Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur chats with Karl Wallinger of the band World Party, which performs at The Triple Door on Nov. 25, 2012.
Sorry, Karl Wallinger says when he is late for our phone appointment. He was on a boat on the Thames, working on a new video for his band World Party.
You forgive him, of course, because what’s 20 minutes more when you’ve waited years to hear from Wallinger, who has been the face, the sound and the heart of World Party since it started in 1986?
“We’ve been around and we’re coming back,” Wallinger said the other day. “We want to get the message to people that we’re not disappearing. That’s the game we’re on right now: Not disappearing.”
It doesn’t seem like audiences will let him. A recent show at London’s Royal Albert Hall drew 3,000 people, and tickets are selling quickly for the eight-city tour that kicks off Sunday at the Triple Door.
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“There was a lot of love in the air,” Wallinger said of the Royal Albert show. “It looked pretty good. Whatever it was, 10 people and a dog, I’ll play.”
Wallinger, 55, is touring in support of “Arkeology,” a five-disc compilation of rarities, B-sides, radio interviews, covers and three new songs that show his pop sensibilities are as stellar as they were in the ’80s, when he was a member of The Alarm and cult heroes The Waterboys.
His clever lyrics and hook-laden melodies (you can hear the Beatles’ influence all over his music) have served him well. World Party’s four albums spawned a series of hits, including “Ship of Fools,” “Put the Message in the Box” and “Is it Like Today?,” and the chart-topper “Way Down Now.”
“Arkeology” is Wallinger’s answer to those who urged him to create a box set commemorating the band’s 25th year. He resisted at first, not wanting to put out a clumsy shelf-hog that people didn’t know what to do with.
He decided to create something people actually could use, so he settled on a spiral-bound diary, which he designed with his adult children at his living-room table, scanning old photos, clippings and art.
The notations are classic Wallinger: The release date of Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian”; the date of the Beatles’ last live show; and “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Do Day,” which falls on July 25. Wallinger’s birthday.
The calendar was released in April and is already in its third and largest printing.
“I’m trying to relay the fact that reality is a good place to be,” Wallinger said. “And ‘Arkeology’ is a good part of that.”
Wallinger appreciates the everyday a little more than most.
In 2001, he was on a bike ride with his son, Louis, when he felt a severe headache. At home, he rested for a bit, and then got up and asked for an ambulance. In a matter of days, he was undergoing surgery for a brain aneurysm.
“I saw the inside of my head live in a TV screen,” he said. “That’s quite far out, like a fairground ride you had to pay a lot of money to get into.”
Wallinger has no right-side vision in either eye, which forced him to relearn how he plays the piano; he can’t see his right hand when he plays. And he now plays his guitar upside down.
“It still is affecting me today, getting around and everything,” Wallinger said of the aneurysm. “But I am a better player now than I was before it, musically and technically.
“In balance, it wasn’t all bad. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Get on with what you’re doing and do it well.”
He was to fly to Nashville earlier this week and rehearse with three new musicians, then fly with them to Seattle for the Triple Door gig, and a new beginning.
“Who knows how it will be,” Wallinger said. “But I find it quite exciting. We’re going to come and play and say hello. We’re not going to go away forever.
“We’re going to do as much playing as we can now because we’re not getting any younger. May as well do a few more laps before I peg out.”