Lloyd Cole still causing a commotion: from Rattlesnakes to Guesswork

Lloyd Cole's quite happy to be 58. He's spending time with his adult children, working on his golf game, cooking Mexican food, riding his bicycle. And still making music, about to embark on a month-long tour of Australia and New Zealand.

It's been 35 years since Cole, and the Commotions, first blew us away with their debut album Rattlesnakes, soulful pop that wasn't as sexy as Duran Duran, but far more sophisticated.

Lloyd Cole is "excited to find new sounds, new soundscapes, even maybe new ways of writing songs, new ways of singing". Picture: Supplied

Lloyd Cole is "excited to find new sounds, new soundscapes, even maybe new ways of writing songs, new ways of singing". Picture: Supplied

"I've never resisted getting old," says Cole.

"When you see people growing old and desperately trying to hang on to some kind of connection to youth culture it's very sad to see.

"With my music, I've embraced the fact that maybe I'm talking about the same things that I've been talking about my whole career but my perspective has changed.

"I'm not anything like the person I was at 24, even compared to 45, I feel better at 58 than I did at 45, the mid 40s were not much fun for me."

The tour is something of a retrospective, taking in everything from Rattlesnakes to his latest album Guesswork.

"I've always wanted to make timeless music, I haven't always succeeded, but Rattlesnakes is a record that seems quite difficult to tell what year it was made.

"I wanted this record to be the same. Some people are saying it's kind of '80s-ish, I think it sounds more '70s-ish."

He admits he struggled early in his career to work out what he wanted to do, who he was. The Commotions were formed in 1982 when Cole was just 21, studying English literature and philosophy at Glasgow University. Band members, keyboardist Blair Cowen and guitarist Neil Clark, worked on Guesswork with Cole, and Clark will also tour.

"Growing up in the early '70s, David Bowie was such an icon for all of us, the idea of reinventing yourself on every record and finding new personas and finding completely brand new things to do," he says.

"I think a lot of us thought that's what you had to do and I think I tried to do that with every record up until about 1993 when I realised I'm not David Bowie.

"Maybe I'm closer to someone like Van Morrison, who seems to make the same record over and over again with something slightly different going on.

"I've made peace with the fact I'm not Bowie and I do have a way of doing things. Even when I tried to not sound like myself, on a record like Bad Vibes it still sounds like me.

"The reassurance I have these days is that I can stretch out, I can try new things but I know it's still going to be a me record.

"I am excited to find new sounds, new soundscapes, even maybe new ways of writing songs, new ways of singing."

Cole remembers the first trip to Australia with the Commotions. It was 1986 and they played some of the biggest venues of their career including the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

Lloyd Cole And The Commotions, circa 1985. Picture: PolyGram

Lloyd Cole And The Commotions, circa 1985. Picture: PolyGram

"People said they enjoyed it but I know it didn't go very well and we didn't get invited back and I didn't get invited back as a solo artist until 2001 but since then every tour has done well and done better than the one before."

He remembers one trip to Canberra, but not what year, astounded by the kangaroos on the Royal Canberra golf course. He's quite a golf fan, says Melbourne has some of the best courses in the world. He has even won a couple of awards for his writing about golf.

"I still write occasionally, I'd like to do more but I can't because writers get paid less than musicians."

In the meantime, he's on a health kick, he's lost 14kg riding his bike whenever he can.

"I heard this phrase MAMIL, middle-aged man in lycra, any lycra I'll be wearing is hidden under trousers. I'm going to be in pretty good shape for the tour which is good because they can be gruelling.

"You start to worry as you get older that you need more rest time but then you look at Mick Jagger and you feel guilty."

  • Lloyd Cole: From Rattlesnakes to Guesswork, at the Canberra Theatre Centre on December 9. Tickets $65 canberratheatrecentre.com.au
This story Still causing a commotion first appeared on The Canberra Times.