An interview with Pulp's Jarvis Cocker
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Jarvis Cocker Interview ~ We Love Talking


Fellow Sheffield lads and lasses Pulp release their pityfully long awaited new album, We Love Life' this October. Crud takes a look at the making of another possible Pulp classic.


"This record deals with fundamental things. In some ways I suppose it's quite childlike. We stripped away all things and in the end we were left with bare earth, trees and nature". Jarvis Cocker is talking about the forthcoming Pulp album, and as befits such a back-to-basics exercise, he and the band have decided that it should be their first to simply bear the name 'Pulp'.

"'This Is Hardcore' was a record about disillusionment," he continues. "Disillusionment can be a good thing, because if you've grown up aspiring to a rock'n'roll myth and then you get to this place and you decide maybe it's not such a great place after all. Like levels of VIP rooms at a party, and you end up stuck in a room with five ego-maniacs. So the record became a necessary purging. It was like being in a long dark tunnel, and in the end we had to make something quite unpleasant. But this time we decided to dig out towards the light. You can't change the past so you have to find a way or letting it not poison the future.'

That's what 'Pulp' feels like. When it was started the band thought it would emerge as a folk album; it hasn't. And Jarvis, keen to express that while it may represent something that could be deemed a 'spiritual rebirth' it is by no means 'happy clappy'. At least two animals, one person, four love affairs and a lot of hopes die throughout its 55 minutes - so they have a way to go before they achieve pain-free nirvana.

All these trees, flowers and fur-bearing critters have led certain early commentators to dub this Pulp's 'pastoral work'. But, brought up in Sheffield and living in London, there is a definite whiff of the smelly canal towpath, rather than fragrant rural idyll, about 'Pulp'. The pivotal 'Wickerman' perhaps, exemplifies this, where Jarvis leads us through the 'brickwork conduits' of the Rivers Porter and Don, as they flow through the Victorian sewers under Sheffield. He rewrites a subterranean dingy journey as an exploration towards his teenage heart of darkness. 'I like the way the river is demeaned but it's still there. I like the idea of threads running through things.'

Scott Walker produced this song - and indeed the remaining 10 songs on this Pulp's seventh album - and his epic fingerprints (which so influenced the nascent Pulp) are all over it. Elsewhere, less celebrated 60's icon Bob Lind ('Elusive Butterfly', anyone?) gives his name to one of the record's breeziest tunes, overlaid with a typically downbeat lyric. 'It will not stop/ it will get worse from day-to-day/ until you admit that you're a fuck up/ like the rest of us,' opines the Jarv. in typically cautionary style. 'Successful people think that their lives should be successful in every regard. That their relationships and trips to the shops should be successful. But they're not,' says Jarvis, hinting at a possible autobiographical strand to the song. No wonder the subtitle is 'The Only Way is Down'.

But it is a spirit of hopeful change that pervades 'Pulp'. Its 'adapt-and-survive' ethos underpins the song 'Weeds', where the class-war Pulp resurface with anthemic power. 'It's about how the underclass is exploited as entertainment by the middle classes,' says Jarvis. 'All the best ideas in music and fashion tend to come 'the street', and are then taken and used by others. It happens over and over again in history.' But the 'weeds' grow stronger: 'It's like when you see a bush growing from the top of a building - that's what people are like; they somehow manage to grow and cling on in this environment.'

Musically 'Weeds' personifies the more muscular sound that identifies 'Pulp' in general, and Scott Walker's production specifically; the first time Scott has ever produced anyone else's work. 'As well as being more naturally themed, the songs were recorded more naturally with us just playing,' says Jarvis. The results are a far cry from the grown-in-the-dark Pulp sound of old, with Mark Webber's guitar playing on the closing 'Sunrise' hitting previously unattained heights of spirituality.

'Scott just made us feel really comfortable,' says Jarvis. One thing that was perhaps less comfortable was Jarvis having to tell Scott that he had included one of his albums in a list of disappointments in the song 'bad Cover Version'. The second side of Scott's 1970 album 'Til The Band Comes In' fits in with an 'own brand box of cornflakes' and "the 'Stones since the 80s" in the parade of pale intimations. 'We wrote that before we went in with Scott, and I was dreading telling him. So in the end I just went in and blurted it out, and he just laughed. The thing is with that album is the first side's really good, but then side two is just cover versions, and you keep on imagining you are going to hear the sound of a towel being thrown in.'

'Trees' , which coupled with 'Sunrise', will be the first double-A single continues the nature theme. But it's a slightly uneasy relationship between man and plant, with Jarvis berating 'the trees, those useless trees', before going on to point out that they do 'produce the air that I am breathing'. It's one man's struggle with universal indifference, built around a magical orchestral riff taken from Stanley 'Cavatina' Myer's score for 1960's spy caper 'Otley' (starring Tom Courtney).

'Birds In Your Garden' contains actual artificial 3-D birdcalls generated in the entirely unnatural environs of the Institute of Sound & Vibration at Southampton University. Should give the twitchers among you something to think about, trying to sort out whether it's a hoopoe or a corncrake.

'Minnie Timperley' is a dark and sordid tale of the vivacious lead character's slaughter at the hands of a 'paunchy but dangerous' assailant. Fortunately it is only based around a dream Jarvis had of going to a Scottish rave with Steve. 'Roadkill' is, however, a true and affecting story of a deer that lies dying in the road, while our commentator decides whether or not to take it as a sign of another doomed relationship.

'I Love Life' contains all of the duality you might expect from a title like that, with Jarvis declaring with a certain amount of Larkin-esque bleakness that 'your Mum and Dad have sentenced you to life'. It begins sweetly enough, but soon degenerates until you can't tell the love from the hate. 'It's a song about somebody trying to regain control of their life,' says Jarvis. And do they succeed? 'Well, in the song they might manage'

'PULP': Weeds, Origin of the Species, Minnie Timperley, Trees, Wickerman, I Love Life, Birds in Your Garden, Bob Lind, Bad Cover Version, Roadkill, Sunrise.

A promo-only 12-inch of 'Sunrise' in all its Axelrod-ian glory is currently highly sought-after, and includes mixes by fellow Sheffield residents All Seeing I and Fat Truckers. Both of these artists form part of Desperate, a loose DJ collective that includes Jarvis and Steve from Pulp, along with Barry 7, Winston & Pipes and JP Buckle from the National Bandit.

'Pulp' is released by Island Records on Oct 22nd. The single, 'Trees'/'Sunrise' precedes it on Oct 8th.

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The Night That Minnie Timperly Died
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The Trees
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I Love Life
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