Most of the press clippings below are sourced from the first Pulp Scrapbook. It is often unclear which publication they originate from: add details if you know.
Jarvis Cocker: vocals, guitar
Russell Senior: guitar, vocals, violin
Magnus Doyle: drummer, occassional keyboards
Pete Mansell: bass
Timothy Alkard: keyboards & vocals
We interviewed Pulp at the Hallamshire Hotel, Sheffield, amidst the flag-waving, noise making and beer swilling hordes of the NUM. Scargills Men. However this interview is not about the miners or what they called me comin into town.
Jarvis: Pulp were easy listening. For a while we were a bit fed up of playing loud, playing the garage band. Forty year old landlords started to like our sound. We haven't done any Peel Sessions for a while now. Don't like him as much.
Wonder Stories: Any Throbbing Gristle influence?
Jarvis/Pulp: Not much. Not much influence from anyone.
W.Stories: What do you write songs about?
Pulp: About people. it may seem a vague answer but it's the only one I can say.
+ + + +
Pulp: We are told off for not talking enough on stage which is quite good. People don't get comfortable - they're used to armchairs, blankets and ovalitine.
Wonder Stories: What about the music business.
Pulp: We don't like to ignore it. It is a real world. We get fed up of the A&R men in their leather safari jackets saying 'yeah Real good sound - couple of synths here and there and OK!'
+ + + +
Pulp: Our greatest achievement were the Peel sessions from there we've gone downhill (not really).
Wonder stories: Are they're [sic] any Sheffield bands worth looking out for?
Pulp: Yeah. Dig Vis Drill (great name), who supported Carmel at the Crucible recently.
Wonder Stories: What about the Ya-Ya's (in Wonder Stories no.2 of which I have a cupboard left.)
Pulp: I don't think they exist any more. Their singer is in Denmark.
+ + + +
Wonder Stories: Has Pulp ever entered any competitions?
Pulp/Jarvis: We once did a 'search for a star' thing, which was a bit of a laugh. People in the audience sing and you get grannies going. The judging is crap. 3 years ago we entered a YMCA competition. The bloke said 'like the attack, like the attack'. The judges were a panel of Sunday school teachers.
Wonder Stories: Whats the Sheffield scene like?
Jarvis: The Sheffield Scene is quite dead. The Hallamshire Hotel, for ages one of the few places to play, couldn't afford music license. To get round this, we sometimes do acoustic items. Elsewhere, the George IV is open, Sheff Poly, Attercliffe + pubs, working mens clubs put on bands and stippers. We like playing places like librarys and definitely not colleges. Colleges like to think they're doing you a favour, so they underpay you.
+ + + +
Wonder Stories: Pulp has always seemed to be a laugh, put across as fun. D'yer still enjoy it.
Pulp: We still enjoy it. I don't walk around with a banana on my head. We don't mess about all the time. Pulp is not a joke. There are a lot of joke bands. A lot who don't mean to be jokes as well, who play.. the same songs for 2 hours, rehearsing every day of the week. Rehearsing doesn't help music that much, or perhaps I'm saying that coz of laziness.
Wonder Stories: What became of the record company (Red Rhino) on which you released 2 singles + a mini-album?
Pulp: We parted company with the record company because of MUSICAL DIFFERENCES!
+ + + +
Jarvis: The problem with fanzines is they tell you who does what and usually nothing more. It's like talking about cars, as they would a hobby. Whose got what kind of guitar etc... Fanzines ought to be more opiniated. It's the style of writing what counts. The trend now is for information, and a lot of things are more interesting.
+ + + +
Wonder Stories: Have you had any local press coverage?
Pulp: we were in the Sheffield Star a while ago. Martin Lilleker (music editor) talked to us and then put a stupid headline. What happened was we played instead of Ivor Heftycock at the Brunel University in London, and the audience consisted of 1977 style drunks, one of whom showed us his backside. 'Pulps barefaced cheek' he called it. The reason we did the article was to get people to come and see us. It actually got them to come for the wrong reasons. He also made up the phrase 'more relaxed approach' about us. We never said that.
W/S: Any other grievances?
Pulp: We hate the term wacky. We are not wacky. We are definitely unwacky.
Hotdamn! These chickens can PLAY!
Faceworkers in the great opencast mine of modern pop, Pulp find themselves in a lonely venue, one where there is a little too much space between members of the audience. Cats should be swung and they sure enough will be.
What matter if only a few witness the swinging? Those who do are spellbound. Jarivs Cocker, the undoubted lynchpin of the operation, is a commanding presence — the nervous dementia of a stand-up comic, bespectacled and angular, truly inspired. From time to time he steps back and the other members of the band set the pace. It's a ragged and strictly p[?]-professional performance — a strange set of people with a strange set of instruments and each song an emotional marvel.
Russell Senior, guitarist, singer, and acting correspondent on Pulp's behalf, says that the group was formed four years ago by gawky schoolchildren. 1984 and schoolchildren no more, but still gawky. Ungainly and brilliant.
In 1983 Pulp released an LP called 'It'. It's a topic they don't seem fond of, not wanting to be judged on their past — but their past seems to stand up in spite of them. Johnny Waller warmly recommends the album. Dave MacCulloch said at the time that if it had had 10% less mistakes it would have been a flawed masterpiece. Mick Mercer wants a copy.
But Russell quietly denigrates their past: "It had innocence, naievety, romanticism, good tunes, and it was a fair document of puberty, but it doesn't compare to what we do now."
What do Pulp do now? Russell offers four pointers to what they don't do.
ONE: "We'd all liked punk but it had disappeared up its own arse. Jaded cynics peddling pessimism — violent hardcore, pretentious spikey Batcave, new age hippie punk. It was a multicoloured refraction of the white light."
TWO: "Outside the new wave all was happy happy bubblegum. Thrusting crotches in the race to become the Mike Yarwood of pop. New technocrats selling sex to teenagers, fiddling around with knobs and rooting around the past as if it were a jumble sale."
THREE: "Social conscience music had a nauseating effect. Nena makes a million out of nuclear war fears and takes the edge off people's anger, diffusing any pressure for change."
FOUR: "We turned to hit the metal objects around us, but I feel an idiot when my dad's going deaf because of working in a factory, and we pass drop-forges on the way to the practice room that do it a damn sight better than us."
In a nutshell: "Our chosen means of expression was populated by diluters and devaluers of music that once meant something," Jarvis announces, "We wanted truth and beauty."
Before you raise your arms in anguish and cry, 'God! Not more convicts of conviction! Not more youths spouting grandiose piffle fresh from the grammar school', bear this in mind. Pulp are the real McCoy, not just going through the motions. They are chancing their gangly arms.
"Some songs," says Russell, "are more 'fragile' than the rest — we can easily look stupid doing them. But they're usually the most rewarding when they go right. We'd rather fail miserably than do all right."
Sticking your scrawny necks out doesn't always make you popular. Russell tells the tale of one night when the audience of oafish louts decided to lower their trousers to register their disapproval. Finding himself facing a bare backside, Jarvis did the natural thing. He kicked it. But, after molesting the obnoxious stag comic announcer, things got the better of him. Pulp made a hasty exit.
"Truth and beauty stayed in that night," comments Russell wryly. But truth will out. Like Russell says, "Things have been dead too long, but spring is in the air."
It may only be October, and we're only just planting our daffs, but this man is not wrong.
No More Scrubbing Crabs
Pulp have been about to 'break' for years. The big build-up's happening again and it's probably their last chance. Things look, promising this time, provided they don't fall out first ...
