In a career spanning some 10 years, BLUR have taken in baggy, Britpop and ‘Beetlebum’, endured a spat with supposed arch rivals Oasis, and attracted acres of tabloid coverage thanks to Damon Albarn’s relationship with Elastica lead singer Justine Frischmann. In part one of this two part interview Damon Albarn dodges the paparazzi, dotes on his daughter, glances a disapproving look in Liam Gallagher’s direction, does a lot of work of charity but likes to talk about it, and more…
Are you the hardest man in rock?
Damon Albarn: “Hardest man or hardest working man? I thought Liam Gallagher was the hardest man.”
What do you think of that, I mean he’s having a little pop at Robbie last night, did you see all that last night?
“It’s not just that, he called Alex (from Blur) a fat poof! Which is disgraceful… apparently…allegedly…!!!”
You haven’t been to any of these awards for a while have you.
“You know, I’ve got better things to do than go and get pissed in the afternoon, do you know what I mean, I can’t really justify that. If theirs the choice of going and getting pissed in the afternoon, or spending the afternoon with my daughter, I think I’d definitely go for the latter.
“I just feel uncomfortable like that it’s just me. I do like going out occasionally, and I really enjoy it when I go out, but I’d just be a really sad person if I was going out all the time now. It’s something you do when you’re single and you’re young, but then that’s fine.”
Don’t you think neither of these guys (Robbie & Liam) need to be doing that stuff in the press having a pop at each other, because they’re majorly popular stars anyway aren’t they?
“But Liam’s always been like that, you know?”
On TV shows…
“We did Top Of The Pops which was really good fun actually. I got asked to go on Parkinson, but I didn’t feel that I was mature enough for that audience… but I went on CD:UK!”
You all go off and do your solo projects. How do you stay together as a band?
Is everyone in the band still thinking ‘we like Blur’? Is that’s what’s kept you together?
And when you all go off and do your solo stuff, do you all comment on each others?
“I haven’t actually done any solo stuff, there’s no sort of Damon Albarn solo stuff.”
But when you collaborate. Like when Alex does his Fat Les stuff, and when Graham does ‘Golden D’ the album, do you actually sit there and go ‘oh I like that’, or…
“When I like it, I tell ’em I like it, when I don’t like it I tell ’em it’s shit. Of course. I like Vindaloo (by Fat Les), I thought Jerusalem was appalling, but I liked Vindaloo a lot.”
Now, obviously, you’re a dad. How’s Missy?
“She’s very well.”
Does it change where you are in life, has it made you more willing to carry on in music? How has it changed you?
“Well it’s stopped me going to things like the Q Awards basically, and what it has given me is I go to parks now, and I socialize with other young parents, and I go on the tube again, and I go on the bus and I go to Sainsbury’s, and I clean, I wear clean underpants and stuff like that. I’m back in the real world… ish.”
I saw you in a park recently playing with Missy, but everyone else is looking round saying it’s that bloke out of Blur, and you must be very conscious of that as you’re trying to do your normal life.
“That’s the key point, you have to really get over that.”
Are you conscious that you’re now a famous dad, which is not so much an affect on you, but it’s affect on Missy. Have you thought long and hard about is she gonna go to school, is she gonna be a showbiz kid, like the showbiz kids we know and love, who hang around in London town living off their dad’s names…?
“I would sincerely hope that she’s gonna be an independent, intelligent, normal person. I think all you’ve got to do is be normal yourself, and don’t be hung up on all that. Let’s face it, one of the problems is this country, if I was bringing her up in Spain or wherever, there just wouldn’t be that kind of focus. It’s impossible to say, obviously it worries me, but all I’ve got to do is make sure my music is honest. I think the problems arise if you’re famous and the work you’re doing isn’t either good enough or honest enough, and then your whole family are affected by that, but how can they be affected by good music, except in a good way. Leave the kids alone, but then the parents have got to take that responsibility on themselves, and just leave the kid alone as well.”
Does it annoy you when the paparazzi take pictures of you with Missy then?
“Yeah it does, because they don’t take pictures of me on my own anymore, I’m really pissed off! I just find it extraordinary as at least once a month somebody follows me around. It’s the same guy. The last two times, when he caught me in the Kings Road, I never go down the Kings Road, but me and Suzy were buying something for one of her friends in Agnes B, she likes that sort of thing so we were getting it for her, then this guys as usual behind a mini or whatever, pops out takes the photo’s. In that sort of situation what do you do? I mean do I pass Missy over to her Mum, go and chase the guy, or just turn? What do you do? But the time before that this same guy caught me coming out of a grocery shop, and I was on the phone and had a box of groceries, and I told him to ‘F off’. He ignored me and then this drunk came up to me and I said to him ‘look I’ll give you twenty quid if you go and take that camera off him. So that worked, but there’s not always a willing drunk in the middle of the street!”
You’re doing stuff for Oxfam…
“I’m making a record at the moment, not really for Oxfam, but the profits from it, if there are any profits, not presuming that anyone will buy it, but if they did then we’re definitely gonna work in conjunction with Oxfam and the projects that I saw when I was out there (Bamaco in Mali).
What was it like out there?
“Well I’d never been to Africa before, so I was just dumbstruck when I arrived it’s very poor, but also they’re very resourceful out there. On the second day when I was there I went to the big market, which is a recycling market. Imagine going to a land tip, but everything there, has all been divided into little piles and they’re using everything that’s been thrown away again to make something else. When you look at it like that you just think we really are disgusting in the west with what we do with our waste.”
Also it must make you have a look at yourself, as obviously you’re not a poor guy, then you look at all these people without any money…
“I was told by somebody there when I told him how much I earn a year, that it was… I’m probably getting myself, really digging myself in a hole here, but it was the equivalent to one tenth of the wage given to Malian workers perannum…”
What, all of them?
“He asked me, and I kind of gave him a vague figure, and then he came back with this sort of jaw dropping statistic, and I was like ‘Can I buy you a drink?!”
When can we hear that stuff?
“I’m working on it at the moment, that’s what I’m doing during the days instead of going to the Q Awards…”
To argue and fight with Liam and Robbie…