I was reading on Twitter that the airline lost your bags. Welcome to Australia!
I brought a guitar with me. I brought two laptops, five hard-drives to edit some footage while I was here and a domestic bag. A few items of clothing. My insulin. My mandolin. All my leads... all that shit and it was just gone. They didn’t tell us until we touched down in Sydney but they lost it in Abu Dhabi. I hope they’ve given some kind of financial contribution because that’s bullshit. It’s fucking insulin.
You’re out here to promote your new album, which is really great.
To me it sounds like a progression from your last album. We were talking about that last time. Is The World Strange Or Am I? was really weird and wonderful and experimental and had the white man rapping.
I’m not allowed to rap anymore!
Last time you said that you had been banned from rapping by everyone. Was it a conscious decision to make something that is a little more... consumer friendly, for want of a better description?
It was inevitable. It’s album three. The last two had done terribly in the UK. Well, my fans liked them but outside that it wasn’t really growing as much as it should. So the third one had to be as low a risk as possible, while still maintaining some kind of musical diversity and still being a legitimate thing. It’s 11 tracks and I tried to find a more cohesive sound. I would say I want this fucking rap song and the team would say leave it. They would say you can still be a little rock, punk and acoustic but it’s got to be within reason. So, yes. It’s a little bit more playing the game. I’m not pissed off with the product at all. I guess you’ve just got to do these things until one day you can just do whatever you want.
It turned out really well. It’s very cohesive and has a great sound but the topics and the themes are still very you. It’s unusual for that kind of an album...
Cool, thanks. Trying to maintain that at least to still have some interesting subject matter and things that I felt needed to be sung about rather than... what everyone who’s selling music sings about is the most bland, unspecific, widely relatable trash that isn’t even an artwork anymore it becomes music for the sake of music. It’s seen briefs that say things like “relaxed, jovial, think sunshine, think carefree” – those are the kind of things that obviously will make it or people who are smart about it. They know what they’re singing about and it is still legit to them but they word it in a way that is abstract and makes it relatable to the listener, so the listener projects who they are and what they are into the meaning of the song and that works too and that’s a good way of doing it. Sometimes I like to be quite blunt and you can’t really abstract that too much when it’s a story, like a narrative in the song. I’m happy with the way it came out. I’ve just got to figure what to do with the few rap songs that are left over [laughs].
You could put out an online EP!
Yeah. Free downloads and shit. I’ll put ‘em out somehow.
“Love This” (bottom of post) is getting a lot of airplay on the indie-stations. When you first hear it, the song doesn’t sound worlds apart from the Jason Mrazes of the world but then when you listen to the lyrics, you’re like... oh fuck! The single kind of speaks for itself but could you talk about what was on your mind when you penned that one?
It started off a long time ago. I made a short film called The Joke and in that short film there was a piece of music during a montage which all revolved around bass chords and just the four on the floor kickbeat. That’s why I think mainstream radio has given it a few plays. At first listen it has that kind of poppy, dance thing going on. But it was just an instrumental and I always thought about writing words to it because I liked the groove a lot and I had some old words lying around that I just kind of started. The concept was basically – anybody if they met God, if he manifested as a human-being, exploring the question of what is worth more to you – should you choose to follow his example, which could be really good but could also limit you as a human being from finding your own way of doing things and making your own choices. That was the question. God vs good. The chorus just refers to life in general. If you like what you’re doing, just fucking do it. As long as it’s not like massacring millions of Jews in the Holocaust. That sort of thing is quite bad. So, I just kind of put it all together.
Is that a common theme through the album – religion, relationships with other people.
There’s tonnes of that shit.
What is it about the religious thing that tortures you, that plays on your mind?
It just causes so much shit. I can’t believe that the human race got this face, that it’s capable of so much fucking shit, doing unbelievable shit – curing blindness and all kinds of crap – but people still allow religion and their faith to influence professional decisions. The White House, the whole USA. Even in music. A guy from Sony in this country wouldn’t sign me... why was it?
Oh the video with the pedophile priest.
Yeah! He didn’t like “Sure As Hell Not Jesus” because he was Catholic. But you shouldn’t make a professional decision based on faith because it can affect millions of people. Not just musicians but actual countries. That pisses me off a lot. How much weight the idea of God has. And if you were to ask somebody what is God? I don’t know what they’d say but to me the definition is an example of how to live. The overall concept has to be good... otherwise it would be bad! So why can’t people just say that they believe in good?
Talking about that video, I think one of the best things about you is that beautiful symmetry between your music and the visual aspect.
And I think “Love This” is another quirky little video. But I’ve got to ask. It’s a bit of a sausage-fest. What’s going on?
Ok, so I got the suit. We did a few takes and my really good friend Rosie was on the roof with a camera and we were shooting it. We did a few rehearsals and this girl came down from Cheltenham in the UK to be in the video because she was very good looking. It was all cool and then we watched the first take back and we were like fuck, that sticks out quite badly. So I tried duct taping my dick to the inside of my leg but that just kind of made it look a little bit abnormal. It made it look like something was wrong, so then we were just like fuck it. I didn’t really know how to get around it so in the end I was like fuck it, just leave it. Because I am the devil in that video, so he wouldn’t give a shit if his fucking balls were hanging around the place, you know? But yeah, I should have thought about that before wearing a skin tight suit.
It was definitely a talking point. That shit is wobbling all over the place.
