You might remember a few weeks ago when we published a Johnny Borrell (he’s the guy from Razorlight) interview where he claimed that he could learn more about the world from walking down the street with a guitar than he could from reading a local newspaper. It was a great interview and he came across like a complete twat in it, so of course we completely ripped him for it.
We were hoping that this was a one off as the guy tends to resurface once every year or so doing something completely stupid to remind us all of what a moron he is, but it turns out there’s some sort of Razorlight reunion and he’s had to do a bunch more, and so appeared in the Guardian (of all places) a couple of days ago with another suitably ridiculous interview which is somehow dumber than the one previous. I know, I know, it sounds hard to believe but it truly is.
You can read the whole thing below as well as my stupid analysis of it after each question/response in italics underneath it:
Hi, Johnny! Razorlight are playing shows again — why did you decide to bring the band back?
We never stopped. At some point people in the media decided we’d broken up, then we did a gig and everyone was like, “You’re back!” We only ever took 13 months off … so does that mean we were finished? I dunno.
To be honest, this isn’t a bad start to the interview, can’t really fault him with it although it does hint at what’s to come later.
Maybe they thought that because you put out your first solo album in 2013. What could you say as a solo artist that you couldn’t with Razorlight?
Err … [long pause, repeats the question] I dunno, I always see more similarities than differences. Errrr … Shit. I dunno. I’m not sure I can answer that with any accuracy whatsoever. Erm, what was the question?
And so it begins ladies and gentleman.
What did you get from being solo that you couldn’t get out of the band?
The first Razorlight album [Up All Night] and my solo album [Borrell 1] both arose from direct conversations with people. I think they’re both representations of who I am and where I’m at and my culture. Up All Night was obviously a very London record, whereas the solo record you could draw a straight line through London, Paris and the Basque Country.
What? London, Paris and The Basque Country? The fucking Basque Country? I hate to say the obvious but it’s pretty hard to draw a straight line between those places too.
Does all your music arise from conversations?
No. On the second [eponymous] Razorlight album I wrote with Andy [Burrows, former drummer] and we wanted to prove ourselves as pop songwriters, like the Beatles — and I’m not saying we’re as good as the Beatles; I just need to put that UK press disclaimer in there — but in the sense of: “Let’s see what we can do as pop writers.”
Because we’d got to a point where we reached NME saturation and we were apparently “cool” but we’d had more than our fair share of being cool in that world. We could have coasted on that momentum but Andy and I were closing in on something new and different. I remember when I made that record, people said: “This is one hell of a risk — you’re turning right when bands are supposed to turn left.” And I was like: “I don’t care about what I’m expected to do.”
To be honest this is kind of badass and makes a lot of sense in terms of ‘maturing’ as a musician – a phrase that everyone seems to love.
If you want to talk about honesty, look at the song America. I was in America a lot and I was getting extremely, honestly, pissed off that habeas corpus was suspended as far as the Americans were concerned. They were waterboarding at will and waging wars in the name of freedom, which I found incredibly distasteful. So that went into the song America. I could have just sung about some bird or something, you know?
What the hell is he talking about the song America, that’s not the question? Although I can kind of agree with his point although it’s very simply put and it comes across very badly as usual, especially considering his biggest hit is a song about a bird or something.
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Did people pick up on that message?
Yeah, in France they did, sure. In England? I don’t know, it’s an immediate song; I don’t expect people to pick up on anything beyond the “oh oh oh!”
I’m sure the French easily understood the English (and also very political) lyrics ‘I light a cigarette ’cause I can’t get no sleep, There’s nothin’ on the TV, nothin’ on the radio, That means that much to me’ I mean it really speaks to them in a way that my stupid English brain can’t comprehend. They should probably read them at some Human Rights Trials. But only if French speaking people are there and not English/Americans.
Your solo stuff has a very European sound. How did that come about?
It was born out of necessity. I got a group of musicians together and they turned up at my house in the Basque Country to record an album, expecting me to have a studio. But I didn’t, I just had a house. We had this 17-year-old kid called JoÃ£o [Mello], who had just turned up from Brazil, playing saxophone. And I didn’t have a drum kit so we used buckets instead. Wherever we play — be it a street corner or a festival — there’s something very real about it.
Oh right, the Basque Country, that explains it. It also sounds like a well thought out way to record a solo record, just get everyone over to my house without a studio, no worries. We’ll just fly in some 17 year old kid from Brazil (what??) no worries. It’ll sound very ‘real’.
