The End: Guy Garvey of Elbow on Endings and Death

"I want to die just before the punchline of a really, really long anecdote."

Apr 08, 2016 Photography by Deidre o’ Callaghan Issue # 56 - Best of 2015 - Father John Misty and Wolf Alice
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To end out the week, we ask Guy Garvey some questions about endings and death. The Manchester, England-based singer/songwriter/guitarist is best known as the frontman for Elbow, who have released six albums, from 2001's Asleep in the Back to 2014's The Take Off and Landing of Everything. 2008's The Seldom Seen Kid won the prestigious Mercury Prize for the best British album of the year. Garvey has now recorded his first solo album, Courting the Squall, which was released in the U.K. in October and is out in the U.S. this spring via Conchord. The album bears some similarities to his work with Elbow, but also goes off into jazz-infused excursions on "Belly of the Whale" and "Electricity," channels Tom Waits on "Yesterday," and is a bit funkier than his day-job work, but no less heartfelt. Read on as Garvey discusses how he'd like to die, what his funeral would be like, his ideal of heaven, and his famous last words.

How would you like to die and what age would you like to be?

I want to be ancient. I want to be really old. And I want to die just before the punchline of a really, really long anecdote. Louis Prima: "Just a Gigolo / I Ain't Got Nobody."

What song would you like to be performed at your funeral and who would you like to sing it?

I'd like to make my brother sing something that he really detests. That might be quite good fun. No, Pete Turner, from Elbow. He absolutely hates singing, the idea of singing publicly. I'd make him do a really twee-sounding Garfunkel song with a guitarist, he'd absolutely hate that.

What's your favorite ending to a movie?

I quite like the end of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World when he realizes he's been duped by the French doctor/captain from the enemy ship, and he changes course, and it's all hands on deck to set sail back from where they've just come from. It starts and ends with men in the rigging. I love it.


What's your favorite last line in a book?

I can't think of any apart from, "I think of Dean Moriarty. I think of Dean Moriarty." That used to be my favorite line. That used to be my favorite book [On the Road]. Oh no, I'll tell you what it was-the end of the first story in the collection Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger. I'm paraphrasing now: "Since my brother Seymour took his life," and I think he gives a date, or something like that, "I haven't found anybody else I trust to choose my horses." Read the first story, I challenge you not to cry.

What's your favorite series finale of a TV show?

It was the last episode of The Sopranos. Thought it was incredibly clever. The way it showed you what Tony's life was like every minute of the day. You were on pins wondering who's gonna do it, who's gonna do it. Where's it gonna come from. And obviously, you don't know whether he got shot, and that whole thing about-you don't hear the bullet that kills you. That's the thing, isn't it, that you're left with. But I think it's just showing how it feels to be Tony, every minute of every day, waiting for the hitman to turn up.

What's your favorite last song on an album?

"Her Majesty," by The Beatles on the end of Abbey Road.


What's your favorite last album by a band who then broke up?

The Recordings of The Middle East by The Middle East.

What's your favorite way a band broke up?

I like how R.E.M. broke up. Just, "We've kind of done it. We don't want to tread it into the earth." It was lovely.

Whose passing has most affected you?

Other than people in my life, if that was it, then my friend Bryan Glancy, who was a songwriter. His passing, when he was younger than I am now, 40, was very, very sad. He was in remission from heroin dependency and he slipped off the wagon and it killed him, which apparently quite often happens. But at the time of his death he was really enjoying a creative writing course and getting his stuff together. I'll miss him every day. The passing of somebody generally-I've been surprised a couple of times by people dying. Actually, Gravenhurst recently. I don't know much of his music either, but there was an undeniable purity to the melancholy, which turned out to be something to do with his death. It's awful when young people go, isn't it?

If you were on death row, what would you like your last meal to be?

What I just had. Spaghetti bolognese.

What's your concept of the afterlife?

I'm at a bar in the middle of a really good story and everybody's listening with delight on their faces and my pint of Guinness never goes down. Actually, here's a good story: last time I was in Chicago I had just split up with a girl that I'd been seeing for a while and I was very upset and, indeed, angry about it. I found a whiskey bar and perched myself right in the corner so nobody could sit with me and turned my collars up. And this toothless old drunk guy was smiling at me down the bar and I couldn't have been clearer I didn't want his company. Eventually he saddled up next to me and I couldn't ignore him any more. And I looked at him with hell and anger in my eyes, and he said "So, ah, you are probably wondering what I did before I was a journalist." And I just thought that was so funny. I ended up having a really nice chat. I don't know why I thought of that.

What would be the worst punishment the devil could devise for you in hell, if he exists?

Oh God. [The Eagles'] "Hotel California" on loop.


If reincarnation exists, who or what would you like to be reincarnated as?

Can I come back as, like, a really good airplane? Something like that. Is that a terrible answer? That's a terrible answer. A bird. There you go. I'd be a female sparrow hawk, the most maneuverable of the raptors, how's that?

What role or achievement would you like to be remembered for?

My work in Elbow.

What would you like your last words to be?

I've already discussed this with Pete Turner and they would be: "All the money. All the gold, the jewels, everything. It's all in the..."

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar's Best of 2015 print issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is its debut online and a slightly longer version of the interview than what ran in print.]

www.guygarvey.com
www.elbow.co.uk

 



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