Heard the one about Britain's biggest rock star meeting Britain's biggest comedian~ Chris Martin quoted lick My love Pump. Ricky Gervais took the piss. Mercilessly.
WORDS: JOHNNY DAVIS PHOTOGRAPHS: JAMES D1MMOCK
"IS THIS KABBALAH?" giggles Ricky Gervais, tugging on one of the many pieces of patently secular strings adorning Chris Martin's left wrist. Martin shoots him a withering look. This is how it is when the Coldplay singer meets the man behind Extras and The Office. There's lots of mickey-taking. Gervais mocks Martin. And Martin mocks Martin, too. "I've got a jumper - would you like to borrow it?" offers Martin in response to Gervais complaining he feels cold.
"What's it like?" asks Gervais.
"It's got a big C and a G on the front and a picture of some apples," drawls Martin.
They'd only bumped into each other briefly before - sharing the bill at a 2004 Make Trade Fair concert - but sounded each other out on the telephone prior to this meeting.
Together, they chat away amiably enough, Gervais having brought along a copy of his new children's book, More Flanimals, as a gift, possibly a small bribe in his war of attrition to get Martin to agree to appear in his next TV show. For his part, Martin is bright-eyed and
bushy-haired, having just stepped off a plane from America, where he's enjoying his first downtime in many months.
They've plenty in common: Coldplay formed at London's UCL university, not
long after Gervais vacated his post as the institution's entertainment manager to join XFM, where he met Stephen Merchant and went on to write The Office. This year, they've both risen to the challenge of following up hugely successful endeavours. Gervais's Extras starred a bevy of Hollywood A-listers and was enthusiastically received by fans and critics alike. Coldplay's X&Y elevated the band to a whole new league and is one of 2005's defining albums. Both are loved by America.
And, as we shall see, they share something of a soft spot for This Is Spinal Tap, too.
Chris Martin: I want to start like this: let me tell you the story of Coldplay. Two young men who prove that, with resilience and determination, anything's possible. In 1998, me and my best friend Jonny [Buckland] worked as cleaners on
Tottenham Court Road. We used to have to clean people's apartments. They'd all left for America - they were short-term lets - so they'd always leave food and, cos we didn't have much money, we would eat the rest of their cornflakes and listen to Ricky on XFM. Ricky Gervais: Really?
CM: Before you got fired. [Gervais actually took voluntary redundancy.]
RG: That's a lovely story.
CM: It proves that, even when you're a cleaner and a washed-up DJ, you can still get somewhere.
Why did you agree to do this?
CM: [Spaced comedian] Simon Pegg is one of my best friends and he's never allowed me to see other comedians. Especially because The Office got more awards than Spaced. Unfairly. But Simon's in America now, so that's why we're meeting. He's doing Mission: Impossible 3. He's gone big-time.
RG: Is he? I was offered that. CM: Don't say that.
It's very LIBERATING NOT
, TO BE COOl... CHRIS MARTIN
I was, yeah. [Director] JJ Abrams wanted me to be in it, but I couldn't because I was doing ...
CM: Why are you saying this?
So he's taken the part you turned down? RG: Oh, I bet he has ... no! No, we don't know that. At all. It was probably the other part they had for an English comedian.
Chris, did you watch Extras?
CM: [Sulkily] Uh-huh.l've seen three of them. RG: Q need more than that. God, I was hoping this was going to be good ...
CM: But you can't say Simon's taken your part. RG: I didn't say that. He said that! I said I was offered Mission: Impossible 3 ...
CM: So it was a different part?
RG: Of course it was! We've got nothing in common. Don't be so sensitive.
CM: Aren't you friends with Simon? You came up together. He's the face of British comedy. You're more the body [laughs). I think Extras is better than The Office. That's my opinion.
RG: I want that as the headline to this piece!
"I think Extras is better than The Office - Chris Martin. Coldplay. World's Biggest Band."
Would you be willing to be in the next series of Extras, Chris?
