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Graham Parker on ‘This Is 40′ and Reuniting With the Rumour

Photo by Kevin Mazur

Graham Parker isn’t ready to quit his day job as a rock ’n’ roller, but he’s pleased as can be about appearing in Judd Apatow’s new movie ‘This Is 40.’ Even better, Parker is featured with the Rumour, his ’70s band, which reunited after a 30-year break to back Parker on last year’s ‘Three Chords Good.’

“Everyone was quite surprised by this,” Parker tells Diffuser.fm. “They couldn’t believe it was really happening.”

That goes for the movie and, in a way, for recording their first album together since ‘The Up Escalator’ in 1980. Parker says it felt natural playing again with Bob Andrews, Brinsley Schwarz, Martin Belmont, Andrew Bodnar and Stephen Goulding, even if it seemed at first like a lark.

“Brinsley said, ‘I can’t believe anyone would actually want to hear us,’ and I said, ‘That’s the attitude to take,’” Parker says. “It’s not like the world is watching, it’s not that important, really. And if you take that angle, it’s just having fun with some old mates who are musicians.”

Here, Parker talks about making the album, the movie and what the future may hold.

Seems like the new album is getting a good reception.

What I like about it, really, is that it’s very realistic. No one is going, “This is the greatest album ever, blah blah blah.” It’s not that kind of thing. It’s like, this is really, really good and it’s just right. It’s the way it should be. It’s very musical. It’s about these guys playing together and how they fit in with the songs so well now and how I can actually sing now instead of just screaming. People are sort of appreciating that and not saying, “Oh, it’s not as frantic, and that’s what we want.” They’re really getting it, and that’s quite gratifying to see.

What is it about playing with these guys that fits the songs so well?

Well, I didn’t write the songs for the band, I just wrote them, and then that kind of fell in later. Somehow I found myself with a Rumour reunion, so it was very hard to tell how it was going to work out, but somebody reminded me that I didn’t write the songs on the first album for the Rumour, because it didn’t exist. So it’s not that much different, really. I’m just doing the same as ever, which is writing a bunch of songs and thinking at some point, “OK, I’ve got an album here, let’s do this.” But having said that, the first combination of musician that makes it, as it were — that breaks through and gets somewhere — is a special thing. I think it is for a lot of bands. As soon as I had reformed the Rumour, I couldn’t seem to throw a rock without reading about a band that had just re-formed. I think it’s a special combination of musicians, and these guys in particular always had a kind of synchronicity, and when it kicked in, it was special and unique.

How did you find yourself with a Rumour reunion?

I wanted to do a record with Steve, the drummer; and Andrew, the bass player, who I don’t think had played together since our last album, though they’d played in various other bands. In fact, they were both in the Thompson Twins, but at different times. I’d been doing a bunch of albums in a row with just me and a drummer, and I thought, “I can’t do that again, I’ve got to think of something else.” It literally started with Steve making an email joke about if I’d got the rest of the guys, it would be a proper band, followed by “Just kidding, exclamation mark, exclamation mark.” And I stopped thinking at that point and started doing and contacted all of them, and they all said yes. It’s as if they had been waiting for email to be invented and for me to email them and say, “Let’s do a record,” even though we’ve been touch all these years. Nobody was like, “You’re kidding, right? Why are we doing this?”

Do you think a reunion have worked before now?

To me it seems exactly the logical point in time to do it. To do it 10 years later would have meant nothing. To do it 20 years later would have been weird. In the ’90s or something? It wouldn’t have been right. The respect for it wouldn’t have been big enough. It wouldn’t have been good enough. We needed all this time to really get our chops together, to become really good musicians. Now it all seems right to me. After I did it, I was shaking in my shoes for a few days, thinking, “What a stupid f—ing thing to do. Why have I done this?” I thought this was going to be a big hole that I throw money into, you know.

So was that synchronicity you mentioned still there?

Immediately, yeah. They played very quickly and simply. They did their homework on the demos I sent them of me on guitar. I just emailed mp3s to them, and I shouted a few vague instructions as I was going along, like, “Brinsley, solo!” Or played a mouth solo, my impression of what a solo would be like. In the studio, I’d have ideas for Bob and say, “Look, I hear this,” and then I’d leave them to it, because I wanted real collaboration, and the best thing about it was, there was no producer to f— it all up.

How did you all end up in ‘This Is 40?’

Judd Apatow called me after I’d got them on board for the album. I’d only just got the studio set up, he may have called within a week. Then after I met him about a week after that, he said, “OK, I’ve got some great things coming up for you.” I said to these guys, “This looks like it’s real.” Of course, I said, anything can happen. It could all fall through. But Judd said, “I want all the sessions filmed,” so it’s all in the can. There’s a four-minute version of us online that the Apatow people put together, and then there’s a 17-minute version I’ve seen that’s going to be a DVD extra kind of thing. It all culminated at the premiere in L.A., before we did the Roxy. It was great.

What do you think all this will mean for your career?

I have no idea what happens with these things afterward. I think I’ll be back doing some solo gigs at venues with the word “coffee” in the title. I still need to make a living, and I’ve been doing that by doing solo gigs, largely, with a bit of royalties and a few usages of songs here and there. The movie has got my songs in it and stuff, and the soundtrack album with all these great artist on, and everything about this is a plus and should give me a nice bump. A little recognition, I think, is a good thing. And acting in the movie — I’m actually in it. There will be people who think I’m a character, I suppose, people who haven’t heard of me. I don’t know what they’ll think. I mean, there I am, doing a couple of songs, one in duo form and one with the band, the Rumour. And they’re nice pieces. They’re not terribly short. It’s enough to see that I am, in fact, a singer, but maybe people will think someone else is singing and I’m just an actor named Graham Parker.

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