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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Wyatt hails Ty in Mercury contest
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Robert Wyatt
Wyatt said he was happy to be broadening his audience
Mercury Music Prize outsider Robert Wyatt has spoken in favour of fellow nominee Ty ahead of Tuesday's award.

Wyatt described the little-known rapper's shortlisted album Upwards - a 25/1 longshot to win - as "knockout".

Alongside Ty, Wyatt, 59, is the least fancied choice among bookmakers for his jazz-influenced album Cuckooland.

But he told BBC News Online: "I don't do betting. Us beatniks don't do competitions. I can't even imagine (winning). It's a ludicrous idea."

Latest odds
Franz Ferdinand 9/4
The Streets 2/1
The Zutons 3/1
Amy Winehouse, Keane 8/1
Snow Patrol 10/1
Basement Jaxx, Joss Stone 12/1
Belle & Sebastian, Jamelia 16/1
Robert Wyatt, Ty 25/1
Source: Ladbrokes

Leading bookmakers have now closed the book as the final countdown to Tuesday night's ceremony begins.

Wyatt, a longstanding solo artist who was drummer with 60s prog-jazz group Soft Machine, was full of praise for the other nominees.

He said: "There was one I bought already, Jamelia. I like that black British thing.

"I came across Amy Winehouse's wonderful attitude without hearing her, on (BBC TV show Never Mind The) Buzzcocks. She was fast and funny, she's just got something, like Streisand. I've now got the CD and it's very good.

"The Streets is nice and fresh, and Belle & Sebastian have lovely lyrics. The big surprise in terms of production and lyrics was Ty, who I'd never heard."

Wyatt said he was "surprised and very honoured" to be a candidate for the Mercury award, which honours the best album of the last year by a UK or Irish act.

Ty is one of the outsiders to win the prize on Tuesday
He said: "What it's about is celebrating a bunch of musicians for the sake of it. It's nice for us.

"What I'm really happy about is just being able to bring my stuff to a wider audience.

"It's not pop, rock 'n' roll or jazz. It's not accessible. I don't do gigs. I don't promote myself. The fact that (people) have still made the effort to listen is what matters."

Wyatt's work is often classed as "experimental", drawing on his love of 1950s jazz and pop for subtle musical sketches that steer clear of the usual commercial considerations.

Cuckooland, made with collaborators including Annie Whitehead, David Gilmour and Brian Eno, is his first album in six years.

I don't find making music a lot of fun, I get bored quickly when I am working
Robert Wyatt
He said: "I don't find making music a lot of fun. I'm always trying to get things right (but) I get bored quickly when I am working.

"Once I have worked out how to do something I tend to lose interest in that particular project. I'm always trying to do things I don't know how to do."

Wyatt said his musical heroes remained the same ones he admired growing up in the 1950s.

"It hasn't changed fundamentally," he said. "I'm retarded - I'll be 60 next year yet I've still got roughly the same tastes.

"It's like old family photos - you don't get your photos changed for different ones."

  • Live coverage of the Mercurys begins at 2100 BST on Tuesday on BBC Radio 1, and on digital TV on BBC Four.

    Performers are Franz Ferdinand, Basement Jaxx, Amy Winehouse and Jamelia. Highlights will be shown on BBC Two on Friday at 2330 BST.


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