Art of lyricist made plain for all to see

Jarvis Cocker. by Richard Blackledge @rblackledge


The next Pulp album might have to wait a little while longer – as front man Jarvis Cocker hasn’t written a song for two years, a new book reveals.


Cocker says he feels reluctant to put pen to paper in case it upsets his current contentment with life.

His musings on the songwriting process form part of Isle of Noises: Conversations With Great British Songwriters, by musician Daniel Rachel.

Rachel’s lengthy interview with Cocker touches on his main sources of inspiration, the difficulties of remembering ideas for songs – and how writing when drunk is a risky business.

“I haven’t written a song for about two years so it’s a bogus thing to talk about,” Jarvis begins.

“Pulp got back together for a bit, so there was a lot of stuff to be done, actually relearning old songs and trying to perform them in a convincing way.

“Also I don’t really like writing songs when I’m in a happy relationship. To write a song you have to step outside a relationship or situation and pass comment on it, and once you do that you’re removing yourself from it, so I try and stop myself from being like that. It’s a bit of a catch-22 situation.”

Scribbling down odd phrases and overheard conversations in notebooks are one of Cocker’s main routes into a new song, as well as self-recorded voicemail messages, Rachel discovers.

Jarvis even once tried to persuade his mobile phone company to trawl through their systems to find a particularly promising but accidentally-deleted tune.

“I rang up the phone company to ask them to access my messages but they wouldn’t help.

“I said, ‘Look, if I’d been murdered you’d be able to look through my records’. She said ‘Yeah, but you’ve not been killed’. So I lost it forever and maybe it was the greatest song.”

Jarvis says much of Pulp’s Different Class LP was written in a ‘one-night session aided by a lot of Spanish brandy’, but adds: “It’s very volatile… I tried it again a few months later and fell asleep.”

Rachel’s book, which aims to understand the ‘creative process behind the craft’ of songwriting, runs to more than 500 pages and also features brand-new, in-depth interviews with 26 other luminaries, including Ray Davies, Bryan Ferry, Johnny Marr, Damon Albarn and the Pet Shop Boys.

Isle of Noises is available now in hardback, published by Picador, priced £25.