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Interview: The Clash’s Paul Simonon has a new project with Galen Ayers

[A contribution from Gilles LeBlanc. – AC]

What do you get when you cross one of punk rock’s most iconic figures with a much younger, French-born singer-songwriter?

If your answer is one of the most unexpectedly beautiful duet albums of the year, you’d be absolutely right. The pair in question here is Paul Simonon – yes, he of bass-smashing London Calling fame – as well as lovely music activist Galen Ayers, daughter of Soft Machine founder Kevin Ayers.

Their collaboration is called Can We Do Tomorrow Another Day?, and if you’ve ever wanted to do a whirlwind tour of Europe without the hassle of having to get on a plane, well then this is for you. As they told me over a Zoom call back in the dead of winter, Simonon escaped back into London during Brexit as he put it, where a friend told him Galen was staying at his place. After an affable conversation about music involving a guitar it didn’t take long for the new acquaintances to start wondering what an album from the two of them would sound like, regardless of their differences in age. Let’s be challenging, but above all let’s be honest Ayers added, not wanting to put pressure on this burgeoning relationship. “Within two weeks we knew we were onto something good”.

And it wasn’t just the two of them who saw they had instant chemistry. Before long a crackerjack team had assembled behind them, anchored by longtime Bowie producer Tony Visconti. Backing artists include Simon Tong from previous Simonon project The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Dan Donovan from Big Audio Dynamite and Sebastian Rochford who’s played with David Byrne and Patti Smith. It was recorded at Damon Albarn’s Studio 13, with the Blur and Gorillaz founder even contributing on melodica. It’s an appropriate instrument given the eclectic range Can We Do Tomorrow Another Day? features; Galen & Paul as they’re being billed effortless alternate between English and Spanish, gorgeous and gravelly as if they’ve been performing together for years. Prepare to have your passport repeatedly stamped from the moment you press play and get lost over the course of ten songs. I got a transatlantic snigger when I asked if closing track “A Sea Shanty” had anything to do with how they had been a trend on TikTok for a hot minute.

Can We Do Tomorrow Another Day? will be streamable worldwide under “Galen & Paul” as of May 19th. I can see it finding an audience in Toronto simply on account of the multicultural nature of the city. This is what Simonon remembers in particular from the times he visited here, as opposed to seats being ripped out at the old O’Keefe Centre when The Clash were there in 1979. The vibrant energy emitted by Toronto’s numerous ethnic communities, Caribbeans in particular, made him and his bandmates feel like they never left London’s South Brixton area.

Even though she describes herself as “a European at heart,” Ayers can also claim to have an awfully cool Canadian connection. The chanteuse lived for a spell on the Greek island of Hydra where she was neighbours with the one and only Leonard Cohen.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38410 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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