Ahead of the release of his ambitious new project, Graham Coxon has spoken to NME about the sci-fi world of the comic and soundtrack ‘Superstate’ – as well as what the future might have in store for Blur. Watch our video interview with Coxon above.
‘Superstate’ is the product of Coxon working with writers Alex Paknadel and Helen Mullane to devise 15 different stories for a graphic novel, each of which is soundtracked by an original song that has been written and recorded by the guitarist and additional vocalists.
Self-confessed “science fiction freak” Coxon told us how he drew upon his love of manga and the classic Japanese Akira, before falling for anime and comic art’s qualities of being “sort of instant, a bit like TV”.
“I think I’ve been heavily involved in how I used art for myself,” Coxon told NME. “The art world wouldn’t be that fond of me. I’m not conceptual or clever enough. The whole thing with these songs is that they started to tell some sort of a story.
“Each song is a scenario in a group of kitchen sink dramas that are slightly unusual in the fact that they had a lot to do with science fiction that I’d read and my own idea of ecstasy, visitation and what it all means. It’s looking at what heaven is and things like that.”
He continued: “The stories seemed to come out of the songs at the same time. It built into a long story in my mind that was like a Netflix series or a film. I realised that drawing this stuff would be a lot easier and cheaper than getting people together to make a movie.”
The 15 stories of ‘Superstate’ tour us through “a dystopian world where angels and villains alike promise the people paradise, disenchanted children live feral in vast rubbish dumps and the masses are pacified by a drugged out, government-mandated digital dreamscapes and robot partners while they wait to perish on this dying planet”.
Asked how relevant the tales are to modern society’s key issues, he said: “It basically is like this world now, but slightly advanced, slightly amplified, slightly more in-line with my own neuroses about where we could be very quickly. They keep saying, ‘50 years and we’re fucked!’ It’s scary. What does that world look like a few decades down the road? Is it a bit like ‘Superstate’ is? How does man adapt? Does man go to other planets and sit there missing the trees of Essex and France and architecture and things like that?”
Coxon also explained how ‘Superstate’ introduces us to “some extremely rich people who are all crooked, of course, and use space travel as a playground”. Are we to assume that this means he won’t be taking off on a chartered space flight with Richard Brandon or Jeff Bezos?
“You should want what you have and not what you think you should be striving for,” he said. “This planet is incredible. Why go to frigging Mars or the moon? It hasn’t got anywhere near the cool shit that Earth’s got.
“It would be nice to sort out a few things [here on Earth]. It would have been nice 20 years ago to have not spent trillions and trillions of dollars on war and farting cows. We could have taken a different turn and that money could have given us a world-wise NHS or looked into how we power everything up. No one’s going to do that. No has the guts.”
Sonically, he described ‘Superstate’ as “exploring his love of prog and disco – like King Crimson and Sly & The Family Stone mashed together”. It’s quite a distance from a lot of his solo and soundtrack work, as well as his history with Blur.
Speaking of which, we could let Coxon go without asking about his bandmate Damon Albarn’s recent claims to NME that Blur had been in talks and “had an idea” of how to make their return.
“I was privy to that discussion,” Coxon replied. “It started as a discussion, but didn’t really end as one.”
Asked if he was too busy with various projects to pursue a Blur reunion, he told us: “Having a lot on your plate is a sort of chaos. It’s like a massive English breakfast at the moment. If someone snuck on a grilled tomato I probably wouldn’t notice. I’m up for it, if everyone digs the idea.
“I think a lot of people have decided in some sort of way that they were living life in a really strange way that wasn’t actually suiting them very well and chopped away a lot of the stuff that they don’t need. I’ve been trying to do that a little bit.”
Coxon added: “That’s always been the thing with Blur – they’ll do it when they really need to and not for any other reason. It doesn’t really seem genuine to just get back together and just do gigs for a bit of spondage. We need to have some sort of focus for how we would work.”
Watch our full video interview with Coxon above, where he also tells us about choice of artists for the graphic novel, how self-recorded came to shape the sound of ‘Superstate’, the need for female and other people’s voices’ characters on the album, and his juggling of soundtrack work with being in The Jaded Hearts Club and Duran Duran.
‘Superstate’ is released on Friday August 27.