EU VAT woes? Bandcamp musicians, you’re (probably) doing it wrong…

EU VAT woes? Bandcamp musicians, you’re (probably) doing it wrong…

Letterbox Music News Process

…but it’s not your fault, and I’m here to help. TAX DOESN’T HAVE TO BE TAXING (apparently…)!

[Last edited 15/10/21 after input from kind tweeters – I feel this may be a document that grows!]

This article will be most useful if you are:

  • A UK-based, non-VAT registered musician selling your wares to music fans in EU countries via Bandcamp.

It will also be some help if you are:

  • A musician based in a non-EU country besides the UK selling via Bandcamp.
  • A UK-based, non-VAT registered person selling things via Etsy / eBay / any other platform that has agreed to act as a Marketplace and collect VAT from your customers on your behalf.

Why should I care? I’m busy just trying to get through the day!

Me too, me too. BUT, if you don’t do this properly, your customers will probably get charged VAT twice. When they pay VAT at checkout, they’re charged between around 20-28% of the order value (depending on their country), but when they get charged on delivery it can be quite a lot more. That sucks on its own, but if they’ve already paid the VAT they’re going to be, rightly, annoyed.

Please note: I am pretty handy at a lot of things, but I’m not a VAT expert, an accountant or a financial advisor. I’ve read a lot of quite boring articles in recent weeks in an attempt to get my head around this issue and make sure I’m doing things properly, and it’s annoyed me so much that this information was so hard to find that I’m collecting it here to save you the headache.

I’m not going to wang on about every detail, I’ll just share the pertinent facts so you can make sure your customers won’t get charged twice for VAT.

Caveats complete, let’s get started.

VAT? What? Why? Who? How?

In July 2021 the VAT laws changed. Prior to Brexit, sending a merch order from the UK to Germany wasn’t considered an import, because we were all part of the EU (oh, happy times). Now the same merch order is considered to be an import, and VAT needs to be paid.

You might remember that back in late 2014/15, the rules changed so that people in certain countries had to pay VAT on digital goods, and Bandcamp kindly stepped in and agreed to deal with that for everyone selling through them. 

This year, they agreed to do the same for physical goods. Thank goodness! If they hadn’t, I would have had to register for VAT in the UK (regardless of turnover) in order to be able to sign up for the IOSS scheme to charge VAT on EU orders sold to the EU. If that sentence made your brain freeze you should be especially grateful that Bandcamp are helping us out…

BUT there’s a gap!

Connecting the dots…

Unlike other platforms acting as “Marketplaces” e.g. eBay and Etsy, Bandcamp didn’t send any information out to us sellers to explain how the system works, and to let us know that we need to connect the dots for the postal system.

This did annoy me. I’ve been selling music and merch through Bandcamp since 2009, and I’d hoped for more guidance. Bandcamp are brilliant, they offer such a wonderful service for us and I still love them very much, but this didn’t need to be so difficult.

As I have my own Shopify shop as well, I knew I needed to read up on the new VAT rules to make sure I was doing things right over there, and it was only while doing so I discovered the aforementioned Bandcamp gap.

Skip this paragraph if you’re only selling through Bandcamp or another Marketplace. If you’re running your own shop, you can still sell physical goods direct to EU customers from your own shop e.g. Shopify / Squarespace etc BUT if you’re not VAT registered you can’t collect the VAT at checkout (because that would be illegal) which means the customer has to pay at their end when the order arrives. You cannot sell digital goods direct to EU customers from your own shop, though. I’m trying to find a service to plug in to my Shopify checkout which will act as a Marketplace a la Bandcamp etc so I can sell digital and physical goods and get the VAT dealt with but I haven’t found one yet. And of course there’s a limit to how much you can make without having to register for VAT in European countries (€10,000) as there is for the UK (£85,000).

OK, back to Bandcamp: at the end of September I got in touch with Bandcamp support and started trying to get to the bottom of the whole thing, and I received very little assistance from them. After the aforementioned hours of reading boring articles about the IOSS system, I figured it out and told Bandcamp I thought they should get in touch with everyone to explain this.

They didn’t respond, but a few days later my tweets on the matter were shared with the UK Director of the European Centre for International Political Economy.


That evening, Bandcamp sellers received this message:


“Recently, the EU implemented new rules regarding taxes on imported goods. All physical orders destined for the EU are now subject to the member country’s VAT. As a seller using Enhanced Payments (where Bandcamp processes the payments and makes payouts to your account), these taxes are automatically collected and remitted by Bandcamp at the time of sale.

Proof of this tax collection is provided by our IOSS ID, which you can find in your sales receipts and the packing slips on your Merch Orders page. This IOSS ID must be included on your package or accompanying customs forms; please check with your carrier or local post office if you have questions about implementation. Failure to include the proper tax information may result in additional tax or customs charges for your fans.”


What does that mean?

I’ve put the important bits above in bold – the main issue here is that when Bandcamp charge VAT to a customer, we the sellers have to make sure the postal carrier knows VAT has been paid, and prove it too.

How to do this will vary slightly from country to country, but surely not that much.

How to do it right (in the UK – adapt for your own country)

1) The best way of doing this is to set up a Royal Mail Click and Drop account, where you can pay for postage and print out labels and customs forms direct. The reason this is the best way, is that when your package arrives in the destination country it can easily be scanned and the IOSS number will show up.

There are two schools of thought on the next bit – some say printing the postage via Click & Drop as above is enough, because the order details will be contained within the QR code on the Royal Mail postage label BUT when I used Click & Drop I couldn’t find a place to detail the order amount, VAT paid etc. Unlike Etsy / eBay etc it’s not possible to export orders from Bandcamp to Click & Drop directly. So, without manually adding the order information in Click & Drop, if that’s even possible, I’m not confident I’m including enough information with packages.

What I’ve been doing is printing the Bandcamp packing slip showing the IOSS number and details of the VAT paid and tucking it inside a “documents enclosed” pouch, which I attach to the parcel. If I don’t do this, I can only imagine the postal carrier has to take my word for it that VAT has been paid.

Here are links for the “documents enclosed” pouches and the Avery J8169 labels I bought, though obviously feel free to shop around. These aren’t affiliate links anyway 🙂

PS – adding the Bandcamp IOSS number to your Click & Drop account is hard to figure out, so scroll down to the bottom for screenshots showing how to do that – this also applies to other Marketplaces like eBay and Etsy.

Stick this pouch to the envelope and add the postage / address label on top. Ta-dah!

2) Another way is to write the IOSS number and the Marketplace name on the front of your parcel, as well as printing the packing slip and tucking it into a “documents enclosed” pouch on the parcel as detailed above.

When I asked about IOSS at my small local Post Office, my (very friendly and helpful) PO worker shrugged, said “this is all we’ve been told about it” and handed me a sheet of stickers to fill out and put on the front of the envelope. I think for more known platforms like eBay / Etsy you just write the name, but I would add the IOSS number on these labels as well to be sure.

I use Royal Mail’s Drop & Go service a lot, so I might try these labels, but the Click & Drop system works well now I’ve got the labels and have tried it a couple of times.

How not to do it

I read on some forums that people have just been writing the IOSS number and the Marketplace name on their packages. That’s basically the same as using the ridiculously non-official looking Royal Mail stickers above but the issue surely is that without the “documents enclosed” pouch, the postal carrier in the destination country just has to take your word for the fact that VAT has been paid. Which, let’s agree, they probably won’t. It might work, it might not. For me, this is about making absolutely sure my VIP customers don’t have to pay extra fees, so I’ll just use the documents pouch method.

How NEVER to do it

You must only use the Bandcamp IOSS number for packages sold through Bandcamp where VAT has been charged. It’s illegal to use it on packages sold through other platforms, because it’s illegal to avoid paying the VAT. We’re running legitimate businesses here, so don’t be silly.

I’ve decided to block orders from EU countries on my Shopify store because 1) I can’t charge them VAT at checkout because I’m not VAT registered, so can’t join the IOSS system directly and therefore 2) don’t want them to have to pay over the odds at their end to receive the goods. As above, it’s still legal for me to do this, but it’s not ideal. I’m going to be directing those people to buy from Bandcamp instead, because it’s moderately less of a headache now I’ve got it figured out.

Any questions / comments?

I hope you’ve found this article helpful. If you have questions, drop them below in the comments. If I’ve got this all horribly wrong, I’d love to know. I’m not pretending to be an expert, just sharing the knowledge I’ve gleaned recently. Please be polite though, because life’s too short for anything else.

If this article did help, please consider picking up some music and merch from my shop or you can buy me a digital cup of coffee via Paypal.

I share less TAXING pieces of writing on my mailing list, and you’re welcome any time.

You can also follow me around the web, on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook.


WAIT, WE’RE NOT DONE YET!

I promised you screenshots, and I am giving you screenshots.

How to add Bandcamp’s IOSS* to your Royal Mail Click & Drop account
(And/or other Marketplace IOSS numbers of course, just set up a separate profile per Marketplace you sell through)

Wake up! I’m still talking! It’s pretty picture time anyway, we’re nearly done.

1. If you haven’t signed up for a Click & Drop account yet, here’s the link. Just call me the Royal Mail influencer *

* please don’t

Important: Royal Mail have some good How To guides here to get you started. The notes below are just about adding IOSS numbers to your account.

You need a separate Trading Name profile per IOSS number you use, so if you also sell to the EU via eBay / Etsy then make a separate Trading Name for each one. If you just use Bandcamp, you only need one. So…

2. Go to settings.

3. Click on Trading names.

4. Add a new trading name (or amend an existing one if it doesn’t already contain IOSS information you’re using)

5. Click for the dropdown menu in the “Pre-registration tax scheme and IOSS” box and select IOSS (European Union). Add the Bandcamp IOSS in that box (get it from your EU packing slips).


6. Click update in the bottom right corner of the screen and you’re good to go! Just make sure you use the correct Trading Name for the packages you send.

Additional notes

When I added postage to my EU orders I was asked for the IOSS number again in the customs information.

And until I entered the HS code for CDs I couldn’t proceed to checkout and print my documents. HS = Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. Every item you send has a customs code, and you can look them up here.

For reference, CDs are HS code 8523414, vinyl is HS code 85238090 and cotton t-shirts are HS code 61091000.


OK, that’s it, I suddenly feel very sleepy – let me know how you get on!

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Ep49: Grace Petrie on connection and communion

Ep49: Grace Petrie on connection and communion

Podcast
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How to listen



A folk singer, songwriter and activist from Leicester, UK, Grace Petrie has been writing, recording and touring relentlessly for more than ten years. Her unique takes on life, love and politics, and the warmth and wit with which they are delivered, have won over audiences everywhere, across the alternative, folk, political and comedy scenes.

Through all of this, Grace has quietly become one of the most respected songwriters working in the UK today.

Grace’s new album “Connectivity” is out on 4th October 2021 and is available to buy now.



In this conversation, we discuss:

  • the unique communion and connection between a performer and their audience at a live show
  • how political burnout led to the more personal themes on new album “Connectivity”
  • how genres can help and hinder artists
  • choosing your own truth on the internet
  • trying to create boundaries online – how even a fan can ruin your day
  • giving yourself the freedom to write about subjects that matter to you now

Things to do next:

+ Buy Grace’s new album “Connectivity” now
+ Sign up to her mailing list to stay in touch (at the bottom of this page)
+ Get tickets to see Grace on tour around the UK
+ Follow Grace on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram






This podcast is powered by my Correspondent’s Club. Thanks to every single member for your support!

+ Sponsor a future episode here.

Get your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo


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My burnout recovery tips – completing the stress cycle

My burnout recovery tips – completing the stress cycle

Creativity Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

I’ve been dealing with burnout for a few years on and off, and learning about completing the stress cycle recently has really helped me. In this video I talk about the symptoms of burnout and some things I’ve found helpful for dealing with it, including my new adventures in surfing and open water swimming. It’s all a process, and we’re in this together – so always feel free to say hi in the comments and let me know how you’re doing today xx

Here’s the article I refer to in the video.

