The Former Verve Frontman Finds a New Soul in The United Nations of Sound
Beloved for his role in the 90s shoegaze scene and notorious for his throwback rock and roll behavior, Richard Ashcroft is back with a new solo album, The United Nations of Sound (due out March 22), which sees him blazing a new sonic trail. Today we premiere Giorgio Testi’s video for lead single “Are You Ready?,” a funk-infused rock anthem that samples Bee Gees B-side “Our Time.” “The dream’s always been to create music inspired by Marvin Gaye and the legends of soul,” Ashcroft says. Produced by hip-hop stalwart NO I.D, the new LP is Ashcroft’s hybrid vision for the future. “Jay-Z is working with Jack White, Lil Wayne’s picking up a guitar—all these influences can work into one sound, the new sound,” he says. We spoke to the man Coldplay’s Chris Martin once called the best singer in the world.
Where did the name for the album come from?
There’s a big wave of people who are sick to death of the genre thing. And that’s where the idea came in, the name The United Nations of Sound. If you haven't got soul you aren’t going to get your passport stamped.
What prompted you to hook up with a hip hop producer?
A lot of the big songs I was hearing over the last five years or so were hip-hop. Better producers and better writers have been creating more exciting material; whether it be Lil Wayne or Kanye, they seem to be striving toward something. There’s a lot that rock and roll can learn about making a record that hip-hop can offer. And vice versa. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted it to sound like, but it was great to work with someone like NO I.D. who is a similar age to me. Believe it or not, [African-American] music is a big part of my life and it was important to be able to reference some of the classics and to have someone to take it somewhere new.
The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” was the peak of a golden age in British pop music. Did it feel like a heyday?
You have to be philosophical about a track like that or a time like that happening—you have to be accepting of the factors you had no control over, and that the ones you had control over you did well. All these forces came together. Once you accept that you can carry on creating. That’s the great thing about music. It isn’t hung in one room, it isn’t thrown away, it isn’t a rich man’s folly. It’s for the people and lives and breathes all the time.