Blur interview in MOJO, May edition, 2015. Thanks to Rosie for the scans.
The Last Battle
THEY WERE LOVED, THEN HATED. THEN LOVED. THEN HATED, THEN LOVED AGAIN. THEY MADE A NOISE, DEFINED THE TIMES, FELL OVER AND FELL OUT, THEN KISSED AND MADE UP (SORT OF). BUT IN THE HEARTS Blur KNEW THAT SOMETHING WAS MISSING. THIS IS THE STORY OF HOW THEY FOUND IT.
Words: Keith Cameron
REGRETS: Damon Albarn says he’s got “many”. But he’ll only mention two today. First, when Gorillaz headlined the Glastonbury Festival’s Pyramid Stage in 2010. An Eleventh hour replacement for Bono’s injured back, Albarn’s cosmic cartoon hip hop collective suffered on two counts, neither necessarily their fault. The audience wanted U2. Failing that, they might have settled for Blur, whose reunion had been the highlight of the previous year’s Glastonbury. But for Gorillaz, the atmosphere was flat, the crowd thinned out alarmingly, and Albarn believes he could have remedied the situation with one simple gesture.
“Why didn’t I talk to the audience when I played Glastonbury with Gorillaz? Why didn’t I communicate with the audience, at all? I regret that, because it would have been a different outcome if I had. The gig we did at Roskilde I did talk to the audience and it was fantastic.”
His second regret seems, in the big picture of Blur, quite trivial. “I sort of regret that we didn’t put Me, White Noise on Think Tank. I would rather it had been on the record and Crazy Beat hadn’t. That was one of the last times that I actually let outside influences affect what I put on a record. It’s really cool and it should have been on but everyone was like: “Oh, you can’t put that one.” Bollocks. Of course we should have put it on.”
“Anyway!” He says, brightening. “That’s why you always move forward. You can keep learning from your mistakes.”
Me, White Noise is actually on Think Tank, albeit hidden as a prologue thanks to the digital chicanery in vogue at that time, revealed if the CD was rewound to -6.40. Listeners could only guess at the reasons behind such subterfuge. One possibility was that Me, White Noise didn’t much resemble Blur at all: six and half minutes of distorted electro beats, overdriven acid squiggle, splintered guitar, melodic and amorphous skronk, like Daft Punk covering The Pop Group. It featured actor Phil Daniels literally drunk out of his mind, reprising his Parklife geezer shtick but from the other side of fame’s shattered looking glass. “There’s a lot of snides out there/ Wanting to have a little pop at your life…” the rambling monologue spoke to the curdled reality of what happens when all your dreams come true.
By now, Damon Albarn had been the singer, songwriter, principal theorist and all purpose motivator in Blur for nearly 15 years. Anyone viewing his band solely through the distorting prism of the mid-‘90s Britpop boom could never have guessed at the soul sapping lows and the sheer hard graft which had prefaced the hand’s success, or indeed the crushing anxieties that were the corollary of sudden and intense celebrity. Throughout it all, as others doubted and wobbled, Albarn clung steadfast to his vision, while also possessing enough flexibility and perspective to recognize when he’d been wrong; most notably that 1995’s The Great Escape, although commercially expedient, represented creative stasis. Subsequently repurposing Blur into a vehicle for his increasingly introspective song writing enhanced the band’s artistic credentials without diminishing their popularity. As Oasis, arch-nemesis in the Battle of Britpop, crashed and burned, Blur made their real great escape: into art.
Yet amid the liberation of 1997’d Blur and 1999’s 13, Albarn also began to glimpse a world beyond the confines of a famous pop band. In 2000 he visited West Africa as an Oxfam ambassador and returned with 40 hours of recordings he’d made with local musicians in Mali. 2001 saw him unveil Gorillaz, an alias concept he’d been working on for two years that instantly reaped global success, prompting Blur’s bassist Alex James to tartly question the singer’s commitment to the band. Certainly, in 2002, as he spat out the chorus of Me, White Noise, Albarn appeared to have experienced some sort of critical revelation: And then you move move move/And you push push push/And you trip over yourself and you think to yourself/Why am I here?/I’m here because I’ve got no fucking choice!”. On Think Tank’s 2012 reissue, Me, White Noise remained hidden, albeit now at the end, a few minutes after Battery In Your Leg, the official final track, which was also the only song on the album to feature Graham Coxon. The circumstances surrounding the exit of Blur’s brilliant but troubled guitarist were indicative of the agonized state of the band’s internal dynamic by that point, “I didn’t quite know what had happened and I don’t think Blur really knew it,” Coxon says now, almost exactly 13 years later.
