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Damon and Alex on Viva2: March 99

Interview with Damon Albarn and Alex James by Markus Kavka on 2ROCK / VIVA2, February 1999, aired on March 15, 1999

(* Damon talking in German)

Inteviewer: Damon, Alex, welcome to the show.
Alex: Cheers.
Inteviewer: It's a pleasure to have you here.
Alex: … to be here in London fashion week.
Inteviewer: In London fashion week?
Alex: Yes.
Inteviewer: Aah … I know what you're saying. Now where do we start? What's the latest fashion?
Alex: Big trousers.
Inteviewer: Oh …
Damon: (*) No no, what he just said was that it's 'London fashion week' this week, or something. For five days all the people are in London for the latest fashion, dunno what.
Inteviewer: (Wearing greybrownish trousers, a pair of black Adidas trainers and a black shirt …) … To buy like trousers that I'm wearing?
Damon: No.
Inteviewer: Hehe … I bought them in London.
Damon: Depκche Mode, ya know.
Inteviewer: Right. Alex: You went to London to buy German trainers?
Inteviewer: I didn't. They're from Germany, of course. Is this the latest in trainers fashion? Probably not. What fashion are you suggesting?
(Observing the interviewer's shoes …) That's uhm …. that's uhm … they're kind of … well, it could be, ya know. Not really, but … not bad.
Inteviewer: Not bad!
Damon: Not bad! Not bad …
Inteviewer: For a start …
Damon: (Now talking about the interviewer's greybrownish trousers) But I wouldn't have gone for the grey with the black and white. I would have gone for something …
Inteviewer: Uhm … does it look like an odd colour combination?
Damon:Well, black and white is fine but then grey just makes it all … ya know … you kind of …
Inteviewer: … instead of grey, then?
Damon: Well, I, well … I think if you'd be wearing these (points to his blue jeans), you'd look kinda fine. Well, it's just the colours, you know, you gotta get your colours right, mate.
Alex: Sometimes they're in! (The interviewer starts translating the whole thing into German for the viewers and tells them about London fashion week.)
Damon: (*) … new black and new white …
Inteviewer: The new black, the new white and the new grey.
Damon: (*) There is no new grey.
Inteviewer: Grey was last year, right?
Damon: (*) I don't know … maybe … maybe … maybe it's four years late.
Inteviewer: Four years late?!
Damon: Yep, four years.
Inteviewer: Four years, wow.
Damon: (*) But that doesn't matter …
Inteviewer: … it doesn't, of course …
Damon:… since we're here for Music … not for trousers! Hehe ..
Inteviewer: That's right. Hehe. We deviated… (The interviewer announces the video to 'Song2'.)
Inteviewer: … World famous tune … ah … now it was in 'The Simpsons', right?
Damon: (*) That's right.
Inteviewer: And uhm, when is the episode coming up? Do you know?
Damon: (*) … I think it's been already … already …
Inteviewer: … has been already?
Damon: (*) It has been already in America, but not here in Europe.
Inteviewer: Aha. That was the one with Superbowl?
Damon: Yep.
Inteviewer: Aha … Actually … do you want me to ask in English or in German? In English, probably … and then you can answer in German? …
Damon: No, we can do it in German if you want.
Inteviewer: Well, it depends on whatever you like.
Damon: Or, whatever you like!
Inteviewer: No, whatever you like!
Damon: (*) I don't mind!
Inteviewer: So, we can just mix it! (Damon is laughing.) (They play the video to 'Song2'.) (The interviewer announces the news section.) (Damon takes some orangebrownish coloured sunglasses out of his pockets and puts them on.)
Inteviewer: Oh, you're wearing coloured glasses now?
Damon: (*) Yes.
Inteviewer: So, the news section is coming up and, uhm, for the last couple of years, Blur have always been a band that, uhm …
Alex: Well, since you start getting into the news you're too busy to do anything interesting, that's what I've noticed.
Inteviewer: Yeah?
Alex: Mmmh.
Inteviewer: So, you just didn't pay any attention to, like, what the music gossip press wrote about you?
Damon: (*) Uhm … but what? What did they say about us?
Inteviewer: Uhm, yeah, you must have had feelings, like uhm, of being observed for one time in London, every time you went to a restaurant it was in the press next day, every time you met somebody it was in the press …
Damon: (*) Sometimes.
Inteviewer: But, they did a very good, nasty job …
Damon: (*) That's normal in England … Tabloids … Shit.
Inteviewer: Yeah? And uhm, so that means you didn't really care what they wrote about you?
Damon: Uhm …
Alex: Sometimes they even spell your name wrong.
