The Pretender talks history, Morrissey and Donald Trump

Do you still visit India?
I haven’t been for a while. I’ve been thinking about it, though. I still follow Vedic literature, daily. There are many volumes, but the one considered the jewel in the crown is the Bhagavad Gita. I never leave home without it! And of course, its followers are all vegetarian, so that vegetarian thing has always led me to my philosophy and my enduring friendships.

What was it like here in London in ’76? Were people in bands hungry for success?
I don’t think anyone thought they were gonna get in a band and it was gonna be big. If anything, people were railing against that. It was anti-everything in the beginning of punk. When you think about it, what bands that have come out of that period have even been consistently making music since?

The Pretenders?
Ha! But even I didn’t fit into punk, because I had to wait ’til I found those guys from Hereford. Jimmy Scott hated punk, he had no time for it. He was into Rockpile and Nick Lowe. He liked Abba, he liked melodic stuff. But that invented our sound, for definite. I couldn’t have done it without him.

Reckless finishes just after Jimmy and Pete Farndon’s deaths. Why did you decide to do that?
I thought it was gonna go right up to the present day. After Jimmy died, I started writing, “Oh, and then we went into audition and we brought Robbie McIntosh in…”, but then I couldn’t write anymore. I thought everything I wrote after that seemed… [long pause] it actually felt disrespectful, to bury two guys in my band and then keep writing. To me, when I buried those guys it was over. So I called the publishers and I said, “Bad news, I think it’s over, I don’t think I can write any more.”

People would be interested in hearing how you came back from losing them, though. Could there be a follow-up?
I guess. I haven’t really thought about it. A lot of people have asked me, but that’s what the whole story was about, getting to that point. Talk about bringing your clock to zero – I had to start over then.

When you write about the Ohio of your childhood, you talk of these families left stranded by consumer culture, isolated in endless suburbia. Do you think it’s that isolation that led to people voting for Donald Trump?
I think also they just didn’t like the other candidate. There’s only one person I think could have beat Trump. She was a straight-A student, she could have seriously given him a run for his money, but she’s Canadian so wouldn’t have been eligible – Pamela Anderson. If she had been, and she’d been interested, she could have kicked his ass. I told Pamela this, and she said, “Yeah, but then what would I do?” That’s the question – you get there, but then what? Clearly Trump didn’t think about that or care, he thought he’d just go for it.

So what do you have planned for the future?
There’s talk of us going to Australia with Stevie, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I have another record I’ve done, which is a jazz/dub thing, that I started years ago. So that’s gonna come out. I’ve got three guys in Brazil that I really wanna work with [Moreno Veloso, Alexandre Kassin and Domênico Lancelotti]. I toured with them [in 2004] and that was just one of the best times of my life, an acoustic thing in Brazil. They’re a really interesting combination of players, and of personalities, and they’re all great songwriters, so they’re a real force to reckon with. [Moreno’s father] Caetano Veloso would be on that, too. I loved that tour. That was at a point when my personal thing was ‘rock is dead’, but I’ve come back. I guess I always will.

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The April 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Joni Mitchell on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, we pay tribute to Mark E Smith and there are new interviews with The Breeders, Josh T Pearson, Brett Anderson, The Decemberists and Chris Robinson and many more and we also look at the legacy of Rick Hall’s FAME Studioes. Our free 15 track-CD features 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, featuring Graham Coxon, Gwenno, Guided By Voices, Jonathan Wilson, David Byrne, Tracey Thorn, The Low Anthem and Mélissa Laveaux

Uncut: the past, present and future of great music.

 

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