DATE OF INTERVIEW:
8th December 2016
METAL DISCOVERY: For the next album, I’ve read that you’ve written an abundance of material, like thirty songs or something?
JEZ: It’s got to be getting on for that, yeah.
(Jeremy Cunningham on the future of the Levellers)
"As long as we can continue to subsidise our dysfunctionality, we’ll be alright!"
Jeremy Cunningham backstage at the Engine Shed, Lincoln, UK, 8th December 2016
Photograph copyright © 2016 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Thanks to Michael Eccleshall and Phil Winward for arranging the interview
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Review/photos of Levellers @ The Engine Shed, Lincoln, 8th Dec 2016:
MD: Is it going to be a tortuous process in whittling those down for what you want to record?
JEZ: Yeah. There are thirty songs but they’re quite rough, you know. And, of them, there’s probably only about half an album’s worth that we all agree on that are really good. And, so, there’s going to be a lot of rearranging going on. The only thing we are confident in is the lyrics and the vocal lines. Then, once we’ve got that, we can start… then we can properly start pulling shit apart. And we’re kind of in touch with a couple of producers at the minute, so we’re gonna be starting early next year. We’ll make a start and do it in several sessions, and we’re aiming to have it out for our thirtieth anniversary, which is the year after. It’ll be early 2018.
MD: Producers you’ve worked with before or new guys?
JEZ: No, new guys. I’m not sure if I can actually say who because it’s still in negotiation.
MD: Can we expect more socio-political observations on the new album, given the year we’ve had?
JEZ: Yeah, that’s true. I was just saying to a guy yesterday, we haven’t actually tackled 2016 yet! [Laughs] But… we’re gonna have to! [Laughs] As soon as this tour’s finished and we’ve put our feet up for Christmas and got a bit of perspective on it all, that’s gonna be the main objective.
MD: I can’t wait for Charlie Brooker’s end of year rants…
JEZ: Oh, fuck me, have you seen ‘Black Mirror’? The last season of ‘Black Mirror’?
MD: I’ve not seen the final one yet, but I’ve watched the first five.
JEZ: The final one is the best one.
MD: That’s the hour and a half one, isn’t it, the feature length one.
MD: Is it the best?
JEZ: I think so, yeah. It’s fucking brilliant.
MD: I loved the one that started off in the eighties. It was less bleak than the others, as well.
JEZ: With the two women?
JEZ: That made me cry.
MD: Yeah, I had a tear in my eye at the end of that one, actually. It had a more positive ending.
JEZ: Yeah, it was. But the last one is really good. It’s a detective story.
MD: Okay… no spoilers, though!
JEZ: No spoilers, no!
MD: There was an article in The Guardian a few days ago with the headline “UKIP v the Levellers”…
JEZ: Yeah, I saw it.
MD: Yeah, it was based around a quote from Douglas Carswell, the UKIP MP wanker for Clacton, where he said: “It is UKIP that must become the heirs to the Levellers”.
JEZ: We have a word for that from where I come from in Crawley… cunt!
MD: However UKIP want to dress themselves up, they are borderline fascists, and the Levellers were classical liberals…
JEZ: Well, the Levellers are regarded as the first socialists, aren’t they. They are liberal types but if you take away the religious values which is what it was about a lot - you know, the puritanical and the right to worship your own religion in the seventeenth century - the rest of it comes down to the values of socialism and people having the fucking right to do what they want, as long as they’re not hurting people. Fucking UKIP, they’re cunts, I fucking hate them!
MD: Yeah, exactly. And your band is namechecked at the end of the article, too.
JEZ: Yeah, I know, that’s why we saw it.
MD: It said something like, “The Ukippers, an electro-funk band, will no doubt be headlining Glastonbury in two hundred years’ time.” A very cleverly sarcastically written piece!
JEZ: Yeah! [Laughs]
MD: Talking of fascists, do you find it worrying times, globally, now that a misogynistic fascist with a dodgy comb-over has become the US president?
JEZ: Yeah, and who would’ve thought that? We were in America for the debates. You know, we were touring in America. We watched the first debate live on TV before we went on stage and it’s like, yeah, fucking hell, how could that happen? I never thought it could happen but Mark, our singer, was always like, “yeah, this will fucking happen.” I didn’t think it would, but…
MD: I saw an interview with Michael Moore about three or four months ago and he was saying back then it could become a reality. It’s fucked up.