Scroll down for the video transcript, and subscribe to my channel for more!


THANK YOU for visiting my website! I’m Laura Kidd, a music producer, songwriter and podcaster based in Bristol, UK. It’s great to meet you.

Get your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ Browse episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” here and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo


Burnout recovery tips – completing the stress cycle
TRANSCRIPT

Let’s talk about burnout.

I really annoyed myself in my last video when I talked about how I find it really hard to take time off, and I like to work really hard…and all that stuff is true, but I annoyed myself, because – isn’t life so precious?

I’ve watched Gary Vee’s videos about “crushing it”, and I don’t disagree with a lot of the things he says, but I also know what burnout feels like – and I don’t want you to ever have to feel that way.

So, what is burnout?

According to helpguide.org, burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.

You may be on the road to burnout if:

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.

I’ve put a link to this article in the description box, it’s a really good one, and I wish I’d read it a lot earlier in my life, because looking at that list, I felt all those things, every single one, and alongside those feelings I became unable to control my temper, which made me feel really ashamed.

It wasn’t all the time, but every now and then I would completely unpredictably fly off the handle. It was horrible, and worse when I didn’t know what was going on, didn’t have a word for it, and so wasn’t able to accept that this was a condition with causes, and therefore solutions.

I didn’t know what to call it until about a year ago. Maybe if I lived alone, I would have just lived in denial and not looked it up.

When I realised that it had a name, and started taking it seriously, I realised I had felt that way many, many times before, and just didn’t know what word to call it. And for me, if something doesn’t have a name, then it sort of doesn’t exist and I can just forget about it and just concentrate on other things. So – that was helpful.

I’ve been reading a book recently called “Burnout”. I actually bought it probably about a year ago when I realised that I had this issue that was ongoing. And of course, I didn’t have time to read the book about burnout because I was too busy working! And then it kept happening…

So the time before last, that I felt the symptoms of burnout, I did start to read the book – and I haven’t read the whole book yet but even in just the first part of the book, I’ve learned so much.

It’s been a recurring theme in my diaries for the past bajillion years that whenever I don’t exercise, I feel rubbish. And then when I start exercising again, magically I start to feel better. I’m sure there are many, many medical and scientific reasons for this – we all know that exercise is good for us – but this book “Burnout” explained to me that the reason that it’s so, so powerful when it comes to making my mood lift is because it’s about completing the stress cycle.

Whatever you do in your job, whatever your family situation is, you’re going to experience stress. And if you can’t get that out of your body, then it sits inside – this is the science bit! – it sits inside you, and it festers, and it makes you feel rubbish, and it makes it feel like it’s really hard to do anything.

And I don’t know whether I’ve been confusing the symptoms of burnout for symptoms of depression for years either, because I wouldn’t say that I’m someone who has depression, I’m not someone who has anxiety – I find it very hard to call myself those things without having a diagnosis. If you have them and you don’t have a diagnosis, it doesn’t mean you don’t have them, I’m just saying that I’m unable to label those things in myself without more information.

But it is true, I think, that we all experience different levels of depression and anxiety without necessarily having those things as conditions in our lives. So I’ve experienced those things. They definitely get worse when I don’t exercise, when I don’t eat well, when I don’t rest enough, when I don’t get outside enough and when I don’t do much deep breathing.

So when I do yoga and meditation, when I go running, when I get outside, I “magically” feel better, and what I’ve learned from this book is that it’s directly linked to completing this thing called the stress cycle.

It’s Friday now, and I decided to take this whole week off work to rest and recharge and be adventurous and get outside and do the things that complete the stress cycle, but also have some fun. Like I said, I found myself a little bit annoying in the last video when I was talking about how I didn’t have time to do this, and I don’t make time to do this. And I just thought – make time to do those things.

The other book I’m reading at the moment is called “Four Thousand Weeks” by Oliver Burkeman, and that has had a massive impact on me. Just pointing out the fact that it’s such a waste to keep thinking about the next thing I’m going to do instead of enjoying the thing I’m doing now. It just made me wake up and think summer’s over, I blinked and I missed it. I sat in The Launchpad – my studio at home – making things all summer. I don’t regret that – I really like the things that I make – but that’s what I did all summer, I didn’t come outside really.

And it’s been really hard because of this pandemic to feel safe to be outside a lot of the time, but nothing was ever stopping me from cycling out to the Portishead salt flats. I just decided to stay home for a really long time. Maybe too long, maybe not. I don’t know. I’ve managed to avoid getting Coronavirus, that was my goal. I have achieved my goal. I hope to keep achieving my goal – while living my life and being safe – but living my life.

“Four Thousand Weeks” has just really woken me up. The title refers to the amount of weeks that we will live if we’re lucky and we stick around till our 80s. That’s not a very long time. It’s good to get a lot of stuff done, I love my job – but look at this!

I’ve been seeing the phrase “toxic productivity” around the internet recently, and that’s really interesting because I’m someone who’s read a lot of productivity books, I went freelance at the age of 24? 24. 23? 23. I went freelance at the age of 23, and that is incredibly precocious I now realise, and so I’ve been working for myself for 17 years. I love what I do, I love the creative career that I’ve built, but I agree that there’s a toxic side to this productivity idea. And so that’s why on my channel, I mention “mindful productivity”. Cal Newport, whose books and podcast I really love, was recently talking on his show about “slow productivity”, which to me is the same thing. 

For me it’s about tweaking your life to make sure that you have time to do the things that you really love, and you really care about – whatever that is – while also taking care of yourself. And that’s a journey I’m on…I’m not doing particularly well at it at the moment.

I know when I’m starting to lose interest and not being able to see the point of the things that I do that it’s time to have a rest, but I’m really bad at doing it. And it really pisses me off that I’m bad at doing it because I think it makes me sound like some kind of productivity martyr. And I’ve got no interest in being that person.

So I started with really good intentions of getting outdoors and doing loads of cool stuff – just stuff I’d never tried before. So I booked myself in for a surf lesson at The Wave, which is this incredible powered lake thing in North West Bristol, it’s 15 minutes drive from my house. I went there on Monday and I had a surf lesson, and I’ve never been interested in surfing, I’ve never thought about surfing – the closest I’ve ever sort of come to watching any kind of surfing was on Baywatch when I was a teenager. And I didn’t even watch that much! So yeah, no interest in surfing before now, but it was a really fun thing to do.

And in “Four Thousand Weeks”, Oliver Burkeman writes about telic and atelic activities, and I’ve been thinking a lot about this. So, a telic activity is something that has a point to it, ao it’s got a goal of some kind. And an atelic activity is one that doesn’t, so it could be hanging out with a friend, it could be…surfing for me would be an atelic activity, because I’m not doing it to become a surfer, and I had no expectation that I would stand up on the board or anything, I just went along to do something, to spend time doing something for the sake of doing it, not for the sake of achieving something. And that is quite out of character for me, and therefore a really good thing to try.

I didn’t completely suck. But even if I had, that really doesn’t matter. That’s not the point of it. The point was to get out of my house and go somewhere and do something different. And I got to be around people – and I haven’t been around many people for quite a long time – and it all felt safe, and I had a few little chats with strangers, and that’s something I’ve missed as well.

Then on Tuesday and Wednesday, I sat on my sofa watching Netflix, feeling sorry for myself and deciding that I would never be able to go outside and do anything interesting, that I had no friends, that there was nothing going on in my life of any interest or import – and all of the stuff, all the voices, the voices, the voices. Luckily, Thursday I had planned to see several friends, and yeah, I thought about cancelling all of those things because I was feeling depressed on Tuesday / Wednesday, but I didn’t. So I feel proud of myself for that.

I don’t want to be the person who cancels on their friends – I haven’t been that person for a long time. When I lived in London, and I was “crushing it”, I cancelled on people all the time, and I really regret that now because I don’t live there any more. And those moments, those opportunities to hang out with those people are now gone forever, and that’s a shame.

Today, day five of my week off, has been much better. I again didn’t cancel on someone – and maybe at one point I would have done, if I’d let that voice that says “You don’t deserve to have a nice time”. Do you have that voice? I have that voice. If I let that voice be too loud, maybe I wouldn’t have gone today. But I’m so pleased that I went. And this is was even better than surfing I think – and surfing was wonderful!

I got up at six, because I’ve been doing that, and I met up with my neighbour from two doors down, and she drove us out to Clevedon Marine Lake, and we went swimming. And it was freezing! And it was so beautiful, and so quiet and calm and serene. And, oh, it’s gorgeous. It’s an infinity pool next to the sea, and it’s – oh, I don’t know how to explain it to you, but I took my GoPro so I don’t have to!

I spent the rest of the morning looking at wetsuits and swimming socks, and swimming gloves – these are cycling gloves – but swimming globes, and change robes that you can put on…like, there’s a whole load of stuff you can get. With any new pursuit there’s accessories, you know, you can go as far into it as you want. But I’m just really keen to go again, so that’s why I was looking at these accessories, so that I can go as soon as possible, because it’s obviously going to just keep getting colder now. And it’d be nice to be able to take advantage of the warmer weather as we go into winter.

I’ve been to Portishead before, but further over that way, so I’ve never seen this part, the salt marshes, and it’s quiet here. No-one’s here to laugh at me. I do find it really hard to get outside. I don’t know why. It’s not a habit of mine to spend a lot of time outdoors. Could it be? Could I build a new habit to be outdoors more? Could I build a new habit to go swimming in cold water a couple of times a week? I’d really like that – I’d like to be that person.

The only thing that I don’t like is running out of time, and Oliver Burkeman’s book is helping me reframe that in my mind. Because I’m not running out of time – time isn’t something that I definitely have. Time is something that I can use, but it’s not a resource, because yeah, you only know you had three hours when those three hours are up. Really interesting.

One of the things I wanted to do was give myself a little treat. I’m going to eat a chocolate bar out in the beautiful, beautiful environs of Portishead, who are one of my favourite bands as well. It’s funny to have been into them when I was 15/16…Portishead to me is a band, it’s not a place…but then I’ve lived just down the road from here for three years so it’s very much a place. Sorry to the people of Portishead – you had it first.

It’s just really nice out here. And I love a Twirl… I need to remind myself of things. Like how good Twirls are! Such a good Twirl.

So, here I am.



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Ep48: Rou Reynolds (Enter Shikari) on wielding music as a tool of unity

Ep48: Rou Reynolds (Enter Shikari) on wielding music as a tool of unity

Podcast
Thanks for visiting!

How to listen



Rou Reynolds is a vocalist, songwriter, composer, author and award-winning producer, best known for fronting Enter Shikari. Formed in 1999, the band are known for making outspoken, genre-spanning music accompanied by explosive live shows.

Sixth album “Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible” came out in April 2020, and has recently been followed up with “Moratorium (Broadcasts From The Interruption)”, a collection of beautiful reinterpretations of songs from the latest studio album plus some extra treats.

Rou recently won Best Production award at the Heavy Music Awards 2021 for his work on “Nothing Is True…”, and his latest book “A Treatise on Possibility: Perspectives on Humanity Hereafter” was published by Faber Music in July.

In this conversation, we discuss:

  • pre-album writing anxiety and ways to get started on new projects
  • exploring subjects matter from songs in a more expansive way
  • the reality of being a supposed “Myspace band” – social media platforms as part of a larger puzzle
  • music making as mountain climbing: tough and lonely at times – but exhilarating, too
  • mindfulness and meditation as tools for a better understanding of ourselves
  • the importance of a decent chair when you’re someone who sits in one all day long

Things to do next:

+ Buy music, books and merch direct from the band’s store.
+ Get tickets for Enter Shikari’s upcoming tour
+ Follow Rou on Twitter
+ Follow Enter Shikari on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram






This podcast is powered by my Correspondent’s Club. Thanks to every single member for your support!

