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His celestial falsetto and otherworldly sound have bewitched everyone from Stephen Colbert to Solange. Now, his second album is about to send him stratospheric

On a nippy, drizzly February afternoon in Brooklyn, Moses Sumney is trying to track down some glasses he lost across town. Using an app, he is attempting to convince a stranger named Frank to deliver them to him. It is distracting him. Every time his phone buzzes, he is hoping its a status report. I just want to know if hes actually doing it, or if I have to do it myself like everything else! he blurts out, the last three words crescendoing theatrically. His comment is telling: for the last several years, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter and polymath has become used to doing it all.

Sumney is preparing to release his highly anticipated second album, gr, which will complete his evolution from highly publicised indie prospect to singular musical frontiersman. His songs actively defy classification, pushing the boundaries of soul, jazz and alt-rock, while maximising a bewitching voice. His debut album, 2017s Aromanticism, an inquisitive reimagining of what lovelessness can mean, was hailed by critics as one of the years best; gr takes things further, offering up Sumneys most immersive music yet. It is also his most uncompromising work, not a double album but one album split in half, each comprising boundary-pushing sounds that exist in the margins.

As a person, and as a presence, Sumney is the opposite. Tall and chic, he stands out at all times. Today, he is wearing a clear black tank top under a black army jacket, a trenchcoat wrapped round his shoulders. As we take seats for our interview in a nondescript studio office, he quips that the ambience makes it feel like a deposition. He offers to take off the shades hiding his eyes but would rather wear them. He does a lot of gesturing with his hands, which are adorned with gold rings. He speaks clearly and carefully at all times, as if used to being misunderstood.

A few nights previously, Sumney made his late-night TV debut on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Surrounded by a 10-piece orchestra beneath mood lighting, he delivered a gripping performance of his latest single, Cut Me; the studio crowd, at first unsure what to expect, were won over by his penetrating falsetto. When he shuffled off stage, Colbert couldnt help but exclaim: My son played [Sumney] for me and I thought: What is that voice?!

Sumney was born in San Bernardino, California, and spent most of his childhood there. The son of Ghanaian pastors, he never felt constricted by organised religion but found a sense of spirituality that informs the songs he makes. When Sumney was 10, the family moved back to Ghana, and he struggled with the transition. I basically didnt do well on any front: socially, academically, spiritually, emotionally, physically, he says. Its a tough time to just transition to this entirely different sort of way of life, especially because children are demonic. Growing up across two drastically different cultures divided the ways in which he self-identified. One of the many things that inspired this album was the realisation that this shift created a sort of statelessness in me, Sumney says. When Im in America, Im the African in America; when Im in Africa Im the American in Africa. So your relationship with a national identity is inherently fractured.

After listening exclusively to country music for the first 10 years of his life, he found his calling as a singer, but his parents objected. Sumney chose to develop his skills clandestinely. He started writing his first songs when he was 12, on the school bus and in class (My grades were terrible), learning to play guitar from YouTube videos and hiding his songbook under his mattress. He didnt sing publicly until he was a teenager, when his family returned to California and he joined the high-school choir. Throughout the interview Sumney takes himself very seriously, and it is easy to see why: without any external support for his dream, the only way to see it through was with the fuel of extreme self-belief.

At university in California, Sumney studied creative writing with a focus on poetry, a ruse to throw his parents off the music scent. I could kind of get away with saying I was getting an English degree because my mom was like: Well, you can still be a lawyer, he laughs. While there, he honed his musicianship. I begged the jazz kids at the cafe on campus to play with me, he says. He worked more diligently at the guitar, using a loop pedal so he could be self-sufficient. He learned to do it all.

Moses
The future is green… Moses Sumney. Photograph: Christopher Lane/The Guardian

Things moved quickly from there. When Sumney released his first EP, Mid-City Island, in 2014, he almost immediately became an indie sensation: playing sold-out shows, opening for Sufjan Stevens, befriending Solange Knowles (he later sang back-up on her song Mad). His haunting, reverbed folk songs quickly enchanted the music scene in a city full of people chasing their big breaks. I was being wined and dined fantastically by record labels and lawyers and A&R people and publishing people, and I would take every meeting because I had no food.

However, Sumney made the active decision not to sign a record deal, because I wanted creative control. He had a day job for a while, running social media for a pizza chain (My wages were shit, but I got free pizza). Soon, he realised his larger musical vision was paying the price. I was getting quite comfortable. Thats when I was like: no, I just have to suffer. He left not long after, and it was the last job he worked. He put all of his effort into his music, resulting in 2016s Lamentations, an EP of intimate soul hymnals constructed round lightly fingered riffs. He finally released a single with Terrible Records, co-founded by Grizzly Bears Chris Taylor, and did shows with art-rock band Dirty Projectors before finally signing with current label home Jagjaguwar in January 2017.

Sumneys sound is always shifting, and there has been some debate over where to place his music along the spectrum. It is his supernal voice that disarms listeners, that sends a tingle down the spine, but more than anything else his music is defined by its unwillingness to be categorised. As a black musician performing in many predominantly white spaces, Sumney often, wrongly, gets classified as R&B, which he rejects. I definitely rage against that, he says. I have done so, so much and it still happens. My music is just not R&B music, and thats fine. I love R&B and I think there are elements of it in the music, and on this record I went even closer to it than I have in the past. But its very obviously racist when people call me an R&B act.

His work, he says, is difficult to define because its all over the place. When something exists that cannot so easily be categorised, people will still try to categorise it. That practice is a deep cultural flaw. He adds, somewhat flippantly, reclining in a chair that isnt built for it: I dont really care any more what people need to say in order to define me. Because the definition isnt for me its about me, but its for them. Its for their understanding. (For what its worth, he defines his sound as an amalgamation of soul, jazz, folk and experimental indie rock.)

Soul?
Soul? Jazz? Folk? Sumney at Coachella 2018. Photograph: Rich Fury/Getty

This blurring of borders also extends into how he thinks about creating. His debut album Aromanticism, which he dubbed lovelessness as a sonic dreamscape, was a blatant pivot away from traditional songcraft about romantic love. In a 2017 Tumblr post, Sumney explained that the concept album sought to interrogate the idea that romance as personified by a destined companionship or inevitable coexistence is necessary. Instead of ballads, he sang about the absence of intimacy. The songs arent about seeking closeness but about feeling an irreconcilable distance, as demonstrated by one poignant lyric on Doomed: Am I vital / If my heart is idle?

Gr is even less conventional in nature. The album, which Sumney worked on with musicians such as Oneohtrix Point Never, Thundercat and Adult Jazz, explores displacement from absolutes. Voiceover work from writers Taiye Selasi and Michael Chabon and actors Ezra Miller and Michaela Coel directs the experience. Greyness is a metaphor for being in between extremes, to having an identity on any scale whether it be sonic or romantic or national that is neither one thing nor the other. I wanted to really claim that space and name that space. Its the void. Its nothingness. And nothingness, to me, is not just an absence; its its own presence.

