The home front
Having survived his acting debut, Blur's DAMON ALBARN is turning his mind to other ambitions. The heady world of shelf building beckons. Words: Fiona Shepherd
DAMON ALBARN RECKONS Blur have spent one and a half months of this year in Britain. That can only really mean one thing — Britain‘s finest quirky pop band have been conquering the world via the art of touring their backsides off.
Their fifth album Blur. released earlier this year to muted praise. has convincingly out- sold all their previous. more chart-friendly efforts around the world. Blur are now an international band. more United Nations than Union Jack. and Britain typically has gone ever so slightly lukewarm on them.
Damon doesn‘t care — having just returned from the States hours earlier, he‘s shortly off to play Australia. Thailand and Korea for the first time before returning to Britain for an arena tour. Before that, though. he has some important business to attend to. Apart from speaking to The List. he hopes to fit in a foot- ball match. despite hisjetlagged demeanour.
‘l‘ve been denied football for about five months.’ he says. speaking slowly and delib- erately. ‘l’ve been to American football in the past and I hated it. Really, really dull. They never get to the point. Same with baseball — it’s all about that last shot.‘
On this Stateside visit. Damon sought his cultural kicks elsewhere. with a trip to Graceland which he describes as ‘an amazing place. It's a real testament to . . . something. I don’t think anyone can fail to be charmed by the last five years of Elvis. He just really. truly was the King. I know that sounds trite. but everything about Elvis from the clothes he wore to the cars he drove to the plane he flew around in was unique.‘
So much for the King. what about the Queen? The view from the hotel room where Damon lounges takes in Kensington Palace and the huge expanse of earth which had been an ocean of flowers a few weeks earlier. He is sceptical about Diana‘s chances of toppling Elvis from the throne to become the ultimate 20th century icon.
‘l-low could she ever be‘." he asks. ‘We created Diana. We saw something of our- selves, of our whole culture in her; that‘s very different to Elvis. Apart from the people who testified to her kindness and humanity. she didn’t do anything. When she died, we projected everything on to her and it was very frightening. Seeing the way everyone
behaved. but not being drawn into it at all was a very sinister thing. I thought it revealed some very suspect things in our culture.‘
Albarn. noted for his erudite. opinionated but not always popular pronouncements on British culture. refuses to be drawn any further on the subject. claiming later that he inevitably feels detached from events this year in Britain. He has been too busy removing himself from the London rat race he so readily explored in the past in songs from early single ‘Bang‘ to the elegiac ‘The L'niversal‘. Instead he enthuses about Reykjavik. where he owns a house. and a recent foray to Greenland.
‘lt‘s mind-bogglingly beautiful.‘ he says. ‘I think everyone should go to a place like that to realise that there are alternatives. There are
‘I don't have the ability to build a shelf, and I think that’s something lacking in me. I can cook, thank God. But I'd like to
learn how to iron.’ Damon Albarn
people there who live on farms totally detached from the world. There must be something inside your psyche that makes somewhere like that attractive to you. but once you get there you realise why. If you can cope with the mindset of proper isolation. Greenland‘s the place to go.‘
Thanks. but I‘ll just stick to watching Full Circle ll’ltli Michael Palin.
Whether Blur‘s next offering will be shot through with a contemplative spirit borne of Scandic isolation. Damon can‘t say. He admits to writing in a very random way. yet somehow he always manages to peg some unifying concept on each successive album. Blur was ‘English casual’ but broke the lineage with The Kinks and The Small Faces which Blur had extended with such idiosyn- cracy for years. All Albarn will say at this stage is that he‘s looking forward to making the next album.
‘l‘ve laid back on writing for a while.‘ he admits. ‘l‘m not so obsessive at the moment that I‘ve got to have “x” amount of songs. because it‘s everybody‘s responsibility to only open their mouths when they‘ve got some- thing to say and the nature of our culture
doesn’t really recognise that. It encourages you to just keep opening your mouth because. if you don‘t, someone else is going to take your place. which isn‘t the case really. So a lot of bad records are made that don‘t need to be made by good bands who just feel insecure.
‘But I love that idea that you can come out with a great record after being written off.‘ he continues. Although he is not necessarily referring to his own experience. Blur have done their fair share of bouncing back. demonstrating the talent and the bloodymind- edness you need to dodge the slings and arrows.
“‘Song 2“ happens to be our biggest hit yet.‘ he says. by way of illustration. ‘yet it happens to be on an album which is viewed as our most commercially weird. So now we can go on and make another record and know that we‘re able to really stretch ourselves. That‘s what gives me the most pleasure. And the fact that we‘re still friends.‘
More than ever. Blur have the creative leverage to just please themselves. And with a creditable performance in the trendy but thoroughly overrated film Face. Damon has shown he can tackle other media. Life is swe ‘t for him and long-term girl- frie id Justine Frischmann — indeed there are rumours of mar- riage. So is there anything else he really. really wants?
‘l‘m in one of those stupid situations where I‘ve bought two houses. and I really want to be able to decorate them and mend them.‘ he says. ‘I can‘t think of anything better than really making them homes. If you‘ve spent a long time concentrating on being good at yourjob. you have to face tip to the fact that you‘re not that great at stupid things. Like. I‘m not very good at tidying my clothes. The ability to build a shelf. I don‘t have that and I think that‘s something lacking in me. I mean I can cook. thank God. But I‘d like to learn how to iron.‘
However. before things get too specialist- interest-daytime-TV. Damon recalls his nur- turing experiences on the set of Face and concludes: ‘All I really want to do is work with good people and just make reasonably good art. that‘s all I‘m really motivated by now. I think I‘ve got the silly stuff out of my system.‘
Apart from the odd shelf-building aspira- tion. that is.
Blur are at the SECC, Glasgow. Mon 1 Dec. Tickets left for standing areas only.
21 Nov—4 Dec 1997 THE llST9