Blur | NME – July 1999

The Fannish Inquisition – Q & A

We asked for your questions, and they came in floods. By e-mail, post, carrier pigeon. From Korea, Yugoslavia, Scunthorpe. Clearly, when it comes to Blur, you have thousands of niggling concerns and a burning desire to interrogate them relentlessly. Strangely, although Blur have recently released their most serious, challenging record ever, that’s not really what you want to know about. You’re more interested in the evolution ofDamon’s haircuts. You want to delve into impertinent aspects of the band’s sex lives. You’re curious about Alex’s culinary predilections and how Dave’s cats are.

When NME corner the band in a north London photo studio, they’ve just completed a video for their new single ‘Coffee + TV’. They are, coincidentally, drinking coffee, which Alex, elegantly sloping around in pop socks and a stained windcheater, has prepared. A bright-eyed Graham is proud to announce he’s back on the wagon, and has avoided the perils of the bottle for over six weeks now. Damon, meanwhile, is eager to get started – anxiously peering over NME’s shoulder, trying to get a preview of the gruelling grilling he is about to undergo. So, they’re at your mercy. We’ve got Blur in our sights and your questions loaded and ready.

Fire away!

Apparently, one of you has a front tooth that you can take out and put back in afterwards. Which one is it? (Toby Langley, High Wycombe)

Alex: “After what?”

Graham: “It used to be after putting a straw where it used to be, and being able to drink with your teeth shut. That used to be me, but it’s not the case any more, because I earned some money and had some highly expensive dentistry.”

Alex: “I remember at the Swallow Hotel in Birmingham, opening my door and seeing you crawling up the corridor, howling. Then I shut my door and opened it again and you were still howling and your tooth had fallen out.”

If you could be an animal, which one would it be, and why? (Kim, USA)

Alex: “I am an animal. A rock’n’roll animal.”

Damon: “I can really relate to my Chinese birth animal, which is a monkey. I am at ease with my monkeyness.”

Dave: “I’d be a cat. I have five of them.”

Graham: “I’d be a brown bear, because you’d be assured six months off every year while you went to sleep.”

Alex: “I’d be a lion.”

Graham: “Why? So you could lie around with your balls hanging out?”

Alex: “No, so that I could lord it around the jungle, living it large.”

Damon: “You’re kind of a monkey, too.”

Alex: “Yeah. Monkeys are great. Couldn’t eat a whole one, though.”

Damon: “When you start talking about primates, I get very excited. Take baboons, with their big blue arses. Or orang-utans, and their big orange chins.”

Graham: “We did a photo shoot one time with monkeys, and we were warned that we had to go into the cage one at a time, or else they would rip our heads off.”

Damon: “One of my lingering memories of Colchester Zoo is going there when I was young and seeing the chimpanzees lining up in their cage, masturbating, and trying to hit people with it.”

Why does Damon still wear Fred Perrys? (Vernon Legakis, California)

Damon: “Because I still like them. And I’ve always had so many of them. It works like crop rotation with my clothes.”

‘Song 2′ has been all over advertisements,. Is this your choice? (Claire Sharp, Ontario)

Damon: “In America and Canada, I think that what happened is that it got picked up by the national hockey and football leagues, and then it began to get used for beer adverts, which is closely associated with sport. But it’s also been associated with The Simpsons, and Intel Processors. And, nearly – although we put a stop to it – war. The American Air Force wanted to use it to launch their new Stealth Bomber, but we politely declined their offer.”

Why do you need to overwhelm your listeners with pure noise on ’13’? If you now feel your music, as you say you do, why don’t you play it simply and naturally, without any useless effects? (Silvana Loi, Sardinia)

Damon: “That’s pretty subjective, isn’t it? It’s just the way we chose to do it.”

Graham: “Whoever asked this question isn’t a fucking guitarist, you can tell.”

Alex: “They don’t like the guitar at all from the sound of things.”

Damon: “I’ve seen myself on many occasions as a useless effect, so that’s probably in keeping with the music.”

When you change the direction or focus of the music, do you all agree with it? (Greg Hood-Morris, Toronto)

Damon: “Well, the consensus of opinion is that it’s four musicians working together, regardless. That’s where it begins and ends. Sometimes we don’t agree with each other at all. But we’d all be playing the same note if we were all into exactly the same thing.”

