We caught up with London’s own musical activist and former front-man of The King Blues Itch on the eve of his show supporting AWOLNATION at Heaven.
Hi Itch! How are you doing?
Very well thank you, very well. Glad to be back!
What’s it like being back in London?
It’s amazing. I’ve been away for a couple of months so it’s like, I had a proper cup of tea, I’ve watched some Come Dine With Me, it’s brilliant!
So you’ve been on the road, where have you been?
Fuck, well before this we were rehearsing in LA for 2 weeks. Then we went straight to Helsinki, then we’ve been to Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Holland. We’ve been all over Europe, extensively for the last 4 weeks and now we’re finishing off in the UK.
How has it gone in Europe?
It’s been amazing, because it’s like, people there didn’t really know me so it was like a blank slate to just go with and it was amazing, it was great. I guess when we first came on people were like “What the fuck’s this?” and by the end they were loving it. To me that’s a great gig, sometimes you get gigs where it’s really easy and everyone loves it from the start and that’s cool, but the most rewarding ones are the ones where people are like “What is this” but by the end they’re in to it, so that was kind of what Europe was like.
How do you find touring as a solo artist as opposed to with The King Blues?
I have a band, I was really worried about it at the start. I was like “Man, how am I gonna do this? Do I just go around on my own? How is it gonna work?” but I have a great band, there’s four of us. I’ve got an incredible band now, it’s awesome.
Do you still see yourself as punk and ska?
Oh hell no, I never did. I never saw myself as one thing, I just saw myself as who I am and what I put out as an artist. I always put out just shit that I’ve been in to, and I’ve always been in to punk , I’ve always been in to ska, reggae, but at the same time as being in to folk as being in to hip hop as well as being in to all kinds of things. I think that with being in The King Blues we kind of showed that there was a lot more going on than kind of just being a ska/punk band as it were. What I’m doing now I just feel it’s new. The idea of what I want to do isn’t to try to fit in to any scene that’s out there at the minute but try to define the future as it were.
So what sound are you going for now?
I’m just going for lyrics, that’s what I do best and that’s where I feel that my strengths lie, in just being a lyricist, a song writer and a performer. I don’t really like to try to define what I do because I feel as a writer I want to be able to write about anything. I just feel that in this day and age people try and define themselves so much to be this one specific thing; catering for this one specific type of people whereas what I do, I feel is a lot more artistic and creative. I feel I am at a point now where I can write about anything and have it as my own style. Like I said earlier, I’m not trying to fit in with any one. It was the same with The King Blues, it was sort of our strength and our weakness, that we didn’t fit in with anyone so it was hard in terms of what bands to tour with, but at the same time there was no one out there like us and I feel kind of the same way in this in that its fresh and its new. I’m certainly not trying to ride on the coat tails of anyone else or trying to fit in to any one scene. I’m just trying to do my own thing now.
It must be great to win new audiences over then?
I’m loving it so much now, I mean with The King Blues we were going for so long and we were on the road for so long it kind of started to become a bit like going through the motions and I never wanted us to be that band. I wanted us to be the band who were about more than just the music, I wanted it to be about trying to change the world. We were young and that’s what we believed in and that’s what we were wanting to do. I wanted to end it as soon as I thought it might become about something else. Now I feel like I’ve got the freedom to do whatever I want, and that to me is the most fun thing. It’s like even if everybody hated my shit and no one liked it I’d still do it because I just want to vibe to it because I love it. That to be is rediscovering what music is about and why I do this. Which has been a humbling experience and a really enlightening one as well.
So was that why The King Blues ended then, because it got too popular in the mainstream?
I don’t think it got too much in the mainstream, in any sense of the word. When you listen to our last record and the tracks on there and the messages that we were putting out there, I think the people who say it was mainstream or commercial… if you name me one other band who were in the charts who were saying what we were saying then maybe I’d listen to you but where I was standing I was getting shit the entire time, left right and centre from everywhere saying “change the lyrics, tone this down, tone that down” and I never did. I always pushed it, in fact when someone tells me not to do something it makes me want to do it more, and it pushed me more to do it. The King Blues ended because, really my heart wasn’t in it. That’s the bottom line. I wanted to do something else, it’s as simple as that really.
