It’s the mid-Noughties in a scruffy Camden boozer alleged the Hawley Arms. Amy Winehouse is affairs her own pints abaft the bar. Members of Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs are milling about. So, too, are The Libertines, apparently casting their pork pie hats ceremonially in the air. Kate Moss is there, obviously. Nick Grimshaw is DJing. And Johnny Borrell from Razorlight, beaming in a nipple-low V-neck, has brought forth his girlfriend, Hollywood A-Lister Kirsten Dunst. The pub is the tabloid-feeding epicentre of London’s assuming indie arena – “a arena so cool”, Tim Burgess of The Charlatans already told Vice, “it didn’t accept a name”.
“I haven’t been in actuality for about 10 years,” says Borrell now, demography off his aviator anorak and squinting about the pub’s roof terrace. The 38-year-old’s aback in his old stomping arena with a new Razorlight album, his aboriginal with his platinum-selling bandage aback 2008. It’s actuality that he already told an accuser he didn’t affliction whether he won an NME accolade for Villain of 2006 because he was “one of the alone guys anytime to be on the awning of UK Vogue”. And it’s actuality that he said, in advertence to his old pal Pete Doherty’s pastimes, that he “prefers tea to crack”. It’s additionally area he already had a affray with his above drummer, Andy Burrows, the acutely final harbinger during his band’s agitated heyday.
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Making music aback afresh “was simple”, says Borrell, who grew up in adjacent Highgate. “You anatomy a band, you go and comedy and you get fans. You could go and comedy in The Dublin Castle or Dingwalls and afresh if your song was acceptable they’d comedy it on civic radio.” He says the assortment of the radio playlists in that era, area you’d apprehend “Razorlight and Zutons aing to OutKast and Beyoncé” was “amazing, but they don’t do that anymore. Now we’re at a point with new releases area I can’t acquaint the difference. I’ll be like, ‘Oh, is that the new Coldplay song?’ I’ll say that about every big act. Aggregate has become this radio mush.”
That’s about as judgemental as Borrell gets this afternoon. True to form, he has angry up on his motorcycle – like the one he already rode through his own home during a affair and has been mocked for anytime aback – and orders a cup of tea. But he is hardly “the century’s best accurately antic bedrock star” anymore: older, mousier of beard and suffering, he says, from “my aboriginal hangover of the year”. He is added alert of book interviews, too; one with him is a glace chat altercate that can generally end with Borrell announcing, “I don’t accept you”. Yesterday he went to the NME offices and begin it aberrant how the agents were all “super nice”. Why was he so surprised? “Carl [Barat] from The Libertines acclimated to say to me, ‘Live by the NME, die by the NME’,” says Borrell. “We all grew up account it, and afresh they’d aloof book things that we didn’t say.”
Somewhere forth the bleary-eyed indie timeline, Borrell became the frontman that admirers admired to hate. Razorlight’s 2004 debut, Up All Night, embodied adolescent London with its perky, hasty indie-rock tales of rolling from one broad affair to the next. It brought with it boilerplate adoration, a Alive 8 appearance, agency changes, acclaimed arm bonbon and a No 1 self-titled aftereffect two years later. But Borrell had additionally developed a account of offences, including slagging off added bands, declaring himself a ability at every accustomed befalling and announcement an calm charge to demography his top off.
It fabricated accomplished music mag fodder, of course, but Borrell insists that his quotes – such as the acclaimed bandage aback he said that, compared to his additional album, “Dylan is authoritative the chips, I’m bubbler the champagne” – were either abstract or fabricated up. “I anticipation I was creating this persona,” Borrell explains, “like a fast-talking Lou Reed on amphetamines”. Aback he absitively to bead the assertive act, however, the columnist “wouldn’t let me move on from it” (though abnormally he has connected to do interviews). “It’s frustrating, yeah, it’s frustrating,” he says. “But you accord up aggravating to do annihilation about it.”
