Paul Weller Talks ‘Saturns Pattern,’ Touring America & His New Project: Idolator Interview
Paul Weller is one of the greatest chameleons in rock history. After spearheading the mod revival with The Jam in the late ’70s, the Brit then veered into new wave territory with The Style Council. He then kicked off a hugely successful solo career in 1992, releasing 12 consecutive top 10 albums. The most recent, Saturns Pattern, finds the 57-year-old at his most adventurous, dabbling in psychedelia and acid rock.
I spoke with The Modfather about his latest LP during the US leg of his tour and he opened up about forcing himself to take risks. Paul also talked about keeping his finger on the pulse of music and the inspiration he gets from working with newcomers like Josh McClorey and Liam Magill. Interestingly, the legendary rocker revealed that he’s working on a soundtrack album and new music. Find out more below.
You really mixed things up on this record with a little psychedelia, a splash of acid rock. What inspired the shift in sound? It’s not always possible but I try to do something a bit different every time, which is difficult. I think it’s just that willingness to try to go further with it, try different things.
It’s unusual for an artist to be on their twelfth record and still evolving. How do you keep it fresh? Freshness is that willingness to try to go forward and experiment with things. You almost have to consciously do it in a way and that’s not an easy thing to do. I like to keep it interesting, so I don’t get bored as well. It’s interesting for me and for the people around me.
Were you inspired by anyone in particular? Not really, I listen to music all the time. So there’s not one particular artist.
I think there’s a touch of Tame Impala to “Phoenix” and other reviewers have picked up Paul McCartney vibes. Well, I like both of those two artists that you mentioned, so it’s quite possible. I can’t say it was intentional because when you’re making an album, and everyone’s bringing in tunes and playing each other music, all of that melds together.
Can you talk about “White Sky”? It’s a different sound for you. It was the song I did with The Amorphous Androgynous. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but they made their own records and hashed out these great compilations as well. I did about seven or eight tracks with them about two years… no three years ago.
We just did demos to see what it was like working together. “White Sky” came from that session. Then Stan Kybert, the guy who co-produced the album with me, he took it away and we tweaked it. It was great with working with them.
Speaking of collaborators, you also worked with Josh McClorey and Liam Magill. How did you find them? I liked their bands, The Strypes and Syd Arthur. I knew them through their music, then got to know them. We worked together a couple times on different things. With Josh, for instance, he was at my studio with The Strypes and while he was there I got to put some guitar on a track. With both of the boys, I worked with them a few times.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of new music? Word of mouth mostly and what you read in magazines. Occasionally radio, but not so much what they play in England. It’s mostly word of mouth, friends recommend things or just reading something that interests you. If you’re a music fan, you always want to hear what’s next. There’s so much out there yet to be discovered.
This album sounds a little more chilled out than your last few. Would you agree? Yeah, I guess so. Yeah, I suppose it is. A lot of that might be on a subconscious level really but I’m sure it’s true. I guess it’s a reflection of where I am right now in life, they’re always reflections of where you are.
There’s a calmness to it. It took me a lot of years to find it.
Is there one song on the record that really stands out for you? Probably “Going My Way.” I just think it’s a great arrangement. Everyone just really, really came through on that track for me.
Is there a difference between touring America and the UK? I don’t suppose anywhere is that different, really. I love playing in America and I really, really like American audiences. I find them really appreciative. It’s probably closer to when I play Europe, maybe not the UK but Europe. People seem to really listen and then respond and they’re very generous audiences. I’ve always liked playing here, especially in recent years it’s been really good.
You’ve probably been coming over here for so long, do you recognize any familiar faces? There are definitely a few faces I still see at the shows. We all look older and stuff but it’s pretty amazing really that they are coming forty years later.
Do you prefer the mayhem of the old days or touring now? I’ve enjoyed all of it. I like now, to be honest. I’m generally not the same artist as ten years ago, twenty years ago. I just like what I’m doing now and I like the way the band sounds, the way we’re all playing, the set list is great. It’s more chill but it’s about what we do and constantly looking to try to better it and improve it. A great vibe amongst everyone really.
Have you already started thinking about the next album? Yeah, I’m starting to write some tunes and we’ve done some demos. It’s a long way off because I don’t know when I’ll have time to do it. I hope to do a soundtrack in the early part of the new year so maybe like towards the fall of next year, then maybe start the new album.