Published on May 25th, 2011 | by Clara Cullen
The King Blues: Punk & Poetry Interview
In honour of their new album ‘Punk & Poetry’ which sees The king Blues further push their musical style, while retaining their much loved political commentary. Blagsound decided not only to catch an album release show by the King Blues cutesy of Banquet Records, but we also thought we’d nag them while we were there. Here Itch and Jamie talk about the protest movement which the King Blues know very well ,who’d they like to be for a day (with some hilarious answers) and the album process. The album is out now on Transmission Records.
1)It seems as though history is repeating itself, with that do you see The King blues as a part of a 3rd wave of punk/protest music movement? Do you see yourself continuing the tradition of opposition songs that hasn’t really been in the public consciousness for a while?
Itch: We certainly see ourselves as coming from a rich history of rebel music. Everything from Public Enemy through The Clash, to The Specials, and back to musicians’ such as Phil Ochs and Woody Guthrie. I think that tradition of protest song has always been there, and you find when you have the worst government, protest music comes about. It’s what people are thinking, what they hear and it’s what people are writing about. I think at the minute I’m not sure if there’s a 3rd wave of protest music happening, because at the moment there aren’t very many bands out there doing it. But I’d be surprised if those kids out there now in a couple of years don’t go on to start making angry music.
2)The King Blues mix loads of different music genres together, and in recent years the song writing style and exploration of different musical styles has continued. Have you enjoyed this exploration and do you feel that this has been an organic growth?
Jamie: Yeah most defiantly, we never saw ourselves as any ‘type’ of band. In the early days we wanted to play ska because back then it was pretty much a dirty word. Unknown to us, there was an acoustic movement happening at the same time, but we didn’t really know about it. It’s not like now, where there’s tonnes of guys out there doing it, when we started there wasn’t too many. It was also us kind of saying we want to be part of the punk rock scene, but playing ska music with acoustic guitars. We don’t feel the need to apply ourselves to any particular set of rules or genre, we’ll play the music we want to play, yaknow?
Itch: Initially it was a case of how do we get people to listen to the words, because we were playing 3 chord punk songs on at the time, really awful sound systems. So it could be pretty hard to hear what was actually being said. For us it’s key that the words are just as important as the music, and so to kind of go acoustic was just natural for us. I think we played the music that we wanted to hear. At the time we weren’t just listening to punk rock. We were listening to reggae, hip hop and all kinds of stuff. I think it was just about making the music we wanted to hear and not worrying about what other people in the scene were doing, we just wanted to take our own path.
Jamie: I mean me and Itch met in the punk rock scene, he’d been a part of it for a lot longer than I had, running around with his whole crew. But the reason we came together as a band, was because we both had an interest in hip hop, reggae and ska music. We had an interest in that, and it was kinda rare to see people who were really into it. We were both really into it, it meant as much to us as punk rock did.
Itch: It was never one scene that we came out of, we use to play the squat punk scene, then at the same time we’d play reggae clubs and acoustic house shows. It was at the time a scene that was just really being born; we played so many different scenes and political events as well! We really spread it across the board; I don’t think we were ever just one thing. We really just went for it all.
3)Even though what you’re singing about are often very serious matters, your songs always contain a trademark sense of hope and optimism. While in your lyrics, no matter how political it is, at the end of the day you stress that it’s all about love. In years to come would you like this to be the resounding message that King Blues fans can take from the songs?
Itch: Absolutely. I think it’s simply just a sense of oneness. There’s one world, one people, one love, one life, one chance, one hope. Love is the answer to everything, and I believe we are just one as people. There’s one love that resounds throughout the world. At the end of the day our politics and our message isn’t a complicated thing, it is just love. I think that is the final thing that we want people to take away from the songs definitely.
4)If you could change lives with anyone for a day, who would it be, and what would you do?
Jamie: I would probably be someone from our label, just to see how I’d have a heart attack talking to me! No wait, that’s such a waste! I feel terrible now, but you know what I’ll stand by it. Itch, can I answer for you?
Jamie: Pamela Anderson! For obvious reasons!
5)If you could be any superhero, who would you be?
Itch: Pamela Anderson! For obvious reasons….
Jamie: What’s the name of that film? Barbwire, she’s strong in that film! I would be, well I’m a nerd, I love comics so I’d be shredder from the Ninja Mutant Turtles. You(*pointing to Itch*) can be all the Ninja Turtles. Wait, is shredder the rat? It doesn’t matter I still want to be Shredder.
Itch: You be bebop, I’ll be rock steady! The girls can fight over April!
6)You’re playing an album preview show run by Banquet Records, and you’ve also played many in stores for Banquet. How has having a place like Banquet helped your music, and what is the importance of the independent scene in music to you?
Itch: I think it’s more than just helping our music; it’s about community and culture. I think music is often overlooked and seen as unimportant in this country. Culture and community is seen so far down the list of priorities, it’s a shame that it’s given like no value what so ever. If you’re a kid who’s into football or sports there’s a lot of things out there that you can go and do. If you’re a kid that’s into music, then there’s really not much, especially if you’re under 18 and into music, there not an awful lot out there for you. We need places like Banquet Records just so there’s more to life than work and sleep.
Jamie: I’m just going to bring this up cos I have the opportunity now. Since we started working with Banquet, they’ve gone out of their way to put us on, when back in the day nobody would do that! They’ve given us really cool gigs, support slots; they’ve looked after us and helped us along. I don’t often say stuff like this, but it’s very rare to find in the ‘music business’ that there are people who really really genuinely care about music. That’s their passion and their drive and everyone in Banquet has that. Honestly the people who work at Banquet are some of the best people I know.
(* then I babble away about how much banquet means to me)
Jamie: Yeah I think they do change a lot of people’s lives without really knowing it. They find this record store where they’re not greeted by a dude who just doesn’t want to talk to them, because they don’t know everything about music. They’re people who care about it and want to introduce other people to new music. Having a place that put on underage thing as well…
Itch: Yeah there isn’t many places that do that kind of thing. In the whole country there’s less than a handful….
Jamie: and who put so much work and effort into making it good. They really do honestly care about music across the board, not just the punk scene, UK music, American music. They’re there for all those bands.
7) The recording of Punk & Poetry went through some changes, so can you talk us through the process and do you have a favourite song on the album?
Itch: I think we kind of found our feet with this album. When this government came into power, it was kind of obvious to us that we needed to write a protest album. So we went about writing it, at that point it was very easy and natural for us to write those songs. There was just so much for us to write about. As for a favourite, it’s hard to pick just one. ‘Everything Happens For A Reason’ is probably the most personal, so for that reason it’s special to me. But with this album, we really set about writing an album that could be listened to from start to finish. In this day and age a lot of people are just looking for hit singles, so now it’s rare to listen to an album from start to finish, but that’s really what we aimed for with this record.
Jamie: Yeah, I can’t really pick a favourite either. Musically speaking, we like to write simple songs where the lyrics have the space to breath, that’s what we enjoy doing. Writing simple songs and exploring what you can do in the realms of just 3 or 4 chords. So musically I really enjoy ‘The Future’s Not What It Use To Be’. Lyrically, it’s across the board, I love every lyric on the album, I can’t choose one!
What’s your view? Let us know in the comments section below…