This compulsion to wade through grey areas is inherent to me, Sumney says. Its not really something I have to try to do; its my experience. But I also consider myself a little bit of a social scientist in a way. One of the many things I would have loved to study further is sociology: the relationship between sociology and the personal, and how we internalise our socialisation.

It has been more than an hour now and Moses Sumney still hasnt received confirmation on the status of his forgotten specs. Whens my friend going to bring my glasses? he jokingly sings in a playful cadence. Before he can get an answer, members of his team come rushing in to whisk him away into the photoshoot he is already behind schedule for. He sings his response, with the bravado of someone in a Broadway musical: Here I come!

And then he vanishes, his black coat whizzing behind him.

Moses Sumneys gr: Part 1 is out now, with Part 2 out on 15 May

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/feb/29/moses-sumney-interview-gray-aromanticism

Oprahs Bank Account becomes Canadian rappers 208th US Hot 100 hit, beating the record set by the cast of Glee

Canadian rapper Drake now has more US chart hits than any other artist in history, scoring his 208th Billboard Hot 100 entry this week.

The rapper broke the record, previously set by the cast of the TV show Glee, with the track Oprahs Bank Account by Lil Yachty and DaBaby, which he guests on. It reached No 85 off the back of 10.5m streams. He is also at No 3 in the chart with Life Is Good, a track with Future, and at No 46 on Chris Browns song No Guidance.

With a cross-generational, cross-demographic appeal thanks to a blend of rap, pop and R&B, Drake has become the worlds top rapper. Spotify named him the most streamed artist of the last decade, with 28bn global streams.

His first US chart entry was Best I Ever Had, which debuted at No 92 in May 2009, eventually rising to No 2. His 207 chart placements since have been bulked out by frequent guest spots on tracks by artists including Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Travis Scott, as well as his solo hits. He has scored seven US No 1 singles, while all five of his studio albums and three of his mixtapes have reached No 1 on the US album chart.

Watch the video for Oprahs Bank Account

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/mar/17/drake-scores-most-us-chart-hits-ever-oprahs-bank-account

The chart-topping singer has put out her most versatile and emotionally raw album yet. She talks about feeling used in relationships, the pain of miscarriage and facing death

There are two security gates protecting Halseys home in the winding hills of Los Angeles. You clear the first, then you wait as the next is released by her team. Halsey is sitting at the kitchen table, dousing a burrito and waffles in hot sauce in front of a towering image of Kurt Cobain playing the Reading festival. It is the day after she put out her third album, Manic, her most exposed and versatile yet. I was petrified to release it, she says.

Now 24, she began releasing music on Tumblr when she wast 17. Then, she expressed her pain through dystopian metaphors; now, she is specific and literal. On Manic, she discusses her father (929), her breakup from rapper G-Eazy (Without Me) and her reproductive health (More). Musically, Manic takes in minimal electronica (Ashley), countryfied pop (You Should Be Sad), FM rock (3am). Halsey leaves her emotional gates unlocked, and it is resonating: her three albums have all reached No 1 or 2 in the US; Manics lead single, Without Me, spent a year in the US charts; and she has twice topped the singles chart in the UK, where she plays three arena dates next month.

The night before we meet, Halsey debuted Manic in the car park of the Capitol Records building. There was a ferris wheel, a carousel and fireworks, but, as she strapped on a black guitar, the mood was not about celebration, but reclamation. This album is about me deciding to demand more from myself, she told her tween superfans. I spent a lot of time being the most exciting thing in everybody elses life. When they didnt need me any more, they would thank me then leave. That is the trope of the manic pixie dream girl. This album is about her. Her traumas dont exist to benefit some other person.

Manic is more than a breakup record, then it is the aftermath of years of feeling beholden to lovers, collaborators and the public. It was made while Halsey, who has bipolar disorder, was in a manic state. (Thats not a punchline, she quips.) On Clementine, she sings: Im constantly having a breakthrough, or a breakdown. The song is named after Kate Winslets character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a key example of the manic pixie dream girl movie trope in which a free-spirited woman loosens up an emotionally stunted man. It samples the line: Im just a fucked-up girl looking for my own peace of mind. Dont assign me yours.

Halsey relates to Clementines frustrations and is retiring from changing some boring guys life. She says she has felt used in many relationships. Here I am impulsive, spontaneous, kind of damaged, meeting a guy, a girl, whoever, and theyd say: Ive never met anyone like you, Im becoming a different person. I was scared to be bored, scared to be exhausted. This year, I put my foot down. I dont care if everybody thinks Im boring. Im not gonna fucking kill myself.

Halsey.
Halsey. Photograph: Publicity Image

Halseys story often exists adjacent to the men in her orbit. Her first album, Badlands, was made with her producer boyfriend, Lido; her second, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom was about their breakup. She started dating G-Eazy in 2017. They made their love official in joint single Him & I, now G-Eazys second-most streamed song, but not even in Halseys Top 10. After they split the following year, Halsey released Without Me, in which she seems to take the credit for his success the chorus goes: You know Im the one who put you up there. She says: As writers, we have this habit of waiting until something doesnt hurt any more. On Without Me, I ran into a burning building to find whatever I could before I felt too afraid to speak. Id gone from being a 19-year-old activist, a sexual badass, to this girl whos someones partner.

After the split, she was vilified. Everyones instinct was: she must have cheated. Its easy to make me the villain. Im in a bikini in a music video, so I must be a whore. She throws up her hands. Its so much greater than me its a social perception of women. So fuck it, Im gonna tell them everything that happened. For Halsey, airing her dirty laundry is political. I am financially independent, I have my own team, I have every resource in the world to get out of [misogyny]. I still cant. How hard must it be for women who dont have these resources?

Halseys song Closer, with the Chainsmokers, has been streamed 1.6bn times; she has the chameleonic aesthetics and vocal style of the streaming age. It is striking to see her as a blank canvas today, cross-legged on a couch in sweatpants, surrounded by rails of clothes. But despite her celebrity, she is relatable. At the Womens March in 2018, she delivered a poem about her experience of sexual harassment so compassionate, angry and confessional that People came up to me in the street. Men. A whole demographic whod never approached me before. She concludes: Art still works! You lose faith in it sometimes.

There are things, though, that she regrets sharing. New song More is about her desire for a child and she was scared to release it given the online abuse she received after a miscarriage. Its the most inadequate Ive ever felt, she explains. Here I am achieving this out-of-control life, and I cant do the one thing Im biologically put on this earth to do. Then I have to go onstage and be this sex symbol of femininity and empowerment? It is demoralising. She has endometriosis, but her latest prognosis is positive, and motherhood is looking like something thats gonna happen for me. Thats a miracle.