Forming at school, Pulp played their first gig at the Leadmill over five years ago. Only Singer/Guitarist Jarvis Cocker remains from that era. Russell Senior (occasional vocals, guitar and violin) gave us a potted history:
"There have been three basic incarnations. One did a John Peel session which was repeated. That was the first swell of success. That group split. Second, was the album line-up, which didn't sell many, but got a certain amount of critical acclaim and was heading in the right direction. Then that split. This line-up's been going for two years."
Jarvis: "So we're just about ready to split up now."
Russell: "We're on just about the same stage of teetering on the edge of independent success."
All the group are unemployed (the others being Peter Mansell, Candida Doyle and Magnus Doyle), but they have become "Damn near full-time. With the current work, there's no way we could get a job." (Russell).
This activity includes a 'mini-tour', including an anti-apartheid gig at the University on October 25th (which isn't in Machst Du — Prod' Ed.), also featuring local band Mr. Morality and London band, Popular Front. Also, a single is imminent, recorded at Sheffield's Input Studio.
But don't expect to hear these tracks live! Jarvis — "We've stopped playing the songs on it. Some people think we're being awkward, but it's there on record; we're fed up of hearing them. If people see us live and like us, I'd have thought they'd go and buy our record, anyway."
Their new label signed them on the strength of the L.P., released two and a half years ago, which Jarvis says is "very polite and relaxed", while Russell says "We're now rude and intense."
Their disagreements with their label seem to typify the band — "We don't hang around with each other; we don't like each other very much. There is a certain tension — I don't like it when everyone gets comfortable." (Jarvis). "Most people have fights with the audience, we have fights with each other." (Russell).
Jarvis is responsible for much of the songwriting, and the band now has a large repertoire. "Which we swap around, like crop-rotation". (Russell). "We've got one coming up soon; a winder [sic, winter?] song, which we've not played since last year." (Jarvis). "The really dedicated Pulp fan will know they can come and hear the song if it's been snowing". (Russell).
Jarvis: "If things are bad, you can either get depressed about them, or you can think — they're so bad it's almost funny. That's how I feel most of the time. There isn't anything humorous about us — well, not intentionally. We're not wacky!" "Although we have tongue in cheek, every word's meant!" (Russell).
Russell believes in "A theatrical element in our performances," which (apparently) used to be aided by toilet rolls draped around the stage ("Which looked quite effective with the lights" — Jarvis). "I really like being in a band. To do something good, you really have to be self-obsessed and fight for it," explained Jarvis. Russell talked of an ultimate objective to make "The best music in the world. Of necessity, you think what others are trying to do, is not so good, so you have to hate them, in a way."
So what of other bands in Sheffield?
Russell: "Best it's been for years — very healthy. What it lacks is a fanzine — you normally get one associated with a 'movement'."
Does that mean there's actually a movement?
"That supposed 'Sheffield Scene' is based around Caberet Voltaire and their minions. But now, there's a hell of a lot of 'clean cut young men' doing passionate songs about love and things, in various ways... But quite good, not wimpy. The best bands in Sheffield from that past wave never got anywhere. It was the worst ends of it — those that compromised round the edges, that got anywhere. I think some of the bands in the current Sheffield upsurge are going to break. My tips would be: Tree Bound Story, Dig Vs Drill, and us, in that order.
So where can we expect to find Pulp in another five years?
Jarvis: "I don't really like old bands. In five year's time, I'll either be in the 'Hole in the Road' with a cider bottle and a brown paper bag, or I'll be quite well off somewhere. Either very happy or very depressed, I won't be in the middle."
Russell: "There's only two options; you're either a pop star or you're scrubbing crabs."
Five years ago I saw this band. Four people not old enough to be in the venue on stage at the Royal Hotel, Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, turning out ramshackle, endearing and daft pop songs without a care in the world. Fronted by the gawky, bespectacled Jarvis Cocker, a man with a brilliant line in stylish bad dressing. I thought they were tailor made for early and total obscurity. But Jarvis Cocker, against all odds, turns out not only to be a persistent bleeder, but a simply brilliant charismatic songwriter, which is how come Pulp 1985 are on the point of releasing a new 12" EP on Fire Records. Let's backtrack.
By 1981 the style had developed and musicianship improved. There was a session on the John Peel show and the group took to making tongue in cheek artistic statements like playing with cardboard cones over their heads and being wrapped in toilet rolls by dancing girls. I left Sheffield early in 1982 and lost touch, but bearing in mind their raucous style and garage pop sense of aesthetics I half expected them to surface in the London trash wave of '83. Sure, I re[a]d the review of their LP 'It' on Red Rhino which said they could be the next Simon & Garfunkel but I didn't take it seriously. Perhaps there was another group called Pulp? Then I heard 'It'..... shock is hardly the word. More Leonard Cohen than Simon & Garfunkel but what's an acoustic guitar wimp between friends? This was fantastic in more ways than one, skilfully crafted songs of love powered by luxuriant horn arrangements, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, always great. At this point Jarvis Cocker should have been adopted as another romantic teenage genius like Roddy Frame, but he didn't have a leather jacket with tassles on so nobody bought the album. Pulp were dropped by Red Rhino and only now, after a low profile two years, are Pulp threatening a comeback.
So what does the man himself think of that period?
"That was our middle of the road period. I wouldn't like to be compared with Simon & Garfunkel. I wouldn't like people to think we were some kind of soft rock thing. I wouldn't say that review made the band split up but it certainly made me think, well, I don't want to come on as that kind. I don't want to be anybody else besides myself. I don't think I'm very good. I don't have a great complex about how great I am but I wouldn't like to be anyone else."
"Around the time of that LP we got into this music/musician type of thing; everyone was very proficient, whereas I'm the best musician in the band now and I'm not very good. When people know how to play their instruments their imagination goes.
"That LP, it was dead sincere at the time. I feel a bit embarrassed when I listen to it now. I was 18 when it was released. I'm not trying to make excuses, it makes me sad more than anything else because I seem very naive and very innocent about things, which I don't feel that I am now. It was hankering after something which I didn't have any experience of and when you get to actually have what you've been crying for for a long time sometimes you find that you don't want it and chuck it in the bin. I suppose I'm a bit more cynical than I used to be although I don't want to be because I don't think anything good can come from cynicism. You just drag things down and don't take any chances."
So what can we expect from the new Pulp?
"The songs are more violent now, more frustrated. There are some softer songs but there's no love songs any more. The word 'love' doesn't get used very often. I'm very ambitious, you've got to set your ambitions as high as possible."
And what is your ambition?
"To bring back truth and beauty to the world."
I haven't heard the new Pulp record, but something tells me it's going to be good.
The main attraction is Pulp, regarded by many at Sheffield's most promising band ever, after reasonable success from their last EP Little Girl (With Blue Eyes), they'll go out of their way to live up to all expectations. Gaudy, trashy, explicit, intense, moody — a dictionary of adjectives can describe them.
Pulp pull no punches
JARVIS Cocker of Pulp has to admit that the band don't always get on that well together.
"It adds a bit of tension live," says Jarvis, once dubbed the "child prodigy" of the Sheffield pop scene in the days when the schoolboy Pulp landed a John Peel session but now in danger of approaching elder statesman status.
Jarvis is the only survivor from those heady days when the Peel session was followed by an album and single and Pulp were a force to be reckoned with on the local scene.
These days they are rather taken for granted.
"With us having been around for so long, people made up their minds up having seen us in 1983. They are not aware that we have changed a lot," says Jarvis.
The new line-up came together when Jarvis took part — with guitarist/violinist Russell Senior — in play The Fruits of Passion in October, 1984.
At the time, Jarvis was ready to leave Sheffield for a place at Liverpool University to take English.
"I thought I would give Pulp one last chance and, luckily, it has turned out all right. I enjoy it more."