JEZ: It is fucked up, yeah. I can understand it, in a way, in that it’s a protest vote against politicians because everyone’s fucking sick of politicians but, fuck me, why would you fucking vote in someone like that because you’re sick of politicians? Have a fucking revolution! Go the whole way, you know!
MD: And how did Brexit ever happen?
JEZ: Yeah. That’s the only time we’ve put on our website… because we usually say, and will continue to say: “Think for yourselves.” You know, “don’t necessarily listen to what we say; do what you think is right.” But that’s the only time we’ve put up on our website: “We’re voting Remain” And we did our logo, which is the ‘Levelling the Land’ sun with the European stars all around it and actually put it up on our website. And, strangely enough, we got quite a few complaints… [Laughs]
JEZ: Yeah, by people going, “what the fuck are you fucking doing?!”
MD: I remember an article in The Guardian just after the referendum where they were asking people at Glastonbury how they voted, and everyone under thirty voted to remain, but the older demographic seemed to have voted leave.
JEZ: Well, that’s the same deal with my mum and dad – they voted to leave, which really fucking surprised me. But, you know, they’re pensioners and they don’t really leave the country, whereas us, the Levellers, spend half of our time in Europe.
MD: I read an interview with Christopher Lloyd recently, the actor…
JEZ: Yeah, yeah, from ‘Taxi’…
MD: Yeah, and he said the plot to ‘Back to the Future Part II’ has become a reality now…
JEZ: Yes! [Laughs]
MD: Apparently, that was based on Trump, originally.
JEZ: Was it?
MD: Yeah, who Biff became…
JEZ: Yeah, because he looks like him, doesn’t he. I hadn’t really thought about that.
MD: ‘A Curious Life’ has to be one of the best, most fascinating music documentary films I’ve ever seen. I gather you let Chumbawamba’s Dunstan Bruce have complete free reign with making the film?
JEZ: Yeah. He’s made our intro film for this tour as well, actually.
MD: Didn’t he do the last one, too, for the 20th anniversary tour?
JEZ: Yeah, it’s an update of that. Yeah, he had complete freedom. It was completely his idea. He just spent three years with us… mainly with me, obviously, but then had a nightmare editing it all down!
MD: Was there anything not included in the film you were disappointed didn’t make the final edit?
JEZ: Not really. There’s only one thing which I thought should’ve gone in, which was Andrew Collins, the guy I was telling you about, who wrote the NME review – there was a long interview with him… which is on the outtakes on the DVD. But it just wasn’t included because Dunstan thought the sound wasn’t good enough, but I couldn’t really tell. I thought that was the only bit where I thought he should have cut that in with me reading the review. He could’ve cut Andrew Collins in because he actually read his own review, as well, and then went on to talk about it.
MD: I think the two overriding observations I have on the film are that you should have your own TV series… you’re a very entertaining guy on film…
MD: And your parents should have their own TV series! They were amazing!
JEZ: Well, yeah, they did kind of upstage me! They’re both getting really old now, you know. But they were made up when they came to the premiere of the film and there were people asking them for their autographs!
MD: It’s really sweet they have a lot of your old Levellers artwork on their walls, and the great pride they have in talking about it.
JEZ: Yeah, and all my gold discs and stuff. It’s like, yeah, I never really think about that kind of thing until you see it on film and you kind of actually see it, whereas when I visit them I don’t notice all that shit, because I’ve seen it so many times. So it was nice, yeah.
MD: I presume an offer hasn’t come in for ‘At Home with the Cunninghams’ yet, the TV series?!
JEZ: No! [Laughs]
MD: Hypothetically, if it did, is that something you’d do?
JEZ: No, I like my private life to be private.
MD: My final question then - you described the first quarter of a century of the Levellers as “25 years of subsidised dysfunctionality”, so how do you see the next 25 panning out? More of the same?
JEZ: Yeah… I mean, there’s no way I’m going to beat that as a quote!
JEZ: Actually, it wasn’t me; it was Stephen, our didgeridoo player, who actually said that. I claimed it but it was actually him! So, yeah, I’m not gonna do any better than that. As long as we can continue to subsidise our dysfunctionality, we’ll be alright!
MD: Brilliant! Well, thank you so much for your time again.
JEZ: No worries. Thank you for a great interview.