On the day sessions were due to start at Albarn’s west London Studio 13, Coxon entered a rehabilitation programme at The Priory. When he did eventually join his bandmates, the atmosphere was, according to producer Ben Hillier, “fairly poisonous”. What happened next remains contentious. In an October 2002 to promote his new solo album, Coxon said he had been asked to leave by Blur’s manager, Chris Morrison. Subsequent comments from band members muddied the picture. In the 2010 Blur documentary No Distance Left To Run, drummer Dave Rowntree stated that what they had asked Morrison to say to Coxon and what he actually said were two different things. In the Think Tank reissue’s sleevenotes, Albarn says it was he who asked Coxon to leave.
“All I knew was that one day I had a meeting with my manager,” Coxon says, “and he said, ‘The boys don’t really want you to go to the studio at the moment.’ You have to choose your words carefully when you’re a manager telling somebody in a band this. If you say “You are sacked”, then you can find yourself under a whole load of shit. So I think he was very careful not to say that. He said it was very much for the time being. I thought, Well, if my wife says ‘I don’t want to carry on like we are and I don’t really know until what point I’ll be feeling this way…’ I guess it was like that. So I got some advice and I thought: Oh, I’ll chuck myself then… I took the leap myself. And I got on with my life.”
Blur completed Think Tank as a trio, with sessions in a Marrakech riad and a barn on Albarn’s Devon farm. Aside from the awkward Fatboy Slim-produced Crazy Beat, a self-conscious update of the Blur familiar to the man on the Clapham omnibus, the album reflected Albarn’s burgeoning immersion in music rooted far beyond Blur’s traditional UK-centric post-punk idioms. It was realized in May 2003, to positive reviews. An Accompanying world tour, however, with Simon Tong and Albarn fulfilling the guitar quotient, made the Graham-shaped hole in the band glaring clear. “Touring was horrendous,” Albarn says. “Painful. I didn’t have a guitarist. I mean, I had a great guitarist, but not Graham. Playing any of the old stuff was awful.”
Just before Blur slipped into dormancy, Me, White Noise saw its first official realize, as a B-side, an alternate version sung by Albarn alone, featuring different verse lyrics delivered with menace: “You’ve let yourself down and you don’t know why… Being English isn’t about hate/It’s about disgust/We’re all disgusting…” By the end, he was screaming – “And furthermore, furthermore – you’re BORING!” – like a man possessed. Which of course he was: by the firm belief that he would never make another Blur album.
London is wearing its stereotypically grey winter best this Monday morning. From the top floor meeting room of the Studio 13, Damon Albarn has a choice of views. On one side, the ungainly urban scramble of North Kensington: housing estates, light industry units, a hospital, a rail tracks, Wormwood Scrubs, the Westway. Towering cranes in the foreground allude to the area’s latest building development. “A 30 storey red office block,” Albarn notes, “There goes my view. And my light. Ah, never mind.” On the other side, central London’s landmarks are unmistakable, even in miniature. “Look!” Albarn suddenly points towards the BT Tower. “It’s glowy! It’s just started again, it hasn’t been doing that for years.” Sitting across the table from Albarn, Graham Coxon cranes his neck towards the window. “It’s not another Coca-Cola thing, is it?”
“There hasn’t been any colour on the skyline for years,” Albarn says, still staring at the pulsing lights on the horizon. He smiles. “That will end up obliquely in some lyric at some point, I’m sure.”
Coxon almost glows at the very thought. Albarn has already turned the opposite window’s less celebrated vista into a Blur song: in summer 2012, as a prelude to headlining the Best of British Olympics Closing Concert at Hyde Park, the quartet released a single, Under The Westway – a hymn to London, possible also a person, or maybe even a group. It was the latest manifestation of a reunion which had thus far delivered 2009’s emotional performance at Glastonbury, the no less emotional No Distance Left To Run film and limited edition 7-inch single for 2010’s Record Store Day. Each spasm of activity dared the band’s long-suffering fans to hope that everything was gearing up to a new Blur album, made by all four member in full working order, there-by casting the anomalous Think Tank into shadows.