Despite the bullying, Halsey is unafraid to keep provoking people. She is bisexual and inspired a homophobic backlash when she danced with another woman on The Voice in 2018. She threw scorn on the trophies that were supposed to be some kind of validation for the soul-crushing and heartache-inducing work that they put in to writing a song while receiving her first American Music Award in November; Taylor Swift, who scored the final award of the evening, said: Speech of the whole night goes to Halsey.

She worries that being a firebrand pushes people away. Its hard to figure out when being an activist deflects attention from my art, she frets. Sometimes when youre the centre of having something to say you start losing your agency. People dont wanna hear it.

She reckons her lack of Grammy nominations this year is because she spoke out against former president Neil Portnows comments two years ago, when he said it was womens responsibility to step up if they wanted to excel in the music industry. I had a lot to say about that, and I am nowhere to be seen on any of those acknowledgments. Post #MeToo, she has been disappointed by the lack of camaraderie between female pop stars. Nobody wants to be my friend. Theyre scared Im gonna pop off about something. Im drama by association. I put myself out there with my peers; I dont know if people really ever wanted to do the same with me. So I stopped wasting my energy.

She isnt coming from the same place as many of those peers. Halsey grew up Ashley Nicolette Frangipane in New Jersey to a white Italian family on her mothers side and an African-American family on her fathers. Her parents were teenagers when she was conceived. She addresses her dad on Manics final song 929 the most uncensored song Ive ever written about a lonely night on tour when her dad promised to call and didnt. After she wrote it, she called him. We need to make more of an effort to connect, she says. Its hard to have a traditional relationship with your parents when youre The parent? She nods reluctantly. Kinda. I dont mean to discredit my parents. I was five when they were my age.

These days, instead of being angry, she is empathetic. My parents were great at making sure I didnt know we were poor. They got me a secondhand violin and put it on the payment plan. I changed my mind and wanted a viola they got me the viola. Every holiday, I got an art kit. Id wreck the carpets and walls. Theyd lose their security deposit. All because I wanted to paint my bedroom.

Performing
Performing in Sydney, Australia in 2019. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Two of Halseys biggest allies have been similar outliers but are no longer alive. The rapper Juice WRLD died last December from an accidental overdose; Mac Miller, whose posthumous album was released the same day as Manic, suffered the same fate a year earlier. Its terrifying seeing your friends put out posthumous records, Halsey says. Should I be prepared? Do I need to tell my team what to do if anything happened to me, what I wouldnt want to go out? I used to say music immortalises you then it got real. Hopefully, its a good thing that were talking about it because artists need to take better care of themselves.

Seven years ago, Halsey tried to take her own life. She is committed to a path of self-betterment, but worries about her health. Theres been a lot of times where Ive thought: If I keep doing this Im gonna die. Other times I think: But if Im alive and Im not doing this I might as well be dead. This is all Ive known for the past five years. I hope the world gets more sensitive to that. I dont think it will.

Her team and her mother are the people she calls in a crisis. My life is tremendously non-conducive to nurturing personal relationships, she says. She is taking stock of a new support system: reviews of Manic have been resoundingly positive. Peculiar, she says. Ive always been a fuck the critics girl. Its part of my brand. They say: We always loved her. I say: Fuck you, no you havent! Just as she is done with pleasing people, they are coming around to her anyway.

Manic is out now on Capitol Records. Halseys UK tour begins on Saturday 7 March at SSE Hydro, Glasgow.

This article was amended on Friday 28 February to correct an error: Halseys miscarriage was not from her relationship with G-Eazy.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/feb/28/halsey-pops-new-firebrand-nobody-wants-to-be-my-friend-im-drama-by-association

Health concerns have caused a number of high-profile singers to quit the road but what will it all mean for the industry at large?

In a chilling quote from much-loved music documentary The Last Waltz, about The Bands final concert in 1976, leader Robbie Robertson looks straight into the camera and ominously says: The road will kill you.

At the time, he was just 34. Yet, over four decades later, musicians of his storied era are still on the road and facing escalating health issues as a consequence. Since the start of this year, Ozzy Osbourne, 71, had to cancel his 2020 tour to seek treatment for issues related to his recent diagnosis of Parkinsons disease. Elton John, 72, had to ditch dates on what was already advertised as his goodbye tour, after declaring himself extremely unwell. Madonna, 61, was forced to scratch a bunch of shows from her British tour due to overwhelming pain from injuries she sustained on the road which already caused her to nix some US dates. Meanwhile, Aerosmith felt compelled to disinvite drummer Joey Kramer from their Grammy performance, over alleged difficulties the 69-year-old was having keeping the beat, while the group itself has had to scratch dates due to various health issues experienced by Steven Tyler. Then, just this last week, the 56-year-old frontman of Metallica, James Hetfield, needed to cancel shows to, in his words, look after my mental, physical and spiritual health.

All this comes hot on the heels of an escalating wave of older stars whove either quit the road entirely or begun their last hurrahs, including Paul Simon at 78, Bob Seger at 74, Kiss aged between 68 to 70, Neil Diamond at 79, and Eric Clapton at 74.

The fact is, its really hard to tour, says Dave Brooks, who covers the concert industry for Billboard. Its terribly hard on your body, and mentally difficult too.

Jem Aswad, senior music editor of the trade publication Variety, says: People think its easy to be a rock star. But try to hold the attention of 18,000 people, and perform really well, for two and a half hours every night. Its an incredibly tough thing to sustain.

Elton
Elton John apologising to fans after cutting short a concert in Auckland. Photograph: Tim McCready/AFP via Getty Images

If all that wear-and-tear takes a toll on older performers, their increasing absence from the road threatens to weaken the concert industrys bottom line. According to the industrys most authoritative source, Pollstar, five out of the top 10 worldwide tours of the last year featured band members over the age of 50. Three of those were peopled with players aged 60 to nearly 80. In Pollstars list of top 200 North American tours, the top three earners were over 70, including Elton, Bob Seger and the Stones.

When it comes to the highest grossing single shows worldwide, four of the top five positions were occupied by a group with players over age 70, while 16 of the top 20 shows featured the same band. That would be the Rolling Stones, who are about to embark on yet another American jaunt this spring and summer, despite the fact that Mick Jagger had to have heart valve replacement surgery last April.

Small wonder Aswad calls older rock stars the cornerstone of the concert industry. He adds: Its a very real problem the industry is facing over the next ten years if more of them go out.

Especially since the audience who attends shows by older stars has the deepest pockets, raising profits for everyone. Its a demographic that has some of the highest per capita income, Brooks says. If the rockers are ageing out, their customers are leaving the marketplace.

And that has increasing consequence for the entire music business, given the paltry revenue generated by modern streaming compared to the hugely lucrative sales of old CDs. For most artists, touring is the biggest revenue generator, Brooks says.

