Paul Simon is not a man who likes to dwell on the past. He was due to give EL PAÍS an interview the day after Donald Trump’s shock US election win, but cancelled: “devastated” was how his manager described the singer, saying he had stayed in bed. Then, two days on, Simon was back on his feet and looking to the future.
“The debate can’t focus on Trump’s personality, but on the large number of people who feel tricked, forgotten, to the point of voting for him,” he says, his voice sounding tired at the other end of the telephone in his London hotel. “What has happened is a surprise, but to reclaim the national conversation we should start from there and look forward.”
Simon says he believes ‘Stranger to Stranger’ is his best album since 1986’s ‘Graceland’
Simon is on a European tour to promote his new album, Stranger to Stranger, that will see him play two Spanish dates after a 25-year absence: Bilbao on Thursday night and Madrid on Friday.
Turning to the subject of Trump’s election, Simon says he fears for the future. “I respect the people who voted for him, but all I see in him is this authoritarian guy, unscrupulous when it comes to looking at his country and the world,” he explains, adding: “I’m not angry with my country, but with the results of the election. We have to pay attention now to what has happened. The question is: what is happening to us as a country? Nobody would ever have thought that somebody like him would have come to power, but it has happened. There are no rules in the Constitution for these things.”
Simon is a lifelong Democratic Party supporter, allowing Bernie Sanders to use one of his best-known songs, “America,” during his campaign for the party’s presidential nomination. He believes Sanders would have stood a better chance against Trump than Hillary Clinton. “In any event, I’m more worried about what this guy is going to do to the planet than to my country. For example, he doesn’t believe in the environment. He could cause more than one tragedy with his vision of nature,” he says.
Asked about his new album, Simon says he believes it to be his best since 1986’s Graceland. “I’m very proud of it, of how my voice sounds, as well as my use of my knowledge both at the technological and philosophical level,” adding: “On this album there is even a search for flamenco rhythms. I like it a lot, but I recognize that it is very hard for me. It is something passionate, fascinating… You can see it like the blues in the southern United States.”
As the conversation draws to a close, Simon insists again on the importance of not looking backward, unless it is to learn something so as to move forward. He certainly doesn’t want to talk about Simon and Garfunkel. “We spent many years together, but people don’t ask me much about it. They have no expectations because there has never been the chance of a reunion or anything like that. I play songs from that time at my concerts, and that’s that.”
English version by Nick Lyne.