Music interview: Lloyd Cole

Lloyd Cole. Picture: Julien Bourgeois
Lloyd Cole. Picture: Julien Bourgeois
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Springing to fame in the mid-1980s with his band The Commotions, Lloyd Cole quickly won a reputation as one of his era’s outstanding songwriters.

Following a string of hits including Perfect Skin, Forest Fire, Lost Weekend and Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?, the group split up in 1989 and Cole left Britain for the USA, where he has made more than a dozen solo albums over the last 25 years.

On his forthcoming tour he’ll be taking a rare delve into his earliest work – a decision, he says, prompted by the success of last year’s box set Lloyd Cole and the Commotions Collected Recordings 1983-1989 which received “universal warmth and acclaim, and sold out far more quickly than UMG anticipated”.

A second box “is in the works” for September release, which will will span 1989–1996, Cole’s first four solo albums, the lost fifth album, plus rarities and videos.

“These boxes are a lot of work, much of which can only be done by me,” says the 55-year-old singer-songwriter. “I must revisit and rediscover material. I am necessarily in retrospective mode. I have decided to embrace it.

“In 2016 all of my set lists will be comprise material from 1983–1996 only. Most of my concerts will be acoustic affairs but there will be some band performances. The Leopards are reconvening to join me at Rewind in August, with more shows are being discussed.

Lloyd Cole. Picture: Jayjay Robertson

Lloyd Cole. Picture: Jayjay Robertson

“Once the world has seen the Retrospective Show I will resume my work as a contemporary artist.”

Back in the 80s Cole was at the forefront of introducing a more literary sensibility to British guitar pop in the 1980s. But he refutes the idea that he and The Commotions were swimming against the tide.

“No, we loved Soft Cell and ABC, we just somehow or other became a guitar band. Probably because Neil [Clark] had such a great style.”

When to came to dealing with the trappings of success, Cole says: “We were very lucky to have a great lawyer so all that stuff was better than for most.

“The Smash Hits stuff was great fun. I complained about having no privacy but I was a stupid 23-year-old. I wanted to be famous, and that goes with the territory. I’m sure I knew that in the back of my mind.”

Upon its release in 1984, Rattlesnakes rapidly attained the status of a classic debut album. Cole remembers the band were confident that that they had a strong batch of songs before they entered the studio with Paul Hardiman to record it. “But maybe not that confident,” he says.

The sessions for its successor, Easy Pieces, were more difficult, with Hardiman being sacked by their record label and Madness producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley drafted in to replace him. In retrospect Cole says he wishes they had stood your ground more and not been rushed into it by Polydor but adds wryly: “We got very handsomely rewarded for making the Christmas 1995 release.”

The Commotions’s final album, Mainstream, might have contained some of their best songs but by the time of its release in 1987 the seeds of the band’s destruction had been sown. Cole admits he was conscious at the time that the group had run its course, explaining: “It took all the energy we had left to make it. I think once it was finished I wasn’t the only one who had run out of whatever it was that we needed to have to remain a band.”

When it comes to which of his solo albums do you feel proudest of, he says: “I’m not proud of my work. I don’t like that idea.

“The albums I’m fondest of are all the ones which were either starting out or starting over, Rattlesnakes, the first solo album, Music in a Foreign Language [from 2003] and Standards [from 2013].”

Lloyd Cole and The Leopards play at Holmfirth Picturedrome on August 18 and at Leeds City Varieties on October 9. For details visit http://www.picturedrome.net/tickets/Lloyd%20Cole/20160818.htm or https://www.cityvarieties.co.uk/Online/default.asp

For more on Lloyd Cole visit http://www.lloydcole.com/

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