Digging In The Archives #1
Andy Wood interviews Lloyd Cole July 1998
During the 1990s I co-produced four issues of a fanzine, Cute Kids on Medication, a very self-indulgent and very much self-published affair. It was very much an act of love and basically put together so I could write about the stuff I passionately loved and have some kind of forum for it. I was probably hoping someone would discover my amazing literary skills and I’d end up as a writer in a weekly music paper but I while I was ambitious enough to put a lot of care into each issue, I was too lazy to actually do stuff such as send off samples of my work to editors and so on. Nothing much changed except that nowadays there are no such things as weekly music papers and the monthly magazines seem to recycle the same canonical bands in a repetitive cycle.
Anyway, in 1998 I was working on putting together a new issue, I’d amassed tons of material but issue four seemed to have burnt me out. I was going to a lot of gigs put on by Beat Generator Live! At a time when the venue probably wasn’t even a pipedream. I’d been a massive fan of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, but, as I confess in the introduction to the original piece below, I wasn’t very genned up on Lloyd Cole’s solo career. Still, I let myself be talked into going along to his first solo show in Dundee at the original Westport Bar and enjoyed the gig so much I blagged an unscheduled interview with the man himself.
It’s weird reading through this, it’s obviously a sketch of where the artist was at a moment in time but also a sketch of myself at the time. We talked about a wide range of subjects including the then very new thing, the Internet. Looking back now, we sound like modern primitives coming to terms with something that would, within the next decade or so, totally and irrevocably change the music industry and how it operated. I remember also being a bit irked about Lloyd Cole discussing in another interview, his loathing for William Burroughs and picked up on this towards the interview and I think we agreed to disagree. It was actually a very enjoyable chat, that much I recall and, if Lloyd was annoyed or bemused at my line of questioning, he was gracious enough not to show it. Having resided in New York for the last decade or so he’d probably met far more irritating individuals than myself. Either that or he was relaxed and looking forward to his next game of golf the following day.
Lloyd Cole continues to record and tour, I’m long past dreaming of being the next Lester Bangs. Anyway, after almost 22 years lurking around various hard drives and floppy discs here is the interview as originally intended for publication. Oh, and just for the record, I did used to shoot, shotguns and air rifles but the last time was a decade ago.
I’d been a big fan of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions as a teenager and still adored their three excellent albums Easy Pieces, Rattlesnakes and Mainstream, over a decade after they were first released. To be honest I’d not really paid much attention to Lloyd Cole’s subsequent solo career, I’d heard a few of his solo albums and some other songs and liked them a lot but never really investigated any further, having newer acts to discover and fall for. Such is the fickleness of youth... Anyway, Lloyd Cole arrived back in Scotland this summer to play a series of acoustic dates and I was intrigued enough by the enthusiasm of several friends to go and see him play at the Westport Bar in Dundee on July 9th. I’m not a huge fan of acoustic shows, often they are just lazy, cynical exercises in attempting to prove some kind of authenticity ( i.e. the vast majority of MTV’s dire Unplugged series though there were exceptions ) or an attempt to cash in on some past success without having to pay for a band. However, this show was something special, being more of an exorcism of Lloyd Cole’s extensive back catalogue prior to the unveiling of his new band, The Negatives. His set included a wide range of material, from Commotions favourites such as ‘2CV’ and ‘Forest Fire’ to new, and as yet unreleased material, all of which received rapturous applause from an ecstatic audience who revelled in the intimate atmosphere. In between signing autographs and talking about his immediate plans to play golf the next day in St. Andrews, Lloyd Cole took the time to speak to us.
How did you enjoy tonight?
It was very difficult. I’m not sure if the response at some of the other ones was quite so rapturous but I think the show is more suited to coffee houses rather than bars.
You seemed quite nervous to begin with but managed to turn things around.
I’m like that always – that’s not just reserved for Dundee. I’m always nervous.
I noticed that quite a lot of the dates were in golf hotels or in towns famed for their golf courses. Was the tour planned around thi?
It’s my holiday. Playing golf in the day and doing some shows in the evening which pays for my holiday. It’s true. It’s been very nice though harder work than I thought. I’ve never done this before, not in this country. I’ve done it in other countries where my following has maybe been more cult. For example, in New York most of the people who come to my shows are more hardcore, they have all the records. There isn’t such an emphasis on playing old Commotions songs as there is in this country because we were never so popular over there. None of our records ever made the American charts.
Do you ever get freaked out by people yelling out for songs that are well over a decade old?
No. I’m glad people like the songs, it’s just a little difficult.
So after this tour what have you got coming up? I heard that there will be a new single in the autumn.