Drummer Magnus Doyle was already there from Pulp's previous line-up, his sister Candida joined on organ, with the band being completed by Peter Mansell on bass.
They have been concentrating on out-of-town appearances recently but have found time to record their first single for more than two years — a four-track 12 inch on London based label Fire which is also handling other Sheffield bands Ipso Facto, Scala Timpani and 1,000 Violins.
The A-side, recorded at Input in Sheffield, is Little Girl (With Blue Eyes), a typical Cocker composition, with clever melodic and lyrical twists. Pizzicato violin adds a fancy touch. It's a pity it will almost certainly miss out on radio play simply because of the chorus.
There's nothing dodgy about the lyrics, but, as Jarvis points out, he sees no sense in couching his ideas in euphemisms as is the case with most pop records.
There are two more excellent Cocker songs on the B-side, the whole thing being characterised by an almost medieval fairground sound that Pulp have developed. Final track, Blue Glow, shows their theatrical side with Russell intoning over a lot of banging and crashing.
"This is quite a crucial time for us," says Jarvis. "I don't want this single to be stillborn. As long as it does something..."
Success is long overdue for Pulp and they should get some — as long as they can keep from each other's throats in the meantime.
* The Pop Page has got two copies of the single to give way. We let Jarvis set the question (our mistake). What year was Hole in The Road officially opened? Was it 1965,1967,1968 or 1971? Answers on a postcard to The Pop Page, The Star, York Street, Sheffield S1 1PU. The winners will also get two coach tickets to see Pulp play, with labelmates Blue Aeroplanes, at the Fulham Greyhound on December 11. Tickets, including coach and entrance, are available for £4.50 from FON Records on Division Street, The Leadmill, or telephone Sheffield 701528 for details.
PULP, Sheffield's undiscovered sensitive souls
After seven years of ramshackle existence in the garages of Sheffield, PULP remain the city's least famous supergroup. They've just re-emerged onto vinyl with an achingly great ballad written by their longest serving member Jarvis Cocker — a man of gaunt face and second-hand suit. He's a songwriter of rare talent — a sort of Baccarach and David of the inner city —which can be witnessed on the gorgously sad Little Girl With Blue Eyes released by music journalist Johnny Waller's Fire label... A love song dripping with a violent fatalism...
"It's not about physical violence," Jarvis retorts, "it's like something that builds up over years and years and gradually destroys somebody ....."
For the last couple of years Pulp has existed as a collective of musicians based around the songwriting talents of Jarvis and friend Russell Senior, but it's Jarvis who tends to dominate the mood of the group ...
"I'm a bit of a dictator sometimes, I surprise myself because I can be a bit obnoxious. I think because it means a lot to me, I can be a bit of a twat sometimes. In concerts I stop songs half way through. I know it's not a good thing to do, but I can't help myself. I'm going to have to go and see my analyst."
In November 1985, Jarvis fell from the window of Russell's flat while trying to impress a girl with a Spiderman impression. He fractured his pelvis and broke several bones. He spent the next six weeks in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, forcing the cancellation of concerts and other promotion for the Little Girl (With Blue Eyes) EP.
Cocker comes a cropper
SHEFFIELD band Pulp have had to cancel concerts for the next few weeks — because singer Jarvis Cocker has fallen out of a window.
Cocker, who is now in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, suffered a number of broken bones in his leg, hip, arm and wrist, when he fell 20 foot to the pavement.
The blow has come at a crucial time for the band who have just released their Little Girl (With Blue Eyes) single and were due to play an important date at the Greyhound in London on December 11. Unless Cocker undergoes a miracle recovery this date looks almost certain to be cancelled.
They have also ran into problems with radio play for the single — one Radio Hallam deejay faded it out when he heard the chorus, and that was at one a.m.
• Winners of copies of Pulp's new single are E Wilson of Firshill Walk, Sheffield 4; and C Noton, of Toftwood Road, Crookes. Because of Cocker's mishap, the Greyhound tickets have now had to be withdrawn. The answer to Jarvis's question — "When was the Hole In The Road officially opened" is November 1967.
PULP'S BIG BREAK
Yup Darts brings you this exclusive exposé on the hard-living lifestyle of Sheffield's top rock bands.
Première guitarist and violinist with top Sheffield band Pulp, Russell Senior, sits in the Darts office, strumming on his balalaika, magnanimously handing out free singles and press releases and reflecting on the cruel twists of fate that have afflicted the band of late.
To start with, following the news that Pulp might support the Pogues, lead singer Jarvis Cocker, clearly determined not to be overawed by the boozy reputation of the drunken folk revivalists managed to get gloriously as the newt and fall out of the window of his fifth storey flat. Lying in a hospital bed with numerous shattered limbs, Jarvis may care to reflect that this is in fact the fulfilling of a bizarre prophecy for Pulp's new single contains the lyric, '... face down on the pavement, chalk lines around your little hands.' Which, according to Russell, is the precise position in which poor Jarvis was found.
This comes closely in the footsteps of the new Pulp single, called 'Little Girl', being (gasp) banned by Radio Hallam. It appears they think the record is obscene. In particular, they point to the lines, '... little girl with blue eyes, and a hole in your heart, and one between your legs, you're never going to wonder which one he'll fill...'
Well, Russell doesn't see it and, quite frankly, neither do we but ours is not to reason why. Anyway, the record is currently selling out in shops all over Sheffield. Meanwhile, J.C. seems quite content lying in hospital singing, easing the pain and keeping the nurses awake all night.
We know the Sheffield City Press said that Pulp's problem is that they're always falling out, but this is ridiculous.
Did he jump or was he pushed? Exactly why did PULP's Jarvis Cocker leap from Russell Senior's window (breaking assorted ankles, wrists and pelvises - all his)? Will Russell get to sing the 'A' side of the next single now? Or will Jarvis return, having proved his machismo, and break his voice instead?
PULP have cancelled all current interviews and gigs until Christmas due to the serious injury suffered by vocalist Jarvis when he inadvertently (and inadvisedly) fell out of a second-storey item. Adding insult to injury - literally - the band have run into trouble over the lyric of their new single. Radio Hallam's go-ahead progressive pop show, 'New Age Muzak', took 'Little Girl' off the air at one a.m. after playing the lines "Hey little girl, there's a hole in your heart / And one between your legs / You've never had to wonder / Which one he's going to fill / In spite of what he says". The flabbergasted DJ announced "Well, I never expected anything like that from Pulp!"
By contrast, Melody Maker's Helen FitzGerald explained that "the song is all about girls realising that their destinies don't have to be tied to a man's." The band themselves regard the single and their own existence as "an attempt to put life back into cliches". London dates to be confirmed for January.
Smashed Pulp miss big date
Controversial Sheffield band Pulp had to cancel their first Rotherham gig after an unlucky break...
The band were to appear on the bill with Mr Morality and Lay Of The Land in the Arts Centre on Friday.
But their lead singer, Jarvis Cocker, is now in hospital with a fractured hip after falling 20 feet from a window.
Said Pulp violinist Russell Senior: "He was playing Spiderman on the window ledge after a heavy drinking session, as well rock stars do all the time, but things went wrong."
It looks like Pulp will be in for a quiet Christmas, as Jarvis will be out of action for several weeks.
SO, YOUNG Jarvis of Pulp. Whoops-a-daisy, eh? It is the case - do you remember? - that this young excitement was so excited about the band's new single that he started dancing around to it in his bedroom, only to fall out the window (don't try this at home). Well, it seems young Roger Holland had the temerity to imply in his recent review of the Pulps that Jarvis appearing in a wheelchair was a publicity stunt. I should coco! The man's legs are a pulp. Roger (whoops) and he is in point of fact (as Sue Lawley would say) still severely crippled. So. There.