But in 2012, interviewed by John Harris in the Guardian, Albarn declared that “in all likelihood” the Olympics show would be their last and there would be no more Blur recoreds after Under The Westway. One of those assumptions fell as soon as the following spring, as Blur began a tour of festivals and enormodomes in North, Central and South America, in the Far East and Europe. Then, on May 6, Albarn told the crowd at Hong Kong’s Asia World Arena: “We have a week in Hong Kong and we thought it might be a good time to try and record another record”
The subsequent radio silence, however, suggested otherwise. Albarn didn’t listen back to the five-day session, returning instead to his Africa Express adventuring. Then he immersed himself in making his first bona fide solo album, Everyday Robots. Asked about the Hong Kong sessions in February 2014, he replied, perhaps not only to the questioning journalist, “just because you record 15 ideas doesn’t mean you’ve got an album.”
The world was justifiably stunned, therefore, when on February 19, 2015, Blur announced the imminent release of a new album. MOJO meets Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon three days before the press conference, and both have the thousand yards stares of men who can’t quite believe what they’ve done. Albarn was still recording vocals less than a month ago. Technically the album isn’t even finished, as it has still to go through the mastering process, and release is two months away. But they do have artwork and title: The Magic Whip. “I wasn’t expecting to be here talking about this,” Coxon says, sucking quickly on a e-cigarette.
Albarn murmurs in assent. “This is a series of very fortunate events. When I was saying last year, I can’t see there being [a new Blur album], I genuinely didn’t believe there ever could be.”
“Yeah, that probably pissed me off a little bit,” says Coxon.
Last September, Coxon told Albarn he wanted to work through the Hong Kong material, and proposed approaching Stephen Street, the producer who honed Blur’s 1991 breakthrough single, There’s No Other Way, guided home their watershed Modern Life Is Rubbish album and proceeded to helm Parklife, The Great Escape and Blur. Clear-eyed and go-free, Street was able to reconcile the group’s conflicting components – much as he did with The Smiths a decade previously.
“When Graham said that, I felt really good about it,” Albarn says. “Emotionally and in our relationship, we were in the least problematic or opposing places we’d been for a very long time. I felt it was lovely that he was prepared to give time to this thing.”
“It’s a funny one,” says Coxon. “You can it quite drily – ‘Oh, I can see there’s some good music there, let’s get in amongst it…’ But it’s complicated as well. Because obviously the story of Blur, if it’s a line, has had a few jagged areas. So there was obviously a bit of making amends. Actions speak louder than words.”
How long is it since their relationship was so harmonious.
“Parklife”, Albarn says, without hesitation. “The bike started wobbling after that! We fell off it a few times, got back on, and then it just… but yeah, that was the last time we were steady on our bicycles. It was different world. Pop music was so different to how it is now. I always end up having this conversation in one form or another with Noel [Gallagher] when we have a drink together. We seem so different to the Ed Sheerans of this world.”
“It was a matter of life and death, almost, to us,” Coxon says, “And that’s why, thinking about it, there was rivalry. Oasis and Blur – it was our lives. And that’s probably why we were so passionate and so fucking eager to fight. That’s all we had. It was a ‘60s-style muddle. Whereas now, it seems like you get your shit together in your bedroom when you’re 14 or 15, you go to an institution, and you’re really business-savy.”
“Really aware of how to play the game,” Albarn nods, “and what the game is. We had no idea that there even was a game. I hope there’s still loads of kids getting in Transit vans and driving round the country. Because it’s such a wonderful thing to do when you’re young.”
The friendship between Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon is the essence of Blur. The pair met at Stanway Comprehensive in early ‘80s Colchester. Albarn served notice of his assertiveness by advising Coxon on footwear hierarchy – “Your brogues are crap mate. Look, mine are proper sort” – but mutuality grew amid shared appreciation of The Jam, The Specials and The Smiths. Their first musical dabbling soon went beyond school revues and into prototype bands; The Aftermath, Real Lives, Circus.
The symbiosis evident even at this stage would sustain throughout their creative life: after Damon had instigated a chord sequence, Graham would take it somewhere. On Think Tank, Coxon’s presence was felt even when he wasn’t there, as producer Ben Hillier realized. “Having not worked much with Blur before, it became clear to me that the person who finished an album was Graham,” he says. “The person who started stuff was Damon. The hardest thing working with a really creative mind like Damon is making them finish anything. That doesn’t interest them at all. They are no interested in the craft, they’re interested in the spark. Graham has got a lot more of the craft gene in him.”
