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Justin Sullivan - Interview - November 3rd 2009

(c) Copyright NMA Ninkasi Kao

  1. Nice to see you again Justin.
  2. Hi !

    AM : We met you here at the "Kao" venue, in Lyon, two years ago. What has happened since 2007 ?

    Oh, since 2007. There're so many things, I can't remember. I will start my memory side to go, which is a good thing, I think, (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews but I think the obvious big change in our lives is Tommy Tee, who was our manager for many years, actually he was our manager since 96 and our tour manager since 81-82. He suddenly died at christmas and that's kind of changed a lot of things for us. It's kind of, before Tommy world and there is since Tommy world. We were due to, we wrote an album last October and we were due to record it around the time that Tommy died, and then that obviously was put back, but then we just go on and recorded that in February and since then we have been kind of managing ourselves, which has been an interesting experiment and it's okay but I just start to think about... answering e-mails all the time and numbers of things, I stop thinking about music. So in the long run we must find someone else to manage us but it's a difficult thing for us to trust, you know a lot of people come forward but it's difficult for us to trust somebody you know, because we were so used to Tommy who was part of the family.

    AM : He was a good friend of you, I think.


  3. You have released a new album called "Today is a good day".
  4. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews.com Yes, Today is a good day.

    AM : It is your 11th studio album.


    AM : Why have you chosen this title ?

    It's one of the track which is called "Today is a good day". It was written as I said last October or September, anyway, after the Wall Street crash. I think most of people enjoyed the day that Wall Street crashed, even though we knew that it will bring recession and everything else, because it was going to happen anyway, it was a bubble, it had to crash, it wasn't that it could have been avoided and to watch the bubble be burst so spectacularly was enjoyable and unfortunately the bankers have done very nicely since therein lies the problem, but to watch their smiles come off their faces for a day was great, so we wrote a song called "Today is a good day" about that crash, and then we thought it was a great album, really.

  5. In your song "Autumn", a very nice and poetic text, you say "everything is beautiful because everything is dying", can you develop ?
  6. The way we write is always, I'm always writing stuff all the time and boxing them, and then we write say musical ideas from everybody in the band, and then (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews.com it comes the time when we stop touring, and we say right "now, we're going to write an album", so we pull out all these ideas, all these things I wanted to write about and I found this line "everything is beautiful because everything is dying". And I think that's really true and not only because I love Autumn and that it was written last October again in the wake of the Wall Street crash with the recession coming and watching the trees go gold and everything, but also I'm getting older and all these things. It's not really that, it's that it's much more to do with value, the things that are beautiful because they're dying, because nothing is permanent that's why it has value. There's a lot of modern literature about vampires, it's a very popular idea because actually it is an interesting idea, this living for ever idea, and all is in all the vampire stories, it is in the end it's kind of grim that if you live forever then, nothing has any value, it's like if you're simply rich and you can buy anything, then nothing has any value, except the thing you can't buy like love, but things you can buy don't have any value, the same things, if you are alive you know it is because things are dying, so that's been very intellectual about it.

  7. If you had to write a song tonight what topic and theme would you choose ?
  8. (Justin is thinking about it...). It would be a personal one, so I am not going to tell you.

    AM : You don't want to answer. It's a difficult question, maybe. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews

    It's a difficult question because sometimes I can't just, I don't write all the time, I just write when I really need to write, sometimes.

    AM : That's why I asked you this question, because we can't stay here and write something, like this, not really.

    Yes, not really, and because I write a lot of words and in our songs there are lots of ideas, people think that I'm very quick with words, I must write lots and lots, actually I don't, I find writing really hard work and I like it when it's done.

    AM : I think it is a hard work to write.

    It's writing songs, writing stuff is easy, but writing songs you gotta kind of get (he mimes compacting things with his hands), you know.

  9. I think Joolz Denby did the drawings.
  10. Always, yes she is.

    AM : On this album, for instance there is this one ?

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews We're holding it to the camera.

    AM : OK. She is multi-talented, isn't she ?

    Yes, she is.

    AM : She is a poet.

    Yes, poet, novelist, artist.

    AM : A painter.


    AM : An actor and a photographer too. Can you speak about her ?

    I met Joolz Denby in a very, very cheap nightclub in 1979 and we started talking about ideas and art and music, god and the weather, sex and stuff and we are still talking about for the 30 years, 32 years to be exact.

  11. What do you like the most when you are on tour ?
  12. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews I like most things about being on tour. It's a kind of way of life that I like. I like to be in a different town everyday it's a good style. I like that sense of family we have, you know with everyone in the band, in the crew we are a family and I like that sense of purpose, it's very simple, the day is simple, the day is all aimed at this two hours thing that we're going to do and everything is aimed to this two hours, it's a simple way of life.

  13. What do you like in writing some lyrics ?
  14. All different things actually, all different things start things off. The easiest songs to write are the ones where I meet somebody and they tell me a story and I just go, (he mimes writing).

    AM : Taking notes.

