Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Jamie Reynolds [Klaxons]


I interviewed Jamie Reynolds out of the Klaxons on a very bad line on the 11th of September. 2007. I spoke to him for around half an hour, but I have only transcribed about 20 minutes of the interview. In a typically confident, literate, eloquent, and well-rehearsed interview performance, he only saw the need to namecheck this blog once - a record low for a native English speaker.

JR: You sound like you’re at the bottom of a computerized well, but, yeh, I can hear you.

CBL: OK. I’m speaking to you on behalf of the Asahi Shimbun International Herald Tribune.

JR: Yes, wonderful.

CBL: Hello.

JR: Yes, that’s great.

CBL: Speaking to you about your recent success and your forthcoming tour to Japan in December. First of all, congratulations for winning the Mercury music prize.

JR: Thank you.

CBL: Now, every year there’s a lot of good music that comes out, so why do you think the Klaxons were chosen this year?

JR: I think it’s because we had an all round impact. This year for us has just got to have been phenomenal. We’ve had a cultural and musical impact. We’ve come out of nowhere and we’ve surprised everybody all year, and I think it’s because we made the most forward thinking record. The judges recognized that.

CBL: Do you think its because you had a bit of a movement around you, whereas some of the other performers, like most notably Amy Winehouse, who was also much touted, didn’t really have a movement, and so the music industry’s gone for you because a movement means more impact in terms of sales?

JR: I don’t think it’s about sales, and I don’t think the people that chose the record of the year, according to Mercury, was anything to do with trying to sell more records. They’ve definitely recognized that we’ve come as an underground band with a strong following and created a whole… We have a ridiculously strong following y’know, and we’ve made some kind of cultural difference, and I just think that’s been recognized.

CBL: What kind of cultural difference would you say you’ve made? What have you actually changed in the pre-existing picture of British music?

JR: Sure, I just thought that regarding sort of British youth, we’ve just added the element of fun and excitement, and opened up people’s tastes to any form of music. We’ve brought enjoyemnt back into music and we’ve allowed people to explore other avenues.

CBL: So, do you think British music is typically a bit po-faced?

JR: Um, no, not at all. No, not at all. I think British music has always been very celebratory. I think we just came along, being an exciting band, at the time when music wasn’t celebratory.

CBL: So, you’re stressing all the upbeat elements, having a good time, but your music also has certain dark edges, doesn’t it?

JR: Absolutely, yeh.

CBL: Well, before I go into that I’d like to ask you about this so-called New Rave thing that I think you described in one place as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

JR: I mentioned that at the time. It basically boils down to the fact that I wanted to create a non-existent music genre and see how far I could get the world music press to talk about nothing. It got to the point where it was being talked about all over the world, where people were trying chase this thing and try to understand something that coesn’t exist. That is the bottom line of it. We put two words together in an attempt to get the world’s media to talk about nothing.

CBL: It’s very reminiscent of the media manipulation that some of the bands of the actual original Rave era, like KLF for example, used to do.

JR: Absolutely

CBL: So, that’s basically what it was. Your idea how to get attention from the music press, who can be very apathetic on occasion?

JR: Absolutely. And beyond music press, sort of general press, UK-wise. It was talked about in the broadsheets. It’s been talked about all over the world, and people have been trying to describe nothing, and nobody’s hit upon exactly what it is because there is nothing to discover.

CBL: So you’ve created a vacuum and people keep falling into it?

JR: It’s just that people always try and pinpoint what this thing is and I just continue to tell people there’s nothing for them to find, and people can keep chasing a non-existant style.

CBL: So, there’s actually no such thing as New Rave or a movement centred around your band?

JR: I’d say not. No.

CBL: So, you would categorize yourself as an individual band that just makes good songs in your own individual way?

JR: We categorize ourself as a successful pop band. All we ever said we wanted to do was be a successful pop band when we started. And I think over the last 18 months or 2 years that’s exactly what we’ve achieved. That’s all we ever wanted to be and that’s how we find ourselves.

CBL: Can I ask you about how you create your songs. What is the process? How does it start? How do follow it through?

JR: Basically its like a jigsaw. We’ve got three very different and invidual minds working in this band. And everybody has a bag full of separate ideas. You bring them to the table and you put them out and you piece them together like a jigsaw. We write down absolutely every idea we have on a piece of paper and we see what things stick together.

CBL: So, there’s no main creative mind? You’re all equally contributing?

JR: Yeh, exactly. It’s a three-way process.

CBL: When was most of the material on the curent album created?

