Jarvis Cocker: You ask the questions

(Such as: so, can anyone in Britain write a decent song any more? And do you still shop at Oxfam?)
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The Independent Online

The singer Jarvis Cocker was born in 1963 in the Sheffield suburb of Intake. At 15, he formed his first band, initially known as Arabacus Pulp, with schoolmates. The band recorded a Peel Session in 1981, but a year later every member except Cocker left for university.

In 1988, he relocated to London to study Film at St Martin's College of Art, where he became immersed in the rave scene and met the Greek student who would inspire "Common People". His big breakthrough came in 1994, with the release of Pulp's third full-length album, His 'n' Hers. The follow-up album, Different Class, and the singles "Common People" and "Sorted for E's and Wizz" put the band high in the charts.

In 1996, he made the headlines when he jumped on stage at the Brit Awards and waggled his bottom during Michael Jackson's performance of "Earth Song", an act that earned him a night in the cells.

In recent years, he has dabbled in DJing and directing, as well as working with Pulp on their sixth album, We Love Life, which was released in October 2001. He lives in Hoxton, east London.

Are you still a common person?
Steve Nugent, Gateshead

Yes, I'm common as muck. I don't think people really change that much. But to call someone a common person – at least in Sheffield – is a real insult, so I would never call myself or anyone I had any respect for common. That's what made writing a song about it interesting to me. Songs such as Paul Young's "Love of the Common People" have that corny idea about the warmth and greatness of people at the lower end of society, which is just a sentimental myth. It's shit at the bottom of society.

Nigel Lythgoe or Simon Cowell? Gareth Gates or Will Young?
Saxon Bales, London

That's a difficult one. There's been a schism between me and popular culture in the last six months. I did watch Popstars, so I know who Nigel Lythgoe is. I liked him. I sawPop Idol once and I thought it was shit. It's karaoke as far as I can work out. So I'd have to say Nigel Lythgoe over Simon Cowell.

As far as Will and Gareth go, it's like asking: "Would you like to be killed by being shot or stabbed?" Well, neither really.

You studied film-making at college. Any plans to make a movie?
Sarah Hill, Hull

I did study film-making and I hope to make a film. There's been an ongoing discussion about me directing an adaptation of Slow Down, Arthur, Stick to Thirty, which is a novel by Harland Miller. But the producer's stopped talking to me, so that's a bad sign, I guess. But I've got a few other ideas. In the meantime, I made the video for our last single. I haven't done much film since I left college, so it's good to clear the cobwebs.

Your new album is 'We Love Life'. Do you love yours?
Andy Pierce, London

Occasionally. Same as anybody else. There's not much to say about it except for clichés that make you sound like you've been reading American self-help books. I would say that my general level of happiness is higher than it was three or four years ago.

The album is called We Love Life because it seemed like a chirpy title. But it's not a chirpy, chirpy, cheep, cheep record, although it does try to reach positive conclusions.

What do you wear when rambling? Moleskin breeches or wicking base-layer? Tweed or Gore-Tex?
David Noakes, Tunbridge Wells

I don't wear wicking base-layer because I don't know what it is. I've got some moleskin trousers and they're good for walking. And I'd go for tweed every time. I'm not really into these modern fabrics. I know they're more practical, but I'll always go for the look over the practicality, I'm afraid.

I go rambling anywhere that's semi-industrial. I find nature on its own a bit dull. I find it more interesting when there's some disused factory next to it. I used to love poking around old buildings. It's part of your heritage looking at places that once had thousands of people working in them and are now just empty shells with lots of dead pigeons. It's a perfect day out, getting exposed to asbestos and industrial waste.

Why can't anyone in Britain write decent songs?
Terry Shortland, by e-mail

I don't think that's true. I think people are writing decent songs. The last Badly Drawn Boy song was really good, but I only heard it on the radio about three times. So I don't know if anyone's interested in playing decent songs or listening to decent songs any more. Radio 1 is obsessed with appealing to 18 to 24-year-olds, and Radio 2 has turned its back on the likes of Tina Turner because she's too naff.

Do you still shop in charity shops? Who is your favourite designer?
Roger Ufrome-Bejinde, Putney

I sound like Victor Meldrew, but charity shops aren't what they used to be. You go into Oxfam and it seems the clothes are in there just because they make for a colour-co-ordinated interior. There'll be a rail of red clothes or purple clothes that look okay, but there'll be nothing you'd want to buy. So it's very rare I get anything from a charity shop. I go to what they call vintage shops, which, as far as I can see, just means that they can charge five pounds more.

In terms of designers, what I'd look out for in second-hand shops is Pierre Cardin. I guess he's quite reviled in fashion circles, but he's done some really good things. The last thing I bought by him were some blue towelling pyjamas.

Do you think you'll ever leave London and move back to Sheffield?
Kas Martin, Leeds

I never thought I would, but Sheffield has improved quite a lot in the last four or five years. It's relaxed its licencing laws. There's some good music coming out of it as well. I've been living in London for 13 years now. I never intended to stay this long, so maybe I should try somewhere new.

Why don't you get contacts?
Saul Binder, by e-mail

I have got contacts. I wear them on stage. I had to do that because my glasses used to fall off. There was one incident at a gig in Sheffield where I was crawling around the stage for about 10 minutes looking for them – they'd fallen into the bass drum. I'm very shortsighted and people always say, "Why don't you get laser treatment?" But I quite like waking up in the morning and everything being soft and fuzzy. It's nice to choose when to bring the world into focus and start your day.

I think you'd make a great 3am Girl. Are you up for it?
Theresa Saunders, London

It sounds awful. I used to go to lots of parties, but not any more. It sounds like purgatory to me.

'Bad Cover Version' is released on 15 April. Pulp are touring five UK forests this June: Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire (15 June), Bedgebury Pinetum, Kent (16 June), Roseisle Forest, Scotland (21 June), Dalby Forest, Yorkshire (22 June) and Thetford Forrest, Suffolk (23 June)