Paul Weller is one of the last men standing from the major players of British punk’s Class of ’77. And unlike many of his peers, Weller never really took a break, moving from the Jam directly to the Style Council and then to a solo career that not only hasn’t flagged after two decades, but actually became revitalized starting with 2008’s “22 Dreams.” In the process, he’s outlasted not only punk but the Britpop wave that the Jam’s influence helped spawn a generation later.
The short six-date tour that brings the man nicknamed the Modfather to Royale on Sunday speaks to his cult status in the United States, in contrast with his British stardom, but that’s fine with him. “I don’t have to conquer the world,” says Weller over the phone. “I just have to conquer myself, you know?”
Q. Ever since “22 Dreams,” it’s like you’re in the midst of what feels very much like not just a creative resurgence but also a new infusion of energy. Where did that come from?
A. I don’t know. I think I was just getting bored with what I was doing. So I think if there’s any sort of catalyst, I just thought we were, me and the band at the time, just kind of treading water a bit. I wanted to move on and find a different kind of way of making music. I think it was also [that] the music around that time in England, anyway, it was very stale. I was like, “Where is the kind of music I’m not hearing?” So in my own maybe conceited way, I think I thought, well, I’ll try and make the music that I’m not hearing.
Q. Your last couple of albums have been stylistic explosions, exploring wildly different facets of your musical interests rather than maybe sacrificing that energy for more cohesiveness. And it reaches its apogee with [latest album] “Sonik Kicks.” Did you intend to make those albums anything-goes collections, or did they just happen that way?
A. Well, I think probably with “22 Dreams,” the attitude was just, “Well, let’s just try anything, you know. See what happens.” And I think the fact that people liked that record was very encouraging. But my mind is very open to anything at the moment. In my old age, my mind gets more open, and I listen to so many different types of music and I guess that all reflects in my work. I suppose I just want to feel that I’m still pushing forward in some way. There are so many artists who get to my age that get comfortable and just stick in a groove, and I really don’t want to do that.
Q. The Jam started releasing records when you were a teenager. Do you marvel at what you accomplished back then or shake your head at what people let you get away with?
‘My mind is very open to anything at the moment. In my old age, my mind gets more open.’
A. (laughs) Probably a bit of both, really. I think by the time of our third record, “All Mod Cons,” I thought I’d really got it together. I started to get a whole lot more serious about [songwriting]. Some of the very early lyrics are pretty cringe-y, but I mean, that’s kid stuff. It’s all a learning curve, isn’t it?
Q. Are there songs that you’d like to do live that you’ve either forgotten how to play or need to teach yourself how to play again?
A. Oh, [expletive] yeah. All the time, mate, yeah. And luckily, I’m able to rely on my band, because they know the chords a little bit better than I do. But it’s like the old thing of riding a bike, it soon comes back to you.
Q. You’ve been doing this for almost 40 years now. Is there anything that you haven’t been able to do yet that you’ve wanted to do that you haven’t gotten around to yet?
A. Not really, no. To be quite honest with you, I’m just happy that I’m still doing it after 40 years. It doesn’t feel like 40 years, I have to say. It feels a lot more like 10 years or something. It moves so quickly. But I’m just happy that I’m still able to do it and there’s still people that want to hear it and I’m able to still make new records. So many of my so-called peers are just on the cabaret circuit. They trot out once a year, do their old hits and everyone goes home happy. Which sounds like living [expletive] hell to me, really. But it takes all types. So I’m happy and I’m still doing something new and I still think it’s fresh, what I’m doing, and I’m very excited about it.
Q. That’s interesting, because not only has the original wave that you were a part of gone into nostalgia mode, the Britpop wave that you inspired has gone into nostalgia mode as well. Meanwhile, you’ve kept at it and you’re still doing work that sounds vital. My question is: How?
A. Because I still love playing music. It was all I ever wanted to do, and I got the chance to do it. It’s like when people say, “What inspires you to keep going?” It’s like, well, just this. From the time I can ever remember, I just always wanted to play music and be in a band. And I’ve got my wish granted, so isn’t that enough?Interview was edited and condensed. Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @spacecitymarc.