“I love the audience in America,” Paul Weller tells me on the phone from his Berlin dressing room, when I ask him about his upcoming U.S. tour. “It's always tough getting stuff played on the radio or whatever, innit? There are some alternative stations that play my stuff, but it's such a massive country, it is difficult.”
Perhaps Weller’s latest release, the excellent Saturns Pattern, out Tuesday, should solve that. Though only nine songs in length, the album is the culmination of a series of LPs from the U.K. legend known as “The Modfather” that began in 2008 with the sprawling 22 Dreams, released on the eve of his 50th birthday. That album was followed by Wake Up The Nation (2010), which harkened back to Weller’s days in British legends The Jam, and 2012s Sonik Kicks, which can only be likened to Weller scratching a sort of “Bowie in Berlin” itch. Each album was heralded for its far-reaching production techniques and unique songwriting, and Weller’s apparent lack of fear in trying just about anything stylistically he could think to tackle.
Saturns Paturn is perhaps the culmination of those various forays into funk, jazz, garage rock, psychedelia, and club music found on those albums, with a dash of all of those elements apparent throughout the nine tracks, which exhibit a swagger and adventurousness unusual for an artist both of Weller’s age (57) and stature.
“Actually, I feel at my age that I need to try to take it as far as I possibly can, really,” Weller says, when I mention how most of his contemporaries have given up trying to make new music and have opted instead for greatest-hits tours. “I want to carry on experimenting with other types of music, working in different ways. I think I’m at the right age to do that. I think it’s right at my age to try to see what else you can become, as opposed to just doing what’s expected of you.”
As a result, Weller is a rarity in making music that charts and performing live shows that feature only a smattering of old songs.
“The gigs have been so good lately,” he explains, clearly enthused by his fans’ response. “We’ve played some new songs from the new album, songs that people haven’t even heard yet, which is always tough to do. But we've gotten a great reaction.”
“I just like to play new songs,” Weller continues, explaining why he played new, unreleased songs on his recent U.K. and European tours. “When you put new songs in a set, those new songs sort of help to revitalize the old songs as well, I think. You play the old songs differently and you’re more conscious of what you’re doing. I think that’s a knock-on effect for all the songs and things are just a little bit different. Plus, I’m always keen if I’ve got new songs to play them to people, man.”
A rock god of sorts in his homeland, known for his high sartorial standards, who even has his own men’s clothing line, Real Stars Are Rare, and who will soon release his second deluxe book of photos from his career with high-end publishers Genesis Publications, Weller is adamantly opposed to the reunion circuit he sees many of his former peers fall prey to. When I tell him that Noel Gallagher recently recounted a tale to me in which Weller threatened the former Oasis star with bodily harm if he even considered reforming his old band, Weller laughs heartily, but is quick to confirm the story.
“I know it went around that I said I’d break Noel Gallagher’s legs or whatever if he even considered reforming Oasis, but it’s true. It’s unseemly. I have no interest in it and I honestly have no idea why anyone would. For me it’s always about moving forward.”
And while there’s a new 47-track archival set due out in June from The Jam called About The Young Idea: The Very Best of The Jam, fittingly, regarding any potential reunion of The Jam or Style Council, Weller is adamant.
“Not a chance, mate,” he says, flatly.
Instead, Weller says that since the public’s lukewarm reaction to 2005’s As Is Now, which he rated highly at the time, and striking out on a more adventurous note with 22 Dreams, he’s never been less afraid to challenge himself artistically.
“I don’t know where I’m going to go,” he admits, almost casually. “I never really know where I’m going to go or where my music will take me, really. But I’m always trying to find different ways of doing things, just to keep it interesting. I think the really important thing is just to keep an open mind about all of it. There isn’t any set way to making music or writing. It’s just whatever’s in the air at the time. The older you get, the more important it is to stay open-minded, I think, and not look at it as a fixed way of doing things. It’s whatever works, man. But I love doing it.”“As a writer, you’re always looking to see what else you can write,” he continues. “Can you make this better? Can you do the quirkiest piece of work you’ve ever done? All those questions really. It’s a sort of never-ending quest, and I don’t think that I’ll ever stop until I’m finished. Most people I admire, I don’t think they ever felt finished. I think they’re still kind of searching. So I’m just doing what I need to do, which is to write and make music. That’s at the very core of what I’m about. I’m quite happy doing life like that. I still feel I’ve got loads of music inside me.”