CM: No. You can't do adverts and you can't do acting if you're a singer.
RG: We only just started work [on the second series of Extras] this week and you're the first person I've called and asked. Think of that. I've got other ideas, you know.
CM: It's an ego rub. I was watching Hook, you know, the Steven Spielberg film [featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, aged 19], and 10 minutes in a detective arrives to investigate a break-in, and the detective is Phil Collins. And that
was just after you offered us that part. And
I thought, "No."
'I'M SICK OF THIS FUCKING TWO-SYLLABLE, OOH, TROUBLE, YELLOW, WlBBLE ...' RICKY GERVAIS
This year, you both had to follow up huge successes. How do you think it went?
RG: I think the only way you can avoid Difficult Second Album Syndrome is to make the first album rubbish. Also, I think it's unfair that two series of The Office and the Christmas special count as my album and he throws 10 songs together and that's an album. Ten three-minute songs? That's 30 minutes. That's one episode!
CM: What about that band you were in? Antigone Rising? Saracen's Haircut?
[Seona Dancing, Ricky's brief career as an '80s new romantic.]
RG: [Changing subject] I went to [This Is Spinal TapiA Mighty Wind creator] Christopher Guest's house.
CM: No way! Are you in his new film?
RG: Yeah. It's called For Your Consideration. He's got the original [piece ofpaper] in perspex of them coming up with the name Spinal Tap and it's, like, fifth on the list. There's another one, and I laughed for about 20 minutes at
this ... [barely able to say it] Jumbo Prawns. Oh God! [Beside himself with hysterics.]
CM: Do you think you could out-quote me on Spinal Tap?
RG: I'll have a go. It's a good competition ... CM: But it's nerdiness. Pure nerdiness. We mustn't be nerdy in this article.
RG: No. You've got an image to keep up.
CM: I know. [Mimes snorting cocaine] "Snorts line." Put that in brackets. But you asked about the follow-up thing. I mean, I feel really strangely about our album. I think it's probably the same for Ricky and it will be the same for Simon in his next film ...
RG: Pegg's getting a few plugs, isn't he? He didn't even turn up.
CM: He's the best comedian in LA today. RG: Ha hal Christopher Guest's in LA right now.
CM: Well, I think Simon's as good as that. And anyone who disagrees is a cunt.
RG: That's not the headline. The headline is still: "I think Extras is better than The Office." CM: Listen, I permanently feel like we've got everything to prove. Now more than ever.
I'm being 100 per cent sincere. I spend all my time writing. Because I'm obsessed that we've got to get better.
RG: I haven't got any peer pressure. I haven't got much in common with people working in England today and that's nothing to do with them being ...
RG: No, not at all. I just don't feel it's a competition. But you were joking with me earlier, saying, "[Fix You] was a flop, it got to Number 4." And I know you were joking, because it's not a flop. But when you've had Number 1s, I suppose you do think ...
CM: We've never had a Number 1.
RG: Haven't you? What was the highest? CM:Two.
RG: Oh right. But ... what was Yellow? CM:Four.
Ricky, as entertainment manager at the UCL Union, would you have booked Coldplay?
RG: Yeah, of cqurse. Actually, I think I lost your first demo tape.
CM: I'm sure you did. We certainly didn't hear it on your show. We used to drop it off at XFM every week. There was this thing called Demo Clash. Every week we'd be cleaning arid it would be, like, [excitable DJ voice] "Next up, a four-piece from North London," and we'd be like [panting], "It's us! It's us!" and they'd be
" .. .it's the Llama Farmers!" Every week we'd get beaten by the Llama Farmers.
RG: But you were too sophisticated. You came out ready ...
CM: Well, there was a song called Ode To Deodorant on our first demo. It was terrible. RG: I think X&Y is your best album. I'm sick of fucking Yellow and Trouble and all this two syllable [girly voice] "Ooh, Trouble, Yellow, Wibble ... "
CM: Have you heard of [Australian children's group] The Wiggles? We just finished this tour in America and we played to ... a load of people.