Fuckin’ hell. I’m sorry.
It’s like the Olympic 100m final where you should be concentrating on the athletes but instead you’re looking elsewhere.
I should blur it out maybe. It’s bad news. I’ve seen a few blogs where people have talked about just that. I just want people to know that it wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t like, hey look at my dick. It just happened that way and we were literally on some street with some duct tape, a few cameras – so for us to go home and get some sort of codpiece would have been a huge mission.
Slightly related topic... well, not really... you broke through with “Gay Pirates”. Even though you’re not gay, that song has made you a bit of an underground figure in the gay community. It’s really won you a following. Does that surprise you?
I’m honoured that a real gay person took something from my song. At first I was very worried that people would see it as me trying to do a novelty thing about gay men and I was very careful. If I was on a major label they would have had fucking queens doing the can can in the video. I just wanted it to be like any other love song that just happened to be about a gay couple. But it wasn’t just a gay thing – it was about men in general because I think men deal with love totally differently than women deal with it.
Not particularly well.
Yeah, not particularly well because they’re men, so there’s a certain logic there. Not that I’m saying women are illogical but there’s a different kind of logic than men have with regard to their emotional state. People don’t really explore that all too much, especially heterosexual men. I just kind of thought – if I was in love with a dude and we were two dudes on a boat, how would it happen? But I think it’s really fucking good that gay men like it. I’m honoured. It’s cool.
And that “Love This” video really helped seal the deal.
Yeah. Didn’t mean to but yes, there you go – that’s my dick.
What’s going to be the next single from the album?
It’s a toss up at the moment between “Train Downtown” and “Tell Me Who To Be”. Oh and maybe “Sunshine”.
Yeah, I like that one.
“Train Downtown” has a really strong chorus – or so I’m told – and is a good candidate but the problem is the subject matter. I’m not sure how that will differ in Australia because it’s... I’m not supposed to say what it’s about... this is really difficult to talk about. I’ve been told because of what people could perceive it as being about – connotations within the social and political states of countries, which may be detrimental to it being played on the radio. Even though it’s not about anything bad like that. There’s no way around it. I can’t re-record it or edit it. It’s either going to get played or it’s not. It would be great if it did. “Tell Me Who To Be” could be played because it’s simple and catchy. I wrote it when I was 12, so it’s a little fucking haunter. It’s been around for a long time. That’s like the fourth different recording of it that I’ve done. It started off as a reggae song, believe it or not. And I’d love it if “Sunshine” was a single but only if it had the end part in the single version because it would be as heavy as “My Day”, which JJJ didn’t take to, but I think it’s got a better chorus than “My Day”.
I was reading the album credits and you basically wrote, produced, did everything yourself. Do you ever entertain the thought of what it would mean to your sound if you worked with someone else?
Yeah, I’ve thought about it but many of the conversations that lead to me working with a producer start with “you need to work with a producer because it will help the record”. That’s not a good enough reason to work with a producer. If you’re going to work with a producer it’s got to be somebody that you met or jammed with or, I don’t fucking know, had a beer with or gotten blazed with or whatever and they think they can bring something to the table with your music. If that were to happen, I wouldn’t say no. I wouldn’t shoot it before I tried it. But you can’t go around shopping for producers. It’s dumb. I’m capable of producing a record on my own at the moment. I think I’m going to carry on producing stuff on my own but on the next record I want it to be much more rocky, verging on hardcore, acoustic-y, folky, bluegrass-y stuff. I want to get my live band to play on it. I’ll still produce it but I want it to sound more live. The only track I’ve ever done that’s like that was “My Day”. I liked how it sounded. I don’t know anything about micing up amps or anything like that, so I’d need a good engineer but I’d just produce it from there and see how it pans out.
Who are your influences? Who are you listening to?
Everybody. The Bronx, Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead, Tallest Man On Earth, Destiny’s Child.
Is there anyone at the moment?
Bronx. Fucking Bronx man.
Have you heard that Frank Ocean album? That’s good.
No, I haven’t.
I think you’d like that.
I’ll check it out. I like that single from Emeli Sande. The first one but I haven’t heard much of her other stuff but it reminded me of the Fine Young Cannibals, which is really cool. I like Corinne Baily Rae and there’s not a lot of other people. Generally it’s just shit. It’s all this bollocks. This shitty excuse for hip hop coming out of the US with all these well-moisturized rich fucking kids releasing their shitty songs about nothing. I look forward to when that era dies. Nobody makes real rap anymore.
Have you heard Azealia Banks?
Is she that girl with the lick my cunt song?
Yeah, she raps about her "cunt gettin’ eaten” on “212”.
I heard it last night and I really like it. But I heard what her other stuff is like and it doesn’t quite meet that single.
I like her but I think she’s someone who has let herself be mashed into a more palatable version.
But it’s really cool on that song though the way she has all these different voices on the record. There’s like that grimey, distorted thing, then there’s that other accent when she’s talking – which sounds totally sweet – and then, there’s the singing, which is like this evil, bluesy voice. I was like is this all her? And these girls were like, yeah. They loved it, they were playing it in the car on the way to the studio. It’s fucking cool, man. I really like that actually.
When are you coming back to Australia?
December 26. I’m going to come and do a bunch of festivals and then I’m going to do an Australian regular venue tour with my four piece band. I heard that it’s better then because it’s summer.
See you then!