Bio: PAUL WELLER WAKE UP THE NATION
âIâm schooled in the test of timeâ - Moonshine
âI wasnât even thinking about doing another recordâ says Paul Weller of the ... (more)
Bio: PAUL WELLER WAKE UP THE NATION
âIâm schooled in the test of timeâ - Moonshine
âI wasnât even thinking about doing another recordâ says Paul Weller of the inspiration behind his brand new album Wake Up the Nation.
âAfter 22 Dreams I didnât have any songs to speak of apart from the odd title or couplet. So the whole process was really different. It was almost like starting from scratch.â
After an unparalleled career, characterised by constant musical experimentation, we should be used to Paul Wellerâs relentless desire to chop and change his musical pack. But after the triumphant, Brit-bagging success of 22 Dreams (his third solo number one) his tenth solo album sees rockâs most iconic songwriter come up trumps once more.
Lean, mean and as uncompromisingly focused as itâs maker, Wake Up The Nation also brings Paul Weller full circle: twenty-eight years on from The Jamâs split, two tracks feature the bandâs bassist Bruce Foxton.
âItâs been a long time, obviously, but we both really enjoyed it â says Paul of this unlikely reunion.
âBruce has still got his own style and sound, which really worked for the track weâd planned to do, âFast Car Slow Trafficâ. Then we got him to play on âShe Speaksâ, which might not necessarily be his kind of thing, but he put his own stamp on that, too.â
Sessions for what would become Wake Up the Nation began last January with 22 Dreams collaborator Simon Dine. Working at Wellerâs de facto HQ, Black Barn Studios in Surrey, the duo â“plus long term in-house engineer Charles Rees- set about creating a record inspired by Dineâs musical vision.
âSimon had a clear idea about how the record should soundâ explains Paul.
âHe wanted to make it very urban and tough, quite metallic sounding. In quite a few cases I would improvise the vocals and see what happened. It was a completely different way of working.â
To reflect the urgency and claustrophobia of city life, strict rules were laid down. Out went acoustic instrumentation and any folky or pastoral inflections. In came jagged rock grooves, Bowie-esque riffs (think Low or Diamond Dogs), and a genre-shredding spirit spawned from the sessions for 22 Dreams.
âWeâd get people in to play on individual tracks as we needed themâ explains Paul.âKevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) plays on one track. Clem Cattini (legendary session drummer) and Bev Bevan (The Move/ELO) play on a couple of tunes. Little Barrie plays guitar on a couple. Andy Crofts (keyboardist in Wellerâs touring band) played guitar, bass, keyboards and some stylophone. It was just a question of mixing it all up, and seeing what worked.â
The result is a fourteen track blast of tungsten-tough rockânâroll, already described by one insider as âStockhausen meets The Small Facesâ. If there are mellow moments -notably rare groove shuffle âAim Highâ - the abrasive feel of âGrasp And Still Connectâ and limited edition single â7 & 3 Is The Strikers Nameâ are as musically challenging as any record youâll hear this year. But then what else would you expect from a songwriter whose influences range from Alice Coltrane to Vaughan Williams, and whose current listening includes Broadcastâs Witch Cults Of The Radio Age and folk outfit Erland And The Carnival?
Lyrically, it marks a departure too. If 22 Dreams was a sprawling reverie, Wake Up The Nation is the sound of Weller wide awake, ready to take the world on again. Fans of Weller the polemicist (think âMoney Go Roundâ; âSoul Deepâ) will be thrilled to hear itâs his angriest sounding record in years.
âThe title track is a bit of a clarion call for our nationâ explains Paul.
âItâs saying we should rise up against this sea of mediocrity, and get some greatness back into this country. The media, tv, music, politics, theyâve all become bland. Itâs not that people have become apathetic, they feel disenfranchised. Thereâs no real democracy any more. Before the Iraq War there were a million people who marched against it and it didnât make a scrap of difference.â
âMusically, itâs an obvious target, but shows like X Factor also set a very low standard for people to look up to. I know Iâll sound old fashioned, but I had people like The Beatles and the Kinks to look up to. Thatâs why the Rage Against The Machine thing was so good. Iâd like to see a huge backlash against celebrity culture.â
Amidst the lyrical fire, thereâs also consummate skill. âNo Tears To Cryâ is a sublime Walker Brothers influenced ballad, while âTreesâ is a five-part musical montage about the passage of life which pinballs from ragtime to polka to punk to psych-pop to gospel in just over four mind-blowing minutes.