In fact, the revenue the biggest bands create can rival the GDP of a small nation. Top stars can command an 80-20 or in some cases, even a 95-5 split of the funds from shows, with the lower portions going to the promoter. More, top artists can clean up at the merch table. A lot of bands are selling beyond the T-shirt or a poster right now, Brooks says. Some of whats sold is considered fashion and even vinyl collectables.

Given such earning power, concerts play a powerful role in the economy overall. According to Brooks, the touring industry is generally estimated to generate between $50-60bn worldwide, aided by expanding markets in eastern Europe and Asia. Despite such daunting figures, the industrys closest observers say they arent at all worried about the business ability to make up for the losses created by hobbled, or retired, oldsters. Ray Waddell, who has covered the concert business for over 30 years and who oversees Pollstar and Venues Now, says: The industry has shown a remarkable ability to regenerate and replicate itself with new headliners, whether they be Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande or Ed Sheeran. Acts can break more quickly now, given the international accessibility of music and the new ways of discovering music.

The changes dont only reflect a new generation of fans but a switch in the popularity of genres. Everybody tends to think about rock stars when they think about top touring acts, says Aswad. But pop is replacing it. We could very well be looking at a situation, 10 years from now, where the top touring acts will be Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Ed Sheeran.

In fact, the single highest grossing tour worldwide for the last year, according to Pollstar, was by Pink, who is just 40. In a 12-month period, she sold over 1.8m tickets, yielding a gross of $215.2m, aided by a performance as prized for its death-defying acrobatics as its music. Doing strong business over the last year as well were twenty-something stars Shawn Mendes and Post-Malone, and the teen K-pop phenom, BTS, who were the sixth top grossing act in the world.

Mike
Mike Campbell, left, and Tom Petty in 2017. Photograph: Amy Harris/Invision/AP

Even if the industry can keep thriving, however, theres potential peril for those elders who keep trying to slog it out. In 2017, Tom Petty died days after finishing a tour at the age of 66, due to overuse of medications he was taking to deal with pain accrued from a lifetime on the road, including knee difficulties and a fractured hip. A year after his death, his wife, Dana, told Billboard: Hed had it in his mind this was his last tour and he owed it to his long-time crew and his fans.

The clear implication here is that Petty died, in part, because of a sense of duty to support the team around him, to his fans, and to the unspoken code of the road. Factors like these keep many artists on the road, even if they happen to have the personal wealth of Croesus, and theyre not, necessarily, in the best shape. In 2016, Prince died from overdosing on the prescription medicine he was given to deal with pain caused by years of leaping around the stage in high heels. Given stories like these, Robbie Robertsons quote seems not just cautionary, but prophetic.

At the same time, many of the old war horses have proven themselves incredibly hearty, as well as eager. These artists live to perform, Waddell says. You can sell, or download, millions of records, but thats no substitute for 20,000 people loving every move you make. Very few people get to experience anything that powerful.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/mar/02/music-rock-concerts-musicians-touring

Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Camila Cabello have all appealed to their millions of followers to take coronavirus more seriously, as other artists are criticised for continuing tours

Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande are among the pop stars using their considerable clout with fans to appeal for behavioural change during the coronavirus outbreak.

Eilish delivered a five-minute Instagram story to her 57 million followers, saying: Ive seen a lot of young people out in the world, all over the place, going to the club or going to the beach or just going out and hanging out, and its really irresponsible. She highlighted that young fans could pass it to more vulnerable relatives, and added: Please take responsibility for your endurance of this.

Swift spoke to her 128.2m Instagram followers to say: I love you guys so much and need to express my concern that things arent being taken seriously enough right now Im seeing lots of get-togethers and hangs and parties still happening. This is the time to cancel plans. Dont assume that because you dont feel sick that you arent possibly passing something on to someone elderly or vulnerable to this.

On Sunday, Grande wrote to her 72m Twitter followers: I keep hearing from a surprising amount of people statements like This isnt a big deal it is incredibly selfish and dangerous to take this situation that lightly. The We will be fine because were young mindset is putting people who arent young and/or healthy in a lot of danger. You sound stupid and privileged and you need to care more about others. Like now.

Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande)

please pic.twitter.com/N9WkKyVNn1

March 15, 2020

US singer Camila Cabello said: Especially as young people, even if we are healthy, its important to practice compassion and help others that could be suffering. We are in this together, lets not be indifferent to others risk. She advised her 48m Instagram followers to practise meditation to help quell any anxiety.

Their appeals come as other music stars have been criticised for going ahead with concerts during the crisis. Welsh indie band Stereophonics played a series of arena concerts over the weekend, attracting tens of thousands of fans, and defended the decision by saying: The UK governments position was that at this phase there was no need for a ban on large public gatherings. Acting on this guidance, we continued with the last three shows of our UK tour on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as did many other events across the entertainment industry.

Lewis
Music stars including Lewis Capaldi, pictured performing in London last week, have been criticised for going ahead with concerts. Photograph: Burak ng/Redferns

Scottish pop singer Lewis Capaldi used the same reasoning for playing an arena concert after Scotland announced the cancellation of large-scale events but before the ban came into force.

A spokesperson said of the Scottish governments advisory document: The advice applies from Monday March 16, and is not expected to have a significant impact on the spread of Covid-19, and this is not its purpose, but that it aims to relieve pressure on public services, including emergency services. Security, first aid, medical and welfare teams were paid for by the organisers as normal and the venue had additional signage in place to highlight best practice on hygiene during the event.

Tens of major tours have been cancelled, including those by Elton John, Foo Fighters and Celine Dion.

Stars are now looking to livestreaming as an alternative. Coldplay frontman Chris Martin took to Instagram Live yesterday to perform his bands songs as well as a cover of David Bowies Life on Mars. Maybe 9/11 was the last time I felt like we were all together, he said.

The performance was part of a new initiative from the World Health Organization and Global Citizen called Together, at Home. John Legend is the next performer lined up for the series.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/mar/17/pop-stars-criticise-fans-over-coronavirus-inaction-billie-eilish-taylor-swift-ariana-grande-camila-cabello

The celebrated mogul and designer had suffered from a series of health issues including diabetes and a liver transplant

Tom Watkins, the music manager who launched the careers of some of the UKs biggest pop acts, has died aged 70.

Friends confirmed that he died on 24 February, and his funeral took place on 10 March. The cause of death was not announced, but he had suffered a series of health issues in recent years, including strokes, a liver transplant and diabetes.

Watkins first found fame managing Pet Shop Boys in 1984, shepherding their early successes including all four of their No 1 singles: West End Girls, Its a Sin, Always on My Mind and Heart. He went on to manage pop trio Bros, and co-wrote their biggest hits When Will I Be Famous?, Drop the Boy and I Owe You Nothing. The trio quickly became one of the biggest pop acts in the UK and headlined Wembley stadium in 1989, though couldnt sustain their fame beyond a second album, and the departure of their bass player Craig Logan.

