INTERVIEW: Paul Weller Podcast Dan Jennings SPEAKS!

INTERVIEW: Paul Weller Podcast Dan Jennings SPEAKS!

Back in 2020 the charming Dan Jennings sprung out from nowhere, with the sort of dedication to his craft Norris McWhirter would be proud of, detailing the rise of Paul Weller’s full throttle musical juggernaut career like no other. Interviewing family, friends and musical so-rans, displaying the sort of wit, knowledge and oversight of Weller’s 40 + year working life reserved for a smattering of ardent true fans.

His Desperately Seeking Paul series was unprecedented, 180 episodes jam packed full of detail rich, priceless stories, Dan has now been taken on board by the Woking Wonder to do a further series of equally breathless Podcasts involving the cast of Wellers stunning new album 66, helping to elevate the 12 song strong album to dizzy heights it so richly deserves.

Here’s Dan talking exclusively to Gigslutz about this new exciting series of podcasts:

Where did you record these new interviews?

The interview with Paul was down at Black Barn, Paul Weller HQ, and I’m recording Charles Rees down there soon for this 66 podcast series. The majority of the others over zoom – which makes it dead easy for the guests to just be able to dial in, whilst I’m sat in my home office / studio.

Did Paul approach you directly after you conducted the 180th show, where you interviewed Paul, to do an interview with him, his band and the crew surrounding his new album 66?

It actually all came at the same as the finale in a whirlwind end of series 1. In the weeks ahead of the recording for EP180, Paul wanted me to have the new album. So I was WeTransferred a link with the LP, plus the bonus tracks. Then amazingly was asked if after my podcast recording for Desperately Seeking Paul, whether I could do a separate interview with Paul, that would be filmed, about the new album ’66’.

Obviously I jumped at the opportunity and whilst I wish I’d lost a few pounds / stone in advance, I think that I did a decent job of it. The idea to then try to interview everyone involved in the album was my crazy idea. I saw Paul last week at something else for the promotion of the LP and he asked how my ‘making of’ was going, which was really nice.

I’ve had the 66 album for a while now and it sounds wise, classical and whimsically adorable in places. What do you make of the new album?

It’s another astonishing piece of work. So many moods and grooves, flavours and textures. Some real bangers, and some other real sensitive areas as always with Paul.

It’s a very melodic and soulful album – Jacko’s sax and flute stands out throughout – and the strings from Britten Sinfonia via Hannah Peel are stunning. It’s funny, I absolutely caned it for weeks back in November / December, but then when the finale of the podcast went live, I wanted to step back from it a little.

That sounds like an utterly bonkers thing to say, but as a fan, I also want to be swept up in the release day buzz. Plus I knew that I would be recording these extra interviews and when I started doing research for those guests, it needed to feel like a new thing to my ears / mind.

Does Paul entertain any questions about the inspiration behind any of the songs that appear on the album?

We take a Track by Track journey through the album so you’ll hear about the process – lots of collaboration – Christophe Vaillant, Le SuperHomard, talk of lyrics from Erland Cooper, Noel Gallagher, Suggs and Bobby Gillespie. We talked about how music is really about what the listener interprets it to be about.

My favourite tracks on the album would be Ship Of Fools, Flying Fish, My Best Friends Coat and Soul Wandering. What are your favourite tracks on the new album?

I’d echo all of those. Burn Out is as good a song as his entire back catalogue for me. I had to buy some better speakers for Soul Wandering alone. It deserved to be played loud. In Full Flight is really gorgeous too – it’s great to hear Say She She on that too. The story behind Nothing is delightful too.

As for interviewing his band for the album, did any of them advise you how the process of Paul having an idea for a song to going into the studio to how recording the song with his band goes down?

What comes through talking to Paul and the band is how serious they take the process of making music. They clearly have a laugh, they enjoy each other’s company and they are all great mates – there are wonderful bonds there. But when it comes to making the music – it’s serious – it’s work and it’s important.

As a listener, when I hear albums, in my head they’re all in the studio at the same time, and the album is created in a linear fashion (they do track 1, then track 2 etc). Obviously that’s an utter nonsense and it’s likely only me being an idiot that thinks that, but what I’ve learnt through the conversation is how Paul is able to hear what a song is lacking, he know exactly what he wants or the band are able to feed in with ideas through experimentation.

It’s also quite remarkable how few takes there seems to be on any of this stuff. So many of the band talk about elements being done in one or two takes, which says as much about their talent as it does about Paul as a band leader and musical visionary.

