Jarvis Cocker interview October 2011


This onstage interview – part of Dave Haslam’s ongoing ‘Close Up’ series – took place at the Great Hall of Manchester Town Hall on Sunday October 16th 2011, and marked the publication of Jarvis’s book ‘Mother, Brother, Lover: Selected Lyrics’ (Faber) . This is more-or-less a complete transcript of the interview. Journalists etc; please acknowledge the source of any quotes taken from here (

Congratulations on the book.

Oh thank you. Well, you say “congratulations” but it’s not the thickest book in the world, look! (holds up slim hardback volume). And that’s thirty years work, you know…

But I gather you were hesitant about bringing out a book of your lyrics; did you feel it was a bit of posey sort of a thing to do, to say, you know, that your lyrics are poetry worth reading, and buying in hardback?

It’s not particularly that, but I think the thing is all those words in the book were made for songs and they wouldn’t have ever existed were it not for songs. The way I’ve always written is we would just make a horrible noise in the rehearsal room and I would just make a kind of musical mumbling sound until I found some kind of melody that I thought maybe was alright. And then I would be arsed to write some words; so that the words generally speaking are the last thing.

So I think they’re in their natural habitat when they’re with songs. Now you’ll be saying to yourself well, “Why have you done this book then, why are we all sat in this room?” (audience laughs). Good question! Because Pulp played some shows this summer, I had to go back and look at things and I just liked the idea of them being in once place. As I say in the introduction to the book, I’ve never kept a diary or anything like that, so that’s the nearest thing I’ve got to a diary. It reminds me of things that have happened and stuff; I’ve never really fancied writing my life story, but that’s what this is, in a way.

In the intro, you describe how in one of your favourite songs – ‘Louie Louie’ which you talk about – actually no one really knows what the lyrics are. I mean they are a bit unintelligible and garbled. So I assume that for you, the success of a song isn’t dependant necessarily on how great the lyric is? It’s always just the noise that matters.

Well I think songs can definitely work without fantastic words. With loads of famous songs that you think you know really well, maybe you’ll know the chorus and a few words of the verse or something. I’m always astounded, but if you go to karaoke bars, which I do occasionally – I got caught singing Right Said Fred the other day, I was there with a friend and we were doing “I’m Too Sexy” (laughs). But the point of that is that often if you do karaoke or something like that, you see the lyrics and think, God, I never knew it said that in that song, do you know what I mean?

So I don’t think it’s essential and I certainly think you can have a good song with mediocre or iffy words. If the music’s no good then no matter how good the words are, it’s not going to work. Having said that, when you get a good song with a good lyric as well – then it takes it to another level I think.

The book doesn’t include some of your earliest lyrics. Did they not meet the standard that you wanted for the lyrics or was there another reason why you didn’t include some of the earlier stuff?

Well, I started the group in 1978 when I was 15. I’d wanted to be in a group for ages, probably since I’d seen the Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ or maybe The Monkees show, you know, that used to be on TV. I wanted to be in a gang really and I was no good at sport. So to be in a band was a way of doing that, and so I managed to persuade some other kids to be in the band but then it hit me with a certain horror that you had to write songs. And then it hit me with even more horror that I was a singer so then I was going to have to write the words to the songs. And so that’s the way I kind of got into it.

And then you’re faced with a dilemma you see because as soon as you start writing stuff down, then you start getting really self conscious about what other people think. You know, when you sing that song in front of other people, are you going to look a knob or whatever. The first song I ever did was called “Shakespeare Rock”. You can get some kind of idea of how great it was from the title. If you write something that’s a bit jokey, then you don’t run the risk of being shown up. So that one went “Got a baby, only one thing’s wrong / She quotes Shakespeare all day long / I said “Baby why you ignoring me?” / She said “to be or not to be”.” (audience laughs). Then it goes “Shakespeare rock, Shakespeare roll”. That was one…

And then the other thing is, when you’re a fifteen year old you can get really super-serious and very earnest about things and think right, yeah, erm, this song is going to sum it all up for everyone on this planet right now. So then there was one which is very painful to remember. It was called ‘Life is a Circle’; “Life is a circle you’re caught on / Life is a road that’s much too long / It winds, goes ahead, only stops when you’re dead”(laughs).

