Losing My Edge: we asked Bill Ryder-Jones what his favourite song is, really

Each month we ask an artists to share what's actually their favourite song. Bill Ryder-Jones is the only person so far who has performed his selection live to us

LC: Hiya Bill. Now, this feature often focuses on so-called ‘guilty pleasure’ songs – but you’ve chosen Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’, which to my mind is pretty cool. Do you see it like that?

BRJ: Yeah. I mean, I don’t feel much guilt about music, but I could’ve gone with Bon Jovi if I was gonna do something like that.

LC: Go on.

BRJ: I just like Bon Jovi, man. There’s no reason why I should, but I do. I just think his songs are really catchy. Unashamed about it, you know – [Belts out the chorus of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’] – I don’t know how he writes them.

Anyway though, with ‘Born Slippy’ I wanted to talk about why those opening two chords are so interesting. I was gonna remind myself of the interval this morning but my computer’s being an arse, give me a sec…

[The phone goes quiet]

Hang on a sec.

[Shuffling, then some electric piano in the distance]

Just working out what it is.

[The opening ‘Born Slippy’ chords drift down the line, distorted by the connection but unmistakable]

So yeah, I like it when songs start with chords that I’m unfamiliar with, and that’s such a strange thing they’ve done there. It’s not crazy; but there’s an E flat major [plays it down the phone], then it goes to what you’d call a first-inversion B flat major [plays], but there’s this C, like a second. I’d never really heard anyone do that. It’s like ‘Unfinished Sympathy’, you just hear it and it’s like, “Well, that’s iconic.” To the point where I don’t really care what the song’s about – “Lager, lager, lager…”

LC: So that intro grabbed you immediately.

BRJ: Yeah, and it’s funny, because electronic music doesn’t usually touch me that deeply. I like the sound of it, but it tends to not be very melodic or harmonic – in my limited understanding at least. But I only heard ‘Born Slippy’ on Trainspotting, and it’s really rare for me to be like, “Fucking hell that’s cool” straightaway. I had to work out what those chords were – and I’ve recycled them a load of times.

Anyway, that Bon Jovi song where he’s singing about being a cowboy on a motorbike [‘Wanted Dead or Alive’] is equally as important to me. I was dead into Robin Hood [Prince of Thieves, 1991] when it came out, and Bon Jovi fits in with that Bryan Adams tune [‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’] from the soundtrack.

LC: Are you much of a karaoke guy? Because you’ve got some belters here.

BRJ: I’ve done it once. I try to avoid singing as much as possible.

LC:  When you did do it, what was the song?

BRJ: I did the whole of the Grease soundtrack. Which is probably why I’ve never wanted to step back into that arena since. It was at an ex-girlfriend’s birthday party, and I was like, “Right, you fucking shits” – you know when you’ve had a couple too many shandies – “who’s gonna be fucking Zuko? Because I’m Sandy. And Rizzo.”

LC: You don’t sound like the kind of person who cares what other people think of their music taste.

BRJ: Oh, fuck no. I don’t give a shit, it’s none of their business. There’s too much guilt around – there’s that Peep Show quote, about feeling guilty about which pair of boxers you’re gonna wear: “I’m sorry, stripy blue, you’re just too tight.” Feeling guilt about something that makes you happy like that – it’s just a waste of time. Like, I fucking love Meatloaf. Whenever I hear Meatloaf, I’m like, “You clever bastard.” All that stuff reminds me of being in the car as an early teen when Oasis had just come out; back then I probably felt a bit guilty for liking ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’, but now… it’s not like ‘Live Forever’ is a better song than ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ is it? I certainly wouldn’t say so.

Anyway, just make sure it’s clear that I don’t feel guilty about anything musical. Apart from one song of mine. I should never have written that.