Part one. The phone rings. “Hello Pippo, it’s Paddy.” “Paddy… Hello how are you?” “I’m well, and how are you doing? ”
“I’m good… I have a picture that shows us together taken four years ago… We’re getting old…”
The line drops. I wait in vain for the phone to ring again.
Part two. The phone rings a fortnight later.
“Ciao Pippo, it’s Paddy McAloon, you said that in your picture we look younger … I should hope so …”
And it’s with great pleasure that I start, after two weeks delay, a phone interview with Paddy McAloon, the soul of Prefab Sprout since 1982. An interview that’s often interrupted by spontaneous and sincere laughter. We talk about family and how important it is to let the years slide quietly by, putting the pieces of the life’s puzzle in the right places. Nice to discover you’ve connected with an artist who listens to what you say, even a trivial anecdote about a photo taken four years earlier.
Paddy has written some of the most delicate poems set to music of the last twenty years of British rock. This year he released The Gunman And Other Stories.
What has happened since the release of Andromeda Heights?
Two children… by the same wife, and three eye operations: the last four years were really intense. I almost lost my sight, but now everything’s going well.
How would you describe style of The Gunman And Other Stories? If Morricone has composed music for “spaghetti westerns”, maybe yours is an “English pudding Western” ..
Something like that. I like to think of myself as a musician who composes music for an imaginary film. The Gunman And Other Stories reflects the image we have in Europe of the world of the Westerns, the cowboy and all the rest. Not everyone understood the irony of this record. I spoke to several journalists, American and English, and many of them didn’t understand it. They took it seriously! It has nothing to do with the music of Nashville! I’m only temporarily infected by Cowboy music.
What’s the secret that allows you to create such beautiful and evocative lyrics?
You’re very kind. There’s certainly a lot of effort in them and they take a long time. I’m particularly attracted by words that sound good, I like to hear my songs rhyme in the right way but I also want it to sound like a conversation, not stately or pompous, and I like to create a bit of confusion that arouses curiosity.
What about your meeting with Eric Weissberg?
Well, he’s more or less sixty years old now. He must have been a young man when he wrote and performed the soundtrack to Duelling Banjos. A quiet but terrifying weekend… He’s a great artist, one of the greatest banjo players of all time. He also played with Bob Dylan on Blood on the Tracks.
Do you use new technology?
I use a computer, of course, to compose. It’s a big help for a composer and leaves you more time to devote to the composition itself. As a journalist … Would you go back to using a typewriter when you have access to a computer?
I think it’s fundamentally unfair that the artist does not derive a benefit from it. A work should receive remuneration.