Q&A: Jarvis Cocker delves "Further" into rock

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker has just released “Further Complications,” his second solo effort. The sharp, unpredictable Britpop iconoclast continues to keep fans on their toes, from his counterintuitive choice of Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies) to produce the new album, to his announcement this month that his band would webcast rehearsals from a French art gallery.

British singer Jarvis Cocker performs on stage during his concert at the Rock-en-Seine Festival in Saint-Cloud near Paris, August 25, 2007. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Billboard spoke with Cocker about his new album, song licensing opportunities and his thoughts about cashing in on the ‘90s revival.

Billboard: “Further Complications” explicitly plays with different rock styles. Was that calculated during the writing process?

Jarvis Cocker: With me having started making music around the punk time, the rock orthodoxy was the establishment you rejected. Obviously there is a lot of bad rock music, but there’s also really good rock music, and I got an education. I thought, ‘This band can play that kind of music -- would I be able to write a record that would be able to use that but also not be a joke?’ I haven’t started wearing leather trousers, a sleeveless T-shirt and a bandana.

Billboard: How did you connect with Steve Albini?

Cocker: We were doing the Pitchfork music festival in Chicago last year. Steve Mackey, who’s my bass player and used to be in Pulp, and (drummer) Ross (Orton) knew all about him and his studio in Chicago that he built himself. So they suggested that while we were in town we should try it out. It’s fortunate because the songs had been written more in this band context, and I wanted to kind of capture that in the recording as well. And it just so happened that is really the way Steve Albini prefers to work.

Billboard: You were on Island for a long time with Pulp, and now you’ve done both solo records on Rough Trade. How has the record business changed in the past decade?

Cocker: I feel fortunate to be on an independent label now, because the business model is changing, and the major labels have to really grapple with that. Obviously independent labels have to sell records to stay alive, but I don’t think of it as being an industry -- more as providing people with something that they like. I don’t think that will ever go away. But everybody’s out to adapt -- like when you buy a vinyl record, usually you’ll get one of these cards so you can get the digital version. Things that acknowledge people have their music in different places and use it in different ways.

Billboard: What are your plans for promoting “Further Complications?”

Cocker: We’re doing a lot of traveling (in Europe), playing festivals, a few shows in the U.S. in July. And then I think we’ll probably come back in the autumn for more of a proper tour. I’m putting more stuff on ( -- films that I made when I was in college, a couple of radio shows that I’ve done recently.

Billboard: Are you looking into licensing opportunities?

Cocker: What did somebody suggest? Because the record’s called “Further Complications,” we could have a word with Apple, and have it go (sings) “Apple Applications” or “iPhone Applications.” That could work really great, couldn’t it?

Billboard: 2009 seems like a ‘90s revival, with a bunch of major reunions including Blur’s in July. Are you feeling pressure to reunite Pulp?

Cocker: I don’t play Pulp stuff in my shows, not to be awkward and horrible to people, but we all learned how to play together from a young age, and we weren’t the greatest musicians in the world, but we did have a sound. If my current band played Pulp songs, they just wouldn’t sound right. There are no plans to revive Pulp. If someone comes up with a giant suitcase of money, maybe I would have to come around. Maybe this is the place I can encourage someone to do that. Come on, whoever’s still got money left, offer it all to me.