‘It was a miracle baby. One quick shag in Hong Kong.’
Blur’s documentary tells you all you need to know about The Magic Whip
In a cult 1993 documentary on Blur – Starshaped – Graham Coxon is seen growing more and more exasperated. This is because he’s trying to delicately drink a cup of tea from a saucer in the backseat of a van as it goes full pelt down the road. Until earlier this year the idea of a new Blur album seemed like a similarly fruitless endeavour.
But somehow The Magic Whip, aka Blur’s first album as a four-piece in 16 years, happened. It was such an unusual event that filmmaker Sam Wrench made a documentary about it – New World Towers. So what went from Damon Albarn openly avoiding Blur to fronting a number one album? A bad hangover and some spare time in Hong Kong, basically.
Digital Spy went along to the screening of the film, where Graham Coxon and Alex James were there to fill in some blanks. Here’s what we learnt.
It was the aural equivalent to “one quick shag”.
“It was a miracle baby,” said Alex. “One quick shag in Hong Kong and then 18 months later Graham delivered it.”
Jamming isn’t as cool as it sounds.
It may look cool in grainy, fly on the wall footage – but jamming isn’t all it’s cracked up to be according to Graham.
“It’s all cool to have a jam when you’re younger,” he admitted. “You get stoned and have a few beers and jam for ages because you think it’s well cool. But listening back to our jams, some of them were 30 minutes long. We were like ‘I don’t think we can trawl through that. It’s not going to be at all interesting.’
“That’s why Stephen [Street] was good, to cut out chunks of it. Jamming’s like coalface really. I mustn’t grumble about it, but it’s not all jolly and giving each other winks and mates mates. You’re trying to travel somewhere and it takes a lot of effort and concentration.”
Graham’s “blood ran cold” when he realised ‘My Terracotta Heart’ was about him.
“After [Damon] put his lyrics down I was listening and I was like ‘Hang on… oh shit he’s f**king singing about me! My blood ran cold.’ At the same time it’s very flattering. We’re not good communicators so in a lot of ways we’ll communicate through lyrics. I listened once very carefully to the lyrics of that song and I don’t do it anymore. I concentrate on playing.”
Fried rice and sausages fed creativity.
“[The Magic Whip was inspired by] this strange journey on the tube and jet lag and having dinner at breakfast time,” Graham admitted. “I was having a pile of fried rice and sausages for breakfast. It’s all fear inducing. I’m not very good with the unfamiliar but you have to go to the unfamiliar sometimes to get scared enough to do something decent.”
Graham took the reigns on the album to “redress the balance of past shame.”
“Part of it was to say that I’m committed. We were all nuts and all did crazy things. But because I’ve said ‘Yeah I made a mess of things’ that means that I can be blamed for anything that went wrong either in the future or in the past.” But Alex doesn’t want to point fingers, reasoning: “I don’t think there should be any kind of blame to anybody. With every band it happens where you have to go off and do different things.”
Blur are as insane as they were 20 years ago, but in a different way.
“I think that that’s the real me that I’ve lost,” Graham confessed. “The madness comes out in other ways these days. That was alcohol induced insanity a lot of that. It’s a lot scarier when you’re not even drinking and you’re going mad.”
We could be in for another 16-year wait for a new album…
While Alex is “knackered but still up for it”, Graham’s more pragmatic when it comes to Blur’s future. “[The album] wasn’t anything we’d planned,” he said. “I find historically that if we try to repeat a process that has worked before it falls flat. We could easily go and jam for 5 days somewhere else but we’d see through our intentions immediately.”