Blur’s genetic opposites haven’t always had to be in sync for the band to do great work, but Coxon’s alienation around the time of The Great Escape troubled Albarn such that he shifted Blur’s sonic parameters to placate him, ditching shiny music hall pastiche and instead accommodating the guitarist’s fondness for American discord – hence the Blur’s album Chinese Bombs and its bracing approximatin of a baby Black Flag. Coincidentally or not, this move reacquainted Blur with its art school grounding and, allied with Albarn’s discovery of music as a means of inner exploration – a revelatory period that he’s since admitted was added by heroin – produced arguably Blur’s most enduring music, on Blur and 13.
So it’s telling that Coxon felt it was incumbent on him to make amends, as if guilty that the band had indulged his foibles while getting too little in return – a cloud of resentment that finally broke at the early Think Tank sessions. Coxon considers this when MOJO speaks to him alone after The Magic Whip’s big reveal.
“Although we shoved it all aside when we got back together to play shows in 2009, I realized that passions were still slightly high about it all. Y’know, in those years since early 2002, I probably said a few stupid things in the press – because the circumstances of why we weren’t together as a four-piece were quite unclear.” He laughs. “We’d met a couple of times –one was some mediation thing we had to go over stuff that was difficult…”
Blur went to see a relationship counsellor?
“Yes, a sort of mediator. Things were just tense. We were all raw and hurt by it, for quite a while. And the longer it was left, that stuff ferments, and the more difficult the idea was of coming together, or being just friends again. To be honest, the last couple of years when I was in Blur wasn’t like we were really good friends, like we could ring each other up. Everything was going through management and we all had our own lives, our own problems.
“I went in and did some Think Tank sessions in a really good faith but I didn’t realize if I was acting strangely or not. Perhaps I was. I’d just got out of rehab, I was coping with life in a very different mind-set, which wasn’t one I particularly liked – everything was a bit too real. But whatever happened between 2002 and 2009 probably did us a lot of good. If Blur had carried on as we were, we’d all have been severely damaged by it.
“So yeah, It entered my head that actually the only good way to say sorry is to create something positive. To get hold of those Hong Kong tapes and knock them into shape, to take the weight of responsibility on my own shoulders and make amends.”
And so, Coxon and Street hunkered down in the latter’s Bermondsey studio for weeks, sifting the Hong Kong material, editing, rearranging, augmenting and generally building a structure from the jams the quartet had to built up over Albarn’s basic iPad demos. Alex James and Dave Rowntree dropped in to redo parts where necessary. The moment of truth came when Coxon and Street played Albarn what they had done.
“We were very nervous,” Street admits, “Because he might have said, ‘it’s not up to much, I’m not interested.’”
“Part of me wanted not to like it,” Albarn says. “That would mean I didn’t have to do any work. But annoyingly, I really loved it.”
Committed to promoting his solo album in Australia until just before Christmas, Albarn detoured on his journey home from Sydney and spent two days in Hong Kong, reimbuing himself with his uniquely intense energy to inspire lyrics that would characteristic the music Blur had recorded 18 months earlied.
“It had to be about something,” he says. “So I had to go back. On my own.” He made films, took photographs, and filled up the ideas notebook that he’d begun during that week in May 2013. One word leapt out at him: “dysto-pop-ia.”. “I’d written it in three colours. I thought about that word. It’s a made-up word that made a lot of sense.”
After Christmas 2014, at his house in Iceland, Albarn worked on the lyrics for two weeks before returning to London in January and recorded his vocals with Stephen Street at Studio 13. It was the first time the pair had worked together since 1996. If Street was apprehensive – “I didn’t know if he would take direction, I didn’t know if he was the same guy” – then so too was the singer.
“I didn’t know whether I could even take his methodical working methods seriously anymore,” Albarn says. “I’d made so many records in a much more spontaneous way. But actually it worked brilliantly. I realized my nervousness was based on the fact that I was nervous back then. I was remembering my lack of confidence. Now, I just do it.”
Mixing the Magic Whip wrapped up the day before Albarn and Coxon meet MOJO.
“It’s been very intense – the record’s got a lot to do with our relationship,” Damon says, looking at Graham, “our relationship at that moment.”
Presumably, the same could be said about every Blur album, albeit some more than others. Sweet Song on Think Tank (opening lyric: “What am I to do/Someone here is really not happy”) seems very clearly an elegy for a love wrong.
“Well, our relationship was non-existent at that point.” Albarn has been fiddling with an incense stick for a while. Finally locating a cigarette lighter, he sparks it up. “As you get older,” he says, your families grow up, you realize we were too young and stupid to understand or value what we had or how lucky we were. As people or musicians. We don’t feel like that any more. We realize that to throw away relationship is madness. But we all had to find our own lives.”