Alex: “It works best when we’re all doing our own thing, really. That’s the whole point in having a band. If you’re ever going to move forward, it’s necessary to have a combination of opinions and influences.”

Graham, who is your favourite painter? (Jan, South Korea)

Alex: “I think they mean, ‘Who is your favourite one of the Red House Painters?’”

Graham: “Oh, really? Mark.”

Alex: “You know that painting you gave me for my birthday, with the heart on it? Damien (Hirst) asked me who did it, he really likes it.”

Graham: “Wow! I did it before he was famous.”

Alex: “Did you know Gilbert & George are in the phone book? Under ‘painters’. Fantastic.”

Who do you think the best new band in England is? (Josh Boyd, Texas)

Damon: “Live Human on Fat Cat. I’ve been listening to one of their CDs a lot lately. It’s a really nice mixture of mad beats and noisy punk music. That’s about as new a band as I’m in touch with.”

Alex: “Murray The Hump. They’re not that new, but they’re cool.”

If you had to write a song with either Brett Anderson or Noel Gallagher, which one would you choose to work with? (Kenny Rixon, Leicester)

Graham: “It depends on which one you could dominate, so there wouldn’t be any of their ideas in the song.”

Damon: “It depends on what kind of song it was. If I was writing a song about electricity and white lines, then I’d work with – well, both of them, actually. They’re sort of brothers-in-arms with that sort of imagery, aren’t they? I don’t really know either of them, really. It’s a bit of a myth that there’s any antagonism between us. I don’t have any idea what they’re like as people, so I can’t judge them, or even answer that question.”

Is it true you were paid ‘1million to do the Reading/Leeds festival? (Simon Rice, Dorset)

Damon: “That would cost at least two million. Each.”

Graham: “It’s none of your fucking business.”

If you could kill anyone and blame it on any of the Oasis blokes, who would it be? (Karen Torres, California)

Alex: “Steven Wells.”

Damon: “John Lennon. Definitely.”

Would you ever return to writing more commercial pop songs, or is each Blur album going to be more extreme in its experimentation? (Bob Thompson, Ontario)

Damon: “I think ‘Tender’ is a real pop song. So’s ‘Coffee And TV’. We always write pop songs. It’s not Steps, no. But it’s not Throbbing Gristle, either.”

Dave: “We did a show with Steps yesterday, a live broadcast to Japan with Jamiroquai and Paul Weller, Nick Cave, and The Corrs. I thought they had a very easy job, to be honest.”

Alex: “Yeah. But they had to wear yellow.”

Graham: “They’re very healthy people.”

Alex: “The Corrs, meanwhile, just keep getting prettier.”

Damon: “Who are The Corrs? If you asked me to identify them, I couldn’t.”

Graham: “They all need a month on the pasta.”

Alex: “They want to fucking start rocking out a bit, and swearing.”

What music is on your stereos today? Jeffrey Hadzima, Chicago)

Alex: “The Cult’s Greatest Hits.”

Dave: “Jazz FM.”

Graham: “You want to know everything I’ve listened to today? I had some Handel first, then some Hellacopters, then some Entombed, then some Ruts, then The Clash, then the Gummo soundtrack, then Entombed again.”

Which Blur member do you consider to have the best and most active sex life? (Chris Bell, Leeds)

Damon: “I don’t think I could be presumptious enough to say.”

Alex: “Well, we’re all going steady, aren’t we?

Damon: “I’m certainly the steadiest I’ve ever been.”

Damon, are you going to be a father or not? (Lorraine Prince, Manchester)

Damon: “I’m not answering that question.”

Do any of you have any regrets about your past career? (Andy Roberts, Oxfordshire)

Damon: “I wouldn’t say regrets, exactly, but I think there’s been quite an acute learning curve.”

Graham: “We were like four Tufty Squirells when we started. A great big voice telling us what to do, what not to do. Tufty got run over, didn’t he?”

Alex: “You either regret everything, or you regret nothing. Depending on how you feel.”

Graham: “What if you could go back and erase some of the things you regret, like a video, and then take the time you’ve erased and add it on to the end of your life? I’d be about twenty-four.”

Damon: “What if you could live your life in any order? That would be quite interesting, to live one year as an eighty year old, and the next as a five year old.”

Graham: “Yeah, if you could put your life-player on random. Although it might be a bit of a shock waking up in the morning. You wake up and you’ve shat yourself and wet yourself, and you realize you’re two months old.”