It didn’t sell many copies. Were you hurt when your label put out a statement about the sales figures making light of it?
I had almost no knowledge of that statement and I’m not sure who put it out or even what it said. My manager told me that it was really weird and, yeah, it was really weird. But hurt? No. It was something of an irrelevance.
As noble as that is, it’s definitely a lie.
But they’re supposed to have your back.
I agree, but rule No 1 is labels are scum. Or is it rule No 2? I can’t remember. I went to meet the new head of publishing at one of the big record companies and he said: “I love songs but I don’t listen to lyrics.” That’s the kind of industry we’re living in. If you’re making music for any reason other than getting rich and getting laid you can’t take labels seriously. Watching the label and my management try to integrate [the new material] into the mainstream was really like a labour of Sisyphus, you know? Eternally pushing the boulder up the hill, because [my music’s] not the culture. Someone played Radio 1 to me recently and that’s the culture.
He must be really insulted when people don’t listen to his well thought out cutting political lyrics like those in America. Does he even know what publishing is?? Of course they’re going to be more interested in music as they’re using it for background music in films and adverts. Dumbass.
These label guys should walk down the street with a guitar – they would learn a thing or two about culture.
You’re not impressed with what you hear on Radio 1?
You want me to underline that point? Are you looking for a snappy soundbite?
Ooooooh. Johnny’s getting ratty.
I just wondered what, specifically, you don’t like about modern music.
I think the art of recording is being lost. I’d rather listen to the demo than the properly recorded version of almost everything from the last 20 years. It’s very superficial and doesn’t sound like it’s being played.
Um what? I can kind of see what he’s saying but why would you want something to sound crappy when it could sound way better? It might suit some songs sure but definitely not all of them ever.
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When your solo album was released there was a lot of comment on the track titles — do you think you’ve got a knack for them?
Well, interestingly, my friend is in literature and she reads the Guardian. She read an article on your website and she said: “Wow, that’s amazing, I’ve never read an article before where the first four sentences all end in an exclamation mark.” Now, that’s very poor writing. That’s got to be bad journalism if your first four sentences have to end with an exclamation mark.
Lol wut? My friend who is in literature!? Singling out one article that he hasn’t even read? I mean the thing about exclamation marks I kind of agree on but it might not even be true for all this cretin knows about music. There’s also really no need to be so confrontational about this.
OK, but what does that have to do with your song titles?
Because you’re referring to a Guardian article that was published the moment my album was announced. It was an online poll asking which title do you think is the most ridiculous. And I think that poll got absolutely zero interest so … great. I thought that was a bit beneath you. I don’t really think it was worthy of the Guardian.
Lol bitter or what? This was fucking ages ago and he’s still banging on about it, and he says he doesn’t even give a fuck about popular culture anyway? What is he trying to prove here??!
OK, but I was asking about the song titles …
Whatever, I’m happy to leave it if you are. I thought it was specific to that article. It’s very, very rare that I read the press but I was pretty shocked by that. I know the media is dumbing down but … are you laughing? Is that the giggle of a man who has just got his pull quote?
Lol this is really breaking through the third wall isn’t it? I’m surprised he allowed this to be published considering his known hatred of the UK press. It’s also cool that when he does read the press he only reads stuff about himself.
Not at all, I’ll change the subject. Other than you, every member of the most well-known Razorlight lineup has been replaced. You’ve said before it wasn’t a “happy camp” — what went wrong?
I think everyone was doing their best to try and make things work, but for me it was like a destructive marriage — you give it everything you can to keep it going. The one thing is that I have always felt extremely privileged to be playing in a band and touring the world and making music. I have never lost sight of that. I’m not sure it was the same for everyone else.
Dodged a bullet there huh?
When other members complain of their time in the band, do you feel they’re being a bit ungrateful?
When I do interviews with the Sun they put words in my mouth like that, you know? That’s not what I said.
Er what?? Does he understand the question!!?
I didn’t say that’s what you said, I was asking you.
No, but that’s classic … it’s like hanging around Chelsea football club as a teenager and they’d say, “Do you feel disgusted?” and you’d be like, “Er, yeah, OK.” And then it was a story. So if a journalist says the word “ungrateful” it’s a pejorative term and it’s not what I’ve said at all.
What the fuck is he talking about? Chelsea football club as a teenager and being disgusted?? What has that got to with anything? Does it even make sense? Is it actually a story?!!?
I didn’t say it was.
I’m not going to comment. I couldn’t even begin to apply gratefulness to that situation. There’s no need for gratefulness, let alone a lack of it.
