via AOL Spinner.com
‘IN HOUSE’ WITH PAUL WELLER
The Modfather on Not Giving a ‘F—’ What Others Think and Aging
by Kenneth Partridge
At a point in his life when he might legitimately be winding down, Paul Weller is getting worked up. With his three most recent albums — the latest of which, Sonik Kicks, arrived in March — the 53-year-old former Jam and Style Council frontman has created a trilogy of late-career triumphs, transcending his usual rock and soul influences to incorporate elements of psychedelia, electronica, dub and even krautrock.
He’s come a long way since the late ’70s, when he emerged with the Jam as punk’s answer to Pete Townshend, but even now, he carries himself with an air of mod cool. Stopping by Spinner’s New York City offices for an In House visit, Weller sports slim trousers, a fitted black T-shirt and a well-manicured mop of gray hair. He’s the father of newborn twins — the excellently named John Paul and Bowie — and when they’re old enough to play soccer, he’ll be the best-dressed dad on the sidelines.
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The Modfather is in town to play three shows in support of Sonik Kicks, which comes two years after his acclaimed Wake Up the Nation. That album put him in the running for Britain’s prestigious Mercury Prize, and while the XX took home the award, the nomination brought Weller renewed critical attention. It may have seemed like a tough act to follow, but he wasn’t sweating it.
“If anything, I felt more inspired to try to take it further,” Weller says. “The very positive response to the last two records make you want to see how far you can go with it — how far you can go with the music.”
On Sonik Kicks, he goes pretty far, opening the disc with the robotic synth-pop sprint of “Green,” one of several nods to the ’70s German band Neu! As with Wake Up the Nation, the album features its share of punchy, Jam-like rockers, but whereas that last record was meant to be hard and direct, this one represents a broader vision.
“It’s in the title,” Weller says. “I saw it more as a sonic journey, really, to excite people, to do something different, to incorporate a lot of the things I’ve been listening to.”
Among those joining Weller on the voyage are Graham Coxon of Blur and Noel Gallagher of Oasis, former rivals from the Brit-pop ’90s. Asked whether he’s felt competitive with other bands, Weller says he has — just not in a while.
“When I was younger, everyone was a competition to me,” he says. “Which a lot of the time is born out of your own insecurity, to be that competitive. But these days, the competition is internal. I’m competitive with myself. My so-called peers are long gone. Most of them are doing cabaret. Some are dead. And I don’t know what the others are doing. They’ve got different jobs.”
In fairness, Weller isn’t the only punk-era figure still making vital records, but he’s certainly in rare company. After breaking up the Jam in 1982, when the trio was one of the biggest bands in Europe, he made six albums with Style Council, his less loved yet still successful soul-jazz outfit. In the early ’90s, he reinvented himself again, launching a solo run that — after 22 years and 11 albums — has proved the most enduring episode of his musical life.
“I’m in a very fortunate and unique situation where, when I’m with my touring band, we’re very much a group, and when we’re not doing this, we’re free to do our own thing, which suits me,” Weller says. “Once you get to a certain age, and you’ve been doing it a certain amount of time, it’s really hard to form a democratic band and start from scratch.”
And there’d be no reason to. Sonik Kicks hit No. 1 in the U.K., adding even more fire to Weller’s resurgence. He’s already started writing songs for his next project, whatever that turns out to be, and reflecting on his recent and ongoing burst of creativity, he says it’s because of — not in spite of — his veteran status.
“It comes out of a certain amount of privilege you earn if you live to a certain age and carry on working and don’t give much of a fuck what other people think,” Weller says. “You’re free to do whatever you want to do, you know? That’s the only place I can really think it comes from.”
“I don’t feel there’s any kind of boundaries or restrictions on what I do with music anymore,” he says. “It’s free to go anywhere. I think as long as I keep my melodic sense, the music can go anywhere.”
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