What others anticipate of him, he suggests, is rather bottomward to agreed bias. “I bethink account one of the aboriginal pieces on Arctic Monkeys,” talking afresh of the NME. “They’d had some big date accomplishments congenital for them and Alex [Turner] absolved in the allowance and said, ‘No f***ing way’, and absolved out. And that was taken as a assurance of his bedrock and cycle integrity, right, that he wouldn’t anytime accept a backdrop. Now, if I’d absolved in and I’d gone, ‘No f***ing way’, it would be taken as a assurance of my ‘frivolous nature’. I anticipate it’s aloof what you attending for.”
© Getty (Photo by Anthony Harvey – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
What the media couldn’t invent, however, was Borrell’s wince-worthy abatement from favour. Afterwards they absurd the States, Razorlight’s third and 2008 album, Slipway Fires, austere and the accumulation disbanded. A admission abandoned record, Borrell 1, with its song titles like “Pan-European Supermodel Song (Oh! Gina)” and “Cyrano Masochiste”, alone awash 594 copies during its aboriginal week. Its achievement prompted his new almanac characterization to accelerate out a columnist absolution adulatory that it was the “15,678th acknowledged anthology of the year”.
More badinage followed. First, there was a 2011 columnist attempt to advertise their new lineup, in which they looked, according to The Guardian, like “extras in Pirates of the Caribbean 4”. Afresh Borrell started addition band, Zazou, whose Peaky Blinders tango-jazz articulate custom fabricated for Glastonbury’s Chai Wallah tent. Aing came the amusement uproar over an account he gave to Metro: “You’d acquisition out added accuracy by aloof walking bottomward the artery with a agreeable apparatus than by attractive at any of the account outlets,” he appear to them.
Not that Borrell would necessarily accept accepted about any of this fuss, or so he says. He has never endemic a smartphone and doesn’t use amusing media, adding: “I don’t alike apperceive what sliding into someone’s DMs means.” He allows himself 20 account anniversary day to brush the account but says, “I haven’t apprehend annihilation that exists out there about annihilation I’ve done for ten years, maybe longer.” He divides his time amid Paris, the Basque Country and arctic London and prides himself on absolute in a array of ability vacuum. I explain the contempo #indieamnesty hashtag on Twitter, which had the journalists, fans, DJs and bands of the mid-Noughties indie scene, including Franz Ferdinand to The Coral, confessing their “indiest” moments. Borrell is abashed aback I ask him what he’d contribute. “Well, I was the advance accompanist of Razorlight,” he action awkwardly. “What do you appetite me to say? I don’t know, I don’t get it.”
That ability exhaustion is apparently why he can animation aback with a new Razorlight anthology that picks up area he larboard off, afterwards addition calendar drag (and Martin Chambers from The Pretenders abacus boom genitalia in the studio). Borrell describes the authoritative of Olympus Sleeping as “effortless”, as against to 10 years ago aback he admits to actuality ashore with his sound. On the album, which he is self-releasing, he acknowledges that attempt at atomic with an addition that goes “give me a Razorlight anthology that doesn’t suck”. Happily, it doesn’t. Songs like “Carry Yourself”, “about demography albatross for yourself”, are Borrell at his best: hooky and peppy, binding the grapes of nostalgia. It sounds like archetypal Razorlight – if there can be such a affair – with its strutty, glamrock-lite yarns and troubadour-pop about block girls and active abandon.
“As I started to accomplish it, I started to realise that it was a adulation letter to that affectionate of music, and a absolutely aboveboard one,” he says. “I was aloof like, ‘This is fun!’ I was consistently activity to do it again, but for a while I aloof couldn’t, alike if I capital to do it. I’d be like, ‘OK, now let’s accomplish Razorlight happen’, and it’s not me that writes the songs, it’s article comes through – you know, the muse. Which I accept to some bodies sounds pretentious, but it is what it is.”
Razorlight: Olympus Sleeping marks aboriginal anthology in 10 years for Indie bedrock band
Does he anticipate that bodies anticipate he can be pretentious?
“I don’t know. I’m not abiding really,” he says. “We’re in a association area we’re accomplished into authoritative judgements rather than accepting in blow with what we feel. I don’t absolutely apprehend judgements, and I try not to use them.”
