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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHIP OF FOOLS")

GUY RAZ, HOST:

And if you're just joining us, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. And it's time now for music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHIP OF FOOLS")

KARL WALLINGER: (Singing) I don't want to stay with this ship of fools, no, no.

RAZ: In 1987, this song, by World Party, launched frontman Karl Wallinger to the forefront of the modern rock scene. Other hits followed, but they ended suddenly in 2001. That's when Wallinger suffered a brain aneurism, an aneurism that affected his speech and vision, and he's been fighting back ever since. Wallinger started to play again a few years ago. And as a way of reintroducing himself, he's just released a unique collection. It's called "Arkeology."

More on that in a moment, but first, we started our conversation with that horrible period in 2001. He just left his record company on bad terms, his manager died, and then suddenly, one day, he had a brain aneurism.

WALLINGER: Well, they say that good things come in threes, don't they? So I came out of the bedroom and said, hey, I've got a bit of a headache. Then I came out again about an hour later and just went, phone an ambulance, and then went and passed out for 24 hours or so.

RAZ: So you were in the hospital for a month, and when you woke up, you couldn't move, you couldn't speak, right?

WALLINGER: It was more like the brain had to be rebooted. But it was strange. I mean, you know, I've lost my right hand vision in either eye, so I had to sort of learn how to play things. I held a guitar in such a way that I can't see my hand moving up and down the neck. So there was a lot of jazz chords being played for a while.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WALLINGER: (Singing) Dozing(ph) in an English garden on a sunny afternoon.

RAZ: Karl, in the liner notes to this record, you write about the strange process of writing music. And you - I'm quoting you. What you write is: To make something real, you have to make reality disappear. What do you mean by that?

WALLINGER: Reality is a sort of mundane thing full of things like shopping lists and memos to yourself and tax bills and politics and all this sort of stupid stuff. And the idea is really to find the place where you forget about all those things and you have as little to do with it as possible, really. I mean, I think the best way of making music is to not really be conscious, so I try and emulate that as often as possible.

RAZ: I mean, your reality, in a sense, disappeared...

WALLINGER: Yeah.

RAZ: ...for some time after your aneurism. Were you - how did that affect your writing?

WALLINGER: Well, I mean, it's a different kind of reality disappearing than an actual real version of reality disappearing medically kind of thing. It's funny. Reality never really disappeared, anyway, but it was like, getting better after that happened, after I kind of got ill, was just part of coming back to life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAITING SUCH A LONG, LONG TIME")

WALLINGER: (Singing) Somebody please tell me what is real. Somebody please tell me how I should feel.

RAZ: There's a song on this record called "Photograph." And you write in the liner notes how you - it took you 17 years to - I mean, you began the song in 1994...

WALLINGER: Yeah. It was two instances 17 years apart, actually. It wasn't - I did it way back. And I had a technical breakdown in the making of it, kind of thing, where everything became out of synch. And it was such a horrible experience that I didn't go back to it for 17 years because it was such a drag early on. And when I reconformed it for this, I was happy the way that turned out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PHOTOGRAPH")

WALLINGER: (Singing) It's plain to see, plain to see what she has been to me.

RAZ: This collection, it can't really be called a record or retrospective because it's got old B sides and unreleased material and live recordings and even new stuff, but it's also a picture book, it's a calendar, it's a pretty exhaustive document of your life as a songwriter. What was your goal? What did you want to do?

WALLINGER: Seeing as everybody's now releasing one track to iTunes, I thought I'd put 70 tracks in the real world onto five CDs and make a diary to go with it, because it's saying goodbye to the physical world thing, you know, of making music. I just wanted to make something that was sort of against the drain, really.

RAZ: I'm speaking with Karl Wallinger of the band World Party. His new five-CD collection is called "Arkeology." The collection starts off with one of your newer recordings. It's a song called "Waiting Such a Long, Long Time."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAITING SUCH A LONG, LONG TIME")

WALLINGER: (Singing) I've been waiting such a long, long time...

RAZ: And that could be taken as maybe a little wink to the World Party fans who've waited, you know, a while.

WALLINGER: I mean, you're on the face there. I mean, that was sort of a - I thought that was sort of absolutely got to be the first track. World Party fans are very patient. But I just think I'd rather it's been this way, you know, having the pressure of the hit thing and all that sort of stuff. We've managed to avoid that all these years, and I'm still seem to be going, even though medically, philosophically, financially, I should be extinct. But I'm not.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAITING SUCH A LONG, LONG TIME")

WALLINGER: (Singing) I've been waiting such a long, long time for someone as beautiful as you. I've been waiting (unintelligible) make her dreams come true.

RAZ: Now that you've sort of taken these old songs and the new songs and the unreleased songs and put them together in this collection, has it given you a chance to kind of reflect on how you've grown as a writer? I mean, you're looking at this arc. I mean, you started out - in the late '70s, you were a kid. And now, you're obviously a mature adult.

WALLINGER: Yeah. I'm an adult. I don't know how mature I am. But, I mean, I think it's just down to you to retain the energy or the ability. But I think it's very difficult for me to say, oh, I'm going to do my best stuff next or whatever just because you - I don't think it figures that if you've been doing it for years you're getting better and better.

I think it's just how you live your life and the moments that you choose to make your music, you know, see what happens. Game on.

RAZ: That's Karl Wallinger. He's the man behind the band World Party. His new five-CD collection is called "Arkeology." You can hear a few tracks at our website, nprmusic.org. Karl, it's been great talking to you. Thank you so much.

WALLINGER: Hey, thank you for listening.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAITING SUCH A LONG, LONG TIME")

WALLINGER: (Singing) Somebody to tell me...

RAZ: And for Sunday, that's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Check out our podcast. It's called WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. You can find it at iTunes or npr.org/weekendatc. We're back on the radio next weekend. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great week.

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