Relationships with both groups were occasionally troubled, with Matt Goss saying in 2017 that there was a compassion that was lacking in Watkins, as well as saying of their contract: We ended up with nothing, less than nothing.

Watkins
Watkins with East 17 in 1993. Photograph: Rick Colls/Rex/Shutterstock

Watkins, meanwhile, once said of the Pet Shop Boys: They just developed super-egos and tried to make out that I had nothing to do with their success, which is bullshit.

He had another major success in the 1990s with boy band East 17, who scored 11 Top 10 singles including the 1994 Christmas No 1 Stay Another Day. He managed other less successful artists, including the cult 70s glam rock groups Ice Cream and Giggles, and the 90s pop groups Deuce, North and South and Electribe 101.

Watkins was also a celebrated graphic designer, initially working under Terence Conran before starting his own company, XL Design, who created record sleeves for Wham!, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Duran Duran and more.

The Bauhaus-style house he designed for himself in Pett Level, East Sussex, was featured on the TV show Grand Designs. His collection of items from the Italian design movement Memphis is world-renowned.

He is survived by his partner Marc.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/mar/10/tom-watkins-pop-manager-behind-pet-shop-boys-bros-and-east-17-dies-aged-70

The sprawling influence of the pop art titan subject of a new Tate retrospective extends to everything from the Muppets to Donald Trump

Muses and collaborators

Hulk Hogan
In 1985, Warhol a huge wrestling fan inadvertently wandered backstage after a match between Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper. Its the best thing Ive ever seen in my whole life. The most exciting thing! he said. Cyndi Lauper and Mr T were also in attendance.

Andy
Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick. Photograph: John Springer Collection/Corbis/Getty Images

Edie Sedgwick
Moved to New York at 21 after receiving her trust fund. Warhol cast her in several films and made her a star but drug use, arrests, anorexia and stays in psychiatric hospitals ensued. Sedgwick died in her sleep at 28 following a probable drug overdose.

The Rolling Stones
Warhol designed the cover of 1971s Sticky Fingers, with its fruity closeup of a bulging crotch. Early versions featured an actual zip, a design innovation that failed to catch on, since jagged metal accessories have an unfortunate tendency to damage vinyl.

Robert Mapplethorpe
In the 80s, he and Warhol took a series of portraits of each other.

Prince

Prince
Having witnessed one of his earliest NY shows in 1980, Warhol created Orange Prince (1984), a series of 12 coloured portraits of the pint-sized polymath.

Frenemies

The Velvet Underground
Warhol managed, produced and art-directed the band before Lou Reed fired him, feeling his management techniques were responsible for their poor record sales.
Id never seen Andy angry, but I did that day, recounted Reed.

Dal

Salvador Dal
In 1964, Dal summoned Warhol to meet him at a hotel. Opera played at deafening volume, while Warhol put on an Inca headdress and nervously guzzled wine. After five uncomfortable minutes, a spooked Warhol decided to flee.

David
David Bowie. Photograph: Peter Mazel/Sunshine/Rex/Shutterstock

David Bowie
Met at the Factory in 1971, when Bowie performed a mime for a nonplussed Warhol. Bowie gave him a copy of Hunky Dory, which included Bowies tribute to the artist. Warhol didnt say anything but absolutely hated it, said Bowies then tour manager Tony Zanetta. Bowie would later play Warhol in the 1996 biopic Basquiat.

Andy

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Had something of a mentor-mentee relationship at first. Andy loved Jean-Michel like a son almost, said Interview editor Glenn OBrien. The two artists fell out after their joint 1985 show Paintings flopped, and remained unreconciled at the time of Warhols death in February 1987. Basquiat died the following August.

Fellow partygoers

Bianca
Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli and Andy Warhol at a New Years Eve party at Studio 54. Photograph: Robin Platzer/Life/Getty Images

Studio 54 regulars
Warhol was photographed at Studio 54 with a number of celebrities, including Liza Minnelli, Bianca Jagger, Jerry Hall, Truman Capote, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson and Robin Williams. Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford once handcuffed himself to Warhol after one of their shows in 1979, before the pair went off to the club together.

Successors (self-proclaimed)

Kanye West
Declared in 2013: I am Warhol. I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. That same year, his now wife Kim Kardashian was painted in the style of one of Warhols Marilyns by Monica Warhol, who claims to be a distant relative.

Jay-Z
Im a work of art / Im a Warhol already (Already Home, 2009). Also signed off blog posts as Andy WarHOV and used Warhols Rorschach (1984) as the cover of his 2010 book Decoded.

Banksys
Banksys Kate Moss artwork. Photograph: Banksy/Southeby’s/PA

Tyler, the Creator
The cover of his Goblin album references Warhols poster for his 1971 film Pork. His Earfquake video is shot through with AW references, from the platinum bowlcut wig to the Factory-style silver-draped walls.

Banksy
His 2007 Banksy v Warhol exhibition recreated Warhols Marilyn Monroe screen prints, but with Kate Moss.

Fashion followers

Versace
The fashion houses 1991 collection sent supermodel Naomi Campbell down the runway in a dress printed with Warhols Marilyn image

Virgil Abloh
The Louis Vuitton menswear artistic director cites Warhol as a key influence. Brands, he says, signify things stored in the deepest parts of our brains as to what anything is. A cross on a Catholic church, or the red and white of a Coca-Cola can; how else would you know how to find your way?

Calvin Klein
Signed a licensing deal with the Warhol Foundation in 2017. Then CCO Raf Simons expressed a particular interest in Warhols grisly Death and Disaster collection, a series of screenprints of car crashes, electric chairs and suicides.

Business partners?

Donald

Donald Trump
In 1975, Warhol wrote: Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art, a phrase DJT has referenced multiple times. In April 1981, Trump proposed a formal partnership, with the artist creating paintings of Trump Tower. The deal turned sour when Trump declined to buy the diamond-dust covered paintings, irked that they werent colour-coordinated. Warhol never forgave him, still bitching about him in diary entries from three years later, writing: I think Trumps sort of cheap.

Unexpected admirers

Campbell's

Campbells
Following Warhols soup can prints, in 1966 Campbells returned the compliment and produced the Souper Dress a promotional offer where $1 and two coupons secured you a paper dress printed with Warhols artwork. One now resides in the Met Museum.

Kermit

The Muppets
Warhol references crop up throughout the Henson universe: Oscar the Grouch and Telly both created soup-can artworks; Kermit appeared as Warhol for a fashion shoot in Zink magazine; the 2019 Sesame Street Road Trip tour saw Big Bird posing at the Warhol Museum.

Jeremy Deller
As a 20-year-old unknown, conceptual artist Deller spent two weeks at the Factory observing Warhol, having talked his way into his hotel room during a visit to London. (Deller found Warhol and entourage watching Benny Hill on mute while playing Roxy Music.)