Inteviewer: Hehe, they should have learnt it by now.
Alex: Well, they say it doesn't matter what they write as long as they spell your name right. But sometimes they even get that wrong.
Inteviewer: Right. So what would be the worst rumours that you've read or had to read about yourself?
Alex: Well, if you think we gonna start perpetuating the worst rumours …
Damon: Yeah, that's ... y'know, that's ...
Inteviewer: Or, any nice rumours, then?
Alex: You know, papers, you know, all kinds of publicity are fine as long as you don't inhale, you know, by any kind of refusal … any kind of reporting about you is, you know, you just have to read it, at all its length, you know … if you start to believe it …
Damon: Yeah … the press is like … Clinton and his marijuana …
Inteviewer: So yeah, but, it's, it's still hard I think, I mean, if you're a band and you just can't play music for the sake of music?
Damon: But that's what we do.
Alex: Haha! And what we're doing now, sitting on a sofa talking about music.
Damon: Yeah.
Inteviewer: Yeah.
Damon: I mean, we're doing what we do, just playing. I know it's hard to understand, you know, because the English press is really obsessive … and uhm, it's not something any of us really enjoy but we just live with it because that's the country we live in, you know?
Inteviewer: Mmmh. (They play the video to 'The Universal'.)
Inteviewer: 'The Universal' …
Alex: Yeah, I like that, it's in the future.
Inteviewer: Hehe … it's in the future?
Alex: Yeah … definitely.
Inteviewer: … Coming up now?
Alex: No, that last one … it's something about 2025 …
Damon: 'The Universal' was definitely in the future.
Inteviewer: What do you mean?
Damon: Well … what do I mean … it's not in … it's not today.
Inteviewer: Oh yeah, OK, so, haha! Yeah, of course not, hehe … But, still, 'The Universal' was, uhm, a video, uhm, with references to, like, uhm, 'A Clockwork Orange' …
Alex: References! Hehe. I mean, it's straight forward steal, really, if we have to be honest.
Damon: Yeah, it's a, they say, the word they use is 'a homage' …
Inteviewer: That's a nice word.
Damon: 'Homage'… 'homage' …
Inteviewer: But isn't it, in the music business anyway, you can't steal? … Is, everything is a homage or a remake …
Alex: Haha.
Damon: … Or a sample.
Inteviewer: Or a sample, yeah.
Alex: There's no new tunes, only new equipment.
Inteviewer: Right. So that's not a crime.
Damon: No, no. (The Interviewer announces the video to 'Tender' and talks about that live gig Blur had just done for Viva2.)
Inteviewer: There were a few people talking to you at the station today, and, uhm, there were a few people listening to the new record, to the new single, and everywhere you went, basically, everybody was humming 'Tender'. So, is that a sign that, uhm, this could be very successful?
Damon: Well, uhm, it's always an indication.
Inteviewer: When you wrote 'Tender', uhm … do you remember the feeling you had when you wrote it?
Damon: I was … I mean … well, the original song was quite, I mean, it's a sad song, but I think the way that we recorded it, it ends up being quite optimistic.
Inteviewer: Mmmh. Is that like the sound of the record, would you say? Of '13'?
Damon: Sad but ultimately … a celebration. Yeah, a celebration of sadness turning into … you know … something more positive. Definitely.
Alex: Sadness isn't like depression, is it? I mean, it's quite a particular …
Damon: Well, it's melancholy!
Inteviewer: Mmmh. Anyway, there was a lot of talking, a lot of, uhm, that people thought how the new record, how is it going to be, and uhm, there were indications that the band had bad periods within the last year that you had to go though, where on the verge of splitting up at one point, and …
Damon: Well, no, not really, I mean, you know, we've been together for ten years, so, in ten years there's always gonna be … a period of … you know. But things aren't quite right, I mean, it really was our seven year ridge … where things got a bit hairy for us, but, you know, I think … we worked it out.
Alex: It's all fine now.
Inteviewer: Plus to that, people were speculating, uhm, how personal this record is going to be, uhm, where it comes to, like your person. Is it more personal than any other record?
Damon: Uhm, no, it's definitely, that is an affirmative, Sir.
Inteviewer: Thank you, hehe. Yeah, I mean, it sounds like it's a lot more personal.
Damon: So what it sounds like is what it is … as with music generally.
Inteviewer: Sometimes, it's not what it sounds like, is it?
Damon: Yeah, I think, uhm …
Inteviewer: It should be. That's the ideal …
Damon: Now what's that band I saw on MTV? When presenting the award to Madonna, there was this band on before, the German one, it had that guy with all the muscles and singing into a telephone about, uhm …
Inteviewer: German band with muscles …
Damon: … it was kind of techno and heavy metal.
