Blur's guitarist on jazz saxophone, his fear of screaming teenage girls and his favourite Oasis song
Graham Coxon is telling us about his relationship with his Blur bandmate Damon Albarn, when he breaks off, mid-sentence. “What’s the word that’s a bit like perceptive?” he ponders. “I think it begins with a P. And there’s V there somewhere too.”
Twenty minutes later, halfway into another question, the word suddenly occurs to him. “Receptive! That’s the word. Me and Damon are much more receptive these days. We’re both a bit older now, at a time in life where you have to start thinking about what you want to achieve after pop music. Pop music is a strange, limiting form. And if you put that aside, it’s a frightening and daunting prospect, but also quite exciting.”
Such befuddled behaviour seems typical of Coxon. But let’s not forget, like Albarn, Coxon has forged a rewarding career post-Blur. His eight solo albums, including the recent A&E, have covered folk and Krautrock, spiky indie and bubblegum pop. He also plays nearly everything on his records. “Drums, bass, guitar, vocals – everything except synthesisers,” he says. “I don’t really understand them.”
After promoting A+E, Coxon will play a few summer shows with Blur – including the Olympic closing ceremony. Beyond that, he isn’t certain of what the band’s future holds. He is, however, sanguine about Albarn’s suggestions that Blur’s Hyde Park show might be their last. “If that’s what Damon says, and what he really feels, then there’s no reason to think otherwise. But we’re getting on as friends better than we’ve ever done.”
What is your favourite Syd Barrett song and what music do you think he’d be doing today if he was still around?
I really like that one that’s got tons of guitars on it and loads of distortion: [sings] “You hold your head up high/You even try” [“No Man’s Land”]. I read a Syd Barrett book which said that there were so many layers of distorted guitars that they stripped many of them away. I think that was a mistake, because that would have been 20 years ahead of its time. Hopefully, had he continued to make music, he’d have been allowed to do the mad stuff he wanted to do, like multilayering guitars. He might even be an old, mad jazzer, which would be even better.
What are your memories of being on Blue Peter as a child?
Barry Fawcett, Norfolk
Our school were doing a production of [Smetana’s] The Bartered Bride, and we were invited on to Blue Peter to do the tavern scene. I’d just discovered roll mops at the time, so I sat and ate loads of roll mops in the Blue Peter garden and then felt quite ill when we were doing it. Who was presenting it? It was Simon Groom, bless him. And the lovely Janet Ellis, and Peter Duncan. The classic ’80s power trio. I particularly liked Simon Groom ’cos he was from Derby. He was a really nice bloke.
What are the next songs you’d most like to cover, excluding, for the purposes of fairness, any more damnably excellent Mission Of Burma songs?
Clint Conley, MOB
Ha! Thing is, like the Burma songs I did, my covers are always very faithful to the originals, so they’re a bit… pointless. However, there was this tape I was given as a teenager by my friend Jeremy Stone and his flatmate, Oz. It contained really eye-opening stuff. “Dirty Blue Gene” by Captain Beefheart, “Hands 2 Take” by The Flying Lizards, “West One” by The Ruts, along with stuff by Sonic Youth and Big Black. I’ve always wanted to cover the whole cassette! I’ve also got an idea to cover Depeche Mode’s Speak And Spell, but with guitars and drums instead of synths. I’d probably ruin the album, though.