Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 13:12 UK

Blur? Solo? Best of both for Coxon


Watch Graham Coxon play guitar and talk about how Blur got back together.

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Graham Coxon is perched on the edge of a stage in a room above a pub in east London.

Next week, he will play in these intimate and slightly dilapidated surroundings to a couple of hundred fans, giving them a taste of his seventh solo album.

Then at the end of June, he will then be on a very different stage. The Pyramid Stage, in front of tens of thousands of fans during a headlining slot at Glastonbury, to be precise - followed by two huge shows in Hyde Park, London.

For those gigs, he will be back with his old bandmates in Blur, the band that came to define Britpop and who have recently reformed.

The different venues in Coxon's gig diary highlight the two sides to his career - commercial success and mass adulation with Blur, and a solo path that has been low-key but highly rewarding for his loyal fans.

"I think I'm really lucky because I've got a venue like this, which is a couple of hundred people and is very close and vibey and sweaty and smelly," he says, looking around the Lexington pub.

Blur at the Brit Awards
We have these huge amount of songs to play, and an awful lot of daft memories and a lot to laugh about
Graham Coxon (right) on Blur

"And then a couple of weeks later I'll be able to hear my guitar floating off into the air into a lovely sunset. Being able to make great big distorted noises.

"So I'm getting the best of both of it really. It's quite nice."

It is not a bad place for a musician to be in.

Coxon has been out of the shadow of his bandmates for long enough to have proved himself on his own terms, and be returning with no baggage.

The seven years since he left Blur have seen him become regarded as more than a gifted Britpop musician - he has proved to be a master craftsman of raucous, idiosyncratic, charming guitar pop gems.

The new album, The Spinning Top, is one of the highlights so far, and sees him swap his electric riffs for playing an acoustic guitar in a "picking" style.

Inspired by folk greats like Nick Drake, Martin Carthy and Davey Graham, it sounds more gentle than much of his previous work. But Coxon bristles at the suggestion that he has mellowed out.

"That's the opposite of what I wanted," he says. "The picking is quite hard in places and it really chains you to a rhythm. I think it's quite raw.

Graham Coxon
Graham Coxon has collaborated with Pete Doherty and Paul Weller

"As soon as I read about acoustic music, or 'folksy', I think, 'oh no, more drippy music. I've had enough of that.'"

So it may be quieter, but the restless Coxon refers to himself as "picking away like a caffeine driven maniac" and wanting his new acoustic sound to be "as exciting as electric guitars".

The album tells the story of a man from birth to death - but Coxon does not want listeners to get hung up on the plot.

"This story over the last few months has just become more complicated and convoluted in my head," he says.

"When I tried to explain it to someone the other day, it was ridiculous. I became so embarrassed because it just got crazy. I think it's just too distracting."

The opening track, Look Into the Light, is "about light and eyes and stuff, which could be easily interpreted as entering into the world", he says.

And in the middle, he says, are three songs where the protagonist goes to war - and where some electric guitars kick in.

"That's where it really kicks off, and splits the album into an innocent first half and a bit of a messed up second half."

No pressure

As well as preparing to play the album live later this month, Coxon has been in weekly rehearsals with his old Blur cohorts, preparing for their return in June.

Coxon walked out of the band in 2002 after relations with singer Damon Albarn became strained. But getting back together is "more fun than it was before", Coxon says.

"We have these huge amount of songs to play, and an awful lot of daft memories and a lot to laugh about," he says. "What we don't have is this pressure to maintain any success."

No-one is telling them they have to make a video to get on MTV, or do "all these things that used to get us in a panic 10 or so years ago", the guitarist says.

"So what we've got is the fun bit - why everybody joins a group. It's to play music together and play in front of lots of people. It's pretty good actually."

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