Alex: “I’ve had that happen. Only I was thirty.”

Are you now embarrassed by ‘The Great Escape’? (Billy Hanafi, Richmond)

Damon: “I wouldn’t stand it up as a great work of art, but it’s what came out of that time of our lives. We are responsible for it. You can’t eradicate it. It’s out there forever now. It would take an awful lot of going round to people’s houses and demanding their copies of it. So you’ve got to accept that it exists.”

Who do you most fancy in the public eye? (Tash Samuel, High Wycombe)

Damon: “Have you seen Missy Elliott’s lips on the cover of The Face? Unbelievable. That’s what I fancy most at the moment, Missy Elliott’s lips. They’re gorgeous.”

Does Damon believe in true love? What was the meaning behind ‘To The End’? (Becky Blanton, USA)

Damon: “I got that from a comic where there were two kids sitting in the entrance to a barn, and one of them was saying “it looks like we made it to the end”. It’s quite a romantic picture. I love that song. I really like singing it. It appeals to my sense of country boy melancholy.”

Alex: “You’re not a romantic sort, though, are you?

Damon: “I wouldn’t write songs like that unless I was.”

What kind of omelette is enjoyed equally by all members of Blur? (Rachel Monroe, Virginia)

Dave: “Cheese and onion.”

Damon: “I don’t think I like omelettes. Everyone likes tortilla, though, don’t they?”

Alex: “We’re more of a cheese sandwich band, really. You can’t beat cheese and tomato. In all its many variations.”

Graham: “I like DairyLea and those square tomatoes you can get now.”

Damon: “Camembert and soda bread, that’s my favourite.”

Is ‘Beetlebum’ about heroin? (Devon George, Ipswich)

Damon: “No, it’s about MDMA.”

Dave: “My drumming is about heroin.”

Will insects eventually take over the world? (Joanna Farmer, Coventry)

Damon: “That’s a Dave sort of question.”

Dave: “Get some sleep.”

Alex: “Not for a very long time.”

Graham: “But they will, won’t they? A cockroach can live without its head for ten days. Remember when we were in that sauna in New York, and there were all these cockroaches walking around, without a care in the world?”

Alex: “They were the cleanest cockroaches in the world.”

Graham: “Do you think cockroaches kiss?”

Alex: “Not if they don’t have any heads.”

Damon: “I don’t like killing cockroaches. But the best way to do it is with a blow torch.”

Graham: “Do they burn?”

Alex: “The scariest thing I’ve ever seen is a horseshoe crab. Fucking hell. They’ve got all different kinds of legs and landing gear. It’s like a Swiss Army knife under there.”

Dave: “They’re not insects, though. I admire insects. I think people generally like insects more after ‘Antz’ and ‘Bugs’. That gave them personality. But they’re all aliens, though, really.”

Alex: “Imagine if you could spin a web, or sting. It would be nice to have all that tackle. What do humans have to protect ourselves?

Dave: “Our rapier wit.”

If you knew you were going to get abducted by aliens, what three things would you each bring on your journey? (Jessie Jessup, California)

Graham: “A flame thrower, a recordable MiniDisc player…”

Damon: “I think I’d bring with me what I’d bring on any interstellar journey. Lots of drugs.”

Dave: “A toothbrush. Some useless effects.”

Alex: “Space noises.”

Graham: “Binary code. And a gorilla.”

Alex: “‘The Great Escape’.”

Damon: “Alex and Dave are sending a Damien Hirst spot painting to Mars. He’s doing it with some kind of reactive paint or something, so that certain elements of the atmosphere will react to the spots. It sounds quite interesting. The Groucho Club, basically, is going to Mars. God help the Martians.”

What are your favourite Linda McCartney veggie meals? (Liz Smeaton, Wiltshire)

Alex: “Sausage rolls.”

Dave: “The country pies.”

Alex: “Do you glaze yours?”

Dave: “Of course.”

Damon: “I don’t eat frozen foods. Either I cook things or I eat out, nothing in between.”

Graham: “My freezer doesn’t work. So I have to eat ice cream, constantly.”

I’ve heard Dave is interested in animation. Can we expect to see any of his work in the near future? (Duncan Genevieve, Surrey)

Dave: “It’s a painstaking business, but I am working on animation type stuff, very slowly. The world will have to wait for a while.”