+ Sponsor a future episode here.

Get your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo


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Ep48: Rou Reynolds (Enter Shikari) on wielding music as a tool of unity – Transcript

Ep48: Rou Reynolds (Enter Shikari) on wielding music as a tool of unity – Transcript

Podscripts

SPEAKERS

Laura Kidd, Rou Reynolds


Rou Reynolds
We’re all vulnerable toward music. It will make you feel something. And most likely, it will make you feel a similar thing to the other person who’s listening to the same piece that you are. And that reminds us that, you know, to quite a large degree, we are the same. And in a world that’s increasingly divided and polarised, I think that’s quite a noble thing, really. So I take that relatively seriously.


Laura Kidd
I’m Laura and this is my podcast. Hi!

Attention Engineer is a show where I share deep conversations with fellow artists about creativity, grit and determination. My aim is to consistently remind you – and remind myself – that creativity really is for everyone.

Rou Reynolds is a vocalist, songwriter, composer, author and award-winning producer, best known for fronting Enter Shikari. Formed in 1999, the band are known for making outspoken, genre-spanning music accompanied by explosive live shows.

Sixth album “Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible” came out in April 2020, and has recently been followed up with “Moratorium (Broadcasts From The Interruption)”, a collection of beautiful reinterpretations of songs from the latest studio album plus some extra treats. Rou recently won Best Production at the Heavy Music Awards 2021 for his work on “Nothing Is True…”, and his latest book “A Treatise on Possibility: Perspectives on Humanity Hereafter” was published by Faber Music in July.

Some of the conversations I’ve had on this show were quick to organise, and others took a bit longer. This one was well worth the wait…here we go!


LK  

Hi, how are you doing today?

RR  

I’m all right, yeah. Er, actually, well, I’ve got a bit of sciatica, which is really annoying and makes me feel very old.

LK  

Is that the back one?

RR  

Yeah, like my upper back is, you know, like the nerve pain where it sort of shoots.

LK  

Oh no.

So that’s quite grim. And I’ve just got over COVID. So I’m sort of in the wars at the moment.

LK  

I did see on Twitter that you said to me about shedding and I just…I’m very thankful and lucky that I haven’t had it, so I didn’t understand the shedding thing. And maybe you don’t need to go into full details about shedding, if it’s as visceral as it sounds, I dunno…

RR  

Just shedding the virus like, you know, when you do a test, it registers how much like, you know, the sort of more…I don’t know whether you want this in the podcast –

LK  

We’ll see!

RR  

The more defined the red line on the lateral flow test, the more you’re shedding of the virus, basically. So my line was getting redder and redder as I tested each day.

LK  

Yeah.

And then it just suddenly sort of disappeared, and I realised that then I was no longer shedding the virus. So it was a good thing.

LK  

So you’ve been through it. So how are you feeling now, post COVID? Or just post COVID?

RR  

Oh, yeah, fine. Yeah, yeah, all good I mean, you know, I was very lucky, really. It was weird, because I got it just after my second job, so at first I thought it was just like, symptoms, you know, the side effects of the second job, but um…

LK  

Yeah!

RR  

…turned out no, it wasn’t. So I had not only the sort of fake COVID from Pfizer, I also had my own body dealing with the actual COVID at the same time so it was, yeah, it was intense, but no, it’s all good.

LK  

And the sciatica thing, to go back to that, have you got a decent chair? I want to make sure you’ve got a decent chair.

RR  

No, no, this is an awful chair. Yeah, I need to get a proper studio chair that actually allows me to…I like this, can the rest of this podcast just be about me moaning basically, about various stuff…

LK  

And I’ll just give you the advice you need, how about that? For free.

RR  

Sounds good, yeah yeah. 

LK  

I’ve got this wonderful chair, I don’t know if you can see it?

RR  

Yeah, that’s what I need. That looks like a proper designed….what are they – there’s like a word for it, isn’t it?

LK  

It’s Herman Miller…I think it’s a Herman Miller Aeron – and before anyone accuses me of having loads of money to spend on a chair, first of all, if I did, it would be a great thing to spend money on because we sit in these things all day long. Second of all, I actually got it off Gumtree for £120, so ha.

RR  

Nice!

LK  

It’s the one thing I think, or, one of the few things we should really be investing in.

RR  

Yeah.

LK  

As people who sit in chairs all day making music.

RR  

I’ve felt that for a while, to be honest. So I think this is going to be the last push I’ve needed to finally get rid of this, this crappy IKEA chair.

LK  

We can’t have that, we need you to be fit and healthy and making music, and you know, you need a decent chair. Anyway, we could talk about chairs for…no, actually, I think I have run out of chair anecdotes. So maybe we could…instead, could you introduce yourself to the listeners of my podcast in case they don’t know who I’m talking to about chairs?

RR  

Yeah, I am Rou Reynolds. I’m the singer in a band Enter Shikari. Songwriter, producer. Yeah, that’s about it, I suppose.

LK  

Human?

RR  

Human. Oh, author as well.

LK  

Yeah.

RR  

I keep forgetting to add that in. The longer the bio, you know, the better the human, apparently.

LK  

It’s a good one. The more likes on a photo, the better we are.

RR  

Yes, exactly.

LK  

That’s how it works. Well, congratulations on the book. Your fourth, I believe?

RR  

Yeah. Well, I mean, the others I suppose were more like groups of essays explaining the song lyrics where this, it’s more of like a proper book, really. So I kind of call this my first I think, really, I can’t claim the others as proper books, but yeah, no, thank you. Yeah, it was a bloody arduous project to do, but I’m really glad I did it, and it’s out and going down really well.

LK  

Good. And from what I’ve been reading, you’ve been saying that the book was something that you got into doing during lockdown and stuff, so it’s something that’s been your creative outlet through that time, or something to fill your time?

RR  

Yeah, absolutely. Because it was never meant to be like a proper, you know, non-fiction book of 300 pages, or whatever it was, it was just going to be another kind of accompaniment guide to the previous album and just explaining the motivations behind the lyrics and such. But yeah, with the pandemic, and with everything going on, I sort of felt…for a while, I’d felt a little bit of frustration about the limitation of a four minute sort of, you know, pop – ostensibly – track. There’s only so much detail or depth you can go into, so I was like, right, that’s it, I’m actually gonna, you know, talk about the same subjects that I’m talking about in my music, but actually delve into them properly. And so yeah, the project just expanded and expanded.

LK  

Yeah. I love that. I mean, I’ve released five albums, and I haven’t yet delved as deeply into my lyrics to explain them as you have done, but I find the way that you do things so interesting and inspiring as a fellow artist, because I think that there is so much depth to… Yeah, the words in my songs are kind of skating on the surface of obviously a lot of emotion, a lot of experience underneath them.

There’s definitely an argument for saying don’t overexplain lyrics so that you’re taking away from the listener’s experience and that they can bring to it from their life. But I think the angle that you’ve been taking, which is that you’re explaining or you’re writing about the world in which the songs were written, rather than sort of saying this song’s very specifically about this one thing, and if you don’t get that, then you’re wrong. It doesn’t seem like that angle at all.

RR  

Yeah, yeah, exactly. I think you always have to stipulate that, like, as an artist who puts art into the world, it’s sort of a gift really, even though of course we all have to act within a capitalistic economic system.

LK  

Yeah.

RR  

Once it’s out there, it’s not yours anymore. And it’s for people to put their own experiences, memories, nostalgia, meaning – everything goes into music that we all hear. So it’s then, you know, I don’t feel like I’m kind of explaining it to someone like, it has to mean this, you know, like, dictatorial with it. So, yeah, I feel like it’s my job to sort of say, well this is what I intended andthen actually explain in the books, it’s more about, like, why I wanted to write about these things. Not necessarily the nuts and bolts of exactly what I’m getting at, yeah.

LK  

Yeah, yeah, and that definitely comes across. It’s so interesting – so I remember, in the distant past when I used to play live shows, and I would always think, do I say “this is a song about blah, blah, blah”, because I always really hated it when someone’s kind of like, “this is a song about the day I went to the bus stop, and there was a man there. It’s called man at the bus stop”. And I’m like, yeah, I would have got that from all of the words you’re about to sing to me. But um, yeah, cos it feels like there’s a real nice, collaborative thing when the audience are bringing their thing to your song. But of course, yeah, you’ve got more to say. And I love that. I love that you’re saying more things.

RR  

Yeah, I think in this day and age as well, you could…one could argue that, when you’re writing music that is social commentary, or political – to use the P word that just switches all your listeners off straight away, probably, anyone’s listeners off not just yours I mean – yeah, to do that there is then some sort of responsibility to make sure what you’re trying to get across, gets across and people don’t mistake or misinterpret what you’re trying to say. Because, you know, there’s a lot of weight in that type of music, and that type of art, so yeah, I think for me, there is a sort of sense of responsibility, as well. But for the people who want to know exactly what our views are and what we’re talking about, then it’s there for them to delve into.

LK  

Yeah, absolutely. And it filled up your time during various lockdowns it seems.

RR  

It did. Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure I would have lost my mind if I didn’t have that to concentrate on.

LK  

But not only a book – a new album as well. You really kept busy.

RR  

Yeah. Oh, no, but that was before. So we finished that in…we mastered it in January, and then it came out at literally the start of lockdown.

LK  

I’m talking about the one that you’ve put out this year, though, I’m not uninformed [laughs].

RR  

[laughs a lot] Sorry, sorry, gotcha!

LK  

Have you forgotten?

RR  

Yeah, yeah!

LK  

Yes, you did put an album out in March 2020, but also…

RR  

I forget that’s even an album, yeah.

LK  

Well, it’s a collection, isn’t it – a collection of stuff you’ve done during the weird times.

RR  

Yeah. Yeah. So it’s all the the kind of acoustic tracks and live streams and the little bits and pieces. I like those – we’ve done a few in our career, those sorts of albums where it’s what would have been back in the day B-sides and rarities?

LK  

Yeah

RR  

That kind of thing, I enjoy those.

LK  

Yeah. Deep cuts.

RR  

Yeah, absolutely.

LK  

But they’re so beautifully done. So I think – I mean, I’m taking this from the way that I hear those words, which is like, live streams and stuff: I know they can be super high quality, and I know they can be a person singing into their phone with a guitar, and all are valid and interesting and can be potentially great. But, the production value of the stuff that you’ve put out is really high. So I think saying live stream could mean so many things, but you’ve made beautiful versions of the songs off your latest album.

RR  

Oh, awesome.

LK  

And there’s some live performances right, with the whole band, but you’re separately recording, and then stuff in the woods and there’s a beautiful cover of heroes. It’s a gorgeous collection of stuff. And to me, really interesting to hear that different side of Enter Shikari, you know?

RR  

Oh awesome.

LK  

Yeah, really cool.

RR  

Those kind of, you know, stripped back versions are such a big part of us now. I always enjoy like just showing – not just the bare bones of a song…a lot of bands will just settle for a kind of, they’ll play the chords, strum the chords on a guitar and that will be the acoustic version, which is, you know, obviously, that’s fine, and for a lot of songs that’s, that’s absolutely all it needs. And what I’m doing is probably overbaking things. But yeah, I like to sort of play around with the…I don’t know really…the real heart of the song and just deliver it in a completely different way, and use different chords and, and kind of yeah, put a different emotion into the delivery, I suppose.

LK  

Mm. But given that your band is well known for, real sort of genre defying productions, that’s what I find most interesting about this, because…I don’t know if anyone would listen to your music and be like, oh, it’s just a load of tricks cos, I mean, it’s not – it’s just interesting, and there’s a lot of different stuff going on and it really blends a lot of stuff together, which I think is great. But I think then when you can go “and yeah, I could play it by myself in the woods here”. So it is a real song, it’s not just a bunch of production, you know? I just think it makes it even deeper really, when you listen back to the…because I like listening to the deep cuts thing and then going back to the album going “oh yes, I can hear more things”. It’s really good.

