Runshaw College alumni Lloyd Cole is still able to create a big commotion
It was during some background reading ahead of an interview with Buxton-born singer and songwriter Lloyd Cole I hit on an interesting topic via his Facebook page relating to his thoughts on streaming services and his distaste for iTunes.
Questions had been readied and geared towards his return to the UK from his adopted North American home later this month with his ‘Retrospective’ tour, a show based on his songbook collection from 1983 to 1996.
But with the vinyl resurgence continuing into 2018 , I was keen to hear more on Lloyd’s views and value for the physical product.
The days of the classic album for Lloyd and it seems his fans are certainly not a ‘lost cause.’
He says:“The value of the idea of the album has diminished these days. I love the idea of the single, when I was growing up there was the single and the album but with that you would at least listen to all one side in it’s order. It was quite rare to skip a track on record.
“But now the structures that we work within to listen to music are pushing us more to the idea of playlists and they don’t push the idea of the album, unless you listen to vinyl.
“Young people don’t even buy cds, so it’s download.
“It’s the environment in which music is consumed these days that pushes people in certain directions.
“It’s sad but I don’t think it’s a lost cause and I think there is definitely a good chance we will see the album become something that is valued by young people again.
“In terms of a career focus the landscape has changed so much that to actually get paid, making records isn’t actually the best way to do it and making music is what a musician’s hobby is these days; the job is going out and touring in order to feed the family.
“The way we think about music in many ways is frustrating given the landscape which has turned upside down but on the other hand there is something perhaps not so healthy about the regime I was part of for a while when I was a major label artist whereby basically we got paid before we got to work.
“You were paid an advance ahead of the record.
‘It was after a while I started thinking ‘what if I don’t want to make a record? What if I want to do something else? What if I don’t have a record in me at all this year?’
“I think I got lucky in that, that regime didn’t have the ability to undermine me making the records I wanted to make but unfortunately when I started to think about it – I would have preferred to make the record and get paid afterwards
“So there is definitely something about being on stage in front of a full room of people, performing and seeing them leave happy at the end of a night and you feel like you’ve earned your wage. It’s more credible, real, more honest.”
Lloyd opens his tour in Wrexham on February 20 before heading to the Lancaster Grand Theatre the day after.
It is his third stint back on home soil with the box set collection a make up of songs dating back from time with the Commotions to his solo days up to 1996.
He says he is relishing and grateful for the opportunity to return to the stage, though having just turned 57, it is now the physical element of the work he has more difficulty with.
“It occurs to me when I’m on stage – that is the most alive I am because I have to be completely on.
“I can’t be unfocused , every now and then I have a wobble ‘this isn’t the show I wanted it to be’ but it is the best feeling when it is working, you’re making the fans happy.
“Now I’m not young it is the physical energy – it takes out of you, often it is an early start travelling to a venue, I finish sound check and I now think I’ll get back to the hotel, have a power nap, before I’m up again for a shower and change, I need to be fresh.
“I will never ever understand how with other bands they will turn up to a show and perform in their day clothes, it just doesn’t work for me.
“It is theatre and you need to put your costume on, even if it is the same as your day one, it needs to be a different, clean one.
“I go through a routine, I have a shower put on clean clothes and look as decent as I possibly can, given what I have got to work with now.”
Part of Cole’s ‘younger days’ before putting together his band The Commotions whilst at university in Glasgow, were spent living in Lancashire, in Chorley.
A former student at Runshaw College, Lloyd recalls how he first came to play acoustic guitar thanks to the Sex Pistols and Trevor Morris.
“The first six string guitar I ever got was while I was at Runshaw. I’d got a bass when I had started out a punk rock band in fifth form, still in Derbyshire but then I found the acoustic guitar and it was Trevor Morris who taught me how to play it, listening to 1969: The Velvet Underground Live.
“At the time I lived in a two-up, two-down opposite a little record shop after my parents had moved.
“Me and Trevor Morris and Carl Bateson set-up a band, we were called ‘Vile Bodies’ but I don’t think we actually ever played out, maybe three or four engagements lined-up, where we were going to play at parties. I don’t think any came off.
“I don’t think I’d come across Evelyn Waugh or even knew who she was when Trevor came up with the name.
“The best memory I have is the day I met Trevor, it was the date ‘Never Mind the B******s” came out, we both played truant in the morning so we could get to the record shop and be the very first people to have the album and we both brought it into school with us.
“I just brought mine in whereas Trevor ripped the sleeve up like a rock star and then decided to tape it all back together again. We were these twits wandering around college saying ‘look how cool we are with our Sex Pistols records’.”
It was after a brief spell studying law at University College in London, Lloyd switched to the University of Glasgow, where he would meet the future members of The Commotions
The band signed with Polydor Records and went on to have four top twenty hits and enjoyed success with albums such as Rattlesnakes and Easy Pieces. Their final album Mainstream was released in 1987 and the band disbanded two years later.
Resident in the USA since 1989, Lloyd has since released 12 studio albums that run the gamut from electric rock ’n roll to intimate folk via experimental electronica.
“The only period in my career I regret was after I had left the Commotions – it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be in that band, at the time I didn’t want to be in any band.
“I went out on my first solo tour with a group of touring musicians, we never had that feeling we are something it was always me and a bunch of people and it was never what The Commotions.
“It took me a long time to figure that out I did form a band in New York just for fun. I’m a lot more comfortable on my own now - it’s nice to play with somebody else occasionally and my son Will joined me on the last tour.”
Lloyd is currently penning a few tracks for a new album, which he hopes to have complete for next year.
“I’ve definitely got unfinished business in that there is more music I need to make - I don’t see myself on the road indefinitely but it’s my job
“There are about a dozen places in the world I haven’t got to visit with my concerts.
“I haven’t yet been to Prague, St Petersburg or Buenos Aires.”
“I’m recording sort of right now, but I’m a bit rusty experimental with songs trying to work my way slowly through a few songs an album worth making.
“ I just don’t work anywhere near as quickly as I once did. I have to tread carefully I feel. I don’t want to mess up the body of work.”
Lloyd Cole, Grand Theatre – Lancaster, Wednesday, February 21. Tickets: £22.50