As you may have gathered, there’s a new Blur album on the way: The Magic Whip, the band’s first as a four-piece for 16 years. My review of the album appears in the current issue of Uncut. But in the meantime, here’s the full transcript of my interview with Graham Coxon; an excerpt of which you can find in the magazine.
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A new Blur album, then. Exciting times?
I’ve had mixed excitement. I’ve had the excitement/stress of not being able to tell anyone. Working incognito, with false beard and that. Now we’ve let everyone know, it’s a strange relief. But then we know we’ve got play it, so we’re scared. We’ve got to live up to it, yeah.
Did you ever think when you reformed in 2009 you’d be talking about a new Blur album?
I had no idea. I was hopeful. We’d chucked ourselves in the studio for a couple of days and made two or three songs [“Fool’s Day” and “Under The Westway”]. But I guess the whole idea of the enormous task of formally going in to record, it didn’t feel like it was ever going to work. Or anybody was going to be in the same place at the same time, considering our different commitments. It seemed to be impossible. We haven’t got any father/uncle figures that will get us all by the scruff of the neck and tell us what to do. I didn’t think it was ever going to get to the point where we would be organised enough. I suppose that when the opportunity arose, and we couldn’t really escape each other to record, then it seemed like there was nothing else we could do.
So what happened in Hong Kong? Can you tell us about that?
We were out playing in Hong Kong. We’d arrived in Hong Kong on this long flight, which I don’t really like. But I have to admit, we flew in reasonable comfort. We got there, and we’d done some shows and there was a little meeting. It was like, ‘Oh, what have we done wrong?’ But this Japanese festival had fallen through. Then something else fell through. So we had five days free. My heart leap at the idea of having five days lolling about in a very nice hotel room with a circular bath. I was quite fond of that. Then they said, ‘Damon says, how about finding a local studio and going in for five days and just jamming? He’s got a few chords and that, a few ideas, and he’s got a few scratchy things on his GarageBand on his iPad. Do you fancy it?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, great.’ Oh, shit. No resting up for five days. ‘That sounds really exciting. Deffo, let’s do it!’
This was Avon Studios?
Yeah, it was underneath the water. I think it’s on the mainland. So we commenced. We’d get on the tube every day together. The hotel was joined to this ridiculous mall, which was huge and expensive. Every day we’d walk through these big glass corridors, all indoors, looking at all these crazy, ridiculous, expensive clothes and thinking, ‘Gosh, why do people wear these things? Especially when they cost thousands of pounds.’ A weird trip down into this mega-organised tube station that was beautifully tiled, into a tube train which didn’t seem that much different from a London one, really. Then we’d pop up, a little bit of out Hong Kong in this slightly grimy, smoky, smelly, intense place. Not quite as smoky, grimy and intense smelling as Hong Kong, but I guess slightly more suburban. I’m not sure if they really have suburbs there. Kids going to school and the rest of it. Buses and things. So very similar to London, but completely different. Going through these lanes into this very ordinary block, up in this tiny lift. Then there was this studio corridor that was black carpets and all the rest of it – as usual – through a little live room into a control room. That’s what we decided, for intimacy sake and for communication sakes, so we could actually talk to each other without pressing buttons and shouting and seeing each other through glass, that we’d crowd together in the control room and just jam. We tried Dave out in the live room to start with, but it was just rubbish and felt like he was miles way, so we dragged him in. We set up a very simple little drum kit and chucked some mics in front of it. We really didn’t do anything very carefully. Although [engineer] Steve Sedgewick will probably hate me saying it, because he mics things really beautifully. But it seemed very rushed together. Listening back later, it seemed that some microphones had fallen down in places and we weren’t catching things. But that just added to the quality of the sound.