"The Blur album was a bit like us walking up a road and seeing what’s up ahead and wanting to try another route before we’d gone too far, a route that was more difficult and challenging, a more worthwhile route for us as musicians. After The Great Escape  I decided to write a letter to Damon because I wasn’t confident enough to broach conversations about my needs. It was something like: “I’d like to start scaring people again, because at the start, we were into unease, songs like Oily Water and Resigned. Let’s make a bloody row, and have fun.” I didn’t get much of a reaction, but Damon did give me the steering wheel a little more. I think he was sympathetic, and keen, for everyone to express themselves, and for me to have moments to mess around with noise. I wanted to see what the guitar could do without much intervention from me. But Damon knows that when it comes to enveloping his voice in something beautiful, I can do that too. But Blur does get called a ‘Graham album’ a lot, because of things like Essex Dogs.
We felt forced into this strange Britpop thing, which we had nothing to do with, but I suppose we tried to kill any stink of Britpop from our clothes and move away from our beloved Kinks – though there was still Bowie, because of Damon and [producer] Stephen Street. I think we found our own heavy psychedelia, rather than staying with Toad-of-Toad-Hall psychedelia. But we also had a digital recording set-up that we could finally trust, making loops and stuff: hence Essex Dogs.
I don’t know what concerns EMI had, because they loved Song 2, which we had played them for a laugh. We had Beetlebum too. We did Strange News From Another Star for a lark, and maybe a B-side, but [Food label boss] Andy Ross wanted it on the album. It’s an unfocused album but each song has its own personality, which can be tricky to achieve.
If anyone was going to have a go at a Blur album, it would have been this one, because of its self-indulgent moments. I can’t recall how it was reviewed, or particularly liked, but it came from an authentic place, and then it’s hard to rip it to shreds. Authenticity is an amazing force field!
As told to Martin Aston
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