Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner
With three thrilling Arctic Monkeys albums and one posh pop record for the Last Shadow Puppets, Alex Turner (pictured, second from the right) is considered, fairly unanimously, one of England’s greatest songwriters—at age 23. Last year, the Sheffield-born frontman moved to Brooklyn to live with his girlfriend, Alexa Chung, an MTV personality. We talked Monkeys nomenclature with the word lover.
Given the season, we should start with the title of the new Monkeys album, Humbug.
Are they playing Christmas carols in the shops yet?
Oh, they start that at Halloween.
True, yeah. I flew into England on Halloween and heard Wham’s “Last Christmas.” There’s a certain sort of discomfort that gives you, yeah?
Have you given thought to writing a carol?
Last year, actually, I wrote a Christmas tune. It was too late, really, to get it out. Also I was reluctant. It really is forever, that sort of tune. They get regurgitated every year.
The word humbug is so associated with Scrooge. Why’d you choose it?
It’s a funny thing, a title, like when you try to give yourself a nickname in school, like, you want everyone to call you Rocky—and it won’t stick. That was the case with Humbug. What finally made us call it that were its synonyms. When you look humbug up in the thesaurus, there are terrific results, like dupery. Taradiddle is another one. Bosh.
It’s also a type of candy in the U.K., right?
That’s the reason, yeah. The last album was a bit of a…jelly baby. This one’s a hard-boiled sweet.
You seem lured to certain words by how they roll off the tongue. Do you often discover a word and write around it?
Any new ones you like?
Decussate. Wait a minute, I’ve got the definition on me somewhere. It means [Reading], “Crossed in the form of an X. In the brain, many nerve fibers from one lateral region to the other decussate.”
Good luck putting that in a chorus.
I got drawn to the German word for wizard the other day: Zauberer. I translated that into English and it became magic. But then if you looked up magic in German, there was a side note that said lazy magic. And then the word for that was humbug. It was a mad dictionary dance that came back to humbug.
You must keep a notebook.
Yeah. I wrote a lot during the middle of the night. I’d wake up, jot things down, then get back to sleep. And some of them became songs about that time of day, when you’re not as alert. I’m still trying to figure out bits.
Now that you live in the U.S., what do you miss most about England?
Friends and people, of course. But crumpets. You can’t really get that, can ya?
I thought you’re supposed to be able to get anything in New York.
You can get vegan cigarettes. But you can’t get crumpets.
Arctic Monkeys play Riviera Theatre Sunday 6.