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The Streets – Mike Skinner interview

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This article originally appeared on Gigwise.

“Finishing this album was the highlight of my life”, so says an enthused Mike Skinner reflecting on his summer of activity before the release of The Streets fourth album ‘Everything Is Borrowed’ later this month. It has been a strange ride for Mr Skinner since his previous album ‘The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living’, an album he describes as his bravest to date, even before the latest installment has hit the shelves he has previously revealed to the press that he is working on his fifth album which will fulfill his record deal and allow him to make the wild career hop into movies, a natural progression from his Beat Stevie mini movies, which he has been touting around the press of late. There’s also the small business of that video for ‘The Escapist’ where he appeared to walk the length of France, “the way I experience music mostly these days is on YouTube, so the video you see on YouTube is real events, it’s much better than some corporate video… I just want to do genuine things and thats what The Escapist video was.” Before all that there comes the business of ‘Everything is Borrowed’.

“The intention (of ‘Everything is Borrowed’) was to make something that was undeniably positive”, says Mike from his home, which contrary to the belief of worried fans who misread his blog post about the recent video for ‘Everything Is Borrowed’ has not been repossessed! The album in general seems to be one of personal reflection, a stock take and a musing on the wider implications of the way in which our individual lives fit into the surrounding society as a whole, the impact the individual has and the hole that they create and leave when they depart. Initial singles ‘The Escapist’ and ‘Everything is Borrowed’ imparticular set out the stall about the transient nature of possession and belongings, singing “I’ll not feel no fear, Cos’ I‘m not really here, I’m nowhere near here” on the former. It is the soundtrack to a million credit crunched hearts. It is also a down tempo sound, low key positivity, with an almost zen quality that rolls with a clam determination, like the cheer that greats the sunrise after a long hard night on a Glastonbury hill. “I had to throw a lot of songs away as I got a bit too clever,” says Mike before continuing, “society has to be very reductive now as we don’t have very much time. I’ve got my whole life being me and you’ve just got a few minutes of your day so you have to reduce me down. That’s reflected in the album.”

Taking this album to the road Mike has been concocting some extras for the fans to ensure that the next Streets tour offers something a little special. The most outlandish being that fans should bring items for Mike and the gang to ‘borrow’, those fans that have the coolest ofr most unique items will get to travel with the band to the next date on the tour. “With The Streets there’s not that many of us and everything we do is really genuine, so I’m thinking it could be something really low key for the fans, and obviously it will be really good for filming as well. I haven’t really thought about it yet (what he’s hoping he can borrow) maybe a spare pair of pants, always gets a bit short for that on tour!” He jokes. “They’re all very back to basics The Streets shows, but they are getting really good, and what I get he audience to do, no ones doing what I’m doing in terms of crowd tricks and stuff.” Those looking to attend the upcoming tour will be heartened to hear that Mike has been honing these skills across the summer with appearances at events like Ibiza Rocks, “it was just an amazing, amazing show. The whole crowd was … I do these go lows, which has been copied largely, but of which I was the inventor! Lets not forget that! So doing that and getting everyone in the pool it was just a really really cool show. People always have a really good time at a Streets gig.”

Speaking with Mike Skinner and looking through the videos and lyrics to ‘Everything Is Borrowed’ it’s brought back home what an ordinary guy he is. It’s easy to forget the fresh bedroom sound of ‘Original Pirate Material’ and think of the headlines and celeb baiting moments that accompanied his two follow ups. “I think there was a lot of misunderstanding, down to me really, but I never had a celebrity lifestyle, I think I was struggling with my own self image, I think thats what that (‘Hardest way to make an easy living’) was about,” Mike muses. “People can’t fill in the gaps as they have no idea what my life was like at that time and had a lot of preconceptions as to what they thought my life was like. I think you add all those things together and it sounds like I’m complaining, but I was just a young guy thrust into an odd…they weren’t these situations of celebrity that I was in. I was just someone who had really changed in the estimation of people but my lifestyle hadn’t really changed.” Nowhere is the perception of the music geek next door better illustrated than when Mike gets onto the subject of his obsession with rare drum machines like his recently acquired Roland TR-909 and the potential chances for re-skinning it. “There’s an amazing guy down in Devon, he’s just done the Kaiser Chiefs, I can’t stand the Kaiser Chiefs, but he’s just down all of their gear in white and it looks amazing. I haven’t got too colour schemey on this tour but I love what he’s doing and I’ve actually just got a 1973 Fender bass which he’s turning pink for me, that’s my theme so it will all be luminous pink and yellow and green, but like army camouflage!” When he chats drum machines there’s a quiver in his voice and no doubt a tear in his eye.