Nice one for saying you’re not going to comment and then immediately commenting dude.
You seem slightly paranoid about the media.
You’re asking the kind of leading questions you’d get from a Sun journalist. I just think a conversation about music in the Guardian should be above that. I just do, I’m sorry. You may disagree. Have we reached our half-hour yet? I feel like we’ve done a good interview here …
Lol do you really? I guess if you want everyone to laugh at you again mate. If he’s so fucking smart just answer the question ignoring the leading, instead of going down this avenue that just makes him look like a fucking prick. Do the fucking interview you agreed to do, you bell end.
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How do you look back at your famous quotes, such as, “Compared to the Razorlight album, [Bob] Dylan is making the chips, I’m drinking champagne”?
I never look back on them. How do you feel about something you said 10 years ago? I get asked this question so much. If you’ve got a good question, let’s do it.
To be fair that’s kind of funny, calling the guy out on his questions. Fair.
OK, you were recently quoted saying you don’t read the news because you find out more truth from walking down the street with a guitar. How does that work?
Music is a language that’s older than words … rhythm is older than words. It’s a language we all share. So if you have music then you’re never alone, you’re always connected to your fellow humans. So of course you would know more if you walked from here to God knows where and experienced as many cultures as you could while playing a musical instrument. That’s so blindingly obvious to me. But if you’re asking if I believe in mainstream media, then sorry but I don’t.
Oh and he replied with a corker. Shame his answer still doesn’t make any sense. At least it’s blindingly obvious to him though, right?
Why even do this interview if you don’t believe in mainstream media?
Why shouldn’t I? I could sit here and play the game but life is too short, you know? And I think it’s the job of any artist to speak their mind and say the truth as they see it, otherwise they’re selling you out.
What? Surely he is sitting there and playing the game? !??!
OK, but the thing that maybe comes across most passionately from talking to you is a hatred of the media.
[Laughs] I don’t hate the media! I’ve only written one article in my life — it was on the front cover of the Independent — and there was no mention of the media! But anything that goes through editors and a collection of viewpoints is by definition political … whereas the truth is not political. And what is politics anyway? It’s all about money-making.
Jesus Christ, has he been reading some conspiracy theory books in his spare time? Anything that goes through editors is political?!
At Razorlight’s peak of success did fame mess with your head?
I went to an island in the Hebrides in January 2006 or 2007 on my motorcycle. Stayed there for four months with no phone or internet. That was my reaction to the height of fame.
So I guess the answer there is yes. That probably would have sufficed, although to be fair the answer he gave is a stormer.
What did you do there?
There was no heating so I chopped a lot of wood, burned a lot of wood. Did some reading, writing. A few walks on the beach. I ended up doing a few guitar lessons in the school. I thought I would engage with something real.
That’s deep man. I can just see some record exec being like ‘Where the fuck is Johnny Borrell?’ and some intern replying with ‘He’s just chopping wood on an island in the Hebrides sir’ and the exec being like ‘Of course he fucking is, that wanker,’ which is a viewpoint I’m gonna eschew here myself.
How many people knew you there?
Out of 200 people I would say … zero. Nobody gave a fuck. I’d go to the Co-op and my song was playing on the radio and nobody cared. In fact, while we’re on the subject of the Guardian, there was somebody on the island, I don’t know who, but they wrote a nice letter to the Guardian saying there was never a mention of Johnny Borrell without a mention of his arrogance.
And they said that I’d been there for four months and they’d found me to be this and that. So who am I going to trust? The person I’ve engaged with in their community or the one who’s written an article?
So nobody knew you on the island yet a random person wrote into the Guardian defending you. Great story mate. Also cool that he’s managed to read every article about Johnny Borrell in The Guardian despite living on the Hebrides. My gut instinct tells me that Johnny Borrell probably wrote that letter himself to be honest.
It’s also kind of incredible that a Razorlight song was on the radio in the Co-op on an island in the Hebrides, but I guess that’s just indicative of how far shit can spread. Or it’s just bullshit.
Is that reputation unjustified, then? You have said in the past that you were obnoxious …
Yeah, but who has never been obnoxious? It’s like saying who has never got angry or envious or jealous. It’s a bizarre question — why should I never have been obnoxious?
This kind of makes sense again, but – I hate to say it – he comes across as very obnoxious when making this point.
Well, there you have it. I’m sure Razorlight ticket sales will be boosted for their reunion shows as a result of that interview, won’t they?
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