Anyone and everyone who knows me is well aware of the magnitude to Paul Weller’s presence in my life over the past three decades. McCartney, Townshend and Weller — my musical heroes and influences. But it is Paul Weller who pointed the direction that made me become the songwriter I became. The music of The Jam, especially during my teen years, were vital and important to me; they were my favorite band and admittedly, I took all my cues from Weller. Equally essential was listening to him and reading interviews with him, which gave me a chance to explore music I’d either never heard or had forgotten about — it gave me a wider palette to paint from and sounds that I’ve loved, cherished and referred back to since.
So to have the opportunity to speak with him was a thrill and a joy. Coming straight out of soundcheck before his show in Albany, New York, Paul was more than accommodating and gracious in answering my questions; the conversation was light and breezy and I cannot be more pleased to have had those few minutes. Thanks go to Brother Matt Wardlaw for putting the word out, Rick Gershon of Warner Bros. Records for the connection and to Paul Weller — I’m eternally grateful. For everything:
PW: Hey, how’s it going there, man?
Hey, Paul — good to talk to you. How’s the tour going so far?
PW: Really good, thank you! Really, really good.
I can’t wait for Saturday night; I’ll be coming to the Williamsburg show.
PW: Yeah, that should be another good one, man; every date’s been good.
Great — I’m not going to take up too much of your time; I know how busy you are and I really appreciate you doing this.
PW: No, no problem; you’re welcome!
I want to talk about the new album (Saturns Pattern); it’s a wonderful piece of work…
PW: Well, thank you, man!
Let me ask you — what was the spark that inspired this album, because having followed your career from the beginning, this is unbelievably heavy and goes into musical territory that I’ve never heard you visit before. So what were you thinking of that helped to shape and inform this record?
PW: I think it probably started with… I’d had maybe six, seven, eight tunes that I’d written, right around last year or whenever it may be (laughs) and I’d thought they were more sort of traditional, in a sense. I’d written them on guitar; you know, written all the arrangements and all that. So I kind of put those aside because I didn’t know what I wanted but I knew what I didn’t want to make. I put those to one side and we started from nothing. Until we started working on it, I didn’t know really — honestly — the only frame I gave everyone was that I wanted big drums; I wanted to have all the tracks ”groove-y” — more emphasis on the groove on the track. And then beyond that, I didn’t have a clue really! So we just started to experiment and it went from there; to see what happens. I know that sounds vague, to be honest with you.
So you didn’t want to overthink this one or over-plan on it. The one thing I’ve noticed about this album is — and I’ve felt — is that even though the music is ”heavier”, there’s a sense of abandon; there’s a kind of joyful lightness in this record. It’s a very warm record. Is that something of a carry over from the feeling on Sonik Kicks? That was such a happy and buoyant collection that you delivered; it was such a positive record and Saturns Pattern is equally positive, lyrically, mixed in with the heaviness. Do you see it that way at all?
PW: Yeah, I wanted to make something quite joyful and helpful for people, you know? So that does come through — at least the ”hope” does, anyway. I think it’s a reaction to how shit the world is really at the moment but it think it does have a message of joy and happiness.
But it’s like a lot of records — no matter what kind of plans you’ve got, they’ll probably all change anyway once you start making the record. Once you start recording, it takes on a life of its own, I think, and once we had the title song and ”Phoenix”, they formed the cornerstone of the album.
I like the sort-of dance inflection; all the tracks have a ”movement” to them, you know? Not a dance record as such, but a feeling of movement to it.
I know this might be kind of a stretch, but I almost feel like Saturns Pattern has a kind of Stax feel to it. Not everything they released was dance-oriented per se but everything had soul; feeling, emotion — and Saturns Pattern has it. A lot of soul.
PW: Yeah (laughs). You know I’m a fan of that type of music and I hope it comes out in mine…
We put a lot of emphasis on the groove…
With this record, you’ve broken new ground. Does it excite you to look towards the next album?
PW: Yes. With all the last few records I’ve done, but more so with Sonik Kicks and this one, the feeling kind of went with them. So I don’t want to push it all but let it kind of happen again.
So what are you listening to as of late? What are you listening to on the tour?
PW: There’s a Scottish band I really like called Young Farmers and some of the tracks off the new Alabama Shakes record as well.
This is your 12th solo studio album — not inclusive of your two previous musical lives (both laugh) — do you ever find yourself looking back in an unguarded moment and go ”wow” and maybe go back and listen as a fan to some of the things you’ve done?
PW: I do sometimes refer back after a time because you get a different perspective. But it’s very rarely that I’ll go back to what I’ve done because I’m too absorbed in what I do now.
But I’m not getting any younger… maybe there’ll come a time when I’ll be entirely reflective and listen to the old stuff. I just think it’s nice to keep going forward, really.
So after the tour is over, what’s next? Take some time off or…
PW: We’ve got more gigs this year, really. We go to the West Coast of America in September and October; then we go to Japan and a big tour of the U.K. and we’ve got the festivals — we’ve got Glastonbury and the rest of Europe. So it’s pretty full up but I hope there’s a chance to get something recorded somewhere along the line.
Paul Weller will be at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York on Saturday, June 20th, 2015