Tuesday, January 11, 2011
What got you started?
A desire not to go and work in the Ford car factory in Dagenham. That's what everyone where I lived was being educated to do. To get out of it, it seemed I needed to be a boxer, a footballer or a rock star. I didn't want to get punched in the head, and I'm not that good at football, so I went for music.
What was your big breakthrough?
Buying a mushroom biryani for John Peel. I was playing football in Hyde Park when I heard him say on the radio that he'd kill for a curry. So I took one down for him, still in my football kit, and asked him to play my record Life's a Riot With Spy Vs Spy. And that was my first radio play.
Is there too little protest music today?
Yes. Look at what's happening in the world: the credit crunch; our young people getting maimed in a war that nobody knows how to resolve. When I was first plying my trade, people were willing to talk about these issues. Now they'd rather write about getting blasted than changing the world.
What's the biggest threat to music today?
Major record labels, for persecuting young people who download music for free. What they don't understand is that they use downloads to sample stuff that they later buy. Can you see why I might not think it's a good thing to arrest people for listening to my songs?
What's your favourite film?
Badlands by Terrence Malick. The entire film looks as if it's been shot in the golden hour.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I once worked with a man who owned a chain of record shops. He said: "There's only two things that ever get you into trouble, son – your dick and your signature." I've been careful with both.
Is there anything about your career you regret?
Yes. A few years ago I worked on a record called We Laughed with some incredible women in a hospice. We got the album to No 11 in the charts. But now that those women are no longer with us, I sometimes wonder whether I could have done more for them.
What one song would work as the soundtrack to your life?
There's a song by Little Feat called Willin' that sums me up. "I been warped by the rain, driven by the snow/ I'm drunk and dirty don't ya know, and I'm still willin' ". It's about a truck driver, but life on tour is just the same. You're out there playing some festival, soaking wet, your boots all muddy, but you've just got to get up there and do the show.
Born: Barking, 1957.
Career: Has released 11 albums, and last year wrote and performed the music for the play Pressure Drop. Performs at the Arches, Glasgow (0141-565 1000), on 18 February, then touring.
High point: "Having a hit single, Sexuality. But it made me realise I'm not a chart artist."
Low point: "The 1987 election. I'd been working with the protest group Red Wedge, and then Thatcher got in with another landslide."