Interview for • Monday, December 19, 2016

New Q&A: Paul on 2016

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney

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SKYPE MOJIS: The year started with Paul writing music for 10 new ‘Love Mojis’ for Skype

Paul: I thought that was great fun. There was the thought of, “Am I wasting my time? Shouldn’t I be doing some serious music here?” Because it took a bit of time. But, it was such fun that I just loved the challenge. And I liked how it worked out and people seemed to like them. I enjoyed showing them off to my friends too, “Ooh, look at this one!” I liked the a sexy one! [Sings the tune for the ‘Flirty’ moji]. That sort of funky one. I thought, that’s quite cool.

Normally I would think I’ve got to make a song around that, but because these were all like what, five seconds? That was the exercise. It was just: can I make something that means something that’s only five seconds long? It’s like the ultimate challenge. So I enjoyed that. And some of them were a little bit longer and we just shaved them down and brought them in inside the five seconds. It was a challenge. Me and Steve, the engineer at my studio, had a good week doing that and trying to get something that people could use.

GEORGE MARTIN: In March producer and family friend George Martin passed away

Paul: The George Martin tribute, that was very moving. It was at St. Martin-in-the-Fields and was sort of funny, and it was sad. So you know, it’s the old one, “We laughed, we cried”. But it was a great chance to just remember things about George.

Obviously, you can’t get all the memories in one tribute like that, but there were a lot of great things. There were a lot of great speakers. There was an old Australian pal of George’s, who was very emotional and very moving and he was clever – because everyone was sort of eulogising – and he said: “But George wasn’t all good! You know, he could get pretty nasty if he was losing at cricket!” Which was funny, you know. But then he got really emotional, you could see he was a real buddy of George’s. I didn’t know him, but that was nice just seeing all the sides of George’s life. It was very moving. And it just gave you a chance to say, “Oh my gosh, I knew this guy”.  I worked with him so much. He was like a father figure to me, really.

And he was such a self-made man. He was brought up working class and then sort of scrabbled his way to the top. He was brought up in Hoxton. So I think he was a bit “Landon!” at first, like. And then he went to the Guildhall School of Music, so, very much improved. But he was a joy to work with. A really nice man.

And it’s funny because I always used to treasure his thank you letters. Each year, I would send him a bottle of wine: “Birthday greetings, bottle of wine!”, from the lyrics of ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’. He loved his wine so I would always send him a great red wine. And he would send me the most lovely handwritten thank you letter. And it was always kind of funny, appreciative. I loved his writing. You know how you get to sort of love someone’s writing? I came across one recently actually, in a drawer. And it was like, I love that about him. That he took the bother. He was old school. He took the bother to write a nice, little handwritten thing.

So yeah, all these kind of things were at the tribute. And it was well done musically. Giles, his son, oversaw the music and there were things like Bernard Cribbins, who is a comedy actor that George produced. And he sang one of the comedy songs George produced that was a hit for him. He sang it very well. And like I say loads of great speakers. It was a lovely afternoon. Very emotional. I looked over and there’s Stella and Mary in tears, because they knew him very well. That’s the nice thing, our families have grown up together. It was a lovely, lovely ceremony.

‘ONE ON ONE’ ON TOUR: 2016 saw Paul taking out his all new ‘One On One’ tour

PAUL: When you play big baseball stadiums like Fenway Park, that’s a big event. But also it’s great because of the history of the stadium. All these stadiums – MetLife – they’ve got a great sporting history.

Am I big baseball fan? I like it, I will watch it, but I’m more into American Football. I like American football a lot, and basketball. But I like baseball. So it’s great playing these big old American stadiums. You get all the history of, you know, “This is where Yogi Berra did his famous thing!”

So in Fenway, I remember the full moon came up as we were playing. We were outdoors, and it was really beautiful. We’re looking out, and it’s dark and, “Wow, look at that!” You point it out to the crowd and it feels magical.

That American tour was great, it was good fun. And then all the other places: Canada; Argentina; Belgium, the big festival there, Rock Werchter; Germany, we played in the Munich Olympic Stadium on the day ‘Pure McCartney’ was released.