Against all odds
PULP WILL be playing The Limit Club in Sheffield on Tuesday despite an injury list which would get Ron Atkinson's sympathies.
Front man Jarvis Cocker will be there despite breaking his pelvis and numerous other bones when he fell out of a second floor window six weeks ago.
Guitarist Russell Senior will be there despite having had the end of his finger sewn back on after an accident last year.
Bass player Peter Mansell will be there despite managing to fall off the top of Woodseats quarry this week. He escaped with cuts and bruises.
Drummer Magnus Doyle will be there despite the most delicate of injuries. While thrashing his kit to within an inch of its life at a concert in Darlington recently his swivel drum stool unswivelled and Magnus sat down rather heavily on the exposed point. Painful.
Keyboard player Candida Doyle will be there unless...
Singer is back on wheels!
A fallen Sheffield pop singer is back on the ladder to success - in a wheelchair!
Jarvis Cocker, frontman with up and coming band Pulp, broke his wrist, ankle and pelvis when he fell from a window two months ago.
And he threw the possibility of the band's big break into jeopardy when several concerts to promote a new single had to be cancelled.
But now, recovering at his Intake home, Jarvis has returned to the stage on wheels. Recently he played with Pulp at The Limit Club, West Street, Sheffield, and will front them at prestigious concerts in Bradford and London.
The startingly brilliant Pulp EP Dogs Are Everywhere, reviewed on this page some weeks ago, is finally in the shops, and to celebrate the band are playing the Library Theatre, Surrey Street, on Wednesday.
Pop Talk is also celebrating potentially the event of the decade (OK, maybe a bit over the top) with a competition with a Pulp T-shirt, badge poster, sticker and copy of the record as a prize.
Goodies go to the first person to tell us which comment or comments have been said about Pulp in The Star.
- Power pop with bottle.
- A cross between comedy and music.
- Sheffield's brainiest band.
- A cross between Abba and The Fall.
PULP are from Sheffield and make rather outrageous records. Paul Mathur talks to them of dogs, wheelchairs, Nazis and baked beans
THERE'S a great big staircase at the back of Sheffield's Wicker. At the top there's two people settling down in the corners of the building. One of them is called Jarvis Cocker and he's hunched behind what appears to be a pile of pianos and a half-completed pigeon loft. "Don't come in," he says, rather overestimating my prowess as a mountaineer.
In another room, there's a young man called Russell Senior lying on the floor looking at the ceiling.
"Are you ill?" I ask.
"No, just resting." These are two members of a pop group called Pulp.
Pulp take me to a room in which everything - walls, tables, sofa — is completely brown, except for a huge plastic bag full of empty Heinz Beans cans. They tell me that it's not an artistic gesture or a performance prop, it's just that the person who lives there likes beans. They furrow their brows and cross their gangly legs and wait for the questions.
Pulp were kicked out into the world in 1980. Jarvis was young, fresh faced and just out of school. "I was so soft then, I used to write about love and all that stuff. Now I'm a cynical old get."
LAST year Pulp had a single called "Little Girl" out on Fire Records. A theatrical trouserless romp around the scenery of love, it didn't get played on the radio and some people said nasty things about its sauciness.
"I always thought it was a bit banal," says Russell. "It's a lot less dirty than most of the other records in the charts and yet John Peel wouldn't play it: "I can't understand what the fuss is about myself. My mum likes it."
One of the songs on the B-side, 'The Will To Power" caused even more eyebrows to raise with its remarks about getting back the Spirit of 1933.
So Pulp, are you really Nazi stormtroopers?
"Well, they had good uniforms."
"No, of course we're not. The song was written in 1983 when we were living in a real SDP kind of environment, where no one had any opinions on anything. I wanted people to take sides, to get off the fence.
"I'd been reading about Germany at that time and the class conflict. I liked that atmosphere but obviously not from the point of view of being a Nazi. A lot of Left Wing statements are too wishy washy, too nice. I like the sharpness of the Moseleyite addresses. They were on the wrong side but they were better organised."
PULP are better socialists than Billy Bragg and his little wooden guitar will ever be! Fact.
"It was quite a commercial single that one. We want lots of people to buy our records. Being an Indie band is like pottering around the allotment. We're not proud of our independence."
At this point a hundred thousand birds start to sing at once. Someone is playing a birdsong record but no one's quite sure why: Pulp mouth things silently at me which as the record ends tail off with "come along to slag off your trousers and say 'look at that spaz in the wheelchair'."
Ah, the wheelchair. Following a particularly daft show of bravado in front of a young lady, Jarvis plummeted from his window and did a fair amount of damage to himself. He took to performing from his wheelchair on doctor's advice but everyone just thought it was a gimmick.
"That," says Russell, "was cos you kept on getting up and walking off at the end of performances."
"Aye, I suppose so. Playing in a wheelchair made me move my head more though. That's probably what's inspired our new Eurodisco direction.
Pulp's new single "Dogs Are Everywhere" is about as Eurodisco as a piano stool. It's a pensive, very nearly profound composition on well...
"It's about dogs."
"Well, it's about dogs in society, male and female. As far as I can work out man is nearer to dog than ape. The way they shit on your carpet; that sort of thing. Sometimes you feel like a dog, it's like low mindedness, brute instinct over higher values. It's a bit of a dilemma. You get the nobility of lions but dogs are stuck with walking down the pavements being dirty. There's no more pathetic sight in the world than a faithful dog."
What sort of dogs would Pulp like to be?
"Greyhounds, they're fast."
"I'd rather be a cat."
One of the other new songs is called "Aborigine" and it's about a man who gets married, has kids, all through lack of imagination.
"I'll tell you one thing about Pulp right. We're not about being grey and dull but we do a lot of wallowing in the dirt so that we can find something better. It's no use going on about the deconstruction of language. Your average man in the street doesn't give a shit about deconstruction of language. We want to convey love in the eggs, chips and beans; we want to carve something between the lines of the everyday world.
A MISSION eh?
The only group we all like is Sham 69, especially Jimmy Pursey doing his future dance on 'Riverside'. He blew it all so spectacularly, looked such as total knobhead, it was brilliant. He's our hero.
Pulp. Pulp are...
"It's like when you go to a jumble sale and have to root around under all that crimplene until you find a real bargain. Actually, I quite like Crimplene. My trousers are made of Crimplene..."
Pulp are a band who've proved themselves a little special in the past nine months or so. Firstly a brilliant single, 'Girl With Blue Eyes', which won acclaim from all corners, and now the eagerly awaited follow-up in the shape of 'Dogs Are Everywhere'. It's in a similar style: nicely understated clear guitars and soothing organ with Jarvis's straightforward and unaffected vocals on top. But a strange title, n'est-çe pas?
"Well, there are a lot of dogs around, aren't there?" says Jarvis drily. "At the time I wrote the song I felt surrounded by them, people who indulge in generally immoral behaviour with no actual purpose. I mean, some elements of bestiality are OK, but dogs haven't got a very glamorous image really, have they?" Quite!
When Index popped along to see Pulp recently, Jarvis was to be found singing from a wheelchair. "No, it wasn't a stunt," Jarvis assures me. "I was trying to be clever, showing off on a second storey window sill, and I ended up in hospital for six weeks and in a wheelchair for another three. I broke my ankle, my pelvis and my wrist. Some people said it was all a gimmick at the time but really, Pulp are such a great bunch of guys that we really wouldn't do anything like that."
Some music papers have taken Pulp's gentle yet cutting songs as part of the general 'we want to sound like the Velvets' wave, but Pulp person Russell isn't too worried about such accusations.
