From the Funky Mofo archive: (the real) Tuesday Weld’s latest album ‘I, Lucifer’ serves as a soundtrack for a book cunningly titled ‘I, Lucifer’. This is the first I’ve ever heard of any such thing and I got very intrigued about the person hiding behind the music, Stephen Coates and the part he played in creating this soundtrack, especially as I read the novel and loved it! I called him one morning to find out about Lucifer but also the Clerkenwell Kid and a Lucozade advert!
The album was produced, directed and acted by Stephen (who took on the roles of God, Lucifer and The Kid). That was a big job and I wonder if it hadn’t tired him. His experience was “extremely enjoyable”, he says, despite the length of time spent making the record and it did leave him feeling drained but inspired. “Looking back on it I can’t imagine how we pulled it off but we did” he gushed. Although ‘I, Lucifer’ has had relatively very little press, the latest single from it is creating a bit of a sensation for featuring in one of the latest Lucozade adverts. ‘Bathtime in Clerkenwell’ has been supported by several radio DJs and it is not difficult to see why. Its chirpy 30s tune is the kind that sends you into a dancing trance, not the techno kind, but more like the dancing our elders must have experienced in the Follies days, men swinging girls around their waist, flipping them in the air, frills and pearls and all the rest! Its rhythm is addictive and once you’ve heard ‘Bathtime’ it is virtually impossible to get it out of your head. It makes little surprise that the film shot to accompany the song went on to a world tour, having been showered by numerous awards and frankly it deserves it. Alex Bukowski, the New York-based director, produced an energetic animation featuring a clock, a man and unstoppable singing crows. (the real) Tuesday Weld and Alex Bukowski’s collaboration didn’t stop there as Alex’s talent was commissioned to produce the advert animation, taking directly from the original video’s idea and using the same track almost as to make it come full circle.
Talking of collaboration, some might notice some “sponsors” being mentioned in the album booklet. Glen Duncan, the author of ‘I, Lucifer’, is one of Coates’ childhood friends, they grew up together (“He’s one of my best mates really”) and, after living in the USA for a while, found himself back in London, sharing a flat in Clerkenwell with Coates whilst writing ‘I, Lucifer’.
Half an hour had come and gone and we resumed our conversation, as Coates was due to take another call! But before he did he asked to speak again half an hour later. So I got myself a cup of tea and did mundane things people do in their home to pass the time like doing the washing-up, having a cigarette, sorting out the laundry, until it was time for me to pick up the phone again.
Funky Mofo: You told me earlier you were a francophile. Why?
Stephen Coates: It’s really just come down to Gainsbourg! It sounds a bit odd but, because I don’t speak French very well at all, when I first heard Gainsbourg in the original I just completely got inspired by it. Until that time I’d really just listened to old jazz music, he’s the first “more modern” person I really got into, I’ve listened to quite a lot of French music, you know Yves Montand, Léo Ferré. I think if you’re in this country (nrd: the UK) you just don’t hear that music, it’s just amazing! I mean, that’s what really got me into becoming a Francophile – Gainsbourg, I think he’s a genius. He did some crap stuff, I could do without the “sort of” reggae, “Sea, Sex and Sun”… I could do without that one myself (Laughs)!
FM: Who did the French lyrics for “La Bête et La Belle”?
SC: That was David Guez, he’s not actually in the band anymore. We’ve just done another couple of things together, next will be “Les Oiseaux et Les Abeilles”. The idea is to do a French EP, a 5-song French EP. I just like the idea of an English band singing in French. We were thinking of doing it in a bucolic style.
FM: Why do you get called the Clerkenwell Kid?
SC: I’ve done three albums and there’s been a track on each about him. He’s a mythological figure that I met in Clerkenwell one night, when I was tripping. I kind of, in my mind, built up this whole image of him, I only met him once, when I was making the album I felt I was inhabiting that image. I thought he was the sort of character that would live in the district of Clerkenwell. He’s like Lucifer in the book, they both got mixed up together! An alter ego I suppose!
FM: Is he still around?
SC: I haven’t seen him since that night so I don’t actually know whether he exists!
FM: Glen’s writing at the time triggered the whole project. Lucifer is a popular theme, especially in the musical world (Faust’s legend inspired several composers). I was wondering if any of these other musical compositions inspired you?
SC: Not really, I mean in ‘Faust’ he’s not Lucifer, he’s Mephistopheles, that’s slightly different because he’s more of a tempter there. Lucifer, in Glen’s book, the way I saw it was that him and God had this love affair going wrong. Basically they used to be lovers and it went wrong, they can’t stand each other but they love each other, caught in that kind of vicious circle. That was my take on Glen’s book really. Rather than the tempter, Lucifer was more the errant lover, the rebel I suppose, the person who’s kind of left and can’t come home!
FM: You change CD cover designs quite frequently, what were the other covers like?
SC: The first one was more like stills from a film, more sober. They’re quite different actually. The latest one was done by Paul Heartfield, he built that little theatre and the props and stuff. The video for “The Ugly and The Beautiful” was actually an inspiration for the album artwork. It was made by Tim Kirkby, we shot it in this amazing place, Hammersmith’s Working Men’s Club, a lovely seedy 50s theatre which, as far as I know, nobody was using apart from some old guys drinking there. That’s a sort of venue waiting to happen. I’ve got this history of releasing different versions of albums. The first one came out in three versions, one in the US, one in Japan and one here, all with different artwork. I remade the album with extra songs and extra remixes, in a way it felt like a new thing, so I’d change the artwork and we’d also try and keep it in line with our live performances.
FM: Are you working on anything at the moment?
SC: Yes, I’m working on a new album, I think it’s probably going to come out sometime this year. It should be finished late Spring but it will probably take a few months before it actually gets released. Just in time for Christmas!
FM: You seem very interested in Mythology, any reason for that?
SC: I spent four months living in a monastery in Spain. When I came out I had a psychotic experience and got very interested in Mythology after that! I was reading the Great Myths and stuff so I got very interested in stories like Cupid and Psyche – that’s actually another version of “Beauty and the Beast”. In terms of love affairs you can read any love affair against that story.
FM: Most artists would delve into their personal lives, their personal experiences to create and it seems that you are turning more and more to widespread stories, but somehow you fit that into something contemporary…
SC: For me it’s easier, one’s personal stuff does come out but I need some sort of filter, a catalyst to compose it through. I think you can’t help for personal things to come out, it wouldn’t sound authentic if it didn’t. That’s why concept albums sound so pompous.
FM: Finally, what’s your new album going to be like?
SC: It’s based on a concept! (Laughs) The plan at the moment is to make an album about dreams, ‘Dreams That Money Can Buy’. There was a 1946s film called ‘Dreams That Money Can Buy’ (Hans Richter’s American Freudian Drama, directed by Marcel Duchamp, with Fernand Leger, Max Ernst, Man Ray and Alexander Calder), this guy sells dreams. It’s gathered around that. Hopefully it will be an alternative soundtrack to that film. Sounds great doesn’t it?! (Laughs)
It actually does and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. (the real) Tuesday Weld is playing a few dates here and there, check our gig listings for more information.