"I thought: well
what’s the most
way I can represent
the record? And if
it’s a self-portrait,
I guess that that is
the best way to do it"
You seem to take the cover art quite seriously.
I think all musicians want to find the visual compliment to their record. You are all into making this record – you have taken all this time and energy and thought – and then someone turns around and says, “now how are you going to represent this whole thing visually?”, when you hadn’t really had the time to think about it or hadn’t really given it a second thought. I think that’s why I ended up doing something as direct – and, you know, almost obnoxious – as sticking my face on the cover. I thought: well what’s the most honest and straight-forward way I can represent the record I just made? And if it’s a self-portrait, I guess that that is the best way to do it. You can spend five years making a record but the bizarre reality of it is that the official side of it – the first thing that people will perceive – is the cover. They’ll see it before they hear it, so it’s something that’s important, even though it ought not to be in some ways. But like I say, you have to find a way to represent the record that’s been made in a way that seems to be appropriate.
So, Visual Arts are something you would cite as an influence?
Yeah, sure. I think we are all influenced by everything we are coming across at all times and that ought to be Visual Arts as much as music. I think all of the stuff I’ve seen recently in pop music has a very strong visual element to it. It’s always been that way I think. They always go hand in hand.
In regards your musical influences, they seem to be quite an eclectic mix. What did you grow up listening to and what are you influenced by now?
I don’t know, I think the more major influences are probably things I have heard recently, rather than in my childhood. My parents were pretty encouraging and had an open minded approach to music. We were a mixed race family in Peterborough. My Mum came from South Africa and bought with her these freedom records and Miles Davies. My Dad was a Geordie from Newcastle and he had a lot of tapes that were quite alternative. He also listened to a lot of Black music for a white Northern guy. But like I say, my major influences are from discoveries now. I’d give more credit to YouTube; having instant access to every great record ever made. I’m a YouTube guy!
In regards to your song-writing process; do you come up with a melody and a traditional song structure first or could it be something like an image that prompts a composition?
It depends. I had a funny experience when I was recording recently. I went to a Basquiat retrospective at the Museum Of Modern Art, it was very well curated. I got back to the studio and I wrote a song in fifteen minutes. But no-one else likes it. I think it’s because they didn’t have the same visual reference. They think it’s terrible. It sounds like “When I’m Sixty-Four” by Paul McCartney.
Although you grew up in Peterborough you have spent a lot of time living in Berlin and London. To what extent, if any, would you say geography has affected your work?
I think just being able to have the ability to write music is really related to Berlin, there is that freedom from full time employment. Also knowing when to move when you are frustrated or you have become stuck in a rut. You don’t need to have very much money; all you really need is understanding friends and a place to stay. Just getting out of London sometimes!
I’m planning to leave London soon…
You should move to Barcelona!
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