South London MC Blak Twang is one of the headliners on the music bill at this year’s JUE festival. The British wordsmith tells us more about bringing communal vibes to this year’s JUE.
You’re not only performing at JUE, but also hosting a workshop. How will that be communal?
Some rappers think they can just rhyme “cat” with “bat” and be on their way. But it’s a bit more complex than that. My workshop will teach aspiring MC’s how to count bars and structure a song. We’ll learn about cadence and metaphors. Workshops like this also allow fans to ask their favorite artists questions, rather than just reading a Twitter feed.
Crowded festivals aren’t known for offering such intimate moments with artists. Has that deterred you?
I just came from a festival in New Zealand. It had a good sense of community; you’d always see artists walking around. But the stages were too far away, and you couldn’t connect properly with the audience. I’m looking forward to JUE because I’ll be able to sit down with fans, and play a smaller venue.
Will you perform any new material in Beijing?
I have three albums worth of material recorded, I just haven’t gotten around to releasing any of it. I’ll release an EP either before, or immediately after I come to China. So I’ll perform a lot of that. It’ll have more storytelling songs, less of the political stuff from my early career.
What inspired that introspection?
It goes back to opening up to fans. I’ve got a new song that compares the London that tourists come to, the bright lights of the West End, and the impoverished side that I grew up on. I want to paint pictures with this new music, and bring you into my world when you hear it.
And So I Watch You From Afar bassist Johnny Adger spoke to the Beijinger ahead of the band’s triumphant return to the capital after giving us arguably the best show of 2012.
What has been memorable on your latest world tour?
To hear people “singing” our guitar parts at gigs is an unbelievable experience. Our fans are the best in the world. They are the reason that we go on the road so much and play amazing countries like China.
What did you enjoy most about your last Chinese excursion?
When we took the high-speed train from Chengdu to Chongqing, it was the first time I’d seen rural China, the China I’d seen in movies. It was like looking from the window of the future directly into the country’s past. I could see farmers working the land, and fishermen casting nets to feed their families. All of this was so far removed from the overpopulated cities where’d I’d spent the first few days.
Has growing up near Belfast made you appreciate your world tours more?
Every day you would hear about someone being shot or something blowing up. It was only in my teenage years that the Belfast wanted to change. Peace talks were pretty successful, and for the first time in years it became a destination for tourists. It also became somewhere I wanted to live. Being able to play music as a living and travel to these amazing places has made me appreciate Belfast more. As much as I love playing and traveling, I look forward to getting back too.
How did touring the world affect the songwriting on your last album, All Hail Bright Futures?
We decided to go into the studio as a three piece (following the departure of Tony Wright). We experimented a lot more with tones and instrumentation. A melody that started life as a guitar part, ended up being recorded as a four part vocal harmony! Now that we’ve played All Hail pretty extensively, it’s time to do something new. There are always new ideas floating around, but now we have to catch these ideas, train them up, and ready them for release upon the world.
This article originally appeared in our March 2014 issue.
Photos: courtesy of Sargent House and Rottenkid Records
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