The Modfather reflects on life, lockdown and a new album

WOKING’S most famous musical son, Paul Weller, is set to release his 15th solo album, On Sunset, later this month and he’s feeling content – despite the COVID-19 lockdown interrupting promotion for the record.

The pandemic scratched out his latest round of UK gigs, so instead he has been squirrelling himself away in his beloved studio, Black Barn at Ripley, to lay down new material.

Woking’s musical son Paul Weller spoke to the News & Mail about family, lockdown and his new album

“I’ve actually been very focused being at home these past few weeks, doing a lot of writing, as well as some more recording in the studio,” says Paul. “To be honest, these days when I am not working, I am actually home quite a lot with my wife and kids as we’ve been home schooling.

“I haven’t really been bothered by the lockdown, other than having to queue for food or medicine.”

Beyond music, family is clearly a major priority, and he seems pleased at least two of his eight children, including daughter Leah, have shown real musical ability, although he quips that “they sometimes patronise me,” in a fashion only children can achieve with their parents. 

There’s a family link to the title track on the new album too. Paul says On Sunset was inspired by catching up with his eldest son Natt in Los Angeles, which holds particularly strong memories for him as a teenager on his first tour of America with chart-topping Woking trio The Jam.

Paul, who turned 62 on the spring bank holiday, has successfully reinvented himself over the course of more than 40 years, walking the line between classic rock, punk and new wave, through to the soul sound that inspired his second band, The Style Council, and his later solo balladry.

On Sunset contains some of the soul motifs fans have come to expect along with touches of electronica and orchestral arrangements that continue his appetite for experimenting musically.

“I wouldn’t say making music has got any harder,” he muses. “I think I’m actually enjoying the process and the writing a lot more now than I ever did before in terms of recording. I have a great respect and appreciation for it and seeing how the finished songs are.”

Having co-produced the new album with long-term collaborator Jan ‘Stan’ Kybert, who worked with the likes of Oasis, The Verve and Massive Attack, Paul says: “I wanted to do an album that was soulful and also had an electronic edge to it. Most of the songs on it are quite uplifting, and to me it’s a sunshine record.

New album On Sunset launches on 19 July

“With the single Village, like a lot of my songs, there’s a lot of me in there, so there’s a key idea, but then you make it broader to be about other people, you extemporise.”

On Sunset includes appearances from his old friend Mick Talbot from Style Council days, Slade’s Jim Lea playing violin on the very ‘60s-influenced Equanimity, and several backing vocal tracks from indie outfit The Staves.

As well as his strong attention to sartorial detail as befitting anyone from the mod revival scene, Weller has been noted for his passion for seeking out new music and offering assistance to likeminded acts.

As he notes, the present musical landscape is a very different one from his youth, but what has changed the most?

“Where do I start?” asks Weller. “Well, streaming for one. That has changed everything. Someone told me the other day that a band had a number one with 7,000 sales. But streaming is where it’s at, it’s not something that you can ignore. 

“I could have a mini moan about things like that, but I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old git. I think the main reason I haven’t liked it is that people are not getting paid out of it, particularly up-and-coming bands, meaning it’s getting hard for them to make a living now.

“I’ve never believed that music should just be free as some people do. So it’s good to see that vinyl is still out there even if it’s not in great numbers, and I’m going to be releasing my album on cassette as well.

“So am I contented? Yes I am – I’m fortunate and couldn’t wish for anything.”

Paul Weller’s new album, On Sunset, is released on July 19 and rescheduled upcoming gigs include Brixton Academy on November 19 and Kentish Town Forum on November 20 (pandemic regulations permitting).

For the full story, see the 2 July edition of the News & Mail

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