Once known as Blixa
takes it to extremes
Join Date: 26 May 2005
Part one of a recent interview with Haines:
Paul Morley has made it virtually impossible to begin a piece of writing on Luke Haines. Those of you who already own a copy of the excellent 63-track compendium 'Luke Haines Is Dead' (all lovingly selected by the man himself to cover his various guises) will have already poured over the sleevenotes, in which celebrated journalist and ubiquitous broadcaster Paul Morley brings us '63 Ways To Begin An Essay On Luke Haines'. Playful and impressive, it renews your respect for a writer you only too readily picture assessing the cutural significance of the Tellytubbies on some retarded nostalgia show on Channel 4 these days.
"I think Morley is slowly going mad," chuckles Haines, "You can now turn any of those programmes and count thirty seconds and Paul Morley turns up on them. You can imagine that he really thinks about it, that he wakes up screaming in the night thinking about what he's going to say about the fucking Kenwood toaster. He's losing the fucking plot: that's why I got him to write those sleeve notes, before he ends up in Bedlam."
There's another reason why he picked Morley. It's all too typical of The Auteurs singer.
"I sort of know Paul. There is a convoluted history between Paul Morley and myself so I thought that it would be good to get him to do the sleeve notes. I knew that he would be quite spikey because he's very friendly with someone who I used to play with in the band, who I fell out with big time - so I knew that he would be pumped full of 'Luke Haines, what a fucking egotistical bastard he is!' Which was good. It's all a bit love/hate..."
So does Haines enjoy the reputation of being grumpy and cantankerous?
"I suppose I can be cantankerous but as for grumpy... As a word it has been reappropriated, it doesn't have real meaning anymore. It now just seems to be the word for anyone who doesn't act like a gay children's TV presenter. Surely I'm far from grumpy."
In the notes Morley gets carried away at points, though still retaining a keen sense of fun, he asks "...what kind of world do we live in where Haines is not considered a living, or at least undead, legend as improperly perceptive as Joe Orton, as psychotically sensitive as Chris Morris, as terribly treasured as Morrissey, as truly lost and found as Ray Davies, as cultishly grand as Roy Harper, as playfully vicious as Peter Cook, as abrasively miserable as Spike Milligan, as blunt bitter and twisted as Colin Wilson?"
Faint praise of course...
"Hmm. I'm not particularly part of the Morrissey Greek Chorus of approval, or indeed Chris Morris for that matter. I think that Chris Morris kind of lucked out a bit. A few of the things that he did were kind of funny. The only thing that I thought he did that was really funny was the paedophile one. The rest of it is a bit public school for my liking and he also has an idiot brother, so no, I'm not that big on Chris Morris. Tom Morris [Artistic director at the Battersea Art Centre] is the idiot brother who gets thrown the scrap-ends of what Chris Morris turns down."
But Peter Cook though?
"Peter Cook is nice [to be compared with]. He wanted to be a rock star, y'know, so maybe I just want to be a fucking comedian."
I meet Haines in a pub on Parkway, Camden. I've spotted him in these parts on countless occasions, though he's moved out now, a mile or so away, up on one of the hills. You get the sense he can Lord over the borough from this exalted position and sneer in comfort without getting too soiled. Dressed head to foot in white and topped off with a straw boater, he looks like the evil twin of the man from Del Monte; he's the man who likes to say "no". Haines is gracious though, and a true gent, and not nearly as intimidating as I'd imagined quaking on the bus ride over. So, did he ever want to be a rock star?
"I think that you kind of start out with a foolish idea that you might want to be, but then it dawned on me pretty quickly that all the people that I liked weren't, and there wasn't much of a chance that I was ever going to be, because I was far too willful. In retrospect the best thing I've ever done is not become a rockstar. One thing that you can never level at me is that I've become a fucking popstar: I would never have it, popstars are beneath me."
You were nearly a popstar with Black Box Recorder?
"Well, we [by this he means himself and John Moore] were in the background really. And in the midst of BBR's top twenty success, I was really pleased that Sarah [Nixey] was the front woman. It meant she could be the one talking to some Radio 1 DJ about crisps or whatever. The reason that record existed was because John and I felt an obligation to Sarah to kind of make her into a popstar, albeit briefly. In spite of all the ice maiden stuff she puts on, in her heart and soul she is a pop kid, really. We'd dragged her through this absolute non pop record and it was only fair that we give her something back to allow for her fifteen minutes of pop stardom. We did it for her, really; we were quite happy."
