Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys: “I’m at ease with the notion that things don’t have to be a pop tune.
Alex Turner has forgotten what he was thinking about, which is not the first time. The Arctic Monkeys leader is leaned forward in a table at a midtown Manhattan café as he struggles to find the right words to explain their new album, a black-tie orgy of cinematic soul, obscene funk, and scented 60s strings. He is saved by a waiting staff member.
Turner, would you want some milk with that coffee? I’ll have a little milk, please, he replies. She comes back a minute later, and Turner excitedly refills his cup after managing only a partial phrase. OK, he replies as he rubs his hands together. We now possess it.
The amiable introvert is determinedly, deliciously energetic during our two-hour chat. He bangs imaginary woodblocks, sprawls across his moulded seat, clasps nothing, and shakes it like a Magic 8 Ball. His turquoise jumper’s V-neck displays a slender gold necklace, which he strokes while rambling on about David Axelrod’s brilliance as a composer.
Turner has a reputation for being distant and elusive, but in reality, he is a man of thoughtful silences—an ambiguous overthinker imprisoned in the body of an eccentric performer.
He makes an attempt to explain how he orchestrated the new record The Car. Finally, he continues, “I was interested in flipping the ‘rock band’ aspect on and off rather than strings on top of rock.” In his mind’s eye, he adjusts the levels on a mixing desk. The ‘rock band’ fader pops up for two bars here and there with the Sculptures song, the dizzyingly exquisite Sculptures of Anything Goes, and then it’s turned back off.
He considers this idea carefully before flailing his arms and stopping. He has the appearance of a magician who has noticed that his hat’s bunny is gone. He reboots gradually. Then he adds, “And I don’t recall doing it quite so… purposefully before.” a playful smile. “Phew!” He grips his chest tightly. “I didn’t intend to say the entire thing.
However, 36-year-old Turner possesses both a keen sense of self and a great sense of humour. This superstar, whose new hairstyles are trending on Twitter, is undoubtedly too well-known to be such a brooder. Each of his eight albums, including the two he co-wrote with pal Miles Kane for the Last Shadow Puppets, debuted at No. 1 in the UK. The fifth album from the Monkeys, AM, has only missed one week of the UK Top 100 chart since its debut in 2013. After the band headlined the Reading and Leeds festivals, it spent the most of September again within the Top 10.
The Sheffield lads’ reputation as pomade-slick, leather-jacketed Los Angeles dirtbags cemented in the public mind during the AM period, which lasted a couple of years. Fans were confused when Arctic Monkeys returned to mischief in 2018 with the brilliantly bizarre Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Turner had put together a cast of disorienting narrators to question contemporary society in a retro-futurist concept album set in a moon colony.
Topics covered included politics, technology, and hyperreal LA. He now addressed people with hilarious formality when on stage and dressed like a geography teacher from the 1970s. He had lost the plot, the sceptics said.calling it a self-destructive act or, worse, a betrayal of the class. Someone in Sheffield spray-painted a coffin on a gate at Hunter’s Bar, which was made famous by the movie Fake Tales of San Francisco. Hey Alex, it said in the caption. How is California doing?