The King Blues

By paul

Paul: Mr Itch , sir – how are things in The King Blues camp?

Itch: Very well thank you, nice to talk to you again! Things in The King Blues camp are pretty full on right now, we’ve just been working non stop on the G20 protests and are now getting ready for a massive UK tour. Excitement and momentum is at an all time high and we’re happier and more focussed than we’ve ever been as a band.

Paul: I last interviewed you for Punktastic exactly a year ago and you were recording ‘Save The World…’  Are you happy with the response you got from that record?  It’s done pretty well in the mainstream…
Itch: I’m thrilled with the response we got, I was fully aware of what a departure it was from the first record and I knew it might take a while for some of the more hardcore fans to get their heads around it but I feel we’ve made a really great, relevant record and it’s amazing that people have ‘got’ what we were trying to do. A band like us really has no place in the mainstream, we don’t really sound like anyone else in it and we certainly don’t write about the same things, we’re relatively uncommercial in that sense so I’m proud that we’ve come this far on our own terms without watering down anything or trying to please anyone but ourselves. It wasn’t an easy transition, but we held our heads and got through it.

Paul: With hindsight is there anything you would have changed from that record, whether it be musically or lyrically or even the way it was put together?

Itch: Not a thing. Honestly. It was a massive learning experience for us, and we tried out the big studios and stuff but decided we were best in our own environment and we went back to Peter Miles’ house to record the album, I’m glad we tried out the big places so now we know for fact where we should be.

Paul: One of the first questions people ask me when I say I’m interviewing The King Blues is… ‘when will we get even more music?’  
Itch: Well there are some cool b-sides on the ‘I Got Love’ single which is out on May 4th. My favourite one is ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Win’, it’s classic King Blues hip hop/ska.

Paul: Are you writing new material yet? Are there any plans for a new release this year?

Itch: We’re starting to write new material, we have a few new ones for the next album, it’s hard, time is obviously a lot tighter now but we’re being very disciplined and I’m really excited with how things are turning out, again this next record will be a departure from the last, we’ll start demoing towards the 2nd half of the year I’d imagine.

Paul: Are you still happy with life on a major label?  
Itch: Totally happy, not one day goes by where I regret it, they’ve been really good to us and have shown a lot of belief in us considering they’ve never really worked with a band from our scene. They’ve really raised our profile and have never tried to change us. At the end of the day, we know the name of the game, we know what major labels want and that’s big hit records, if it doesn’t happen with them, we’d have had a good run and we’d carry on regardless as a band. Right now though, things are working out great, we’ve been allowed to grow as a band which is something that doesn’t happen very often. We’ve survived someone new becoming the head of the company and we’re very happy where we are, it’s nice to be on a label with so much history.

Paul: With MP3 technology and CD sales sliding even further away is there still a need for majors and has it levelled out the playing field with the indies?

Itch: I’m not sure there’s ever been a ‘need’ as such for majors, but things are definitely harder for them now then they were, and that’s only going to increase, people having less money simply means less CD sales. I don’t think it’s levelled out the playing field with indies as such, all labels operate on whatever budget they have and large indies like Epitaph obviously have a lot more budget than the smaller yet vital labels such as HHN so I guess it’s all relative, it’s not like people are only downloading music from majors, they’re downloading them from everywhere, everyone is suffering, for better or for worse, fans are killing off their bands, its very wierd.

Paul: In February you teamed up with the Big Issue so people who bought a copy got into one of your shows. How did that hook up come about and what were you hoping to achieve from this?  Do you think it worked?

