The King Blues follow in the same suit as many musicians: supporting a message through their work. With a strong belief system at the core of the band, they’re finally garnering the acclaim they deserve. Prior to their Glasgow show, a few days into their current tour, both Itch and Jamie took some time to chat about their music, their politics and their future.
“It’s been wonderful, actually,” begins Itch, talking about the present tour. “We’ve just come back from doing a month in Europe the day before we started this tour, so it was literally our homecoming. It was amazing. The first night we were in London and we used to have a residency about five or six years ago down the other end of Camden in a tiny venue that held about 100 kids or something. Then to be playing the biggest venue at the other end of the high street in Camden was kind of a real achievement for us. The whole tour, I think, has been awesome. We’ve played the same set for a while now and this time we’re changing it up and doing some more stuff, some new stuff, some stuff that we haven’t done in ages… It’s a lot of fun, man.”
The first date of their tour at The Roundhouse in London was not only a home show, but the band’s largest headline show to date. “It’s funny because we were walking around; we got into Camden the night before we played,” begins Jamie. “We were just walking around and it was quite a moment to go past every sort of club and place we’ve played before. Camden’s been a place for us that holds a lot of memories for us; it’s a spiritual home for us. Itch live there for however many years – a bunch – and all the venues and all the clubs are where we cut our teeth, so it was really nice to be able to go to the Roundhouse and have that achievement.”
On this tour, the band have been playing some newer tracks in their set including ‘Power To The People’ – is this showcase of newer tracks indicative that their follow up to ‘Punk and Poetry’ is well underway? “We’ve started doing pre-production,” explains Itch. “We’ve got like eight tracks that are definitely going to make the record and for quite a few main reasons some that aren’t going to. We’ve got eight killer ones right now but we’re hoping to get between ten or twelve. We’re going to go in December to record it in LA with John Feldmann, who is a new producer for us. That’s something we’ve never really done before. We’ve never really had time in the studio; all our albums have been pretty rushed. And, I mean, that’s cool because I think you can go in and have a raw spirit and charm but this time around we’ve got the time to do it properly, you know.”
While the band are always resolute in provoking hope and unity in varying degrees, Itch had previously admitted that they were more cynical as they approached the recording of ‘Punk and Poetry’. How does this compare? “With ‘Punk and Poetry’, I think we wanted to make a statement there and then; it is what it is – I think it was a straight up protest record,” continues Itch. “This time around, I think it’s just much more about the songs. There isn’t going to be a particular skit with this, it’s just going to be songs again, which we haven’t one in a little while… just an album of just songs. We’re just kind of moving forward as always in different directions and trying to push the punk rock envelope forward. We want to do something different; we certainly have no interest in making the same record again. “
“It’s just what we’re passionate about,” he adds, noting that although the album will be focussed on songs, the band’s political views will still remain integral. “The thing is, the reason why this record’s coming out so quickly since the last one is because there’s be so much to write about, so much has happened. We were still in a creative place following ‘Punk and Poetry’ and there’s definitely been no shortage of things to write about, so this will definitely still – on some level – be a political album.”
One of the assumable things to write about would be the London riots that occurred a few months ago. When Itch in particular expressed his views on Twitter, he was met with a certain backlash from people misinterpreting his points. Does he feel that time has let him justify exactly what he meant? “Not fully,” he says thoughtfully. “I think with us people are always going to get the wrong end of the stick. There’s always going to be difference; it’s the same with any subject that is controversial. There’s always going to be people who see it from different angles and see what you say, but there’s also going to be people who twist what you’re saying and people who just frankly don’t get it or your point of view. So I don’t know if over time I’ve justified myself to everyone, but I feel like it’s okay to have an opinion on these things.
“I mean, yes, there was a backlash for what I said, but there were also a lot of people who were supportive,” he continues. “Many people were like ‘thanks for speaking out’ because during the first days where it was actually happening, there was so much emotion and so much demonization going on that it kind of became acceptable to suddenly become very prejudiced. It was an ugly side of people that a lot of us hadn’t seen, there was an underbelly of British life.”
“Now that the dust has settled and we’re looking at moving forward, I think the point I raised about young, working class kids really not having a voice and not being able to have their concerns heard or see a viable future is a real concern. The fact that politicians are ignoring that and are instead ostracising those kids further rather than actually listening to their concerns is a dangerous thing.”
As the nation has seemingly moved on from focussing on the riots, a new movement has swept the globe: the Occupy movement. “To me, there’s a difference between violence when it’s against a person and against a symbol,” begins Itch. “If the initial riots in Tottenham hadn’t kicked off, would we be sat here talking about it now? Would it even have made the papers? It could have been just another police killing that had been brushed under the carpet. It’s hard to say; I don’t think this is really a case of violent protests or direct action vs non direct action…”
“I think this is a case of unity and of the fact that you have to, by any means necessary, push for a change now. I think the Occupy movement is beautiful; the fact that there’s no real aim and it’s just people who are angry and pissed off who just want to see a change are getting together first and then deciding their goals. I think it’s very beautiful. It’s very scary though. I think the 99% thing is a good thing. I like very simple concepts that show the ridiculousness of the system they’re in and the fact is that we do allow ourselves to be controlled. It is an absolutely ridiculous situation.”
The night before The King Blues’ Glasgow show, both Rise Against and Tom Morello played just around the corner. That night, Tim explained how Tom had been a driving force in him finding the confidence to stand for what he believes through music. Does the band conceive that they, in a similar vein, are provoking young people to form their own opinions rather than accept sub-standards? “It’s weird really,” says Itch. “To think about that is wonderful, the idea that we could make kids want to get into a band but it not be just about selling t-shirts or gig tickets; it’s actually about something deeper. It’s nice that people would want to do something more than get money to line some other company’s pocket. No matter what way we can look at that, it’s wonderful. “
“[2011 has] been a bit hectic, it really has,” adds Itch. “It always is, we’re always being kept busy. I don’t know, man. We’ve just been going and going and going for the past seven, eight years now and we kind of haven’t stopped. We haven’t had a real break the whole time, so we don’t really look at it year by year a lot. We got to see more places than we’ve previously seen, we got to travel more; it was cool, it was a good year.”
“I feel that as a band we’ve grown closer and tighter as musicians,” continues Jamie. “As people, as Itch said, we’ve had the chance to broaden our own horizons and travel a lot more. We’ve just seen a lot more of the world and life around the world that we didn’t really know before then. It can be a difficult question; it’s not really something we’ll fully consider until next year when we’re back at it again.”
“We finish off this tour in a couple of days,” he continues, touching on what to watch out for from the band, “we’ve got a week out and then we’re doing a tour with Billy Bragg at the end of November. We’re doing half of his ‘Left Field In Motion’ Tour. I think we’ve got maybe one or two more shows and then we’ll be going into the studio and really focussing in on writing next year. At some point next year we’ll have our new record, so that’ll be coming up.”
As for parting words for fans, Itch smiles and says, “We still really love and appreciate your support. Just thanks for having us, man.”