Eric Clapton: “I’m the master of the cliche”

EC discusses retirement, Cream and why he thinks driving will soon be illegal

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Do you aspire to writing one more killer song that would rival some of your classics?
No. [Pause] No. I’d just like now and again to write something that catches the ear – where someone goes, “What’s that?” “Oh, you like it?” “Yeah, is that yours? It’s good!” I think that my best song is “Believe In Life”, which was on an album called Reptile. That’s my favourite song, and it’s also current, because I wrote it about my wife. I like the fact that it’s kind of low-key, a little in-the-background thing, but I’m proud of that song, as much as anything of mine that’s more popular or well-known.

You said in 2006 that working with JJ Cale had fulfilled your last remaining ambition. Does that still hold?
There are tons of things I’d like to do, but I’m looking at retirement, too. I’m 70 next year. JJ wisely did the same thing. He said, “When I turn 70 I’m unofficially retired.” I think what I’ll allow myself to do, within reason, is carry on recording in the studio, but the road has become unbearable. It’s unapproachable, because it takes so long to get anywhere, and it’s hostile out there. Everywhere. Getting in and out of airports, getting on planes, travelling in cars. I like my life too much to have it ruined by other people’s aggression. In the old days it was good fun. Travelling was something I used to look forward to, the change of scenery, meeting new people and getting a taste of a different culture. Now, the culture is global. It’s all different versions of America, often in a kind of resentful, reluctant way. The internet has speeded life up, but the actual physical possibility of getting from one place to another is grinding to a halt. In 10 years’ time we actually won’t be able to leave home and go anywhere.

The road will become, literally, a thing of the past.


In what sense?
Well, I don’t know how they’re going to deal with actual travel, with getting in a car. I’m thinking that maybe in ten, 15 years’ time, driving will have become illegal, because they’ll have introduced another form of transport, with robot cars and things. You won’t be allowed to drive. They’re going to do it.

You’re playing a handful of dates around the release of this album. Is that how it will be from now on: a few shows here and there rather than a huge tour?
I’m not doing anything for the album. The album is a separate thing. I may play a couple of songs from the new record but I’ve never really subscribed to that. I think I might have slipped into it during the ’80s, that thing of taking the album on the road, but it’s a painful experience.

In what way, specifically?
Because nobody knows it. You’re playing songs because you feel like you’re supporting the record company, rather than the other way around. It becomes a business venture. For quite a while now, when I get onstage I play the things I’m comfortable playing, that are just natural. If you give me an electric guitar and plug me into an amp there are three of four songs I will immediately want to play.


What are they?
“Tell The Truth”, “Pretending”, “I Shot The Sheriff” – they’re like old armchairs. To learn something that’s great on the record but doesn’t necessarily have stage potential requires a lot of hard work and, you know, I don’t want to work.


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