Interview with Elvis Costello
Daily Mirror (A-List), 1999-04-09
April 9, 1999
Elvis Costello is a man of principle. After all these years he still refuses to let his music be featured in TV commercials. He even turned down big money from Nike who wanted to use his 1982 single "Pump It Up" to advertise their trainers. The deal would have been the easiest million quid hed ever earnedhad Elvis not said an instant, emphatic, no.
"I cant even say I was tempted," insists Costello. "Ive always had a golden rule that none of my records end up as the backing tracks to adverts for cornflakes, training shoes, or, for that matter, anything else.
"When people buy my records Im entering into a kind of contract with them. Allowing my music to be used in commercials is like saying, Heres a record Ive made. Dig into your pockets, even though pretty soon everyone will be listening to it for free while theyre being persuaded to get Nike trainers.
"So, sure, Id like the million quid, but theres no way I would do that kind of dealit doesnt seem right."
Surely after more than 20 years as a rock icon, with a string of globally successful hits including "Watching The Detectives," "Olivers Army," and "A Good Year For The Roses" to his name, Mr. Costello doesnt actually need another million.
He gives a broad grin. "Actually, I am genuinely not rich and a quick million would be very nice indeed," he declares. "If you look at my career, there have been long periods when I havent exactly dominated the charts.
"The truth is, I have enough money to be able to say sod off when I am offered lucrative work I dont want to do, but I dont work as some sort of hobby. I work because I love it, because its my vocation and because its how I earn my living."
For a man whose name is known all over the world, Elvis Costello, 43, is disarmingly down to earth. He arrived at his local pub a few miles outside Dublin full of apologies for "dragging" us out to the beautiful hills that overlook Irelands fair city.
The plan had been to meet at the swish Westbury Hotel, of "owned by U2" fame, but we meet in a pub near his home with second wife Cait ORiordan, bassist with The Pogues, instead.
"Im sorry," he says, peering through pops most famous pair of spectacles since Buddy Holly, "But Ive been up to my neck in it and I just didnt have time to drive into Dublin."
Hes been preparing for a UK tour which kicks off at Liverpools Royal Court on Wednesday, followed by the Royal Albert Hall next Thursday, and for the release of his latest single, "Toledo," next week. "Toledo" is one of 12 beautifully orchestrated songs of love and heartbreak on the album Painted From Memory, Elviss acclaimed collaboration with US composing giant Burt Bacharach.
Its an unlikely partnership which as well as producing some wonderful, stirring music has put paid to Costellos image as pops angry young intellectual. Not that Elvis has ever cared much about tags.
Diehard fans are still trying to understand why he branched into classical music with the Brodsky Quartet. He also knows that lovers of his old band The Attractions are not exactly doing cartwheels about him singing with the man who penned easy listening standards such as "Walk On By" and "Whats New Pussycat?" But Elvis wont hear a word against the 70-year old maestro.
"First of all, Burts music is incredibly complicated. Secondly, I am certainly not young. Im not sure I was ever an intellectual, but I can still get angry about the things which annoyed me 20 years ago. "Ive admired his songs for as long as I can remember. It was a privilege to work with him. I thought I was a perfectionist, but I met my match in Burt. And I know there are people out there who only like "Pump It Up," but you have to move on in life, do different things, take a few risks."
Elvis played a series of highly praised concerts with Bacharach, but for his UK tour, he will share the stage with Attractions pianist Steve Nieve.
"Well be doing some stuff from Painted From Memory, but therell be old stuff as well. People enjoy all those early songs, and I still like them, so why not?"
Born Declan Patrick MacManus, the son of a bandleader, Elvis counts Ireland as his home, although he has a flat in London.
"I love it here," he says. "The TV has all the Liverpool matches, the people are great and I couldnt be happier."
Since his 1976 debut single, "Less Than Zero," Costello has established a reputation for being difficult with journalists. It is impossible to work out why. He is charming, articulate, and very obliging to A List photographer John Ferguson, who wants Elvis in the frame with a Guinness.
"I dont drink," says Costello. "But if you want me to pose with a pint, sure, I will."
"I drank like the next guy. No big deal. But I just woke up one morning and I knew Id lost the taste. Last October I had the same experience with coffeesuddenly I didnt want it ever again. Same with meat. And Ive never smoked. So Im not much of a smash-up-the-hotel-room type, Im afraid.
"I used to be a night guyup all night, sleep all day, but as Ive got older I do it the other way around, and I have to say, I much prefer it."
Elviss single with Burt Bacharach, "Toledo," is released on APRIL 19.