The End: Jan Scott Wilkinson of Sea Power | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, November 30th, 2023  

The End: Jan Scott Wilkinson of Sea Power

Going Out Together

Feb 18, 2022 Photography by Mayumi Hirata Web Exclusive
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​To end the week, we ask Jan Scott Wilkinson of the British band Sea Power some questions about endings and death.

Sea Power were formerly known as British Sea Power, but last year shortened their name partially due to “a rise in a certain kind of nationalism in this world.” Their first album as Sea Power, Everything Was Forever, was released today via the band’s own label Golden Chariot. Wilkinson handles vocals and guitar in the band and Sea Power’s line-up is rounded out by Jan’s brother, Neil Hamilton Wilkinson (vocals/guitars), as well as Martin Noble (guitars), Matthew Wood (drums), Abi Fry (viola), and Phil Sumner (keyboards/cornet).

The band emerged at the turn of the millennium, releasing their first singles, “Fear of Drowning” and “Remember Me,” in 2001, with their debut album, The Decline of British Sea Power, coming out in 2003 on Rough Trade. Various acclaimed albums followed, as well as several soundtracks, and their last album as British Sea Power was 2017’s Let the Dancers Inherit the Party. Much fuss was made in the British media when the band changed their name, even though the band specifically said, “We’d like to make it clear that removing the word ‘British’ does NOT indicate any aversion to the British Isles whatsoever. We all feel immensely fortunate to have grown up in these islands. Several or our songs are filled with love and awe for this place. We do love these lands. We all still live within the British Isles, but we are now just Sea Power.” You can read the full statement on their reasons on their website, where they also add, “We’ve always been internationalist in our mindset, something made clear in songs like ‘Waving Flags,’ an anthem to pan-European idealism. We always wanted to be an internationalist band but maybe having a specific nation state in our name wasn’t the cleverest way to demonstrate that. We very much hope the band’s audience won’t be affronted by this adjustment to the name.”

At the end of the day, despite the name adjustment, the band remains the same and Everything Was Forever could end up being their most warmly received album in years. The album’s first single, “Two Fingers,” was one of our Songs of the Week. In a press release, Jan said the song was inspired by his late dad. “He was always giving a two-fingered salute to people on the telly—a kind of old-fashioned drinking term, toasting people or events: ‘I’ll drink two fingers to that,’ to some news item or to memories of a childhood friend. In the song it’s a toast to everyone, remembering those in our lives and those sadly no longer here and to making the world a better place. The song is ‘F*** me, f*** you, f*** everything.’ But it’s also ‘Love me, love you, love everything’—exultation in the darkness. If you say ‘f*** you’ in the right way, it really can be cathartic, a new start.”

A cathartic new start might be a good description for where Sea Power are at right now. Read on as Jan discusses how he would and wouldn’t like to die, being shot into space, what songs he’d like played at his deathbed and funeral, his favorite endings, and his amazing dog.

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

I’ve got to go before my faculties go. My grandma had dementia and had a stroke and was in a home for ages. That’s a shit end to a glorious life. It’s not a situation I’d like to be in, nor want to burden anyone with. Me and my wife have joked about going to a country that would euthanize us both together, a big dose of morphine holding hands. Hopefully it will be an age where we can be fired into space in a little pod.

What song would you like to be playing at your deathbed?

Oh jeez. I didn’t expect this to get so dark so quick! Haha. Maybe if we’re being “put to sleep” and on morphine then I’d go for “Reflector” by Bing & Ruth. It’s such a beautiful piece of music. If we’re in the space pod it would be even better.

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

“The Birdie Song.” Funerals are so heavy, I think I’d like to make everyone laugh and not make it such a mournful day.

What’s your favorite ending to a movie?

I just rewatched Scarface. That’s a classic. Absolutely bonkers. I forgot how good Al Pacino is in that film.

What’s your favorite last line in a book?

George Orwell: Animal Farm. “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

What’s your favorite series finale last ever episode of a TV show?

My memory isn’t good for this kind of thing. Recently, Chernobyl was a pretty good ending, and I’ve just finished series one of the German science fiction series Dark. I like the unresolved endings, they stay with you longer.

What’s your favorite last song on an album?

“After Hours” by The Velvet Underground. After the chaos of the penultimate song “Murder Mystery” it’s such a breath of fresh air. I like the innocent jaunty nature of the song mixed with the 6 a.m.-hedonistic lyrics. Mo Tucker’s voice is so sweet.

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

Maybe Nick Drake’s Pink Moon. What a unique voice and gorgeous sounding album. I love being transported to the Nick Drake world.

What’s your favorite way a band broke up?

I read that The Smiths broke up because Morrissey wanted to cover the Cilla Black song “Work is a Four Letter Word.” It’s probably not completely true, and there’s more to it, but it I like how daft it sounds. At the time I think Cilla was hosting Blind Date one of the early non-glossy ’80s dating shows. Big Hair and Big Glasses.

Whose passing has most affected you?

It’s people close to me. Grandparents. I don’t get devastated when artists or actors die. You see these outpourings of grief when famous people die but I just don’t feel anything really. I might be dead inside, I don’t know. Haha.

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

Fun food. Maybe one really, really, really long piece of spaghetti. 50 meters or more.

What’s your concept of the afterlife?

Gone. Dust. Returned to the universe.

What would be your own personal version of heaven if it exists?

In reality, no-one being left behind. Fantasy wise, living on an archipelago, warm water with coral reefs, lots of raw nature, tropical plants and animals, and no hangovers.

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

To be made to listen to someone’s boring self-obsessed monologue for eternity, whilst in an abattoir.

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

A bird probably. Flying seems like it would be something I could enjoy. One that can soar high in the altitudes.

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

Teaching my dog tricks. She can jump in my arms, pretend to die when I shoot her, and pretend to be sad.

What would you like your last words to be?

Well, it’s unlikely to be death row, but in the event, I hope it’s “The spaghetti could have had more sauce on”—gzzzzgzgzzzzzzggzzgzgzzzz.

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