But I think it takes you a lot of time to find your feet writing lyrics. You think creativity lives up on a cloud in some rarified place and you have to project yourself there, and as soon as I stopped looking up there and looked more at what was lying around on the ground, that’s when I started to find my own angle on what I wanted to write about I suppose. The most interesting material is right under your nose but somehow you overlook it because it’s too obvious.

Can I ask you about Morrissey because I think for a lot of people, in many ways Pulp were to the 90s as the Smiths were to the 80s and I wondered if you had ever felt, back in the 80s or even now, that Morrissey was a kindred spirit?

I can remember being very jealous. You know, we did a John Peel session in 1981 when I was still at school. It wasn’t very good but we still did it. And so when the Smiths started coming through which I guess is like 1983-84, something like that, I was jealous because I thought well there’s not room for two northern misfits in the indie charts! And they got their head start and everybody loved them so we kind of went (makes “pfft” type noise), like that. And it took me a long time to get over that; petty jealousy basically. I apologise. Can I apologise for that?

And have you ever met Morrissey?

Yeah, it was strange. I was waiting to go and play some evil DJ thing in Ireland and I was waiting for the plane, and it was only a little tiny plane. I walked to the gate and Morrissey was just sat there. It was weird; we were in quite close proximity because it was a small little holding-area so obviously we were both very awkward and just kind of said “Hi, where are you going?”, which was obvious because we were waiting for this plane! (audience laughs).

I have to say I’m a bit disappointed with that. I thought, you know, two great minds meeting like that, some real spark would ignite…

Yeah, but that’s the truth of everything isn’t it, you just go “Yeah, where you going?” (laughs). “How’s it going?” “Yeah.” “Alright. Bye then.”

Well another reason I wanted to mention Morrissey is when I met him, it was before he’d been on ‘Top of the Pops’ and before he was famous in any way really, and even then, he was Morrissey and I felt like there was a “Steven Patrick Morrissey” but he’d already been left behind and already there was a persona that was “Morrissey” which is the thing that we all know and often love. And I wondered if you felt that was also the case with Jarvis; that there was also a kind of Jarvis persona that is maybe different to you or bigger than you?

Well, I don’t know. There may be some truth in that; I think if you are a slightly withdrawn person and a shy person and you decide to be performer, there’s obviously something you’re trying to prove – either to yourself or to other people – or you’re trying to break out of that, and you’re going to have to construct some kind of persona just to get you on the stage; even whether you wear a certain kind of thing, or get some hair product.

In a way, it’s a wish fulfillment thing; I suppose maybe you try to construct a persona that’s more your fantasy of what you’d like to be. And it’s pretty hard to talk about that in yourself, but I’m sure there’s a bit of that. I feel that I’m not another person when I’m on stage but I know it’s a bit of an amplified version. It’s just as well really because if I went home and was going (jumps up and does Jarvis dancing) “Yeah, come on, why don’t we have a cup of tea yeah!” (audience laughs) it would break a lot of things in the house and your partner would just leave very quickly. So although I feel that I’m being myself, I’m sure it is a bit exaggerated.

So do you sometimes do something and kind of think oh, that’s a bit of an un-Jarvis thing to have done, and you’ve like come out of character?

Well I did have a hang up about it at one time. Because the thing is, I’ve never worked on it. You’ll have seen my movements on stage. I haven’t been coached, I don’t know if you can tell that, you know! (laughs) I think when I first went on stage, I didn’t move at all but then I seem to remember some concert where all the amplifiers stopped working and I just got in a right bad mood. So I couldn’t think of anything to do to keep the audience’s attention and I just jumped around and probably pulled all the leads out and stuff like that. And then people clapped a right lot and I thought oh, that’s good you know, you don’t actually have to bother playing anything, just have a fit on stage! It came about through trial and error and I never really studied it but then there was somebody did me on ‘Stars in their Eyes’ and then I realised I did have little ticks you know like (gesticulates). Honestly, I didn’t know it before! And for a while, that did become a problem because you realised you were a bit of a caricature or something and so then it made me just want to stand still on stage again. But then in the end I just thought “fuck it” because I’d invented those moves for whatever they were worth, so if anybody was allowed to do them, I was!