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews So I just go back and write a story. I've done that quite a lot of times, because I actually like to write story songs. I try not to write much about myself, I think it's kind of boring to write about me. I also think that if you look through the songs there is a lot of weather and it is not just cause I'm English, obsessed by the weather. I like lyrics which are kind of like films, like a little bit of a story, you see, close your eyes and listen to the story, in a song and you're there, you know. In life, generally, the play of light and water and light and water is almost the thing that gives me the greatest pleasure in the world, clouds, sun on the sea, sunsets, this thing between light and water, I can just watch it for ever.

    AM : I think it's very important for human beings to be near the ground and near the soil, because we come from the sea, it's very important not to lose this.

    Yes, I think there is a veneer of these kind of world religions like Christianity and Islam but actually, in the end they will all die out, we are all pagans, everybody is really.

  15. What do you like when you record a new album ?
  16. I don't like making records very much. I find making records very difficult, because there is a kind of symphony in my head and then you have to put this on tape and it's an imperfect sound. it's never kind of what you sort of hear. The last couple of records has been interesting, because, especially this one actually, (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews instead of trying, to try to put this symphony on, that I hear, I didn't bother, I just wrote some songs roughly, and then it's a very good band at the moment, this is the best version, I think, we are very well balanced and there is a lot of trust in the band, so there're some rough songs, let's see what we can do with them, arrange them together, we played everything, everything on the album was played live, there is not clicks there is not building one track at a time, except the very last one which is written for Tommy and that was built, everything else that's a live band playing so I never have really control over it and I didn't try to get control over it, just let it go, let's hear the band play that's what it's sound like, I think it's the most, this album has the best performances on it, you can hear people play, really as opposed to hearing some kind of construct. I also like music that isn't construct but sometimes when you fall between the two, it's kind of like a band but it's kind of construct and it's not one thing on the other and then last night, sometimes it's too much in the middle, it falls between and this is absolutely this is a band playing album. My solo albums you never get most that's a construct, that works it is just a construct, it's not a band, and this is a band, so yeah.

    AM : And this is the magic of music.


    AM : Even on stage sometimes I think there is some magic.

    Oh god that's what it's for, music is absolutely magic, it transforms things that's what magic does, it transforms things.

  17. What kind of music do you listen to ?
  18. Justin mimes "large".

    AM : Wide range.

    (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews Wide range. We were talking about this the other day. I don't really, you know our new album is kind of rock band, but I don't really like rock very much and neither does Nelson, but Dean and Michael and Marshal really love it. So we all like different things in the band, this is a very important job to understand that, everybody comes from different musical roots. My first love when I was growing up was sixties American songs music and that remains my first love. But I look to my ipod what's the most played things on my ipod, Gillian Welsh, strangely, I was very surprised to find this but she is the most, but I think it is partly because when I'm on tour and we are playing rock music, and are playing loud and heavy and powerful. I actually don't want to listen to that, in the day, I want to listen to something dark and quiet and slow and strange and underworld. I think a lot of Gillian Welsh stuff is like that, there is another singer from America called Alela Diane I really like for the same reason, and I listen to a quite of lot of orchestral music, I will say classical music but it's not classical, Mozart and Beethoven don't really move me, but modern classical music, modern orchestral music and all these things. I listen to a lot of that kind of stuff.

  19. And what do you think of the new bands ?
  20. There is always good new bands coming. I think, there is a band from my own town called New York Alcoholic Anxiety Attack.

    AM : Yeah, there are from Bradford. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews


    But I do see or begin to see with guitar music or popular music, even, even electronic music the same things are coming back, round and round and round, and that starts to become a bit boring I suppose, but as music is magic, actually it doesn't matter what sort of music it is, there will be something you will hear and it could be any genre, anything at all, and suddenly something happens in the music and it holds your hair in the back of your neck standing up, and it's so weird you know, wonderful, so lots and lots of different things and some modern stuff which sounds great.

  21. What is the difference between Photo N°1 and photo N°2 ?
  22. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews Not much, there are both me.

    AM : Different period of time, different period of man ?

    It's a different hair cut, that's all, a different hair cut, that's the only difference, same necklace, same earrings, same eyes, same mouth, same nose, different hair.

    AM : Different mood ? no ?

    I can't remember, I can't remember, and nobody see photographs, people send me photographs and I look and sometimes I see a photograph of myself, I say that's okay we use that, but I'm not very self-conscious, you know we made videos and we made concept, you know, we've done few concept videos and I've never seen them , I don't want to see them, I don't want to watch them and I don't want to know.

    AM : A lot of musicians told me this.


    AM : A lot of musicians told me that they don't listen to their own albums too.

    Oh, I listen to our albums occasionally, very occasionally and I never look at photos of my own obviously, photographs but I particulary, I will listen to concerts we've done, just to check really, just to see how the music feels, you know what we need to do that more, we need to do that faster, we need to do that slower, these things, you know it's obvious, we will do that, but I will never look at the films because I don't want to know what we look like, it's really not important to me. When I'm on stage I don't want to think, oh I wonder what I look or like because I don't want to know, it's better not to know.

    AM : That's it Justin, thank you very much for your time.

    Pleasure. Okay.

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