Unintended consequences

The selfie
Warhol repeatedly returned to himself as subject matter. His first self-portrait, in 1963, saw him turning a simple photo booth image into a blue silkscreen print, a neat reminder that millennials didnt invent solipsism.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/mar/07/from-dali-to-jay-z-andy-warhols-enduring-grip-on-pop-culture

With a voice adored by Bob Dylan, Robert Plant and millions across the Arab world, Umm Kulthum rejected gender norms with her powerful, political music. But can her 90-minute songs work in a new stage musical?

You hear the Umm Kulthum cafe before you see it. Violins swoon and a monumental voice surges from a doorway in Cairos Tawfiqia neighbourhood. Outside, couples smoke shisha on plastic chairs, dwarfed by two immense golden busts depicting the singer known variously as the star of the east, mother of the Arabs and Egypts fourth pyramid.

Umm Kulthum recorded about 300 songs over a 60-year career and her words of love, loss and longing drift reliably from taxis, radios and cafes across the Arab world today, 45 years after her death. Despite singing complex Arabic poetry, she influenced some of the wests greatest singers. Bob Dylan said: Shes great. She really is. Shakira and Beyonc have performed dance routines to her music. Maria Callas called her the incomparable voice.

There is no western counterpart to Kulthum, no artist as respected and beloved as she is in the Arab world. Despite that, she remains relatively unknown in the UK; a one-off show at the London Palladium on 2 March aims to change that. Umm Kulthum & the Golden Era will dramatise the singers life in English with her music sung in Arabic. My whole message, says the shows producer, Mona Khashoggi, is to promote our rich culture of classical Arabic music in the west.

The musical depicts Egypt during a period of cultural fertility and seismic sociopolitical change. It responds to a question posed by the ethnomusicologist Virginia Danielson, who wrote a biography of Kulthum: Is it possible that 50 years in Arab societies, where women appear to outsiders to be oppressed, silent and veiled, could be represented by the life and work of a woman? And not just a woman, but one whose possible lesbianism and rejection of gender norms raised a few eyebrows in her lifetime.

Kulthum was born in a Nile delta village in about 1904 to an imam and his wife. Her father supplemented his income by singing religious songs with his son and nephew, and his daughter would mimic them, later reflecting that she first learned to sing like a parrot. Joining the family ensemble, her powerful voice proved a novelty but also, as a woman performing religious songs, provocative. Her father dressed her in a boys coat and black Bedouin headdress, leaving only her eyes and mouth visible. Freed from the limitations of gender, her talent shone and she attracted the interest of noted musicians, who invited her to Cairo.

It took Kulthum time to find her feet in the big city in the early 1920s. While her voice was admired in the homes of Cairos elite, she was mocked for her rough country attire and behaviour. She gradually learned to dress with style and worked with the best artists of the age, despite a reputation as a demanding collaborator. Record labels competed over her and she negotiated shrewdly to increase her fees and fame. Soon she was making twice as much money as the biggest stars of Cairos art scene.

Umm
Photograph: CPA Media Pte Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Led Zeppelins Robert Plant said that he was driven to distraction on hearing Kulthums voice while in Marrakech in 1970. When I first heard the way she would dance down through the scale to land on a beautiful note that I couldnt even imagine singing, it was huge: somebody had blown a hole in the wall of my understanding of vocals.

Her voice was a contralto, the lowest type for a female, and had enormous power. She performed to large audiences without a microphone and improvised virtuosically. She acted like a preacher who becomes inspired by his congregation, the Egyptian novelist and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz once said. When he sees what reaches them he gives them more of it, he works it, he refines it, he embellishes it. Crowds called out for line repetitions and she obliged, meaning a song could last between 45 and 90 minutes. She subtly altered emphasis and explored the maqamat, the set of Arabic scales, to eruptions of applause. It was said she never sang a line the same way twice.

An Umm Kulthum performance would generally last about five hours and consist of three extended songs. Her goal was to induce in her listeners tarab, a state of rapturous enchantment, where time and self dissolve in the music.

During the 1940s she shifted towards colloquial, populist Egyptian music, a canny move as the country chafed under British control. Other songs using vivid Arabic poetry linked her to fine literature. She presented two popular images: the refined woman who could educate the masses and the peasant daughter who articulated working-class pain.

She recorded on vinyl and starred in six musical films; from 1934 for almost 40 years she broadcast a live concert on the first Thursday of each month. This became a social phenomenon: stories abound of streets and workplaces from Tunisia to Iraq becoming suddenly deserted as millions rushed home to listen. She embodied pan-Arab unity and became an irresistible proposition for shrewd politicians.

A common story goes that Kulthums music was taken off the airwaves after Egypts 1952 revolution because she had sung for the leaders of the old regime. Gamal Abdel Nasser, national hero and later the second Egyptian president, on hearing the stars music was forbidden, apparently said: What are they, crazy? Do you want Egypt to turn against us?

Nasser understood Kulthum was a symbol of authentic Arab and Egyptian culture. He piggybacked off her radio broadcasts by making political speeches straight after, promoting his pan-Arabist agenda. For her part, she sang in support of Nasser and donated millions of dollars to the military. While some regard her as his tool, Danielson believes the relationship was mutually beneficial; they agreed on many issues. They tended to say the same things about themselves, Egypt and the Arab world, she says. There are times you dont know which one is speaking, Nasser or Umm Kulthum.

Starring
Starring in the 1947 film Fatma. Photograph: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy Stock Photo

In 1967, Kulthum made her only performance in Europe at LOlympia in Paris. She was paid twice what Callas received for the same venue, with admission prices four times those for Sammy Davis Jr. After the show, she said: No one can describe the extent of my pride when I went to Paris, stood in the middle of Europe, and raised my voice in the name of Egypt.

She performed until about 1970, but died in 1975 of kidney failure. Her funeral procession reportedly attracted 4 million Egyptians. Mourners seized the coffin from officials and carried it for hours through the streets.

Kulthum continues to appear regularly in Egyptian media. Those frustrated by the countrys current malaise are drawn to the golden era she represents. She has been given the hologram treatment in Saudi Arabia, while Arab trap producers sample her music. Singers continue to perform her repertoire, including Sanaa Nabil, her 17-year-old great-grand-niece, who will appear in the West End musical following a breakout performance on Arabs Got Talent. She believes her relatives music is still relevant today. Her music wasnt only for the past, she says. The songs are old, but the music always feels new. It exists outside of time.

Some have complained that Kulthums pervasive media presence has stifled other talents; others are uncomfortable about the bluntness of her nationalist rhetoric. Her hour-long songs also challenge those raised on three-minute pop. Khansa, a Lebanese artist who has made an electronic version of her song Qesat El Ams, says: A lot of people find it difficult to understand classical Arabic, so they dont listen to her, particularly the older, more complex repertoire.