Coxon nods vigorously. “And where we’ve gone on our quests, individually, we’ve got a rucksack-full of really good stuff to use. So it’s turned out pretty good.”
After talking with Albarn and Coxon, MOJO drives south-cast across London for a rendezvous with Dave Rowntree, Blur’s man of many parts: drummer, computer animator, pilot, criminal defence solicitor, Labour Party parliamentary candidate and presenter of his own show on XFM. WE meet in the Garrison, a gastro pub symptomatic of the redevelopment that has, at least superficially, transformed Bermondsey from one of London’s most run-down areas. A mile away is the studio where Stephen Street and Graham Coxon shaped the Hong Kong session; work undertaken in total secrecy – much to Rowntree’s bewilderment.
“I was saying, just forget this!” he laughs. “We can’t even bloody keep what we had for breakfast secret, how are we gonna keep the new Blur album secret?”
Ben Hillier has a studio in the same building as Street and one day he bumped into Graham Coxon and Alex James. “I was like, What are you up to…?” Hillier says. “There were a lot of ‘ums’ and they told me they were working on a soundtrack.” He laughs. “I thought that was a bit strange, but not completely inconceivable.”
Following Albarn’s on-stage revelation on the Hong Kong session, Rowntree estimates that in the course of his work, legal or otherwise, he was asked about the new Blur album at least once a week. Each time, he gave the same honest answer: they’d started a record but hadn’t been able to finish it, and thereafter people’s schedules hadn’t permitted work to be resumed.
“Truth be told, it wasn’t the first time we’d started a new Blur album,” he says. “It was actually the third.”
The most recent attempt had been a session with William Orbit in early 2012, which yielded a version of Under The Westway that the band deemed unsuccessful and shelved only for Orbit to leak it on the internet, “as a two-fingers to Damon, I think,” Coxon says, “which is not awfully charming but it happens. Sometimes I prefer that version to the one we released!”
After the Street sessions were completed, however, Rowntree faced a dilemma. How could he truthfully answer the queries about the new Blur album, now that album was moving rapidly towards actual existence? “I thought, I can’t lie. But it was bizarre. Nobody asked. Nobody! Not at peep from anyone. Except the producer of my radio show who jokingly said, ‘New Blur Album?’ I went, Haha! And changed the subject.”
Thursday February 19. Five hours after the blanket of omerta around The Magic Whip is finally lifted, MOJO and the four members of Blur are squeezed into a lift at BBC Radio 1’s new studios in Broadcasting House. “You do realize,” Damon Albarn stage whispers as we’re led through its open plan environs, all hot desks and hipster beards, “that we’re the oldest people here.”
The press conference has been hosted by Zane lowe, and the Radio 1 presenter’s evening show is now the final port of call in what’s been an intense reac-quaintance with the promotional waterboard. Although hardly of the Jeremy Paxman school, Lowe’s interview style –“Can I just say something real quick Graham? You know, you are this country’s greatest living guitar player”—has prompted Albarn and Alex James to crack open an emergency stash of Stella Artois.
Fresh from a family holiday and looking unfeasible healthy for a man whose notorious champagne days/cocaine nights lifestyle amid the Britpop blizzard tended to obscure his abilities as a musician, James brushes aside the suggestion that a return to Blur’s media scrimmage will have him pining for the quiet life down on his Oxfordshire farm. “Yesterday I was wrangling five kids onto a plane,” he says, as MOJO finds a peaceful corner. “Believe me, this is a day off”.
Despite seeming content with his cheese-maker-cum-festival-promoter country life, it doesn’t take long in James’s company to sense him pining for Blur as more tangible presence. He pinpoints 2012’s London Olympic show at Hyde Park as crucial: in the absence of a new album, only an invitation of such magnitude was going to sufficiently focus the minds, particularly of the band’s two full-time music-makers. “It was something none of us felt we could turn down,” he says. That night’s euphoria provided the momentum to take up arms again for 2013’s global trek, but even then, had it not been for the unforeseeable cancellation of gigs in Taipei and Tokyo creating an enforced week long stopover in Hong Kong, James doubts whether the new album would have ever come pass.
