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My Geppetto #2: Lizzie Nunnery on Graham Coxon

by Nick Holloway

A series of interviews exploring the influences of some of our favourite artists and clever clogses... who is your Geppetto?

For the second in the series, we'll hear from Lizzie Nunnery. A songwriter and playwright, her first play, Intemperance, was shown at Liverpool's Everyman Theatre in 2007
(review in The Guardian, 28/09/2007). Her new folk / storytelling night, Almanac, starts tonight in Liverpool.

What artist / human / thing(s) are you most influenced by?

I can't in good faith choose one, but as you're asking for one I'll say Graham Coxon (pictured, above)... guitarist in Blur, songwriter and painter.

What is it about him that you find intriguing?

When I was fourteen, alarmingly skinny and torn between creative drives and crippling shyness, regularly embarrassing myself at house parties by drinking too much peach Archers; Graham was seemingly my parallel in male late 20s Britpop musician form. Setting aside for the moment his phenomenal guitar musicianship, he was for me (and many other hapless young men and women, I've since discovered) a sort of anti-icon. Good looking but always grimacing pain-eyed in to the camera; talented but never secure in his own ego. With his dark rimmed glasses, his hang dog look, his meticulous but understated fashion sense; he very easily translated in to a cartoon version of himself- a pop culture symbol of self-effacing cool- It wasn't just want he did, it was what he meant.

It's my belief that it's nigh on impossible as an adult to feel the same sense of adulation of an icon we achieve as teenagers. Perhaps we grow too removed and cynical- we realise everyone's human, all chords are borrowed, all musical movements live and die and no pair of shoes (or dark rimmed glasses) can a new identity make. When I first saw Blur live in 1995 I remember saying to my sister as I waited for them to come on: "I can't believe they're going to be real people standing in front of me." These days I'm harder to impress. I grew up. I didn't marry Graham. I got a bit less shy. I still embarrass myself at parties.

The fact that he went on to commandeer a new sound for Blur around the release of the eponymous fifth album, and most significantly '13', and later release six very worthy solo albums (possessing within them many flights of brilliance) has served to cultivate a throbbing obsession into a deep admiration and respect.

It's what he does and is and means. An eternal underdog who's broken a million hearts with the mere jolt of a wah wah.

If you were to pick the most important work by this person, what would it be?
'A Day is Far Too Long', from his lo-fi first solo album, The Sky Is Too High

It contains some of my favourite ever lyrics and, listening to the recording, bloody hell he means them. For me it's a song about lost faith and the dirty discomfort of self-consciousness. It's in this sort of whispering creaking production setting that his instinctive brand of vocals sound best: the cracks in his voice only draw you in deeper.

OR to choose a second one, the guitar solo to 'This is a Low' from Parklife (listen to it on youtube / Spotify). I've never been a particular fan of the sound of an electric guitar; in the hands of most musicians I'm hard pushed to be moved far by it; but the man makes the thing wail and talk in a way as ugly / beautiful as bruised fruit. Yes I said it – bruised fruit.

The most underestimated work? And why?

All his solo work. Because he's not really a singer. Because he's not really a pop star whose comfortable selling himself verbally in the way good pop stars should. Because he says flipping instead of fucking (possibly). His latest album "The Spinning Top" is his first folky outing and it's a wonderful thing (especially "Brave the Storm" and "If you want me"). The fact that he could decide to move in to folk guitar just a few years ago and come out sounding like early John Martyn fills me with admiration deeper than deep. Also the fact that he's come to folk now just when I'm losing myself in it feels like a lovely coincidence (rather than the serendipity my teenage self would have read).

The most over-rated? And why?
Some of his paintings I’m very into (the cover for “13” for instance) - others not so much. I think there’s a brilliant flow of consciousness feel to them but then sometimes I wish he’d curtail that and step back just a little. It pains me to say it because he’s a courageous discipline-hopper. Sometimes it can feel a bit like looking in to a teenage boy’s fantasy.


Almanac is on tonight (Sat, 11 July) at MelloMello on Slater Street. The night features new and traditional folk and bluegrass, plus storytelling on the theme of murder. Andy Hickie, John Smith, Dave Owen and Nina Jones all play. myspace.com/almanacfolk.

You can also find more info at lizzienunnery.co.uk and myspace.com/lizzienunnery.