Photo by Keith: Tom Rhodes & John Cooper Clarke at a diner in Vegas
What hasn’t already been said about the great John Cooper Clarke? What already hasn’t been asked? More in the UK, but here to a degree, there has been no recent shortage of interviews with the original Punk Poet. So instead of a safe and formal interview, the idea was to try a get a more informal banter, something maybe any sensible fan would do if given the opportunity.
What I was admittedly a little too nervous to convey at the start of this phone call from the man who’s works span five decades, was that I grew up an inherent fan of punk, post-punk, more importantly big hair and black jeans (values I hold dear to this day). I thought I had most of Manchester’s major exports covered… Maybe partly due to the fact that he wasn’t really making records for the period I began buying them, I completely missed him. So when the the black clad mess of hair and shades graced the screen for the 2007 Joy Division biopic, ‘Control’ later on, I was an instant fan. The look and the style adopted by the icons of my formative years with intelligence and realism to which I can still relate. And I laughed at least every minute. Everything I have ever heard anybody say since, proven true in that moment. I Googled clumsy terms ‘spoken word control joy div’, and found handfuls of stray mp3s, videos, but even eBay could be scant. I listened to what I could find, and as they say, when you met someone who knew, they knew…
By then, from what must surely be a mix of pure will, luck, raw talent, and a great PR team, the poet was enjoying a full renaissance at home and recognition as a national treasure. He’s on tests, talk shows, and the Arctic Monkeys turned on of his well-known pieces into a #1 chart hit, and plays the Royal Albert Hall. Last year, when his first US visit in my lifetime touched down at Downtown LA bar La Cita (a place I’ve DJed) it was nothing short of a miracle. Lucky for us, that turned out not only to be a one time occurrence, and with an 11 date US tour, dublab’s Alejandro thought for some reason, the two of us might have an interesting conversation. After nearly chickening out (pun so intended), I instead just dialed the number with a degree of fearlessness deserved by someone who used to open punk shows with nothing but a microphone. A graciously casual conversation from the rackety Mob Museum in Las Vegas followed… I really couldn’t have hoped for a nicer legend to get the chance to chat with.