"No, we weren't really pissed off because we knew that comparison was so inappropriate. We're more influenced by groups like the Fall, really, and if people had picked that up, it might have worried us."
I think Pulp will have a hit record within the next 18 months.
Forthcoming Pulp concerts
- Tuesday 29th April - Sheffield Maze Bar
Sheff. Univ. + Lay of the Land. £1. Doors 9.00
- Wedesday 30th April - London Timebox
Bull & Gate, Kentish Town, onstage 9.00
- Saturday 10th May - Hull Adelphi Club
De Grey St. (off Beverly Rd.) onstage 10.00
- Tuesday 13th May - Sheffield Limit Club
West St. (City Centre) onstage 10.30
Suppporting: Flexible Penguins. Adm. £1
- Thursday 15th May - London Rock Garden
Covent Garden. Onstage 10.30
- Friday 23rd May - Chesterfield Library
Low Pavement (City Centre) onstage 9.30
Adm. £1.25 Supporting: Bland/Siegfried's Magic Box
New 12" E.P. out in May "Dogs Are Everywhere" on Fire Records cat. no. BLAZE 10.
PULP the next "big thing"?
If there is some truth behind all this talk that there will be another big change in the perception of popular music in 1986. Then the only band who I think will do it is PULP - the most useful thing to come out of Sheffield since Stainless Steel.
R - Russell Senior, M - Magnus Doyle, P - Peter Mansell, C - Candida Doyle
How did Pulp start?
R - Jarvis, the lead singer (and the only member of the band who has been there since the start), started it at school, about five years ago. The current line-up dates from when we were doing a surreal play in and around Sheffield about two years ago.
Who thought of the name?
R - Jarvis, I think. If you look in the dictionary, it means a kind of fiction in the 30's, very trashy and with gaudy colours, but at the same time, it was quite deep. I think that's a lot like us, we're trashy and gaudy and unsofisticated.
What do you think of Chesterfield?
R - We played our worst two gigs here. The last one was at Gotham, that was pretty terrible, and before that, Adam & Eves. People were trying to bodypop to us - it didn't work.
Is Jarvis really the leader, on and off stage?
M - Well he's been in Pulp from the start so I suppose it does rotate around him, but I don't call him a leader.
P - I don't look at it like that.
Who are you influenced by?
M - We are original.
R - I think I can honestly say that Pulp as a band isn't influenced by anyone. The only band I think we all like is Sham 69.
C - Oh no.
R - Anyone who's heard us knows that we're nothing like them. I prefer classical music. Some of the others like punk, the Fall, Jarvis likes ballads and film themes.
At what point did you stop being a Sheffield band, in order to go national?
R - Really, this past year has been full of touring and trying to lose that label.
What kind of person comes to see your concerts?
M - I don't know, I rarely meet them.
R - The people who don't come to see us are like the hip scene. We're not a hip band in Sheff. I guess we attract your average interesting youth on the street, not trendies.
What do you think of Sheffield, opportunity wise?
M - It's alright.
P - There's plenty of places to play.
Would you rather be somewhere like London?
P - No, it's too big.
Are you content in being at your present status?
R - Yes, but if 50 people come to see us, I'd rather there be 500 and if we sell 5 records, I'd rather sell 50 and I'd shun anyone who doesn't think that.
Did your last EP sell well?
R - It did O.K. , considering that it didn't receive airplay. It got more-or-less banned everywhere because of its lyrics. The A-side got taken off Radio Hallam halfway through. If the next one isn't banned, we reckon it'll do well.
What will the next A-side be?
R - Probably 'Mark Of The Devil' (or maybe the excellent 'Dogs Are Everywhere'. It will be out in March / April.
Do you think that it will sell better?
R - It can't help but do so, 'Little Girl' wasn't danceable, they played it in the disco's and people kept tripping up. It was too risque to play on the radio, but not shocking enough to get mothers writing in saying we're corrupting the youth of Britain. It was banned but not hyped.
Can you see yourselves getting to number one?
R - Realistically, I don't think it's gonna happen.
If you were asked, would you appear on T.O.T.P.?
C - I wouldn't, I don't like it.
Rest - Yeah, why not?
C - I'd have to then!
PULP: beguiling, disturbing, underrated, overacted, undiminished by mere cult status. Ballads of despair and optimism, soundtracks for the unloved eternal hopefuls, staring the beast straight in the eye. 'Little Girl' and 'Dogs Are Everywhere' are torn out of real life and presented for your further enlightenment.
What is PULP?
PULP is a strange creature, living on the left-overs of broken marriages, perverted sadistic 'love' affairs, the sucking [?] of the afflicted, violence in the subway and the slow, deliberate torchuring of your senses.
PULP is also perfection... evil perfection.
Each portion of this terrifying beast tells its own story, revealing traumas to your eyes and screaming to your ears before the sound is crushed and disposed of in the flotsam.
On the drums, MAGNUS moves in a hopeless arc of some unheard rhythm, dancing to some longlost childhood singalong from his psychedelic past.
CANDIDA nervously peers over the edge of her Farfisa into the city streets below. "Why is everything so bad in my life?"
MANNERS hides in the shadows, wielding his weapon that is poised to destroy any descent creature.
RUSSELL spins wildly at the fairground his head becoming his feet. He stares madly at the devil perched menacingly on his violin. Whirling manically, he manages only to dislodge the beast, which takes refuge in the shadows.
Or does it?
Perhaps it possesses The Master of the Universe - JARVIS cries out in despair, trying to exorcise the beast which will not budge, and slowly, JARVIS moves closer to the edge, screaming wildly as he reaches it, only to be pulled from the brink for yet another final breath.
Be aware of this bizzare beast, for soon, your noses[?] will be infested by it - on your turntables, your televisions, your books, magazines and the pictures on your walls.
The beast is growing.
PULP - Sheffield's answer to malaria.
A new PULP single should be around by now, but if it isn't, it will be soon. "They Suffocate At Night"/"Tunnel" will be available in 7 & 12" form. With different mixes on each. A video to the A side was filmed on October 24th in a Sheffield warehouse.
In it, a mechanics pit was mocked-up to look like a room, in which Steve Genn (Mr. Morality) and Saskia Cocker (Jarvis' sister) acted out a 'Love scene', with the band looking down on them. In another scenario, the band performed on an 8' high 'stage', under which there was more acting, amongst hanging bags of coloured water. Other scenes feature Russell's photocopy art object "The Will To Power", and people wrapped in cling-film and trapped in cages.
I've seen the finished product (without sound) and it's very well produced. You may see it down at the Limit or the Leadmill, and copies have been sent around the TV stations.
After Christmas, February should see the release of the LP "Freaks". The 10 tracks "No Emotion", "Master Of The Universe", "Suffocate", "Never-ending Story", "Fairground", "Anorexic Beauty", "Don't You Know", "Life Must Be So Wonderful", "I Want You" and "Being Followed Home" were recorded in July and re-mixed in September. (Production by Pulp & Jonothan Kirk).
I've heard all the tracks except the last one and I can assure you that it's a classic album.
In Spring, "Master.." and "Manon" will be released on a single.
This also has an accompanying video which is supposed to feature the band leaping around on a lunar landscape (which is really a painting!) and is very tongue-in-cheek.
"Manon" is already available on the "Imminent 4" compilation. Other bands on the album include the Dentists, the Rain, Easterhouse, McCarthy and the Brilliant Corners.
PULP are also featured on the Record Mirror's "Fruitcake and Furry Collars" LP, performing "Don't You Know" ('The best three piano notes ever played... Great stuff from the greatest band ever to have a wheelchair onstage for the singer'). Other bands include the Woodentops, the Fall, and the Wild Flowers.
