“When I write I don’t have a specific goal, I just try to make music that is exciting in the simplest way possible.”
Seven years on from Jordan: The Comeback, Paddy McAloon and Prefab Sprout have finally released a new album, Andromeda Heights. Concentrating on a romantic tone and a much more orchestral sound than ever before, McAloon is once again showing himself to be a great pop songwriter, sophisticated too, and according to some, undeniably original. Qualities that allowed him to maintain a considerable popularity (Andromeda Heights immediately entered the UK charts) despite the long period of silence.
It’s a long time since Prefab Sprout released anything new. What happened in these years?
“I was doing an album in 1993 entitled Let’s Change The World With Music. There was a song on that album called Earth: The Story so Far, which was a history of the world in three minutes. The record company told me it was a strong idea, and wanted me to expand it into a larger project. Since I prefer to write rather than record, I didn’t complain. There was only one problem: I was sitting all day at the computer to write and I had a great deal of material, twenty-eight songs, so I started to get jaded. The dilemma was: should I go ahead and ignore the rest of the world knowing it could take me years to finish it, or should I let them go. Meanwhile Jimmy Nail asked me to write for him and, as it was something different from what I was doing, it was almost a holiday. So I agreed, because I could earn something. I was lucky, because the CD sold more than a million copies. I went back to my history of the world and someone have asked me to write something for Cher, so I composed the songs for her. When I returned to my project, I thought life shouldn’t be this hard, so I took twelve of the songs I had and so “Andromeda Heights” was born.”
So Andromeda Heights is a chapter in the history of the world …
“Yes. I put into the album many things I’ve learned over the years musically. ln particular, I tried to create a sound different from that in current production styles. Often there are things which are too simplistic, something that can be forgiven in young people, but when you reach a certain age, you think that things can be done differently. Reading or going to the movies you have a vision of the world that’s richer than that offered by pop music. Pop is a very small world: everyone wants to go dancing or meet girls. I wanted to open the window and let in the air. ”
The album seems to have a stronger emotional charge before.
“Yes. When I was younger I was particularly interested in trying to be original. At the time I first came to prominence, as you might imagine, I tried to be original at all costs. Now I try for more emotional contact. There’s a thread that binds the songs of romance, the concept of the stars is present in every song; Some songs on the album are so romantic as to be impossible, real life is not like that … Maybe something can seem a bit ‘old-fashioned. In fact this time I tried to make myself “invisible”, whereas in the past many songs could be called “Songs of Paddy McAloon” because they developed in a certain way.”
In the eighties there was a time when the Prefab Sprout seemed about to explode and become massive pop stars …
“But we didn’t! (Bursts out laughing)”
It seems it doesn’t worry you much …
“No, not at all. In recent years what might be called my normal pop ambitions are gone. Honestly, even at the time of Steve McQueen I’d have been terrified if something had happened like that, I wouldn’t have known what to do. I wouldn’t know what to do even now, but at least I understand that the most important thing for me is that I learned to write the kind of music that I always wanted to write, an ambition fulfilled. Maybe when I was twelve, the idea of pop stardom was most attractive. But every kind of fame is ephemeral, even when it blazes the brightest.”