So you don't expect to do anything like that again?
"Everything that I write for ten minutes will probably crack the lower end of the charts but if it doesn't, I don't lose that much sleep over it."
You lose a bit of sleep though I sense...
"No, not any more. No, absolutely not. I'm 37-years-old. I couldn't give a toss. I stake out my ground quite well and I envisage that more and more people will be coming to it to pay homage, but we may not necessarily make it into the pop charts regularly."
How much is 'Future Generations' taking the piss, and how much do you actually mean?
"Of course there is a sort of buried truth, I mean, more a grain of truth. Obviously if you are doing stuff that is any good then more people will come round to it eventually. Anyone who has ever been any good in the field of rock and roll has eventually found a very large audience; whether it's in twenty, thirty or fifty years time is not my concern. It was just a prediction of what is going to happen and I'm clearly right about it."
Do you really believe that? Do you believe the cream will rise as it were?
"Yeah, I do. That's terrible, isn't it? it makes me sound like some sort of evangelical Glenn Hoddle or something. I do think that pioneers get shafted somewhere along the way, but eventually everything comes good."
What was the idea behind 'Luke Haines is Dead'? I mean, you're clearly not actually dead.
"I just thought it would bolster my own sort of reputation if I faked my own death. I couldn't really take it much further than that, although I could probably start to sell as many records as Nick Drake does. Or Jeff Buckley. At least I show willingness on the dying front, even though I have no actual intention of popping off just yet. And it just rounded off all the EMI stuff: to put a full stop to that and clear out the vaults, because otherwise someone else might get there first."
So you're drawing a line under what you've done so far but clearly you intend to carry on.
"Yes. There's a solo album coming out hopefully next year which is going to be called 'Off My Rocker at the High School Bop'. It's sort of ten popart, reportage postcards but it's very pop (laughs)... it's pop where I've rediscovered guitars again. Which could be good or bad; I think it's good. And there's a couple of new songs on there that I've been playing live. There is a song that's kind of about the Glitter Band called 'Bad Reputation' and a song about Jonathan King on there which we may or may not get released. The song is called 'The Walton Hop' which is where Jonathan King went perusing for young boys. It's the old Walton Playhouse, which was converted into a Hop in about the mid-seventies. Walton-on-Thames was where I came from so there is a connection there; it's just a little story song about what went on there. Fun for all the family."
There's a peculiar Englishness to your material. Is it because you wish to concentrate on what you know as such?
"I kind of want to delve into fairly unfashionable, unchartered waters. I don't think that anyone has ever written a song about the decadence of the facsist right wing in the 1930's ['The Mitford Sisters']. Maybe it's the most pointless song ever written but it kind of interests me. That was always the point for me, to just highlight those things because I thought that they were interesting. You know, I'm not going to be writing about champagne supernovas (Laughs). There's none of that round my way."
You're also quite interested in writing about terrorism. Will there be more of that?
"I'm not so interested in the al-Qaeda stuff; perhaps I'm just writing purely from an historical point of view. I don't really see it as terrorism as such, more a kind of death cult. A fundamentalist death cult is a whole different thing, whereas I always thought that the Baader Meinhof was...
"I heard this stuff on the nine o'clock news as I was being made to go to bed, stuff about these West German terrorists bringing this country to its knees, turning it into a surveillance state and this sort of somehow stayed with me. I wanted to do something that wasn't politically correct, not for the sake of it, but just to go with the iconic idea of the Baader Meinhof gang and in turn to make a kind of deranged, schlocky soundtrack album to go with the iconic idea of terrorism. I mean, that sounds a bit Bobby Gillespie but I think that it was done with a bit more humour than his ridiculous middle-aged call to arms."
He changed the name of 'Bomb the Pentagon' after if got bombed. That's funny.
"Well yeah (snorts) real revolutionaries wouldn't do that. He's a sweet man sometimes."
You sold a few records in France, right?
"Well, it helped that the band was called 'The Auteurs' and the album was called 'New Wave' (laughs), and they got rather obsessed in the 'Nouvelle Vague' element in all of that. I'd obviously been aware of the Auteur theory and for nouvelle vague I'd call the album 'New Wave' because I thought it was funny, not accounting for the Gallic lack of humour. Every few albums they kind of like me and then they call for me to be guillotined in between as some sort of Francophile traitor. I never was a Francophile but there seems to be this idea amongst the French that I was. I don't know, what can you say, they're a rum old bunch God love 'em…"