■ The 6 Music presenter, 53, talks about the vagaries of the music industry, his ups and downs with Chris Martin and his new tour
What can we expect from your Going Deaf For A Living tour?
It’s all about life as a music fan and the slippery slope you find yourself on when you fall in love with music, become slightly obsessed with a band, follow them around to gigs and everything’s great until they let you down. All bands let you down at some point.
Did Coldplay let you down? You were one of their original champions…
I didn’t get a copy of the last Coldplay album, so I don’t know what they’re up to. It’s a long way from following them across the States and meeting Gwyneth Paltrow in a dressing room in Denver. I followed them from London pubs to arena gigs. You follow a band like Coldplay, then you get to the point where it’s like a relationship and you go off in different directions. I’ve had a conscious uncoupling with Chris Martin.
How was Gwyneth?
We talked about the weather. What do you do when you’re confronted by a Hollywood star in a dressing room? It was at a venue where the backstage area is carved into the rock of a mountain so it’s a bit surreal anyway. Chris said, ‘This is Steve,’ and she said, ‘I’ve heard a lot about you, you helped start their career.’ I didn’t know what to say so I talked about the weather — there was a storm outside.
The dates are all at independent music venues. Are you concerned about their future?
I’m one of the patrons of the Music Venue Trust, which supports indie venues. These places are so important. Everyone plays them at the start of their careers — Coldplay would have played to 70 people at the Hull Adelphi. It’s important to support them at a time when they’re being priced out of town centres due to increased business rates. It’s a hard job. No sane person, unless they’re obsessed with music, would get into promoting bands because you make so little money that you worry about paying the bills and sometimes the music industry forgets what a great job you do.
Should Top Of The Pops return?
It’s a shame there isn’t a proper weekly music show on mainstream TV. The problem is, would the artists give it the time of day? I presented three episodes and recently found the running order from an August 1996 show. It featured Cher, OMC, Los Del Río, Kula Shaker, OMD, Paul Weller, the Spice Girls — who were number one — and the playout was Sepultura. A more diverse range you could not wish to find — and that was the key to Top Of The Pops. It would be an interesting experiment to see if you could woo people back because those old episodes are an important cultural record.
Why did you only last three episodes?
I don’t know. It was at the time when they started getting pop stars or people from The Fast Show to present the programme.
Are you any good in a pub quiz?
I’m terrible. The last one I did, our team came sixth out of ten. I can’t remember album titles and I’m no good at remembering music trivia.
What’s the future of music journalism now the NME has shut?
We need a really good British music website offering critical appraisal across a range of music. There are numerous blogs run by one person but if you put those writers together you’d get a better impression of what was going on. When I was at the NME, there’d be ten people in an editorial meeting. We’d all argue with each other but you had to form a coherent argument about why you wanted to write a piece and why you thought it was important it should be commissioned. A lot of website journalism is about getting hits rather than being honest and properly critical.
What are your music pet hates?
Lazy lyricism. I often think the music is interesting but then nonsense starts spilling out of the singer’s gob. I’m not impressed by anyone who rhymes ‘high’ with ‘sky’.
Do you have any unfulfilled career ambitious?
I’ve done so much — I’ve managed a band, I’ve tour-managed a band, I’ve sold merch, I ran a record label for a while and had a number one with it — that was Elastica’s first album. The day the album went to number one was very exciting. We didn’t know if we’d even manufactured enough records to do it — we were a tiny little label. But in terms of unfulfilled ambitious I’d like to do the voice for an indie-rock version of Rastamouse.
■ Steve Lamacq’s tour starts on May 8 at Colchester Arts Centre, going-deaf-for-a-living.com