Jarvis Cocker: ‘We Need To Celebrate Alternative Music’

Ahead of the Shockwaves NME Awards 2010, an interview with our esteemed host, Mr Jarvis Cocker…

You’re presenting the Shockwaves NME Awards this week, are you feeling the pressure?

“Don’t say that, you’ll get me all nervous! I’ve been to these awards things and read out nominations and things like that, but I’ve never – and I’ve got to be careful how I pronounce this – anchored the whole show before. I suppose you are opening yourself up to abuse. I was there in 2006 when Russell Brand presented them and offended Bob Geldof. Then Geldof called him a ‘cunt’.”

Are you prepared for rough’n’tumble?

“You do kind of put yourself in the line of fire. Obviously there are people in bands who can be volatile, and they’ve all been drinking which makes them even more volatile. And then you start… rambling on. So you’ve got to be on your toes, (shouts) OTHERWISE THEY’LL TEAR YOU APART!”

What can we expect from you on the night? It seems that – like a Best Man speech – you’ve got two choices: either pre-plan, or just wing it.

“Well, it’s funny you say that because I was Best Man for [Pulp bassist] Steve Mackay last summer, and that gave me some ideas on how to do it. And because I did my speech as a kind of PowerPoint presentation, I thought I’d do something similar at the NME Awards. I thought, you know, ‘Everybody’s tanked up and just what they’ll want is a PowerPoint presentation!’ You know, a few bullet points on various things about the music industry that we’re all involved in? I think they’ll be receptive and I think that will work fine.”

Are you really going to present it using a projector and computer?!

“Yes! I cut my PowerPoint teeth in those lectures that I gave [Cocker has delivered several talks about lyrics in popular music] about three years ago. It gave me a confidence. Before I did those I was very nervous about standing up in front of people and trying to hold their attention just through talking. Obviously I talk onstage but there’s always a song coming. When it’s mainly based on talking that’s tougher. But I got through that OK, it seemed to work alright!”

In the kindest possible way, it sounds like you’re not taking this that seriously.

“Yeah, I think it could be a little sad if you took it too seriously. I’m not really gearing up for a career in acting or speaking. I only did it because it was NME and you asked me, and I’ve read NME throughout my life. Alternative music is something to be celebrated because the mainstream of music is so awful now.”

What is it about the mainstream that bugs you so much?

“Well, it’s interesting – I’ve been to the Brit Awards as well, and there was that time when there didn’t seem to be much difference between the two ceremonies. Maybe that was the mid ’90s. But now I think the Brits is so – I’ll probably never get invited now – corporate. And it seemed really, like, ‘God, that’s going to be terrible’. So I think that’s good for the NME Awards, because it’s an alternative. It’s light-hearted and more human.”

Any final thoughts on the night itself, then? It’s all live, so are you worried you might slip up in front of everyone?

“I like live. And I like live performance. Life is live, innit? Life’s not pre-recorded. I’m just hoping it’s going to be educational, as well as an entertaining night out. Have I picked up any tips from anyone? Well… don’t mumble! And be bright!”

Feature – The wisdom of Jarvis Cocker