You come from a very musical background. Can you recall some of the albums that rotated while you were a child?
Yeah. Fleetwood Mac, “Rumors”, was always around, I loved this album since I was a little kid. It’s got a lot of drama in it, like songs that begin and end in a sort of flowing way...
The way that Mick Fleetwood is building his drums underneath things is kind of… then dropping down to tiny little sort of military drum beats and then building them up, this really really influenced me, I’m totally obsessed with drums and rhythms. So I think that was my first love. Also the band Love, Arthur Lee, old 60ies kind of Hippie band – that album “Forever Changes” made me want to play guitar. That was the first couple of other-people’s-songs that I learned. Still, to this day, the only covers that I can and have played.
What was it like growing up in London? Were you exposed to other kinds of music in the clubs, dance music, club sounds, and did that have an impact on your own style?
I was always in Denmark Street, in the guitar shops. Not being able to afford anything but hanging out most of the time because you could practice guitar on better guitars than you had at home. I ended up getting my first gig that way and a discount from Andy’s Guitar Shop. We got a gig in the 12 Bar. He said I give you 100 quit off of this 12 string that I’ve been wanting for ages. I guess that anything electronic came later from the other guys in my Punk band, Battlekat. They were starting to play me things like Devo. I was kind of getting into it that way. My mum was friends with Brian Eno, so sometimes we’d be going over to his. I was just a little kid wandering: Who is this guy? But he seems really important. He was always doing the most crazy shit, that was really special.
Can you recall how much you actually paid for your first guitar?
I think in the end it was something stupid like 150 pounds. To a 15 year old kid that was a lot of money, that was like ALL my money. But I still got it now, I still love it. It’s a Sigma Acoustic 12 String, but it sounds beautiful – lovely, warm sound. Still my favourite guitar.
What kind of jobs did you have before playing in a band?
I worked first when I was 15. I had a job in a shop called Route One, which is a skateboard shop. In England you can’t work on until you’re 16, so I was just in the back doing all the grip tape and really screwed my hands up. But because I played guitar so much I had really hard fingers, I was quite good at my job. That was really nice, because all of the guys working in there were either around music or they were art students. Then the shop unfortunately shut down. I THINK IT WAS THE Avril Lavigne song that finally killed it, but nevermind, haha.
Your debut album “Road To Last Night” will be out very soon. Over what period of time did you write the songs?
The oldest song was written when I was 15. Around the same time I was playing my first gigs, and that’s “Without Love”. The newest song is “Road To Last Night”, which I wrote during (recording) the album. Most of the songs were written just before we made the album.
Did you have a clear vision of what the album should sound like before you entered the studio?
I did in a way. But then also I was really intrigued to see what else we could do with it because I’m not the most genius technical arranger, I’m not a string player. I knew I wanted something that was totally honest. I knew that I didn’t want to change the songs. I just wanted to get them down as they were and then put the music around them, that it was going to complement them. The producers did that, I’m really pleased with it.
What impact did the producer Franz Plaza have on the album?
He had a lot of impact on me as a person. We became really good friends and he makes me laugh, he’s hilarious. He listens to me, which I was really impressed by. Especially for somebody who’s so experienced. We ended up piling everything on, then taking stuff off and seeing what stuck. He does a great job of creating the right environment for people to work in. That’s so important.
What emotions fuel your songwriting?
Generally love and loss, loneliness, feelings, human emotions I guess. It’s pretty simple. It’s not a massive political statement, there’s nothing clever in there, nothing big and fancy. It’s a human talking about other humans, how I’m feeling. The simplicity of it was the point of it.
Do you share or do you have your own place in London?
At the moment sharing in East London, in Limehouse area. Very far east. I live in a hell hole. No. I don’t, it’s really nice. My area is kind of rough. I like it.
But you moved to Hamburg also?
Yes, I needed to have something to call home. I was there so much. I was and I AM working there so much. It’s great. It’s totally different. It’s much more chilled. I like to be in the studio. I like to hang out there and I’ve been writing lyrics for other people as well. It’s good.
“Road To Last Night” – why would you want to return to last night?
It’s named after one of the songs which is called “Road To Last Night”. I had written it and brought it to the studio the next day. I played Franz, the producer, the song and he said: Wicked! Okay, let’s get started. By the way, what is it called? I said: I don’t know, I wrote it last night. He was like: brilliant, “Road To Last Night”! I said: Sure, whatever. Still, some of the songs are very very deeply sorrowful, sad songs , but we had so much fun making them. It was a happy, wonderful time for me, so…
After digesting those sad things in your songs, do you have a more positive outlook on the future now?