RR  

Yeah, I think for us as well, it’s a good – or for me, I should say – it’s a good practice to try and get to the real skeleton of the song like okay, what drives this? You know, what melodies are important, what should be concentrated on? And I think that’s something that I’m not very good at, it’s often hard for me to make a minimal song or to strip things back. I’m always like oh, you could do this and this and, you know, I have to have to sort of rein myself in a bit, really. So yeah, it’s always good, good fun to do.

LK  

But it’s interesting that it’s come that way around. So when you’re writing songs for the band, is there not already a version that’s like these versions, that then you build upon?

RR  

It’s weird, it’s actually quite quite rare for me to write a song that is just me and the guitar like tinkering “Ooh, that’s a nice chord sequence, ooh that melody works”. And then like, I would just write a demo, you know. And that’s what I used to do as a kid, really. You know, I grew up with Britpop –

LK  

Mmm, me too.

RR
– and that’s how I knew that Noel Gallagher wrote, you know, he’d do the demo first, which was literally just him and a guitar and then they build it up and make it the full track. But for some reason, I don’t normally do that. There isn’t…certainly for the last three albums, there hasn’t really been a demo, it just seamlessly goes into the the track and you know, the first thing that may come may be like, a really weird, massively processed synth or something. So like, you know, some of the niggly detail stuff is done, possibly right at the beginning. So it’s, um, yeah, it’s a bit all over the place, really.

LK
Yeah. I used to have more full demos, acoustic demos when I wasn’t then recording my own stuff, producing my own stuff, because it just seems like well that’s just an extra step that doesn’t need to happen, because if I’m writing the song why aren’t I just recording it straight away?

RR  

Yeah, yeah.

LK  

Is that how you do things?

RR  

Yeah, I think so. I think the one detriment to it is that you can quite easily lose the broader perspective in terms of knowing what the song structure is, knowing the bird’s eye view of the track if you like.

LK  

Yeah, yeah.

RR  

But like, yeah, as long as you keep that in mind, then I think it’s, yeah, it does sort of just make sense, I think, just to start throwing stuff at it straight away.

LK  

Yeah, well it’s fun isn’t it, it can take you to the next bit that wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t have that mad synth that comes in. I’ve been reading a lot about storytelling, so books about stories – telling stories about storytelling books, storytelling books – about that kind of thing of like the skeleton of the story. So what’s the skeleton? And then you put the meat and stuff on…that’s a terrible analogy. It’s not my analogy, I’m just explaining it badly – I think you get my drift, which is that you have the skeleton and that means like, what are you actually trying to say? Then you can add all the fun stuff on top and put fancy clothes on it, but if you took the fancy clothes off and everything falls apart, then you don’t have anything in the first place.

RR  

Yeah, for sure. Oh, exactly.

LK  

So that’s the test of a song isn’t it? If you can stand in the woods with your electric guitar…I don’t even know how you recorded that, because it sounds so good in the woods, but –

RR  

My laptop almost died because right at the end of it – of the, which one was it, “The Pressure’s On” – it’s a real thunderstorm.

LK  

Oh, ok!

RR  

The video’s on on YouTube, but I was underneath a quite thick tree, so I was protected to some extent, but it was so heavy that it was coming through as I was like, “just gotta get to the end of the song!”, and I slightly speed up because I can see my laptop basically starting to get soaked.

LK 

But did you have everything just plugged into the laptop then? So you didn’t have an amp and stuff out there?

RR  

Yeah, no, I just had a little USB powered soundcard and yeah, just found a nice little place in a nature reserve near me. And it was absolutely glorious sunshine when I started.

LK  

You brought it on yourself really, didn’t you?!

RR  

Exactly, yeah.

LK  

Ha, brilliant. Yeah, it’s a really great collection, everyone should obviously listen to it.

RR  

Thank you so much.

LK  

Do you have a mission in your music career? Because you obviously like to use your time…I was gonna say time well, like that sounds like I’ve decided you’re using your time well, but it seems like you like to do things. So what’s that all about? What’s the drive for all that?

RR  

These are the hardest questions aren’t they, the most broad? I think there’s, I mean, there’s so many layers to it. Like, to some extent, it’s just an expression of me. I am quite an introverted person, so in a way, it’s communication. This is one way that I can communicate with people, with groups of people, with masses of people. And I get a great thrill out of that, you know, the process of writing a song: the thought that someone else will experience what I’m experiencing, the excitement, the rush, that’s one of the driving factors. But then, you know, I could be more sort of philosophical and grandiose about it.

I feel like I’m wielding a tool of unity. I think music, one of the great things about it, throughout the journey that our species has been on for millennia, it’s been one thing that’s been able to bring us together. It’s one thing that makes us feel our shared sense of vulnerability. We’re all vulnerable toward music. It will make you feel something. And most likely, it will make you feel a similar thing to the other person who’s listening to the same piece that you are. And that reminds us that, you know, to quite a large degree, we are the same.

And in a world that’s increasingly divided and polarised, I think that’s quite a noble thing, really. So I take that relatively seriously. But yeah, there’s so many ways in which it feels healthy and feels like a necessity for me to write music and to perform music. Yeah, it’s a difficult one to answer.

LK  

I always try and lure people in with a little bit of “Hey, how’s it going?” And then we’re like “Right, let’s do this!”. Cos I only do this show because I’m fascinated, because I have made music for a long time and I want to know why other people do it, how other people do it. It can be such a solitary thing – I’m a solo artist as well, so it’s incredibly solitary – so just to know that other people do things that are like this, and we’re all quite similar actually, is really good. And it’s interesting, you said about music being a gift. That word can mean so many things, but it’s only in the past few years I started thinking about songwriting as being a service.

Because before that, I suppose I had the impression that if I was trying to make music and share it, then it was all about me trying to sort of gain status and people to think I was cool or good or something. And I wasn’t comfortable with that, because I didn’t really want that kind of like acclaim or adulation. That actually makes me feel really weird right now, even saying it! It’s not that I don’t want respect, or I don’t want to have a career, it’s just that I don’t want it for those reasons. I never wanted it…I was never doing it to be cool – so if I’m cool, that’s completely accidental! – so when I started thinking of it though, as a service, so a songwriter has a place in a community, and they have a role to play in the community, and they give something to that community, it’s about contribution more than anything else.

And so when I saw that you did your own podcast just over a year ago about mindfulness and meditation, I just thought that’s so great, because that’s *only* about contributing something and sharing something with people. Because I can’t imagine that the idea behind that was to get really famous and rich, because podcasts do not pay for a start. So can we talk about that a little bit, about like, what was the idea for doing that? Because again, I think that’s a brilliant thing you’ve done. Well done.

RR  

Yeah, yeah, nice. Thank you. Well, yeah, I think I just felt like I had benefited so much from mindfulness meditation, and meditation more broadly. And even broader still, to be slightly reductive, “Eastern knowledge”. In the West, we are so adamant that everything that is of worth comes from Western history, and I think, you know, it’s very inward, I think, to think that. But we’ve been indoctrinated to some extent. And yeah, I felt that I’d gained so much insight and knowledge and learned tools that really, really helped me on a psychological scale. And I just wanted to be able to relay some of that information really, it was as simple as that.

I started doing Instagram Live meditation sessions, just on our profile, during the first lockdown which seemed to go really well. And I was still sort of slightly surprised just how little people know about it, and what they do know is often quite negative. But I think meditation has suffered for decades from like, the worst marketing campaign ever. A lot of people think of it as this sort of wishy washy, very unscientific, you know, people in baggy clothes and didgeridoos and mystical synths in the background and “clear your mind” and just a load of bullshit, basically. Whereas actually, the last decade, especially, we’ve seen science catch up with just how beneficial it is to our mental health, to our understanding of our own inner experience, really.

Yeah, so I just wanted to kind of encourage people, I suppose, to just give it a try, see if there’s anything there to help you. Because for me, it’s just strange that we’re not given these bearings as children at school, you know.

LK  

Yeah!

RR  

How to deal with our own minds, and all the inconsistencies and the way we ruminate on all the troubles we have with like, understanding things. It just seems to be, to me such a given that we should be at least given some direction.

LK  

Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s funny, because there’s that saying about, like, it’s kinda like a thing from school that I remember, which is, you know, “If you get angry count to 10”. That’s essentially what meditation is, it’s giving yourself a moment before you react. And that moment can be tiny, or it can be a little bit longer. Meditation’s changed my life over the past three years, hugely.

RR  

Oh, amazing.

LK  

Yeah, so I love talking about it, especially on this because I think it’s good that people can learn a bit more about it. Because I never really associated it with any of the bad stuff, so I don’t know where any of that’s coming from. So when I talk about meditation, or I mention it to people, and I get this reaction I’m a bit confused, and I’m not really sure how to unpack it.

But it is that – if you get angry, you count to 10 before you lose your shit. Like, that’s kind of it, and also you don’t have to clear your whole mind, that’s impossible. And it’s just about sitting. Surely everyone could take 5/10 minutes a day to sit down and be quiet and breathe and put your phone in another room. And that’s essentially the start of it, isn’t it? Obviously it can be so much more.

RR  

Yeah. And we should make it clear that it’s fascinating.

LK  

Yeah.

RR  

Because on paper, it sounds boring. What, like put my phone down? What, just be alone with my thoughts? What am I going to do?!

LK  

What’s the point?!

RR  

Yeah, yeah. But I think that’s where the science and the studies that have been done really show the benefits. The psychological and mental health benefits are mad, but also I think what really encourages me is just having more insight and more understanding of our own inner experience and how our own inner experience is mental. I mean that in the sort of derogatively archaic sense, you know, it’s crazy. And we all think we’re a bit crazy, and we all just sort of either don’t talk about it or just we just try and hide things – 

LK  

Or we make songs.

RR  

Yeah, yeah. So it’s just a fascinating learning experience, I think.

LK  

Yeah, yeah, definitely. And I love the tone of the show. Everyone should also check this out, but you’re just so straightforward in it. And I love that. I didn’t pick up on any panpipe moods in the background –

RR  

Excellent, yeah yeah yeah.

LK  

– unless it was just sort of inherent, I don’t know, I couldn’t hear it. I had a really good conversation with Liela Moss from The Duke Spirit on this show about meditation as well, because she’s gone and done the Vipassana silent retreats.

RR  

Right, wow.

LK  

I had my finger hovering over clicking to book one, just before the pandemic happened. And then obviously, I’m waiting but I’m into the idea. So 10 days silent meditation: no books, obviously no phones, no electronics, nothing.

RR  

Yeah, it’s extreme isn’t it?

LK  

It’s apparently incredibly excruciatingly painful to start with and then yeah, kind of blissful. I don’t know.

RR  

Yeah, I think we all get a sense of what it may be like in a smaller way if we go on holiday and we just put our phone on silent, not just on silent – on aeroplane mode for a day. And you know, you’re just going on walks, or you’re on a beach and it’s just like your pace of life dramatically slows down and it is kind of blissful, isn’t it?

LK  

But isn’t it terrifying that airplane mode is the thing people could do. It’s ok cos it’s right there, but I can’t do anything, but it’s right there in case I need it, yeah, weird.

RR  

I’d love to do something like that at some point. The most I’ve done is like an hour session of meditation. But yeah, that’s a whole different ballgame. 10 days, blimey.

LK  

The last time I did an hour of meditation, I felt like I was floating above my body. It was amazing.

RR  

Yeah, yeah, that’s that stuff’s really weird. Yeah.

LK  

Not to put anyone off, it doesn’t normally happen. In 10 minutes that doesn’t happen to me. But I do get a really weird buzzing in my ears every time I do it.

RR  

Yeah, it’s like your body’s trying to recalibrate, to like, well what is there? What’s going on? It’s looking for something, isn’t it?