What was the idea behind your sound? Are you still trying to change the world?
When I went in initially, it wasn’t that I went in with a massive mission statement or anything, it was a case of that I hooked up with John Feldman, the producer in LA and we were like, let’s just go in and try to make some music. There was no plan of splitting up The King Blues and just doing this at the time, it was a case of just going in and seeing what happened and having fun. That was the most amazing experience for me because there was no pressure, it was just really creative and since then it very quickly became my main passion. Once it became my main passion it was like I felt fake doing anything else. I knew this was what I wanted to do so I thought “I’m going to take a massive fucking pay cut and I’m going to do this, because this is where my heart is”, and that’s what I love.
That’s really brave of you, I think a lot of artists are scared to do that.
I see so many bands nowadays going through the motions and I’m just like “What the fuck do you stand for? What do you believe in? Why are you doing this? Is it really about more than a magazine cover?” That shit runs, that novelty of being on a magazine cover or whatever really runs out quite quick and quite quickly you realise who your real friends are and you have to realise whether you’re the type of person who believes all of the bullshit that they’ve been told. A lot of bands are told bullshit the whole time, surrounded by people telling them they’re the shit the whole time, and some of them start to believe it. That’s a really dangerous place to be and if you can keep your head on the ground and cut out all of the bullshit and realise what you’re doing and just do it for you. Even if everyone hates it, just do it because you fucking love it. Then no one can take that from you, you’re taking that power yourself by creating something so powerful that no one can take that from you. That’s what people need to remember that really it’s a special thing, and bands making music is a special kind of sacred thing in a way. When it’s just done for what others can take from it, or what you can possibly gain from it on a personal level, which I’ve seen in a lot of bands, I don’t respect it or I just can’t relate to it. I’m like, whatever, if you wanna do that and that makes you happy whatever but I personally can’t relate to it.
I think it gets to the point for a lot of bands that, after a while, they’re doing it to pay their rent rather than out of passion.
I feel you, and for me, if I was in it for the money I would not be a fucking singer do you know what I mean? There are many other jobs that you can do where you get paid a hell of a lot more and I think people realise that. Being on the road isn’t for everyone and studios aren’t for everyone, in fact the whole game isn’t for everyone but if it’s in you then music is in you. Before I was in a band I never cared about having a job. I’m just not really that type of person. I don’t really have the same stresses and worries that a lot of people have about getting a job and being this person in society or being viewed that way. I’ve just never had that. I’ve always felt that life is about so much more than they’re telling us about. It’s just about so much more than just being a worker or a boss, and living off the fat of it. They want us to fit in to these little categories where we get married and we get a mortgage and they have control of us and we work in this 9 to 5 job till we fucking die. Really that’s a load of bullshit. Really the case is that the world is a wonderful place, full of amazing adventures and amazing things that can happen. If you can be an artist and you’re lucky enough to be in a position where you can be creative and you can live how you want to live and create your vision, have a vision and make it a reality then it’s a privileged place to be and I think it’s something you’ve got to use wisely.
And you’ve just released a new EP?
I mean, I’m not here to sell anything but I’ve got a couple of EPs out that I’m just putting out for free just because I want people to hear this shit and get what I’m going. I want them to understand that it’s different to what I was doing before and get their heads around it. I’m not going to ask for any money till people have their heads around it. If you want to check it out then do, I’m not going to beg but if you want to check it out then check it out.
Do you have any other UK shows coming up?
I have one show on the 27th of February in London, and then we’ll see what happens!
As mentioned above, Itch’s debut solo headline show takes place on Wednesday 27th of February 2013 at Birthdays in Dalston, London. For the latest interviews with rock’s finest please stay tuned to Rocksins.com.