SNACK caught up with one of the best lyricists of the modern era to talk characters, boutique coffee and a whole lot of stuff we can’t print.
[Note: Baxter Dury’s gig at the QMU, Glasgow is postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak]
At the launch of Prince of Tears, you said you really cared about the reaction to the album, because you felt it was a great record. How are you feeling for the release of The Night Chancers?
I’m more relaxed. I felt that record and I think this record is pretty good as well. I think I’m quite relaxed, I don’t really care. I’ve done quite a few of them now, and I’m confident it’s pretty good.
The last one was a bit more of an emotional subject. “Daylight” felt more in step with some of your earlier work?
It’s connected to the album before. It’s about the person, about that girl. That’s the only one which links back to the old album. A farewell if you will.
The first line of the album is ‘I’m not your fucking friend’ – a statement of intent, or just a great line by itself?
I didn’t write it and think, I’ll write the album around that. I did write the songs and know the order it would be in, but that wasn’t intentionally a provocative opening statement. It’s a kind of creepy song I guess.
I always think of it, perhaps pretentiously, as though they are Kubrick films. That first one is like a door being opened. Have you ever watched 2001? It’s very claustrophobic, and it’s meant to be a bit like that. The last one is a bit like Clockwork Orange, and psychedelic.
The album ends on the line ‘Baxter loves you’ being repeated – was it easier to have someone say this for you?
Yeah, it was funny to have someone else sing it for me. When we came up with it in the studio, it felt funny, and weird and good. Softly provocative. The record company said to take it out, which was ridiculous, so we didn’t.
Also, while there are many characters and great stories in your song, was this an attempt to make the personal nature of the songs more obvious?
I think it’s a good line, but it is personal. The songs are personal. There’s a vanity in my music which doesn’t extend beyond 20ft around my life and the people in it. It’s micro-politics, it’s not about anything grander than that. It’s quite egotistical. By the nature of it, it’s exploring things close to home.
On that note, how autobiographical is “Oi”?
It’s very autobiographical. It’s an amalgam or composite of characters, mostly one, who I can’t name because he’ll probably stick a stake in my neck. He’s still pretty angry. It was pretty real. I still live close to where that used to happen. There were some unsavoury people I grew up with. And like I am now; I was quite sensitive then.
You use a few voices on the record – Is this you trying something different or just slipping into character?
A bloke talking over music is a really spent format, and I got a bit bored by it. I was just projecting some of the voices I knew growing up. West London variations of slightly idiotic characters. I used those to vary the idea of a man talking over music. I thought that sounded kind of tired, and I knew I don’t need to do that ever again. If I hear another band with a bloke with a mockney accent, I’ll go fucking mad.
Your Glasgow gig has been upgraded to a larger venue, looking forward to coming back?
That’s right yeah, we sold that one out and moved up. That’s good news, I love Glasgow. It’s got a good vibe. For a ponce like me, you’re not far away from a boutique coffee shop. You’ve got everything there, and it’s beautiful. The restaurants are amazing.
You enjoy a bit of “give and go” with your audience, are you looking forward to the tour?
Well, if the Coronavirus doesn’t take us down I am, yeah. I love a bit of give and go, it’s a bit of an old tradition. Basically, I forget my lyrics and then have a go at someone as part of a compensational trick! I forget things so much, so I talk to the audience, and they’ll say something bollocks, but I quite like that. In Glasgow, people will definitely tell you what they think! That’s the good thing about Glasgow, but also a very frightening thing.
It’s your name and all on you, but how does the band work – do others have input into the process?
I’m definitely the leader, but I don’t always lead them. They probably go ‘alright mate’, call me the leader and let me believe that. I’m quite an inconsistent person so a lot of them take control. There will be different views at different times, but I know what I want and then I leave it to them. They know what to do, they are definitely better musicians than I am.
You’re writing a book about your childhood – how are you finding that experience?
Bleak, painful, slow, badly paid. I did a book conference yesterday, and I’m good at that bit, where I talk bollocks. I go up and down with it. I’m hoping to write it on tour. It’s bleak. I thought writing might be enjoyable, but it’s probably a bit like having the Coronavirus, it’s awful. I just don’t get it.
Is there a deadline for it?
A few months ago. I am joking, I will do it.
You’ve collaborated with the Fat White Family and released the B.E.D. album – Any plans for future side projects or anyone you’d love to work with?
Weirdly enough, and it’s never going to happen, the only person I really like, and I’ve come late to the party on, is Frank Ocean. I think he writes weird sentences like I do. I’m really into him, and I’d like to hang out, but he probably wouldn’t like me at all.
I’d like to go do something like that. It’d be different, get out of indie world, away from blokes and beer. I think he shines a bit; everyone has been saying it for ages, someone in that realm of that urban American thing. When it’s song-written and good, I’d love that.
Baxter’s album The Night Chancers is released by Heavenly Recordings on 20th March.
Images Credit: Tom Beard