Eamon Sweeney meets Lloyd Cole to talk about his forthcoming Dublin gigs, the changing face of music, and why he doesn’t want to write songs for a while.

Lloyd Cole is shaping up for a fresh challenge. He is at pains to affirm that his current compilation release, The Collection, is by no means his swansong. He’s back in town for two dates in HQ (16th/17th May), and it won’t be a cheesy greatest hits extravaganza either.

“It’s not The Collection show or a greatest hits show or anything like that,” Cole explains. “We’re playing a bunch of old songs which seem appropriate for my new band The Negatives. The sound reverts to what I know and love best, guitars and keyboards, but I think it sounds very fresh and contemporary. I think the pure guitar sound was done to death with grunge, and I don’t think that sound has any meaning anymore. Our guitars are very clean. If we want distortion, we just use fuzz boxes. It’s an aesthetic statement that it is all or nothing with this band. We’re either very loud or very quiet.

“I thought Nirvana were fantastic, but what came as a consequence had no more meaning than the Mersey beat groups” he elaborates. “I see young groups these days like Rage Against The Machine – I know they are trying to sound angry but they don’t sound angry to me at all, they just sound generic. I love Massive Attack and I think where they are coming from sounds very natural, but for me to make a record like that wouldn’t work. If someone is trying to sound aggressive, then ‘Come To Daddy’ by the Aphex Twin is a lot more aggressive than Rage Against The Machine.”
Would Lloyd be tempted to dabble in electronica?

“I’ve actually made an electronic record but there is no singing on it. It might see the light of day sometime in the next year or so. I felt that when I tried to weld my interest in electronics into my songwriting it became very nebulous very neither this nor that. I’m more interested in taking something the whole way so right now I’m interested in taking this group the whole way with guitars. There is very limited use of technology, but Music For Films is one of my favourite records, and Kraftwerk’s Computer World is possibly the best album ever made.”

Cole’s career has spanned over 15 years, split between The Commotions and his solo work. Now with Cole becoming a father, having just had a baby boy, why does hitting the road still appeal to him?

“You know what it is? I honestly really enjoy it. I’ve had a chance to do the new show for the American public and I haven’t had a chance to show it to the European public yet. It’s almost back to what it was like when we did Rattlesnakes, because when we got the songs for Rattlesnakes we went out and did some dates and said, ‘look at us’. Fortunately at this stage, I’ve got enough people who are interested in coming anyway. If I was 22-years-old now, and I wanted to form a three-piece guitar group, I don’t think I’d bother. I think that with the way the industry works today we wouldn’t get a place. We might get one single and if it wasn’t a hit, we’d be dropped, which is not what it was like in 1984.”

So how much has changed in Cole’s approach to music since then?

“I’m not so worried whether people think I’m smart or not. I don’t have a method for writing. If I write that’s fine, if I don’t write, that’s fine also. If I did have a method for writing these days, it is that I try writing nothing at all. If anything comes to me, it must be for some reason. I don’t sit down at the piano and think I better write a song today. I’m certainly not interested in churning them out. I’m not going to sit down and write a bunch of b-sides just for the sake of writing b-sides. I’d probably do as The Commotions used to do, do a mini-live album and put them all out as b-sides. I’m actually quite looking forward to drying up. I think it would be quite nice to not write songs for a while.

“As far as I’m concerned we have an album and we have a set. We’re going to travel around the world for the next few months and play it. Hopefully people will like it too. Dublin is always good. We played acoustic shows at Vicar Street when it opened. It seems whenever they open up a new club in Dublin, they call up my agent and ask: ‘Can Lloyd come over?'”

Publication: Hot Press

Publication date: 26/05/99