“I think people have just got to give us a chance to put out an album, or a couple of albums, before they start forming opinions,” says Damon, getting comfortable, his considered voice aimed at the table. “I mean Blur are a couple of singles and a couple of good live shows at the moment… there’s a lot more to come. I’d like over 10 years to be able to release an album a year and all together it start making sense. Like the way Felt did an album every year, y’know. I don’t want to produce a Felt album, but I like the idea of gradual embellishment and exploration of the band.”
Have you noticed any change since having The Big Hit?
“No, it doesn’t feel different at all. It feels completely normal. I’ve noticed my motivation to do more of what I want to do increase. Selling a lot of records makes you want to be a lot better, y’know, not compromise one iota. The more successful you get the more important it is to be yourself because you’re opening yourself up to so many more people. If you go down an avenue which isn’t pure and reasoned then you just get completely f***ed up.”
“I’ve seen people who’ve started to sell a lot of records, and the music’s just become less important, it’s just part of the machine.”
The thing was, not many people expected the single to go so high…
“It was a surprise, yeah. But we knew if we got Top Of The Pops it’d probably go Top 10 because we had had something fresh to offer. That was OK, but then we didn’t get TOTP the next time, we thought ‘F*** it’. But we went up another two places. It sold over 150,000 which is quite a lot at the moment.”
What were you doing the day it charted?
“We were being interviewed on Gary Crowley’s show on GLR. We did the interview and then we were told, and I was grinning all over the place. It’s the first midweek position though, that’s the one (Labels and bands get a sneak preview, midweek chart on a Thursday). Our first midweek was 18, five places higher than EMF. I just rang my mum and said, y’know, it’s happened at last!”
“My mum’s an artist and she recently had an opening in Sudbury and all the people who had daughters, who came to the private viewing, the ones who knew I was going, all brought their daughters. So I got there and first of all there was my gran, who I wasn’t expecting to see and then it was like… ‘Sign this please’… that’s where things have changed.”
And all those stories about you in the tabloid press!
“We won’t mention them… the most outrageous story was ‘Damon was a down and out alcoholic drug addict who used to sing for his supper’. It was ‘Sexy Damon of Britain’s top pin-up band Blur’, y’know, all the works.”
“Better than that though, the first thing we had in the Daily Star was like Blur’s non-stop sex and drugs lifestyle, just two pages with photos of us… and I was coming down on the train with my girlfriend and there was this guy in the seat opposite reading the whole thing avidly and I was sitting there going ‘Oh God’… but he didn’t twig at all. That was strange. Things like that are funny.”
Is that what you wanted?
“It’s definitely what I wanted when I feel it’s going well and I’m in control of it. I mean, I really do feel we’ve got the potential to be the first band in a long time to really crossover and stay noisy, y’know, mad and slightly dangerous.”
“Although ‘There’s No Other Way’ wasn’t one of the noisiest records, we are one of the noisiest bands in the Top 10. The next one (the feistier ‘Bang’) is noisier – there’s a lot more in it… I’m happier with it as a record.”
That’s the frustrated Punk Band in you.
“No, we’re not frustrated. That’s the way we started out. I can’t bear to stand still. No we’re definitely not frustrated, we’re… urm, a mixture of a lot of things, a hybrid if you like. It has that Indie-Eyes-To-The-Floor quality to it while being as brash as anything from ‘76.”
Returning from the bar, we skim through the motivation for being in a band. The seriousness of pop music. Damon curls up on his seat, like the thinker on his day off.
“We’re very serious emotionally. I mean we create emotions in people – and not just good emotions – crap emotions as well. That’s our strong point, emotive music… lyrically erudite.”
“If I felt I could do more for the world by giving this up and travelling around England with a guitar and just singing, I’d do it. If I was in Central Africa, that would be a more worthwhile thing to do, but we live in such a complex society that my role as someone who entertains and lifts spirits only works on a level that is satisfied by me becoming incredibly famous and successful. The familiarity to people of what we do is important.”
“Why? Because it’s important to me, because I feel I’ve got the ability to lift people’s spirits and give them something… y’know, our fans at the moment send us letters saying they’re genuinely moved by some of our songs.”
“I’m getting loads of people coming up to me and saying I thought Robert Smith was the most important person and now you are, which is all bollocks, but if you can do that sort of thing, that’s enough.”
“When I sing certain songs and you can see people singing along and they’re lyrics which mean something to me – the fact that they know the words is rewarding. That’s an absolute, that communication with people. I like working towards certain absolutes…”
Like? What are the others?
“Just striving for a state of being which doesn’t allow unnecessary arrogance and selfishness. I can’t see the point in getting up in the morning if you’re not going to better yourself. I mean, I know we’re not perceived as the coolest of bands… but six months ago no-one would’ve been interested in coming to our gigs and now, somehow, we’re becoming sort of, what’s the word, well, we’re growing in stature in people’s heads, purely because we’re sticking to what we were. Maybe our attitudes were a little ambitious 6 months ago but they’re more in context now.”
“If anything I’ve got more humility by just achieving that minor hurdle of having a hit. You do genuinely believe that… I don’t want to create a cerebral minefield in people’s heads, like Morrissey did or Robert Smith. They used very easy references for teenagers. It’s very easy to tell a teenager who’s going through a chemical change that ‘It’s not worth it, oh dear, oh dear’… it’s a lot harder to get through to people that they’re great – that they should be totally into everything. I don’t want to turn them into capitalists or selfish gits… but I know from my own background, it doesn’t do anyone any harm to be told they’re OK.”