Inteviewer: 'Rammstein'?
Damon: Yeah. Now, do you wanna know what that sounds like?
Inteviewer: Tell me.
Damon: It's sounds shit! (Everyone is lauhing.)
Damon: But … you know …
Inteviewer: Haha! Just … because?
Damon: Because it's…
Inteviewer: It's less personal than your record.
Damon: Well, you know, it's the opposite of personal, intimate music, isn't it, it's completely theatrical.
Alex: That was marketing and theatre.
Damon: I mean, as a piece of theatre, if you like that kind of theatre, it's good, I suppose.
Inteviewer: It could be a slight justification for anything, then.
Damon: It is. That's the danger. Theatre can be a justification for anything.
Inteviewer: Right. That is dangerous.
Damon: Well, no, I mean, it's like, you know, I didn't mean that in a … you know, you've got to accomodate our sense of humour. I think sometimes we come across in a slightly, you know, negative way when actually we're just trying to be a little more, uhm … I don't know … well, you know, we're just trying to put a little bit of humour into things, actually.
Inteviewer: Yeah. On the verge of sarcasm?
Damon: Uhm … no. No.
Inteviewer: No?
Damon: I wasn't being sarcastic, then.
Inteviewer: OK, hehe.
Alex: Cheeky.
Damon: Being cheeky. Cheeky monkey. (The interviewer is about to translate the whole thing in German for the viewers.)
Inteviewer: So, we have to start from the end with translating, in case I forget anything, could you help me out, then?
Damon: OK.
Inteviewer: If there's something important missing. (The interviewer tells the viewers that Damon thought 'Rammstein' were very theatrical.)
Damon: … and I said 'funny', not 'shit'.
Inteviewer: 'Funny'? OK, then we turn around that second …
Damon: Just slightly modifying my answer.
Inteviewer: Hehe.
Damon: (*) Funny, yeah, very funny.
Damon: (*) I've got a question. It is funny, isn't it? It's not …
Inteviewer: No, it is funny. Yeah. So it's free of any analysis, free of any personal, ironic things.
Damon: (*) Is that right?
Inteviewer: Yeah.
Damon: (*) It is funny?
Inteviewer: Yeah.
Damon: (*) Oh, good.
Inteviewer: Hehe. (The interviewer announces the video to 'Tender'.)
Inteviewer: So, the video for this potential hit 'Tender' is coming up.
Damon: Mmmh.
Inteviewer: Uhm, a few words about that?
Damon: Well, it's us playing live and the sound is not … uhm, it's not us lip sinking, it's us singing, so the sound you hear and you see is all one thing, it's not the record. It's us playing.
Inteviewer: Mmmh. (They play the video to 'Tender'. Afterwards, the interviewer tells the viewers about the survey in British music magazine NME, where Blur fans could comment the new single and how different their opinions were.)
Inteviewer: I just mentioned that …
Damon: (*) Yes, I know.
Inteviewer: Did you understand it, Alex? The range that people voted 'Tender' for …
Alex: Yeah.
Inteviewer: What is it for you, uhm, is it … actually, is it a complement, to have this range, when you do something which is not super commercial from the first second on?
Damon: Uhm, I mean …
Alex: Well, it's a good sign that they're bothered to print what people think about it, I suppose.
Damon: Yeah. I mean, the thing about the English press is, as I said earlier, that it is very extreme, you know? So …
Inteviewer: Mmmh. But these were fans, right. Do you think they were quoted right?
Damon: Well, I don't know. I mean, I don't trust the press, here.
Inteviewer: Mmmh.
Damon: It's like always, they just, they create … they create things how they want them to be perceived, you know.
Inteviewer: How were the immediate, uhm, facetoface, uhm, reactions that you got for 'Tender' and your record in general?
Damon: Well, I think great, you know, I got, I mean, I got a letter from, uhm, Brian Eno's wife today …
Alex: That's nice!
Damon: … saying it was the most moving song she had ever heard.
Alex: Really? I bet Brian's pissed off about that.
Damon: Well, he probably ... right, you know Brian. So, you know, I don't know, that's a random thing, I mean it's the last thing on earth I'd ever expected. So I think people do, you know, I think it's, it's definitely touching to people in a kind of positive way.
Inteviewer: It is. Everyone who was humming it, uhm, had a smile on their face, so it was very uplifting.
Damon: That's good … that's good.
Alex: It's the gospel choir, I think, that's what gives it the real kind of lifting.
Inteviewer: Is that a choir from London, actually?
