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Graham Coxon: "I was trying to be an actor within the music; to not be Graham Coxon"

Netflix hit The End Of The F***ing World is a coming-of-age tale full of mischief and murder, soundtracked by none other than Graham Coxon.
Published: 10:43 am, April 23, 2018
Graham Coxon: "I was trying to be an actor within the music; to not be Graham Coxon"
"I'm James, I'm 17, and I'm pretty sure I'm a psychopath." So introduces Alex Lawther's character in the opening scene of The End Of The F***ing World. What follows is a coming of age tale encompassing adventure, amusement, murder, romance, and more besides that's as human as it is surreal. With a sense of humour, striking imagery, and a soundtrack by Graham Coxon, the Channel 4/Netflix series has been met with rave reviews across the board.

"After the first episode I don't think either of the characters are particularly charming," Graham Coxon chuckles, reflecting on his first impression of the show's protagonists. "They're like a couple of spoilt brats," he laughs. "But then by episode two or three their characters really start to blossom, and they become quite funny." Over the duration of eight episodes, viewers are invited to join James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Barden) on their quest to escape from their homes and find their place in the increasingly messed up world that surrounds them.

"I kind of started accepting them a little bit, and loving the characters more, so the songs became more sympathetic as well," Graham reflects. From the romance of 'Walking All Day' through the disconnection of 'Angry Me', and beyond, it's the relatable nature of these songs – and the world they paint themselves a part of – that makes them so endearing. "Anyone who knows my songs, it's not a very untypical statement," Graham comments. "It seemed to fit the characters."

"pull" text="I quite like working to a brief; there's less pressure

Learning about the characters and their story through his writing, Graham Coxon set about creating a soundtrack that could truly feel like a part of the world these individuals are navigating. "When I started working on the music, all the episodes weren't finished, so I didn't know what was going to happen," the musician states. "I didn't want to know." As such, the soundtrack is one that changes episode to episode, evolving and growing – much like the characters – before your eyes.

"I'd never done it, so I didn't know how things were done," Graham comments of his first venture into soundtracking. "Mostly I was just getting a little bit of the situation in my head and then writing songs – not directly to action, but as if they were being used like the other songs from the 50s and 60s." Fitting alongside the likes of Hank Williams and The Spencer Davis Group might seem like a tall order, but it's something Graham Coxon manages to achieve with an energy that feels nothing short of natural.

"My idea was to write these songs as if they had already been around and then they'd been picked to put into the soundtrack," he describes. "I was trying to be an actor myself, really, within the music. I was trying to not be Graham Coxon. I was trying to perform as different people." Writing for the setting rather than for himself gave the musician the opportunity to turn his hand to his own unique form of time travel.

"I wanted to be someone who sang songs from 1968, and then I wanted to be someone who sang sloppy acoustic music from the early 90s," he explains. "I wanted to be someone who was a bit art pop from the late 70s, and then I wanted to be someone creating big soundscapes with slide guitars and things like that." The influence might be era-spanning, but everything on the soundtrack still feels distinctly a part of the world the show has created.

"I wanted to have that element of Americana, but one of those happy diners you get in Essex, you know?" Graham offers, laughing. "I think I kind of liked a certain amount of detachment from the music and the action," he details. "If it's too literal, or too narrative, the music, I think it gets a bit cluttered. I think vagueness is a friend when it comes to that, really." While the songs don't tell a story themselves, each one was purpose-built to fit the scenes it accompanies.

"I discovered I quite like working to a brief," Graham enthuses. "There's less pressure," he explains. "It's like if someone says 'what shall I draw?' and they're told 'draw anything you like'. But if someone says 'draw a cat,' or 'draw something that has four legs,' then I suppose it's a bit easier." Written to scripts and rough edits of episodes, the soundtrack is a perfect compliment to the settings and situations the series creates.

"I was amazed when I actually sat down and watched it when it was on Channel 4 the first time around," Graham expresses. "It was really nice to watch it like that, to try and divorce myself from it a little bit and just watch it like I watch normal TV. It was just odd hearing my voice here and there." An entirely new experience for the musician, all the work involved certainly paid off as the show has been met with critical and commercial success across the board. "I didn't know what to think," Graham laughs. "I just thought it'd be a kind of strange and funny and dark humoured drama series that a bunch of people might like. I didn't really know or expect it to be that popular."

"pull" text="It was really nice to watch; it was just odd hearing my voice here and there

Having been met with such adulation, speculation about a second series of The End Of The F***ing World has long been rife. But with such an iconic ending to the first series, the form a second would take remains impossible to predict. "Who knows what it would be about if there was one?" Graham questions. "It might not even be the same characters. It might be something completely different," he poses. "If there was to be something like that, yeah, of course, I'd like to be involved with it," he enthuses, though he's quick to add that (as of yet) "there's been no talk of it."

Regardless, The End Of The F***ing World stands as one of the brightest British TV gems in recent years. For Graham, working on the production acted as its own reward. "I'm still, after all these years, completely amazed by recording processes," he marvels. "I think it's a miracle that I can come up to my little room, and then after an afternoon or a day's work, there are these three or four new pieces of music. I was just creating music every day." More than another mode of creativity, working on this soundtrack saw Graham Coxon at his most creative yet.

"When I haven't got anything that's really pressing like that, I just learn more about what I want to do," he details. "I try things out, and I research stuff that I want to do, learning how to use certain bits of equipment or whatever." With a second series of the show still just speculation, what follows from here is still unwritten. "Maybe I should get two screens and make silly little movies and put music to them so I can practice," Graham laughs. And why not? As Alyssa poses on the characters' first drive together, "we can literally do anything, James. Anything we want."

Taken from the May issue of Dork - order a copy or subscribe below. The End of the F***ing World soundtrack score is out now.

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