Jarvis Cocker: “There’s not a lockdown on the human imagination”

The bard of Sheffield looks back over a strange old year

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From domestic discos to a new brand of tea, Jarvis Cocker has tackled the past 12 months in typically unpredictable fashion. In the latest issue of Uncut – in UK shops now or available to buy online by clicking hereStephen Troussé hears about cave gigs, staying optimistic and how he made a lockdown anthem by accident. Here’s an extract from that typically entertaining encounter…

It feels like a strange question to ask after the year we’ve all had, but how has 2020 been for you, Jarvis?
It’s been a very creative year for me, but I do feel kind of loath to be saying that. Because I know that a lot of people died this year and a lot of people had a really grim time. The timing has been strange. The record came out and then I spent the lockdown out in the countryside near Sheffield. I was lucky. It wasn’t like I was stuck inside looking at four walls. Pretty much as soon as we entered lockdown it was the build-up for the record coming out, so I was talking about the record on Zoom calls at least twice a day for about three months. Then it was really strange once the record was released. Suddenly, I wasn’t talking about it any more! It started to feel like a myth or something that was a concept rather than real…

With “House Music All Night Long” you inadvertently became the Poet Laureate of Lockdown…
I thought about lockdown quite a bit… What I came up with is, ‘There’s not a lockdown on the human imagination.’ I suppose if you’re a creative person you’re used to sitting somewhere and projecting yourself beyond your surroundings. That’s really the beauty of music, you know? That’s why we fall in love with music at an early age. Something comes in through your ears and takes you off somewhere. Talking to friends, I think a lot of people rediscovered music during the lockdown. A few people said it reminded them of being a teenager, when they’d be so into music because it was their own thing apart from their parents. It gave them a portal into some world that they wanted to live in. You know, that feeling of being stuck in your bedroom and coming up with a manifesto or a plan of how you’re going to live the rest of your life. So I think that aspect of it was good – a rediscovery of the central nature of music. Because for a while now, it has been going the other way. Music is about streaming and being background in just about any retail experience. Without you really knowing it, you start to take it for granted or think of it more as wallpaper, rather than something that will take you into a new, more exciting reality.


Can you tell us about some of your own intense musical experiences this year?
I’ve had a few! I was doing these domestic discos on Instagram and playing records became important to me. I’d gee’d myself up for going on tour in May after working on the record for so long. We’d evolved it through live performance, so it seemed especially cruel not to be able to play it live, after it had been born in that way. I’ve always used music as something that helps you to escape inhibitions – being quite a shy, reserved kid going on stage and being pretty nervous at first, then discovering that you can dance and move on stage. That’s my release a lot of the time. In the lockdown, I got that feeling that that’s what I needed and what a lot of people needed. We were stuck in our homes getting all this grim information and everybody was feeling anxious. Listening to music together and dancing became a really good way of forgetting that.

Watching you dance in your living room with your partner was a strangely sweet and surreal lockdown moment…
Me and Kim really fell out during that time because I had to set the gear up myself and it’s a long time since I’ve done that. It kept breaking down but sometimes the microphone would still be working, and we would be having these arguments on air and she was really embarrassed about that. So it was a bit like couples therapy as well as a disco. She didn’t talk to me for quite a long time after one particular show. We got through it though.


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