Lloyd Cole Interview
I recently caught up with singer / songwriter Lloyd Cole. Speaking with a horse voice resulting from a passing bout with the flu, Cole, a native of Great Brittan now living in New England, reflected on his 20 plus years in the music business.
Katrina: Welcome to Montreal, I hope you had a chance to discover our wonderful city a bit… have you seen anything of interest?
Lloyd: No, no, we just got here in time for dinner. We went to Chinatown. We weren't really interested in seeing anything last night, we were just tired and hungry and we had great food and a game of pool, but I'm pretty sick, I had to go to bed early.
Katrina: Have you ever been to Montreal before?
Lloyd: The last time I was here, it was three…two or three years ago. Friend's of ours moved up here and we came to visit them for Thanksgiving.
Katrina: What do "Music in a Foreign Language" and "Plastic Wood" represent in terms of the content and the title of each CD?
Lloyd: Well, um there is a third one as well that they didn't send to you called "Etcetera". "Etcetera" and "Plastic Wood" came out in Europe in 2001. Plastic wood is just a… you know a… you can see it in bunch of different ways, you could call it a hobby record or a bounty project but it's instrumental music and it's a homage to the instrumental music that I enjoyed listening to from the 1970's. Until now… like Brian Eno and Cluster. I found myself listening more and more to music without words so I ended up doing it without words. I write fewer songs now than I did when I was 25. I think maybe the songs that I'm writing now, I only write them when I think I have something to write about whereas when I was 25 I used to want to write all the time, I used to feel that I needed to be creative. I don't feel that I need to be creative any more; I don't want to be one of those 45 year olds churning out records.
Katrina: Do you have to be in a certain space to write music, euphorically happy or sad?
Lloyd: I don't think there is any prerequisite. I've written in all states of mind. I think manic-depressed is not good for writing songs. I think that idea of the artist sort of writing through his pain, I think that every time I've written anything in that state of mind it has required severe editing afterwards…you're better off just getting drunk I think.
So those two records… "Etcetera" was another record that actually came out of the dissolution of my relationship with Universal, who I was with for about 15 years. And it was the record that I wanted to come out in 1997 after a record called "Love Story". But it just didn't happen and leaving Universal took a few years and by the time I left I was working on another record called "The Negatives" and "Etcetera" just sort of got lost. The record Label I was working with in France heard the songs and said, "you know this really should be a record and we want to release it." So I said, "so long as you pay the legal fees," because it was really expensive to deal with a record company you're not with anymore. So these are two records that were sort of lost in North America. "Music in A Foreign Language" is my quote-unquote new album. It's the first album that I've made since 1995 that has come out in North America approximately when I meant it to come out.
Katrina: What do you think of the state of affairs in the music industry today compared to when you started out in the 1980's?
Lloyd: Well, I don't think that I would start today if I was 23 or 20 years old, I think it doesn't look like the kind of industry I'd want to be part of. I guess I just… I don't think I would look at TV and the music I see there and be inspired to be a musician…I think if I was 20 these days, I'd probably be doing some sort of multimedia thing… I don't think I'd be doing music. But you know, I've spent such a long time doing music, and I enjoy doing it, and I still find it challenging, I'm not sure if I want to stop. I feel that I've started and I don't want to stop just because I don't like the way the industry is, I feel that I can exist within my little niche of the industry that I have now.. I feel that my name is something, and I don't have to worry about, you know, does it fit into this category or does it not fit into that, because I've not fitted into categories for so many years. I'm not worried about it anymore. If I have success it's good, if I don't it's not going to kill me.
Katrina: Who are your literary and musical inspirations?
Lloyd: well I think your inspirations change from year to year. Musically I've been inspired by so many people. In 1984 I was really trying to be the new Bob Dylan. And you know anyone who isn't absolutely terrible gets called the new Bob Dylan once or twice so it's about the biggest cliché you could ever put on somebody. So I was the new Bob Dylan a couple of times. These days I feel that Leonard Cohen is not going to play to many more shows and I don't think he'll make many more records and I would like to take over from him. A couple of them have become integral to my set over the past couple of years, and I haven't been to Montreal to play a show in , I can't remember how many years but at least 12, I don't think I've played here since "91. (Cole's last performance in Montreal was in 1986).
Katrina: You mentioned Bob Dylan, have you ever had a chance to meet him?
Lloyd: No I don't really meet… I try not to meet my heroes. I like to have my heroes as my heroes. I met a few people early in my career who were my heroes and they were very cynical and disappointing and I hear stories of other people… you know, I have lots of mutual friends with Bob Dylan, I don't want to meet Bob Dylan I just like to listen to my Bob Dylan records.
Katrina: Who are among your favorite musicians of all time? Who are those heroes?
Lloyd: Well there are so many. My favourite records are Computer World by Kraftwerk, Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, Highway 61 by Bob Dylan, Songs of Love and Hate, Leonard Cohen, the first Sex Pistols record, Joy Division. There are things going on right now that are quite nice. I mean Air are a pretty good group. The Strokes are a good band I think. My son is listening to the White Stripes, and it's Okay. You know, I think if I was 21 I'd think the White Stripes were pretty good but I've heard a lot of blues music already, I don't really need to hear any more.
Katrina: Any chance of the Commotions reuniting?
Lloyd: We're making a documentary this year actually, it's the 20th anniversary of our first record… Can you believe it's 20 years? and I think a documentary company associated with the BBC wanted to sorta film what happens when we haven't really worked together in 17 years and we're going to get back together in the town where we started and we're gonna have somebody with a camera with us all the time. So that will be interesting… I've never done that and I've never really been comfortable in front of the camera, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. I never enjoyed making videos and I feel so much better now that I don't make them anymore.
Katrina: What is your most valuable prized possession and what is your least valuable yet still prized possession?
Lloyd: You know I almost went Bankrupt in 1995 so I don't prize many of my possessions after that. I used to collect Leika cameras. That's when you know you're a yuppie when you collect cameras and you don't even take that many pictures. I value a lot of things you can't hold in your hand a lot more than possessions. I value my friendships and my family more than any of my guitars. I do like my new Guitar though… it's right over there. I haven't bought a new acoustic guitar for over ten years. I have no idea if it sounds good. I've used the same two guitars since I started doing my acoustic shows ten years ago, and never changed them and they're getting a little old and I know they need to be phased out.
Katrina: What are you future plans musically and personally?
Lloyd: Well the Commotions anniversary is my plan for this year, that's happening in October. And "Music in a Foreign Languages" is out in North America so I'm out promoting that. In the second half of July and August I'm not working. I have blocked it out. And the rest of the time I'm working on another album. I'm hoping to have another record out sometime next year (2005). I've decided now I only want to make records in the winter time I don't want to make records in the summer, I want to play golf all summer and hang out with my kids, and make records when it's raining and snowing.