The Often Beautiful Music of Richard Ashcroft
Former lead singer of the Verve, Richard Ashcroft, thinks out loud about his debut solo album, Alone With Everybody … (this is an edited transcript of an interview originally done by Jason Anderson)
“This new dimension comes into your life. Things get added to your life rather than things stopping.
“I’ve become more and more obsessed with time and how your time comes. Like you waiting for me while my plane was coming in. There’s any number of places you could’ve been at that point. I think that’s the obsessive thing with anyone who creates — should they really be spending time on the next record or the next track or spending the time with their family or friends, what are you actually doing this thing for?
“I’ve been ranting about The Great Gatsby in most of the interviews because I saw a documentary on it and it really struck a cord. ‘Get My Beat’ really is about the green mist but I didn’t know about it at the time because I wasn’t really aware of the green mist and what it represented in the book. But the green mist, the ever-chasing, the desire to find that piece of chrome kitchenware that’s gonna be the answer to our problems, all this is not the true beauty in your life, whether it be your partner or your wife or your boyfriend or your dog or your child, they’re forced to wait while you’re out in the traffic at 8 in the morning heading for this imaginary sunset that’s gonna fulfill you. I think I had the opportunity when the band took off to be able to close the door for a while and re-evaluate and reintroduce myself to what actually turned me on in life. And often they’re the most simple fucking things, but you don’t realize that until you’ve tasted all these things that’re gonna leave you dissatisfied. It’s like people who haven’t won the lottery yet don’t know how sad and confused most lottery winners become.
“‘Crazy World’ is a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. Total disillusionment. No fixed religion. All these thoughts were coming through my mind as my child was coming, taking it back to when I was a kid and 80 per cent of people had a god to pass on. Wouldn’t that be lovely? The fact that 60 per cent of those people went on to be disillusioned with the religion doesn’t matter, but the fact of having these rules that were set down. They thought the ‘60s generation was messed-up, but we’re truly done ourselves. We’re so far out and fragmented.
“But it’s about coming to terms with the ugly shit and then trying to find the beauty within it. I’ve been depressed, I’ve suffered illness, I’ve had people around me suffer illness. But that doesn’t mean to say I’m gonna shut the door on the beauty of life and the moments of celebration and the moments that you want to last forever, to be locked it in forever. You can’t deny that unless you’re manically depressed. It doesn’t mean to say I’m gonna constantly ignore horror or that I’m ignoring horror and pain on this record. I’m not. I’m acknowledging it, but I’m also acknowledging the other sides of life as well. There has to be hope. There has to be something besides that nihilistic boredom.
“Because really everything’s geared for us to buy the next product, to buy the next thing, to want and to need to buy that and that keeps our eyes down to the pavement. That doesn’t leave us too much time to ponder and think. That’s the same with most music and art and film these days, they don’t leave us thinking. Thinking isn’t a dirty word. That’s what it’s about for me. Music’s gotta work on all the levels, it’s got to have depth. It’s got to be there for the thinkers, gotta be there for the dreamers, gotta be there for the guy doing the shit job.
“That’s so much a part of soul music, music that I enjoy that does that. Something about Al Green. Al Green can make a piece of music and sing a song so beautifully well, but not only does it make you respond in a positive way, but beyond that, it makes you look at the shit and the terror and it’s a soundtrack to help you through that. I’ve been thinking, I’ve got a cure for tinnitus, that can be a cure for some people. Playing sad, melancholy music can help for sad, melancholy music. So does celebration and so does beauty in music can also be part of the soundtrack to life, and it has been in my life. I haven’t just sat around listening to Big Star’s most depressing track all my life or the Stooges all my life.
“I’ve always realized that it’s a selfish act. Just to hear it back through those speakers, to hear those changes fully formed and the dynamics happening and bringing it up and down and putting chaos and adding a bit more chaos until it creates something else. Things you do off the top of your head when you’re in there by yourself. Then once it’s gone and it’s finished and it’s over, it’s not mine any more. It’s for the guy cleaning the toilet listening to his transistor radio, that melody and that sentiment and that emotion means as much to him as it does to the kid in the record store trolling through old vinyl.
“There’s so much music that I enjoy, so much out there that not necessarily makes me feel good, but makes me feel. There’s something beautiful about making beautiful music.”