LK  

I just thought my brain was defragging or something.

RR  

Yeah, it’s fascinating.

LK  

So for me, I’ve been putting music out for 11 years now, and the whole time Enter Shikari has been this beacon of fierce independence to me, but on a far bigger scale than most independent artists usually get to enjoy. So I just have always found that to really, really a cool thing to look up to. So thank you for the inspiration, first of all, and I just wanted to briefly mention the whole MySpace thing, because again, in my mind, in my version of events that I’ve sort of soaked in from the atmosphere, the band started at a very particular time in social media history, where it was suddenly possible to gain a huge following on the internet.

But when I think about it now, I now know – having put records out and been around a bit longer – you only really hear sort of the headlines of what happened. So in your mind, was MySpace, this huge thing for the band? Was it a sort of a catalyst? Or was it part of – was there loads of other stuff going on and that was part of it?

RR  

Yeah, I think it was a big part. It wasn’t like it is today, where you can put out one TikTok  video and become world famous.

LK  

Yeah.

RR  

MySpace was more of a supporting vehicle. You know, it was basically a hub where for the first time people could come together and show their presence on a national and global scale, which we didn’t have before. You know, before it was just, you had the shows.

LK  

Yeah.

RR  

And that was it. The few hours where we were all in a room together in Nottingham was it, but now people in Nottingham could see people in Glasgow had also liked us, and were also hanging out on our page and all that kind of thing. So it was the first time where you have this visible base to everyone all the time. So you weren’t just relying on the shows to just make as much impact as you can, and then like, just go off again, and tour the other side of the country. So yeah, it was huge in that respect. And it was the first time that it felt similar to the shows in the fact that there was camaraderie, and it was a scene, and that was quite important.

For us, that’s how we booked a lot of our shows, you know, by connecting with bands on MySpace. You know, we’ll get you a show down here if you get us a show up there, that kind of thing. And so that all helped but still there was two years of touring before we even got anywhere on MySpace, and there were still countless horrible, difficult experiences so MySpace didn’t sort of alleviate us of an ascension – a slow, arduous ascension – but it did certainly help that, I think.

LK  

So how did it feel then when MySpace ended? Did you manage to pull people over from the MySpace page to everywhere else that you were, to your site, to your mailing list and things like that?

RR  

I can’t remember how it ended or when it ended. Yeah, I think it was just – the other social media platforms were like taking off so it just kind of blended slowly into the background. It wasn’t like a, “Ugh God! How are we going to do without this thing?!” It just sort of disappeared slowly.

LK  

Yeah. I just wonder sometimes because I had like, 20,000 MySpace followers, and I don’t have 20,000 Twitter followers. So it was like, where have you all gone? Who were you? Were they bots? Is anyone still with me from those days? I often wonder – not often, that sounds really weird, I’m not sitting around thinking about MySpace – but it was a very particular thing. It was so browsable. And I think really now the only similarly browseable by genre thing is Bandcamp.

RR  

Right?

LK  

Yeah, all the music in the world is on Spotify and stuff, but it’s not quite the same kind of browseability, the way that you go from one thing to another, I think it’s a bit different. So, I wonder about that stuff sometimes. And I can only imagine, you know, having been such a hit on MySpace and it being so big for you, that closing its doors might be quite a scary thing for a band unless other things are in place, you know?

RR  

Yeah, I think we were lucky in the fact that it never became our major or our only tool. It was just yeah, as I say, a supporting thing. So for us, it was still…the shows were everything, the performance was everything, and the music. A lot of those MySpace bands became just like so heavily involved in their own aesthetic, and that being the most important thing. To the point that they’re sort of like, I don’t know, indebted to their aesthetic. And when their major platform that they had to show their aesthetic disappeared, I think they had a lot more more trouble than perhaps we did.

LK  

Yeah. Do you think that kind of rise, or that – what did you call it? “Painful ascension” – you didn’t say painful… gradual? Your phrasing was brilliant.

RR  

Arduous, gradual ascension.

LK  

That one. Do you think that could happen on any single social media platform these days? I suppose TikTok, as you mentioned, could be a thing.

RR  

Yeah, I feel like it’s either quite instant, and dramatic or it doesn’t happen at all. Or at least it feels like those people who are having that gradual ascension, there’s a ceiling. For me, that’s what it’s felt like for a few years, there’s some great artists and great bands who have been slowly building up a fan base, but because, you know, less and less independent venues are with us, they’re closing down all the time, there’s less scenes, there’s less ways in the real world that you can support each other and discover new bands and stuff.

It seems to be that there’s this cap that you can only get so big. I don’t know, maybe it’s just in our world of whatever you want to call it, alternative music I guess would be the broadest term. But yeah, it’s interesting, but I think the very quick, dramatic “Hello, I’m now massive” seems to be the new way of being “successful”, and I’m using inverted commas, yeah.

LK  

Yeah, because that’s the thing – you don’t have to have 100,000 whatevers, on whatever platform, to have a creative career at all. It’s just that those numbers… I don’t know, it’s like when I, I put videos on YouTube every week, and some of them have 400 views, and some of them have 3.5K, and I think a lot of doing this, and consistently making work and sharing it with the world is about going, those numbers, I have to detach myself from those numbers, that doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter how many people have streamed your song, or how many people have…it does matter how many people have bought it, because that means you can buy food and things, but that’s a quantitative response to your work, it’s not a qualitative response to your work. So it has to be about more than that. And I do worry sometimes when I sort of get the sense that artists who are trying to keep growing – and they’re small in the same way that I am, and they want to grow – are spending maybe a little bit too much time tweeting, thinking that’s going to do it. Because I don’t think that’s going to do it, certainly not alone. So it’s a case of doing a lot of things.

RR  

Yeah, and you know, there’s a lot of danger, I think, behind being focused on the quantitative success, as you say. There’s so much interesting science there, things like how outside of music, for a first example, bonuses in the business world not only blunt our moral compass, but they erode our creative thinking and our ability to be imaginative, because the goal starts to slowly become just, you know, how much profit can you make? How much money can you make? How much power can you gain?

And it’s the same thing with…there’s a great book by Dan Pink called “Drive”, where he talks about internal and external motivation. As soon as you use you start getting profit focused, you will completely lose not only your creativity, but your motivation. So it can be really dangerous, and I think, you know, it’s happened again and again in pop music, that’s why pop music relies so intrinsically on the more niche underground genres because that’s where it gets its creativity from, because it’s impossible –

LK  

Because that’s where everyone’s trying hardest?

RR  

Yeah, and it’s impossible to be that creative and interesting, and sort of push boundaries forward when you’re a massive pop artist, because you’re a business then. And your motivation, and your focus has been, you know, at least somewhat polluted, even if the artist doesn’t realise it themselves.

LK  

Yeah, yeah.

RR  

So yeah, there’s definitely dangers with all that kind of stuff. But yeah, you have to just try and use all the tools that you’re given in terms of social media and everything, and just build yourself up to at least a point where you can stay afloat.

LK  

Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s a wonderful goal. I don’t think anything beyond that sounds that fun anyway. Walking down the road and having people yell at you seems like the absolute worst way to walk down the road to me, you know, and I was talking to Miki Berenyi from Piroshka and Lush in the last episode, we were talking about how when people get really…when people from the sort of 80’s / 90’s / whenever, who had massive songs or massive albums, they only really put out 12, or maybe 24 songs total. And then life was just so easy for them, and then you don’t hear any more music from them. And I think sometimes to myself, I hope they’re all right. Because having all of your self worth rest on 24 songs, or however many have come out sounds dreadful, because then you’ve got 24 hours a day to fill with other things for the rest of your life, what are you gonna do?

So I love that I’m not huge, that’s fine, because I’ve got plenty to do in my days. And I feel like I’m doing things that are useful, not just for myself, but hopefully for others. And yeah, you just don’t want it to be too easy, there’s nothing to write about, surely?  If everything was great, and we all had all the money we wanted or needed, and all the, you know, fun toys and stuff, not only would we be living what I would think to be quite a gross, luxurious lifestyle, when others don’t have that luxury, literally, but you know, I just think that your subject matter is like – what are you gonna write about? My food is cold, or my car got a scratch on it, or? I don’t know!

RR  

Yeah, yeah. It’s funny, isn’t it, yeah, when you see like – it happens in pop and hip hop, especially, where an artist has been all about their difficult lifestyle. And the lifestyle changes, and they have to make a decision, am I going to try and sort of fake writing the same music with the same, like, aggro to it, or am I gonna present people with a different kind of perspective? It must be a difficult decision.

LK  

Yeah. What stumbling blocks do you find you come up against creatively? And how do you deal with them? So I’m thinking about things like inner critic, or writer’s block or that kind of thing?

RR  

Well, I’ve had massive difficulty since the start of the pandemic. But I mean, normally, I find the most difficult stuff for me is the…I guess, it’s just a confidence thing. When I’m at the very start of writing, say, a new album, or new big project, you look back at your finished projects, and they’re these mighty bastions, and you look at other peoples’ music, and their finished projects, and they sound incredible. And then there you are, with just some rough ideas, and you’re like, “Oh, Christ, how am I going to do this?” It literally feels like you’re at the foot of a mountain, and you’re just looking up and you’re like, “How the hell am I going to traverse this?”.

That really fills me…still to the point where even before our last album, I was just full of anxiety. And I find that quite difficult and the relief, that eventually every time has come, when I start getting my groundings with an idea, or there’s one particular demo, you know, a bit of music that is starting to serve as a guiding light in terms of the instrumentation or the textures or whatever that need the album will be – that’s when I’m like, okay, phew, and then that begins to subside. But yeah, that bit of the cycle, I find it incredibly hard.

But yeah, so since basically the start of the pandemic, I haven’t written anything until about last week, is when I’ve started basically becoming a songwriter again after being an author, really focused on the book, and then we did a docuseries and that just took – I can’t say all of my time, because I still tried to write music and I felt like I just couldn’t. And that was annoying because that seemed to be – I felt like an anomaly there, it felt like over the lockdowns I’d just, you know, load up Instagram and like, oh, look at these artists in the studio being super productive and writing loads of stuff, and oh shit, I’ve got nothing coming.

Yeah, so the last sort of 18 months has been pretty weird. I’ve never gone more than maybe two months tops without writing something, so it’s very odd.

LK  

But when you write songs and music that’s about stuff, you can’t just turn on a tap and say a bunch more stuff. Because you say a lot of things on each album… I have this thing at the moment, I’m planning…well, I’m going to, I’m saying it here, so I’m going to…start writing my new album next week. I don’t know how long it’s gonna take. I don’t know what I’m writing about yet, because I haven’t started it. But I can see how the fear could be like, well, what am I going to say, though? And if I’ve got nothing to say, what’s the point?

I’m just going to start fucking about with synths and stuff because it’s fun, and then see what happens. But I think it would be quite a lot to expect everyone to be able to, say, write a song a week or something. I don’t really believe it when people say they write music all the time like that, because I’ve always done it in a kind of project based way.

RR  

Yeah, yeah. I did a lot of pop writing a few years ago, and that was really eye-opening, because it’s just a different process completely. It’s very much like you’re…I don’t want to be too disparaging of it, but you’re churning out music, every day you’re writing with new artists, and it’s very, sort of construction line. That’s what it feels like.

LK

You kind of write bits, don’t you, don’t you have like, there’s the melody person, and then there’s the…I dunno, there can be a lot of people in the room, can’t there?

RR  

Yeah, well, yeah, it can either be your producer and a songwriter or two with the artist, or it can be like, yeah, literally 30 people that the track gets passed round to, you know, one guy does the tambourine or something –

LK  

Second syllable’s mine!

RR  

Yeah, yeah, it’s all very strange.

LK  

It’s just a different thing, isn’t it? I’m not disparaging about it, either, I think it’s interesting.