On November 8th, PULP supported (!!!) the Railway Children at the Leadmill's Oxfam benefit. (see Alive)
The only concerts that the band have planned for the near future are some London gigs in December to promote the LP and single. Sheff. Limit Club March 4th.
THE PULP INTERVIEW
Along with the equally excellent Blue Aeroplanes and Colenso Parade, PULP have formed a crucial part of the Fire records tour-de-force. Originally treading the boards back in 1983, the Sheffield-based group have re-emerged this year with only Jarvis Cocker remaining from the previous line-up, and have to date offered us 3 splendid 12-inch singles, with an album coming v. soon. No strangers to controversy, Pulp's first release for Fire, the haunting 'Little Girl (With Blue Eyes)', had a BBC ban slapped on it due to the direct nature of the lyric. Were the band surprised by this?
Jarvis: "Not really I suppose. There seems to be an attitude that anything is acceptable in pop music as long as it's never put directly; e.g. it's all right to say 'Let's make love tonight baby I wanna feel your body' but not 'There's a hole in your heart and one between your legs'. I wasn't too surprised."
Guitarist/vocalist Russell puts the other side of the coin: "I was very surprised seeing as we'd been playing that song live and on local radio for years and nobody had ever passed comment on it. I suppose that we thought it was pretty tame really. What really cracked us up was that Jane Solanas, a feminist writer for the NME, gave it the biggest slagging off."
As Sheffield has a fine track record for producing groups, I wondered what Pulp saw as the pros and cons of hailing from the city, and how important it was not to be seen as 'just another Sheffield band'.
Jarvis: "we'd rather not even be thought of as another band, let alone another Sheffield band. We play music so obviously we're seen as a band, but music is just our chosen form of communication really. Nice tunes are all very well but a song should get something across as well. As for Sheffield, it's big and smelly. There's no scene - just lots of people trying to outshoot each other." Russell reciprocates this view: "In Sheffield the 'local' stigma is a pretty difficult one, i.e. there's an image of what Sheffield music sounds like (A cross between New York funk and a steel factory) and we don't sound like it. What pisses me off is that the tag doesn't fit Sheffield at all. We're proud to be part of the varied and very healthy scene that is Sheffield music. For the record I feel that Pulp stem very much from Sheffield's industrial culture, but that doesn't mean we can only appeal to Sheffield people or that we sound horrible. Something to do with having to make your own beauty because the sights and smells around you all offend the senses.. Now the 'scene' is entirely different and there are a lot more bands like us (i.e. with songs rather than noises or textures) doing interesting things."
I make mention of the song 'Will to Power', to be found on the 12" of 'Little Girl', which attracted some criticism due to its (ahem) right wing connotations. Russell, who wrote the song, expands: "To be honest, I wasn't too surprised at the Nazi flak we got. It is in fact a real commie anthem dedicated to Arthur Scargill, and Nelson Mandela and the I.R.A. The reason it got flak is:
1) it mentions 1933 (the year Hitler came to power)
2) the title is also a book of Nietzsche writings compiled by the Nazis and taken out of context to try and prove their race theories.
3) I look very similar to Adolph Hitler(!). On a couple of occasions I've had to dash out of my local when yobbos started chanting 'Zieg Heil!' and taking the piss."
To their eternal credit, Pulp shun any attempt to look self-consciously hip (or indeed self-consciously unhip) in their appearance. For despite Jarvis' own admittance that "we are usually told that we look like a party of inmates from an asylum on a day trip", Russell is quick to point out that Pulp's image is important the more so because it's not a chosen or contrived one. Jarvis agrees: "We don't attempt to avoid current trends", adding "we can't help it if we're 2 years ahead of everyone else!"
Russell thinks that there are too many easy reference points in most bands, to the extent that people will tend to fashion their lifestyle according to the types of bands they go to see, citing batcave music as a prime example. So where do Pulp fit into the scheme of things, Russell?
"There's a big gap between the sugary horrible pop charts and the ugly spiky indie sludge and there aren't too many bands in the middle though that's where our future lies I reckon. I think what we do is normal and healthy and what a lot of people are looking for - music that sounds beautiful but doesn't insult your intelligence isn't that absurd a thing to do."
Overall I reckon Russell has every justification for saying this - listen particularly to the first 2 Fire singles, both truly tender but with a lyrical twist in the tail, or the eerie, relentless 'Aborigine', or the tranquil beauty of 'Goodnight', featuring Jarvis at his gravest, if you don't believe me.
If I had to compare them with someone, I suppose The Velvets spring to mind, but really, trite comparisons do Pulp no favours at all, and more importantly they can never hope to communicate the many facets of Pulp. The best way to find out is to buy one of their records, and find out for yourself. Enlightenment is just around the corner.
Sheffield purveyors of last Xmas's finest moment, PULP's 'Little Girl With Blue Eyes' (There's a hole in your heart, and one between your legs/You've never had to wonder which one he's going to fill), was a Scott Walkerish sinister paean to pre-Flasher halcyon days. Also on that EP was the awesome "Will to Power', deconstructed Leni Riefenstahl comes to dole gloom Britain, replete with tin trumpet orchestration and vocal histrionics. The impending nationwide visceral and cerebral putsch wasn't to happen though, as frontman Jarvis Cocker saw in the New Year by walking out of a second storey window into a wheelchair. Back in dingy studios, work began on a collection of Jacques Brel sings Roman Polanski chansons, about to be unleashed in the form of an LP 'Freaks', and the single 'They Suffocate By Night' (both Fire). Their outing at the 100 Club on Thursday is going to be their first for some time, and they have no intention of 'going on the road', so if you only go to one gig a year, make it this. To be filed somewhere between Ian McEwan and Charles Hawtrey. (Andy Darling)
Pulp have been around since, it seems, almost the beginning of time - every few months putting out another exquisite piece of vinyl, every few months being ignored by the record-buying public at large. Last year their "Little Girl (With Blue Eyes)" and "Dogs Are Everywhere" singles gained a bit of ground. Now with a new single, "They Suffocate At Night", and LP "Freaks" (both on Fire Records) we have the chance to see whether Pulp will at last gain the recognition they deserve. We met Jarvis Cocker at his typically bizarre flat situated between a boxing club and a Boys Brigade hall (!), to talk about "Freaks" :
"It tends to be about freaks - either the songs are freaks or the people in them are. It's not a concept record in that all the tracks are linked or anything like that."
Do you write about people you know?
"Not too much. You can't make it too obvious or you lose your friends don't you? It's a bit like exploiting your private life if you only see people to get some raw material."
"We do quite a few 'love songs' I suppose. The thing that's got them a bad name is all the crappy ones - it's still a good subject to write about, especially if you can come up with a new angle on it."
"It's about time we made the charts, we've paid our dues (sarcastically spoken). You want lots of people to come to your concerts and as many to buy your records as possible. It's not necessarily the money that matters tho' I suppose that's a good thing. You're shouting at the top of your voice and you want people to listen to you."
"We wouldn't be able to change our music to make it more 'commercial'. You've got to like what you're doing to be bothered about it. You've got just about as much chance of making it by doing what you want as you have if you try tailoring it to somebody else's thing. It's better driving a bandwagon than jumping on one. You shouldn't say to record companies - "Oh, fuck off, we're artists", better to learn to work within the business and turn it to your advantage."
What about the music press ?
"Don't like them. A lot of them are failed musicians - Austin's (Dig Vis Drill) theory is that that's why they like bands who can't play very well - because it makes them look better. The press doesn't count for as much as people think it does. We've had good reviews and had single of the week in Melody Maker and I'm still sat here talking to you lads. I'm not on my way to the Bahamas."
Do you feel any need to get a political message across?
