Details: Jarvis Cocker's Meltdown festival

Pulp's inspired singer has announced the acts for his Meltdown festival this summer

A man who once waved his bum in the face of Michael Jackson's egomania has been put in charge of a major arts venue. Anyone of a delicate disposition should probably look away now, and avoid London's South Bank in June at all costs. 'Cunts may be running the world, but a cock will be controlling the South Bank for one week in June,' declares Jarvis Cocker - wag, outsider art dealer, sometime pop star and curator of this year's Meltdown festival at London's South Bank Centre.

As his pop currency has gently plateaued, Cocker's cultural force has subtly increased. Although his debut solo album of last year bristled and swayed with Cocker's hangdog vim, it didn't exactly pop into as many iPods as perhaps it should have. Instead, we've had Cocker hosting documentaries about outsider art, writing music for Harry Potter films, recording documentaries for Radio 4 and writing songs for Nancy Sinatra, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Marianne Faithfull.

During the long years of obscurity before Pulp's stardom, Cocker probably often fantasised what he might do if he actually ran things instead of the clubbable types who used to hold the keys to the nation's arts houses. Now, we too can see what the man raised on broken biscuits has wrought: a few resurrections, some gleeful desecrations of cartoon theme tunes, a collaboration with a living legend, and lashings of left-field jiggery pokery.

One can only imagine Cocker's chuffedness when he winkled film composer John Barry out of the hollow in his piano bench to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra through a selection of his classic works. Jarvis will be playing along, of course.

Barry isn't the only venerable old master on hand. Long-lost singer-songwriter Melanie plays her first UK date for 30 years. And this 14th nervous Meltdown hosts the first ever UK performance by Roky Erickson, the man who gave the world psychedelic rock. Few seminal artists of the Sixties melted down so comprehensively as the legendary one-time leader of garage psych band the 13th Floor Elevators, whose insanity plea on a minor drugs rap in the late Sixties landed him punitive electro-shock treatment and a lifetime of damage.

The 13th Floor Elevators influenced anyone who has ever wielded a guitar in disarray, not least Iggy & the Stooges, Motorhead and the Jesus and Mary Chain (all on the bill). Warring brothers before Liam and Noel had imbibed either cigarettes or alcohol, the Mary Chain have reunited after eight years. And anyone who has ever wielded a synthesiser in anger - as Cocker often has - is in some debt to art-pop provocateurs Devo, who play their first European tour in 15 years.

Cocker also offers documentaries about musicians, movies about art, and installations. That key-like jingling you might hear in the background is the sound of an outsider who came in from the cold, and brought his good taste with him.

Jarvis on... Melting

What made you want to curate Meltdown?
JC It's pretty amazing to be able to programme a whole week like this, to get some of your heroes on and get to meet those people as well. Obviously it's a slight ego trip for me. I'm very proud to be able to present it, but I don't want it to just be all me, me, me; 'This is what I like'. I really want to find ways of getting the audience as involved as I possibly can.

Is there a theme or some kind of linkage between the acts?
I think culture should be a stimulating thing rather than a sedative. I understand why people use it in a sedative capacity but I don't think that's healthy, so I'm presenting this stuff at Meltdown in a gesture of philanthropy. I want all ages. I don't want it to be just the culture vultures. I want it to be as broad a cross-section of society as we can get down there. We're hoping on the first day to have a version of the Underage club where people over the age of 18 aren't allowed in.

How did you make your choices?
Some of it is my favourite things, or things that have had a formative effect on me. At the moment I'm interested in quite loud things. Meltdown starts off with Motorhead, something people probably wouldn't associate with me. The first concert I ever played with Pulp was in Rotherham in July 1980. We didn't have many songs of our own so we covered a Motorhead cover version of a Motown song called Leaving Here.

Who was on your wish list that got away?
As with any festival some people aren't available at the time. I wanted Leonard Cohen to play but he's just not doing any performances any more.

Interview by Katie Toms

· The Observer is media partner of Meltdown 2007. Tickets go on sale at 9am this Thursday. Between 9am and 1pm 150 of the best seats for all events will be held back for Observer readers. Please telephone 0871 663 2520 quoting 'Observer reader offer' if you wish to book these seats


Kitty Empire

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