Readers of this blog are familiar with Lloyd Cole. The English singer-songwriter had hits on the modern rock charts in the 80s, and inspired a whole new generation of musicians such as Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura, and Stars. He appears on the indie super-group Gramercy Arms’ recently released debut recording. Quietly living in Western Massachusetts, Cole continues to perform and record superb music. Cole was gracious enough to take time out to answer some questions I had for him about the usual stuffgood places to eat and what hes reading these days.
CT: Your lyrics have always been literate and character driven. Who do you read these days for pleasure? Out of necessity, or for comfort?
LC: I read all sorts of things. I have a monthly gig for ABC Radio in Australia called Lloyd’s Library where I talk about what I’ve read that month. Its great as I get paid (very little), and more importantly, it keeps me reading.
Recently Ive read Dickens Hard Times (how great is that book?), and A Tale of Two Citiesditto. I had never read Dickens before and I’m now a convert.
Various essays by Clive James: Equally enlightening, erudite and annoyingly self important,
Charles Portis The Dog of the South: I cannot recommend it highly enough. Great dialogue on par with Chandler but quirkier, he wrote True Grit as well and I’ll read that soon.
Harold Robbins! His biography which was a hoot and the first 200 pages of The Carpetbaggers : a sex scene every 17 pages! Actually it is quite well done for what it is, and his bio suggests that it was all down hill from then! Still, 200 pages are enough for you to get the picture (there’s internet porn these days if that’s what you’re after .)
I read quite a bit of golf writing, mainly focusing on architecture. Bernard Darwin (the grandson) is a big favorite to read.
CT: What’s the genesis of your writing for publications?
LC: I’d like to be a part-time musician when I’m 55. I can’t afford to just quit.
CT: You’re an avid golfer with a fairly decent ranking, is it true that you’re tied with Alice Cooper?
LC: I was. A knee injury hasn’t helped my game since that list came out.
CT: J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. is a golf nut. Has anyone suggested pairing you two up? I think he plays at Cherry Hill in Amherst.
LC: We finally met at a mutual friend’s birthday partyit isn’t going to happen.
CT: Youre a bit of a gourmand, any particular ethnic or regional flavors appeal to you most? Do you have any favorite spots in Western Mass that you would recommend?
LC: In Northampton, the best food is at Amanouz, the Moroccan place. Great Wall in Florence does good dim sum on Saturdays. Pintu’s in West Springfield is the closest we have to a good Indian.
(Note to Amanouzpay up!)
Life in Western MA
CT: You lived for a period of time in the Valley prior to residing in Easthampton, right?
LC: A few years in Northampton.
CT: What drew you to Western MA in the first place?
LC: Indecision. Fear of being too far from NYC, fear of being too close. We also had some friends near here. Wife wanted a climate with seasonsbe careful what you ask for, I say.
CT: What do you like the most and least about small town living?
LC: I like the people around here, mostly. I like my local bar, local golf clubs. I miss the really good food you get in the big cities, but I no longer miss the cities.
CT: What are your impressions of Easthampton?
LC: It’s on the up and up. I hope that is a good thing. It doesn’t rate itself like Northampton does and that is a good thing. The schools are really improving quickly and are not resting on their laurels. Downtown seems just a few years away from being really vibrant, but if our neighbor is anything to go by, I hope we don’t change too much.
CT: While Western MA is not exactly Mecca for musicians or performers, it has its fair share (Martin Sexton, Mark Mulcahy, Chris Collingwood, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, J. Mascis, Cyril Neville, and Robin Lane to name a few). Do you feel a sense of a musical community? Or is that a presumption of a wishful music fan? Or does it even matter to you?
LC: No, no. But I have met some musicians I like very much as peopleand that makes a change. I am a big Lonesome Brothers fan.
CT: Has your move to Western MA been helpful or a hindrance creatively and financially to your career?
LC: I have less overhead than I had in the citythat can’t hurt.
Life After the Music Biz
CT: How do you see yourself in relation to where you once where, say twenty years ago to now?
LC: I was never doing as well I as felt I was, or was told that I was. I never managed to create any financial stability. But I drew bigger crowds and people played my music and wrote about me more often, that’s for sure. MusicallyI don’t think I started to have a real clue as to what it is that I do until Love Story and by then, commercially, it was too late. I’m very pleased with most of the records I’ve made, the first one and the last two especially.
CT: If tomorrow you decided you were through with being a singer-songwriter, is there anything you could segue into?
Ranking your Output
CT: What are the elements for a perfect pop tune?
LC: Rhythm, melody and the words not getting in the way of those two. If the words can add something, then great.
CT: Which of your recordings are most important to you, and why?
LC: The first of each period. Rattlesnakes. Lloyd Cole. Music In A Foreign Language. Because I was at points when I wasn’t sure if I could do something, for the first time, or anymore. But I had an idea of something I thought would be cool and it came out pretty well all three times . . . I think.
CT: Are there any of your recordings that you just can’t listen to, and why?
LC: Minor Character. Bad words, or more to the pointword which get in the way of the song, awful singing, with pretty poor production to boot.
All the long play outs on MainstreamI’m not a soul singer and someone should have told me.
Fall Togetherself righteous, moi? I never thought I’d fall into that trap, but I sound awfully superior on much of Bad Vibes.
This is a shame because wrote the sequel to the bible/ bought the rights to the original sin ought to be in a good song.
CT: After the Commotions disbanded you moved to NYC and you played with some major talent. You swiped two-thirds of Lou Reed’s touring band and a member of the Golden Palominos before his solo career broke. Later on, you played with Jill Sobule and Dave Derby from the criminally under-rated Dambuilders. How did that trifecta of Robert Quine, Fred Maher and Matthew Sweet come about?
LC: I met Fred and they were his pals.
CT: If you could put together a dream band today, who would be the players?
LC: The Beatles would be fine.
CT: When I was teenager I dreamt up a super-group involving you, Lawrence from the Scottish band Felt, Pat Fish of the Jazz Butcher, and Paddy McAloon from Prefab Sprouthow wrong was I?
LC: There would have been fightsPaddy and I in the one corner, and the lightweights in the other. I must say, though, I heard a track by Denim about the 80s which I thought was great.
CT: You seem to tour Portugal and Spain quite a bit, and yet keep a low profile in the States. Is your fan base there (or Europe in general) more receptive to Lloyd Cole the solo singer-songwriter?
LC: The Commotions were huge in Portugal for a minute. I’m still treated nicely and as the euro trounces the dollar, it’s hard to turn down offers over there. Are they more receptive, though? The people who come to my showsno.
CT: What is your interest in fado music? I think I read somewhere that you were a fan of the genre.
LC: I’m not a connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t speak Portuguese beyond hello and beer, but it is a lovely genre and very strict in its arrangements, which I like. I prefer women singing itAmália Rodrigues (the most famous one) being mine and everyone else’s favorite.
Publication: Hot L Communique
Publication date: 08/10/08