Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Exclusive Post Reunion Pulp Interview

November 15th
Showroom Cafe

Thanks to the ineptitude of Northern Rail, I arrive at the Showroom Cafe in Sheffield an agonising 15 minutes late. It’s been a 2 and a half hour journey from my house in Wakefield and all had run smoothly, until I got about 500 yards from the station at which point the train decided to stop, and refused to move for a good half hour. As if I wasn’t nervous enough; this meeting had taken over a year to set up and the interviewee was (allegedly) notoriously media unfriendly. Would he even bother waiting for me to turn up?

Cut. Almost a year to the day previously I had returned from holiday in Japan to the news that Pulp had reformed. I was thrilled; perhaps slightly more than most, as prior to my embarkation I had arranged an interview with guitar / violin player Russell Senior. Before the announcement, no one was really that interested in Pulp anymore – despite how most periodicals tried to rewrite the fact after the event. They were well regarded, of course, the general view being that history now declares them as one of the only credible bands to emerge from / survive Britpop. But the mountains of work they compiled either side of that momentous non event? Barely a blip.

And not even the fans expected it. I certainly didn’t when I devised a run of articles for Rhubarb Bomb which would focus on their 1994 release ‘The Sisters EP’, a personal favourite of mine. I was only 17 when they released their final album, ‘We Love Life’, yet I spent most of my university years hunting down their more obscure releases, with especial fondness for ‘His n Hers’ era electro pop gems and those disintegrating descents into ‘This Is Hardcore’ despair.

‘The Sisters EP’, released between His N Hers and Different Class was, for me, a perfect moment in their history. It was everything I wanted it to be. It mixed the dark, desperate vicious nature of ‘Razzmatazz’ with the stretched, slightly sinister pop structures they had found success with on His N Hers. It was the Jarvis of ‘Deep Fried In Kelvin’ and ‘Inside Susan’ honed down to a white hot razor of indignation and exasperation. The music was heavy, emotionally heavy. Most of their work had light and dark, moments of wit and sarcasm amongst the dissections of ‘ordinary people’s lives’, yet ‘The Sisters EP’ was what I wanted; for them to push that darker side even further with no submissions, no backing out, no joke at the end to lighten the mood. That it was wrapped in a perfect pop package made it all the better. Genius.

And so the plan was to try and meet each member who played on the EP (Jarvis Cocker, Candida Doyle, Steve Mackay, Nick Banks & Russell Senior) in turn and try and find out what made that particular record so special. That the record is rarely mentioned in interviews or critical appraisals made it all the more exciting to me and I thought it might be something they would go for; no questions about Common People or Brit Award ceremonies. Something only a ZINE would cover.

Naturally, the dramatic cycle of the articles would mean Jarvis would have to be last. But who would I try speak to first? I chose Russell. He left Pulp after Different Class and is regarded as the more… militant member of the band. Full of ideology with a thirst for experimentation. As my good friend Rob Dee said as we watched them at Hyde Park this summer ‘You’ve got to have a cool fucker on guitar haven’t you?’ So that was Russell; ‘the cool fucker’. He was also furthest from the band and I thought I would have the best chance of hooking up with him.

So in September 2010 I got in touch. To my great surprise he was more than happy for a meet up. Initially we couldn’t find the right time; trips away, bouts of flu getting in the way. Then, towards the end of October it looked like we had it. But then I received an intriguing email.

He told me that if I needed to get the interview done ‘soonish’ it would have to be via email. However, if I could wait a couple of weeks we could hook up in Sheffield and speak in person. Tantalisingly, I was told it’d be ‘worth the wait’.

So naturally I waited and flew off to Japan. Upon hearing the reformation news I was excited, yes, that one of my favourite bands was back together. I was surprised too that Russell was part of it. But I couldn’t help it – inevitably it crossed my mind; did I have some kind of massive scoop here? Would I have the first interview with a member of the reformed Pulp? Or did this mean the interview was off? I was a heavy mix of emotion, but it’s those kinds of moments the zine writer lives for, I reckon.

Cut back to November 2011. It may have taken me 2 and a half hours to get here today, but this interview's been nearly a year in the making. As it turned out, Pulp as a whole decided there would be no interviews at all. Russell had hoped they would speak exclusively to small fanzines akin to Rhubarb Bomb. But the band vetoed the idea. They wanted to maintain an air of mystery. If you wanted to experience it, you’d have to come to the shows. Russell was apologetic when breaking the news, but did promise when it had all blown over, he would still meet with me. So after a year, surely another 15 minutes wouldn’t make any difference?

I fall through the front door of ‘The Showroom’ and glance around. I see a few tables taken but don’t spot Russell. I begin walking up to the counter when I get a wave from the back of the room. He’s there waiting patiently as I walk over. ‘I’d recognise a fanzine writer anywhere’ he says and I sit down, shaking and slightly out breath. But I’d made it.

Dean Freeman

The full interview between Russell and Rhubarb Bomb will appear in Issue 3.1, due to be released at the end of February. Follow RB on Twitter / Facebook for updates, if you are that way inclined.

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