Can we talk about my favourite Pulp song – which obviously it changes, but at the moment is ‘This is Hardcore’? Can we talk a bit about the circumstances around that song because I mean you were drunk when you sang it and you were drunk when you recorded it…

Yeah, we’re going into the dark side now.

Yeah Jarvis, it’s time to get deep. So what was going on that created that song in that era of your career?

Well, as I said before, most songs always started from a musical idea so I’d been getting into lounge music and stuff and I’d got this CD of a guy called Peter Thomas who was a German film soundtrack composer and there was a soundtrack to a German 60s sci-fi programme and I just heard this one song with this “der-der-der-der” sound and I really liked that. So we kind of looped that and that started an idea; it seemed to have a sleazy atmosphere. I’d got the title “This is Hardcore” from somewhere, I don’t know; maybe from a film that I shouldn’t have watched! The phrase stuck in my head so we had this riff and this title and I got into the idea of writing a piece of music.

I think a lot of songs that I write anyway are quite conventional, they do have verses and choruses and middle eights. I like all those kind of conventions of pop songs because that’s what I grew up with. You know, melody, verses, choruses, all those things; I love that. But in this case we made an exception; I just thought it would be good to write a song that never really repeated itself, just like went off on one and see where you ended up. So we wrote all this music and I was really pleased with it, but apart from the title I didn’t really have a clue of what it was going to be about. Well I suppose if it’s called ‘This is Hardcore’, I knew it was going to be a bit dirty.

In those days I used to drink quite a lot. And that was often a way of attempting to write words. I’d wait until I’d got about seven songs to write and then get hammered and try and write them. And I left that one til last because I just really didn’t have an idea. I kind of passed out or whatever and woke up in the morning – I won’t describe the circumstances – and I’d written something but I had no recollection of having written anything. So I looked at these words and I thought “Oh, yeah, they’re ok. Wonder how I could sing those?” Then we were supposed to be doing a demo recording of the song the next day. So we went to the studio, recorded the other songs then it came to that one and I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do. So Mr Clever here thought “Oh, I’ll use the same method”, get completely battered again and then sang it; and, again, had no recollection of having sung it. I’m not recommending this as a working method, ok?

So it’s funny that you pick out that song because it’s unique in terms of the songs I’ve written in that there isn’t another song I can’t remember writing and can’t remember singing. And that makes me wonder, you know, about where the words came from. It was obviously something on my mind, I suppose. I’d done that Michael Jackson thing; that made me into a kind of tabloid celebrity I suppose. And I wasn’t really used to that thing of people following you to the shops you know; you’d be buying some cornflakes and look over the top of the thing and there’s somebody like (impersonates a gawping look, audience laughs).

I wasn’t really enjoying the process of being a celebrity and I got this idea that it was in some ways a bit like pornography. It’s too much, you know; in the way that pornography takes something that’s supposed to be about people in love, expressing that in some ways, but then you just show it all and then it’s not about that at all. It takes the content out having it off and just shows you the mechanics of it, do you know what I mean? I sometimes feel that’s happened to lots of things.

I think there’s like a pornography of the self now. People Google themselves. You shouldn’t do that. It’s tempting because you want to know what people are saying about you or maybe see what pictures people have taken of you but you shouldn’t go there because I think in the way that pornography works on showing you something that you know you shouldn’t see and in some ways, that what turns you on about it, the fact that it’s forbidden. I think that thing of looking at yourself too closely should also be forbidden because it’s not good, that kind of self-consciousness it breeds is not good for the human soul I don’t think.