I’m a very emotional person. I enjoy feeling. Because it fuels creativity for me. When I write a song, it’s how I’m feeling at that second, but the next minute I may well be fine. Good songs don’t tend to come out of feeling “alright”. Are you happy? I’m just in the middle.
The Single “Once Again”, what is that all about?
It’s the most literal song on the album. It’s very much like an exact moment in time and space that I wanted to capture. It was this moment when I had looked at somebody I’ve been in a really long relationship with. Suddenly you see someone for who they are. The minute you have that kind of turning in your heart, it’s just absolutely right. I’m getting in a taxi, I’m not saying goodbye to you. not even 'see you later'.
If you compare the creative freedom you had in Battlekat with the creative freedom of being a solo artist, what are the differences?
Now I have total freedom, total expression. If I do something I’m not affecting three other people’s lifes. I’m just doing it in my own voice. Whereas I really had this feeling and I was very sensitive to the fact in Battlekat that I was the frontman. I was the voice to four people. But just because I was the voice doesn’t mean that it has to be my point of view. So Battlekat worked as a democracy, we all had equal input, we all had to write together, and that was producing a totally different noise, completely different. Something I couldn’t have done and wouldn’t have done on my own, but I really really enjoyed it. And it was an interesting thing to do, and I would do it again. But to express myself on my own, for any artist that’s a wonderful luxury. Definitely.
As you’re considering yourself an artist, what other creative outlets do you have?
I paint, I draw, I did all of the album artwork, and the single cover and the album cover. And I make clothes, I print fabrics, I do anything creative that I can get my hands on: Stage sets, collecting odd bits and pieces, even like styling people. Even if they’re just sitting in front of me I put something on them. Put some feathers on them or something. Why not? Things like that please me, they make me happy.
Have you always been doing this and where do you think your talent comes from?
I’ve always been doing it. I don’t know why I’ve done it. I think I’ve been doing it since I was a little tiny child. We didn’t have a TV the whole time when I was really young, we just had one that kept breaking. We didn’t want one. If I wanted to have fun I would go and make something, create something like people and animals, cats and people. That’s still a big theme, I don’t know why. It was just always something that I felt compelled to do. And I enjoy it. I think that’s the main thing: Everything I do comes out of impulse and emotion and just enjoying it and feeling the need to do it.
Are you still modeling besides the music. And what are the main differences between this business and that business?
And business is business. I think if you start to get really involved in that, it’s more difficult to feel creative. You have to keep this childlike naivety, otherwise you start becoming to knowing. Modeling was to make a bit of money, it was flexible. It was fun. I ended up having more fun than I thought I would have. But I’m really shy. It’s not something I would wanna do normally. I’m a behind-the-scenes type of person. I’m really messy, and it was horrible to have people criticizing my nails and the shape of my eyebrows, weird stuff I’d never thought about in a million years. But no, I’m not modeling anymore, I’m doing all the artwork. I wanted to handwrite the whole booklet and I’m doing little designs for website stuff. I don’t have time to do that as well.
How much time do you spend in the bathroom and in front of the mirror before you leave the house in the morning?
Not very long. Should probably spend longer, haha. Perhaps take care next time… But no, I’m not fuzzy about things like that but then at the same time, anything I can express myself with, I will. So if I have a show or a gig, or even if I’m going out, putting clothes together is a different thing. Because I’m making clothes and I enjoy doing that. I sort express myself with that. But if I got to be somewhere, I’m not going to panic if I’m still wearing my pyjamas.
Do you speak German at all?
A little bit. I’m getting better. I’m mainly practicing on taxi drivers at the moment.
Are you more like a day person or a night person?
I’m a day person, definitely, but then I’m most creative at night. I don’t tend to go out to pubs and clubs and places. I don’t like big crowds of people. I get really shy in public, especially with strangers. Unless I’m playing a gig, in which case I’m totally happy. I feel I got a purpose to be there. It’s really strange. if I don’t have a gig, I wonder what I’m doing here. Sitting around and talking is totally cool with me, but when it’s in this kind of loud sort of environment, unless I’m on stage…
What kind of people you think will relate to your music?
For me music is a form of communication. If you write a song about lost love, somebody else is sitting at home listening to it, thinking: I know what you mean. That’s a really powerful wonderful thing.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully still tour. My musicians will have grown quite a lot of facial hair, from being on tour, and will look at bit like ZZ Top. Hopefully we’ll make even better music.
Will you take your kids on the road?
If I was going to have kids, I would want to really spend time with them. I’m quite concentrated on everything I wanna do, and I’ve always had that sort of difficulty to do ten things at once. Kids are such a sort of massively… I think I’ll do that when I grow up. Of course I should have probably grown up by now but I haven’t.
album: Road To Last Night
official site / youtube