JR: There are three tracks that have been put together at a time when we went to the studio to record it, which was this time last year. We finished about this time last year. Before that, we had been working on the tracks over the last nine months. We’ve only been in a band for two years and everything that we’ve had has gone into that record, so within the first 11 months or something.

CBL: Did you bring a lot of baggage from former projects? I heard you’ve done a lot of DJing and you’ve been in various bands before.

JR: Sure, and I’ve worked in a record shops for 7 years, and I’ve spent my entire life looking towards trying to create the ultimate pop band, and that’s where my focus has always been, and you bring your lifetime into trying to create your debut album.

CBL: So you were in a record shop. It just kind of reminds me of the Quentin Tarantino story. There he was working in a video store and every hour on the job thinking about how to put together the perfect movie, using all these various influences. Was that how it was with you in the record store?

JR: Yes, absolutely. but I think that’s the same thing for a lot of people working in record shops. I think that lots of people work in record shops. It’s an opportunity to surround yourself with what you love while sitting there trying to daydream of getting out of it.

CBL: You mentioned your music’s very upbeat, and it is very energetic, and it’s trying to be pop and fun, yet, at the same time, there is this darker side, especially a lot of the titles refer to very dystopian writers. Why do you bring in these lyrical references to quite dark worlds, like J.G. Ballard and Pynchon, and there’s a little Aleister Crowley influence as well?

JR: Sure. I just think that, at the same tim,e a lifetime of interest and we just [garbled] spent our time getting interested in. We tried to put those influences into pop music because we wanted to make a record about fantasy and nowhere, putting our literal interest [garbled], making sure we didn’t make a record about anything we could feel, touch, or hear, and the most exciting thing for us regarding the track “Magick” was that we just earned a major record deal, and we wanted to put out a single involving a subject that has typically brought about trouble for bands in the past as the first realease on a major record label. We found that exciting and amusing.

CBL: Was it also brought in to counterbalance the kind of poppyness?. Pop music can be very lightweight and saccharine, and it’s very important if you’re trying to be upbeat, energetic, and fun that you don’t get too plastic. So bringing in these darker influences counterbalances that.

JR: I guess so, yeh. I just think the idea that we… We’re excited to be singing about dark subjects while, in the same time, covering it in pop music means that people don’t actually have to give a second’s worth of thought to what it is they’re singing along to, and we’ve found that very exciting. We just found the idea of singing about dark subjects and having people singing along with the lytics without having to understand what it was they were singing about, because they were overpowered by a sense of pop music, very very exciting, And when we’d written “Atlantis to Interzone” we found that very funny. We’ve always had this dream of being on ‘Top of the Pops’ and having 13 or 14-year-old fans singing about Interzone without really knowing what it was that they were singing about, and we found that thing exciting and funny.

CBL: But, as you become famous, a lot of these things are gradually becoming decoded, like “Gravity’s Rainbow.” It refers to V2 rockets, doesn’t it?

JR: Yes, in the way that the dropping of bombs by Germany, and how a guy would sort of ejaculate onto a map and figure out whereabouts bombs are going to drop. And we’re singing a chorus about that and nobody has an idea that that’s what we’re doing.

CBL: So there’s a kind of ironic glee involved in your performances?

JR: No, I don’t think glee’s very nice or [garbled] no sense of irony. We just find it really exciting. It doesn’t matter nobody understands what it is that we’re doing because we are surrounding ourselves with pop.

CBL: Other titles like “Golden Skans”… I wasn’t really sure what that was but I managed to find it in an urban dictionary or something. It’s a form of physical assault on a person!

JR: What? No, that doesn’t make any sense. No. Golden Skan is an attraction to a person or a flower [garbled]. It’s a form of light for everyday performance, a stage light. Golden Skans is a form of escapism inviting light.

CBL: A lot of these things will have various interpretations. It that something you’re aiming at as well, to send people off in different directions?

JR: Of course, yeh. We’re not here to give you the answers. We’re here to think there are many possibilities.

CBL: I’m just wondering where you got this interest in these various writers from. How did that develop?

JR: I don’t know. It’s a people thing. You spend your life surrounded by interesting people and interesting people introduce you to interesting things.

CBL: So, its nothing to do with the year or so you spent at Greenwich University?

JR: No, I was studying philosophy, I should think. I think other music sort of introduced me to people like William Burroughs. It’s not the first time that William Burroughs has been mentioned in music, and it’s our idea to give something back along those lines, open up other interests to show that there is something outside of the music. I just think… It just comes from people that you meet along the way, when you just surround yourself with interesting people.

[to be continued]

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