Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An interview with Paul Heaton

"The very nature of the Tory Party is neither kind nor honourable".

Hagley Road to Ladywood discusses politics with the man who gave us The Housemartins and The Beautiful South.

Back when 'indie' music epitomised the idea of something specific to say rather than posing about in TopMan clothes sucking your cheeks in, The Housemartins showed that there was hope beyond posters of Simon Le Bon and Tony Hadley.

Their debut album 'London 0 Hull 4' was a rallying call for a generation overshadowed by the suffocating grip of mid-to-late 80s yuppism. With the current political climate so reminiscent of those days, we asked one of Britain's best lyricists ever to give us his take on current events.

Hagley Road to Ladywood: When you first started your music career, Britain was under a Tory government which was very similar to the current one in scope and social ruthlessness. Do you think this one will last as long as Thatcher's and Major's?

Paul Heaton: Well that will depend on Labour leadership. The public aren't stupid and if they don't see the opposition actually opposing the Conservatives on the main issues then they won't feel that voting will change anything. Ed Miliband and the whole party have a chance to show the country true leadership, in not only opposing this pathetic pandering to the banks and the 'Market' but showing us how as socialists we should react to this crisis. On first impressions he is of very similar backbone to the last opposition.

HRTL: What's the score with everyone saying "Iain Duncan Smith is a kind and honourable man"? Does it annoy you that cliches are made up and circulate so easily without people questioning their actual content?

PH: The very nature of the Conservative Party is neither kind nor honourable. The very nature of the man is to defend his class by hook or by crook. Cliches circulate with the power of the media right behind it. Nearly every single political editor on the BBC/ITV etc are public school educated. That's why cliches like that spread. Because editors want them to.

HRTL: Some people see a very placid and supine music scene these days. May be it's also that I'm getting on a bit, but I don't spot many outspoken bands out there, nothing like what you were doing with The Housemartins or what The Smiths or The Jam were doing. What's changed?

PH: I believe cynicism won the day and though most bands wouldn't even admit it, any form of satire is beyond them. Also on top of this, there has been a swing to more middle class musicianship.

HRTL: What do you make of the current fuss about Prince William and his wedding? Why do you think the BBC went on about it so much while there was clearly no public demand for such a massive coverage?

PH: I think the wedding should be indefinitely cancelled until they can come in with a wedding price that matches the current climate. The BBC are visibly drooling over the wedding because it represents everything their organisation stands for - ie the upholding of class barriers.

HRTL: The Labour Party lost 4 million votes and more than halved its membership in the years 1997-2007 under Tony Blair. Do you still think there's still hope in Labour? Can the party be brought back from its total state of zombification?

PH: I remember clearly in 1984, through arguments with Militant Tendency, what sort of state the Labour Party was in. It was divided, it was fractious, but most of all it was vibrant and full of good, young ideas.
Nowadays there's a different tendency- the Business Tendency. Militant were accused at the time of entryism, the definition of which is "a political tactic where a group of ideological actors enter another group or state with the aim of taking it over or moving them in line with their own interests." This is exactly what the Business Tendency have done with devastating effect. My advice to anyone wishing to enter politics would be to join the Green Party because the Labour Party has lost it's mavericks to cold hearted friends of 'the Market'

HRTL: Did the students' riots the other week surprise you? People always say the Brits are not a nation of street demonstrators. What's your take on that?

PH: The only people saying we never riot are the same media peddling the cliches discussed above. The Poll Tax riots disproved that theory.

HRTL: What inspired your 'Pedals and Pumps' cycling tour of Britain last spring? Did you ever get knackered to the point of thinking "fuck's sake why didn't I just book a tour bus"?

PH: No, I loved every bit of it. I'm planning to do it again in 2012 but about twice the distance.

HRTL: Your two solo albums ['The Cross Eyed Rambler', 2008 and 'Acid Country', 2010] have been hailed as an excellent return to form. Does it bother you that they haven't charted the way The Beautiful South used to do regularly?

PH: It doesn't bother me that they didn't chart but it bothered me that they didn't get played on radio. I seemed to have adjusted very well to abject failure. And that's how I felt during the success of the Beautiful South and Housemartins- fame and riches don't suit me.

HRTL: When you first started with the Housemartins were you ever given serious stick at gigs for your politics?

PH: It was a different climate then. People who came to our shows at first were Peel fans and Peel listeners were, in general, on the left of most debates. We had brushes with National Front at Peterborough and Dundee. Both situations I felt comfortable doing what I do best- argue my arse out of a corner!
The only real offence I took at was a student representative at a gig in one of the North West Midlands Universities [Keele I think]. He had a 'Hang Mandela' badge on and a 'Kill a Commy for Mommy' one too. I just said 'I'm a Commy what are you going to do about it'? I then made him take the jacket off so he fully understood I wasn't going to be democratic about it.

HRTL: You're a well-known football fan and your love for the Italian Serie A is well documented. But do you think Fabio Capello should be given the elbow?

PH: The FA, the English media and public are just going round in circles over this. I would have kept McLaren and sacked the people who appointed him!

1 comment:

Paul said...

Excellent work Claude, on getting this interview. I quite liked this guy’s music. His politics are bordering on crazy though and anyone who thinks the BBC is right wing is a tad loopy, mind you he said himself he was a communist! Communism murdered millions but never mind.