HEIDI LEIGH AXTON chats with ‘80s rocker LLOYD COLE about the circumstances that led to his newfound passion for live performing.

Looking at early videos of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, you’re immediately transported back to the ‘80s: The moves, the fashions, the “Crowded House” hair-dos. Though the band had a certain catchy appeal, they only enjoyed limited success, never really finding that elusive number 1.

Considering the pressure he must have been under at that time, how did the newly married Cole stop this affecting his family life? “I’m not sure I did,” laughs Cole. “It was not a productive or helpful work environment, and that would have filtered through to my home life, I’m sure. It’s very difficult for me to say how it could have been different, because I’ve only lived one life.”

His relationship with the major labels ending in 1997, Cole teamed up with Ron Sexsmith to form The Negatives, and after years of concentrating only on recording, he slowly became acquainted with live performing. Was this a culture shock? “In the early days of making music, for me, performing was not something I was excited by,” he admits. “I was interested in the idea of making records. I was interested in the kind of ludicrous idea of making a record that was timeless and you were there forever … I now much prefer the idea of making a living from selling something people get. You know? They pay money to see a concert and if it’s a good concert they come again, as apposed to taking an advance from a record company … And I don’t necessarily have to do anything for it. I just sit around and I’m supposed to be creative later. I prefer the idea of getting paid for delivering something, rather than taking an advance on something.”

How did the crossover to folk evolve? “Well, I call it folk singing, but it’s just the same music that I’ve been doing all along, only quieter and just me on the guitar. The initial circumstances were imminent poverty back in 1994. I had never, prior to that, ever done a concert, with a mind that I might actually make money from doing the concert. In 1994 things were pretty desperate. I called my agency and let it be known I might need to work. I enjoyed doing them, and kicked the songs into shape by playing them acoustically. Since then, I’ve done that with all the records I’ve made. I take songs out whenever I can acoustically and if they’re working acoustically in the live show, then they’ve got a good chance of recording well.”

In 2009, Cole released a boxed set of 59 songs spanning his career titled Cleaning Out The Ashtrays. The critical praise it received must have made it worthwhile. “I was a bit surprised it was as well received as it was,” says Cole, “But Anti-Depressant was well received. Music In A Foreign Language was well received. Maybe they didn’t get as much space in the magazines as the boxed set did though; it was a nice surprise.”

An Evening With LLOYD COLE takes place at The Brisbane Powerhouse on Saturday Nov 7. CLEANING OUT THE ASHTRAYS is available through Tapete Records. www.lloydcole.com

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Publication: Rave Magazine

Publication date: 27/10/09