RR  

Yeah, the only thing I find difficult with it is yeah, if you’re that prolific and that constant and consistent with your output, it’s not all coming from a place of deep emotion, then is it, because we don’t go through *that* much trauma…

LK  

Hopefully not!

RR  

…and we don’t go through that much glee to write about these experiences.

LK  

Or if we were, we wouldn’t have time to write the songs about them? I feel? Yeah, you’d have to be focusing on that. Dealing with that.

RR  

Yeah. So it does then become like a production thing, like a production line. And you’re just yeah, sort of going through the normal stages that you go through to write a song, and you’re not really putting soul into it. And, you know, and that’s why a lot of pop music is soulless, basically!

LK  

Guess so!

RR  

But, yeah, I just found interesting because it completely different, really, from how I write. But I think it’s important for any songwriter to understand that you cannot pressure yourself to be that constant with your output. Just as from the mindfulness world, just as we understand that we cannot be like angry for more than an hour, really – what happens, if we’re still angry after an hour, we’re just replaying things in our head, and we’re stoking our own anger, it’s manufactured then.

It’s the same thing with inspiration, you can’t expect yourself to be constantly inspired, just as you can’t be constantly angry, or constantly happy. Like you know [sings] “life is a rollercoaster…” [laughs] So it’s just, that’s what it’s like we have to be expectant of phases of just complete nothingness and not knowing what to write about and being stuck and lost. That’s to be expected; it’s all part of the journey.

LK  

Right. Yeah. And for me the idea that mindfulness and meditation is a practice, in the same way that you would practice…I don’t know, I don’t really practice things, I’m very bad at rehearsing – but in terms of practising meditation, so it’s not about doing the perfect meditation, it’s about practising meditation to then have a better day, a better life, not to do the perfect meditation.

Therefore, if I’m sitting down to write a song, I try to think of it as a practice; I’m not expecting to write the best song in the world, so I won’t be disappointed if I only just get a little bit done. But I know that if I sit there and I just keep doing it, there’s a bit of a war of attrition, if I can stop myself from getting distracted and wandering off downstairs to watch YouTube, for instance, then I can probably make something and then the next day I could edit that thing to be better because you can’t edit something that doesn’t exist.

RR  

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, you know, that’s the the hardest bit isn’t it, exercising the demon from your brain. Oh, how do I make this reality, because it sounds so great in my brain, but it’s very difficult to extract, mm.

LK  

It’s dealing with that discomfort. That’s seems to be what most making most things is. It’s choosing discomfort over comfort.

RR  

Yeah, well I mean, there’s a lot disappointment, and there’s a lot of difficulty in songwriting as well. People think of it as just like a kind of lower, base thing whereas actually it can be really, really mentally testing, you know, you go through all sorts of self doubt and stuff.

LK  

I think also getting over the idea that it’s supposed to feel like a party. When I’m writing albums, I’m not having the time of my life. It’s not like going on holiday or something, or like, I dunno, I don’t even know what else I could liken it to. It’s not that it’s so deeply unpleasant I’m sitting here in tears or anything, either, but it’s work, it’s doing some creative work. And I love it, but it’s not a joy. It’s not like having a massage, or sitting in a hot tub, or…I don’t know what else, what other things do I like? I don’t know.

RR  

Yeah.

LK  

Eating a pizza…it’s something else! But what it is, is wonderful. And I love the feeling of having made something up that wasn’t there before. That’s the buzz I get, really.

RR  

Yeah.

LK  

And so that’s the thing for me, it has to be about that. Not how many people are going to say to me on Twitter that they loved it. It doesn’t matter.

RR  

Yeah. I would go back to the mountain climbing analogy, because, you know, it’s really difficult, at times scary, and can be, you know, very lonely, just you amongst this landscape. But it’s exhilarating, too. There can be real, you know – we talk about the flow state nowadays, and once you’re in that zone, and you’re like, oh, the idea’s starting to develop, it’s absolutely thrilling. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not scary and difficult and odd. And yeah, everything else.

LK  

Where are you on the theory that inspiration is kind of floating around your head and songwriters are conduits for that, and for ideas – versus the sort of perspiration, songwriting is work, you sit there and you sort of craft things, you’re sculpting things.

RR  

Ooh, let me think about that whilst I turn my phone on silent.

LK  

Saved by the bell…

RR  

I don’t know that’s very interesting. What did you call it? Perspiration or inspiration?

LK  

I suppose inspiration versus perspiration? I sometimes talk about it as a percentage, what percentage of your songwriting is inspiration striking you, and what percentage of it is crafting it to its conclusion? 

RR  

I sort of try and compartmentalise the two processes. I have my hats, my songwriting hat and my producer hat. And I try and make those two mindsets separate. You know, one’s very details focused, it’s sound design, it’s twiddling knobs and being knee deep in MIDI. And then, yeah, the other one is a bit more sort of floaty and yeah, like you say, you’re just kind of there as the – I usually say that…because usually, inspiration hasn’t been too difficult, especially musically, it’s a bit like a tap, and my conscious mind is just me with a bucket, just trying to catch the the good bits of liquid. Okay, that’s just weird now.

But, uh, the tap is always on, and I’m just there to, like, try and get bits here and there, and work out what’s good and what’s bad. Yeah, cos I feel like as humans, we are just sponges, we’re just walking around soaking up experience after experience. And that’s why everyone’s musical output is so different, because we all have different experiences and were brought up in a different environment. And, you know, that’s what makes it so interesting. So I don’t really have any sense of – what would the word be – pride, I suppose. Like, I have pride in the amount of effort and work and sleep deprivation, you know, everything that goes into it. But I am just kind of lucky to have had certain inspirations and influences and experiences that have made my music come out that’s interesting enough to to rise above the noise and be noticed.

But yeah, so I just feel like yeah, we’re just sponges and then it’s just there’s the two stages, the songwriter and the producer who’s trying to make what we squeeze out of those sponges listenable.

LK  

And somewhat gross! It’s interesting you were saying earlier about how you haven’t written anything for a while, or til recently. But even though you might sort of conceptually think “I don’t know how to write a song anymore, I may never write a song ever again” – because I think most songwriters have that moment – but because you have the proof that you have consistently done it, it can’t really be real terror. I mean, you must truly believe you will and you can write a song again, because you’ve done it so many times?

RR  

In those moments, it is terror.

LK  

Ok!

RR  

It really is! Because what I do, which is just weird, is I – you know, when I was talking about, like, when you’re at the very foot, the beginning of the mountain, and you look back at your past work, and it’s almost like it’s someone else’s.

LK  

Oh, yeah.

RR  

You know, you’ve forgotten what those songs sounded like when they were like just embryos.

LK  

Yeah.

RR  

So it’s almost like you push away that person that wrote that, and you don’t feel aligned to that person anymore in their output, and so it’s just as terrifying I think as listening to other people’s music.

LK  

Well, other peoples’ music sounds like real music, doesn’t it?

RR  

Yeah, yeah yeah.

LK  

It sounds like it’s been properly finished. It takes me quite a while to hear my own albums that way. 

RR  

Yeah.

LK  

But I’ve developed this thing – I’ll show you it, it’s quite funny – where I sort of have a Captain’s Log in my studio. So every single time I sit down to write any music, or try to write some music, I log in the date and the specific time – at 8:18am (it was a very early one this week), and then what I was doing, and then I’ll check in again – at 9.15 I had a break. But I’ve got up to this bit. And the next thing I’m going to do is this, this and this.

I think that’s what stops me feeling so scared, actually, because I know I can look back at least the last two albums that I did this for and be like, oh that’s how that song came about. It doesn’t really detail it exactly, but at least I can be like, okay, I clocked in that time, and I clocked out at that time, I put some hours in that day. And that’s really helped me actually.

RR  

That’s a brilliant idea.

LK  

I would recommend it to anyone listening, because it can really feel like you’ve done nothing, achieved nothing when you’re trying to make stuff. If the thing isn’t finished, and it normally wouldn’t be finished in like, 10 minutes, at least you’ve got some writing on a page. I wrote on a page today! Tick.

RR  

Yeah, I know a few people who’ve done that kind of thing, and I really need to do it. It’s just yeah, like a songwriting diary, I suppose, isn’t it? I mean, I’ve said to myself that I want to write an actual diary for years, and I just never have. I’m always like “oh, I’m too old to do that now, mucking about with a diary!”

LK  

“Mucking about with a pen and paper?” What?

RR  

I mean, it’s such, yeah, it’s obviously bullshit.

LK  

Just start one, it’s great!

RR  

Yeah, I think that now is probably an actual time that I can commit to it, because I’m just starting the next era of the band, the next project. So yeah, I think I might give that a go, because there’s also a great – I struggle with a great sense of annoyance and frustration when I don’t feel like the day was productive.

LK  

Yeah, me too.

RR  

And all I’m thinking about there, mistakenly, is what’s the finished project of that day, regardless of the effort. So I could work from like, 9am to 9pm without any breaks, but if I haven’t got something that I feel is, you know, it goes through to the next round if you’re like, okay, there’s stuff there, then I really go to bed feeling that was a bloody waste, you know. So I think if I had the diary, then at least you can look, and you see – no, look at the effort you’re putting in – and then maybe you may have learned things there subtley that will come out the next day or you know, whenever they arise. So it’s, yeah, it’s good to keep a perspective on these things.

LK  

Yeah, we need to score ourselves on the effort we put in, not what it produces immediately.

RR  

It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts. Yeah, yeah.

LK  

Which three pieces of your own work would you recommend for people listening today?

RR  

I guess I’ll present the breadth of the band because I feel like that’s our USP or whatever, you know – the musical agility is kind of what I pride ourselves on. So I guess I’ll start with us at our most presentable and immediate, so “Live Outside” off our album, The Spark is our most anthemic, possibly our biggest song. It’s certainly a massive live favourite, it’s been the set closer for the last four years, whatever, no, more than that, probably.

Then secondly, I’d go for something heavy. There’s a song called “Hoodwinker” that’s not on an album, it was just a bridging single. It’s also my favourite video that we’ve ever done, it’s just us on a boat in the middle of the sea. I say a boat, it’s like this tiny, rickety old thing, and eventually it sinks. And yeah, it’s a great video –  very cold, very hard to film. But yeah, it’s also I mean, that’s one of our heaviest tracks. It’s just ridiculous. But there’s still melody there, and it’s like, you know, there’s an energy. And you know, it’s a bit – because it’s so heavy, it’s kind of tongue in cheek as well, but like, also a bit terrifying, like, so it’s quite fun.

And then at the complete other end of the spectrum, I’d go with “Elegy For Extinction”, which is off our last album, which is us at our most grandiose and ambitious. It’s an orchestral piece that basically – I always feel ridiculous describing this song – it’s so big! It’s a piece of programme music, which, for anyone that doesn’t know, it’s like a piece of classical music that tells a story just by instruments. So there’s no vocal in the track whatsoever, no lyrics, and it tells the story of life on Earth. So from the very beginning, throughout the Cambrian explosion, into the Anthropocene, into everything that we’re doing to the earth now. And so the piece is just this beautiful journey from busyness, and intrigue and what you’d, I hope, imagine the Cambrian explosion to sound like. All these new species coming out of everywhere, and evolution, like, being so broad and interesting. And it goes from that very light and, and sort of flurries of detail to, again, something quite terrifying. And then the piece just like, ends in just a mess, just really, really nasty, comes out of any key and just descends into silence eventually, which is the possible death. It just serves as a warning really, to the way we treat our ecology and our planet.

So yeah, those three certainly represent the breadth, I think, that that we do as a band.

LK  

Pretty big breadth there.

RR  

Yeah.

LK  

I mean, I’ve never wondered for a moment what the Cambrian explosion sounded like, so I’m glad that you have spent time doing that, because honestly, it wouldn’t have occurred to me. Also, I’m glad that you explained what that piece of music’s about, because – do you even think anyone could possibly pick that up unless you explained it?

