“An outlaw stands a peasant land in every face see Judas … The stubborn beast and the whisky priest are hiding from the captains. Are they happy to see you? “… (” Don’t Sing”, Prefab Sprout)
Paddy McAloon spent several years of his youth in a seminary. His texts are infused with nostalgia: fleeting portraits of a life rich in emotional stimulus. Paddy does things with great enthusiasm. And he is happy to write, to be active, alive.
“People die inside if they sit back and do nothing. I’ve been out of work for long periods myself, on benefits, but I never stopped creating. I wrote ‘Don’t Sing’, a song inspired by a book “The Power and the Glory” by Graham Greene. “Steve McQueen” (The recently released second album) was written in various different periods of my life, some of the songs even before ‘Swoon’. The language was sometimes adventurous, sometimes I have a tendency to become too verbose. Some of the ideas of “Swoon” were lost in an attempt to be very elaborate. For a singer it’s better not to concentrate too many nice words in a same line, so in “Steve McQueen”, I tried to check this tendency, and make it less idiosyncratic and convoluted linguistically. I like simple music directly connected to the heart. I love classical music, but now I’m trying to write much simpler songs. It’s hard for me to see a regular and steady progression in my ideas on the album. It’s a collage of emotions of different periods and conflicting attitudes.
Paddy doesn’t like today’s pop music, where the lyrics are an outpouring of the stupid and meaningless. I’m obliged to ask about the influence on the production by the King of Pop, Thomas Dolby, to the sound of “Steve McQueen”. Paddy responds immediately:
“Huge: he did a perfect job, he put a lot of himself into it. It was a collaboration between producer and artist, he was a guide for us. I was determined to learn from him, because I need to learn. Ideally I’d like the opportunity to give 10 songs to a producer and see what he does. It fascinates me to see others’ work applied to my ideas. And another point of view. Left alone I would be too worried about even the smallest detail. I need two ears different from mine. I also like to think that tomorrow might be the day that I will write a wonderful song… People believe that Prefab Sprout differ from other bands because we’re intellectuals or because I write with lots of words, but the real difference is our enthusiasm, the enthusiasm for what we do. ”
Even the religious past is an inspiration to Paddy.
“I sometimes like to use religious language because it’s rich in symbolism. I am a Catholic, not one of the best though. Sometimes I’m highly critical of the Catholic Church. My music is optimistic and spiritual. Sometimes I write about how beautiful life is, for all its temporality. If everyone lived forever, life would have no taste, everything would be flattened. I never directly reference to death in my music, but it’s something that shapes it. It’s sad to see that death doesn’t spare even the great people.”
Paddy McAloon went to a seminary and came out of it to leap straight into the world of music.
“It was a shock. But I knew what it was like. The music business highlights weaknesses, it’s relentless. But I’ve never considered jeopardising my career by using drugs, that’s not for me.
It’s healthy to be cynical about this and many things related to the music business. I don’t live in London, I don’t live the day to day lifestyle that’s there. I like to work in Newcastle. When I write a song I never think about how something will go down in London, but I do it for myself. The only mistake was we didn’t include the lyrics on the cover of Steve McQueen, so as to disappoint those journalists who judge the album cover and lyrics, without even listening to the record. The cover is a joke too. I don’t own a motorbike, I don’t like them, it’s a parody of Prince’s “Purple Rain”. The title is due to the respect that I have for that actor who didn’t have De Niro’s presence, wasn’t an intellectual, but he had presence in front of the camera. It’s a name that sounds different as a title.
Steve McQueen has a slight taste of the 1970s and retains a length of 44 minutes due to the decision not to discard anything that had been recorded with Thomas Dolby. Four songs date from 77/78 (“Goodbye Lucy # 1” (sic). “Johnny Johnny”, “Faron Young”, “Bonnie”). Even so, Dolby’s production enhancements are up to date, and if you consider there are already three other albums ready, you cannot but appreciate the fertile compositional skills of Paddy and Prefab Sprout, You’ll definitely hear more from them. Keep an eye out.