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10 things we learned from Leonard Cohen being quizzed by Jarvis Cocker

10 things we learned from Leonard Cohen being quizzed by Jarvis Cocker
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Last night (18 January) Leonard Cohen was quizzed by Jarvis Cocker at an event in London has he previewed his new album Old Ideas (released 30 January) before an invited audience. Q was there and here’s what we learnt from the great men.

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1. Leonard Cohen feels like he’s barely scraping by “You just work with what you got! I never had a strategy [for creating his sound]. I always felt I was scraping the bottom of the barrel just trying to get the song together. A beginning, a middle and an end. I never had the sense that I was standing in front of a table with a multitude of choices… I was working in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart. No sense of abundance at all, just trying to get it together. That’s the feeling I have. There are people who are working with a great sense of abundance, I’d like to be one of those but I’m not. [laughs]”

2. Giving up smoking has made Leonard Cohen’s voice deeper! Jarvis: “We have to mention the voice, it seems to be getting even deeper. Do you think there’s a bottom it can get to, or can it go on?”

Leonard: “It’s what happens when you give up cigarettes contrary to public opinion. I thought I would destroy my whole position if I gave up smoking, my voice would rise to a soprano or at least go in that direction.”

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3. Cohen’s on record personas have been handy in the romance department “When I was interested in those matters it was agreeable to have some kind of reputation, some kind of credentials where you didn’t have to start from scratch with every women you bumped into. Now it doesn’t really matter one way or the other.”

4. The ideas on new album Old Ideas are very old indeed Jarvis: “How old are the Old Ideas?”

Leonard: “From 1970 up to 2000, so 614 years old most of them. Some of them are a little older.”

Jarvis: “Your publishing company is also called Old Ideas, have you always wanted to call an album that?”

Leonard: “I don’t have many ideas [laughs].”

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5. Leonard Cohen knows how to play six chords on guitar, not that he’s always been given credit for that “Journalists, especially English journalists are very cruel to me. They said I only knew three chords.”

6. Cohen says he always struggles for ideas, which is why he gave his friend and producer Patrick Leonard access to his notebooks to help write songs for Old Ideas “You always feel you’re at the end of the line. I always find that there’s no sense of abundance. I blank a lot of pages [in my notebooks], it is my work and I try to do it everyday, but most time one is discouraged by the work that you’ve done. Now and then something stands out and invites you to work on in and elaborate or animate it in some way. It’s a mysterious process.”

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7. Not that he takes care of his notebooks too well “I have a deep fear of losing notebooks. I’ve lost a lot of them. There were some masterpieces there.”

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8. Old Ideas is a record to get swept up in, even if Leonard Cohen says so himself Jarvis: “How was it to listen to your own record there?”

Leonard: “I wasn’t listening.”

Jarvis: “You did a good impression of someone listening.”

Leonard: “I guess I’m testing it over and over again, and hoping it will find favour among listeners. Also listening from a technical point of view to see if I’ve ratcheted it up to exactly the right degree of excellence. The critical faculties were engaged but mostly I was wondering if I myself could be swept along with it. I think this record invites you to be swept along, even if you have written it yourself.”

9. Interviewing Leonard Cohen in front of an audience was good karma for Jarvis he made a long-over due apology for plagiarism. Jarvis: “I’m sure like a lot of people in this room, I’ve been listening to the music of Leonard Cohen for a long time and – now what’s the clever phrase? – it’s provided me with education, inspiration and information about the world. In fact so much that when I started a group back in the 80s, the first album I ever released called It is a blatant rip off of Leonard’s earlier work. I apologise for that.”

10. Leonard Cohen is jealous of Chuck Berry “The thing I liked about it is, I’m sharing this award [PEN New England’s prize for Lyrics Of Literary Excellence] with Chuck Berry. Roll over Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news, I’d like to write a line like that too. I’m looking forward to meeting Chuck Berry.”

Head to Leonardcohen.com for more.


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