Joe Jackson interview

A unique new style of show featuring two of the world’s finest songwriters, Todd Rundgren and Joe Jackson, rolls into Portsmouth on May 30th. Can it be mere coincidence that Portsmouth is the city chosen to be the first on the eight-date UK tour? Yes, according to Joe, who although famously faithful to the maritime city, denies having strong emotional ties to it.
“It’s actually a pure coincidence. It’s true that, although I wasn’t born there, I grew up there. Portsmouth feels like my home town, but that’s about it. Your home town will always be your home town”.
Nonetheless, Joe’s song “Home Town” is one of the most goose-pimple inducing evocations of a sense of belonging that have ever been recorded. One of the most heart-stopping musical moments of recent years came on the “Laughter and Lust” tour, when the piano introduction to the song was played as the Guildhall clock struck eight o’clock, but still Joe insists that the song is less personal than it seems: “It was an intellectual exercise in writing a nostalgic song. I tend not to be a nostalgic person, but I was trying to create a song which had a sentimental, nostalgic flavour. I guess it expresses a kind of idealized nostalgia”.
“Don’t ask me how this joint tour with Todd Rundgren came about”, warns Joe, “because it’s not remotely interesting. It wasn’t any meeting of minds, it was put together as a one-off event by various players, but what happened was that the show worked so well that the idea of a full tour came up. It was a mad experiment which just clicked. What happens is that there’s an opening set by the string quartet Ethel. That’s not to be missed, so get there early. Then there’s a solo set by me, a Todd solo set, and at the end we all come together and play some JJ songs, some Todd songs and some by other writers.”
On the subject of nostalgia, last year’s reunion tour by the original Joe Jackson band was considered a huge success for all involved. How does Joe feel about it now?
“I feel great about it, although it was always intended to be a one-off. The original band made three albums, but the third one wasn’t that great. What we should have done was taken a couple of years off and come back with the killer fourth album. We did – twenty years later! So now the stake has been driven into the vampire’s heart and we can lay it to rest.”
Local readers may remember observing Joe striding up Winchester High Street on numerous occasions in the mid-nineties. “The reason for that was that I rented a flat in Winchester for eighteen months. It was an attempt to find somewhere convenient between London and Portsmouth, and I love Winchester, but in the end I was falling between two stools and not spending much time there.”
So has Joe now committed himself to New York? “Not at all. I always kept a pied à terre in England even when I was living in New York. Even today, I don’t really know where my main base is, Portsmouth or London. But don’t feel envious of my freedom of movement. Indecision is stressful and not knowing where home is can drive you nuts.”
That won’t prevent Hampshire fans from doing their very best to make Joe feel at home on Monday.

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Razorlight interview

It was certainly one of the the more original reasons for leaving a band: “Health Differences” were what caused Christian Smith Pancorvo to quit the Razorlight fold at a rather crucial stage of the band’s career, namely just as their first album “Up All Night” was being released in the UK. Andy Burrows, in a very real sense, saved the band in the nick of time, being selected from hurried auditions and crowned with the ultimate Johnny Borrell accolade: “Andy is a one-in-a-million drummer”.
It’s questionable whether Andy, who has spent much of 2004 touring an album on which he didn’t play, is “health compatible” with Johnny and the Swedish contingent of the band. Johnny’s outspoken – um – self-belief and tendency for Libertines-style lurid drug-related headline-grabbing isn’t, on the face of it, comparable to Andy’s reputation as the “nicest man in rock”. “I fucking love Johnny, he’s great”, he will assert at the beginning of an evening’s drinking. By the end, he’ll be claiming, “He’s a bastard”. But you just said you loved him? “Yeah, I do, I love him”.
No one can deny that Andy has made a huge difference to the live impact of Razorlight or that Johnny’s assessment of his skills is accurate. Luckily, Andy comes from a musical background which has prepared him ideally for this position: For years, he has played in bands with one Peter Hobbs, a similar rock and roll figurehead to Johnny with just a little bit less bravado. Andy had a similar love-hate relationship with Hobbs too.
It’s been a hard year. Spending a very rare couple of free days in his home town of Winchester over Christmas, Andy seemed exhausted and bemused, yet thrilled to be living the rock and roll lifestyle he has craved: “It’s just completely crazy. I don’t get any time to see my friends any more. Since I joined the band, I’ve flown twenty-three times – and I hate flying!” Tried valium? “No, my tranquillizer of choice is whiskey. I start ordering it the moment the plane takes off, and when they refuse to serve me any more, I get the others to order it on my behalf.”
So will the States take to Razorlight? “We’re doing it the traditional way, by coast to coast touring. It’s going to be hard, just traveling with a driver and a tech.” (Razorlight spent the back end of 2004 opening for the Manic Street Preachers in arenas, and later this year have landed the ultimate career maker, a US stadium tour with U2). Meantime, the band has recorded its first songs with Andy drumming, but isn’t it frustrating that he isn’t on the album people are listening to? “Well, it is weird playing someone else’s drum parts, but it’s a nice feeling that there are already two new songs in the set where the drumming is all ‘mine’. My favorite songs to play are ‘Rip It Up’, because that’ s the song we always open with and it gets a great response. I also have affection for ‘Golden Touch’ because that’s the one I auditioned with.”
What does Andy feel he has brought to the band? “Well, a new enthusiasm, I guess. And people tell me we’re now a lot more solid live. For myself, this has definitely been the best year of my life, because I left school seven years ago and at last I’ve got a job!”
My guess is that American music lovers will be initially sceptical about Razorlight, because Johnny Borrell is so full of shit. But they will be won over, because he really does walk it like he talks it, and the rest of the band never let him down. “Up All Night” has a pleasing identity and unity of purpose, like a London version of Lou Reed, with impressively understated tinny production which really works. There’s not a poor track on it, and in “Golden Touch” and “Stumble and Fall”, a couple of classic songs.?
This time round, the only mention of Andy on the cover artwork is in the Thanks to … category. Remembering that Andy is a fine songwriter himself, next time round (assuming they haven’t collapsed from exhaustion), his name will be a lot more prominent.

From Amplifier magazine

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