A single in September, another one in October – probably. A best of that’s got Commotions stuff on it and some solo stuff and then another album with my group the Negatives.
Which label will it be released on?
Some label within Polygram, Mercury right now I think. When I went to Fontana after Polydor it wasn’t really a new deal as it was still within the same company. The people who were at Polydor when I was there had all left and I found it easier to work at Fontana. Now there’s nobody left at Fontana, it’s true, it doesn’t really exist anymore.
What music do you currently listen to ?
I listen to loads of rock music, German electronic music. I don’t really pay a lot of attention to what’s going on. I’m a bit negligent in terms of keeping up with the times. I’ve always liked pop music so i like, well I prefer the Spice Girls to Embrace.
I find Embrace terribly dull and....
.... they’re very self-righteous as well.
I love all kinds of music but I find with some guitar groups that I feel that they see themselves as being more important than they are, as being superior and more authentic than pop groups such as the spice Girls but it’s dishonest. They are self-righteous and they’re… just trying to get laid. Especially for the Loaded generation.
Where do you think you fit into the picture?
I think I can honestly say that I’ve got my own space now. It’s maybe not as big a space as it was before but it’s my own and I can do what I want really.
It’s weird this but earlier on your tour manager and the promoter were talking about punk and which bands they had been into when they were younger and I was just thinking how the Commotions were one of the first bands that I was into.
So the Commotions are one of the first bands you were into. How old are you?
I’m twenty-eight in September.
So you’d have been fourteen. It wasn’t a bad time to be fourteen, these years. There were some good records.
Uhm, it didn’t feel that way at the time. Anyway, I recall at that time the Commotions being quite a strange phenomena. On one hand you were quite big and had a row of hits and were in Smash Hits and yet at the same time you were perceived as being a bit of a cult act. You seemed to cross over boundaries a lot, in ways that most of your contemporaries couldn’t....
Yeah we did, we never wanted to be.... well you know how the Velvet Underground said they just wanted to be the Beatles, well I just wanted to be on Top Of The Pops because Top Of The Pops was where the people that I’d grown up idolising had been and I just wanted to be there and to get there in my own way. I still maintain that if a record of mine gets on Top Of The Pops I’d be happy. I don’t get to see it though as you know I don’t live over here.
How long have you been a resident of New York now?
Ten years. It suits me. I’ve been there more of my adult life than I’ve ever been in any other city. I was five years in Glasgow, a couple of years in London, and that’s my adult life.
Are you well known in New York or is it quite an anonymous place?
I’m less well known than I am here. But I’m quite well known in that the new York music scene knows I’m there because I’ve been there so long and I did some shows with the band and they sold really well, but no, I don’t get stopped in the street. Almost no one ever gets stopped in the street in New York.
I was reading an article in the Independent about these people who get wired up and go out to clubs in New York filming people secretly for web sites, like ‘Internet paparazzi’. It seems a bit obsessive and strange.
The Internet is a little bit scary, to think that there’s some new on-line generation who’ll never learn any social skills.
In some ways it’s like people who, say five years ago, would have been called nerds and ridiculed, now coming to the fore.
It is revenge of the nerds. Absolutely. I mean I’m on-line occasionally but I have no choice in certain aspects of my business, in music, certain things – information – is only available on the Internet so I have to be on-line. All I use the Internet for, for pleasure, is e-mail and collecting golf clubs.
Apart from golf what other sports are you passionate about?
I don’t have any other favourite sports. I like watching football, I like watching most sports. I love watching Wimbledon. I’m kind of a sporty guy, I know I don’t look like one but .... I had to undergo cartilage surgery last year from being foolish and trying to play football in my old age. I like running but I can’t any more. I’m not interested in cycling but I love boxing. William, my boy, knows exactly who Muhammed Ali is and he knows about smart boxing as opposed to strong boxing.
I just re-watched When We Were Kings, I love that film....
He got me that for my Christmas. For me that is probably the greatest sporting occasion of the century. It’s certainly the greatest sporting occasion I’ve seen.
Finally, how come you dislike William Burroughs so much?
I don’t mind his art. I just think that as a person he’s a prick. I don’t like his image, well didn’t like his image and I didn’t like the way he was used by a lot of alternative slash performance artists to validate their work.
Wasn’t the image something that was largely foisted upon him?
No. He dressed the way he did for photographs. He could have looked different in photographs. Some of his work is great but shooting your wife is just not good. And getting away with it. I can understand heroin and I know I’d love heroin if I tried it and so I haven’t and I know I’d love guns and I don’t have any. They’re really cool. Have you ever touched a real gun?
Yeah. I used to shoot.
They’re amazing things. They’re like works of art.