The New Cue #16 May 4: Paul Weller, DJ Shadow, Girl Ray

4 May, 2021

Happy Tuesday! 

We’ve never delivered on a Tuesday before. It feels fresh and exciting and a little bit strange, like when you go into your next door neighbour’s house and everything is sort of the same but opposite and feels a bit weird. We are delivering on this fine Tuesday morning because we commissioned some thorough research into whether people read their emails on a Bank Holiday Monday. The research, a three-message WhatsApp discussion between us all, found that you didn’t check your emails on a Monday. Did you check your emails? Why did you check your emails? Didn’t you even read the research?

Now that the week can officially begin, we have a cracker for you: Paul Weller tells Chris all about his brilliant new record whilst topping up his tan in Hyde Park, DJ Shadow recalls a collaboration with Thom Yorke and Iris from Girl Ray picks us a mindblower. 

We’ll be back with another corker of an edition on Friday – we’ve got a triffic Shirley Manson interview lined up for that. 

But first, enjoy this one. Thanks again for signing up - and remember, subscribers get two special editions of The New Cue just for them every month. All you have to do to join this elite crew of absolute legends is click on the Subscribe Now button below.

Ted, Niall and Chris

Start The Week With… Paul Weller

Next Friday, Paul Weller releases his excellent new album, Fat Pop (Volume 1). It’s the second record he’s put out since the pandemic started, so Chris called him up while he was catching some sun to talk about that, what he’s planning to do with his barnet and how his crochet skills have been coming along…

Hello Paul, how are you doing?
I’m good, mate. I’m just walking up towards Hyde Park. How you doing?

I'm going to get my first haircut since 2019. I’ve been shaving it and cutting into it with the kitchen scissors so it looks a bit borstal.
Is that look coming back then? I’ve got to get mine fucking cut but I don’t know what into. I’ve got no idea.

What are you thinking, a mohawk?
I dunno. 

What about a smart little wedge?
Yeah, maybe. I dunno. It’s getting more and more difficult the older I get. I can’t have the mod thing.

What the long sides, short fringe thing [*NB: what is commonly referred to as a ‘Wellend’]?
Yeah, no, I can’t be doing that. Not anymore. Anyway, what are we talking about today then?

Shall we talk about your great new record Fat Pop (Volume 1) that’s coming out next week?

Your last album, On Sunset, was all ready to go and mixed and then Covid put the kibosh on everything…
Yeah, that was a bit of an anticlimax to say the least. I was so looking forward to getting out and playing that live as well. One thing I’m thinking is maybe not this year, but next year, sort of Christmas-time ’22, I thought about doing a gig, a one-off, one or two nights, to play the whole album with strings and brass and stuff because I just think the album wasn’t given a chance a to shine. A bit like we did with [2018 acoustic album] True Meanings.

Normally once one album is in the can, you start thinking about the next one. Did you have an idea about what this was going to be?
Not really, but I did have quite a few tracks leftover. Not necessarily from On Sunset, there were things we’d started after we finished that album. There were a good four or five tunes that were half finished or whatever so there was a fair bit of it that was already on the table. All it really did was galvanise me into getting it all together. I had lots of little ideas, unfinished songs, lyrics and it just made me think, ‘Right, I’m going to make a concerted effort to finish all this stuff and get it together…’

Must have been handy to have your own studio to work in?
Yeah, it was. This time last year I would just go down to the studio with my engineer - spray him obviously with detergent, thoroughly wash him - and I would put down the tunes, voice and guitar and piano or whatever to a click and then we’d send it out to Ben our drummer and [Steve] Cradock and Crofty [Andy Crofts, bassist] and they would send their parts back. We just worked from that. It wasn’t ideal but it meant we kept working until the summer time when we could get back together and finish it.

How did you find that, waiting for the parts to arrive in an email?
It was different for sure. It’s not ideal for me, it’s so much easier face to face, but it was handy though because it kept it moving. It was just different, doing all these fucking Zooms and stuff.

How are you on a Zoom call?
I never know where to look. You’re looking at the camera and adjusting your hair and all that. 

What would you have done if you didn’t have your own studio?
Cor, I dunno. I would have gone fucking bonkers, I would have gone mad. It was scary enough the prospect of not playing live because that’s just what we do. It’s my life. It’s the longest I’ve ever been not touring. If we get back out in November, which hopefully we will do, it will be not far off two and half years.

Is that the longest break you’ve ever had?
Yeah definitely. Never this long. That’s fucking weird in itself.

