Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Charlotte Robin
Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Charlotte Robin
Two years after his debut album, the English fashion enthusiast and music encyclopedia is back for a second effort on the same basis. In this interview, Adam Bainbridge discusses his relationship to the music business, the way he conceives being an artist nowadays and missing his creative counterpart, producer Philippe Zdar.
Congratulations for your upcoming album. It’s really great. This time, you were surrounded by a lot of contributors such as Kelela, Dev Hynes, etc… Which was not the case in the previous one. Why is that?
I think that when you make a first record, you have to establish your own voice and find a way to make a statement about what you want to do. And I was happy with that first record, I think it gave me the freedom to make another record where I no longer needed to establish myself, so yeah I could start including other people. Everyone that I asked to work on this album is because I love what they do and I think they do it incredibly well.
Was there less pressure on you while working on this second Kindness album, after the success of the first one?
Because of the success of the first one?
I don’t think that the first album was a success, I don’t know (Laughs). So yeah, there was less pressure but not because of the first album being successful or not. It’s because I had already done it. It’s hard to make a first record. I actually consider the axiom about making the second record being difficult to be bullshit. I think it’s easier to make a second record because you know who you are.
Are you still « an honest and dedicated researcher in the field of music », to retake the expression I read in the Guardian ?
Yeah, that’s an extremely nice way of putting in it. You could just say I’m a nerd, that’s all.
What was your latest discovery?
(Thinking hard) Playing The Piano by Ryuichi Sakamoto. It’s amazing.
You said that for your previous album, you went through a serious research phase. Was it still the case for this one?
I don’t know if I would call it research. To me, it’s just listening to music. I listen to a lot of music. I like to read books about music. I watch documentaries about music. It’s almost obsessional, but it’s interesting. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here talking to me about it.
You seemed to have a great complicity with Philippe Zdar on the previous album. Did you miss him on this one?
Of course, greatly! I begged him to work on it with me but he couldn’t. He had no time because of the Cassius record he's currently working on.
You’re a pop music lover. It’s a musical genre that people often confuse with mainstream radio music. But is there any mainstream acts that you like and respect for their music?
Yes : Beyoncé, Kanye West, Usher, Toni Braxton, … Erm, Justin Timberlake.
This last one didn’t sound as easy as the others…
Justin has an undeniable energy and when he does it right, it’s magical. I think there’s a reason why Justified and even My Love from the second record were such a big part of people’s musical lives. But I saw him playing a show with Jay-Z and he didn’t dance. I mean, he’s Justin Timberlake, I want him to dance!
Would you write songs for pop acts like Katy Perry or Rihanna ?
Without hesitation. Katy Perry especially. I like what she does and I think that would be the opportunity to inject something subversive into the mainstream by working with an artist like that.
You said something very interesting in an interview for Clash Music:“If I was a fan of a band, I wouldn’t want to see their face everywhere. I’d want a good video, good artwork, work really hard and do some good live stuff. » Isn’t it a little bit naive to say that, when you know that now, most people define their musical tastes following artists' image?
I think there has to be a balance. You can look at the album sleeve for my second album. I don’t think it’s a commercial image. I think that’s difficult for a number of people because it’s a close-up, flash portrait of a man in a somewhat homoerotic cadre. And I think that’s not going to sell records. But I made that choice to be honest in my imagery. It’s true even if it’s uncommercial.
By the way, have you received any proposition from fashion brands for capsule collections or for modeling?
No. Well, I would say no if I received one.
Really? It’s rather surprising…
Maybe, but I’d take the Fifth amendment and decline to discuss. (laughs) I work with my friends and I keep wearing these clothes by Etudes, but just because they are my friends. That’s not for any commercial interest. I just like what they do. I support them and they support me. To conclude on this, it will have to be something that I already like. But well, I like Dries Van Noten, but I’m not sure that he would like me to make a capsule collection for him (laughs).
What is the part of your job that you prefer?
Uh… Making music?
(Laughs) Well, in the studio or live?
Yes, in the studio. We spoke about this this morning with regard to Outkast. And apparently, one of the guys told me that André’s having problems playing these live shows because maybe he doesn’t really want to do it anymore. And I was saying I think that for many musicians, the studio is where they feel at home. Some musicians are just studio people. They are good at making records, not necessarily at performing them. Even talking about a record can be hard for them, because it’s a performance by itself. So, I just like making the records. I love live shows but they are a form of vertigo, you sing something that’s completely ridiculous. You’re trying to cope with it on the best level possible, and you have to give everything and not to look stupid. It’s still a little bit scary.
I sometimes have the impression that you’re leading a latent, underlying war against the music business. I say this because you’re very educational in many of your works. You try to show what goes on behind the scenes: you show the shootings of a video clip in Gee Up or in Cyan. In House, you’re even teaching a kid how to play on synthesizers. Is it your way to tell people that music is a lot of work and that being an artist doesn’t consist in being on Instagram all day long?
Well, I’m not asking for sympathy and I’m not trying to complain but as I said, there’s something absurd about all of this. I mean, it’s mushroomed from the thing it was, which is making a record, into so many things. And you have to embrace it, otherwise no one would buy your music, but it shouldn’t be a full-time occupation. So yeah, I’m leading a war against the music business, but a very subtle one… That only you understood. (laughs)
Do you intend to direct other stuff than music videos or documentaries? Like movies for example.
Who knows? I have one project in mind but it’s not easy to make it happen. The idea is already in production, but who knows what will happen…
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