"Not really. Russell writes some political stuff. I haven't got much original to say - You can go "We don't like Margaret Thatcher" but a lot of people think that anyway, and a lot of people have said it. Doing benefits is better; you can align yourself with a cause without having to write "Smash The System" in your songs. You shouldn't let politics dominate your life too much otherwise you end up having a very boring life. It's better to make the most of life rather than worrying about the government all the time. But don't ignore it."
Tell us about other local bands.
"They're alright. Most of them aren't true blue dyed-in-the-wool Sheffield. All these 'industrial' bands; Chakk and Hul[a] and all that...You can get some nice steel sounds around here - there's a grinding place just to the side (points out of window), so you may as well listen to that rather than go and buy one of their records. Chakk's studio is just down the road, so I can't say anything too nasty or they'll come up here and beat me up.
"Dig Vis Drill are a good band but they play concerts in stupid places like under a stone somewhere outside Norwich where about four people go to see them. They ought to do better than that. Treebound Story aren't too bad, okay for background music, nice bunch of lads. Mr Morality, I know them so I can't be too nasty about them. They've got one or two good songs but he's (Steve Genn) a bit too obsessed with becoming a pop star."
Are you planning to carry on in music for a long time?
"Not if nothing happens after this new record comes out, I might get fed up and want to try something else. Is that mercenary? You've got to feel that you're moving forward, progressing. I'd do something completely different to prove I wasn't a one-track mind man. Music is alright but it's not everything is it? People shouldn't get too obsessed with it, there's a lot more interesting things... like the countryside.
[... something missing? ...] it's their main topic of conversation. You end up writing songs about guitars or songs about life on the road or songs about soundchecks, which is a bit boring."
Who do you admire ?
"People who manage to survive in Sheffield without walking round being mangy all the time. It's not a good idea to have heroes. I thought Leonard Cohen was alright but I went to see him in London and he was playing all guitar solos, stuff like that. I didn't like him any more. Most famous people have got some twattish things about them but you only get to hear about the good things."
What about chart bands ?
"The Pet Shop Boys! Now they've ripped us off, let's have it said. Their new single "Suburbia"... we've got a song called "Nights Of Suburbia", and theirs has got some lines about dogs in it, which goes back to our last single "Dogs Are Everywhere". But I quite like them, they've got some quite nice Abba-type tunes. The lead singer's a bit of a prissy thing and can get on your nerves, but they're okay. Then again you can like some records just because they're so crap, like Modern Talking."
"No, they're just too crap, I'm afraid."
So tell us about your accident, Jarvis.
"I was just trying to get from one window edge to another, hanging by my fingers. I realised I didn't have the strength to do it, or to climb back in, so I had to count to 3 and let go. It was a long way down. If any children are reading, I wouldn't recommend it. I was laid up for a bit, and it gave me time to think about things. It made me realise I didn't have a guardian angel looking after me - you tend to think you'd always get out of a situation like that, get some strength from somewhere, but I couldn't find it. There was no dramatic music like there is in films when somebody's hanging off a cliff, it was just pathetic."
PULP, not the most straightforward pop group in England, are crammed into a Sheffield telephone box, attempting to draw me into a discourse on excremental sadism, but I'm having none of it. Singer Jarvis Cocker is offering an off-key rendition of the Jackson Five's Doctor My Eyes in the distance while violinist Russell Senior is trying to explain why his group are regarded as rather giddy young men, daft as a squirrel up your trouser-leg. Three years as Indieland's equivalent of Tommy Cooper's egg-timer gag and they've had enough.
"We are the future," he announces. "Therefore, it's time people stopped seeing us as strange men in strait-jackets. Pulp are becoming more glamorous but more misunderstood."
Two years on from their debut LP, three singles older and Pulp are looking further than ever from the gaggle of nondescripts that populate the world of underground pop. If I984's Little Girl detonated with churlish aplomb, December's They Suffocate At Night offered more conspicuous clues, aiming somewhere between Scott Walker and Screaming Jay Hawkins with the late lamented Peter Glaze as arbitrator. Pulp shape up as England's most erratically inspiriting unknown concern, overlooked by a sluggish rock press who miss the mirth at the centre of all this.
"What we are doing," says Russell, "is making trash out of beautiful things in the form of some urban cut-up. We are somewhere between being in control and being out of control, we're never sure which. But it's all very everyday. We're not writing about cosmic vibrations or anything. It's the same things people have been talking about for centuries, but we're saying these things in a completely different way. If Chaucer was alive today, he'd probably be playing bass-guitar in our group."
Their new LP, Freaks, a broth of dulcet balladry and swarming chaos, arrives by the side entrance very shortly.
"It's going to surprise people in the same way as when you walk along a road and find a severed limb under a hedge ... if you can imagine that sort of thing. We've taken a dip in the devil's bath and the water suits us just fine. Jarvis! Stop that friggin' row!"
PREACHING FROM THE PULPIT
Sheffield popsters PULP are creating a haunting music which is virtually without peer in the Britain of 1987, says ROY WILKINSON, who meets them on the eve of the release of their new LP 'Freaks'
THE ALBUM'S called 'Freaks', for as the opening line proclaims, "Nature sometimes makes mistakes".
There they are over there, and if you must avert your eyes, don't cover your ears because Pulp have a qualification for you.
"These freaks we're talking about they're formal [sic] people gone a bit wrong. It's sad but don't bother crying: they still eat and drink and watch TV just like anyone else. And they smoke."
The freaks who populate this record's "ten stories about power, claustrophobia, suffocation and holding hands" are resolutely ordinary, characters you're far more likely to see through front room windows than down at the fairground.
In fact far from being Pulp fictions, these blighted souls are very real: a lot of them play in the band, and if that sounds funny then that's alright, because Pulp are a comic band.
I know this because their singer and lyricist Jarvis Cocker told me: "A lot of our songs deal with fairly mundane things which are a bit over dramatised - it's a bit like a comic."
As well as being a bit like a comic, Pulp are a bit like a mixture of slapstick comedy and some understated, macabre novels. I know this because I read it in a magazine.
Then again, you should never believe what you read and in the light of Jarvis' claim that his namesake Joe once installed a gas fire at his house, it's difficult to know whether to believe him. The one thing you can safely say about Pulp is that they are out on a limb, one that may or may not be connected to a body with seven more and two heads.
PULP ARE a Sheffield band and 'Freaks' is their second album, following 1983's long forgotten 'It' and a handful of singles, and houses their current 45, 'Master Of The Universe'. Pulp's core of Cocker and violinist/guitarist Russell Senior are creating a haunting music which is virtually without peer in the Britain of 1987, their nearest relatives being The Band Of Holy Joy.
The similarities come with the way both have fostered a host of neglected styles (waltzes to crooning balladry), transmuted mundanity into a grotesque, projected an overriding mood of melancholy and drawn on a wealth of literary references.
Pulp have been compared to anything from Brecht to author Ian McEwan to Mills & Boon. Along with books they've been juxtaposed with buffoons, a pre-AIDS epidemic of jesters that includes Leslie Crowther, Peter Glaze and Charles Hawtrey. It's a curse the band have mixed feelings about.
Jarvis? "All those references make us seem a bit contrived when, hopefully, it's quite raw, getting at emotional nerve endings. It's not as if we go, Let's do a song about the latest novel we've read.
"I don't mind people comparing us to Ian McEwan because I like his stuff (psycho sex dramas) but when someone say Charles Hawtrey (Carry On's bespectacled, ineffectual butt), you don't think 'cheers pal!"
Russell: "In Sheffield we get more 16-year-old kids at our concerts than we do post graduates in Cabaret Voltaire studies."
Pulp songs are direct, stripping emotions down to a naked insightlines [sic] and then coating them with a pervading sense of gloom.
