Seven years after the appearance of “Jordan: the Comeback,” the British band Prefab Sprout has deigned to descend back down into the world of ordinary mortals. With “Andromeda Heights” (Sony), the captain – in all senses of the word – Paddy McAloon has decided to break a long period of silence, interrupted only by an anthology (“A Life of Surprises”) and collaborations with such diverse characters as Jimmy Nail, Cher and Kylie Minogue.
But don’t shout from the rooftops just yet, because the Newcastle group hasn’t the least intention of playing the beautiful music contained in the new work in concert. Meanwhile, McAloon is out selling the images and ideas to the world’s press.
– It’s not a very original question, but seven years out of the limelight is a lot for a group, no?
The truth is that in 1993 I had a record practically finished and ready to hit the market. But one of the songs was heard by some people from Sony, my record company, and they suggested to me I write a longer piece different from the one that was already finished. This was the suggestion that led to what we have today in the form of a new album.
– But that still leaves a lot of time…
So it might seem, but I’ve also been working on collaborations, not least because I have to earn a living.
– You give the impression you’re someone who is disillusioned with the music business…
It’s a complex subject. There are a number of facets of the music business that give me enormous pleasure, even if they’re sometimes painful. Like composition, arranging and working in the recording studio. Also learning new technologies. All of this takes a lot of time if you want to do it well…
– You show a worrying level of perfectionism…
Artistic perfection can never be worrying. But perfection doesn’t exist. What I’ve always tried to do is to create a collection of timeless work. I do understand, I’m not a fool. I mean by that I want to record albums of which the compositional effect is as valid in ten or twenty years as it is now.
– So a record as splendid as “Steve McQueen” recorded twelve years ago meets this requirement?
I think for the most part, yes. It is a work of very thoughtful pop, rhythmically different from what we do now, but with a freshness, a work where the harmonic and vocal treatment remain fully relevant today.
– You were saying…
Yes, you call this the music business and it is that, a business, but it doesn’t need to be slavery, we can avoid that if we don’t play live. But I’m also conscious that to make records I like, I have to make concessions. I might write for others, do a certain kind of work to gain time, to make money to get the independence I need to make what really interests me. But this is nothing new in the world we’re talking about; the other day I read in a magazine Coppola excused his last two films as being necessary to make his next one.
– While you’ve been away from the stage, the reunion of Steely Dan must have been more significant to you than the emergence of Britpop?
Steely Dan’s importance comes from the records they recorded throughout their history. Last year’s reunion was basically to do a tour of the US. We have their work, which is splendid.
And you’re not interested by Donald Fagen’s solo career?
– And I guess the current British pop doesn’t make you particularly happy?
No, because it brings nothing particularly new or memorable as far as I can see. Mind you, if I had a fifteen year old son or daughter I’d have no choice but to listen to Oasis or Blur every day at home and I’d end up humming a song or two. But that’s not the case, and I prefer buying more traditional things, good voices and so on.