But part of ‘This is Hardcore’ seemed to be almost like not quite a death wish – which maybe is also somehow connected with pornography but that’s like a bit too much for me to think about now – a death wish in terms of first a way of killing off Britpop by doing a six minute un-radio friendly song that didn’t sounds anything The Beatles or any kind of sub-Mod thing, but secondly also killing off that part of your career as well; creating a song in a way for lots of negative reasons.

Yeah, I’m proud of that song because it was like Pulp’s magnificent folly I suppose. We didn’t attempt to pretend that everything was going right. There’s a video for it which cost about 300 grand which now if you get 300 quid to make a video, you’re doing well; can’t believe it, we spunked that! We were in Pinewood Studios for three days. In a way, part of me thinks well, what’s the point of getting famous if you can’t do something interesting with it. That was kind of what put me off; you mention the B-word, the Britpop thing and that’s what put me off the whole thing. There was something exciting about it when it first started, the idea that it was alternative music and it was moving into the mainstream and maybe that was going to make a difference. And so there was a little bit of a sense of common purpose. But then it really just turned into every man for himself and everybody just seeing how much money they could make, and then it was a bit boring.

You mention the Michael Jackson thing.

I shouldn’t have done that…

I was thinking it’s weird for you because you have to accept it’s become the thing which you’re known for, which must be kind of quite frustrating in that when you pop your clogs…

I’m not getting you to write my obituary, I tell you that! (audience laughs)

But I know what you mean, yeah. At that point where that happened, I’d already been in a group for eighteen years and yet just one moment of fartwafting in a public place had much more impact than any work that I may have done. It’s a weird thing..

The irony is that you’re known for you know, waving your arse, but you’ve actually got no arse. I always had that thing where “Oh God, you’re skinny, you’ve got no arse” but you’ve got even less arse than me, Jarvis.

Well I’m not going to get up and show it (audience laughs), but I’ll take that as a compliment.

It’s a compliment, I guess. There’s another song I want to talk about which is ‘Countdown’, which is about growing up in Sheffield and leaving school and thinking, “What happens next?” And it’s a song you’ve actually had in your recent Pulp sets, you’ve brought it back. And I wondered if you could take us back to that time, your late adolescence in Sheffield and tell us a bit about the circumstances around that song.

Well, it was the immediate thing of leaving school and you maybe remember in those days, loads of people just left school and went straight on the dole. That’s where lots of band came from; you could kind of scrape by. So I did that for a couple of years and I think you’ve got this thing that when you’re growing up, you somehow assume things are just going to happen, I guess because for a certain time in your life they do. You know like, you get pubic hair; you don’t have to work to get it, it just happens. Your voice drops; it just happens. All these things happen to you and so maybe you think that as you go through the rest of your life, these things are just going to happen. But after two years on the dole I thought “Oh, hold on, maybe it won’t just happen”, maybe I’m thinking I’m on the launch pad waiting for the 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 and I’m just going to be sat on this launchpad forever trying to take off. And I suppose it’s just one of those things, I realised that it’s a very obvious thing but if you actually want things to happen, you might have to make some effort on your own behalf to do it.

That was the start of me realising that I would probably have to get out of Sheffield if I wanted things to move on which was a big decision really, because I had discovered this thing that I thought worked for me of writing about Sheffield and stuff and starting to come round to that and I always hated that thing where bands would say, “Oh yeah, gotta move down to London, that’s where all the labels are and that’s where all the biz is…”. I don’t know if people say that so much now because of internet and things but it definitely used to be like that, “Oh if you want to make it, you’ve got to move down there.” I hated the idea of all that.

And it wasn’t just in music, it was just generally. You know, you’ve got to get out of this place. It was that kind of idea, wasn’t it? Even though how attached you are to Sheffield, you had to get out.