Is there annihilation that he’s done, aback he looks back, area he thinks, oops, that was a bit w*nky? I’m cerebration of the white trousers, or the accommodation to let admirers get into a Zazou gig for chargeless if they drew a circuitous Buddhist attribute alleged a mandala. I’m not cerebration that, in aloof a minute, I will accept to explain what “w*nky” agency to Johnny Borrell.
“Can you ascertain what you beggarly and I’ll really, I’ll accept a go,” he says.
I say asserting one’s faculty of accent or intellect, alike admitting I’m not abiding that’s absolutely the actual definition, to which he replies, “I mean, yeah probably. I was on bout for 10 years,” afterwards a always pause. “You get stressed, you get tired, you get strung out, you get fearful. I anticipate I was absolutely frightened. I was absolutely abashed of assuming any vulnerability, and I anticipate that was aback active a lot of what I was doing.” What accomplishments is he cerebration of in particular? “Just everything. Everything, you know.”
I ask him about the rumour that at one point he had a abstracted bout bus to his bandmates, and if he abjure that? He starts to get defensive. “I did accept a bus,” he says, “when we did Account Festival, because I was activity to accompany a agglomeration of friends, aloof on one bus, for two days. So abounding bodies accept their own bus. That’s what happens in bands. Is that pretentious?”
It could potentially be perceived by some bodies as pretentious, yes. Or it asserted the appearance that Razorlight was Johnny Borrell and the blow of the band.
“Yeah, which it was in abounding ways,” he says. “But I don’t see what’s amiss with that. I adulation The Cure – it was Robert Smith and the blow of the band. If Robert Smith was travelling on his own I wouldn’t acquisition it pretentious.”
And so it goes on: me analytic for a sliver of perspective; Borrell announcement both an astute arrogance and a abridgement of acquaintance at the aforementioned time. In the rock’n’roll ball of life, I am acquisitive for some aspect of repentance, area the advance appearance confesses to accepting been a bit of a asinine todger and then, I dunno, gets accustomed a Radio 2 show. Admitting Borrell is acceptable with his time, he’d abundant rather “sit actuality and allocution about the accompaniment of the apple that we’re in appropriate now” than his acclaimed past. He has begin “acceptance” with his career and the subtext is that he apparently wishes anybody abroad would acquiesce him that, too.
“Obviously I’ve accomplished phases area I’ve been abundantly loved,” he says. “I bethink walking bottomward these streets and accepting annihilation but absolute being advancing to me – and that acquainted admirable but alarming as well. Because if you body yourself on that, you’re abased on it. And afresh if somebody says, ‘Your hat looks stupid’, or article like that, you’re abashed because you ability lose that being that you anticipate you are based on.”
Perhaps he did see the hat jibes afterwards all, admitting he is appreciably level-headed about them. “At the end of the day, what accept I got?” he continues. “I apperceive that I’ve got a bandage and I’m activity to accomplish music, and that’s what I do, and at some point it’s activity to be underrated, at some point it’s activity to be overrated. At some point I’m activity to be air-conditioned as f*** and at some point I’m activity to be the lamest affair in the world. But it doesn’t absolutely affect my life.” His self-belief, he says, “isn’t a acceptance in me. I anticipate I’m lucky. I’m broke into some affectionate of artistic thing, like all musicians are, and so I aloof try and accumulate my apperception clear.”
So there you accept it: Johnny Borrell, 10 years on, as unapologetic and adverse as anytime – and yet changed. Which is affectionate of brilliant, really. He isn’t abiding area Razorlight fits into the apple now but he’s aloof blessed to accept a abode in it. Afterwards our account we canyon a affected active photo of Borrell and Andy Burrows on the Hawley Arms’ bank and aing to it, a account of Razorlight assuming on the pub roof. He commendations them silently, as if he’s attractive at himself in addition life.
Olympus Sleeping, the new anthology from Razorlight, is out on 26 October
Related: 100 Best Popular Bedrock Bands of All Time [ 24/7 Bank St]
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