A recent Q&A with the man the N.M.E. has bestowed the title “the coolest man in rock” revealed that Strokes front man Julian Casablancas may indeed be incredibly cool but he also gives interminably dull interviews. He offered precious little insight into his ‘creative process and the information he did proffer was the square root of f**k all. He came across as somebody who was either guarded to the point of paranoia or somebody who is about as interesting as Formica. The same cannot be said for our latest interviewee, Cosmo Jarvis. Cosmo, like the aforementioned Strokes front man was born in the USA ( New Jersey) before making the move to Devon, England as a child. However unlike Casablancas, Cosmo is a young man who is rarely lost for words. Indeed some may say he has too many, that he’s a little too open and honest about life. Such candour may not exactly shroud Jarvis in a veil of mystery, meaning he may never be considered the “coolest man in rock”, he may divide fans and critics alike but he could never, ever be described as “dull”. You feel Jarvis would heartily agree with Wilde when he stated, “I am but too conscious of the fact that we are born in an age when only the dull are treated seriously and I live in terror of not being misunderstood.”
A film-maker, songwriter, musician, storyteller, poet, visionary or is he just simply f**king with your head ? Will the real Cosmo Jarvis please stand up ? Cosmo first began making films at home on VHS when he was barely twelve. Even at that age it was apparent he had a unique talent in terms of storytelling and pretty soon he was channelling his creative energies into music. “There’s more to be done with film,” he muses. “Music’s just something that I do and making records sort of happens. Where some people write a diary, I just write songs.”
His songs may not be to everybody’s taste as he tackles subjects such as masturbation, Jessica Alba, family breakdown, paedophilia, alcoholism, and domestic violence with a brutal honesty that is unprecedented in the age of the sanitised squeaky clean vacuum packed pop star. His frankness however, is not sensationalist and is not in the same vein as the bombastic, spiteful Jeremy Clarkeson “I speak as I find” school of boorishness. No, Cosmo’s prodigious output appears to be a genuine attempt to find truth, to work things out in his own mind and as a result, can at times make for uneasy listening. His mission is not to obliterate knowledge by writing songs that reflect a distorted photoshopped ‘Hello’ magazine-style reality but appears to be a genuine quest for answers to the questions people rarely ask. If that means holding a mirror up to himself and indeed society to reveal all the random ugliness and sordid reality that goes with the human condition, then so be it. We spoke to Cosmo about his music, his school days his film making and of course gay pirates…..
VP: Do you consider yourself to be a musician first and foremost or would you say you’re more of a social commentator, expressing yourself via whatever medium best suits the message?
COSMO: Maybe a commentator on whatever seems worth spending time making into something else. Something sticky and/or pleasant that will entertain, educate or alter someone, or just waste their time.
VP: Your eponymous début album contains 18 songs split over two discs with nine tracks on each . What was the thinking behind this? Are they two distinctly different groups of songs?
COSMO: Yes, one group ‘Humasyouhitch’ is mostly what I would call the ‘Chicken Korma’ of my music. It is easy. I think so anyway. It is not belligerent, ‘Easy Shaved Pop’, catchy I’m told…
‘Sonofabitch’ is more all the other Indian food you would like to order but cant because you are in the Spar and tonight they are only selling the korma, because it is a low risk curry. ‘Sonofabitch ‘is less where I’m from and more where I’m headed I guess. No that’s bullshit but I’m not deleting it. If someone was to f*ck their girl friend to ‘Humasyouhitch’ I wouldn’t be all that offended. However, if the same was attempted whilst listening to ‘Sonofabitch’, I would feel as if I had failed slightly, especially if that persons first impression of my record was made during a ceremony that demands (in most cases) quite some attention.
VP: You’ve said in the past (with regard to the education system) “They make it sound like if you fail your exams, your existence is not worth living”.. Did you enjoy or endure your school days?