Yeah and you know I didn’t hate Sheffield when I left it. It was a bit of a dump. I mean this was the 80s, let’s remember, so it was kind of in shut down. South Yorkshire council had been known as the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire for a while; we had very cheap bus fares, all this kind of thing and they were generally good policies. But after the miners strike and all stuff like that, people just got demoralized; it happened all over and they kind of had the fight kicked out of them. The late 80s, before the rave thing happened I suppose; 85-87, those couple of years, were just dire really. I just thought I’ve gotta get out. Loads of people in bands I saw getting all fucked up because you know, they’d just lost it and I thought I’m going to end up like that myself, so I’ve just got to get out of here. So I did.

Do you still think of Sheffield as home?

Yeah, my family are still there and stuff. I think when I moved to London, that’s when I began to write really explicitly about Sheffield, I suppose partly through missing it and also just wanting to try and fix it in my mind, not wanting to forget it because I was in such different circumstances. I just thought I was in danger of forgetting where I was from and things that had happened.

There’s a couple of songs that seem quite similar and it’s almost like they share a theme; ‘Mis-Shapes’ and ‘Joyriders’. It seems like part of growing up in Sheffield and part of growing up everywhere I guess, is that tension between the townies and the arty types, or you know, the straights and the weirdos, whatever ways you want to define that, and quite a lot of violence as well. So I mean how would you define that tension? What were the battle lines in Sheffield? Because it obviously seemed to affect you quite deeply because it seems these songs came out of that.

Well, I don’t know if that exists so much now, I’m too scared to go out in Sheffield on a Friday night now, so I don’t know what’s going on! But it definitely used to be like that. You called them “townies”, they were the rough kids and they would beat you up if you looked a bit funny. So there was just one street in Sheffield where you could go drinking, West Street, and there were about three pubs you could go in, and that was it.

It was weird also because we mentioned the miners strike, and you would kind of theoretically say “Yeah, we’re on your side, fuck Thatcher etc.” But then they’d be the ones beating you up so you’d think “Hold on a bit”.

As I said, I don’t know whether that situation really exists any more now. I certainly haven’t got nostalgia for that. It was a weird kind of thing, but it really was a threat; there were certain routes you could take. I remember that very clearly that if I was going out for a drink, you had to walk a certain way through town to avoid danger areas where you might get smacked.

Talking about ‘Common People’ which in a way a very ultimate Pulp song in that it’s quite bitter, twisted etc, but anthemic, you know; I read somebody the other day said it was the defining British single of the 1990s. Did it feel like that when you were writing it? When you were writing it, were you trying to like hit the nail on the head and seize that moment and define it?

Um, I don’t think it was written in that way. It had a strange genesis. It started off with me going to The Record and Tape Exchange in London and if you sold off old records, you could either take money or you could get twice as much in vouchers to spend in their other shops. So I took the vouchers and bought a Casio keyboard and came up with the “de de de de de de de-de-de-de / de de de de de de de-de-de-de”, that bit. You recognize that? And then I played that to Steve Mackey, the bass player in Pulp, and from that he said “That sounds a bit like ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’, the Emerson Lake and Palmer song. And then that triggered something in my head because I’m sure that it’s the same up here in Manchester; you call somebody “common”, that’s an insult isn’t it? So ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ is like you know, fanfare for the common-as-muck man.

That kind of contradiction had always interested me and then I remembered meeting this girl when I was at St Martin’s and her saying that she wanted to go and live in Hackney and live like “common people”. And again, wincing a bit because if you said that to somebody there, you would be insulting them. It was that contradiction between that thing that you sometimes get in literature, of the nobility of the common man, but then the word being used in a different way amongst the people they’re actually talking about.

I had a girlfriend when I was at college and her dad had bought a flat just off Brick Lane and she was absolutely petrified to go out. It was as if the people who lived there were a different species and I couldn’t really understand that you know, and my position has always been that human nature is the same no matter where you are or how supposedly rarified the circles you may move in, human nature is always the same. People might want to make out that it isn’t, but it is.

