You have managed to gracefully evolve with your music career, which is rare, what’s the secret?
I’ve done alright but I kind of made a conscious decision in my late 40s that I’d keep a weathered eye open for approaching old age and develop a way of presenting myself and writing and recording which would take advantage of the fact I was getting older instead of it being a hang up...which it always seemed to be in pop music. When I started out there weren’t any old pop singers, you were way over the hill if you were 25 but now you can’t move for them – the geriatrics, all still at it! I went out of my way to try and figure out a way of doing it which suited me and it seems to have worked out, I’ve got a small but perfectly developed audience, who seem to like it.
There aren’t many musicians around where the crowd is more excited about the new stuff…
Well, it’s nice of you to say that and to a certain extent you are right and the other thing is that I tend to tell the audiences nowadays, ‘we’re going to do a new one, but don’t worry, because our new stuff all sounds like the old stuff!’
You have played solo in recent years but this time you’ll be touring with Los Straitjackets, a band known for channelling the peak years of the guitar instrumental, and for performing in the famous Lucha Libre fighting masks, are you enjoying touring with a band again?
It’s quite different, it’s really great that I can do both things and the Straitjackets are such a good group and very agreeable travelling companions, we get on very well so I’m a pretty lucky fellow to have got webbed up with them really. It doesn’t feel like they're backing me up at all, it feels like there’s an actual thing that we do together. We’ve written songs with this project in mind – it’s got a life of its own.
You prefer to play quietly, add the roll to rock and roll?
Oh, I can’t stand it if it’s too loud, even the Straitjackets use little tiny amplifiers, they’re a rock and roll group, you can’t really play rock and roll loud. You can play rock loud but rock and roll music is slightly different, it requires a slightly different movement in the music. It doesn’t really come along if the amps are cranked up too loud.
Your new new 4 song EP “Tokyo Bay” features Los Straitjackets. Are there more recordings on the way?
Yeah, there is actually. We recorded a new one last Autumn which I think is going to be coming out pretty soon. It’s nice to be ahead of the game – we can play a few new tunes.
You’ve got a great knack for picking the perfect cover song, the latest being Sammy Turner’s Raincoat in the River, another is Johnny Rivers’ Poor Side of Town, do any others come to mind that you’d love to record?
Oh, it’s great when you run into one that people haven’t really heard to death…a chap who played drums for me came back from a tour with Van Morrison and said he’s heard this fantastic tune on the airplane sound system, Poor Side of Town, I think you should do it, I thought it was fantastic, I’d never heard it, you know neither of us had, and unfortunately it turns out it was like doing Bridge over Troubled Water, it was a massive hit in America, everybody knew it. We do do a good cover actually which we started doing which is an old song by Dorsey Burnette - Here Comes That Feeling Again. I knew it by Brenda Lee, it’s a really cracking song one of the Straitjackets dug up and we’ve knocked up a pretty good version.
There’s a long-running radio programme called Desert Island Discs where one chooses what music they would take to desert island, what would your one choice be?
Can you think of anything worse than listening to the same record over and over? I’d rather not have any – or I’d take something, I was going to say jazz, I listen to lots of jazz nowadays mainly and it’s amazing how even with some of the quite dense stuff – I like fairly old fashioned bebop - but even dense stuff if you listen to it over and over again, it’s amazing how familiar you get with it. So I always thought I’d take some really hard classical music that I won’t get fed up with, I’ll be trying to figure it out for a few months until the rescue boat gets there but it doesn’t quite work like that. I can think of nothing worse than bringing a pop record!
A biography, Cruel to Be Kind: The Life and Music of Nick Lowe by Will Birch came out last year, have you read the whole thing cover to cover?
I haven’t read it actually, I’m sort of unlikely to I would think – it’s quite difficult to sit down and read about yourself. But I am a very good friend with Will Birch, who wrote it. Initially when he said he was going to do it and I said I was very flattered and 'of course' after I put the phone down I thought, 'wait a minute, do I really fancy this?, what the hell’s going to happen here?' and then I thought, ‘don’t worry about it’; A: he’ll either get fed up with it and give it up or B: he won’t be able to get a publisher because the world and his wife has written these things, no one wants to read any more of these but none of those things came to pass – he did actually finish it. I thought that I might just be able to stand aloof and have everyone say what they wanted, in fact the more outrageous the better, I thought. But he discovered some things about my ancestors and he invited me to lunch one day and it’s always a pleasure to go and have lunch with him anyway and he told me this amazing stuff and that’s the way he sort of prised the door open a bit and he invited me to lunch again and the next thing I knew I had the best part of a bottle and half of Sancerre down my throat and was talking away to him about Elvis Costello and Wreckless Eric and all these people I had no intention or desire to discuss. So, anyway, serves me right.
Would you ever be keen for a documentary about your life?
People keep on asking me about that but it’s not something that really sets my pulses racing – I think it’s much better to let people make stuff up about you really. I’ve done so much blabbering about myself over the years.
But you’re such a great storyteller…
One man’s great storyteller is another man’s old windbag! It’s all in the ear of the beholder.
It's your first visit to Australia for a while, anything looking forward to seeing or doing?
Oh yeah, oh definitely. I’m really looking forward to going with The Straightjackets, they’re such a laugh and I am not sure if they’ve ever been before – they’re really looking forward to it. I love it down there.
Nick Lowe’s Quality Rock and Roll Revue is at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney on February 16; Forum Theatre in Melbourne on February 18; The Tivoli in Brisbane on February 19; Astor Theatre in Perth on February 21; and The Gov in Adelaide on February 23. Tickets and more information at pottsentertainment.com.au