JARVIS COCKER IN SOME/THINGS MAGAZINE ISSUE003 & PULP AT ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL
Jarvis, on the top of a tower of amps taken from the stage by Kim Sion.
SOME/THINGS DEPUTY EDITOR RAINA LAMPKINS-FIELDER backstage in the dressing room with artist Carmela Uranga, & JARVIS COCKER after Pulp's show at the Isle of Wight Festival.
RAINA LAMPKINS-FIELDER / We were introduced to each other by our sons and so we started our friendship as ‘parent friends’—something I normally loathe doing. But we clicked and we quickly were able to establish our own friendship context, which was hastened along by daily coffees and doing the crossword together. What is it about a crossword that captivates you so much?
JARVIS COCKER / I like puzzles generally but I particularly like crosswords. I think that’s because of living in France—they help you to keep your vocabulary going in a way that Sudoku can not. I tried Sudoku when it first came out and there’s a certain satisfaction that you get from solving it, but you don’t go anywhere. Once you’ve done one, you’ve done them all. I find there’s not that much interesting in the numbers 1-9. Whereas words—it’s like playing that association game where you search through your vocabulary to come up with a word. Like I say, that’s helpful I think when you’re in a foreign country to feel that you are keeping your English vocabulary. But then also certain words will trigger memories or stupid rhymes or stuff like that. So, I find a crossword more stimulating.
RL-F / I’m curious HOW THAT was HELPFUL IN ESTABLISHING A FRIENDSHIP WITH ME? I’D NEVER GOTTEN TO KNOW A PERSON LIKE THAT BEFORE—OBVIOUSLY WE’D HAD OUR NORMAL INTERACTIONS, HANGING OUT AND WHATNOT, BUT THIS ALMOST PURPOSEFUL WORD EXCHANGE WAS A NEW ONE FOR ME. THERE WAS SOMETHING ALMOST VICTORIAN ABOUT IT, LIKE REVIVING THE LOST ART OF LETTER WRITING OR SOMETHING.
JC / Yeah, well I’d been in Paris for a while & probably hadn’t realised how much I missed doing that mildly cerebral stuff with somebody. We should point out once & for all that we’re talking about the ‘concise’ or ‘speedy’ crossword here – not the high-end ‘cryptic’ version! The vocabulary a person has tells you something about them – you being from the U.S. means you’ve got a different set of references to me— & it’s a nice way to get to know someone, don’t you think? Certain words would trigger certain memories for both of us & we told each other stories about ourselves—& I bet if we’d been more self-conscious or ‘aware’ of how we were presenting ourselves it wouldn’t have been half as entertaining – or revealing. I’m a big fan of the ‘unconscious signifier’, as you know.
RL-F / There’s this story that you told me awhile back—either on your birthday or the day before your birthday—that I think about often. It really affected me. You were in your early 20’s and it was your birthday and you were in Sheffield with your Mum and you went to get some chicken or something…
JC / Oh, yeah! Well I used to get very depressed on my birthday.
RL-F / Which is something I never do. You know how much I love my birthday!
JC / I used to get very morbid. I was living at me Mum’s house at the time. A Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet had opened down the road. That was still quite exotic in those days. There weren’t that many of them around. And they did barbequed beans which seemed amazing. So I walked down there and got some barbequed beans and some chips—I had the sense even at that age not to go for the chicken. Across the road from the Kentucky Fried Chicken was a graveyard, the City Road Cemetery, the biggest cemetery in the town. It became my quest to wander around this graveyard. And I had a small bottle of whiskey as well. So I was chugging back the whiskey, eating the chips and beans—terrible isn’t it—and for some reason it became important for me to try to find the grave of someone who had died on the same day that I was born—the 19th of September 1963—so I paraded the walkways. Maybe the whiskey had kicked in too much but all I could find was someone who had died on the 19th of September 1962, I couldn’t find 1963. I don’t know what I was looking for there. I suppose on your birthday you consider mortality because you’re aware of the beginning so you can’t help but think about the end. It wasn’t like Jim Morrison and the dead Indians on Dawn’s Highway bleeding, where their souls leapt into his young body and he channelled them. I didn’t think that, that I was going to channel a steel worker who died on my birthday. But I was interested to find that person. Why do you think you were particularly struck by that?
RL-F / I was struck by that story because it’s very sad and very sweet at the same time. And mature in a way, a mature understanding of death and renewal. It actually seemed less about mortality and more about immortality and strangely celebratory.