âThat was inspired by going to see my dad in a nursing home just before he diedâ explains Paul.
âI was trying to imagine what those peopleâs lives were like. Some of the old girls would once have been beautiful young women, and now they were just waiting to be replaced back into the earth or the atmosphere, or whatever it is that happens to us.â
Passion, progression, and, as ever, spine-tingling rockânâroll â“Paul Weller has, yet again, delivered the perfect soundtrack as we embark on a new decade.
âI canât wait to get out there and play it to peopleâ enthuses Paul.
This is one wake up call you donât want to miss.
WAKE UP THE NATION
Track By Track
1.) Moonshine - âBev Bevan (Move/ELO) plays drums on this one. Simon and I are big psychedelic music fans, so it was a real buzz. I was back to being a ten year old Move fan again.â
2.) Wake Up The Nation - âItâs political with a small âpâ. Thereâs a line in there about the death of the postbox. Itâs about how technology brings advantages but it also depersonalizes things.â
3.) No Tears To Cry - âItâs s a definite nod to the Walker Brothers and those epic ballads. I thought it would fitting to o get the man who played on a lot of those records to play on it. Heâs seventy odd, but Clem (Cattini) came down and did it in literally two takes. Heâs that good.â
4.) Fast Car Slow Traffic - âItâs a real London tune. Itâs a pretty full on. We played this on the last tour and people were really mad for it. It was really interesting to hear Bruce playing on it. You can instantly tell itâs him.â
5.) Grasp and Still Connect - âItâs about how technology is meant to get us greater levels of communication, but Iâm not convinced. Itâs silly things like not talking to a conductor when you get on the bus- you buy a ticket from a machine. Weâre forgetting how to talk to each other.â
6.) She Speaks - âIâve never really done anything like it before. Itâs based on a poem I wrote about a year ago. Lyrically, itâs about the sea as a metaphor for life. Sometimes, however, you just have to plunge in and get on with it.â
7.) Find The Torch Burn The Plans - âThematically, it ties in with the title track. Weâve got to reclaim our heritage and our culture. Claim it back from the fucking politicians and the establishment. Charles (engineer) played drums. My daughter and her mate sang on it too.â
8.) Aim High - âStevie Pilgrim is on drums on this one. It was initially one phrase repeated over and over. I hit that falsetto voice, which was nice because I havenât used it for a long time. Once I had the melody I wrote the words really quickly.â
âThe words were inspired by going to see my dad just before he died. Simon liked them and he had the idea for five different musical parts to interpret them. My cousin Mark played guitar on it.â
âItâs about someone leaving a dying planet. I love the image of the last verse: âMy mood gets lifted with the gravityâs pull/Looks like Iâm smiling but Iâm dying too.â Itâs just about us mirroring our surroundings.â
11.) Whatever Next
âItâs an instrumental. The album is made up of fairly short tracks but theyâve got a lot of information packed into them, so itâs nice to catch your breath for a minute, then get on with it.â
12.) 7 + 3 Is The Strikers Name
âKevin Shields plays on this one. He came down to the studio with a big bag of effects pedals and we took it from there. Thereâs a dig at the royal family in the lyrics â“ that whole invisible establishment is still in power, nothingâs changed.â
13.) Pieces of A Dream
âWeâd played it on the last tour and I was really surprised at how well it went down. People seem to really love it. Stevie Pilgrim is on drums.â
14.) 2 Fat Ladies
âI played bass and Little Barrie played guitar. Itâs got a nice raw sound to it. What are the lyrics about? Hard to say. I was making them up as I went along! I think itâs a case of people taking what they want from it. What seems meaningless to one person can mean everything to someone else.â (less)