Jarvis Cocker has teamed up with the electronic DJ Riton to release what he calls “the world’s first sustainable banger” to encourage action to address the climate crisis.
Let’s Stick Around, released on Thursday to coincide with Cop26, brings together one of the figureheads of Britpop with a powerhouse of electronic dance music. “Anybody with any sense is passionate about the climate emergency, it’s moving more into the centre of everybody’s consciousness,” Cocker said.
The former Pulp frontman was approached to do the vocals last year by the Grammy-nominated Riton and Ben Rymer, who together make up Gucci Soundsystem.
“It seemed appropriate to unleash it on an unsuspecting world during Cop26,” Cocker said. “A lot of debates in the modern world devolve into people shouting at each other from opposite corners of a room. The idea was that anybody could dance to this song and agree with it. That’s what music does so well. It brings people together.”
Cocker has long been an advocate for climate action. His concerts have featured stalls for Extinction Rebellion, some of whose members joined him on the Q awards red carpet in 2019.
He said it was “hard to get a sense of the stilted announcements” at Cop26, which involved a lot of “discussions behind closed doors … There’s still the idea that there’s an elite of people who are going to tell you how the world works.” An issue such as climate change that affects everyone also needed to include everyone, he said.
Cocker, who is performing in Glasgow on Thursday with his solo band Jarv Is …, lamented the fact that air travel was cheaper than rail. “I’m getting the train to Glasgow, but while that’s the situation, nothing’s going to change that much.”
He said climate solutions should not hinge on asking people to give things up, “because it’s never going to work. It’s about doing things differently, like the experimentation with hydrogen fuel. Aeroplanes aren’t going to disappear, it’s just daft to think that people aren’t going to go on holiday any more.”
His song (Cunts Are Still) Running the World has become an epic singalong on his current tour, but Cocker said he had been in two minds over whether to include it in the setlist. The late Tony Benn had taken him to task over the track, warning against cynicism and nihilism. “He said you’ve got to believe in the democratic process. I took that to heart. But unfortunately, I still feel that the song is appropriate.”
Earlier this year Cocker released an album of French music to accompany Wes Anderson’s latest film, The French Dispatch. But the Sheffield-born singer, who has spent much of his life in Paris, where his son is based, said it was dispiriting that musicians were still having trouble touring in Europe post-Brexit.
“It’s still really complicated and expensive,” he said. “Normally we would be preparing after this tour to do some shows in Europe.”
Cocker said Pulp’s Common People, one of the biggest-selling records of the 90s – with lyrics centred on a meeting at Central Saint Martins – might not have been written today if government plans to limit the number of arts students go ahead.
“This idea that arts is not a proper job or a proper thing to study is stupid,” he said. “Creativity is the centre of the human experience. The first things that show you that people were alive are cave paintings or little bone carvings. It’s how humans say we exist. It’s not some kind of fringe pursuit.
“My life would have been so different if I hadn’t had that opportunity to go to Saint Martins at the time that I did. But that kind of opportunity isn’t open to people from my kind of background any more. And that just makes me very angry and very sad.”