And it was overwhelmingly great ...
CM: Wait - and we played a few nights at Madison Square Garden that sold out really fast...
CM: So we were, like, "OK, we're really the big boys." And then we got told yesterday that The Wiggles have sold it out for a week, doing three shows a day. RG:Haha!
CM: And they have a song called Yummy, Yummy, Fruit Salad. It sold, like, a million copies.
RG: Them and Crazy Frog. You're being kicked around.
'A THREESOME'S ALWAYS A NICE OFFER.' CHRIS MARTIN
CM: We get pummelled. Yesterday, I thought about doing a novelty song called Burp. RG:Don't.
CM: What about a song called Squeeze My Juicebox?
RG: [Sudc;Jenly serious] You see, what I like about Coldplay is that you are a little bit above it. You're down the line. You've left desperation and irony behind.
CM: We're not above anything. A lot of people really don't like us any more. Like I said to you on the phone the other day ... [explaining] because I was mildly upset we keep getting a beating off a few people and I can't understand why. People attack me, personally. I called Ricky and I said, "You know, you must have had the same thing, with Extras. The Office was so big and I bet people were down on it." And he was like, "No, we got totally great press. Except The Mirror. And even they
CM: You didn't help at all. Maybe you're just faultless. What was your favourite episode of Extras to do? Why is the Ben Stiller one not quite as good as the rest?
RG: That's a great question.
CM: Why, though?
RG: Er, well, I don't know. Urn, obviously it's nothing to do with Ben Stiller.
Didn't you switch the running order at the
RG: Exactly. The first episode was originally Ross Kemp. We swapped it because HBO [TV company showing Extras in the US, who deduced Stiller was a better opening sell than Kemp] swapped the order. So [on the DVD] we're putting it back to the original order:
Ross Kemp, Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet... [Teasing] I love that light thing, by the way [pretends to swing something around head; as in the Fix You video]. And I like it when you jump at the end. Your little jump. You're like Bruce Foxton.
CM: Who? What, from [fashionable Londonl Surrey company] Foxtons estate agents?
RG: [Screaming with laughter] From a little
group called TheJam?! CM: Oh, right. Ha hal
RG: You know Bruce, do you? Works in Foxtons estate agents? Which one is that? Is that the one on Chalk Farm Road? Brilliant. Yeah. How is he? Is he still playing bass? CM: Don't put that in.
RG: That's hysterical! I love that! [Doubled up] The rock'n'rolllifestyle! Oh, lovely.
Ricky, you were asked to be the butler in a remake of Magnum, PI. Do you both get offered inappropriate stuff?
RG: [To Martin] You get offered things like being in Extras.
CM: We get some weird shit, too. I mean, a threesome's always a nice offer.
RG: There's three of us.
CM: I met a guy once who said he had had a threesome. But he said it was two blokes and a girl. But to me, that would be a halfsome.
RG: A halfsome!
CM: I just wanted to say that. Can people write in and say if they agree with that? Because he's not even slightly gay. I don't see how it's a threesome.
. What about the gold bullion thieves who stole your identity this year, Ricky?
RG: How did you hear that? It's on the internet? Oh, OK. What happened was, some people pretended to be me, to buy gold. What they did was, they stole a passport and changed the picture. The picture they put in was me on the front cover of The Office. So it's David Brent like that [Brent pose]. And funnily enough they got caught! That would be great, wouldn't it? The bank goes, "Are you really Ricky Gervais?" and they go [does The Dance, with sound effects] and they give them the gold and they get away.
CM: What's the deal with gold? Is it actually still a valid form of currency?
RG: I don't know. Ask your mate Bruce Foxton. He keeps his hand in with stuff like that.
CM: Listen, I've never been cool and I never intend to be cool and it's very liberating not to
be cool because you can make mistakes like that, about Bruce Foxton, and
I apologise for that. In print. I'm sorry.
