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Interview – King Creosote On Allowing Your Art Into The World

"It takes a bit of time before you can go back and hear something with the ears a listener would hear with on that record."

Twenty-five years after Kenny Anderson’s debut solo album, Queen of Brush Country, was released, the DIY singer, pop lyricist, and Fifer also known as King Creosote has just dropped his new LP.  We chatted with Kenny about the changes from previous album Astronaut Meets Appleman to this new work, his personal favourite from the LP, and gained an insight into that moment just before allowing your art out into the world.

I DES is your first LP released since 2016’s Astronaut Meets Appleman. What would you say are the main developments?

I think the thing that probably sets it furthest away from records that have previously been is just the layering and layering and layering of synths. I mean, a jokey title for the album was going to be And We All Got Synths for Christmas, because it just sounds like everybody’s having a go on a keyboard. Though that’s being unfair to Derek’s talent. It sounds like me. I wanted to have elements of the previous records.

Tracks like ‘It’s Sin That’s Got Its Hold Upon Us’ show a clear love for modular synths. Can you pinpoint what it is that’s made you move your music in this direction?

Well, I think if you were to hear what I was recording at home now, this really is not that far removed from the KC hole, where I’ve ended up. But I’m gonna say, at the end of 2016 –  Astronaut had been out for a few months – I got a book by David Stubbs called Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany. But what I think of as Krautrock is actually motorik. I’ve always known that the bands that I liked through the early 80s – whether that was Bowie, or even Simple Minds, or Gary Numan – they all mentioned Krautrock as an influence. And before 2016 I maybe had a couple of Can albums and I maybe had [some] Neu!. I basically had the motorik end of krautrock. I read this book, and then I just started hoovering up the artists that he detailed, chapter by chapter.

I took to the book because it reminded me of how Fence Collective kind of shambled together. I thought that Fence Collective, in the early days, there was something different and quite unique about it: but then I read the David Stubbs book and realised they did that in Germany in 1970 too. A lot of that book just struck home. I’ve always loved drones. I’ve always had off-kilter samples that never go anywhere. Then I just thought, ‘why can’t I make music like this?’

King Creosote – It’s Sin That’s Got Its Hold Upon Us (Artist Commentary)

But then you’ve also got tracks like ‘Ides’ and ‘Love is a Curse’, which reminds me a little bit of Diamond Mine, the Mercury Prize-shortlisted album that you produced with Jon Hopkins, and I think it sort of adds to that range and collaborative feel of that album.

I hope so. ‘Ides’ was a later addition, a 2020 addition. It was a co-write between Derek [Des] and I. We’re both massively into the stuffing of tea towels and T-shirts in pianos to make them sound so quiet that in order to hear the notes, you get all the creaks of the pedals – there’s a lot of air in a very quiet piano. That quiet track just seemed to be the element that had been missing up to that point. It’s an odd song on the album; I find it really hard work to try and fit lyrics into a tune that already exists, to be boxed in that way. It’s probably the lyric I had to work hardest on with the record.

How does it feel to have all these songs and lyrics come alive from pre-2020, hearing them on this LP?

I’m still in the window of listening to something that I have to be critical of, even though it’s mastered. There’s a point after the record is finished where you’re just like, ‘Oh, I could have, should have…’ or ‘Maybe it would have been better had we not…’ You know? And it takes a bit of time before you can go back and hear something with the ears a listener would hear with on that record. For me, and for Derek, it’s still full of possibilities and alternate versions of what it could have been. That kind of masks what it is.

Are there tracks that have changed some of their meaning, from when they were first written?

One of my fears was that the tracks would have lost meaning, given what’s happened since 2020. In terms of the subject matter, I hope that I’ve hit some universal kind of truths at least. The songs are all sort of me approaching the landmark of 50, and all the sorts of things that go through your mind when you do hit these landmarks. I think the songs are true to that.

I am sure this is ever changing, but what is your current personal favourite on the LP?

I think it’s ‘Burial Bleak’. We went up to An Tobar [Mull arts centre and recording space] in 2018 to start what would have been the next KC album. I like to have an overarching kind of direction of travel before I start any record; I want to know where we’re going to aim for. We never get there, but I always like to have one. Well, we started too soon, and I didn’t have a clue. We recorded a song called ‘Just You and I’ but it wasn’t quite right. But I took the middle eight from it and slowed it down. And then sang ‘Burial Bleak’ over the top. So ‘Burial Bleak’ is a hybrid of two very different songs.

There’s a chord clash all the way through, but in a way that fits the lyric. And there’s the way that Derek has deconstructed the loop and then built it and built it and built it. And then you’ve got that Enya-esque sort of outro to the song. It just surprises me every time I hear that, how it sounds massive at the start, and yet it just seems to get bigger and bigger and bigger. I’m happy with my vocal on it. I think Hannah, in the harmony department, she’s absolutely nailed it. And then it’s got that kind of big Scottish ending.

I DES is out 3rd November via Domino Records. King Creosote will play a handful of gigs around Scotland, including instores at Assai Records in Edinburgh and Dundee and at Monorail in Glasgow.

Main Photo Credit: Calum Gordon

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