You are Jamiroquai. You have precisely 24 hours to be interviewed by every journalist in Europe,
host an MTV show, play a gig, hold a press conference and go to the Italian Grand Prix.
Sylvia P. watches the re-emergency of the most in-demand man in the British dance music.
"Jameero! Thees way Jameero!" Milan, Italy, autumn 96, and the little fellow in the great big hat is being pursued by 30-odd flash-pop-pin' European photographers who appear to be under the impression "Jameero" is the first name of someone called "Mr Quai."
Jason Kay grins anyway, all whiskers, ponytail and loose-limbed ease at the launch jamboree for Travelling Without Moving, the third,
most funk-friendly LP of his career. May well he grin; Virtual Insanity is now the best-selling single of their four-and-a-half-year
existence and, besides, he's in love - gleam-eyes wibbling all over a 33-year-old convertible classic blue Ferrari worth £500,000.
"Stunning..." he swoons and faints on the bonnet. Near enough.
Today's album launch takes place in the Ferrari World marquee at the Monza "leg" of the 1996 Grand Prix, Ferrari World being Jay's favoured Italian magazine. This month's issue even features an article on Jay and his beloved sportsmobiles - his collection now boasts six classic numbers in mid-restoration and two brand new specimens : a Lambourgini and a Ferrari ("bellissimo!!" etc).
The whole event's a boy's own dream come to Day-glo life and the most chaotic pop environment this side of Liam Gallagher's doorstep.
This lunchtime, after last night's triumphant warm-up concert in front of 8.000 toothsome Italians and a morning's radio blithering,
Jay and pals have been helicoptered into Monza from Milan. They face the pan-global press in attendance from Tottenham to Tokyo -
all tape-recorders, cam-corders, camera and television booms hovering over the head and up the nose like some
particularly persistent strain of Highland mozzie. Just as well, then, that The Cat In The Hat talks fast.
Back in Britain, two years ago, he was fast becoming the Prat In The Hat, the nation lukewarm to his Return Of The Space Cowboy LP,
after the hysteria which welcomed his 1992 Emergency On Planet Earth début and all its accompanying contoversy.
Jay was in equal measure hailed as the great white poster-fit hope for British soul and the irksome rent-a-spout man-of-the-Earth
"revolutionary" who drove millionaire's toy and had the gall to make "black" music in an Indian chief's hat the size of his chest.
Whatever, he was a National Celebrity.
And now he's gone international, a fact trumpeted by Sony Music's willingness to host the launch in the swishest sporting arena of the year. It's Glastonbury gone James Bond in a 90s car ad. Italian dolly birds in scarlet two-piece PVC perv-suits fail spectacularly to "boogie" on podiums to Don't Look Back In Anger. For miles, shoulder pads very much R Us. It's the only place on earth a boiler
suit could be considered sexy. Inside, tables radiate with Jamiroquai / Ferrari World tablecloths and "champagne"
(Asti Spumanti, in fact - budget blown on the specially-boxed Jamiroquai earplugs, perhaps).
Jay is whisked to and fro to perform all manner of press/radio/TV duties, including a ludicrously proposed four-hour interview for MTV to film footage for Wheels, their motoring programme, which Jay has agreed to present. In the end they get 25 minutes to shoot a
six-week series. Erk. The Swiss lose their "slot" and 12 journalists go home without an interview. Jamiroquai's manager turns to drink.
Jay scoffs a bowl of pasta standing-up, talking - during someone else's "photo shoot."
His is the international pop life du jour, great for the "figure," tough on the sanity.
Jay, famously, loathes the press - opinionate and, too often, you're an easy target.
He wouldn't be here at all if Sony hadn't stabbed him in the Achilles heel. A plum seat at the Grand Prix in Ferrari's home town?
Yours for the price of a brush with several hundred "gentlemen" of the European press.
"It's incredible!" hollers Jay of the drum-perforating "nyeeeuuurnyeeeeuuuuur" of the fwizzling cars.
"The speed, the noise, it's just moving, it's magic. I wish I could control a car like that..."
"We've worked out," notes Toby, keyboards, "that the noise -nyeeeur nyeeeeuuuur- is a diminished fifth."
Jay : "Really? Why diminished?" "Because," says Stu, the spirited bass player, who looks like a grown-up Brian from East 17 and is, frankly, out of his head, "it's wicked. They wouldn't let you play those chords in the 18th century - they're the devil's chords."
Stu will miss the helicopter back to Milan this evening and find himself marooned in a grassy clearing wrappped up
in an italian flag laughing his legs off, howling in a hip-hop stylee : "Take your VIP passes aaawf!"
He'll be late for tonight's Sony dinner, get more off his head and sneak onto the end of the table which seems "very very long."
He'll eat tons, because of "the explosions" inside his body. The Italian Grand Prix - it's the new rock'n'roll.
These are good times for Jamiroquai, convinced, rightly, they've made their "best LP yet."
Seated in an über-posh hotel restaurant, Jay, Toby and Stu are in defiant mood after fleeing the press conference rigours of
35 more European journalists and their relentless "ecological pop pioneer/car driver" issue with their usual measured dignity.
A love of cars as "historical art," they attest, doesn't mean they think it's right governments spend $40 billion on
20 Stealth Bombers "which don't work." What's more, it turns out that Jay has a huge fan in Robbie Williams,
who owns everything Jamiroquai have ever done.
"My mum thinks he's been studying the moves," he says, demonstrating the spiky arm poses, "and he wants me to write a tune for him.