There have also been attempts to pose trickier questions about her biography. Kulthum subverted the gender norms of mid-century Egypt with her hard-nosed business deals, active engagement in public life and resistance to giving up her career for family life. She had two marriages, neither of which was conventional: the first dissolved within days, the second, age 50, was to a younger man with children from an ex-wife.

Umm
Umm Kulthums funeral in 1975. Photograph: Historic Collection/Alamy Stock Photo

We dont talk about strong or masculine women in our history, says Musa Al Shadeedi, an Iraqi writer based in Jordan. We only discuss her as a singer. When he wrote an article for Jordanian LGBT magazine My.Kali exploring Kulthums rejection of traditional gender roles, he included this quote from the prominent Palestinian intellectual Edward Said: During her lifetime, there was talk about whether or not she was a lesbian, but the sheer force of her performances of elevated music set to classical verse overrode such rumours.

The mere reference to Kulthums possible lesbianism caused a scandal and the Jordanian government blocked My.Kalis website. In fact, there may be truth to these assertions. Danielson says that Kulthum was constantly surrounded by particular women and showed little interest in men. It is very, very likely she had relationships with women, she says.

Al Shadeedi is wary of pushing such claims. I dont see how dragging dead people out of the closet will fix our society today, he says. But we can ask: if she was lesbian, would that change how we see her? This might help people reconsider how they react to such taboos.

The furore shows how fiercely protective people are about Kulthum almost a half-century after her death. This is a credit not just to her vocal chords, but also to her careful creation of a public persona. Kulthum was wary of the press and ensured her story was told by select journalists and photographers. She shaped her public narrative, deftly balancing the personas of stately matriarch, pious Muslim, peasant country girl, defender of the Arabic language and symbol of Egyptianness. She could mean different things to different people, and mastered that potential. As Danielson writes: She tried assiduously and consistently to construct a voice that millions would claim as their own.

Rehearsals
Rehearsals for the show Umm Kulthum & The Golden Era.

In one of her few video interviews in Paris in 1967, Kulthum is superbly poised, fixing the twitchy journalist with a steady gaze. Her answers are terse and guarded despite a kindly facade. She analyses the subtext of each question and seizes every opportunity to buff her public image. When asked which monument she visits most in Paris, she cites the Luxor Obelisk at Place de la Concorde, which was transported from Egypt to Paris in 1833. When the journalist asks why, she says simply: Its ours. She subtly reassures fans at home that, although she is performing in France, she will never be anything other than Egyptian.

Her public self was clearly a construction, Danielson says in her book, but it was neither artificial nor false. Umm Kulthum simply learned to present herself in the way she wanted to be thought of and remembered. To truly understand Kulthum not just as a musician but as a social phenomenon that continues to blaze, Danielson says we must grasp not only the life behind the myth, but the myth at the heart of the life.

Umm Kulthum & the Golden Era is at the London Palladium on 2 March.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/feb/28/she-exists-out-of-time-umm-kulthum-arab-musics-eternal-star

Prog rock band featuring Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks is to perform a series of UK stadium shows for the first time since 2007

The British prog rock band Genesis have announced that they will reunite for a series of UK stadium shows in November and December. Theres a Genesis sound which is still there, said guitarist Mike Rutherford. I missed it, its nice to play it again.

The group announced the Last Domino tour on Zoe Balls BBC Radio 2 breakfast show. Rutherford said: It feels great, it feels the right time, were looking forward to doing it. A lot of our contemporaries have been playing a lot weve done two shows in the UK in the last 28 years.

The group said that they would be joined by Phil Collins 18-year-old son Nicholas on drums for the shows. He plays like me and he kind of has the same attitude as me, said Collins. So that was a good starter.

Quizzed on the potential setlist, Collins said: There are songs you feel you have to play because the audience would feel cheated if you didnt, then its a question of putting the rest of the stuff together from songs we havent played for a long time.

Ahead of their appearance on BBC Radio 2, the band posted a clue to their Instagram page, reading: And then there were three. The group last played together in 2007, their first tour with drummer Phil Collins in 14 years, and have faced constant speculation about the possibility of a reunion in the intervening years. In January, the trio were spotted at a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, sparking renewed rumours.

Genesis: Mama video

Genesis formed at Charterhouse school in Surrey in 1967, and enjoyed cult success until the early 1970s, when their fourth album, Foxtrot, became their highest-charting release, and a theatrical tour stoked their reputation.

They reached a creative peak with the 1974 album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, which would be their last with Peter Gabriel. He left in 1975, at the end of an even more elaborate tour for the record, and embarked on a highly influential solo career.

Their progressive origins would gradually smooth into a more generic pop sound. Following Gabriels departure, Phil Collins took over as lead singer, and Genesis achieved massive commercial success with A Trick of the Tail in 1976. Steve Hackett would leave the band a year later, leaving them as the trio of Collins, Rutherford and Banks.

It is estimated that Genesis have sold between 100 and 150m albums worldwide. In 2010, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their last album was Calling All Stations, released in 1997.

Tickets for the Last Domino tour go on sale at 9am on 6 March. Genesis will play:

16 November – Dublin 3 arena
19 Nov Belfast SSE arena
23 Nov Liverpool M&S Bank arena
26 Nov Newcastle Utilita arena
29 Nov London O2 arena
30 Nov London O2 arena
2 December Leeds First Direct arena
5 Dec Birmingham arena
8 Dec Manchester arena
11 Dec Glasgow SSE arena

This article was amended shortly after publication to correct tour dates that were distributed prematurely.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/mar/04/prog-rock-stars-genesis-to-announce-reunion

Can the worlds biggest punk band capture the zeitgeist on their new album like American Idiot once did? They talk about staying positive in the age of Trump and how people have forgotten to love each other

Green Day are in their modest rehearsal space in their hometown of Oakland, California, a little haven in a country on the turn. The trio of 47-year-olds still the worlds biggest punk band are posing for photos with singer-guitarist-songwriter Billie Joe Armstrongs prized Triumph motorcycle. Then someone remembers that the bands forthcoming Hella Mega Tour, alongside fellow alt-rock survivors Fall Out Boy and Weezer, is sponsored by Harley-Davidson. The Triumph is put back under its protective sheet.

Welcome to Trumps America, sighs bassist Mike Dirnt when I tell him of my journey via San Francisco, where I was shocked to see so much desperate homelessness. A place where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Sadly, I dont think weve seen anything yet. The band own a number of Oakland businesses its important for us to do what we can to lift up our local area, Dirnt says while Armstrong still goes on protests and attends local punk shows.

Armstrong is a fan of new bands such as ShitKid, the Chats and White Reaper, though is often confused by what he sees. Ill see kids wearing leather jackets and a Grateful Dead T-shirt. How did that happen? Recently, he attended a show only to be confronted by a young punk with giant liberty-spiked hair, looking like hed just walked out of a squat, asking for a selfie on a brand-new iPhone. Its cool and its weird, he laughs. Im just excited people are still doing cool shit.

