Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Chat with Billy Bragg Part 2

“The Progressive Patriot”, the first book by Billy Bragg the novelist has warmly received by critics and lovers alike. In this second part I discussed with Billy the culture and politics that aligned the modern world and asked him what he felt it was to be English.

Do you think Englishness is important and why?
“Yeah I do, Identity politics seems to have come to the front with the debate around Immigration, I think things such as the veil are linked to the persons own rights, I’m not a big fan of it but it’s the persons own decision to decide whether to wear it or not in the end. It’s not the governments and it’s certainly not a papers. I feel it’s also important to create a better more understanding society to be English is not about kings and queens and battles centuries ago, it’s about a fair and open society and treating people in the proper a respectful way.

How would you reclaim such an idea as Englishness?
(Smiling) “I would buy it all up and put it in a big sack, seriously I think setting an identity around a set of values and engaging with each other. We need a debate and a discussion based around human rights, but a proper and intelligent debate not a pandering to one side debate.”

What Qualities would you describe as being English?
“I feel that one of the very few qualities that are English or belong to Englishness are qualities like fairness, you can find fairness throughout English history such as the welfare state and immigration this is the kind of qualities we should be patriotic about not some war that happened centuries ago.”

Are the Unions still important in today’s capitalist dominate society?
“Very important, they are our only defence against the capitalism and multinational globalisation that as you said seems to be dominate in today’s world.”

How should the Union appear in the 21st century?
“The union should appear as being straight and to the point, they need to appear modern and more out there, they were they in Barking when the BNP was trying to whip up the tensions in the area, and they were out there with these bands forcing the message home.”

Is it important to get involved in a union?
“Almost essential I always stand up for the unions after all they stood up for me.”

How do you feel about Labour or New Labour as they call themselves now?
“I don’t agree with the name or the agenda that Tony has taken upon himself, I don’t want and the country doesn’t need a New tag to tell them, they need to be convinced through the polices that this is a version of Labour that is modern.”

And what about Gordon Brown?
“Well he’s a great idea, but he is only that because he is not Tony, we’ll see until then he is only a great idea.”

Why do you think the country is apathetic towards politicians and politics?

“Couldn’t give a fuck about apathy, It doesn’t exist. The thousands who marched on that anti war march showed that this country wasn’t apathetic, and the ones who marched in various towns showed the government they weren’t apathetic. The public have become cynical about this government and politics in general, they are never allowed to debate or it seems to put there arguments forward, people sadly have lost believe.”

How is the Billy Bragg different from the Billy Bragg 20 years ago?
“He is more interested in activism than interested in playing songs, hence the book being written and so forth. The Billy today feels that there is more to activism yet he will still continue to write don’t worry (smiles).”

Do you still like touring and writing music?
I still get a buzz when I go out on the road, now I have a family I sometimes before tour wonder if leaving my family is the right thing but once I get out there I realise this is the best job in the world in fact it’s not a job. (Grinning) I love it and I get paid for it, what a lucky bugger I am (laughs).

What is the meaning behind the book “The Progressive Patriot”?
“Basically it’s to justify and mix the two ideas, to go forward with the traditional idea. To reconcile tradition with radicalism, to live in the present while looking both to the past and the future.”

What do you feel about Journalism?
“Good journalism can be positive for everyone, agenda setting journalism without it’s positives is a dangerous path we need not to go down.”

How do you see yourself politically?
“I see myself as one man trying to reform the system for a better society with rights and freedoms and not economics.”

Do you think Literature is still important as apposed to the celebrity culture and television in educating us?
“I believe that they are more important than ever before and it’s books and not music or some other idealistic item. Hugo Chavez didn’t wave a clash album about, he waved a book around by Chomsky about that sky rocketed to the top of Amazons best sellers list…..I wish he’d wave my book about.” (Laughs)

And the final question, what do you feel about the environment?
“It’s the biggest issue in mankind’s history, it’s the one thing we all have to address at some point in the near future, if we don’t address it unlike Englishness or immigration this could mean the end of the world. Maybe the next book should be how to convince China.”

Top 40 Albums of 2006

40) Morrissey – Ring Leader of the Tormentors
Fun and Frolicking Morrissey Style

39) Roddy Woomble – My Secret Is My Silence
Folk at its most heart rending

38) Flaming Lips – At War With the Mystics
A debate between acid and our world

37) Bardo Pond – Ticket Crystals
Lushful and lustful

36) Whitest Boy Alive - Dreams
Alive with ideas

35) Joanna Newson – Ys
Poetic between the pitiful

34) Math & Physics Club – Math & Physics Club
Ballistic pop and breezy poetics

33) Ed Harcourt – The Beautiful Lie
Confrontational with his demons

32) The Research – Breaking Up
Wonderfully Lo-Fi

31) Adem – Love & Other Planets
Adem’s exploration into space

30) Psapp – The Only Thing I Ever Wanted
A scapegoat for solitude

29) Hope of the States – Left
Barbaric in noise

28) Pure Reason Revolution – The Dark Third
Mystically magnificent

27) Dirty on Purpose - Hallelujah Sirens
Heartfelt In Sorrow

26) James Dean Bradfield – The Great Western
Pop & Roll Music

25) Me without You – Brother, Sister
A sunshine beam across the dark night sky

24) Roger O Donnell – Truth in Me
Challengingly distant

23) Working for Nuclear City – Working For a Nuclear City
Harmonious and Haunting

22) Seth Lakeman – Freedom Fields
Explaining Americana, Separating Myth

21) Sparklehorse – Dreamt Light Years In The Belly of a Mountain
Crazy, zany destruct to construct

20) The Long Blondes – Someone to Drive You Home
“Someone to drive you home” the debut record from the Long Blondes is built from the art rock perspective. Descriptive and sarcastic while at the same time purveying the model idea of Britain’s bored youth.

