Damon Albarn | Select – April 1999

The Thinking Woman’s Crumpet

Did you always aspire to be famous?

“Erm… I don’t know. You can’t ever imagine what it’ll be like. The whole thing is very abstract. But the nicest thing about now is that we’ve remembered… [pause] ..if we’d been Seymour in a parallel world, and we’d made records, and we’d not got signed to Food, and a lot of things hadn’t happened, then this new album is the point we’d have been at. We feel like we’ve looped ourselves.”

In this universe, 1995 was Blur’s peak of celebrity lunacy. How do you feel looking back on all that?

“Er… [pause] That was a difficult year. And ‘The Great Escape’ was a very neurotic and paranoid record. In that sense I’m very happy to have it there, as something bound up with what happened. But if all that was exclusively what we’re remembered for, I think it’d be a bit unfair.”

Whenever you talk about the experience of living around that time, you always describe it in terms of unpleasantness.

“It was. I don’t think it made any of us particularly well in the head. I certainly wasn’t. Graham certainly wasn’t. It’s difficult to be at all sentimental about it. But I’m pleased we managed to make a record during that time, because ultimately it made us a lot stronger. We wouldn’t be where we are no if we hadn’t been through that year.”

Do you think you learned that your suitability for celebrity wasn’t as great as you’d imagined?

“Well, that’s difficult. I don’t know exactly why, but if you keep producing stuff, it doesn’t seem to die down. It may dilute a bit, but the taste is still there. I don’t feel that distanced from where I was in 1995: I still get ‘Ring this number in The Sun and tell us who you’ve seen Damon with’. Even before this record’s come out. So it hasn’t changed at all, I’m just better at dealing with it.”

In what way?

“I don’t really take it that seriously. As much as possible I allow my life to be basically unaffected by it.”

How are the other three at the moment?

“Good. Everyone’s good. We’re socialising at the moment, which is something we haven’t done for years. It makes us all feel very comfortable. It’s been working that way for a while. Last year Graham and I did a lot of little side projects, remixing and stuff like that, and we all enjoy each other’s company again. We’ve always been a very public band, and if anyone in the band’s had a problem with something, they’ve expressed it and it’s been a public thing. That’s not happening now, because everyone’s fairly content with everything.”

Do you ever have problems with the paparazzi?

“Oh, all the time. Last time I was in New York, I walked out of my hotel and there were ten outside.’

For you?

“You never know, you see. Probably not. But they chased me for four blocks [laughs].”

Another pop star bane: you reportedly aren’t very taken with touring at the moment. Are you going to do it this time?

“[Emphatically] No. We are going to play. It’s just that by saying that, it allows us not to turn it into a mind-numbing experience. We never want to lose what we have when we play live, but it’s nicer for us if, when we play live, it’s a surprise. There won’t be big tours or anything, maybe a concert or two, and maybe the odd small one that nobody knows about, only people in that area.”

Does the word ‘touring’ fill you with dread?

“Yes. Completely. I hate it. I love playing live, but I hate touring.”

Mark your current peace-of-mind out of ten.

“I always give myself eight and a half. On a good day that seems reasonable.

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