Did Tom Van Heel, Jake Fletcher and Ben Gordelier say if they are learning a lot as musicians under the guiding wing of Paul?

Absolutely. They all talk about how blessed they are to be part of the set up. Both on record and live. They’re all learning from each other all the time – whether it’s production, not over-thinking things, “serving the song” or playing together.

With the likes of Steve Brooks appearing on the album, did Steve divulge anything of interest about his and Paul’s working relationship as a musical pairing for over 40 years?

Steve was a wonderful guest on my Desperately Seeking Paul series and it was a real delight to see his name on the credits and to then speak to him again. Back in December, they played live together at a charity gig in Liverpool which I was at. I reckon I was the only one singing along to the new songs bar the two of them!.

Do you get the impression Paul is a perfectionist when it comes to recording his music or is it all about capturing a moment in a studio that only comes along in a blue moon and trying to capture that spontaneous magic?

I think more the latter, but to Paul that may well mean perfection too. As I say, so many of the songs on this LP seem to have elements that were done in one or two takes. I get the impression that he doesn’t like to overplay or overwork things.

Saying that, some of the songs that were built with collaborators like Christophe and Tom Doyle / Anth Brown (White Label) had more back and forth over message as they built the music together remotely.

The speed at which he talks about sending music to Noel and Bobby and getting lyrics back is quite frankly utterly ridiculous.

You’ve visited his Black Barn studio a number of times now, something I’m not jealous of at all, what’s the atmosphere down there?

I’ve always been made to feel so very welcome by everyone at Black Barn – Claire Moon, Kenny & Bill Wheeler, Charles Rees and of course, Paul.

I popped in last month to chat about another project, and ended up having a cuppa with Dominic, the accountant and chat about football for half hour. The studio itself has such a cool, warm vibe – lighting and rugs – musical instruments – loads of vintage stuff.

Do you know if Paul is still listening to the likes of The Beatles, Traffic, The Small Faces and The Zombies for influences for the music he creates?

Definitely The Beatles as we talked about the “new” (AI) single and them being his band. Other interviewees talked about The Beatles always being a big topic of conversation on the tour bus. Josh McClorey was playing with them when the Get Back documentary landed – and them spending ages watching that over and over. As for the others – I’m not sure – but I can’t imagine they are too far away from the playlist.

Are you aware if Paul is recording new material for a follow up album already?

There’s other stuff in the bag – he mentions that – but also talks about wanting everything that’s been recorded to come out this year. In my first podcast series, there are songs mentioned by different people such as Kathryn Williams, Danny Thompson, Omar, Max Beesley which have yet to see the light of day.

Paul Barry also mentioned that he and Paul had written a song for James Morrison which hasn’t come out yet. Paul Weller mentioned on my podcast about wanting to do another covers album as his next project, which was a nice little exclusive. Although I remember him telling Mojo or Uncut that this latest album was going to be a triple-LP at one point too – so don’t hold him to it.

Are you planning any more Paul Weller related material to follow this 66 special?

The 66 stuff is a different format – essentially releasing the interview with Paul a week before the album lands. Then the week after the LP, listeners will get up to 20 interviews as one big boxset, which hopefully will be a blast to listen through to alongside the LP as you learn more about its making.

As for what’s next, yes. We have something big planned for 2025, which I am working on right now. Funnily enough it was Paul’s idea. Of course, I’ll let you know as soon as I can talk about it properly, but if I can pull it off it will be incredible.

Do you have any other plans to record any other interviews with any other musicians?

I’d love to do something else in the podcast / radio space but I’m so time poor with the 66 stuff, this new project, my actual job and a young family. However, there are so many great musicians creating wonderful new music right now who I really want to be interviewing so who knows!

Finally, what’s on your turntable at present?

The new Lucy Rose album is astonishingly good. I’d love to interview Lucy. She’s a real talent and totally unique in her sound. This album takes you on what is a heart-breaking journey at times but the album is wonderfully uplifting too.

Kathryn Williams and Withered Hand have just released an LP together which combines the very best of both of these wonderful singer/songwriters. Plenty of wit and smart lyrics too. I’m a big reggae / dub head so I’ve been digging a bunch of record store day releases from Lee Scratch Perry, Price Far I, Dub Syndicate and The Wailers. I’ve also really enjoyed the new ones from The Black Keys, Sleater-Kinney and Bob Vylan. The Pendulum Swing from Katherine Priddy is a joy from start to finish too.

Paul Weller Podcast can be found here