Jarvis: "I've never been a very carefree adolescent - I wouldn't go out with me if I was you.
"All those types of songs are basically about one girl who I went out with and unfortunately it went from being quite an innocent thing to being a very traumatic thing without either of us knowing why. The freaks thing is like getting divorced from the rest of the world through something like that relationship.
"The other reason we called it 'Freaks' was because we always get called freaks, the escape party from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, stuff like that. When we play live, everybody dwells on the fact that I'm thin with specs, he (Russell) looks like Count Dracula, Candida (keyboards) although
she's 23 looks 14, while Pete (bass) looks like a football hooligan. We were always getting called freaks so we thought let's call the LP 'Freaks' just to... put two fingers up."
AS FAR as Jarvis is concerned, he's not an eccentric. Throughout our conversation he maintains a slightly resigned blank faced jocularity but keeps his speech prosaically direct, miles away from the contrivance that Pulp's press might lead you to expect of this 23-year-old with long limbs and disgusting brown crimplene 'slacks' which terminate six inches short of his ankles; as does Russell, a slight man of 26 with a ghostly pallor and a down at heel clerkish air.
Nonetheless this pair's conversation does dispel a lot of Pulpish preconceptions. It does, that is, until you ask them what they do in their spare time.
It seems that this pair have a sideline which is Dickensian enough to fit in with their public image. Get down on that Davenport for these two Arthur Negus' of rock are heavily into... antiques.
"Antiques Roadshow is our favourite programme." says Russell. "Our ambition is to see one of our records on there. If you want any '50s art deco then Jarvis is your man. I like Italian 17th Century paintings but I haven't been able to get hold of anything yet. That's what I'd eventually like to deal in because I like beautiful things. At the moment I can only afford ugly things."
Frustrated sensualists priced outside paradise. That's Pulp for you.
Pulp played the Limit once again on the 19th May and were as I have come to expect them to be — all good fun. Every time they play they manage to stay exciting with startling use of sets accompanied by Jarvis' jerky dancing".
Jarvis' silly jumper was here — this time on one of the boys operating the slides, also a constant stream of bubbles floating round, made the scene even more ridiculous. On first sight Jarvis (the vocalist) looks like a man lacking humour but just watch and listen it's everywhere. They got better and undoubtedly are the most innovative live band in Sheffield. They are not to be missed under any circumstances — they will not be around here for much longer.
Their new LP entitled 'Freaks' is described on the sleeve as ' 10 Stories About Power, Clastrophobia. Suffocation and Holding Hands', which, surprisingly enough is what they are all about — in a funny sort of way! Don't expect a concept LP, though, as the style, whilst staying lively and sometimes frighteningiy powerful, is greatly varied. Russell Senior also gets to demonstrate his voice, which is nice, as he shows a lovely uncovered northern accent. There are a lot of contrasts on this record, ranging from manic torment in 'Never Ending Story' to a sleepy, ballad-like sound on 'Don't You Know'.
You can buy the record in all records shops(!), price about £6, or you can send off for it to 12 Kingdom Road, West Hampstead, London NW6 for £5.50. It's well worth the money and probably the most interesting thing you'll see released this year.
Jarvis Cocker, diplomat, playwright, crooner and NH spex wearer, this is yer page ... come on down
Pulp is a soft mush of nerves in the interior of your tooth - probe it and you'll wince, feel a slither of fear, or possibly the worst pain imaginable.
I'd say that Pulp from Sheffield sing about love in much the same way. Then again, when they're in contact with the outside world, Pulp are as close to the humorous - the funny bone to you - at that moment when you don't know whether to laugh or cry at your depressing, painful tangle of affairs.
"So just lie back and enjoy it and save your tears for when the kissing stops, oh you know it's got to stop" (Don't You Know)
It goes like this. A human climbing frame stuffed inside a third-hand suit behind NH glasses and perplexed eyes, Jarvis Cocker is the voice and core of Pulp. Through eight years and three difficult incarnations, Pulp have had just the one Peel session (scored while still at school in 1981) and the mini-album, It, to show for it. Pulp's fondness for theatrical gestures on stage, songs that veer from Radio Two to Radio Five, past the point of Peel programming, and a disposition that can hardly be contained in the expression strange, has meant Pulp are still marooned.
Not that their songs ever scream 'rescue me'. Instead they rub shoulders with the emotionally crippled while trying to touch and bleed the MOR pop classicism of a Jimmy Webb or maybe even a Burt Bacharach.
Later on, the story got even more confused. There will never be a more perfect example of a band's clash of desire and realisation than Pulp's Little Girl (With Blue Eyes) which signalled their return from the wilderness after It in 1985. This was a new Pulp, with Candida, Russell, Manners and Magnus, and the year's most unloved, unrecognised single - an epic, sparse ballad, haunted by piccato violin, swelled by that chorus: "There's a hole in your heart and one between your legs, you'll never have to wonder which one he's going to fill despite what he says..."
Little Girl is a sign of the way Pulp take notions of love, vulnerability and dependency and then expose it. Beautiful ballads are equally ripped and torn by drones, crescendos and thrashes.
"I like aggressive music, say The Birthday Party, but in any type of music, I don't like to stick it into different categories of how I feel." Fair enough, Jarvis, but Pulp sound more at home on a stage than in a rock gig. "Probably, but we're in the rock 'n' roll market so we have to play those places. Do you think we're more refined that that?"
Pulp have strands of Sheffield factories and London bedsits, but mostly Parisienne folk clubs. Frankfurt nightclubs; Jacques Brel, Berthold Brecht...
"I can see that, but I don't like this idea of this 'singer-songwriter' idea. I don't mind having been compared to Webb and Bacharach, but the more wimpy types like Donovan ..."
Jarvis looks hurt.
"We can do it the other way, which is like to sledgehammer it into people."
Those people probably have enough problems of their own. All those doomed relationships, all that self-torturing. Pulp can't help but satirise the fatalism, but are they entertainers, spectators or commentators as they interfere with our daydreams?
"I've wondered about this sometimes because I don't want to appear as if I'm looking at the world and moralising and pontificating. I would just hope that we don't contribute to the problem. Most of the music that I listen to is a true reflection of the world because it's crap. Hopefully Pulp can make music as a soundtrack to the world as I'd like it to be, as perhaps it could be."
Both the last two singles, Dogs Are Everywhere and They Suffocate At Night, two bulging ballads, failed to sell. It's going to be hard for Pulp. The new album, Freaks, walks by a fairground, gets followed home, jumps in and out of bed and tries to repair the irrepairable. People hate each other. People love each other. People are their own worst enemies. Guitars are strummed for sadness and violated for desperation. Imagine a Roman Polanski soundtrack to a Phil Spector movie. Collapsing new feelings.
"Sometimes truth is very ugly but if it is true, then it can't help but be beautiful. It's certain realisation. You either get depressed about [it] then or you see a funny side to it. Just to realise what things are."
"As the signs outside proclaimed, nature sometimes makes mistakes"
One last question: Jarvis, you said It was "very innocent and naïve, trusting love and romance. I suppose I'm a bit more realistic now." But have you been in love since?
"I don't really like to use that word anymore. I don't know what it's supposed to mean."
[Rough translation from Serbo-Croat]
Pulp from Sheffield - the city that lies at the heart of the mining industry. Until recently known as "steel city" today full of empty factories and now known for its rock bands, and music that comes from the culture of a large, old and decayed industrial city.
Pulp's concerts are held in England.
Pulp's music played on the radio.
Pulp's music does not fall into one category because it comes from past styles.
Pulp: the music of today not yesterday.
Pulp's music is the beginning of a new movement that is taking place not only in Sheffield.