RR  

Probably not. I mean, not to the detail. I mean, I don’t know – this is the one thing about the pandemic, I haven’t spoken to enough people about this album. Like I don’t really… you know, people can say in a tweet, “love the album”, or “this is my favourite song” or something like that, but I don’t know what people actually think of the tracks in any detail, so I’m not really sure how many people picked up on it, yeah.

LK  

But it’d be like, Rou, I love that bit where obviously this part about the Anthropocene bla bla bla…I’d love to hear that conversation. I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that.

RR  

[laughs]

LK  

I do have a question about creativity: if you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to be more creative in their own life, what would you say?

RR  

Oof, can I give lots of small nuggets?

LK  

Yes. Love a nugget!

RR  

I don’t really have a defining, big chunk of how I’d answer that question. But first of all, get over the fact that you’re not creative. As a species, we are creative, it’s one of our defining aspects, tenets, you know, it’s the thing that has kept us alive in the deserts, the savannahs of Africa, over the millennia. So it’s just a way of working out how you identify creative thoughts and how you develop them, you know, that the kind of thing.

I would say get back into nature. Try and reduce your stress, basically anything that helps out your hippocampus, which is the centre of your brain for imagination and creativity, stress affects that part of the brain more than any other. It’s particularly susceptible to cortisol, so it can shrink massively, and it doesn’t help in our world where we’re just constantly stressed, and we’re full of anxiety and all these difficulties that we each have to traverse. And getting back into nature is one thing that reduces stress levels immediately. So yeah, think of your hippocampus.

I suppose a more sort of obvious bit of advice is just to broaden your musical input, your inspiration. Really go on a journey, try and put yourself out of your comfort zone and listen to something that you wouldn’t normally listen to and analyse it. That’s something that I always say as well, don’t get sucked in for like “oh, music is just this magical thing, and we don’t know how it works” – no, analyse it. Go into its secrets, go into its detail. It doesn’t reduce it, it just gives you more questions.

LK  

Yeah.

RR  

It makes it more interesting. So yeah, spread your wings and listen to as much music as you can, and really soak it in…going back to the sponge analogy.

LK  

Yeah, be a sponge.

RR  

And then, yeah, when you release your sponge it will be a more interesting, flavoursome mix of juices.

LK  

Oh my Godddd.

You’ve been great. Thank you so much for talking to me.

RR  

My pleasure. Amazing questions, thank you for having me.

LK  

I’m so glad we made this happen, thank you.

RR  

Wicked, nice one. My pleasure, absolutely.


LK
Enter Shikari’s music, books, merch and tour dates are available on their website entershikari.com, and there’s an excellent video series unfolding on YouTube to accompany the latest studio album “Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible” so do check that out. There’s plenty to explore, and I’m always so interested to see what they produce next.

The deluxe show notes page for this episode is at penfriend.rocks/rou and features all the songs Rou mentioned towards the end of our chat.

My latest album “Exotic Monsters” is out now, and deals with many of the topics I cover in this show…with riffs and synths. Visit my website penfriend.rocks to pick up two free songs and browse limited edition vinyl, CDs and merch. Thanks!

If you’re new to this podcast, welcome! If you’d like to keep listening, I recommend Episode 16 with Nova Twins, who support Enter Shikari on tour soon, plus Episode 3 with Ayse Hassan of Savages.

Massive thanks to my Correspondent’s Club for powering the making of this show and all my music, and I’ll be back in two weeks time to share a new conversation with you.

Til then – take care, and thanks for listening.

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Making more time for creativity | Getting up at 6am for a week

Making more time for creativity | Getting up at 6am for a week

Creativity Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

I decided to challenge myself to get up at 6am every day for a week – and it changed my life!

Join me for a week in my life as a full-time artist, songwriter and podcast maker as I attempt to carve out my own personal timezone and find more hours in the day for making music, plus care for my elderly Miniature Schnauzer Benji during a tough time.

Scroll down for the video transcript, and subscribe to my channel for more!


THANK YOU for visiting my website! I’m Laura Kidd, a music producer, songwriter and podcaster based in Bristol, UK. It’s great to meet you.

Get your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

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+ Browse episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” here and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

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Have a lovely day xo


I found more time for creativity | Getting up at 6am for a week
TRANSCRIPT


“I’m flagging…I’m flagging now. I’m not sure this would be possible without coffee.”

I first became a morning person in 2008. I blame this guy [photo of my dog Mister Benji looking v. handsome].

Before he scampered into my life, I’d work late every night and get up around 10 or 11 the next day, unless I had to be somewhere for a filming job or a band rehearsal.

Mister Benji helped me learn to appreciate mornings, and I’m very grateful for that.

Over the past few months, I’ve been feeling more than ever like I’m always running out of time. I know I’m not alone here – tell me in the comments will you, what are the things you’d love to spend time on first but always push to the end of your list?

I’m an ambitious person with an insatiable drive to make all sorts of things from music to podcasts to videos and everything in between, and I know I can’t do everything all at once, but I decided drastic action was required to at least try. I wanted to do the time equivalent of looking for money down the back of the sofa. I wanted more hours in the day. Plus, to be honest, I was keen to try anything different after 18 months of the same routine in the same (beautiful) four walls.

There are loads of ways to get more out of your time: reducing distractions, increasing focus by batch working, checking email at specific times only, time block planning your days, using the Pomodoro technique, bullet journalling, eating the frog – you name it, I’ve probably tried it.

What I hadn’t tried before was getting up at 6am.

Getting up early is meant to have huge benefits for your health, stress levels, productivity and success in life.

Ex-Navy Seal, now-author Jocko Willink suggests 4.30am as the best time to get up – he reckons that showing that much self discipline first thing has a major impact on your day, and I don’t doubt it. I was up for it! But, I don’t live alone, and I try to be a considerate person, so forcing my husband Tim to wake up at 4.30 seemed a bit much.

We agreed on 6am instead, which is already at least an hour and a half earlier than usual, two and a half hours on a particularly snoozy day.

To the experiment! Here are the rules: I’ll get up – actually get out of bed – at 6am every day for a whole week. First, I’ll do some exercise, then I’ll head up to my studio. After a breakfast and dog walking break around 9.15-10am, I’ll work til 6 as usual, with a break for lunch of course, then clock off for the evening.

At the end of this video I’ll share my tips on how you can get up earlier and make the most of your day.

DAY ONE


“This is a good idea!

Wow, I’m really hungry. It’s about 7.15am. It’s about 15 minutes before my alarm clock would normally go off, and probably about half an hour to 45 minutes before I’d actually drag myself out of bed. So this is a very good start to the week already. I feel like I’ve given myself the gift of time!

Now it’s time to go upstairs and make some music.”

It felt so freeing to start the day with the thing I love doing the most, the thing my entire creative career is centred around – making music. It’s so easy to get caught up in more straightforward left brain activities like checking email or working through an admin task or, ugh, writing posts for social media to tell people about the music you’re making. I want to make the best use of my time, always, and so it’s always a great day when making music comes first.

Starting first thing is a good way of pushing through the self doubt that’s part and parcel of the creative process, too. I didn’t get a chance to talk myself out of it, basically!

“It’s 2.30, day 1. I feel pretty, pretty tired but coffee number 3 is on the go. It’s been a wildly productive day – I finished a song! But yeah, I am feeling a little bit sleepy now but then I have been up for eight and a half hours. So yeah, that’s to be expected. I think this is a really good development…it’s obviously only day one. We’ll see how it goes…”

DAY TWO

“This must be the earliest I’ve ever thought about going running. That’s not true – I definitely used to go running in the dark in Victoria Park in Bristol before going to work. That was a few years ago. So this is the earliest I’ve thought about going running in eight years.

I feel fine though. I went to bed at 10 or something, so that’s perfectly reasonable. It’s always a bit of a shock to get up anyway.”

If I run, I never regret it. If I don’t, I always do! I started building my running habit from scratch in January 2020 and have pretty much run two or three times a week ever since. Lately I’ve been finding it harder to keep doing it, even though I know it always makes me feel brilliant. But I keep doing it.

Big shoutout to the Running Punks online community, a really welcoming group of people.

It was good to get started earlier than usual because I couldn’t make the excuse that I didn’t have enough time before work.

“It’s just after 8am, and I’m about to start working on music again for the second day in a row. I’ve had my shower, I feel fresh and energised. I don’t feel tired, I don’t feel at all sleepy. I don’t feel distracted, because there hasn’t been any time for anything to get in my head yet. So this is really nice.”

Energised by my run, I spent the whole day working on a song. What a joy.

Whenever I write music, I keep a captain’s log. I clock in and out by writing down the start and finish time of my writing session, I note down what I did and make a list of what needs to be done next at the end. I find it an excellent way of proving to myself that I’ve achieved something, even if nothing’s finished yet, and it leaves me with no doubt about how to get started again the next time. I highly recommend it.

“I mean, I do feel tired… But it’s 11.25, and I’ve spent hours and hours working on a song. I’ve had two coffees today, feeling pretty good. There will be more. But I’m feeling pretty good. I’m going to press on now…”

It seems obvious to me now that I should always, always start my day with something creative. Whether you have 15 minutes spare or 2 hours or anything in between, that’s enough to get going on something you care about, and if you keep coming back and chipping away at it, you’ll be surprised at what you can get done. I give that advice to absolutely anyone else who wants to make stuff – but sometimes I forget to be as nice to myself as I would be to a stranger. That’s something I’m working on…

“It’s about half eight at night, and I am tired. I’m a little bit annoyed because I arranged to do a podcast conversation recording this evening for my show, and I arranged to do at eight o’clock because that is 3pm EST in America, and I knew I was going to have a long day but I thought no, it’s okay because it’ll be good. I really wanted to talk to this person. And I logged on…and they didn’t log on.

And things come up and things change, but it’s a bit rubbish sitting there waiting for half an hour thinking, “Oh, it’s not happening”. And I spent ages prepping – I spend ages prepping for all of my podcast episodes. But prepping involved listening to this person’s really, really brilliant new album and just reading about their interesting life, so that’s okay. So yeah, that’s a shame, but my super productive day was super productive, and that’s what’s important. And now I get to go downstairs and eat chocolate and have a cup of tea and relax before going to bed quite soon.

And we’ll do it all again tomorrow. And Benji is going to be getting his stitches out as well. So that is brilliant.”



DAY THREE

“I’ve been awake for ages!

Wednesday. And Pilates is the thing I’m most likely to skip out on doing in the week of exercise, even though – and maybe because, hmmm – because it’s the thing that I am almost certain is the thing that does the most for me.
Can’t speak, it’s early and I’m tired.

Shout out to Cassey Ho on YouTube for being my Pilates guru. It’s tough, but she’s brilliant.

Just a quick pause to appreciate this attitude [Benji is curled up, asleep].

I’m so happy. It’s only 7.14 am and I’ve just done 36 minutes of Pilates. I feel fresh and wide awake and energised. And now I’ve got two full hours until Tim and I have agreed to meet for breakfast. So I just feel like I can get so much done. So, what’s next?

I’m recording a podcast conversation this afternoon with Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari. So I’m just going to put the finishing touches to my prep now and there should be enough time before breakfast to make a bit of music.

My neighbours are going to work, and so am I.”


This is where it all started to go a bit wrong. I love past Laura for her optimism, but there wasn’t enough time to make music before breakfast as well as getting ready for my podcast recording, obviously. Instead of choosing to make music in my extra time before the work day started I just…started work early. I wish I hadn’t. I’m still wondering what song I might have written on day 3, if I’d just given myself the chance.

After breakfast we took Benji to the vet’s to get his stitches out. He had a splenectomy eight days before this – they removed his entire spleen because it had a tumour growing inside. It was really scary, especially because he’s 13 and a half, but he bounced right back from the operation, started putting weight back on and generally being his former bouncy self, so we were really happy.

