Through puffs of smoke, Simon Warner talks in bold, uncompromising flourishes. "I was in Rainham in Kent last weekend," he groans. "I had the flu and it was very odd - the sort of place where people go to die. When we went on stage there were about three people there..."
It doesn't take very long to discover that Warner, man about London town, dramatic pop diarist and wannabe "Britain's answer to Jacques Brel", is a feverish storyteller. He is the same man in the flesh as he is on his forthcoming album, Waiting Rooms. There, with the assistance of pointed melodies, blazing strings and Simon's voice inebriated with emotion, he effortlessly turns life's mundane experiences into lyrical flashpoints. "I have only got about three or four friends, and I guess they would say I was very obsessive about sticking to what I believe in," he concedes.
After 10 years on the dole, a sudden record deal, weeks of agonising pressure producing the album, Simon has yet another drama to work on: winning over the post-Oasis punter who still worships the four-bloke, four-chord ideas about what makes good rock music. True, My Life Story and The Divine Comedy have helped broaden people's horizons, and Warner is already reaping accolades for recent London live stints, but there is so much more to be done. And Simon has a hunger for the challenge. "In rock, even up through the Eighties, there used to be rules and regulations in terms of what you can write about - but life's not like that," he stresses. "I'm trying to talk about everyday things, but put in more extraordinary settings. People can say it's a little theatrical, and live, the odd hand might be flung here or there, but I totally disassociate with rock rules anyway. Actually, my mother is more impassioned than me - very dramatic. I picked up techniques from her." Well, take a deep bow anyway, mister.
EYE ON THE NEW It is still a little baffling why 20-year-old Jewel Kilcher has shifted three million copies of her debut album Pieces Of You in the States - the guitar-stroking lass is still a minor-league Sheryl Crow. But maybe her fresh-faced naivete and bell-chime voice have a special magic live.
Mean Fiddler Acoustic Room, London NW10 (0171-344 0044), 14 MayReuse content