20 Questions: Justin Currie

Photo: Pat Pope

The former Del Amitri frontman-turned-solo artist has found a cathartic groove for his songwriting now, and in answering PopMatters' 20 Questions, reveals which assassin he'd like to hire to kill him, which sculpture he wish he made, and how inspirational both Einstein and Johnny Rotten have been to him.

Justin Currie has had one of the most extraordinary second acts one could ever have in a career.

The first act was simple: the Scottish-born singer-songwriter formed a band called Del Amitri with friend Iain Harvie in the early '80s, focusing on a power pop sound that resonated well in their homeland, the group soon scoring a seemingly never-ending string of hits in the UK, all while the duo cycled through quite a few members during their two-decade existence. Although the group was moderately successful in their homeland and developed quite the cult audience stateside, it wasn't until 1995 when the group's insanely catchy track "Roll to Me" became a Top 10 hit in the U.S., quickly becoming the one thing that the group is immediately identified with even up to this day. Subsequent albums failed to capitalize on the group's popularity stateside, and after 2002's Can You Do Me Good?, the group became relatively quiet.

Yet in 2007, Currie re-emerged as a solo artist, and his disc What Is Love For was released to huge levels of acclaim, many people even gravitating towards Currie's melancholic tunes without having much if any knowledge of his power-pop past. Suddenly Currie was courting a brand-new audience, and feeling reinvigorated about his own career. With this year's The Great War, however, Currie has taken a great leap forward with his songwriting, as highlighted by the eight-minute epic "The Fight to Be Human", one of his most blistering and ultimately cathartic tracks to date.

Following in that same vein, Currie recently sat down to answer PopMatters' 20 Questions, and in doing so reveals which Spinal Tap character he is most like, which political figure he would not mind murdering, and how an A&R rep once gave him some of the best advice he ever received ...


1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I am a slow reader and it took me month to read Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives. I wasn't terribly sure what was going on until the final few pages; the last "line" was astonishing to me.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Spinal Tap's David St. Hubbins.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

The Trek, I'd say. It's more camp and self-mocking. I think George Lucas is a bit of a twat. And I fucking hated that racist shit in the first "prequel".

5. Your ideal brain food?

Psilocybin in tea. Not too strong; just right.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Getting to 45 without reproducing myself. The world doesn't need any more people like me.

7. You want to be remembered for . .?

I don't wish to know what others think of me and I certainly won't be able to control the way they bitch about me when I'm dead. They can forget me, like a phone number.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Shakespeare, J.S. Bach, Newton, Beethoven, Darwin, Einstein, Dylan, Johnny Rotten.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Michelangelo's La Pieta? I don't see how I could fail to get laid off the back of that. Failing that, all of Don Paterson's poetry.

10. Your hidden talents . . .?

I don't even have any unhidden talent.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

"You are solely responsible for your own ability to do this thing. Don't expect the record company or the manager to get you out of the pub and off drugs." Chris Briggs, A&R at A&M records, 1987.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

Records (bought), lyrics & tunes (stolen from everybody), Fender Precision bass (borrowed in 1978).

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

A second-hand Hardy Amies suit.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Lady Thatcher. I'd stick a fork through her fucking heart and go right on to the main course.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

The Hadean to see what the world once was and will once more become.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

You mean a hit-man to take me out? Perfect! Could you arrange for Roy "Chubby" Brown to shoot me with a bow and arrow?

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

Booze and the company of drinkers.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Halfway up an obscure Scottish mountain on a weekday in April in the sunshine, miles from anything even vaguely touched by human activity.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Die, fool, die.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

My figure.

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