Karl Wallinger: World Leader Pretend

Karl Wallinger, leader and sole constant of U.K. pop/rock outfit World Party, sees only one flaw in operating his own record label: no record executives to rail against.

“There’s no A&R man or a team of people,” says Wallinger of Seaview, the label he runs with manager Arma Andon. “I’ve got to rebel against myself now.”

Wallinger has always operated the fluid World Party lineups like a benevolent dictatorship, so running the show isn’t anything new. He’s recently reissued the first four World Party albums—late-’80s/early-’90s alternative-rock hits Private RevolutionGoodbye Jumbo and Bang!, along with 1997’s overlooked gem Egyptology—and given an international release to 2000’s U.K.-only Dumbing Up. Remastered and bolstered with a DVD of archival footage, Dumbing Up is much like its predecessors: a homespun collection of Beatles- and Dylan-influenced pop marked by a contemporary dose of political and media watchdogging.

“It’s been quite a laugh the last few years hearing about people doing records in their bedrooms,” says Wallinger of Dumbing Up’s familiar sound. “That’s what I’ve always done.”

That Wallinger is currently working at all is something he doesn’t take lightly. Following a tumultuous period during which he severed ties with EMI, lost manager Steve Fargnoli to cancer and watched Robbie Williams hit it big covering World Party’s “She’s The One,” Wallinger was felled by an aneurysm in early 2001. Money from World Party’s catalog and the Williams cover kept Wallinger afloat financially. Spiritually, though, it was the will to make music that got him through.

“When I got ill, the doctors were asking if we had a downstairs toilet and could I have the bed in the living room because I’d have to be wheeled to the toilet,” says the 48-year-old Wallinger. “Things haven’t quite turned out the way they thought they would. I [played] at SXSW in March, and everyone was singing along … It was amazing, no other way to say it.”

—Patrick Berkery