Graham Coxon on Blur and pop: “It’s a strange, limiting form… but me and Damon are more receptive these days”

Blur's guitarist on jazz saxophone, his fear of screaming teenage girls and his favourite Oasis song

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When making Parklife, did you use samples from Sham 69’s album, That’s Life?
Jimmy Pursey, Sham 69
Jesus! Jimmy Pursey? I thought he hated me? Ha ha. I don’t think we did sample it, not to my knowledge. I don’t know if Damon was listening to Sham 69. But I guess it comes from a similar place. Maybe we were covering similar ground to what Jimmy did, and maybe he thought we were ripping him off. But yeah, I’m a huge Sham fan, which is why I did that version of “Hurry Up Harry”. For me, the best punk bands were Sham 69, The Damned and Alternative TV. They were proper, dirty urchins, making proper, greasy, horrible rock’n’roll.

When was the last time you picked up the saxophone?
James Cobham, Leicester
A couple of days ago. I play the alto sax. I’ve got back into it in the last few years. I practise a lot of jazz. Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Oliver Nelson, Roland Kirk, all that lot. I play along to Ornette Coleman albums and transcribe the solos. At the moment, Thelonious Monk is amazing me. My dad taught sax and clarinet and other instruments. He was a bandsman in the army, but he’d have a splinter group who would go off and go and watch a lot of jazz and play a bit themselves.

How do you react to being stopped in the street by fans? And can I apologise for chasing you around Tokyo in 1994?
Sanae Kido, Tokyo
Tokyo was always exciting, because people would follow you around. What did freak me out at shows was the audience. The sound of thousands of teenage girls screaming used to put the wind up me more than anything else. I don’t know who I wanted my audience to be, but it was always going to be wrong, ’cos I was a bit of a miserable sod, to be honest. It gets a bit weird when people follow you into the toilets and stuff, but people are surprisingly polite.

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What would be the title of your autobiography?
Hel Davies, Birmingham
Much Voodoo About Nothing. Is that a shit title? I have vague ideas for a book. I would like to section up my life into short stories about experiences rather than a chronological autobiography, which might be a bit drippy and boring. Did I read Alex’s book [A Bit Of A Blur]? Oh yeah. I really enjoyed it. It would’ve been a lot more juicy if there were no lawyers! But yes, he’s a reliable witness. I read it before Blur reformed and it made me feel quite sentimental. I’ve recently read books about Johnny Cash, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, along with Dave Van Ronk’s The Mayor Of MacDougal Street and a Dylan biog called Positively 4th Street. I read a lot of fiction too – Paul Auster, Evelyn Waugh and Dostoevsky lately. I don’t really understand much of it but I do it anyway, because it puts stuff in your head.

As well as being a talented musician, you’re also a stunning artist! Do you visualise the music you’re creating, like a piece of art?
Kate Rusby
Oh Kate! She’s brilliant. What art and music have in common is that sense of focus. I don’t visualise my own music as I’m making it, but I’ve always been struck by visuals when I listen to other people’s music. I always heard Beatles songs visually. I remember hearing “Strawberry Fields Forever” as a child and taking the “let me take you down” bit quite literally. I imagined them going down into a mineshaft with millions of diamonds. With eyes. And when I heard “Tomorrow Never Knows” I imagined cowboys on a raft. This is probably because George Harrison is dressed up as a cowboy on the back of Rubber Soul. And when I heard the “shloop! shloop!” sounds, which were probably tape effects, I imagined Indians firing arrows from nearby fir trees at The Beatles as they floated downriver!

The March 2017 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on The 101 Weirdest Albums Of All Time. Elsewhere in the issue, Ryan Adams tells us about his new album, Greg Lake (in one of his last interviews) remembers Emerson Lake & Palmer, and our free CD collects great new tracks from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Duke Garwood, The Necks and more. The issue also features Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle on his best recorded work. Plus Michael Chapman, Buzzcocks, Rick Parfitt, Paul Weller & Robert Wyatt, John Waters, St Paul & The Broken Bones, Tinariwen, Dirty Projectors, Cream, Lift To Experience, New Order and more, plus 131 reviews

 

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