a matter of putting the different glasses on,’ he jokes. ‘Me Blur glasses for this year are these ones, and me solo glasses are these. I’m lucky because I can have my own grubbier, sweatier experience, but also have that big audience experience with amplifiers flat out and sit back a bit. Let someone else do all the singing and just concentrate on my guitar playing. It’s really good to have both those things, like having your cake and eating it really.
‘I’m just going to see what happens and if we feel like doing stuff, we do, and if we don’t, we don’t. It really is as natural as that. All our side projects became our main things and now Blur is our sort of Sunday band. We get to hang out with each other and muck about so it’s sort of nice.’
Graham Coxon will play the Garage, Glasgow on Tue 17 Apr, ‘A+E’ is out on Parlophone on Mon 2 Apr.