French interview, translation by Nina (callistosinope.tumblr.com)
Multiplying his projects, Blur’s singer has put into music the life of John Dee, an English scientist from the 16th century. He and his band rehearse for the big Olympics closing ceremony concert.
Paris Match: What interests you about John Dee, the astrophysicist who is little-known to the wider audience?
Damon Albarn: I have always loved history. This is not really the first thing that sprang to my mind when I was commissioned this opera. But thanks to my readings, I have discovered this extraordinary person. In fourteen days, I devoured everything written about him, I have tried to understand him and see how he talked or thought. Little by little, it has become a project about England, about my vision of our country. It is possible to make music about a guy from the 16th century. Also, it has slowly become a spectacle with a choir and songs. And lastly, I am very enthusiastic about releasing a project with my name on it. Some titles are even close to Blur.
PM: However, you are going to confuse the fans of the band…
D: Even better! If Blur fans listen to this CD and discover a new world, it is already an achievement in itself. Then again, it is not such bizarre an album. England loves this kind of contradictions.
PM: As a result you are dedicating yourself to classical music. Is this project a tribute to your youth?
D: Yes, absolutely! It is the kind of album that my mother would buy! This project is very special in her eyes.
PM: What do you owe to her?
D: A lot, to her and my father. They have decided to enrol me into a very liberal school. I and Graham [Coxon, Blur guitarist] formed a small band in which we could play together; there was a piano, drums and a saxophone. We were always beaming with laughter. Seeing as I was not the most popular boy in my class, making music was also a way of not being beaten up by bigger kids every day. Even nowadays I regret not continuing my music education. I decided to party with my mates, to jump in the air and to be drunk every night. It’s not a bad way of living when you are 20…
PA: Were you at the end of your passion for pop music?
D: No, it is my life. But I have a very precise working rhythm, every day of the week from 9 am to 5 pm. I spend my evenings, weekends, school holidays with my family. I sometimes have flashes and I write for hours but I spend the rest of the time tinkering in my studio, I try, I listen, I explore…
PM: Which projects are you currently working on?
D: A musical comedy that is going to be in the style of “the French chanson”. But I have only started negotiating…
PM: What about Blur? Is the concert in Hyde Park going to be your farewell concert?
D: It is going to be this year’s goodbye concert! It is almost public service. I do not do it for money, it is a way of returning to England what it has given us. As for Blur, I do not know what is going to happen next, I do not want to know it. I have never planned anything. Everything can still change.
PM: You have refused to be the master of the Olympics ceremony….
D: I have refused it because I did not want this additional pressure. I am proud that the opera is my contribution to this project. A sport event is not my thing. Apart from football, none of the sports really interest me. I hope that Danny Boyle (who is organising the ceremony) will manage to surprise. This is a big task.
PM: You are a great art lover… What do you like about the contemporary scene today?
D: My latest favourite is Jeremy Deller. His art is properly English. I was close to Damien Hirst a long time ago. His works were fairly representative of England. But after ten years, he has gone to another planet, that of money and oligarchs. Now it has little to do with England…