Sir Paul McCartney has found a new lease of creative life on his third album as The Fireman, a collaboration with producer Youth.
Raw, experimental and partly improvised, each song was written and recorded in a day, with Sir Paul building lyrics around words from poetry books, adopting alter-egos to sing, and mining old blues records for vocal inspiration.
The results on Electric Arguments are rough, rich and refreshing for one of the world’s most established stars.
On Monday, he launched the album by telling reporters how the pair made the album, and giving his thoughts on the future.
ON CREATIVE FREEDOM
We had the freedom to make this album any way we wanted. It could have been very carefully considered, very precise, but that wouldn’t be The Fireman. That’s the whole point about the Fireman, that it’s very free.
ON WORKING WITH YOUTH
I originally met him because he was doing a mix for me. We got along well and started to talk about similar things – art and poetry and stuff. So it grew. We did the first two Fireman albums for fun and by the time it got to this one, he became more like a creative partner and what I had to do was trust him.
Once I did trust him, it made it much easier for me to be creative. I could do anything because I knew he would only take the best stuff.
I like working with someone. I like giving up control. I don’t need to have full control all the time. I like a bit, but I like to throw it open to someone. It’s more fun than sitting in a room on your own all day.
ON IMPROVISING VOCALS
I just goofed around, ad libbed it, and eventually a song came out
We made two Fireman albums and they were instrumental. Youth suggested to me, ‘how about a bit of vocal?’ And I said, ‘well I haven’t got any songs, I’ve got no idea’.
And because it’s The Fireman and anything goes, I said, ‘yeah sure’, so I got on the mic and said to the engineer, ‘this could be the worst moment of my life’. Most people are intimidated even if they know what to sing, and I’ve got no idea. So I said, ‘no laughing, I’m going to try this’. I just goofed around, ad libbed it. And eventually a song came out of it.
ON WRITING LYRICS
How we do it on The Fireman is we just sit down and I can be talking to Youth about this that and the other. He sometimes will carry around a few of these poetry books. I might say, ‘Let me have that book’, and I’ll look through it and choose a couple of words at random.
Like ‘use this approach’. And we start working on the word ‘approach’. So I’d nick two words off [Allen] Ginsberg, two words of [William] Burroughs, and it was like Burroughs’ technique, the cut-up. So it was a very random process but it is very liberating.
ON ADOPTING ALTER-EGOS
We crated this idea in Sergeant Pepper where you’re not John Lennon, you’re Dirk
It’s an approach I’ve been interested in. With Sergeant Pepper, the whole idea was to create a band and we could pretend we were that band, not The Beatles. So we made that record with that in mind.
Normally when John would walk up to the microphone, some part of his brain would be conscious that he was doing a John Lennon vocal. And that’s sometimes a little bit of a pressure.
So we crated this idea in Sergeant Pepper where you’re not John Lennon, you’re Dirk. So you go up to a mic and you just sing how you want to sing rather than how you expect people think you’re going to sing. And it’s quite liberating to do that.
ON NEW MATERIAL
I’m enjoying this so I’ll see how this goes. I am starting to write songs at home but I don’t have any plans. There’s no deadlines as to when I have to record them.
One of the reasons I do The Fireman and not just stick to my day job is that they complement each other. You do The Fireman, and when you come back to write what you might call a proper song, it’s informed by The Fireman experience. So it freshens it up a little bit.
ON TOURING AS THE FIREMAN
At the moment we haven’t got any plans. But we’re kind of anticipating it. Me and Youth have said we’ll see how it goes. If suddenly there’s a big demand for it, I’d like to try it. It would be quite challenging.
ON TOURING AS SIR PAUL MCCARTNEY
I’m looking at doing some little gigs here and there – I’ve been doing some one-offs this year, which have been interesting to do instead of a big major tour. I’m also writing some other stuff in the background, but there’s no big plans. No world tour.
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