Itch: Well I used to be a Big Issue vendor myself so it’s something that’s obviously very close to my heart. I’ve been really disgusted with the way Boris Johnson has been treating London’s homeless, it’s admirable that he’s stated he wants to eradicate homelessness in the capital by 2012 but his means of doing it are questionable. The City of London police have been doing something called ‘Operation Poncho’ where they wake up rough sleepers at around 4am and tell them to move on, then they pour excessive amounts of icy water where they sleep making it impossible for them to bed down again. It’s treating people like vermin, it’s sick. A lot of the homeless hostels are just there for political reasons too, to put ‘heads in beds’ without caring about the safety of those staying there. Often they’re infested and very unsafe, a lot of people would rather stay on the street than there. New Labour only built 300 new council homes last year, there are 444 councils, they couldn’t even build one council house per borough while they give planning permission for luxury flats to pop up all over, it’s shameful. So many more people are going to lose their jobs, not be able to afford their rent and become homeless in the coming years, it’s something we need to fight. After doing an interview with the Big Issue, the plan was hatched to do a tour where entry was a copy of the magazine, meaning money goes directly into vendor’s pockets. We were hoping at very least that we could help out some vendors in each city but what we were really aiming for was for people to start seeing the homeless as just as much a part of their community as anyone else, to make them visible, and to perhaps for people to regularly go back to their local vendor, speak to them, help them out. We’ve spoken to a lot of vendors who have said it’s worked so I’ll take their word for it!

Paul: Do you think bands have a social responsibility to use their platform to get the message out there that there is room for change?  
Itch: I don’t think it’s a responsibility, no. I think pop songs that say nothing and make you feel good about yourself are fine and valid and have their place, but I also think there’s room for bands with something to say.

Paul: Do you think bands with a message are being pushed into the background or, with the world as it is, do you think more bands with something to say will come to the fore?

Itch: I think it’s an incredibly exciting time for political music, I’ve been waiting for a movement like this for years. From Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip to Gallows to Lowkey to Frank Turner to SB6 it seems that across all genres, regardless of what you think of the music, artists with something to say are rising, people are demanding it. I think there’s only so much Lady Gaga can say in a recession, I could be wrong, but it just seems so far removed from people’s lives. Bands are formed by normal people, and normal people are fucked, millions are going to lose their jobs, their houses, their mortgages, there’s a lot of inspiration there. I don’t think music’s had this much to say since hip hop, it’s so exciting.

Paul: As a Londoner have you seen a change in the city – whether it be in the attitude of people or physically – since the economic crisis took hold?

Itch: It’s hard to ignore the boarded up shops in the high street, the closed down venues, the shut down pubs. There are less and less places for us to meet and socialise for sure. I’d like to see a new movement that takes over those properties, squats them and sets them up for positive use like living in and for social centres where we can congregate. They shut down our venues then the police move us on when we meet outside for a few cans, at some point, people are going to have enough of it, are going to reclaim their city. I think the anarchist movement can help kick start that but pretty soon it’ll be about just normal people taking back what’s rightfully theirs. It’s a model that has worked well throughout Europe and there’s no reason why it can’t work here. There are some great, long running social cenres in London already such as Ramparts where we played most of our first gigs and so many great things happen from there, I don’t want the working class to be pushed out of London for even more yuppie flats, that would be upsetting, we can actually win this if we come together.

Paul: Can President Obama really give the world hope that things can change for the better?  is he the man to lead the world out of a crisis?

Itch: To me, it just stinks of when New Labour came into power and people were dancing around to D:ream’s ‘things can only get better’ there was a real, genuine feeling of hope, that we’d got rid of the dinosaurs such as Major and Thatcher and now things were going to change for the better. I went to the newsagent yesterday and 4 of the 7 frontpage headlines read of New World Order, it’s scary stuff. 2 days into his presidency and he drops bombs on Pakistan, he’s promised 30 billion to AIPAC- his friendships with the pro-Israel lobby are plain for all to see and the war in Gaza is just as much his war. The financial crisis will end with loans to poor countries that can never pay it back and are therefore permanently in debt. Giving Obama the benefit of the doubt purely because of his race is ridiculous and having hope and faith in a system that’s failed us just seems pointless. The only way we can move forward is to take the power back, start organising ourselves and live as a resistance, rather than encouraging them to continue to destroy our world.

