Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Portrait of the artist / Will Alsop / 'I've learned never to trust anyone with big feet and a small head'

 'I'd like to do a gap year' ... Alsop painting in his studio
 Photograph by Sarah Lee

Portrait of the artist

Will Alsop
'I've learned never to trust anyone with big feet and a small head'

Interview by Natalie Hanman
Tuesday 24 October 2006 12.03 BST

The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Thursday October 26 2006
The architect who gave Will Alsop the advice that Alsop quoted in the interview below, was Cedric (not Sedrick) Price.

In 1,000 years' time, what will your buildings tell us about the year 2006?
I'd be very surprised if they were still standing. That very fact would tell you how much society decided to spend on their buildings at that time.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Winning the Hôtel du Départment building in Marseille, where it came down to two architects, and the other was Norman Foster.
If you weren't an architect, what would you be?

A sculptor. I seriously considered doing that when I was younger, and it's something I adore.
What would you most like to forget?
2004, because that was the year the Fourth Grace [the 'Cloud Building', planned for Liverpool's waterfront] I was working on was abandoned, and it would have been a great building. I felt a deep loss.
What tip would you give to a tourist about Britain's arts scene?
Find out where people meet to eat and drink, and go there. Museums and galleries don't reflect what is going on in the arts scene in Britain today.

What song would feature on the soundtrack to your life?
Bob Dylan's Girl From the North Country.
Who or what have you sacrificed for your art?
My wife.
Are you fashionable?
No, neither in myself nor my work. Fashionability is not a consideration for architects.
Who would you most like to work with?
The French architect Jean Lavallée.
What cultural form leaves you cold or confused?
Rap. It all sounds the same unless you spend the time trying to listen. When I do, I don't understand what they are talking about.
What would you do with £1m?
I lust after one of those two-seater Bentleys. I'd like to do a gap year - go round the world, in the Bentley, with my wife.
Who's the next you?
Possibly Sean Griffiths of FAT [Fashion Architecture Taste].
Is the internet good for art?
I think so. Art becomes more accessible to a larger number of people, but there is no substitute for actually going to a building.
What are you doing tonight?

Sitting in the garden, drinking like mad.
What work of art would you most like to own?
The Endless Column by Brancusi.
What's holding you back?
In the UK, a general lack of clients with true architectural ambition.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Cedric Price, who I used to work with, told me: "You should never trust anyone with big feet and a small head." I always thought it was a funny thing to say, but I've found it to be true.
In brief

1947, Northampton




Creator of modernist buildings, distinguished by their use of bright colours and unusual forms. Established Alsop & Lyall with John Lyall in 1981

High point

Peckham library in south London

Low point

Plans for the 'Cloud Building' on Liverpool's waterfront were cancelled two years ago due to rising costs and unrealistic design. Soon after, his practice went into receivership

Portrait of the artist / Siri Hustvedt / 'I don't read reviews'

Portrait of the artist / Michael Rosen / 'Kids don't get the chance to enjoy poetry'

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tom Jones / This much I know / I might have become a miner like my father

Tom Jones

This much I know

I might have become a miner like my father

Tom Jones, singer, 66, London

Interview by Barbara Ellen
Sunday 22 October 2006 23.57 BST

I've always had the voice, I've always sung, ever since I was small - in school, in chapel, to the radio. I don't really know life without it.
I lived in Wales for the first 24 years of my life and it stood me in good stead, gave me values. But that's also a lot to do with your upbringing. It could be working-class, it could be middle-class, but you've got to have love and attention, and I did, I was lucky.
I might have become a miner like my father, but I had tuberculosis when I was 12. I couldn't go out between the ages of 12 and 14. It was a big lesson - not to take life for granted. I said to myself, when I get out of this bed, I'll never complain about anything ever again. But I do.

Jones duetting with Janis Joplin in the television program This Is Tom Jones in 1969

I'm never scared to try new things. When you do something and the kids dig it, it's great. It's not about trying to be young, or something you're not, because they always see through that.
You need to have a bit of an ego in this business.
When you first get successful you spend a bit - big house, cars, jewellery, all the trappings.
But after a while you think, how many watches can one man have?
I've been misquoted many times about women. I'd be asked about growing up and I'd say that my father went to work, and my mother was a home-maker. Then it was, 'Tom Jones thinks men should work and women should look after the house.' But I didn't say that.
Elvis was an icon. For him to tell me he liked my voice meant a lot. It was the same when Frank Sinatra told me he loved the way I sang.

I was never interested in drugs. I like to have a drink because I like the things that go with it - pubs, restaurants, having dinner. It's not just sitting in the corner with a bottle. That's how drug-taking seems to be: people going off on their own to the toilet to do it.
Getting a knighthood was fantastic. You look into yourself - am I worthy of this? I find I don't swear as much as I used to.

When you do shows you feel as if you're pouring yourself into the audience, and when they applaud it's as if they're saying, 'We know, we get it.' It's so reassuring.

I don't like bad behaviour just because you're rich or famous. I remember early on I had to get there really early for my TV show and I was moaning away. When I arrived there was this building site, and this kid was going up a ladder carrying a hod, which is what I used to do. And he said, 'Hey Tommy, want to give me a hand with this?' I thought, Jesus Christ, I'm moaning, but he's going to be up and down that ladder all day.'
Even when I was younger I didn't look in mirrors much. I've got a good bone structure and I try to keep myself in shape, but I'm not vain.

If you're singing love songs, sexy songs, and the feelings aren't coming across, then there's something wrong. But if you're always doing it with a wink, that can catch up with you.
I'm not looking forward to retiring. The biggest fear for any performer is that it will be taken away from you. It's so much part of you, a physical thing, it's scary to think one day it won't be there any more. If I'm not able to sing, I won't know what to do.
There is no alternative to ageing - just death. The only reason I would like to be young is that you've got longer to live. But it's a great feeling to have grandchildren.

Carlos Santana  / ‘You can get high on what’s within you’
Georgia May Jagger / ‘With modelling, sometimes you’re punky, other times girly and sweet’
Tom Jones  / I might have become a miner like my father 
Tom Jones / ‘Fame allows you to release things that were already in you. It’s like drink in that respect’