And so all those things were going round. So I started writing the song, but when I was writing it I wasn’t thinking “Yeah, this is it”, like the fifteen year old self might have; “This is the one that’s wrapping it all up.2 But when we’d done it and I guess when we’d played it for the first time and it got quite a big reaction, then I realised that we’d kind of done something. And so then it became important to get it out there before somebody else did it, because I do believe in that concept of the zeitgeist, of things being around and people just picking up on a certain atmosphere. And it was the same time that football became massive, do you know what I mean? It was like I suppose traditionally what you would say were working class or lower class pursuits or something like that. People were getting interested in it and you were getting people going to football matches and going (adopts posh voice) “Oh yah, what’s this? Yes, brilliant… Yah, erm, what do you have to do again?” And so there was a change going on. It’s funny, I don’t know whether it’s the same now, I think it’s going the other way now. I think people all wanted an invite to the royal wedding; it’s gone the other way I think.

I noticed in the book you’ve got the lyrics to what I think of as the full length version because there was a single edit wasn’t there of ‘Common People’? And there was a verse dropped from the single, a verse that seems like a negative descriptive of the common people, you know, like a dog lying in the corner “waiting to tear your insides out”. So the song was seen like an attack on that kind of cultural slumming which you were talking about, but also it did have within it that twist, in a way a punchline, also coming from the other angle and having, in a way, some negativity about those people that that girl was supposed to be wanting to be part of.

Yeah, well, I don’t know if it’s negativity but it’s ambivalence I suppose. I think the worst thing you can do is generalise, I think that’s the thing, and saying something like “I want to move to Hackney and live like the common people”, that’s saying there’s a lump of people living in Hackney that are common. Well, there’s a lot of people living in Hackney and they’ll all be in various different circumstances. Some of them might be a bit common or whatever. But when you start to see people as a kind of demographic or an AB consumer or whatever, I think that’s insulting and it’s not very accurate either.

So I suppose in a way, some people have seen that bit as a bit of a contradiction in the song but as we’ve said, coming from Sheffield it wasn’t all like, “Oh yeah, we’re all living in back to back and we’re all pulling together”. You know, it’s kind of rough and it’s not cut and dried. You go out one night and meet people who are fine and you go out another night and get battered you know; there’s a lot of randomness. I think that’s my main thing about life really, that thing of learning to embrace the fact that it’s random, because that’s what makes it interesting. If you could work it out and know this goes there and that goes there and all of that thing, then you may as well just kill yourself because it would be boring.

In ‘Common People’, there’s a story to it, a narrative, which is something that you do in quite a lot of the songs; you kind of set up a scenario and then a story tends to happen. For example ‘I Spy’ or ‘Pencil Skirt’ – which I think are two songs which work quite well together – do they similarly start off from that sense of telling a story? And also when you tell those stories, have they generally got a basis in real life?

If you take something like ‘I Spy’, that was interesting when I was trying to select things to be in this book, I realised that a lot of the ones I read and then laughed at or that entertained me were ones that were quite misanthropic really. The sentiment in ‘I Spy’ is basically “I’m going to shag your wife on that carpet and if you come in and catch me doing it, that just makes it better, fuck you!” (laughs) It’s not behavior I would condone, shall we say (audience laughs). In the song I guess it’s because it’s like an act of revenge, you know. I mean, I didn’t do that, I can reveal that now.

Another thing that’s good about writing words, especially if you are a bit of a slightly shy, repressed person is that you can take situations and then you can kind of tailor them a little bit to your advantage and change it a bit. We just talked about ‘Common People’ and the fact that the girl says “I want to live with common people, I want to do whatever common people do. I want to SLEEP with common people, I want to sleep with common people like YOU.” Well, she never said that! (audience laughs). I fancied her but I didn’t have any chance at all, but in the song you can kind of change it…

‘I Spy’ is a good example of that because it uses that within it; there’s the fantasy bit in the middle where I’m doing this review of how great I am at riding a bicycle and imagining there’d be a blue plaque one day above the place where I first touched a girl’s breast. You know, if people don’t feel in control of their lives or think people aren’t taking enough notice of them, you get those fantasies which are really completely out of scale with their actual situation. You know like, “One day I’ll rule this place, you’ll see.”