Green Days new album is titled Father of All Motherfuckers and yet, surprisingly for a band best known for delivering 2004s George Bush-baiting rock opera American Idiot, they say Donald Trump had little influence on the new record. At the same time, they insist it is political.

Its all there in the songs, Armstrong says. Im singing about looking out for the jingoes and heathens or another black kid shot in town. Theres a lyric about bulletproof backpacks designed as protection during school shootings, one of the most absurd ideas Ive ever heard. But Armstrong doesnt want to be on the nose. Everything that is happening in the world is right there on Twitter. Its so confusing and its so depressing. I really wanted to create some kind of escape for people; I didnt want to be so obvious. Satirical punk site The Hard Times wrote a story the day of Trumps inauguration titled Future Green Day Concept Album Sworn Into Office. It was funny, but I didnt want us to do that. It wasnt where our heads were at at all. Where were your heads at? I was listening to Little Richard.

He continues: Its not that Im ignoring it, its just that the current political climate is something I just cant draw any inspiration from. Ive got tons of feelings about it. I think Trump is a piece of shit. I think [Senate majority leader] Mitch McConnell is pure evil. All they care about is looking after the rich and they dont care about the common people. But I find no inspiration there. Its so depressing. Its hard to dance when you cant get out of bed.

And the world has become so divisive, says drummer and band goof Tr Cool. We wanted to try to bring people together. Its become something of a far-out concept to love each other!

Green
Green Day on stage, 1997. Photograph: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

This year the band will turn 34. No punk band has made it this far. The Sex Pistols lasted three years, the Clash 10, the Ramones 22. Green Day are writing the blueprint while living it, so it is no surprise that they have sometimes made mistakes. Last year Armstrong duetted with Morrissey on his covers album California Son a terrible look in the wake of Morrisseys vocal support for far-right organisations and individuals.

I wasnt aware until the song came out, says Armstrong. We do the song, and he was very lovely, and then the song comes out and a lot of Brits were like: what the hell are you doing? I really did not have a clue Bewitched by the singers status as an 80s indie godhead, he simply failed in his due diligence. Cool pipes up, giggling: Hey, weve all got our Ted Nugents, right? a reference to the US rocker and gun enthusiast.

Green Day have endured major wobbles and are now in uncharted territory, as Armstrong puts it. People get over their high school bands. They dont go on to spend every day in their orbit for the next 20 years.

After two records on the late, great East Bay punk imprint Lookout!, in 1994 the young band signed with major label Reprise. The punk scene was aghast. 924 Gilman Street, the puritanical Berkeley-based all-ages headquarters of said scene banned the group from performing. Green Day released Dookie in February of that year and it sold 20m copies. They wouldnt return to play Gilman Street until 2015.

Old friends and fellow scenesters might not have wanted to talk to them any more, but everyone else did. Along with Smash, the third album by fellow Californians the Offspring (at 11m sales, the biggest-selling record on an independent label ever) and the rise to prominence of the Berkeley band Rancid, Dookie spearheaded an interest in American punk rock not seen since the birth of the New York CBGB scene 20 years earlier but with the sales to match the cultural impact.

We were always thinking about legacy, Cool says. We never wanted songs to sound like wed relied too much on whatever recording techniques were in vogue. We knew we were in this for the long haul.

Then came, if not decline, then some cooling off. The excellent Insomniac arrived in 1995 and struggled on account of not being Dookie. Nimrod followed in 1997; another strong collection of songs that became most notable for featuring a coda, the purely acoustic Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), that suggested there might be more to Armstrongs songwriting than three chords and fuzz. The song soundtracked the Seinfeld finale and became a hit at US high school proms, its melancholy dovetailing with events that marked a passing of time. And yet by 2000s Warning, the mall had been relinquished to the nu-metal kids. Warning became the first release of Green Days major-label career not to go multi-platinum. They wouldnt release an album for another four years.

I find it hard between records thinking what Im going to write about, Armstrong says. I get a lot of self-doubt. I dont think Ive ever realistically thought the band might be done, but I have questioned whether I could do it any more.

Green Day re-emerged amid war in the Middle East under Bush. Young people who might once have been fans were returning in body bags. Sieg heil to the President Gasman, Armstrong sang on Holiday from the album American Idiot, and if punks werent supposed to sign to major labels, they certainly werent supposed to release double albums that became Broadway musicals.

It sent them stratospheric and the weight of expectation since has never truly lifted: 2009s 21st Century Breakdown felt ordinary in the shadow of its predecessor; the release of three albums in a year 2012s Uno!, Dos! and Tr! favoured quantity over quality. An ill-fated festival appearance saw Armstrong, his set about to be cut short, destroy his guitar and rant: Im not Justin Bieber! He subsequently went into rehab for the abuse of alcohol and prescription pills.

Armstrong
Armstrong playing live, 2017. Photograph: Ferdy Damman/EPA

The band slunk into another period of near-irrelevance. They had emerged from the previous one with a genre-defying, generation-defining reboot this time all they had was a good record, 2016s Revolution Radio. Few bands harness the zeitgeist once, let alone twice. Is Father of All Motherfuckers that third moment? No, but it is the closest they have come since American Idiot. At 26min 16sec, it is their shortest album, featuring a collection of songs as fast and furious as any in their discography. It sounds as if they are having fun for the first time in years, without trying too hard.

Armstrong says it is an homage to the roots of rocknroll music, the music that inspired us to do this. That doesnt just mean punk rock. Its Martha and the Vandellas and Mott the Hoople. Old bubblegum music like the Archies. Powerpop. Garage music Playing Motown through Green Day, so to speak.

You might read the fizzing Father of All Motherfuckers as Green Day saying they are not done yet. Ask them if their forthcoming triple-header tour is an attempt to halt a downturn in the bands fortunes and Armstrong will laugh and say, in reference to 80s-themed package tours: There are many differences between Green Day and Kajagoogoo Were going to keep making records that matter. I always want whatever we do to feel like the first time we played at Gilman, or the first time we made a rock opera.

By embracing the bands love of rocknroll, Green Day are also trying to reclaim something at their nations core. Instead of an overt appearance from Trump in the lyrics, there is positivity and make-do spirit; it feels like a record about a beloved US, not the US that presently exists. I think good rocknroll has always had this ability to be transcendent, says Dirnt. A song might be about losing your gal or whatever other misfortune has come your way but the best stuff takes your hand and helps you dance through the apocalypse. Id like to think thats what were trying to do.

Rock as an act of resistance, I offer. Oh yeah, they all chime. I like that!

Father of All Motherfuckers is out on Reprise.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/feb/07/green-day-rocknroll-helps-you-dance-through-the-apocalypse