Paul: With the possibility of a General Election this year (and if not definitely next year) does it concern you that people’s apathy towards politics could lead towards a large swing towards the BNP?  
Itch: I think when something as complicated as world economy is summed up into ‘it’s them coming over here and taking our jobs’, that’s a very dangerous thing. If you look at the towns where the BNP are rising and campaigning, they’re not towns filled with black and Asian families, but predominately white towns. It’s a case of feeding fear and ignorance with lies and that’s dangerous. Needless to say we don’t get door to door BNP campaigners in Hackney- I don’t think they’d last long! Racist attacks go up wherever the BNP gain power and we need to fight this as a priority. We need to organise militant anti fascist groups so we can defend ourselves when they attack. People are bored of mainstream politicians, they seem to be speaking a different language to the rest of us, people are seeking alternatives and to some the simplified ignorance of the far right seems to hold the answers they are looking for, it’s important we kill this beast dead and the left start listening to the working class again.

Paul: How important are groups such as Love Music Hate Racism in educating people on the ills for extreme far right groups?  
Itch: I’m not completely sure. I’ve tried to find out how that money is spent and it seems to go into more gigs and floats, that’s great and all and it has it’s place but it’s definitely not the be all and end all of anti fascism, neither is spotlight. Anti fascism comes down to normal people on the street tearing down BNP posters, chasing their campaigners out of town, flipping over their campaign tables, no it doesn’t make us just as bad, not by a long shot, not when you look at how many racist attacks happen because of these bastards, being of mixed race it’s simply not a nice feeling having some campaigner yell about how this isn’t my country even though I was born here, where the fuck is my country then? When we read racist grafitti on the walls, when we pile out of our van in certain towns and are told to ‘go home pakis’, that’s when you realise that groups like LMHR have their place and are great for what they do, like the Anti Nazi League did against the NF, but the struggle has to come from the streets.

Paul: Do you believe there is anyone who can lead the UK out of the problems we face – are the two major political groups so closely aligned that no matter who is in charge we’ll still face the same problems?

Itch: I don’t believe in leaders, the only time things change are when people come together. Labour, Tory, Brown, Cameron, it’s the same shit, different arsehole, it’s Pepsi and Coke and like I said earlier, they are speaking a different language from the rest of us. When people get angry and come together, that’s when change happens.

Paul: You’re playing Slam Dunk Festival in May. What can us PT-ers expect from that show in particular?

Itch: A half hour of power I reckon, because of the set time we’ll most likely stick to the ‘hits’ and just bring the energy. We haven’t played Leeds in a bit so it’ll be great getting to go back there and the linep is just awesome, friends bands all over the place, it’s going to be such a great day, a big party.

Paul: What are your touring plans for this year? Glastonbury ? Reading/Leeds?
Itch: Glastonbury’s on for sure, as well as NASS, Guilfest, not sure which others I’m allowed ot mention yet

Paul: Any trips abroad coming up, I’ve heard you’re doing well in Australia …

Itch: At the moment we’re just concentrating on building the momentum we’ve got here, there’s definitely a lot of interest from the kids abroad and that’s amazing, but at this exact moment, nothing is planned in concrete, I really cannot wait to go and attack other countries though!

Paul: When I asked you last time out you said your career goal was to change the world. Do you feel you’ve made any progress?

Itch: We’ve certainly changed our own worlds, I know that may seem like a bit of a cop out but when you look at the history of this band and where we’ve come from as people, I feel that in itself is a great achievement. We get letters from kids all the time saying we’ve opened their eyes politically and stuff and that’s great, who knows, some of them could go on to become important, revolutionary activists. We’ve brought more people into the movement and have alligned ourselves with it rather than being pushed away by a major or whatever, we’ve stayed true and focussed to our end goal and with the way things are going, I feel we’re becoming more and more relevant, I believe these messages are becoming more and more relevant and immediate to people. But messages are one thing, action is another, our soundsystem has brought a lot of people out to marches and demonstrations and when I hear soundsystems that are nothing to do with us blasting out ‘the streets are ours’ at demo’s, well that makes me really happy. I hope that in some small way or another, we’ve helped strengthen the movement and have added something to it. Changing the world is a massive task, but everyone needs a hobby.

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]