Seal interview

Music and fashion star reveals his surprising musical past

Interview, Music feature

He had a surprising introduction to pop.
It was Ken Dodd, ‘Congratulations’ [sings eight bars of “Congratulations”] … or was that Max Bygraves? [Actually, it was popular Dodd-Bygraves hybrid Cliff Richard]. There’s one thing you didn’t know about me! And nor would I have expected it of me. I think my foster parents bought it – I was living in Romford in Essex, which would explain that. Then, on a more artistic level – without sounding too pretentious – my earliest memories of being inspired by music were sitting underneath my mother’s sewing machine. She was a wigmaker in the ’60s and she’d play lots of Motown.

He just loves to fail.
I’m motivated by the possibility of failing. I wouldn’t say I like it, but there is some kind of relief, in a very weird kind of way, when you fail, because you can only go up again. Well, in theory! And you always learn something when you fail. I think that’s what I love about it. For example, although my third album was critically well received, it was a commercial disaster, but I did learn a lot from it. I learned you really have to be committed in anything you do, and if you’re gonna be wrong, you’ve got to be wrong and strong.

He misses his raving days.
I was right at the heart and soul of it. I was the guy at the raves dancing till sunrise. I loved it. I still like dance music, but it’s diversified so much. I’ve been listening to that new Mark Ronson track, ‘Bang Bang Bang’, and I love it; it’s exciting and I can hear lots of different genres in it. I’ll tell you what I don’t much care for, and that’s dubstep. I was told the new order of the day is dubstep which is, I guess, two-step half-time. I listened to the top 20 dubstep releases, and I just thought it was rehashed nonsense.

He has slick non-musical skills.
Well, that’s debatable! My passion is photography – I’m constantly taking pictures, and I shoot home-made movies. One of the reasons I like photography is that you can stop time. You can catch an expression on someone’s face that you would miss in real time, that will quite possibly tell you so much more, or at the very least a different viewpoint of the situation.

He lets his listeners write his lyrics.
The power of imagination is one of the most powerful creative tools that I can think of. It’s one of the reasons I write in metaphors, without filling in too much of the details. For example, in the song ‘Secret’, there’s a line, ‘May 4, 3.21am, she will be here.’ Well, that can mean anything. And what it does is it sparks the imagination, and I will never explain what that means, because I think you take away from the experience of the listener.

He wears sober attire on stage and saves the fancy dress for his home life.
Ha ha! Well, that’s my wife’s doing. You’re not gonna get away with being sober being married to my wife; she’s always up for a good craic.

His kids are already influencing his music.
Very much so. Lou hasn’t expressed any musical talent, he’s only 11 months, but they’re all pretty musical and they love dancing. Do they watch ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’? Yeah, they’ve been to see it live. Three times, I think.

The weirdest story he’s ever heard about himself is…
That I was abducted by aliens and they put those markings on my face. That’s the most humorous one.
Commitment is out now.

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