MEETING TWO OF THE ‘LITTLE ROCK NINE’: At his Little Rock gig in April, Paul met Mrs. Thelma Mothershed Wair and Ms. Elizabeth Eckford of the ‘Little Rock Nine’

Paul: Yeah, that was important, meeting two of the ‘Little Rock Nine’. At the concerts, I had always remembered this story about ‘Blackbird’ and the writing of it, which came from me doing poetry readings. I’d been encouraged by my friend who helped me on that poetry book I did [‘Blackbird Singing’] to tell a story, if I could remember anything about the song and then read the poem. So I did that and I thought, “That’s probably a nice idea for concerts”.

I remembered this story of the Civil Rights thing. How ‘Blackbird’ was really meant to try and communicate with people going through those struggles, and to see if it could help them. “You were only waiting for this moment to arise”. It had a, “We will overcome,” kind of aspect. So, it was like coming full circle going to Little Rock, where we’d only ever heard of as being the sort of place where the first kids went into the school that had previously been segregated. And to meet two of the kids who are now grown ups, and to see how well they’d done, and that it had all worked, was very moving. I was glad to be some tiny part of that. That was a nice evening. 

360° FILM AND PHOTOGRAPHY: In 2016 Paul experimented with both 360° film for his ‘Pure McCartney’ release, and 360° photography on his ‘One On One’ tour 

Paul: This came about originally because we did something with Jaunt. The first thing we ever did with them was ‘Live and Let Die’, where I had a meeting with them and they were showing me what they could do, which I was kind of interested in. And I happened to say to them, “Well what are you doing next Saturday? Bring your camera and you can stick it on stage!” I said ‘Live and Let Die’ might be quite good; there’s a lot of action. So they did. And then we went on from there and our tour photographer, MJ Kim, got very into it. He started taking the 360 degree photos.

I like it, and I think it will be incredible. I think it has great applications. But for me, at the moment, it’s a little bit of a gimmick. I probably would just rather look at a photo – there’s almost too much information! However, having said that, when I first got the demonstration, we were talking and they said the applications in the future could be, for instance, in schools where you’ve got a rather dry geography lesson and you’re learning about India. And you go, “Yeah… Gross National Product…”. But if the teacher then could say, “Put your goggles on: we’re going to the Taj Mahal!” And you could actually go to the Taj Mahal, the whole class could see it, could look around it. I thought, that could be a fabulous use, which I think probably will happen in the future.

Would I have liked that in our school lessons? Yeah! Anything would beat our school.

I think, just as an additional educational tool, and I see that as one of the great things for the future. Because you can just go to Red Square. You can go to the Taj Mahal. In one lesson you can really get a feeling of India. Really what it’s like, you’ll see it so realistically.

‘PURE McCARTNEY’: In June Paul released a new curated career-spanning 67-track compilation

Paul: ‘Pure McCartney’ was good to release. I like that album. I have to give Nancy Jeffries from our New York office a lot of credit for that, because it was her idea originally. She said she’d been on a drive and she compiled a mixtape sort of thing. She thought it was so nice, listening to these songs you didn’t listen to normally. So I liked that. We worked together, and she did most of the work. I made a couple of suggestions on sequencing and things. I agreed that it was a nice idea, if you’re going on a long journey. And a few people wrote to me and said, “We’ve just been on a long journey and we played the album”.

I think that worked, and it was interesting for me to hear things like ‘Arrow Through Me’, which I hadn’t heard forever! It was nice to just hear them. I remember Abe’s [Abe Laboriel Jr., the drummer from Paul’s touring band] brother brought that into a session they did this year, “Have you heard this?” And Abe hadn’t heard it, and they were grooving away. It’s a pretty funky little thing. 

MASTERTAPES: Paul was interviewed for the BBC Radio 4 show ‘Mastertapes’ to discuss ‘Pure McCartney’

Paul: Mastertapes, that was a fun thing to do. I got a lot of feedback off that. I think people who normally wouldn’t listen because it was Radio 4, so you get a different type of listener. I listen to Radio 4 a lot in the car. And it was good having Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher in the audience sitting with Brad Pitt, Simon Pegg. That was fun, just getting feedback off them. John Wilson, he’s a good interviewer. And he does his homework, so he asks pretty interesting questions, he keeps you interested as the interviewee. You don’t kind of go, “Oh God, I wish this would be finished!” It’s like, “Oh yeah, this is good”. I enjoyed that and I liked Noel’s question: “Which is your favourite daughter, Mary or Stella?” Oh, you can’t ask me that! It’s funny because, what did he say? He said, “Stella will say you’ll say Mary, and Mary agreed”. But no, he knew what I normally say like, “Come on, they’re all equal!”

