Skip to main content

Paul Weller Discusses "Wake Up The Nation!"

“I’m schooled in the test of time” –  Moonshine

“I wasn’t even thinking about doing another record” says Paul Weller of the inspiration behind his brand new album Wake Up the Nation. “After 22 Dreams I didn’t have any songs to speak of apart from the odd title or couplet. So the whole process was really different. It was almost like starting from scratch.”  After an unparalleled career, characterised by constant musical experimentation, we should be used to Paul Weller’s relentless desire to chop and change his musical pack. But after the triumphant, Brit-bagging success of  22 Dreams (his third solo number one) his tenth solo album sees rock’s most iconic songwriter come up trumps once more.

Lean, mean and as uncompromisingly focused as it’s maker, Wake Up The Nation also brings Paul Weller full circle: twenty-eight years on from The Jam’s split, two tracks feature the band’s bassist Bruce Foxton. “It’s been a long time, obviously, but we both really enjoyed it “ says Paul of this unlikely reunion. “Bruce has still got his own style and sound, which really worked for the track we’d planned to do, ‘Fast Car Slow Traffic’. Then we got him to play on ‘She Speaks’, which might not necessarily be his kind of thing, but he put his own stamp on that, too.”

Sessions for what would become Wake Up the Nation began last January with 22 Dreams collaborator Simon Dine. Working at Weller’s de facto HQ, Black Barn Studios in Surrey, the duo, plus long term in-house engineer Charles Rees, set about creating a record inspired by Dine’s musical vision.
“Simon had a clear idea about how the record should sound” explains Paul. “He wanted to make it very urban and tough, quite metallic sounding. In quite a few cases I would improvise the vocals and see what happened. It was a completely different way of working.”

To reflect the urgency and claustrophobia of city life, strict rules were laid down. Out went acoustic instrumentation and any folky or pastoral inflections. In came jagged rock grooves, Bowie-esque riffs (think Low or Diamond Dogs), and a genre-shredding spirit spawned from the sessions for 22 Dreams.
“We’d get people in to play on individual tracks as we needed them” explains Paul.“Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) plays on one track. Clem Cattini (legendary session drummer) and Bev Bevan (The Move/ELO) play on a couple of tunes. Little Barrie plays guitar on a couple. Andy Crofts (keyboardist in Weller’s touring band) played guitar, bass, keyboards and some stylophone. It was just a question of mixing it all up, and seeing what worked.”

The result is a fourteen track blast of tungsten-tough rock’n’roll, already described by one insider as ‘Stockhausen meets The Small Faces’. If there are mellow moments -notably rare groove shuffle ‘Aim High’ - the abrasive feel of ‘Grasp And Still Connect’ and limited edition single ‘7 & 3 Is The Strikers Name’ are as musically challenging as any record you’ll hear this year. But then what else would you expect from a songwriter whose influences range from Alice Coltrane to Vaughan Williams, and whose current listening includes Broadcast’s Witch Cults Of The Radio Age and folk outfit Erland And The Carnival?

Lyrically, it marks a departure too. If 22 Dreams was a sprawling reverie, Wake Up The Nation  is the sound of Weller wide awake, ready to take the world on again. Fans of Weller the polemicist (think ‘Money Go Round’; ‘Soul Deep’) will be thrilled to hear it’s his angriest sounding record in years.
“The title track is a bit of a clarion call for our nation” explains Paul.
“It’s saying we should rise up against this sea of mediocrity, and get some greatness back into this country. The media, tv, music, politics, they’ve all become bland. It’s not that people have become apathetic, they feel disenfranchised. There’s no real democracy any more. Before the Iraq War there were a million  people who marched against it and it didn’t make a scrap of difference.”

“Musically, it’s an obvious target, but shows like X Factor also set a very low standard for people to look up to. I know I’ll sound old fashioned, but I had people like The Beatles and the Kinks to look up to. That’s why the Rage Against The Machine thing was so good. I’d like to see a huge backlash against celebrity culture.”

Amidst the lyrical fire, there’s also consummate skill. ‘No Tears To Cry’ is a sublime Walker Brothers influenced ballad, while ‘Trees’ is a five-part musical montage about the passage of life which pinballs from ragtime to polka to punk to psych-pop to gospel in just over four mind-blowing minutes.

“That was inspired by going to see my dad in a nursing home just before he died” explains Paul.

“I was trying to imagine what those people’s lives were like. Some of the old girls would once have been beautiful young women, and now they were just waiting to be replaced back into the earth or the atmosphere, or whatever it is that happens to us.”  

Passion, progression, and, as ever, spine-tingling rock’n’roll –Paul Weller has, yet again, delivered the perfect soundtrack as we embark on a new decade.
“I can’t wait to get out there and play it to people” enthuses Paul.

This is one wake up call you don’t want to miss.
Paul Moody

From The Jam Unseen

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Paul Weller's Son, Natt Gives A Candid Taxi Interview

Where else to meet the musician son of the agelessly groovy Modfather but at London’s trendy Met Bar? And there’s more than a hint of moody Mod style about the Japanese parka that Paul Weller’s eldest child Natt has slung over his Vivienne Westwood top.

Yet there all similarity ends, for singer-guitarist Natt has inherited the exotic beauty of his mother – former Wham! and Style Council backing singer Dee C Lee – rather than the famously angular features of his father.

‘Everybody always goes, “Luckily he took after his mum…”’ laughs Natt, whose mother is from France and St Lucia and whose great-great grandma was Japanese. Hence Natt’s fascination for Japan, where he moved in 2006 for a year to learn the language.

To pay for his studies, he modelled and deejayed, ‘I felt like an outsized monster,’ confides Natt, 21, a 6ft 1in beanpole. He returned a fan of Japan’s popular culture – from manga cartoons to punk-goth music – and with a different spelling to his name, which now features two ‘…

John Weller Obituary From The Independent...

For thirty years, John Weller managed the career of his son Paul, through the salad days and success of The Jam in the Seventies and early Eighties, the ups and downs of The Style Council and Paul’s re-emergence as a solo artist in the Nineties. Theirs was a unique father-son relationship in the music industry, built on John’s unwavering belief in Paul’s talent and shared values like hard work and pragmatism.

John could be blunt, and once refused to have lunch in a record company’s executive dining room, remarking to the managing director: “I didn’t come here to eat, I came to do business.” But his bark was worse than his bite.

John’s success was all the more remarkable since he started in his forties after years working in factories, on building sites and driving a taxi. When The Jam signed to Polydor in February 1977, for a £6,000 advance and a six per cent royalty rate, John admitted he didn’t have a bank account and asked for cash instead of a cheque. A&R man Chris Parry duly we…

Paul Weller Feature From The Daily Mail!

There's life in the old mod yet: At 50 Paul Weller's still chasing his dreams...
By Adrian ThrillsThe Daily Mail
Paul Weller has always been a restless soul. When he disbanded The Jam in 1982, even his dad thought he'd taken leave of his senses. And while most of his original peers now make a living by trading on past glories, he is generally reluctant to play old hits. Even when he was garlanded with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Brits in 2006, he cut an incongruous figure. As pop's bright young things swanned around with their entourages, he could be found strolling about backstage with his children, itching to get on stage before heading home.

If anything, that Brit Award seems to have spurred him to strive even harder, and he marked his recent 50th birthday by topping the charts with 22 Dreams, the most diverse album of his career. 'I didn't want to become one of those people whose best work is behind them once they get to a certain age,' he says o…