The UK’s most underrated band, who received a career boost after Fatboy Slim remixed their song ‘Brimful of Asha’ in 1998, are back with new album Cornershop & the Double ‘O’ Groove, featuring former launderette employee and Punjabi folk singer, Bubbley Kaur. Frontman Tjinder Singh rekindles our interest.
Tjinder is friends with Cynthia Plaster Caster – a lady who makes casts of rock stars’ bits. We met her in Chicago and she sends annual postcards. She’s never asked me to take part. She’s a great character and part of the history of music.
Cornershop once recorded with Allen Ginsberg. We went with David Byrne to Ginsberg’s small apartment in New York, and, when we went in, The Beatles Anthology was playing, so we talked about that, had some tea and recorded him on a tape recorder in the kitchen with a harmonium, creaks and all. He did a poem he always thought would sit well with music, ‘When The Light Appears, Boy’.
Spin magazine voted When I was Born for the Seventh Time its album of the year in 1997. I think Radiohead were second. America’s definitely our biggest country, and France is second. We’ve always had a love-hate relationship with England. We are underrated here, but in certain ways it’s rather nice. You could be like Manic Street Preachers and come out with the same stuff for two decades and no one would be any the wiser. From sheer dint of perseverance we’ve created something that’s got more of a story.
Prince and – get this – Morrissey went to see Cornershop on their last tour. Prince came up in his big car and Morrissey was in LA at the El Ray. I didn’t speak to him but our bass player did. Morrissey joked he’d come on for the second half. It was rather nice, really. When I was Born for the Seventh Time was his second best album of the past 15 years in Q magazine or somewhere.
Cornershop were once stranded on a freeway with Willie Nelson during a blizzard. We talked to him and his entourage over a hot cup of cocoa. They were all very nice. I think everyone was a bit worse for wear, so there was nothing stressful about it. Our sleeper buses were stuck at the same petrol stop.
The star of Cornershop & the Double ‘O’ Groove of is an ex-laundrette-worker-cum-Punjabi folk singer who had never recorded before. It was just a case of seeing what happened with Bubbley. When it came to ‘Topknot’, I spent three months solid mixing it. Ben told me he’d come round and see, and I was, like, totally immersed. The fact no one else could really understand it was part of the loveliness, but also quite frightening. And once it was finished, Bubbley said, ‘No, it’s not right.’ But her family told her otherwise. Convincing the people you’re making it with is tough.
Beck’s guru predicted Cornershop would be big again, eventually. People went and talked to her in LA when their ideas had dried up. They’d sit on her couch and then walk out with a pad full of lyrics. She’d watch us all the time, and then she predicted we’d be big, have a lull, and then be even bigger. Hopefully I’ll be alive for the ‘even bigger’ bit.