Q&A: The King Blues
You may not have heard of The King Blues yet, but that’s all going to change, at least if the band’s three members have any say in the matter. Formed in London in 2004, the band has been making waves in their homeland with the recent release of “Save the World, Get the Girl” (available via iTunes and Amazon), a polished, political punk rock classic with shades of The Clash and The Pogues and The Streets.
With their catchy choruses, creative arrangements and Cockney accents, the King Blues are Green Day for the next generation. The multi-racial trio has been making plenty of key converts, like influential BBC radio DJ Zane Lowe and Tim Armstrong of Rancid, who the band just played with on their recent tour. We first heard the band on Mike Davies’ “Radio 1 Punk Show” on the BBC, and we’ve been hooked ever since. We caught up with King Blues singer and ukulele player Jonny “Itch” Fox recently via email, and we talked politics, girls and making it big in America.
You guys aren’t yet well known in America. How important is that to you? How do you accomplish that?
Everyone wants to be well known in America. Here in England we grow up with American programs and movies and it becomes an obsession. I have no idea how to accomplish that. I just wanna go there.
What bands have you guys toured with in the UK or elsewhere?
We’ve briefly been to Europe, but mainly we tour in Britain. We’ve been out with Gogol Bordello, Hard Fi, Bedouin Soundclash, Anti-Flag, The Slackers and Gaslight Anthem amongst many others, as well as UK bands like Capdown, Sonic Boom 6 and Skindred.
You seem to have a substantially British sound, but have American bands been equally influential? Which country has better punk rock bands?
Guns ‘N’ Roses are my favorite band of all time. There never has been, nor will there ever be, a greater rock & roll band. Obviously the Ramones, Rage Against the Machine, Rancid (the 3 R’s), NWA, Dead Prez, Immortal Technique — we’re always influenced by American bands. I think we used to have better punk bands, but now you do.
Is punk rock inherently political to you?
Political is a funny word. I think raw, primitive anger is inherent to punk rock and that raw, primitive anger is also political.
Can you talk a little about playing the big festivals like Leeds and Reading? That’s something that doesn’t quite have the same history here.
Festivals are a rite of passage for British youth. You go away with friends, camp in a tent, experiment with drugs, lose your virginity and watch bands. Getting to then play one is an insane experience. Not only is there all the personal history of youth, but also of all the bands that have played before, and the experiences the kids camping there now will be having that year. The amount of people that go is shocking too. Iit’s like doing a whole tour in a day and having the excitement and elation of a whole tour in a day too.
Check out the video for “My Boulder”:
Are chicks (or birds as you like to say over there) just as important in your worldview as saving the world, or is your album title meant to be tongue in cheek?
They’re far more important than saving the world.
You guys seem to push the envelope with a wide variety of instruments and styles on the record. Is diversity on your albums important to you?
We never set about to purposely make diverse albums, but we’re all into a lot of stuff and we just can’t decide on what type of band we want to be. We’re musical sluts. It’s all organic though. It was never contrived like, if we play a hip-hop beat with a ska rhythm these kids’ll like it, and if we do a folk tune those kids’ll like it. We ARE those kids. We just made what we wanted to hear and what we thought was cool.
YuppiePunk has been trying to convince people that ukulele is the next big punk rock trend (see here), but you guys don’t seem to need any convincing – it’s all over your new record.
All our songs are written on ukulele. It is the future yes.
You guys didn’t release records in the age before file sharing, but what challenges does the digital age put on protecting your work?
It makes it impossible to tell how many people have your record. There’s really nothing you can do about it, that’s the sad thing. It just completely cheapens something you really care about and makes it totally disposable. Kids will never let an album grow on them now. They have to have instant gratification, either they love it straight away or it’s deleted and a new one downloaded within 5 minutes. I can see from a kid’s point of view why it’s cool. If I had the chance to do that when I was a kid — I mean I had about 5 tapes and that was it — I would have loved it, but I don’t think I ever would have ‘got’ “London Calling” or “Ziggy Stardust” or all those records I never ‘got’ ’til about the 15th listen.
Can one be both a yuppie and a punk?