Do you have any hobbies outside of music to busy yourself with?
Not really, man. Apart from pressing wild flowers. Obviously you know I love a bit of that, a bit of crochet and that. But apart from the crocheting there’s fuck all else to do. I’m kept busy with my family. They keep me extremely busy but that is all that I do.

Would you consider putting out a third album before going out on tour?
I think it’s too much. I don’t know. I’d be in two minds about doing that. I’m not in a rush. I’m going to carry on writing as I always do and collect stuff up and see what happens, really. I’ve been busy, I’ve been doing a bit of writing with different people and stuff. 

I interviewed Noel Gallagher recently and he mentioned he’d written a song with you.
No, we haven’t written a tune. It’s always a possibility but we haven’t.

What are you listening to at the moment?
I’m listing mainly to Declan O’Rourke’s album. That’s a bit of nepotism as I did produce it, but that’s by the by, I really love his record, it’s really special. Jane Weaver’s new album I like. The thing I’ve liked more than anything in the last year is those Sault records. It’s Inflo the producer that does it and he’s a fucking talented dude.

Well Paul, thanks for…
Is that it then?

Yeah, don’t worry, I won’t bend your ear for an hour.
Great, my kind of interview that.

Oh, there is one more thing…
Yes sir?

Could you take a selfie and send it to us please?
Yeah I can do that right now, we’re sitting right in the current bun in Hyde Park. Nice.

What else are you doing this week?
I’m playing with Madness on Wednesday, we’re doing a thing at the Palladium, they’re recording to put it out online and then just enjoying the sunshine.

Sounds lovely.
Take care, mate. You mind how you go.


The Story Behind The Song

How we birthed a classic

Rabbit In Your Headlights, 1998, by UNKLE (feat. Thom Yorke)

DJ Shadow on the standout track from Psyence Fiction, his collaborative album with James Lavelle, and how Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke approached recording its standout track.

“Back then, the idea of someone who comes from hip-hop like myself working with quote-unquote rock artists, it was a new thing. Gorillaz weren’t around at that point. Rock and everything else were very separated still. I didn’t know what to expect because I’d only ever worked with MCs - in those really early years, I can’t tell you how many sessions where it was like, ‘hang on, I’ve gotta smoke weed’ and I’d be like, ‘right, ok,’ and then I’d sit around for half an hour and if I wasn’t careful then when guys came back, it was like ‘ah man, I can’t tonight, I smoked too much weed’. So literally it was me trying to figure out a way to keep the session on track and keep people from being incapacitated to the point where they couldn’t do the song. That was the only thing I had going into the UNKLE record.

In the case of Thom Yorke, I knew he was a fan of …Endtroducing. We’d met at a party and he approached me and said he was a big fan of the record, which was really surprising and unusual because that just didn’t happen in the States at that time. When we did Rabbit In Your Headlights, he was extremely focussed, laser focussed, but also very loose, talking about what he wanted to do but when he came to do it, he did it in one take and you could tell it was really cathartic for him to have done it. He put something into it that he needed to put into it for his own sake and watching that was really moving and powerful.”

An Album To Blow Your Mind

As recommended by Girl Ray drummer Iris McConnell: the fourth solo record from easy listening Scottish singer Barbara Dickson.

Barbara Dixon
Morning Comes Quickly (RSO, 1977)

“For someone whose main attraction to a record is pure joyfulness and late 70s production, this was an absolute wonder to stumble upon. I discovered it in a Flashback bargain box thinking it would consist of mostly cheese - quite frankly, I just liked Barbara’s outfit on the front cover - but the bangers really pulled through on this one.

Scottish singer Barbara Dickson started out as a folk singer but became known for her easy listening showtunes and mum-pop in the 80s. This album from 1977 is the sound of her seamlessly transitioning between the two - it’s a mix of soft yacht rock, country funk and swoony heartfelt ballads. By experimenting with adding synthesisers to her celtic folk pop, Barbara ends up sounding like a cross between something off the Ladies Of Too Slow To Disco compilations and the music from Look Around You.

The second track, and single off the album, Lover’s Serenade, is what hooked me. It’s beautifully meta - “oh so happy, swee-ee-eet melodies” she sings in the chorus - amidst a dreamy blend of bass, guitar and strings. It is perfectly written and produced the whole way through, and to be honest I’m not sure why it never reached Carole King-like status. It’s a rare thing when an album you pick up in the sale section because you like the cover becomes one of your favourites. Thank you Barbara!”

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