COSMO: Both at different times. I hated that to feel comfortable and increase your worth to other students, it was essential that you admit and stick to, your social class. I suppose at school I was weird, I used to sit in the library and draw naked women all lunch time. I enjoyed work and valued some of my student/teacher relationships. I saw the whole debacle as an opportunity to infiltrate and understand as many groups of different people as I could. After a while in year 8 I started to learn what made my class mates tick. I already knew the scum. They made it obvious to me that I was not welcome. Then there were many like me who I tried very hard to make my friends. Even today, some of those still remain. Teachers and authority were my biggest problem. The teachers who knew their jobs well, and wanted nothing more than to educate in a professional manner, were the ones I respected. There was also a new wave of younger teachers at my school, many of whom were very thick and loved their power a little too much. Those were the ones to fuck with. I hate that my school seemed to favour the stupid but local types, much like the police force. In fact it was being at school that got me ready for the police, the fickle way they operate, the unjustified favouritism, the loud voices asserting things they don’t even understand.
I was in trouble a lot but I loved it. As a scholar, I knew what subjects stimulated me and everything outside of these would soon act as battlefields for me to ruin lessons by pointing out important errors in the way that things were taught and, at the same time, make myself into something less of a joke to the other students. It was funny though that to achieve this I had to adopt and utilise, permanently, those exact natural, laughable, embarrassing and hopeless traits that had rendered me unfit for honest, social, human interaction. This coupled with my total disgust and lack of acceptance for the ‘syllabus’ made me fight harder for what I saw as being a very sick and at the very least, inconsiderate way of making young people’s minds thrive, thus increasing their tolerance (and in some hopeful cases interest) for the exploration of all knowledge. I could never see an adult as a superior purely because of their age, but this was never my argument. This was the argument of many other students whose interests reached no further than ‘tonight’ and their ‘girlfriend’s bust size’. I didn’t want to come across as an argumentative timber-head who was only that way because he was young and had a problem with the old. I did have a problem with the old. But one thing I had learned was to always give people the opportunity to offer you their respect. If they do then it is in your hands and you can prioritise and estimate it as you see fit. The same goes both ways of course. There were too many questions the teachers didn’t want to answer because 1. They didn’t think it was relevant information for someone studying at my level to seek. 2. They didn’t know the answers 3. The system that I was being taught in did not include debate, challenge or argument as a part of its operation. It was the same as everything in this unfortunate existence, if you don’t play the game (even if you know it’s bull) you don’t win. Now, every write up/essay (especially in sciences, art and music) was not to be considered as an exercise of one students mind and was certainly not to be marked in such a way either but was a test of how well that student retained information given to it with only this very essay in mind and nothing further. This method of teaching to me rendered any knowledge gained in lessons, pointless, because I knew I was only learning it for the purposes of measuring and recording how well I had learned it. It sounds obvious but unless a person can argue ‘what is there already’ or at least choose which part of ‘what is there already’, they can examine and develop, they will never create their own passion for ‘what is there already’.
Religious education was good though, Ms. Screech allowed written challenges, as long as they were justified and presented a clear argument/point.
So when I wasn’t being a c*nt to my teachers, I was drawing hundred foot penises in the astro-turf and getting suspended proudly.
VP: Your song “Gay Pirates” has attracted a fair bit of attention, what inspired you to write it ?
COSMO: Just thinking about gay pirates. And the difficulties they must have faced.
VP: Is it true that you have pretty much written your next two albums?
COSMO: Next 8 at least. And some instrumental albums. Not all of its gonna blow everybody away, but I always hope that an audience neglected by one record is an audience gained by another…maybe…. but yeah, I’m recoding new songs all the time. And have to brush up a few demos for album two but yeah should be cool. With the touring and pr shit I cant record as much as I used to but I still make a comfortable quota and have finish-able doodles filling up note books everywhere in my room. Yeah writing all the time.