As for the future past the release of ‘Everything Is Borrowed’ and the subsequent tour? Well there’s the aforementioned fifth album that is well underway, “I am writing constantly,” says Mike enthusiastically, before revealing the long hard road ahead for the escapist himself, “I’m hoping to be on the Big Day Out in February though I’m still not on their line up. Then obviously we’re going to do America as well next year.” So even if the future holds Mike Skinner the actor in its sights we can rest assured that there’s a few years left on The Streets yet.


Joe & Will Ask?

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This article originally appeared in Who’s Jack magazine.
You wouldn’t know it to look at them, easing back into a Camden sofa and sipping Guinness with more fresh faced joie de vivre than gatecrashers at a Larry Clark wrap party, but 16 hours ago Will Green and Joe Ashworth, of ascendant London producers Joe and Will ask?, were in the process of reshaping the foundations of The End as they introduced their own brand of bass to the Durrr party. The pair are currently churning out new tunes and remixes at an alarming rate including gems like their Ellen Allien mix and the glorious, unofficial Human League remix currently adorning their MySpace. Durrr was their first trip back into the live arena since their latest EP ‘Monster’ sent speaker diaphragms into meltdown in July prompting a wave of adoration and playlisting from admirers new and old.  “The feedbacks been great, I mean from the promo there’s people we never even expected to hear our stuff let alone like it,” beams Joe, “we’ve been producing a lot so we wanted to take some time off to give it a break between the producing and gigging so when we came back we’ve got a lot of stuff we’re excited to play,” and they have good reason to be very should you!

Joe and Will ask? are so hot right now Derek Zoolander is almost certainly locked in hibernation working on a new look, they have a live diary that will see them DJing and performing live across Europe throughout the winter and continuing to hit Londons’ hottest club nights. It’s a long way from where the duo formed, in true traditionalist style, after a drunken debate in 2005 when Bournemouth Drum and Bass devotee and producer Joe tackled the convictions of fashion student and House enthusiast Will. It took them a while to actually complete the transition to producing their own first track only really linking up as a musical entity in 2006. They escaped the chrysalis flying however and have been on a constant rotational treadmill of producing, gigging and remixing ever since and are finally generating a reputation commensurate to their prodigious talents.

‘Monster’ crashed riding a wave of hype from amongst other sources the catwalk shredding accompaniment to uber label Balenciagas’ autumn/winter collection, enforcing the relationship between fashion and sonic design. It’s a perfect slice of Joe and Will ask? cresting on dark, dirgy bass foundations that grab you from that building intro, sounding like Lewis Hamilton jump starting an Amiga 500, and the second the swirling hypno-synth hits you’re a slave on the dance floor. Together with ‘Surge’ and earlier titles ‘Single’ and ‘Bayham’ ‘Monster’ has been forming part of Joe and Will ask?s recent forays into live arena. “Basically it’s just half an hour of all our music and it’s loud and it’s just…everything, the opposite of DJing because when we DJ we like to play for a long time, but I think it’s good because for half an hour because you have peoples attention with two guys, some laptops and keyboards…longerand you need to bring more instruments in.” More instruments are indeed in the offing but for now the Joe and Will ask? live experience is a raucous snapshot of dance floor perfection. Of course the hybrid nature of DJs suddenly embracing the live side is not without its pitfalls. “Ah, sometimes people don’t really know what’s going on, we have had people come up during the live set and asked if we could play Pendulum. But at least they’re listening enough to know it’s not!” notes Joe with a wide grin.

With the release of ‘Monster’ they have plunged into the murky waters of video production with their brilliant clip for the ironically titled ‘Warm it up”. “We were just freezing cold in Clapton and we just had to stand there,” gestures Will getting quite animated before Joe dives in… “because it was obviously stop motion so the concept was we had to move really slowly so the masks are moving as well as the background.. it sounds so much fun but it’s easier said than done at 6am, we nearly killed ourselves because it was easier than finishing the shoot.” “We didn’t talk to Claire and Zaiba (Directors) for about two weeks after that just to get over the experience… but the end result was awesome.”  “Actually we’re doing another one this sunday for the new Ep” winks Joe. Pressed for a timetable on the new EP they reveal a more stealth like approach. “ I think we’re going to sneak this one out rather than hype it like ‘Monster’, maybe a free download, I mean why not. It’s going to be called HellHawk as it’s just such a noisy song we wanted something really dramatic and cheesy, so I think that will be out maybe in a month.”

When Joe and Will ask make sure you answer.

Written by Jonathan

September 3, 2008 at 4:58 pm