CARLA LANE: Writer and family friend Carla Lane passed away in May

Paul: Well, Carla was a lovely lady. And it’s so sad that she passed away. She was the ultimate animal friend, and kooky with it. She was a writer, she wrote ‘Bread’, the British TV series. She was very funny and nice too. She was from Liverpool. And we often used to go round to her animal sanctuary. She’d introduce us to all the animals she’d saved. She had a heart as big as the Mersey.

SIGNING TO CAPITOL RECORDS: Over the summer it was announced that Paul was signing to Capitol Records 

Paul: Signing with Capitol again was great, because the original thing about being with Capitol was that the first record I ever bought was Gene Vincent. He sang ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’, which we all loved. We loved the guitar solo. We loved the film he was in called ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’. And we later got to know him.

But the thing about it, when I bought the record, was its sleeve; it was Capitol Records. Its sleeve was a sort of purple rendition of the Capitol building, this space age building in Los Angeles. And it was such a great memory, as a kid. The excitement of getting a record, and you’d take it home and stick it on your record player.

So, I’d always liked Capitol, and that had been the main reason I liked it, really. But then, when you go to the studios, it’s hugely historic. And you know the great people have recorded there: Sinatra, Nat King Cole. And when I did ‘Kisses On The Bottom’, I actually sang on Nat King Cole’s mic. Which was a little bit intimidating, but magical.

So, I’ve always liked Capitol, and the idea of resigning with them was a very attractive and exciting idea.

DESERT TRIP: In October, over two weekends, Paul appeared at the Desert Trip music festival in Indio (CA). In between the two weekend shows, Paul played a surprise gig to 300 lucky fans at Pappy and Harriet’s Palace in Pioneertown

Paul: Desert Trip was a trip. Just being in that company! First weekend, we went on the Friday to see Bob Dylan and The Stones. It was very exciting seeing them anyway, but seeing them in this big desert occasion was great. And then the next night there was Neil Young, and us, and then the next night there was The Who and Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd. It was a heck of a line up, quite a historic weekend!

We enjoyed it the first weekend. And then the second weekend I think we were even more settled in. First weekend, Neil guested with us, which was great. Second weekend he guested with us again, and this time he played a longer solo. It was just a joy. Because, I’ve known him a long time, and being beside his beaming face and both of us grinning like Cheshire Cats. It was great fun. And the audience loved it, and it was a huge audience!

And then Rihanna playing on the second weekend! She’s such a cool girl. Great singer. We had hardly any rehearsal, but it was pretty much the record. We did it like the record and I took Kanye’s part, so that was very exciting.  

Then midweek, we decided we’d just do a crazy pop-up thing, at this biker’s roadhouse in Pioneertown, which is near the Joshua Tree National Park. We actually arrived in the area a bit early, so we could go to the National Park. We all went, got out the car, had our photos taken with the Joshua Trees and even though we didn’t stay long, it was nice, it was sunset. It was great and we had a band photo taken. And then we sort of hopped off and then went to Pappy and Harriet’s, which is this biker roadhouse. A great little gig. It was pretty magical because there was a little barn, where we got to rehearse in. But all our gear was at the little gig, so we didn’t have any equipment. We just had to rehearse acoustically! So you know, when it was time for the guitar solo of ‘Junior’s Farm’, like, “Take me down, Junior!” We all had to go really quiet, so you could hear Rusty.

It was great though. Somebody, a reviewer I think, was with some kids who couldn’t get in, and they actually really enjoyed this little rehearsal – they could hear it! And they had to have listened hard, because we had to play so quietly! But it was fun when the solo came around, we all just went to like zero volume almost. That was a good thing, it set us up. Then we did the gig, which was just hot and sweaty.

And we’d invited David Hockney, a great English painter. He came and I said, “David, I hope you’re gonna sketch this!” He said, “Oh, I haven’t got anything with me.” And I said, “Well, what about your iPad?” He’s really good on the iPad, he paints on it. And he said, “Oh, I haven’t…” And then somebody said, “Your iPhone!” So he did. He sketched on his iPhone. I haven’t seen any results yet, but he loved the gig apparently. He sent us a note saying that that he loved it. It was a very special little show. And that’s it – 2016!


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