19) Liam Frost & the Slowdown Family – Show Me How The
Heartbreaking in its natural deliverance Frost is a modern day saint a man who delivers a message that isn’t peppered in positive spin. Things are far from perfect in this world and Liam Frost knows this well. His powerful poetry is a stark and honest message in the world of bullshit, long may he continue.

18) Larrikin Love – The Freedom Spark
Gypsy punk tales of outsmarting Mr Blair and simple but effective love stories on all sorts of weird and wonderful characters. The child like imagination of Larrikin Love’s chief writer is Barrett style in its ideology and warm in its delivery, exciting and amazing.

17) Gomez – How We Operate
From the opening drums down to the chilled rather retro blues, Gomez returned to writing tunes on this sixth album and first proper release for ATO records. The break from Sony and the American live has rejuvenated what was becoming a band that lacked ideas, from the sing along of “See The World” and the sweet “Girlshapedlovedrug” this is up with Bring It On.

16) The Format – Dog Problems
Beach boys sounding fun and poignantly delivered summery songs are warm and infectious. Between Kweller and Folds sits The Format banging out tune after tune of heart aching tunes of love and loss, superb.

15) De Rosa - Mend
Sceptical in its Americana De Rosa’s darkness delivers a beautifulness which also suggests commerciality. De Rosas fragility in vocals set back to the most catchiness of indie songs establishes a path for the future which will have to developed.

14) Northern & Western – The Gilded Age
Arousing in its mixture of scenario and scenery folk that’s far from crusty, country that is far from dull and the most luscious mix of vocals to deliver a style all of there own. Americana at it’s most breathless.

13) My Latest Novel – Wolves
Sweet vocals sung over an alluring and delightful mix of elegant sounds “Wolves” is fresh and invigorating it’s what Idlewild would be able to create if they could play it’s charming it’s exciting and it’s only the start.

12) Cat Power – The Greatest
Cat Power on this her second record crafted a feeling that showed how fragile the human mind was and how bleak the bottom of a bottle can be. Yet the imagery and captivating capture of her world is so bleak and honest it’s a piece on which the heavy heart is laid down bare.

11) Mystery Jets – Making Dens
Having arrived as a 5 piece from eel pie album and a love of all things floydesque 2006 saw the debut album bursting with an energy rarely seen. Jams galore and ideas a plenty “Making Dens” allowed the Mystery Jets to experiment further the second album should be no struggle.

10) Nicky Wire – I Killed The Zeitgeist
Brash, intelligent, heart-warming sometimes sad sometimes startling brilliant “I Killed the Zeitgeist” contains some of the most emotional songs committed to tape not polished not recorded and rerecorded just one take or two and then finished, A genius of a record.

9) Ben Kweller – Ben Kweller
Subtle in its message and warming in its heart, Ben Kweller’s third album returns the beauty of his debut. Full of melody and optimism Kweller in his simple but meaningful way brings his heart to the fore in some of the most honest songs this year.

8) Plus/Minus – Let’s Build A Fire
Ambient in spirit “Lets Build A Fire” speaks from the heart intently devouring the life that creeps around. A lesson in how to construct the deconstructed Plus/Minus lay hollow a air of hope in all the misery.

7) Jarvis – Jarvis Cocker
It’s NOT FUCKING PULP. This is possibly the most glaring observation on this the return of Jarvis Cocker, and also probably the most annoying thing a person could speak about the album. Hell it’s heart rending in its bitter social commentary Jarvis at least is back.

6) Andrew Bird - & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
Horrifyingly haunting and violin led Andrew Bird’s second album follows a path of mystical development and depth changing melody around the space of sixty odd minutes.

5) Victorian English Gentleman’s Club - Selftitled
Disjointed and disordered the debut from these three mortals is a collection of the chaotic and controlled. A lifetime of tunes in only 30 minutes it’s brilliant effective and simple, bang bang rock and roll up.

4) Jeremy Warmsley – The Art of Fiction
Wide eyed escapism Warmsley delievers what must be one of the debut albums of the year. The Art of Fiction has the depth and imagination that most modern music lacks. Its different in it’s hidden qualities as well as the qualities that are brought to the surface.

3) Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds
Quite possibly the worst album title of the year if not the decade, Final Fantasy returned in 2006 with a glorious ambient vision covered in strings and solitude, beautiful within its strengths and its weaknesses.

2) iLiKETRAiNS – Progress/Reform
Epic building songs of massive scope this mini album might not count in many lists but it needs noting that Progress Reform is a cold piece with the vocals being delivered in such a sparse and detached way to leave the listener haunted by the very essence of what he is hearing.

1) Lupen Crook – Accidents Occur While Sleeping
He’s a weirdo, a freak a boy who plays in his own mind with words and phrases most of us dare to speak. Maybe but that’s doing Lupen Crook justice. He’s intelligent, strikingly bright, fragile and beautiful at the same time. His music is crafted, sentimental and vicarious, he’s a poet and he’s different.

Top 10 Singles of 2006

Top Ten Singles of 2006
10) Foals - Try This On Your Own
9) Victorian English Gentlemen's Club - Ban The Gin
8) Air Traffic - Just Abuse Me
7) Blood Red Shoes - You Bring Me Down
6) Nicky Wire - Break My Heart Slowly
5) iLiKETRAiNS - Terra Nova
4) Patrick Wolf - Accident & Emergency
3) Answering Machine - Oklahoma
2) The Headlines - A Long Process
1) Elle Milano - Swearing For Art Student