And again ‘Pencil Skirt’ is a bit similar isn’t it? I don’t know if that’s an accurate reflection of your mind set but it also has notion you mention in ‘I Spy’; the revenge fuck. I mean we talked about Morrissey; in a way, Morrissey’s songs are like “I’m not having any sex, what’s going on?” whereas your songs are like I’ve just had sex, what’s going on?” (audience laughs).

Yeah, I’m definitely not going to get you to write my obituary! (audience laughs). No, you’re right. (pauses) I think when we get into those areas of desire and sexuality, there’s some kind of weird stuff going on, and I think part of why I wanted to put things like that into songs is partly having grown up listening to pop songs, you never get bits like that in them; you never get things about how sometimes dodgy desires can be quite a turn on. So, I saw a gap in the market (audience laughs). And I suppose there is a bit of wish fulfillment in there but I like I say, it was fun for me to do that and looking back on them now like sixteen years later, I think “ooh, that’s not very PC” or whatever. But, that’s what I was thinking at the time, yes.

You mentioned earlier about the miners strike and talked about your ambivalence about the miners strike and explained why, and I wondered how you felt about the politics of where we are now because again, those of us who remember that era are getting quite a lot of flashbacks about the relationship between the Tory government and the north of England particularly. And in the past you’ve expressed a bit of regret that you weren’t more politically engaged then and I wondered if you felt like you wanted to be more politically engaged this time round? And if you are, how do you think that somebody in your situation can have that engagement?

At the time of the miners strike and stuff like that, I was thinking that I wanted to be beyond politics, which I think was immature now. It just seemed like everything was fucked so why get bogged down in it, we need a clean sheet or something; which is never really going to happen I suppose. The situation now has made me think a lot about it actually because obviously there were the riots this summer and I think for people of our kind of generation, that was a weird one. For instance when there was the student marches, I was for that and I feel very strongly about that you know. I went to art college basically to get away from Sheffield, to get out of Sheffield, and I was glad to be studying something but that probably was only half of the reason I went. And I think a lot of people did that. Nobody’s going to be able to do that if you’ve got to pay 40,000 pounds for it, do you know what I mean? That’s like one escape route has been well and truly shut off and I feel very strongly about that. I think we need to try and do something about that.

Then came the riots which I thought weren’t really riots, I thought they were extreme shopping. It is, because that’s what has happened since the Thatcher thing; really you’ve got more of a consuming class than a working class. So if you kind of instill this thing that you are defined through what you buy and stuff that you own, then there’s all these people who buy into that and yet they haven’t got any money, then what are they going to do? They’re just going to nick stuff because that’s your value system. So it’s not surprising but I can’t be approving of that.

And there was that thing where that warehouse, that Sony warehouse in North London, got burned down so all the indie labels lost all their records; as a person signed to an independent label, I was up in arms. I mean that seems like a slightly fatuous point but the thing is, it’s like a thing where you realise that we are now the older generation, aren’t we? And we’ve kind of been brought up thinking it’s cool to be a bit edgy – and I like ‘Clockwork Orange’ and I like seeing people do a bit of violence on screen and stuff like that – and then when people are getting battered and setting things on fire you think “Hold on, there’s no reason for it, that’s not a really good idea”. So I think that puts you in a different headspace and I wonder how that’s going to pan out. I don’t know really where that’s going to lead.

Do you think somebody like yourself who has a high profile publicly etc. and is kind of a respected person in a whole lot of different fields; given the politics of where we are now, do you see an avenue for what you can do to make a possible change happen.

Are you asking me to start a political party? (laughs)

Well I thought we could start with a disco party.

We could have a disco party, that would be nice, yeah! (pauses) It’s a minefield innit, it’s an absolute minefield. But entertainment figures going on about what should be done in the world, it’s not got a good history.

This is true.

