Lucky 13

N.B.:  Miranda Sawyer claims to be a very good friend of the band and wrote this article for their promo appearances for '13' in Europe and England.  It's long, it's filled with anecdotes about the author and Blur, and it's lacking in factual accuracy - which for me (Cristina) is a huge problem.  So, in the interest of this site and my aching wrists and fingers, I've only provided the Alex parts.  If you're dying to read the rest of the article, you can mail me and I'll complete it and send it along to you.  Thanks

...So, let's talk to Alex, then.  We retire to a hotel room that's bland in the international manner.


Blur's beautiful bassist slouch-walks in an S-shape:  it used to be a slim-fit italic, but now it's thickened to bold type round the middle.  'I know.  I'm teetering on the edge. . .it's whether I clean up my act and become a responsible citizen or take my sloppiness into the millennium.  Booze just turns you into the Michelin Man,' says the dedicated roisterer, who insists that 'all my friends are drug addicts and alcoholics and I like the demented chaos of that,' and who, in 1996, single-handedly consumed at least 1 per cent of the 100,000 bottles of champagne imported into the UK:  'two bottled a day and give one away.'  Recently, Alex said something unprintable to Johnny Depp about Kate Moss.  Depp poured a pint over him.  Alex shrugs:  'Just another pair of trousers to the dry-cleaners.'    


Steven Alex James was born 21 November 1968 to sales manager Jason and voluntary worker Kelly, into 'a very normal, stable, happy, very middle-class family in Bournemouth.'  He was an outdoorsy, competitive child 'seeing how far I could ride my bike in day, trying to build the fastest go-cart' and a clever adolescent (13 O-levels, none of them music, good at physics) at an all-boys' school, who 'soon worked out you could snog girls if you took them down to the beach.'  He got a bass, at 16, 'as an extension of my haircut.  I was in a band well before I had a guitar':  meaning he'd just pretended to be in a band, taping himself shouting 'one two three four' over the intro to Fleetwood Mac records, and then playing the tape at parties, claiming it was his group.


Are you lazy?  'I'm not as lazy as I was.  Me and Graham would still be picking our noses, retaking our final degree exams, if it wasn't for Damon having a firework up his arse.  But, I have to say, it's the easiest job in the world, being a bass player.'  Are you happy?  'It's hard to gauge, isn't it?  I do revert to happiness, I think.'


Alex was angry, though, in his adolescence.  'A small-town thing:  thinking you have to do something shit with your life.'  Instead, he got an unconditional offer to study languages at Goldsmiths:  he met Graham on his first day there, and knew, there and then, that he'd be a big part of his life.  They squatted in New Cross:  'endless nights of hot knives and magic mushrooms and acid.  Tennant's Super in the morning, with the tramps in Deptford'; they ate revolting pasta sandwiches.  Now, Alex lives in a 'fucking posh' house in Covent Garden with his long-term girlfriend Justine (a different one:  this one left Alex when he became insufferable, around the time of Parklife, but she came back).  The house used to be a cheese factory, and 'it looks like the 1980's:  glass banisters, neo-Aztec fireplaces'; there are constant parties.  Alex is very friendly with artist Damien Hirst and actors' catalyst Keith Allen - together, the trio are the terrifying Fat Les - he likes them because they're intelligent and 'go-getters.  They never assume anything's impossible.'


Damon thinks Alex doesn't know how hard life can be, that when a real crisis comes, he'll crumble.  I think Alex understands the horrifying mundanity of existence and does everything he can to avoid it:  'You realise, after 10 years, that this is a job, this is your life, so you have to incorporate everything you enjoy doing into it, which is why I learned to fly.  So I can turn something I hate, waiting around in airports, into something completely great.  Success is best when it's a kind of sunshine.'


I have only seen Alex look upset on two occasions.  The first was when Noel Gallagher told me that he hoped Alex and Damon died of AIDS.  'I was surprised:  I'd deliberately not said anything horrible about them, but we rattled his cage somehow'; the other is later on today, when Blur play the whole of 13 for Dutch television, straight through, bar two songs.  They are blistering, fantastic, caught in the moment.  I see Alex get distinctly misty during 'No Distance Left to Run.'  Then he turns away from the audience, pulls a face, and makes Dave laugh.