Damon: Yeah, it's 'London Community Gospel Choir'. Really, really lovely people. I mean, really …
Alex: There is no bad lass in them.
Damon: … really beautiful.
Alex: They are fundamentally good.
Inteviewer: Was it that you have written the song and already knew that it needed some kind of choir in, later on?
Alex: (shaking his head) It's like playing a joke or something, using a gospel choir, I think you can probably only do it once … in your life.
Damon: I tell you because the song, the lyrics on the song are so kind of close to uhm, you know, something you'd … you'd … you'd associate with gospel singing, really.
Inteviewer: Love.
Damon: Yeah, love and … just … crank, sort of calling people to be strong. Yeah, that's what, kind of, it's all about, isn't it, gospel music? So, I think that's why it works. It wouldn't have worked for anything else. And they certainly wouldn't sing about something which wasn't … you know … sort of close to them.
Alex: Close to their hearts.
Inteviewer: Right. Now your request videos are coming up. Very interesting bands that you picked.
Damon: Yeah. 'Can' and 'Kraftwerk'. I mean, I don't know what the footage you got of either of them is, because I'm leaving it up to you, but …
Inteviewer: Yeah, we gonna dig out some vintage footage we have by those bands.
Damon: Mmmh.
Inteviewer: You know that 'Can' are doing some kind of a reunion in, uhm …
Damon: Yeah. I think, uhm, we're doing an interview with them, on Wednesday.
Inteviewer: Oh!
Damon: I've just heard of it and it's really … (holds his thumb up) … great.
Alex: I think we like both those bands 'cos they kind of sound very German. German bands sounding German. Always in rock music a good thing to do. If you're German. Other than trying making heavy metal, or something. I hate it when German bands try to make bad American rock music.
Inteviewer: Yeah.
Alex: 'Cos there is a German style.
Damon: There's a really brilliant German style, you know. When I was growing up I was so into Hermann Hess and Kurt Weill, they were like my two, two of my biggest influences, as a teenager. And Krautrock … as they kind of … you know, it's like Britpop, isn't it, Krautrock … you know … but a lot better, uhm … you know, really, really important, and this album has got a lot of, uhm, it's not, just in the spirit of it you know it's quite, uhm … it's quite adventurous music. So uhm, you know ...
Inteviewer: Have you noticed, uhm, that also a lot of people in Britain are, uhm, appreciating music from that area more …
Damon: Entirely, 'cos its' really good. Yeah, it's seen as the beginning of dance music, really. So …
Alex: You got any Bonnie M?
Inteviewer: Uhm … I think we do.
Alex: Bonnie M is great.
Inteviewer: The second wave of great dance music.
Damon: Yeah!
Alex: That was German as well, wasn't it?
Inteviewer: Yeah. Frank Farian.
Damon: Yeah.
Inteviewer: I just saw you two the other day with him.
Alex: He was mean, though, wasn't he?
Inteviewer: He was very mean, the big inventor of Milly Vanilly, and he killed them, potentially. At least one of them.
Damon: Well, you can say that, we can't.
Alex: He was good but he was mean.
Inteviewer: Very mean. But uhm, great producer. Great music. (They play Damon and Alex' request videos, 'Oh Yeah' by 'Can' and 'Die Roboter' by 'Kraftwerk'.)
Inteviewer: Your live performances are coming up. When do we have a chance to see you on tour?
Damon: I think we might do a festival in Germany, or two.
Inteviewer: Mmmh. Sometimes in Spring, Summer?
Damon: Yeah, but uhm, no touring.
Inteviewer: No touring?
Damon: No. But this show on Viva, it will be … uhm, you know, we're gonna play a proper, uhm, all the songs from the album. So you, you know … just keep playing it if you miss us. Just record it and play it at home.
Inteviewer: Hehe, show it over and over 'cos you don't come.
Damon: Get your friends round and have a little ease!
Inteviewer: Haha! Yeah, we can do that. (They play 'Mellow Song' live from the Blur gig for Viva.)
Inteviewer: Thank you very much for joining us on this program.
Damon: Ah, it's a pleasure.
Inteviewer: All the best and for the new record, uhm …
Damon: Yeah, so, thanks.
Inteviewer: Thank you, too.
Alex: Thanks.
Damon: (*) See you later.
Inteviewer: See you later.
Damon: (*) And bye.
Inteviewer: And bye. (They play 'TrimmTrabb' live from the Blur gig for Viva.)

***Many, many thanks to Helen who transcribed this (love you girl, this must have taken for ever), and also to Gabrielle who managed to figure out what Damon was saying when he was in *muffle* mode :)

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