iTCH interview: “look this is where I come from, this is who I am”

iTCH3You’ve just finished a tour of America, on the Warped Tour, is it good to be back in the UK?

Yes, it’s really great to be playing gigs in the UK actually, I haven’t done it since I did a couple festivals this summer and a short support tour last winter, but this is my first headline UK tour and I’m really excited to be here.

I’ve been kind of neglecting this country a bit the past few years so I’m really glad to be back, it’s really exciting for me.

Was it difficult to make the transition from punk to hip-hop?

Not really, I kind of feel in The King Blues we kind of had one leg in either camp the whole time, especially the last two albums, I was pretty much exclusively rapping in the last two albums, especially the last one.

And so to me it was pretty natural, it was something I’ve been interested in for a while now but it’s something I didn’t want to do until I thought I was good enough to say “ok now I’m a rapper”, I didn’t want to just say it and not be able to back it up.

So, it took a lot of time of kind of practicing and working it over and over and being disciplined in order to get it right to a point I was comfortable enough to be able to come out and declare that’s what I was, but I kind of see the two as very similar, I think they’re both kind of rebel-street music.

I see hip-hop as black punk and I see punk as white hip-hop in a way and, um, I think they’re both kind of organic music that comes from the streets, they’re both angry political music, especially in the underground sense, so I kind of see the two as the same thing and I think I like to take the energy and anger of punk rock and put it into a hip-hop setting and vice versa.

You’ve always had many fans from different genres, have many stuck now that you’ve changed so dramatically?

Yeah, it’s kind of cool and its interesting for me to see because I’ve never been good at social networking so I can’t really tell what’s up from social networks, this tour is really me seeing what’s up in the UK.

The festival reactions have been wonderful in this country so far, really over-whelming and I think that there’s some kids that want me to be a certain type of person doing a certain type of music, who aren’t going to fuck with it, but I’m like “that’s cool, that’s fine” and that’s why I put out my music for free initially because I didn’t want to con anyone into thinking “this is The King Blues part two”, and there’s other people who understand that as an artist I’ve always tried to push forward and do something new, who are kind of with me, and then there’s kids who have never even heard of The King Blues who are checking me out now, so it’s all kind of exciting for me.

Your solo work has a different sound to The King Blues, does it have a different influence?

I think the influences are all the same, for me, the bands that I look up to are people like Public Enemy and The Clash where it’s not necessarily what genre they’re playing but more about what they’re saying.

To me those bands tapped into these kind of eternal truths like peace and love and humanity and they were anti war and very political and that’s the legacy that I want to leave in the world.

I’m not here for my 15 minutes of fame, I want to leave a legacy that I can look back on and say “man, I did something of worth”, and so, my influences are kind of pretty much the same, I just approach it differently now.

Your new single, ‘Homeless Romantic’, was originally going to be sung by Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, do you think it would have gotten a different reception if it had been?

That’s a really good question; I think it may have.

It was a different song when he was singing it, we only kind of did it in the studio with him singing just as a demo and then Fall Out Boy kind of decided to get back together, it was actually in the same week, and I said “look, I want to put my single out straight away, I want to go with it” and they said “well if you want me to sing on it, we’re going to have to hold it back” and so we both agreed to get someone else to do it.

We were looking for different people to do it, and I hear a lot of rock bands now who are very shouty and I don’t necessary believe that they’re that angry, but when you put on a Taking Back Sunday song and I heard him (Adam Lazarra) sing, you really heard the pain in his voice and I believed every word that he said.

So, we sent the tape off to him, and a week later, expecting not to hear anything back, he was flown in to the studio and was recording with us, and it was an amazing experience, but I think he’s got a lot more gritty voice, his vocals are a lot more gutter and I think it kind of worked for the song better.

Is the writing process different from The King Blues?

Yes, definitely, before I had to kind of bear in mind that it was a six-piece band and now it’s like I can just do whatever I want, so its total freedom.

Before there was the case of “we have to do a couple tunes with some ska bits in it and we have to do some songs with punk bits in it”, whereas now I can just do whatever I want and I choose to bring those things into it, rather than feeling like I have to, so, yeah, it’s much better now.

Do you get different reactions in different countries/cities?

To be honest, I think the kids who are into this kind of music are pretty much the same no matter where you go.

Kids who don’t necessarily think that they fit into society, they don’t fit in at school or at work or even with their families, but they get to come together and feel like they’re a part of something together at a gig, that moves me emotionally and I was that kid who felt rejected and who felt like an outsider and I still do in many ways, and so, I think it’s actually pretty universal no matter where you go.

Have you always wanted to make hip-hop music?

No, when I was young I was only interested in making punk rock, when I was young you really picked your tribe, you were either one thing or another, you wouldn’t listen to anything outside of your own little genre whereas nowadays you go through a kids iPod and they’ve got all different kind of music on there and I think that’s so much better and so much cooler, so it’s actually something I got into a lot later.

UK hip-hop when it first started out was pretty wack, and it kind of tried to copy the American’s to a point of putting on American accents, it was really lame.

When people started talking about their own backgrounds and culture, that’s when it started interesting me.

If you could tour or collaborate with any hip-hop artist who would it be?

It would be Public Enemy, without a matter of a doubt.

Are you ever apprehensive to be so personal with your lyrics?

I think it’s really important to make yourself vulnerable, because when you do that, people take to it, the first King Blues album was entirely political, and there wasn’t a personal song on there as such and I think that was me hiding myself and me being scared of people judging me.

Then I wrote ‘Lets Hang the Landlord’ on the second album that was a really personal song about my life growing up and being a homeless kid, when I put that out, people really took to it and they didn’t judge me because of it, and it was kind of an amazing feeling to get it off my chest and to kind of go “look this is where I come from, this is who I am,” from that point on I learned that it’s ok to be vulnerable.

What can fans expect in the future?

My album’s finally going to drop in about March/April and I’ve been working on it for about a year and a half, so I’m really excited that that’s going to come out at the start of next year.

Words: Jessica Turner

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