VP: Another project you are working on is a video about a man who takes himself hostage in erm… a urinal. One imagines you’d have a hard job pitching that to Hollywood, but if you did… how would you explain the essence of the story? 😉
COSMO: Well that’s true, but it’s not gonna happen for a while, that’s gonna be a bigger film than any stuff I’ve made before. Bigger crew etc. It’s pretty distant, at the moment though, before that one, I’m writing a script based on a short I made but then scraped because it wasn’t good enough. It’s called ‘the naughty room’. It’s about a 20 year man who lives in a bath room, since the age of 4 he hasn’t been outside or exposed to anyone other than his mother (who keeps him there) he has a mind like a child and knows nothing of the severity of his circumstances. I am playing him: Todd. His mother blamed him since he was a child for the car accident that killed his father, because he was whining like a child and distracting his parents. Next door there lives a total kaner pot head. Unaware that more than just a grumpy woman lives next door. Eventually the two meet, through a wall, and some serious shit goes down. It’s kind of dark but also funny and weird. In the story you see the 20 year old boy discover masturbation over Jessica Rabbit. The story meanders between the two very different homes of these two boys. One who wants nothing more than to go outside and doesn’t understand why he is kept inside and another who f*cks his life away.
VP: Apart from the obvious charms of Jessica Alba what things really motivate you to write songs and poetry?
VP: What sort of music did you listen to as a kid? And what new music have you discovered this year.
COSMO: The Beatles, Tom Waits, Crash Test Dummies, Gerry Rafferty, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Frank Zappa, John Mayall, John Lee Hooker, Grateful Dead, Bowie, US3, Eminem, Beach Boys, the Stones, Canned Heat… everything.
VP: Will you be touring as a result of the album release?
COSMO: Yes England and Holland I’m told.
VP: Has the internet democratised music or made it more difficult for new bands to get record deals. Do you think labels play it even safer now than in the past and are unwilling to take risks?
COSMO: Yes, nobody takes risks now, The sad truth is the shit. The real shit, is the safest music for labels, the remixed crap put to beats and then some brain dead moron rapping about how he cheated on his baby. Because most people like shit and most people means the most money. So its a commendable business decision. Everyone likes shit. Radio one loves it. NME loves it. What I find astounding is that it is so easy for the shit to make it and hard for the slightly better shit to. There is no logic, only gimmicks. Magazines talk about what’s relevant and hip at one time as if it is stone cold fact. Even the crap thinks that it is better than the crap and so forth. I think of it like: I am someone else’s crap. It is a mindless cess-pit of fashion monkeys talking about music. The ones who should be on the radio, never are. Only fat mouthed shit wipers can be found there. So I guess it is down to a lucky break of some kind. There is no honour or content consistency among media companies. That’s fair enough though I guess. There is no reason why it can’t be just as powerful, which is why it’s great that there are so many online radio stations growing all the time. I can’t wait to start a real radio station with broadcasting capabilities greater than Radio One. That is one of many things, worth going to jail for. Real music. I know my faith in new music is fading, but I hear great things sometimes. Experimental things and even though they may not be to my taste, I value the intention behind them. but seriously, I was watching TV this morning and saw that one of those fools gold, click track only, rapping, singer, dicks had sampled ‘Hide and Seek’ by Imogen Heap. Not only sampled but written an entire excuse for a song around its original beauty. The result was a soulless, meaningless, waiting-to-be-set-as-your-ringtone insult. Yet, this dude was on daytime T.V. hell, everyone know that’s shit……………………………. Right?
VP: What five things would make the world a better place?
COSMO: A diabetes cure
A huge increase in the standard of basic education
For people to be brought into the world without being made to accept its rules as anything other than man-made systems of living and to be allowed to recognise and explore the primeval within everything they think and do under the notion that they can improve themselves by understanding it.
For religious indoctrination to miss at least two generations (to start with) as a test to see if people could just be people.
Someone to invent a more efficient way of wiping ones ass in a hurry (other than a bidet), and I mean spotless.