An extract from Tom Hodgkinson‘s interview with Jarvis Cocker in Idler 85, out now
“Jarvis’s book has a lovely tone. It’s sardonic, self-effacing, warm, chatty, direct. He credits his editor for helping him to get the tone right…
“Part of the editing process was to read it out loud,” he says. “It was during Covid so we were doing it by Zoom. [I would] read a page to my editor, Ana Fletcher. That really helped because if my sentence construction was a bit off, it was obvious. So it helped to get it to flow. Originally the loft stuff was going to be a small part of it, but Ana said that’s the most interesting part, and I should make it all about that. I thought about it and realised she was right.”
He’s also got a nice way of directly addressing the reader, so you feel part of his life.
“I think that comes from doing the radio stuff. I do that quite a bit in [Radio 4 series] Wireless Nights. I say things like, ‘Let’s walk down here.’ I quite like that – it makes it feel like you’re in it together.”
We talk about one of Jarvis’s hobbyhorses, which is creativity. He believes that everyone is an artist.
“I do think everybody’s got creative ability within them. It’s whether you choose to try to develop it or not. You can make something from anything, as you can see from looking at this stuff.”
I comment that the book is inspiring. Jarvis makes art look possible, achievable.
“It’s not a self-help book but if it had that effect I’d be pretty pleased. I believe that everybody’s got the ability to do it. At the end of our performance at Glastonbury, I did a speech saying, ‘If a lanky git from Sheffield like me can get here, that means anybody could.’ It’s true. To me, that’s the magic of the idea of pop. That’s what makes good pop. Good pop is inclusive. Everybody can join in. If they want to. Sometimes it might pay off, and you would become a pop star. And that’s exciting.
“I used to do a talk where we’d look at slides of traffic cones. Obviously a traffic cone is a thing for controlling traffic. But also, students might put them in their bedroom. Kraftwerk used to have traffic cones on the front of their early records. If you’re a Krautrock fan, you might see a traffic cone and immediately think of Kraftwerk. Whereas someone else might think of when they were at university. You build up a web of references. You re-create the world depending on that latticework you’ve made for yourself. Does that make sense? And I think everybody is being an artist all the time. You might sometimes have a false assumption of a situation or of a person, based on the fact that you don’t like their trousers. You’re making those decisions all the time, often without even realising.”
One of the many charming elements of the book is Jarvis as slowcoach. It’s a theme in his life. There’s an amazing picture of young Pulp where Jarvis cradles a model tortoise.
“I wish I could be more productive,” he says. “But that’s one of the weird things in the book. I found this photograph where I’m holding a tortoise, as if it’s a premonition of what life has in store for me.”
He says he’s come to terms with his low rate of productivity.
“There’s no wrong or right way to do anything. I just have to accept that that’s the way that works for me. Stuff has to be in there for a while and ferment. And then it turns into something.”
The above is an extract from the new edition of the Idler (No85 July/August). Don’t forget, you can now buy the Idler in your local bookshop. We’re also available in larger branches of WHSmiths, Waitrose and Booths.
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