Paul Weller Talks 'Kind Revolution,' Writing Music For Film
Now 59, Paul Weller, a.k.a. “The Modfather,” as he will forever be known to fans of the Jam and Style Council, is feeling good these days. His new album, Kind Revolution, finds Weller writing upbeat soulful tunes to do the best he can to soothe an increasingly anguished and tumultuous world.
He is also exploring his creativity with his first ever film score for the film Jawbone. Between the two, 2017 marks a very prolific year for one of Britain’s most enduring and revered singer/songwriters, a man whose influence has been felt by virtually every major U.K. artist since the Jam’s 1977 debut, In The City. Morrissey, Oasis and Billy Bragg are just three of the artists who’ve covered Weller songs over the years.
Weller spoke with GRAMMY.com about the new album, writing for film and the one song he wishes he could’ve written, and it is a good one.
Was it a conscious decision to write such an upbeat album when things are so crazy in the world right now?
I don’t know, it’d be a nice thing, anyway, to have some peace in the world. But I guess I thought it’d be nice to make something that was uplifting, write a song of hope in a hopeless world or situation. But I was trying to make something that would make people feel good as well. But at the same time it also addresses the same things you’re talking about, some aspects of it anyway.
Were there things you learned in writing this record because so often you don’t gain perspective on a record until well after it is done?
That’s true, but, yeah, that type of [perspective] can be months or sometimes years, you look back and think, “Ah, that’s what I was writing about, that’s what I was trying to say.” I think that’s true cause I think when you write some of it’s conscious and some of it’s very much subconscious as well I think. So yeah, somethings have different meanings or more meaning after a period of time, unless it’s something straightforward. There are some love songs on the record, so they’re kind of self-evident really. But I think there are other things that come back slightly later on really.
How much of the new material have you been playing live?
We’ve done about a half a dozen of the songs, we’ll probably add a couple more as we go on. But it’s always good reaction, it’s always tough playing new songs to people cause yeah, but I think people are digging it, we’ve had a pretty good positive reaction so far.
Are you seeing people uplifted when you play the new material live? And now of course with social media you get immediate responses, which can be good and bad. But are there responses you have heard that have really pleased you?
I saw a couple the other day when we were on tour and they said how much they liked, “Long, Long Road,” which is off the new album. And they were saying how much they loved it and felt it was their song. They connected with it and whatever they’ve gone through over the time. That’s always a sort of nice compliment as a writer, anyway, when people connect to the song like that.
What was the last song where you felt a song spoke to you that way cause it still happens all the time?
Yeah, definitely. It’s hard to think of one at the moment, but probably something like “Ghost Ship” off the last Blur album. I think these days it’s more the music that moves me. I’m not always necessarily connected to other people’s music. I’m not always straightaway connected to the lyrics, maybe that’s something I’ll pick up on later. But often I’m more affected by the mood of a record and the melody.
I know you also just did the film score for Jawbone. And composing a score is such a different process than doing an original album as you are writing to fit a director’s vision. Talk about that for a second.
I was kind of lucky with this film, Jawbone, because I started work on the music probably like four years ago when they were still trying to get funded. But I started…even just after hearing the kind of stories from the actor and writer, Johnny Harris, I kind of just buzzed off what he was telling me and the kind of idea and the vision he had for it. He wanted a very long piece, like 20 minutes long experimental kind of piece or kind of mood piece and that was the main vibe of the soundtrack, so I kind of did it off that. But it worked and I think it fit Johnny’s original vision and I think I was fortunate with that. So that’s kind of different to how a lot of people do soundtracks. I did some stuff to picture towards the end and I worked with the director more, but the bulk of it I kind of did before the film was made. But still with the film in mind and story in mind I kind of had the image of what the film would be like.
If you could do the score for one film what would it be and why?
Wow, man, that’s a question. Probably something like Harry Palmer films, some of those mid-‘60s spy films, cold war sort of films. Something like that really or some European films, some of the more kind of artsy French films or some early [Roman] Polanski films, something a bit more moody, not blockbusters.
Is that because it’s more your film taste or you think it’d be interesting from a musical standpoint? It seems like you’d have more freedom.
Yeah, it’d be probably that really, you’d have a bit more scope and more freedom to try different things really, as opposed to the big pounding drums, which obviously serves a purpose. But yeah, I think just because you’d have a bit leeway to try something more moody really, more ambient.
What is the one song you wish you could have written what would it be and why?
“Ooh, Baby, Baby,” Smokey Robinson.