Saturday, October 8, 2011

What's On - Interview with Richard Ashcroft

Performing a special live acoustic set for Sandance, Richard Ashcroft’s first appearance in Dubai is something of a calming lull before the party starts in earnest. We grilled the former The Verve frontman on reunions, his friendship with Liam and Noel Gallagher, and his gangster alter ego…

Have you played an acoustic set at a dance festival before?

Not really. But in England, early raves were very eclectic. They weren’t necessarily all night dance events. People would throw on different things. I had a brief spell clubbing when I was younger. You’d dance to a certain beat for six hours then at the end all you really wanted [to listen to] was Bob Dylan or The Beatles. So long as you’re on at the right time and you’ve got the songs, it’s not a problem.

Will you be dusting off The Verve’s classic back catalogue?

I’ll be playing some of the best songs I’ve written – in my mind – over the last 20 years. I’m not sure if I’ll play The Drugs Don’t Work because, well… but probably Lucky Man, Sonnet, A Song For The Lovers, Break The Night With Colour. I’m not one of these guys who deny the audience the right to hear his best tunes.

Are you looking forward to any other acts at Sandance?

Example is doing very well. In England, success comes with a heavy price, and I’ve got a lot of time for anyone who breaks through and does something half interesting, especially in the pop world. It’s a tough game. And you’ve got to respect people who have been around a while, like Chicane. When I was younger, I probably threw out a few bad comments about people, but with time you learn to respect your peers. You realize how hard it is.

How familiar are you with Dubai?

This is my first visit, amazingly. I’m looking forward to checking it out. It looks psychedelic. Everyone has preconceived ideas of places. I try and keep an open mind, but I can imagine a lot of marble and air conditioning, some nice beaches with great water parks, and streets where keeping up with the Joneses means have you got the [Rolls-Royce] Phantom coupĂ© or the drop top or only the four-door hard top. I’m sure there’s a bit of that goingbon. But if you see the photographs of Dubai merely 25 or 30 years ago it’s astonishing. It was like a little fishing village that’s mushroomed into something entirely different. It’s incredible. I’d be interested in what’s going to be created in Dubai over the next ten or 20 years. What’s going to be the sound of Dubai, in a place that’s relatively young but ancient at the same time?

Your old friend Liam Gallagher’s new band, Beady Eye, played the UAE recently. Will you ask his advice about the country?

[Laughs] I see him now and again. Whenever people are gunning for me, Liam turns up out the blue or he’ll give a call. And Noel [Gallagher] was very good to The Verve at the beginning. So my respect goes a long way, but I won’t be asking any advice because I don’t need anybody’s anymore. I tend to just do it and see how it goes.

You claim to have a slightly gangster alter ego, named after The Godfather character Michael Corleone. At what point does he come out to play?

Michael is something we were laughing about in the studio making my last album in New York. It’s a character we can all relate to. His whole life is spent walking between his very dark side and wanting to morally put himself back together again. Michael, my alter ego, can turn up. I’m not someone who turns into Michael at any given moment. [Laughs] Michael just makes sure other people don’t take the ****.

What are the chances of The Verve reforming again in the foreseeable future?

I really have no idea. You learn that sometimes things come to an end for a reason – very real reasons – and time doesn’t always heal. It’s highly unlikely we’ll ever make music together again. Life’s too short. No matter how much money’s on the table, it really isn’t worth it. I started losing belief in the concept of the band very early in life because it’s unreasonable to ask grown adults to live and breathe the same air in the same space for so long. We watch people crack up on Big Brother within five or six days. With the band, you’re talking ten years. It’s like Spinal Tap. I loved Spinal Tap as a kid, but it’s also a blueprint for all the things that you don’t want to get
involved with.

Is there another solo Richard Ashcroft album on the way?

I’m in the process of trying to write a set of songs to compete with the best I’ve written. For the last few albums I’ve been on a bit of a voyage, trying to discover different ways of recording, different styles. There’s a certain time when I think people recognized me as a great songwriter. If I’ve got any clarity about what I’m doing next it’s about reclaiming that, if I ever had it. So that’s what I’m heading for: that definitive album. I was 40 the other day, which suggests I’m in a different phase of my life. I think it’s time to relate to my people, the people who have grown up with me.