RG: I think you are cool because you're not trying to be cool. There's a great thing in The Simpsons when Marge goes, "But, you know, isn't 'not being cool' cool?" and Bart and Lisa go, "No!" CM: How is that show so good for so many years?
RG: It's amazing, isn't it? Well, they're getting new great writers from overseas. CM: And you've just
Your episode is based on Wife Swap, right?
CM: Who do you wife swap with? Ned [Flanders]?
RG: No, no, no ... it's me and my wife.
CM: You're in it? Like, Ricky Gervais is in it? RG: He's called Charles. He's a David Brent type character. And I've written a Simpsons song. It was C, F, A minor, G. There you go. CM: [Works out chords on imaginary guitar] Nice. Do you like the [Spinal Tap] song Lick My Love Pump?
RG: Yeah, beautiful. D minor.
CM: We played that the other day in concert and nobody really got it.
How will Cold play develop? You've mentioned you'd like to work with Timbaland.
RG: What, the boots people?
CM: Yeah, the people who make boots.
RG: Bruce Foxton's got a brand new pair of Timbalands.
CM: Yeah, I thought what we need to do next is a CD that comes in a pair of durable walking boots, so you can listen to it when you're hiking. RG: You're going for the working-class vote now, aren't you? [Thinks] Who are your fans? CM: Ah, man, it's tricky. I don't think we'd
be anywhere if Radiohead didn't exist.
I think we're like why Diet Coke was big. Because some people couldn't handle Coke. That's how I see Coldplay.
RG: That's very humbling.
You talked this year about wanting to be bigger than U2.
CM: That's more of a way of thinking. In terms of trying to be emotionally honest. Basically, what I've learned at the moment ... [to Gervais] Why are you looking at your watch? Are you bored? I knew it.
RG: I'm not bored. I've got a lot of things to do. I'm a busy man. Go on. We were talking about U2 and Simon Pegg.
CM: Oh, I've fucking had enough. RG: Do you want an arm wrestle?
CM: [Trying again] I feel like we're entering a new phase as a band, so I don't want to tell anyone what our influences are. We've got so many things in development. I don't think people are going to necessarily like it very much. But we will. I'm excited by it.
RG: [Appropriating This Is Spinal Tap] You're not allowed to do experimental jazz in front of a festival crowd.
CM: [Quoting the next line] "On the bass ... Derek Smalls: he wrote this." Even the songs in Spinal Tap are incredible. I went surfing yesterday and all the time, in the water ...
RG: That's why people hate him. Cos he just
throws that in there, like it's a normal thing to do.
CM: Well, it was my first day off for five months. RG: People don't hate you. They don't know you like I know you. CM: Nobody likes a fat pop star. Anyway, I had this tune in my head the whole time thinking,
"That's a fucking brilliant
song." Then I realised it
was Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight by Spinal Tap.
CM & RG: [Singing] "Tonight I'm gonna rock youffonight I'm going to rock you ... "
CM: Have you met any politicians? Are you interested in any of that stuff?
RG: I haven't met any.
CM: What about when you were researching [stand-up show] Politics?
RG: Oh yeah, I was down the Houses of Parliament every day.
CM: You didn't do any research, did you?
RG: No. Did you do a lot of scientific research about the speed of sound?
RG: It's about 700 miles an hour, isn't it? CM: Well, when we're playing, it's slightly slower.
AFTERWARDS, THEY HAVE their photograph taken together. Martin remains unfazed by yet another photo session, but Gervais is like the proverbial kid on Christmas Day, throwing Brent shapes, lying on the floor and, at one point, picking up the Coldplay singer in his arms. Then Gervais is off, already late for a meeting the other side of town. "Lovely bloke," surmises Martin when he's out the door. Didn't find him a touch competitive beneath all the jokey banter? "Well, yes," agrees Martin. "But then, aren't we all?" (fl