Mike Ragogna: What advice do you have for new artists?
Lloyd Cole: I have to think about this all the time these days because my son’s band is in Brooklyn, they’re getting started and it looks like they have a chance. I think that you need to find your voice. If you find a voice which is your own and you feel like you have something that is not a rehash of something that’s already been done then you can run with it. But if you’ve been playing music for four or five years and you haven’t found your voice yet then you’re going to be in a cover band. That’s fine, playing music for fun is also fine, but you have to find your voice and that’s it. The music that I made before 1983 sounds like a cover band. It wasn’t until writing “Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken” that I suddenly went, “Oh gosh, this is what I’ve been wanting to do. How can I do this now when I couldn’t do this last week?” I don’t know, but I think you have to have that moment and you have to believe in it. I play golf also and you have to accept that there’s a great deal of luck involved. I got lucky in 1984, the whole band got lucky. There’s plenty of great bands that don’t get lucky but I think over all luck will even out and if you are a great band there’s a very good chance you will be found. I think if you don’t think you’ve got a chance to be great, we don’t need more music from people who don’t think they can be great.
MR: Can you see the evolution you’ve gone through over the years?
LC: There’s certainly not a linear evolution, that’s for sure. There are some terrible mistakes made along the way and certainly some dead end streets that were taken. My relationship with individual records changes. For many, many years I was very frustrated with the album Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe and kind of perplexed by why it was a lot of people’s favorite record of mine, but it’s now one of my favorite records of mine. For many years the album Love Story was the album I thought was my best solo record, I now think it’s probably my worst solo record. My relationship with things absolutely changes. I can’t sing certain songs because I don’t know where to start with them, I can’t remember what I could’ve been thinking to write them and yet other songs, maybe even older songs still seem perfectly simple, I don’t even have to think about why I wrote them and I still feel I can sing the songs. I’m not sure if evolution is the right term. I think maybe quest is better. I think I’m still trying to write beautiful songs and I think over thirty years there might be three or four songs that have absolutely nothing I would change about them. There’s maybe a dozen or twenty others that–I don’t like the term “proud of” because I don’t like pride, but I’m very happy with them. And there are a few things every now and again that I find myself looking at or hearing when I’m singing and going, “Well gosh, I think only I could’ve written that.” So maybe I am a valid addition to the canon.
MR: What advice would you have given yourself as a kid?
LC: I wasn’t really a musician, I was just kind of an ideas person. I did the right thing, I surrounded myself with musicians who were able somehow or other to invest some trust in my vision for what the band could be. I literally could barely play guitar or sing. When we were recording Rattlesnakes the only production that went into the recording of the vocals was, “Is it in tune or not?” When it was in tune it was regarded as being finished. As soon as producers started to try and direct me with how my vocals were presented, Jesus, things went terribly wrong for a while. I had no idea what I was doing, I was just some kind of savant. I got lucky. I guess I knew I needed musicians but I got lucky to find the right ones.
MR: So your advice would be stay the course.
LC: [laughs] No, I certainly wouldn’t say stay the course! If it’s not going well and you’re not sure that what you’re doing has got a chance of being great then do something else. I’ve always been pretty sure. I was sure when I was getting started and then I was unsure for about six months after the Commotions because I wasn’t sure I could do it on my own and then as soon as I started making demos on my own I was like, “Oh, I can do this.”