Interview with The King Blues (May 2009)

Posted on November 16, 2010


Just a quick note: this was originally organised as an interview for PR1/Pluto, but it never got published, for various reasons. I’ve just found it again, and decided it should get an airing somewhere. I posted it on Facebook, but wanted it to get a better airing…here it is. I caught up with The King Blues a few hours before their first ever show in Preston, in May 2009.

Itch from The King Blues (Rights and credit to Richard 'Tenspeed' Heaven)

A few hours before playing at 53 Degrees for the first time, The King Blues took the time to talk to PR1 on a range of topics. Itch and Fruitbag discussed everything from constantly progressing musically and lyrically to how it felt to break the record for the most gigs played in 24 hours.

A couple of weeks into their latest UK tour, The King Blues have been enjoying being back on the road in front of their fans. Itch commented that they’re grateful for the support they’ve been getting and the crowds that have shown their support: “We’ve been surprised at how many kids have been comin’ out…it’s been cool, man.”

Fruitbag has also been enjoying his time on the road, adding: “Yeah, it’s been really good so far. I think this is the longest stint we’ve had on the road”

They weren’t always playing to hundreds of people all over the country though. The band started to gain their reputation playing gigs at houses up and down the country, a scene that they helped to build.

Itch remembered that period of their career fondly: “It was cool, it was like you just go round to someone’s houses for a Sunday afternoon and you’d get like 5 bands playing in your room. It was just better than watching the telly.”

Although they haven’t played any house parties in a while, they were grateful for the chance it gave them to start playing gigs and even recently ran a competition in Kerrang for a fan to win a gig in their front room. “We got involved in that scene kinda quite early on and it [the competition] just harks back to that really,” Itch commented.

In a profile on the band written for Pluto, I wrote that it was likely that this tour could be the last chance to see the band at such intimate venues. However, Itch didn’t really agree: “I find that hard to believe because, I mean, we’re the kind of band where kids can see us if they go out on the street, if they go to a protest they can see us.”

The King Blues have been described as everything from acoustic punk to ska and folk. Itch says that while they cover a lot of genres, they don’t want to be labelled: “Musically, I mean, we cover reggae, punk rock, hip-hop, folk…it’s all them things and none of those things at once. It’s hard to say.”

He did sum it up, simply, as ‘rebel music’, and noted many of the band’s main influences as coming from a rich history of punk and protest bands: “That’s what links us together, it’s about the spirit of what’s been said rather than necessarily how it sounds.”

The band is in a great position to help people open their eyes to real issues, a position Itch is grateful to be in. He notes that music definitely has the power to change the world: “No matter how much money you’ve got in your pocket, no matter which religion you are, whatever, people are into music. It’s something that brings people together. It’s like a tribal, spiritual thing that’s deep in our souls.”

Whilst they have the position and opportunity to do that, Itch admits that there is a choice to be made: “You have the choice of either making something that’s very throwaway and just for people to dance to- which is perfectly fine, because I think the act of people dancing and forgetting about the boredom and the bullshit of everyday life in itself is a great act. But you also have the choice of being able to say something, and we’re very privileged in that really. We’re in a position where we can be listened to as well, and I feel that it’s truly not to be wasted.”

The King Blues are a band that continually strives to improve and to evolve their sound. Their debut album Under The Fog was extremely political lyrically, with a definite reason for that: “You’ve got to look at the context of when that album was coming out. It was coming out when there was a real feeling amongst people that if enough people got out onto the streets we could stop a fucking war.”

Itch concedes that he could have made the second effort (Save The World, Get The Girl) essentially the same in content, but the band wanted to continue to develop: “I didn’t want to be just hiding behind political sloganeering, because I feel that I wanted to put my history and what we’re about into these songs.”

Whilst many have described the second album as more of a social commentary, Itch believes that it’s still political: “Everything’s political, you know? I don’t think you can really define the difference between what’s political and what’s social commentary. The lines get blurred so much really.”

In their relatively short career, The King Blues have made history on more than one occasion. After the reason of Under The Fog, the band beat a record previously held by Status Quo, for the most number of gigs in a 24 hour period. They managed to play 7 (to be the record of 4), but the idea only came about very quickly.

They were given £100 by their label at the time to make a music video, but Itch revealed that it wasn’t exactly spent as intended: “We blew the entire budget on…we bought this old 1980s ambulance off Ebay. It was all we could afford, it was that or an ice cream van.”

Struggling for a video idea, Itch remembered hearing about Status Quo break the record, and the next day they went out to try and beat it: “The next day we set out and played outside every venue that Status Quo played at. So like, they played Wembley, we played Wembley car park.”

Itch said that it was a good day, but not something he’d ever do again. Fruitbag saw it as a definite success: “We managed to get through it without killing each other.”

The King Blues also made history when they played at the last night of the London Astoria before it was demolished. Whilst it was an honour to play at such an occasion, it continued what Itch called an attack on culture and the working class.

“It’s an honour to play the last night, but it’s shit that it’s the last night.” Itch continued: “All these venues are getting shut down. Pubs are closing like you wouldn’t believe, and then the police are coming along and telling you that you can’t drink cans on the street. It’s an attack on culture and it’s…it’s an attack on…it’s almost an attack on the working class as well, and it’s a sad thing to see.”

It is clear that the band are passionate about a lot of aspects of our culture, including hip-hop and the affect its had on society: “Its impact on the world has been huge, and its impact on the fact that young, black people from the street can actually get up and become successful is quite a good message actually.”

He differentiated between mainstream and underground material, saying: “A lot of it [mainstream hip-hop] is complete and utter shit. I’m not saying all commercial hip-hop is like that, but a lot of it is and I think that kinda stuff deserves to be ridiculed.”

The conversation moved onto the future of the band, but that’s something The King Blues don’t want to dictate. They realise that the band is becoming its own beast, growing on its own, and that should be accepted: “I don’t really wanna have the power to control, to dictate where it goes. I think I’ll leave that…I’ll leave that one to fate.”