PAUL WELLER – ” Saturns Pattern “

Posted: May 17, 2015 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
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Paul Weller is doing a number of interviews in support of new album “Saturns Pattern”. He’s dressed, unsurprisingly, in full Modfather regalia; dark brown cashmere knit, immaculately pressed bootcut trousers, elegant suede Oxford shoes. Weller just doesn’t do pretence. Down to earth and affable,

After his concert at the Royal Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The charity is celebrating its 15th Anniversary, and Paul Weller has long been a loyal supporter. It speaks volumes that, at the beginning of a promotional campaign and having just completed a UK tour, he was still willing to give his time so generously. “What they’ve done over the last fifteen years is incredible,” he explains, “and it’s one of those charities where you know that whatever proceeds are raised, they go only where they’re supposed to, you know? You can physically see the results. I visited one up in Newcastle a few years ago, and talking to the kids there, the difference that it has made to their lives and their parents.

His special guest for the night was old friend Johnny Marr, who joined Weller and his band on stage for a version of an old classic, ‘(I’m A) Road Runner’. These shows have a long history of collaboration; having played previously with Paul McCartney, Noel Gallagher, and Pete Townshend, he climbed behind the drums in 2013 as Gallagher and Damon Albarn very publicly buried the hatchet with a sweet, ramshackle rendition of Tender’. Has he never been tempted to turn such fleeting moments with his peers into something more concrete?

“It’s a lovely idea, but I think it would be hard to get it together because all of us are always off doing something, or someone’s on tour. It’s one thing coming together for a charity gig, but it might be a different story when you’re making a record together; I’m never sure how much democracy works in a band.”

Having said that, Damon [Albarn] and Graham [Coxon] did a thing last year for Record Store Day where we backed Michael Horovitz, who is an old beat poet from way back, one of the last surviving ones really. We played with him, it came out on record, and that was nice; there were no egos involved and everyone just got on with it really.”

He has a charming, old-fashioned habit of referring only to “records” – it’s never an “album” – about Saturns Pattern, his twelfth. Billed as a mixture of “languid grooves and spine-tingling rock’n’roll”, it sounds like a step back from the experimental kaleidoscope of styles he’s employed to great acclaim on his last three efforts (where he swung from dub reggae excursions to dream-like, jazz-inspired psychedelia via pulsing, electro, spoken word punk). There are riffs a plenty, heavy guitars, some timeless melodies, and a gorgeous little piano stomp called ‘Going My Way’; one comment below the YouTube video for the title track sums it up thus: “Nice to hear him writing something based around a melody again, instead of bashing away at a couple of chords and growling over a sonic landscape.”

Overall Saturns is out there on its own, and I don’t think you can compare it to anything else going on .

One thing is clear; it’s lovingly recorded, and the mix has a deep, rich lustre to it. It sounds crafted, luxurious even. Weller has never really claimed to be a studio perfectionist, but free of the usual deadlines related to time and money – he has his own recording space, Black Barn in Surrey – he obviously wasn’t rushed. Sometimes he’d get through a couple of tracks in a day, others took a whole week to polish; there was “no pattern to it really, and if there is a pattern you have to break it and re-assemble it. It depends on the song, the mood…so many different factors.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew what I didn’t want, so that helped. It was a question of just experimenting with sounds and songs until we hit a point where I thought: ‘That’s what it should be’. We try to make it as good as we possibly can, but I wouldn’t want make it so perfect that there were no rough edges – it would become too linear. There are things that are out of tune, a voice or guitar, which is fine because if that’s how it was then that is how it’s supposed to be.”

He’s been remarkably prolific these last few years, despite having some sizable laurels that he could rest on, should he so wish. 2010 saw him scoop both the NME’s Godlike Genius Award and an Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award, the type of prize that precedes the industry gently ushering the recipient off into the sunset to enjoy their dotage. Three records – one of them nominated for the Mercury Music Prize – an EP, a second compilation LP, a live album, and more or less constant touring since is quite a workload for anyone, never mind a 56 year old. But Weller is as restlessly creative as ever – and the proud owner of a fierce work ethic.

“I couldn’t do a nine to five on it at all, it wouldn’t interest me. I really have to wait until it happens. Sometimes I sit down and I’ll write a load of lyrics, or do a song in an evening; other times I couldn’t really care less and I don’t think about it until I need to. Often I’ll just write little scraps of ideas in a notepad, and then I won’t look at them – I’ll just stash it away until the time is right. When that comes, I look through them and take little bits and pieces, whatever fascinates or interests me.”

There was much tabloid tutting when, in 2008, he split from his long term partner and moved in with Hannah Andrews, a backing singer from the 22 Dreams sessions; they’re now happily married, with twin boys. One song on Saturns, ‘Long Time’, scans like the redemptive celebration of a man who felt lost, but found a way out of the darkness; “For a long time I couldn’t find myself / Thought I was someone else / Couldn’t find no peace.” It could easily describe his newfound domestic bliss, but he says it’s not autobiographical; in fact, he says it doesn’t really mean anything at all.

“I hadn’t really thought about it in those kind of terms. Probably on a very sub-conscious level, because I wasn’t thinking about what I was writing when I was writing those words; I was just making shit up really and seeing where it went. I’m sure the sub-conscious mind works like that; sometimes it might take months or years to think: ‘Oh, that’s what I was trying to say’, and it’s not always apparent at the time.”

Weller has described himself in the past as a “working musician”, and I’ve always been perplexed by the idea that music, alone in the arts, is perceived as having a upper age limit beyond which people should stop playing, and stop caring – something that is never applied to authors, actors, or painters. He has a simple answer as to why this is; rock’n’roll is linked to youth in a way other artistic disciplines simply aren’t.

“Young people have always been the face of that, especially in the Fifties and Sixties when it was about rebellion. That music defined people and defined a generation. If you’re a classical, or a jazz, or a blues musician – the older you are, the more respect you have; kind of like the Village Elder, you know? So this is just in rock and pop. We’ve got all that history to look back on, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with The Rolling Stones, whether they are 70 years old or not.”

I’ve only seen the Stones once, but they were brilliant, truly great for their age. Weller concurs. “I went to see them last year, first time ever, and I was really knocked out by their audience. They were the same age as them – people in their late 60’s and 70’s – and they’d obviously been going since they were kids. I found that really beautiful, to have stuck with them all that time and grown up with them; they’re still mad for it! And it’s the same thing for my generation, people who grew up with the Clash, or the Pistols, or disco; your mind is altered through that, you know? You don’t stop loving rock’n’roll just because you’ve hit 41 or something.”

Such music snobbery is, he says, limited to those of a certain age; kids these days, thanks to the Internet, just don’t see barriers. His own, older children simply “like it or don’t like it; they don’t make that distinction between eras, whether it’s a Stones song or Kanye or whatever is contemporary.” That’s not to say he doesn’t hold a candle for some of the great bands he grew up listening to, and how they compare to a lot of modern music; The Velvet Underground for example, who were one of my great discoveries at University.

“Timeless, isn’t it? The Velvets, that’s pretty eternal that music. I mean, I’d like to hear some new bands sounding as good as them, man! We live in a different time, and I think we have a different appreciation from some of them older eyes. I’m still glad that Iggy is out doing it; I’m glad that he’s still got his top off and the man’s going mad. What else is he supposed to do, wear a bowtie and sing supper club stuff? It just doesn’t work like that.”

Saturns Pattern’, the new album by Paul Weller, is out May 18th and available to pre-order now.

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