“The longer it went on, the bigger a mountain to climb it was –for Damon particularly. The thought of ever doing another Blur record became a more complicated thing to answer, what should it be? In 2009, it was like, Wow! That was good! We should think shout doing that again… but part of the problem is getting everybody in the same place at the same time, and we didn’t have that problem in Hong Kong, we were all there with nothing to do. For me, It’s always been just turning up and playing the bass, there’s been very little suffering or torment involved at any stage. Damon’s a brilliant songwriter, Graham’s a brilliant guitar player, and we all get together really well. We’re lucky to find each other. I think we’ve made a classic Blur record. The first one for 15 years!”
Had he always kept the faith?
“Yeah. But I think Damon is absolutely terrified of living on past glories.” He laughs suddenly. “It’s a hindrance, in a way.”
A fortnight later, MOJO speaks to Damon Albarn on the phone. He’s at the National Theatre on London’s South Bank, workshopping wonder.land, a new musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland that sees him reunited with Director Rufus Norris, with whom Albarn wrote 2011’s Dr Dee. An English Opera.
“We had a big day today,” he says, “’cos we actually sat with everybody and ran through what we’ve got so far. The first half was amazing, the second half we still need to work on. But I think we know how it ends, and we’ll play about with characters, and… we’re in fairly good shape, I think.”
The production premieres in June at the Manchester international Festival, before transferring to the National for a lengthy Christmas run. “So it’s got to be good, basically. Or else I’m fucked. Again.”
I first met Albarn in March 1992, when Blur were wide-eyed pop fizzbombs on the Rollercoaster tour, a two-week package headlined by the Jesus and Mary Chain alongside Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine. Blur held their own on-stage but even more impressive was Albarn’s personal composure amid such heavyweight company. Already written off in the wake of the wan, derivative Leisure, here was a young man quietly certain that his band would prevail; that his time would come. Still, no one, perhaps not even he, could have predicted his future status as celebrated pan-disciplinary arts figure.
It’s like likewise remarkable that Blur remain a living entity after 25 years, albeit one that seems to hover ambivalently in Albarn’s rearview mirror, the band both catalyst and hostage to his creative growth. Ironically, the successful late-‘90s recalibration of Blur undermined its future viability, by proving to Albarn that he could operate outside the band format.
“Probably subconsciously, that was the point where I definitely realized I could do it on my own,” Albarn says, carefully. “Maybe. I didn’t know quite how – but I knew I wanted to give it a go. We’d just come to the end of 10 long years being in each other’s pockets. Everything was transforming, Willian Orbit had a massive part to play in 13. We were in freefall by that point, really, it was just a really free, loose process. It was very different. I was very different. I was in my own world, Graham was in his own world and Willian was the portal between those two.
“I went on to do Gorillaz directly after that. I realized that you could sample everything and it didn’t matter whether it was a band playing it or anything. That for me was an amazing revelation.”
Today, sitting together in Studio 13, the portal between Damon and Graham – Blur’s 4 ever couple—is the band itself. And for that, unlikely as it might seem, we have to thank Alex James’s autobiography, Bit Of A Blur. A queasily authentic glimpse into the pre millennial debauch that was Britpop, it also prompted Graham Coxon to make the short journey from his home to Camden’s Koko club on October 22, 2008, where he extended the hand of friendship (over tea and Eccles cake) to Damon Albarn, then preparing for an Africa Express gig.
“I read Alex’s book” Coxon says, “and then I looked at other groups like us who’d split up, like Pink Floyd. I thought it was really, really sad that Pink Floyd can now not reform, ever. As a fan, it just seems like, ‘What a bickering load of self-obsessed old ladies!’ I didn’t want us to look like that. Back then, I don’t think I’d allow myself thoughts of making a new record. But I had hopes.”
Albarn smiles at that, then seems to catch himself.
“We just wanted to do something that’s worth putting out, that we thing is worth putting out. And that’s it.”
“I think I said, Even if it’s the last thing we do, we have to leave it in a great positive way,” Coxon says. “And then I said, Like Abbey Road did for The Beatles. I mean, that’s really pathetic, but I am like that. What would The Beatles have done?”
“None of us are getting any younger,” says Albarn. “If you do something, it’s gotta fucking count. It has to count. Otherwise, what are we doing? But we have done it now. So there you go.” Albarn is looking towards MOJO, on his feet, like a man with a musical to finish. “That’s it. Anything else?”
Only the most obvious question: is this a new beginning for Blur?
“For safety’s sake, I would say no,” he says. “But I have said that many times before. I am notorious for saying something and doing something else. Don’t listen to me. But no.” He makes to leave, then pauses, as if remembering something his friend across the table said earlier. “But actions speak louder than words.”