Paul Weller: 'I've seen Toy Story 300 times'
- 30 May 2014
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Thirty-seven years is a long career for any musician, but Paul Weller is still going strong.
From his first hit with The Jam, 1977's In The City, to 2012's solo record Sonik Kicks, he's scored six number ones, 10 Brit nominations and sales of more than 6.5 million albums in the UK alone.
Famously fan-focused, The Modfather put a price limit on tickets for his gigs with The Jam and made sure they finished in time for the audience to catch the last train home.
When Prime Minister David Cameron named Eton Rifles as his favourite song in 2008, the singer spluttered with anger.
"Which part of it doesn't he get?" he asked of the song, written after Weller watched a news report in which unemployed protestors were jeered at by a group of young Etonians.
But as he prepares to release his second greatest hits collection, More Modern Classics, the 56-year-old firebrand tells the BBC he has given up on politics.
Instead, he has been watching Toy Story with his young twin boys.
We've been watching you sound check. Is this your natural domain - on a stage between the drums and guitars?
This is my territory. Yeah.
How do you feel before you perform a gig?
A mixture, really, of nerves and excitement. Mainly nerves. I've been doing it for a long time, as we know, but I still get the same sort of nerves beforehand. Probably from the time I wake up on a gig day.
Why is that?
I don't think it ever goes away. You're either like that or you're not. But it's good, because it adds a bit of edge to what I do.
This is all to launch More Modern Classics, which looks back over the last 15 years of your music career. How does it make you feel?
Old! The last 15 years are probably like the 15 before it. They've just gone so quickly. I didn't even realise that time had elapsed. And that's one of the reasons I wanted to put this Greatest Hits thing out. Because there was so much music since the last Modern Classics, which came out in the late '90s. So many songs.
When you look over those 15 years how many different Paul Wellers can you see?
Multiple probably. My life has changed so much over the last 15 years. I've got four more kids. I got remarried. But essentially I'm still doing the same thing, which is writing and playing music.
What gives you that hunger to change?
I get bored very easily. I get bored with what I do. I couldn't do what a lot of bands do and play the same stuff all the time, year after year.
How do you feel about Greatest Hits albums in general?
I think they are fine, really. When I was a kid my introduction to a lot of music was buying a Greatest Hits. When you are young, especially. So whether it's the Four Tops or Smokey Robinson, it was an introduction into that person's music.
Any man with children ends up gaining knowledge about very strange subjects. What are the favourites in the Weller household?
Bear in mind I've got twin boys. I've watched Toy Story 300 times in the last few months, but I like it. It's good fun.
Are you still political?
I'm not really. Like the majority of people I'm disillusioned with it all. I can't tell the difference between the majority of the parties.
I get angry with what's going on in the world, like most other people hopefully would do [but] I don't know what to do about it. I haven't a clue.
But you were very heavily involved in the past.
Yeah I was, back in the '80s. It was a different time with Thatcherism. Very definite - you were either with it or against it. There were clear lines drawn. But now, who knows? They all look the same to me and all sound the same. I've very little interest in it.
You've played Glastonbury several times. I was wondering what you made of this year's headliner Metallica?
Not really my bag, but lots of people like them, so who am I to say?
What advice would you give them?
Take your wellies. It was disgusting when we did it. Shocking.
People are saying there are a lack of new bands who can headline...
If you don't let them headline how will you ever know? How will they ever get the chance or the experience? There are loads of great bands out there - people who at least should be on the main stage. But I suppose you do have to pull in the numbers to headline.
If you had Weller-fest, who would you choose?
Villagers, Syd Arthur, Erland and the Carnival. But these are just people I like. I'd be happy to sit in a field and watch them. I'd be on my own. It would be good for me.
When you go and watch one of your music heroes play, how much are you hoping they do the hits?
I like to hear the hits, but I also like to hear what they are doing at the time, because so few people are doing that. Why is there such a boom for nostalgia? I don't know, really. Is it something to do with recession?
In the past I've heard you describe yourself as a bit of a technophobe. Have you warmed to it yet? Have you got a computer?
I haven't got a computer. I wouldn't know what to do with it, mate. I'm quite happy with my notebook, but my wife's very young and she does all that for me. So it's fine, you know?
What does she load the music onto, then?
I haven't even got that far yet. I've got to catch up with everybody and get an iPod or whatever people do these days. I'm still carrying around bags of CDs on tour. Before that I used to take my own record player and bags of records. It got a little bit cumbersome.
So when you are on the tour bus are you using a CD Walkman?
Normally we just have a blaster on the table. Proper old school.
One story I've always wanted you to clear up - when Band Aid performed on Top of The Pops 30 years ago, you ended up having to sing Bono's famous line. How did that happen?
I was hoping you were going to answer that question! I've no idea how I got roped in on that. No idea at all. I was asked on the day, kind of pushed into the crowd, and that was it.
You look like you are a wee bit embarrassed by it now?
Not at all. I was at the time, but I don't really give a monkey's now. But it was very strange.
What do you hope to still achieve in your career?
When you think of a lot of the jazz greats and the blues people who carry on playing right up to the time they literally can't play anymore. I'd like to do that if I could. That would be enough for me.
Paul Weller's More Modern Classics is out on 2 June.