Is it true that you almost split up? And do you argue all the time? (Sarah, Bristol)

Damon: “We do argue quite a bit. But not all the time.”

Graham: “I think argue is too strong a word for what actually happens.”

Damon: “It amazes me how fascinated everyone is with whether we argue or not. It’s like someone constantly going, ‘Is your nose falling off?’ Ultimately, you’re going to get a complex about your nose. People keep mentioning this one thing, and because they mention it other people mention it. Then suddenly everyone seems to think we’re going to split up, and that’s not an issue.”

Damon, do you ever want to punch Brett? (Shaun, Weymouth)

Damon: “My feeling is that it would be nice to stroke Brett’s balls. I’d rather get on with him, really. It’s rubbish. The last time I saw Brett, I had a cup of tea with him. He’s not a friend of mine, really, but he’s also not someone that I’d want to run over in the street.”

What’s the worst haircut Damon’s had? (Lucy Hollis, Edinburgh)

Graham: “It always looks OK at the time, but you look back and go, ‘Bloody hell’.”

Alex: “The ‘There’s No Other Way Video’. They’re all pretty spectacularly bad haircuts, aren’t they? Damon had a sort of tidy bowl, with the fringe cut off.”

Damon: “My worst haircut was actually when I was at school. I used to have a mullet, with a sort of spiky bit at the front.”

Does your wealth embarrass you? (Courtney Banks, Inverness)

Damon: “Yeah, on occasions.”

Alex: “It depends who you’re with.”

Damon, is it true you’ve been working on film soundtracks? (Ingrid Eaves, London)

Damon: “Yeah. I’ve done one with Michael Nyman, which will be coming out in the summer here, called Ravenous. It’s about cannibals. A horror film, basically. A serious horror film. And there are a couple of other things that I’m working on, in the pipeline.”

What’s your favourite drink? (S Henry, Watford) Alex: “Perfume.”

Damon: “Rum and cranberry juice, though I don’t have it very often. No, actually, to be honest, my favourite drink is tea with fresh mint.”

From the perspective of the rest of the band, what’s the most embarrassing thing Damon has ever done onstage? (Gavin M, Australia)

Alex: “When his drawers came down. That takes the biscuit.”

Damon: “I pulled my trousers, and pants down at Brixton Academy. And I then realised that the whole audience was laughing hysterically. So I fell on the stage and tried to make it look like it was all a big accident. It was like the Theatre Of Cruelty. That was on the Rollercoaster tour, probably the most alcoholic period of our entire career.”

Alex: “Remember what J Mascis said? ‘Are you gonna get your little butts out again tonight?’”

Graham: “That was the most rock’n’roll tour ever. It was the most booze I’ve ever drunk.”

Alex: “And there was that other fucking nutter from Dinosaur Jr throwing beer bottles around.”

Damon: “I remember one hitting me on the head while I was playing the piano. It was like being in a Western.”

You’ve said you don’t want to tour again, but what about the fans? (Betsy-Shane Rosenblum, New York)

Damon: “First of all, you shouldn’t refer to yourself as a fan, it’s demeaning. We are playing some places. We’re playing big festivals, and we’ve already played loads of little gigs. Over the years, we’ve done just about everything, and people have always moaned. When they’ve been little, they’ve been too little, and when we’ve played big ones, they’ve been too big. It shouldn’t matter. We’re never going to be able to please everybody all of the time. So our only responsibility, ultimately, is to make good records. That’s our main aim. And that’s what we’re going to concentrate on continuing to do.”

And it’s here, sadly, that we have to cease our interrogation, despite the fact that we still have a holster full of unanswered questions. Blur are a busy band, you know, and they’ve promises to keep. Damon has a meeting he needs to get to, so he’s already waving goodbye and running for a taxi. Dave is off to the airfield, where Alex will join him later. They are going to fly to Spain for a day, but first, Alex has to attend a charity function. Graham is removing his headphones and minidisc player from his oversize backpack, trying to find something to soundtrack his journey to Camden, where he plans to continue avoiding the lure of the pub.

Still, we leave feeling confident we’ve gained some insight into the Blur psyche. We may still not know what that weird noise is in ‘Trimm Trabb’, but at least we know that next time – if we really want to impress them – we should bring along some cheese sandwiches. And maybe a few monkeys.

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