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' As he consumes a bottle of mineral water, into which he tips powdered vitamins, he gradually warms up, though: 'I like talking,' he says. 'We're in his recording studio, in a converted bus station off Ladbroke Grove, west London. When he and his band ruled the charts in the mid-Nineties, market research revealed that what most people first associated with Blur was Damon Albarn's pale blue eyes, and even here, in poor light and with a hangover, they are remarkably clear and piercing. They both had kids, and they went on tour straight away, and now they're not with the mothers of their kids. After a week on tour, all that adoration, I'm like, "Yes, you're adoring me, but I'm also ignoring the development of my child! ' Well, hanging out with Phil Daniels (the geezer actor who spoke the narrative on 'Parklife', Blur's anthem to geezerdom), and Ray Winstone (another geezer actor), and Damien the geezer artist...
This is no doubt partly a matter of wealth (although he would 'really love to see the Royal Family gone', he owns as many houses as the Queen - one in Devon, another in Iceland, and two in Notting Hill), but it's also obvious that being a pop star is very tiring. To begin with Blur were just another indie dance band, but they were soon signed by the Food Records label, owned by EMI. 'Well, they were all anti it until they got loads of money from major labels - and they all lost their edge when they did.' Except Blur, of course. I love that thing that happens in young people's heads when they discover something.'Does he think that pop music has grown up into a proper art form? Albarn bridles slightly: 'Well, if it amuses people to think that over their tea and biscuits...' (How suburban.)Albarn's lyrics used to be quite witty (rhyming Balzac with Prozac, for example), but on the last two Blur albums (Blur and 13), his songs have moved from 2.59-minute narrative pop to longer, angst-confessional rock. No, it's, it's, it's fame, and two people competing with one another [Frischmann's band Elastica was quite big in America]. Europe has been a place of battles and political intrigue for centuries.When at home in London he bicycles to his studio in the morning, arriving by 9 a.m., heads home at 5 p.m., cooks and watches television to unwind."People always ask me 'Why are you so busy? Or how he has an undisclosed project that will keep him in France for the better part of the next two years.And then there's a forthcoming new album with his band The Good, The Band & The Queen that features the Clash's Paul Simonon, Simon Tong and Tony Allen. I really do get that sense that if you love what you do you should do it all the time.'I don't know why, I was so into it when I was younger. My sister [three years his junior] fitted in, but I didn't.'At A-level Damon did badly in English (though he liked DH Lawrence and Herman Hesse) and history, and failed music. It's my spiritual home.'He is also part-owner of a bar in Reykjavik. I don't know how much f-ing advertising my mate Ingvar has got out of it!But let's face it, if you're a good-looking young male with talent you're not going to get taken seriously.' Really? 'I tried so hard to learn classical piano - and I did, I got up to Grade 8 - but never really could do it. He's a producer on the film, and of course the bar is used in the film as well. And he's wasted being this big pop star with celebrity girlfriends.
At the height of Blur mania - in the rosy dawn of Cool Britannia, when English pop regained for a season the energy and wit of its Sixties youth - broadsheet critics compared Albarn to Schubert, and he was invited to meet Tony Blair. 'In one way, yeah, but I do feel that looks are something you have to get over... Anything to do with authority, even paper with notes written on it. But if you've lived with someone for eight years, and worked in tandem with them, talked through ideas and things, and you leave that behind... I mean, I go out maybe every two weeks and have a drink - and I'll probably 'ave a bit then - but I don't drink at all the rest of the time. But when I say "Scandinavian disposition", I mean I like fish! It's not a very big bar, but it's very famous.'Albarn takes me across the studio to some photographs stuck on a wall of him with some of his heroes. He could sing for Blur, so I wouldn't have to show my face any more!