Lloyd Cole, who has long since been without The Commotions, is back making a racket. He tells TONY CLAYTON-LEA about turning 50, holes-in-one and not being Nick Cave

The new album is a band effort. Were you tiring of the solitariness of being a singer-songwriter? Not necessarily, but as soon as we started into rehearsals and recording it in the old-school fashion, it dawned on me that I really didn’t want to go back to the small room on my own again. Even if I wanted to make a record that might sound small and intimate, I don’t want to do it that way again. It’s too lonely an experience, and it takes too long. I think that solitude is necessary to compose songs, but bringing in musicians to get them to add counter melodies and harmonies that I wouldn’t ordinarily think of – and still be able to basically be in charge – is a no-lose situation.

You’ve lived on the east coast of the US for a long time now, haven’t you? I live about three hours’ drive from New York, and I’ve been there for about 11 years. I was 11 years living in New York, too. Is it home? Well, it’s where my family is, but I’m not naturalised and I don’t intend to be. I just can’t imagine raising my hand and making a pledge of allegiance. But I’m content there, albeit I’m there out of inertia more than anything else.

Does the landscape impact on your songwriting? The fact that I’m in a small town somewhat does. I don’t think of myself as a city person any more, and I never thought I would ever say that. I’m comfortable playing cities, but if my wife and I could live wherever we wanted to I don’t think it would be a city.

You have described yourself as a “would-be folk singer”. Explain. I was referring to the period where I wanted to stop being a rock’n’roll singer. When it’s just me and a guitar, I’m hardly rock’n’roll – it’s closer to a folk singer. But, then, when you bring down so many songs – pretty much any song – to the basics of voice and guitar, they’re just folk songs, and I’m glad about that. One of the good things that is wonderful about being this folk singer-type character of the last few years is that I’m able to discover that a lot of the songs I thought wouldn’t be able to survive without a band set-up actually survived very well.

You are 50 in January – is it going to be a turning point in your life or will it be business as usual? I intend to have a nice party. Fifty-five is actually more important, as my eligibility for the Senior Amateur Golf tournaments in America doesn’t start until I get to that age. One of my ambitions is that, when I’m 55, I’d like to compete with the other 55-year-olds on a State level. I won’t win, I’ll never be that good a golfer, but to be able to play in the tournaments would be great.

Making the new album, you have said, was rewarding, stressful, enjoyable and perplexing. Just like life, yes? Having to be the budget manager as well as the singer wasn’t the greatest thing in the world, but I’ve done it before. The balance of art and commerce? You don’t think about the commerce side of things until you finish your record, and when you finish the record you try to sell the hell out of it. You make art as art and then you apply commerce to it later. I don’t have any problem with that.

How do you view your 1980s pop-star days? Well, they most definitely happened to me, and every now and again – although it’s a different world – I feel I should still be getting that type of attention. Okay, I’m being slightly facetious, but there are times in my life where I think, you know, that I should be able to charge the same ticket price that Nick Cave charges, but I can’t. It makes my life a bit more difficult than it otherwise would be, but next to 99 per cent of the world I’m doing great.

Long may it continue, Lloyd. Well, I’ve got nothing better to do, and, you know, there’ll always be the golf.

* Lloyd Cole Small Ensemble plays The Model Arts Centre, Sligo, October 23 (as part of Sligo Live Sessions), and Whelan’s, Dublin, October 24. His latest album, Broken Record , is out on Tapete Record

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Publication: Irish Times

Publication date: 15/10/10