I met him once and took him out in the Ferrari for a talk because I'd slagged him off. The next day in the newspaper I see my Ferrari and Robbie Williams is sitting in it. I'd let him sit in the driver's seat and it said : 'Even though Robbie Williams doesn't have a driver's licence,
he has a £95,000 Ferrari and a chauffeur to drive it.' So yeah, he wants my moves, my hat and my car. Maybe he wants me!"
Over a luncheon of what appears to be lily-pad soup, Jay's describing Jamiroquai's third lap as "very good.
Virtual Insanity went in at No 3, No 5 the second week, No 5 again the third week, which makes 355, the number of the Ferrari that inspired the album. So that's synchronisation. And Ferrari, thanks to Michael Schumacher, win as we release the album in Europe!"
You've used The Force. "There is," he scoffs, "no doubt." Weird, that such a spiritually-centred group should affiliate themselves so closely with the universally-accepted symbol of material wealth : the Ferrari sports car. The sleeve for the LP was based around the legendary "prancing horse" Ferrari logo, and was investigated - and cleared - by the arbiters of copyrights. This, it turns out,
is entirely the wrong thing to bring to the attention of young Jay, who won't cease his self-defence for the next 45 minutes.
And here we were thinking he was hoisting the issue right up people's noses because he didn't give a shit.
"Well, aftre a while I don't give a shit," he says, vibrating in annoyance. "I don't tell people how to live their lives.
Have they done 180mph in a car? No, They think I'm just a flash bastard but they don't know what they're talking about."
Jay... "I'm not the government! I'm not Mr Tarmac! They're the ones fucking everything up! I've realised a chilhood dream and I'm not gonna let pisspot journalists fuck that up for me. Just remember, I've raised for charity more than it costs to buy a Ferrari, all right? a lot more! And I want people to know that! Someone's gotta earn the monet to put the little boats out on the sea! I'm not saying I'm gonna give away everything I've ever earned to Greenpeace, why should I? Not that I'm saying I've done my bit - I've done something, a lot more than fucking journalists who slate us for it. (Becoming apoplectic) I'LL TELL YOU WHAT DOING YOUR BIT IS!
Trying to make the world a better place - and I don't believe I make the world a worse place! I don't believe 8,000 people laughing
and dancing and listening to nice music is doing the world terrible harm! I'm not an evil dictator! I don't kill kids!"
Stuart... "I do."
Jay... "I wanna say something!"
Toby... "Come on, let's talk about the album..."
Jay... "No! Let's talk about this! Plastics! Fossil fuels! And my car cuts 95 per cent of carbon monoxide emissions and runs on unleaded!"
I hear you're having girlfriend troub...
Jay... "Half the journalists that sit there crapping on to me are the ones who said: 'You won't be around for a second album.'
Well, here we are at the end of number three - get used to it! At the end of the day, at the end of the day..."
Toby... "It's dull."
Jay... "I go home and have oil baths, I do. I sit in crude oil all day! And while I'm at it I get some pesticides and spray them all over the street! I've got huge fountains on the top of my house just spraying out pesticides 24 hours a day!
I go around with a big chainsaw and when no one's looking - bzzz! - chop down a couple of trees! If I see a rabbit or a deer I shoot it!"
At the end of the day, he wouldn't know if his hat was on fire. At the end of the day, we wouldn't have it any other way.
The making of Travelling Without Moving nearly finished Jamiroquai off.
You'd never guess - it's their jolliest effort to date, ruminations on love and good times and everything.
Toby... "Life's about fear and love, isn't it? And that's it. We've written about fear, we've done that.
This is more about love in all its aspects, having fun, girlfriends, boyfriends."
So, Jay, you've fallen in love?
Jay... "You what?" he balks, "er, yeah. And I'm about to fall out of it."
Jay... "Yeah," he huffs, "I met a girl and we had fun and y'know, and that influenced...
Yeah, there's also track 12, there's some interesting lines in that. 'So pour a vitriolic coffee cup and use your blackened heart to fill it up.'"
Was this a recent betrayal?
"Betrayed?" spits Jay and emits a mock, twitchy-faced tension routine and actually laughs. "Heh heh. Yes, I was betrayed.
I was betrayed, once, briefly! And then we got back together and now I'm... well, where am I? Ha ha! I'm in... transformation.
We're about to go on tour again and unfortunately girlfriends don't like girls to like you which is very hard."
Jay's "girlfriend," Tasmin, is a one-time-model turned designer - they appeared on The Girlie Show together,
Jay agreeing to the cheese-some affrontery to help publicise her shop and appearing in jujst a pair of pants. Love, eh?
"Things got bad," says Jay, glumly. "I was trying to write lyrics and there was a lot of pressure, the band were going.
'We've done our bit, where's yours?' and I was going, 'Next week, I'll start Monday,' and then it was, 'Shit it's Friday!'
Couldn't get them done, 'cos I was arguing with my girlfriend."
Stuart... "It was like that, she's... projectile" (mimes throwing things and shakes head wearily).
Jay... "It was fucking really hard to keep it together, really difficult to get off the phone to someone when you've been crying,
you're in tears and really unhappy and then you're trying to write a nice happy song, it doesn't really work like that.
And I tend to go into really deep, dark Capricornian moods, dragged out for ages and ages. So there was a lot of doubt,
people get nervous, but in the end that doubt gets me so angry I end up putting my foot on the accelerator. We did it."
In 17 minutes, Jay's live on Italian radio. Tomorrow, Switzerland. Wednesday, Top Of The Pops. Friday, TFI, er, Friday.
The weekend, a brief holiday in Wales and another interview. But we know what he'd rather be doing.
Somewhere in his imagination there's a little fella in a great big hat doing 180 miles an hour in a £95,000 Ferrari, gigantic spliff aloft,
breaking as many laws as is feasibly possible, his mobile phone very much switched off.