Guy is on record as stating that he believes, with MP3 download so widespread, tracks are now bought individually on their own merit – taken out of context from the LP – going on to say that when the band composed Seldom Seen Kid, they wanted to make it as a ‘last full album’. I ask him if he thinks that all LPs are going to be less cohesive as a whole, and the tracks more disparate in future, or if Elbow are going to merely release a series of singles from now on.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a song for song’s sake, individual songs being someone’s raison d’etre, it’s just not ours. For me a record is somewhere you go for a while. I’m not saying you should listen to music in hushed reverence and do nothing else – but there’s nothing wrong with doing that now and again and the best way to appreciate music, is to give it your undivided attention. I think that’s why I love the cinema experience, because there’s no light and you have to give the film your full attention. I think headphones are a great way of listening to music because there’s no other sound when you’re using them. In order to get truly lost in a record, it has to be more than five minutes long. The way I listen to music is to immerse myself in it for a while and allow myself to daydream. It’s as simple as, if your records are a collection of songs and that’s how you write, then that’s great, and a lot of people do it that way, but [for Elbow] the album is the point. The album is the definitive article.” Why do you think they are on the decline, then?
There is nothing worse than someone faking an American accent
“Maybe albums are too long; it’s based on the two sides of vinyl, isn’t it? Maybe that’s too long.” I don’t think albums are too long. Perhaps it’s due to the supposed short attention spans of the ‘MTV generation’. “People have been saying that since the ‘20s.” They didn’t have MTV in the ‘20s, Guy.
Laughing off my flippant remark, Guy goes on to dissect the varying lengths of singles from the ‘20s through to modern day, informing me of the average duration of popular music songs in three different eras with the kind of precision that may have marked him out as on the Autistic Spectrum were he not so socially engaging a character.
His point, it transpires is that songs have become longer overall, since the ‘20s.
He’s certainly a theoretical musician as well as a practising one, though, being a quite a scholar of the subject. Although he’s no math-rocker, he casually refers to the Fibonacci sequence’s apparent relation to musical composition as if even Sum 41 should surely know what he was talking about. As he seems to have an opinion on everything, I ask him if he thinks that where a band or artist come from should be reflected in their music, or if it’s cool for an American artist to sing in an English accent or vice-versa, or for white people to rap…
“No, it’s not cool. It’s completely against the rules and it shouldn’t be done. You should sing in your native accent that you speak in if you want people to take you seriously. There is nothing worse than someone faking an American accent. My God, Joss Stone’s going to realise that, one day, and hang her head. It’s ridiculous. I know why it happens: I used to do it more than I do now, little American twangs on my ‘O’s. It took me a long time to make the northern pronunciation of the word ‘love’ sound appealing. I had to learn how to sing it so it didn’t sound too jarring… I think there’s a thesis in this. For example, a football crowd always sings in ‘A’. Why is it that when human voices get together they always settle on the same key? There’s no-one dictating that key, it’s just where they end up. I think the American thing might be to do with not wanting to move your lips too much, if you’re under-confident.”
r me a record is somewhere you go for a while
Talking of live performance, for a lot of bands, internet file-sharing and downloading have meant that the musicians’ bread and butter has gone back to revenue generated from live shows – record labels now often take a percentage of their bands’ live revenue too – have you felt pressure to be out there, playing live more?
“No, we haven’t. But we will, I’m sure. We want to play live, and I quite like the fact that things are shifting, because it’s very good that music will be free. All music will be free within three years, as a matter of course. It’s a great thing for music. The thing we need to do next in knock down copyright law, because we need to share all music, and that means getting rid of copyright law. If people want to pay to come and see you, then great, perfect – that’s what we’d like as well.” If we scrapped copyright law though, wouldn’t Joss Stone be able to cover your tunes in a dodgy American accent? “That would be fine with me. If you think about it – this is the excuse I use – all artists reappropriate other artists’ ideas. That means it should be OK to steal things.”
What lies in store for the future for Elbow?
“We’re going to tour Europe and the UK and the States. We’re going to tour the album, and we’re going to play it start to finish, end-to-end on stage. If this is the end of the album as an art form, it needs to be celebrated properly.”