John Cale at 70: interview (2010)

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In February 2010 BBC 6 Music talked to John Cale about performing his classic 1972 album Paris 1919. Here are excerpts from that interview, in which he discusses both the record, his former bandmates and the notion of the 'album'.

This was the last record you wrote before you left LA to return to the UK.

Yes, it was in 1972, the height of the Cold War, and that's where the title came from. But it really is an album of nostalgia about everything I liked about Europe.

So when you came back to the UK after that, is it true the only music you brought back with you was a box of Beach Boys records?

Yes, actually. I had a basement flat for a while in Earls Court and I just put the Beach Boys on. From being in LA and having access to the Beach Boys all the time, I came back here and I'd just zone out in my dim little flat.

Some of your older work, such as with The Velvet Underground, has been revisited a lot. Do you pay attention to those reissues and books?

I don't. Whatever The Velvet Underground did they've done, and it's in the past. I respect that people admire what we did, that's gratifying, but I'm in such a different place with what I think songwriting is these days.

There have been numerous high profile reunions of popular bands recently. Have you been asked to do that with the Velvet Underground?

Yes. It's not something that I can see happening on the basis of the past. Anyone who wants to reform the Velvet Underground for a series of concerts, to make some money, I understand that, but you can't do that. We don't have Sterling [Morrison] any more. If I said that was something I was intrigued by, people would think I was cynical.

Are you in touch with your former bandmates?

Yes. We do business. I haven't spoken to Lou in a long time, but we're in touch because of business. There's no communal effort to enjoy each other's company any more.

What's next for you?

When I'm finished with this series of concerts in July I'll go back into the studio and finish these songs. I have 28 songs at the moment, but I've got to finish them. I haven't figured out how to release them, that's a bit of a conundrum.

Do you still believe in the album as a concept?

I'm not sure that I do. Todd Rundgren gave a concert in New York the other day and immediately after you could get a memory stick of what you'd just experienced. I thought that was a very shrewd idea and wondered if there are any variations of that I could do.

Read the full version of this interview on BBC News.

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