As you can imagine, I have to start by asking why Prefab Sprout has taken so long to release a new album.
– It wasn’t that I was waiting for the inspiration to write new songs, as I wrote many, but there’s a big difference between writing songs and doing the arrangements, which consumes a lot of time. I got tired of working for more than two years on an album called Earth: The Story So Far, which is what the company wanted from me. I was depressed by the fact that, even though I liked the music, I found it difficult to complete. Jimmy Nail asked me for some songs, and his album was a great success, which helped me to build a studio where I could make a new record. After this success, more people asked me to collaborate on projects, for example Cher … You see I walked away from work I might have done for myself.
Does that mean you stopped seeing Prefab Sprout as your main activity and paid more attention to your work as a musician, not as a member of a band?
– In a way that’s true. I decided that instead of seeing Prefab Sprout as a group, I would write for the pleasure of it and see where it led me. I write constantly, songs in groups that seem coherent and homogeneous. Then I file them and decide which ones go well together, so I can create albums with different moods. That way they form a stronger group. I wanted to play a psychological game with myself, I was writing music without relying on the sound of a band. I wasn’t looking to end Prefab Sprout, but to have a much broader perspective of what the group could be. I sat at the computer with my keyboard and began to make arrangements in the same way as a composer.
You can say you passed seven years as part of the British music scene. What’s your opinion of it?
– I have my ideas, but they’re coming from someone who lost touch with what is happening. As I spend most of my time writing music and listening to that. when I leave the studio I don’t want to hear other bands. I’m not an expert on the current music scene and prefer not to think about it. Although, in general, I would say I’m not interested in pop today. For me it’s an imitation of the music I heard when I was younger, with the difference that it was better before. I don’t know how old you are, but I’m already almost forty, so you’ll understand what I mean.
Do you feel the weight of age?
– In a way yes. I hear a lot of music now, and it does nothing for me, when it was able to impress me at 18 or 19 when everything seemed new. I gained my experience then, and now I hear music differently. Right now I look for things that can teach me something new, I feel more drawn into classical music or jazz.
Now you’ve released Andromeda Heights, how do you assess your comeback?
– Everything I do and write fills a void in my life. I feel so close to the things that it takes me a while to see how they fit into a larger perspective. I can honestly say I like what I wrote. Not to sound arrogant or conceited, but I must say that whether it’s good or less good, this is the kind of music that I’d like to hear. As I don’t see music like this in the stores, I do it myself. It should always be like that. There are songs from the late 80s (“A Prisoner Of The Past”, “Swans”) and the most recent (“Andromeda Heights”) is two years ago, summer of ’95.
What void does this sixth album fill?
– Let’s put it this way: if I wasn’t doing something, I wouldn’t feel whole. I guess you can explain that in a very simple way: most people like to have a job, to feel useful. It also feels good to me to work.
Doing sweet romantic songs is not easy these days. Who else does it? Maybe Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy of Lloyd Cole who are more or less the same age as you. Is it because it’s unfashionable?
– That’s a good question … I don’t know; I think when you’re young you’re in contact with other feelings and want to say something about the world. I wrote so many songs that address different issues. On this album I wanted to write romantic music because I like to hear it, I sought to use love songs to talk about romantic notions outside relationships. However, you can also speak about our relationship with our own mortality. Romance, for me, is a theme I like to use in a more literary sense, in the sense that you want to address the possibilities that life has to give, not in the sense that it can create a Lionel Ritchie record.
I don’t know if it’s intentional, but there is a lot of religion in your songs.
– Yes, I can’t help it. It is, perhaps, my past that brings me to that. I had a Catholic upbringing … A life that doesn’t assume any spiritual dimension is probably an empty life. I don’t mean that everyone should believe what they are taught to believe, but I think all of us, at one time or another, ask questions about our place in the world and the universe.
How does that manifest itself in the songs, as you pose questions that don’t appear obvious or explicit?
– Can I give you an example? A song like “Life’s A Miracle”, without referring specifically to religion, addresses the fact that we only live once and the time we have is, therefore, beautiful and unique. We all know that, but we need to remember it every day or we get lost in the details of life. All music, in a sense, is another world. Everyone gets up in the morning, if you have enough money to survive, but music is vital to our spirituality.
If you asked yourself whether you think you live the best you can, how would you respond?
– I would say that there are so many things you can do with life that the pattern you choose may not be the best, but you never get to know. You do certain things because necessity forces you to do them or because you like doing them, but you never have the security to do better. I like to think, from a creative point of view, I have no complaints. But, on another level, I wonder if I have used my time in the best way. Perhaps you’ve made mistakes that other have noted?
Recently you said in an interview that your music was incredibly glamorous. What makes you so sure?
– I’ll try to put it in context. The interviewer asked me if I felt good in the role of a pop star, a person who is always watched. If I go anywhere, I try to be invisible, so I can lead a normal life, and people don’t look for me. My music is glamorous in the sense that it is the music that begs for attention, begs to be heard. Not me and an acoustic guitar for an ‘Unplugged’; It’s a very rich music. If you listen with headphones, I think it’s a sonic experience. At least in my opinion.
I understand there are five discs Prefab Sprout that are practically completed. What will happen to them?
– I’ll do all of them, God willing. If I keep my health, I’ll record all them in coming years. That’s why I do them I intend to make them all. Although the first step is to accumulate enough material to finish.