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Elvis Costello: ‘I Really Don’t Like Rock Music’

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Elvis Costello admits that he’s not a big fan of rock. Costello, who’s back on the road with the Imposters in support of his first new album in five years, titled Look Now, came clean about what turns him on musically. Costello, who recently battled back against an undisclosed form of cancer, told Variety, “I know it sounds like I’m being argumentative when I say this, but I really don’t like rock music. Like, that square kind of rock music is boring to me. It always was.”

Costello went on to explain, “The Beatles were a swinging beat group. Tamla-Motown records were swinging; they were mostly played by people who had come out of jazz. All the rock n’ roll records that I love, that I grew to love because the Beatles played Little Richard songs, it’s Earl Palmer, a jazz drummer. That’s why I like a lot of dance music, because even if it’s made with machines, at least it’s got all these trippy rhythms. I don’t want to hear that square beat all the time. You won’t find a lot of my records that lie there. When you put the guitar up loud, then it gets into that. Now, I love noise records — records that you can barely be in the room with because they’re so abrasive. But that square thing just doesn’t do it for me.”

Costello also touched upon his recent cancer diagnosis, which according to all signs, is firmly in the past for him: “I was extremely fortunate to have this thing detected when it could be dealt with with a single surgery. And I would have kept it as a private matter. To be told that there’s something that could turn into cancer is obviously shocking to you — nobody would invite that — but it was all under control until I miscalculated what it took for me to do my work. I just didn’t allow for the fact that the operation would knock me out quite as much as it did, like it does everybody. And I suppose it was a good lesson in what it really takes to do my show well. . . it was a miscalculation which obliged me to make a public explanation. And then with the way it is in England, they got ahold of it and put it in the tabloid papers and made it sound as if I was at death’s school, which was really unfortunate, because it’s deeply disrespectful to friends of mine that were actually, really dealing with serious illness.”

Elvis Costello’s new album, Look Now, marks his first return to pop/rock since 2008’s Momofuku. Costello explained to us a while back that working on music for a proposed Broadway musical, dabbling in hip hop, or fully embracing the Americana genre, all eat up one’s time and inspiration: “That’s the thing is that if you do one thing for a while, you’re liable to want to do something different. You don’t want to eat vanilla ice cream or steak every day. I never want to eat steak. It’s just the feeling that I had there. When I was given the opportunity to work with (Burt) Bacharach, Anne Sofie von Otter and many of the other things I’d been doing in the last few years, I would have been a fool to turn those chances down. Everything that I got from it and the songs we wrote or recorded together. And when it came time to do this record it seemed very natural to me.”

Photo Courtesy of Andy Gotts

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