Also the thing is you have to accept that as you get older, you do become part of the establishment and I suppose the only way to make that any good is if you try and make that establishment a bit better. I do think that something has to happen. The education thing I really do feel strongly about; it’s not like a want to start a class war thing off about it, but I’ve just always felt that the time you get good results from any institution is when you’ve got the broadest mix of people in there. And what’s going to happen now is that one sector of society aren’t going to be represented in there, you know.

A few more things. In terms of when you came to do your solo albums, obviously they weren’t Pulp albums so did that make it easier or did it make it harder for you in terms of songwriting? Did you feel freer or did you kind of miss the Pulp dynamic?

Well the first one that I did yeah, because the songs I just wrote on my own. At first I thought I was just going to write songs for other people because I thought that was safe songwriting, like songwriting with a condom on; because if you use your own life as material – which I think you have to – then you just have to be careful because, well, you piss people off basically. So I was thinking if I write songs for other people then I won’t have to sing them and I won’t have to get so personally involved but then after about two minutes, I realised that weren’t going to work. Because whether it’s iffy or not, you’ve still got to do what makes you excited. It may be dodgy but you haven’t really got an alternative.

You mention about writing for other people. The Marianne Faithfull song that you wrote – which I think stands as a great song – what I noticed about it was when she sings it, she sings in a northern accent. I don’t know it you’d noticed that. It’s almost like you like you’d written it for her, and obviously Marianne Faithfull’s got the a drawling hippie, cigarette smoking voice, but it’s almost like your words belong in a certain milieu which wasn’t really her; so she had to sing it in a northern accent. Maybe that reinforces what you say about that the song should come from you really, because they don’t belong to anyone else.

There’s not been very many cover versions of Pulp songs or of my songs…

What did you think of the William Shatner’s version…

William Shatner is an exception, yes (audience laughs). I have to say, I was very flattered by that because I was a massive ‘Star Trek’ fan as a kid and so you know, Captain Kirk is singing my song! So that was amazing.

In terms of the recent Pulp gigs, what was it like coming back together, doing those gigs and do you think you did yourselves justice? And what is the future for Pulp?

It felt like we did ourselves justice, yeah. I mean we got together and we had a rehearsal behind closed doors, no audience or anything, and we just tried to work out whether the songs still sounded any good; and it seemed alright so we decided to do the shows. It was funny like, there’s a saying and I can’t remember who said it, somebody once said “If you want to express yourself, imitate something as closely as possible” and I think we applied that. We decided we weren’t going to do updatings or reinventions or stuff like that. The fact that all those years had gone by, it was going to be different anyway so we just tried to make it as faithful to the original thing as possible and then somehow that would do something. And I think that worked; it felt like it was the right time to do it and people seemed to like it.

As I say, Pulp is a group, so I can’t speak for the group, but I think for all of us it was like something that we wanted to prove we could do and we did it, and so then we might do a couple more shows but I think then that’s it. We have to get on with a political party basically, don’t we? (audience laughs). There’s more important things to sort out than bloody messing about with pop groups!

So what does the future hold then, what projects have you got in the pipeline… No sorry, before I ask that, Eurostar…

You mean “We need bagpipes”? (audience laughs).

Yeah, the Eurostar advert. What is “a totally bad boy beat”?

A bad boy beat? You should know that, you’re a DJ aren’t you?

I know, but you say it in quite an unconvinced kind of a way.

Well the line in the script was really lame so I had to come up with something on the spur of the moment and for some reason that came into me head.

So the future?

More Eurostar, obviously (pauses) Well I’ve been asked by Faber to be an editor at large which means that I can suggest things for publication and hopefully commission work and stuff so that’s pretty exciting. I’m doing my radio show, I did it live from Salford today. Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service, live on 6 Music every Sunday”. And I hope to do a lot of walking in the Derbyshire Dales…

Are you ready to sign several hundred books this evening in the Town Hall, are you ready?

Yeah, feeling pretty confident, yeah.

OK I’m going to finish now. I’d like to thank all the audience for coming and most of all, thank Mr Jarvis Cocker.