He was very brave when they took the stitches out, and only yelped once. Good boy!

“It’s nearly the end of the day on Wednesday, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m flagging. I’m flagging now. At lunchtime, I was thinking about how nice it would be to just stop. Of course I feel tired, I’ve been up since six. It’s time to finish work soon and relax and have an early night and start again tomorrow.”

DAY FOUR

“I feel okay. This is a good idea!

Day four. Thursday 6.24am. I just wanted to say something: I understand that many people every day get up at 6am. So it’s not that I think this is a really extreme challenge. For me, this is just about having extra time at the beginning of a work day.

Anyway, I’m slightly stalling, which is what I often do when I’m supposed to be going for a run. So I’m gonna go do that now…

[returns]

Did it!”


I’m really kicking myself looking back on this, because this was the second day in a row that I just started my usual work early. I hadn’t realised yet that there was a better way. But hey, that’s what an experiment is for! And because being creative always gives me a buzz, I might not have been feeling like this:

“Seriously flagging now. It feels like I’m in a different time zone because it’s sunny when it should be getting dark or something, even though it’s summer and it doesn’t get dark till like half eight. Just feels weird. I felt really weird yesterday as well. I think I’m focused on work, I think I’m getting things done. I’m gonna keep trying to get things done. The things that I do don’t happen super quickly anyway, they’re not finished quickly. So the day is still happening. I’ve got a couple more hours before I stop and…feeling a bit funny.

But we talked this morning at breakfast about whether this is going to be an ongoing thing because it seems like maybe shunting the day forward as we’ve done for the past few days, just doing it for a week might be more confusing than doing it for a few weeks. I wonder if it’s gonna take a little while for this to feel normal. Because ongoing, this could be normal. There’s no reason why we couldn’t get up at six and have our nice quiet mornings, and then finish on time and then go to bed at a reasonable time so that it doesn’t feel like this.”


DAY FIVE


By the end of the week it had dawned on me that I wasn’t making the best use of my extra hours, so I went out first thing. Tim had surprised me by joining in on the challenge every day, and so together we took our younger dog Alby to the park before 7am. She was a bit surprised, but I think she liked it. It was magical up there at that time of the morning, and although we only saw a few other humans in the woods we weren’t completely alone… [there was a cat in the bushes!]

Getting up at 6am every day was a simple challenge, but there was something strangely thrilling about it. It felt so good to try something new.

I used to think of myself as a roving musical adventurer – up until the end of 2019 I was away for a decent chunk of every year playing shows and doing all sorts of freelance work. I always had a bag half packed. And then…none of that.

I’ve done my best over the past eighteen months, I think we all have, but time just hasn’t held the same sort of possibilities as it used to, so this challenge was a revelation. Opening up the possibility of making something brand new every morning in my studio, or simply getting out into nature and soaking in all this beauty – what a gift. I felt like I’d shaken myself out of a very long, deep, sleep.

Unfortunately, we don’t all get extra time. On Friday lunchtime we got the worst news – while Benji’s operation had been a great success, and he had recovered brilliantly, the story didn’t end there. Our vet called to let me know that Benji has hemangiosarcoma, a mysterious, aggressive and incurable form of cancer. I had been so excited to have my best friend back home and looking healthy again that I’d decided not to worry about the test results that we knew were on the way, and I don’t regret that – worrying is not preparation, after all – but this news was a shock, and I just got through the afternoon as best I could.

DAY SIX

Day Six was a Saturday, and I decided 7am was a nice lie in treat for a weekend, giving me a little bit more sleep but not putting me back to square one. I try not to work every single day, but writing music doesn’t feel like work, and sometimes it’s good to keep pushing ahead with a creative idea while it feels fresh, so I put a few studio hours in and managed to make really good progress on another song before switching everything off for family time in the afternoon.

Rest is so important, and I am NOT great at it. I work really hard, but I do try to balance mindful goal setting and being productive with taking time off to recharge and spend time with the ones I love the most. It’s a work in progress but I am trying – especially now.

DAY SEVEN


It’s Sunday 6:41am and I’ve just done a pre-running Yoga with Adriene sequence. And I have eaten my protein balls and I am just about to get ready to go running. I snuck out of bed this morning without the alarm going off. I keep waking up maybe an hour before, but dozing again. Then because I have an alarm clock with a light, I was able to just turn it off before the birdsong started this morning so as not to disturb Tim, and I snuck downstairs to do my yoga.

Getting up at 6am isn’t just to do work. I’m not a joyless person who is going to work all weekend. But even in the short time I’ve been experimenting with it, I’ve really enjoyed the quiet extra time in the mornings and being able to start work on music really, really early. And that feels like a real achievement.

Look at this guy, though [Benji is snoozing!]

The dogs are not joining in with this experiment, they’re not willing to start the day early. And that’s fine!


[goes running, returns]

[Alby barks]

[laughs] “My friends have come to say hello. Hey Alby!

It’s 9.15 now and no, I haven’t been out for that long. I have a problem, which is a problem you might have as well. This stupid thing. [holds up mobile phone]

“I got stuck to it, and I feel really annoyed because the point of getting up at 6am is not to give myself more time to scroll on my effing phone. So I’ve actually finally again put Freedom on my phone. And this is software that will block me from going on distracting websites, apps, whatever I choose not to go on. So I’ve chosen not to go on anything for the next 23 hours.

And of course after scrolling on this for about an hour this morning, I didn’t really want to go for a run so it was really hard to get out, whereas if I had just kept my forward motion going, then I would have been fine. But as it was I went anyway, and I did four miles which means I think I’ve done about nine in total this week, so I’m really happy with that actually.”


CHALLENGE COMPLETE!


Getting up at 6am for a week changed my life.

It’s 11 days now since I completed my challenge, and I’ve got up at 6am every day since, apart from one day when I got up at 7. I don’t see any reason why I would stop now. I love the early morning quiet, I love not having any excuses not to exercise and I love having creative playtime available first thing in the day. 

I do need to work on getting to bed a bit earlier, not using feeling sleepy as an excuse to eat biscuits all the time and clocking off at 6pm sharp, but I’m only human, you know?

If you’re interested in getting up earlier too, I have some tips for you:

1. Don’t snooze

I’ve done this a couple of times, and felt really annoyed with myself. If I’m going to get up at 6, I should set the alarm for 6. If I’m going to get up at 6.30, I should set the alarm for 6.30. When the alarm goes off, turn on a light, sit up and drink some water. It makes it a lot easier to do the next bit – getting out of bed! After that, you’re rolling.

2. Don’t touch your phone til later in the day

No-one needs extra scrolling time, and you probably got up early to do more useful things than that, so just get on with those first.

3. Go to bed earlier

I didn’t do that, and that was really silly. I turned my light out at 11pm most nights, which was just about ok, but I think if I’d gone to sleep at 10 or even 10.30 I would have felt a drastic difference. Hmm, I really should start doing that now!

4. Plan your meals

I didn’t even consider this. I didn’t think I’d be so hungry earlier in the day, but of course the enzymes in our stomachs start doing their thing whatever time we get up, so a healthy pre-breakfast snack at least would have been very helpful. We weren’t strict about lunchtimes or dinnertimes either, so days when we didn’t get round to eating til late were unpleasant.

So yeah, think about when you’re going to eat, and what you’re going to eat, so you can keep your energy up throughout the day.

5. Do it gradually

If getting up at 6am, or 5am, or 4.30am seems a bit drastic right now, you can get there incrementally – just set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier, or 30 minutes earlier, try that for a few days, and then keep going bit by bit until you reach your desired getting up time.

Please make sure you’re taking care of yourself though, and getting enough sleep for your body and your brain.

Tell me, what time do you get up at the moment, and does it give you enough time to do everything you want? Are you thinking about getting up earlier after watching this video? Let me know in the comments, I’d really love to hear from you.

Thanks for watching! I’ve put links in the description box for my excellent alarm clock, the yoga, meditation and Pilates channels I swear by, the filming gear I use and some special offers, so do check those out.

Make sure you subscribe for future videos on creativity, mindful productivity and digital minimalism, have a poke about on my channel for more videos and visit my website to get two free songs and thoughtful letters about art and music. 

It’s time for another coffee – bye for now!



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Ep47: Miki Berenyi (Piroshka / Lush) on celebrating a breadth of voices in music – Transcript

Ep47: Miki Berenyi (Piroshka / Lush) on celebrating a breadth of voices in music – Transcript

Podscripts


Content warning: this is a very (joyfully) sweary episode so probably not best listened to in the presence of kids. Don’t @ me, Dad!


SPEAKERS

Laura Kidd, Miki Berenyi


Miki Berenyi
When people go “Ohhhh, is the music business dead?”, you know, “there’s no money, la la la, blah, blah, blah…” – I do think that what is happening is a breadth of voices, you know, whether that’s down to race or background and blah blah, but it does seem broader… Certainly for voices of older women, I definitely find that and, you know, I genuinely think if in 1990 you’d have asked what an older woman’s record would have sounded like, they would have said, “I don’t know, what do old women sing about? Crocheting…or fucking, you know, chilblains or something?!” I mean it really would feel like another country, you know?


Laura Kidd
Hello and welcome to Episode 47 of attention engineer. I’m Laura and this is my podcast. Hi!

Attention Engineer is a show where I share deep conversations with fellow artists about creativity, grit and determination. My aim is to consistently remind you – and remind myself – that creativity really is for everyone.

Let’s kick that inner critic where it hurts.


Miki Berenyi is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who became known in the late 80s and 90s as a member of Lush, and currently makes music in Piroshka.

Lush parted ways in tragic circumstances in 1998, reformed briefly in 2015 and then called it a day. They released four excellent albums, the last of which, “Lovelife”, was a HUGE deal in the life of this then-wannabe musician when it came out.

Piroshka emerged in 2018, four individuals with distinct musical identities but also overlapping histories – Miki Berenyi formerly of Lush on vocals and guitar, Justin Welch of Elastica on drums, Mick Conroy of Modern English on bass and Moose McKillop on guitar.

After debut album “Brickbat” explored social and political divisions by way of what MOJO described as “Forceful, driving garage songs and dream-pop epics”, 2021’s new album Love Drips And Gathers follows a more introspective line – the ties that bind us, as lovers, parents, children and friends – to a suitably subtler, more ethereal sound, whilst still revelling in energy and drama.

I had the absolute best time talking to Miki so, without further ado, here’s our conversation.


LK  
I’ve got to say…I am and was a huge fan of you. When I was a teenager, I would say that you, Elastica, Echobelly…who else? Garbage, Skunk Anansie…a bunch of people inspired me to start a band – directly. So, about a year after your fourth album came out and it was all over school, I did manage to start a band and start playing bass. So that’s huge to me, but I’ve been reading a lot of your recent interviews and people seem to just want to have a history lesson about Lush, which…I don’t know if that’s annoying or wearing on you or whatever, but I don’t want to disregard any of that – and we can talk about whatever you want to talk about – but I have questions that are about you now, and things you’re doing now and stuff. Is that okay?

MB  
Yeah, of course, I’m happy to talk about whatever. I mean, the funny thing about being asked about the history of Lush is it changes in my head all the time anyway…retrospectively.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
But you just ask what you want, because yeah…

LK  
Okay, cool. But it’s not because I don’t know about the other band or anything. It’s just I feel like, I mean…I’ve talked to a lot of people on this show who have done a lot of stuff over their years, but I don’t only want to bang on about the ’80s or the ’90s with people, because that just seems really disrespectful of their entire life and career, you know? It seems a bit weird.

MB  
It’s refreshing to talk about something different, that’s for sure.

LK  
I think maybe it’s because I’m a musician, and not a journalist as well, because I’m not trying to get every piece of juicy gossip – I think that’s kind of gross. You’ve gone over a lot of that stuff many times, even just recently.

MB  
And you do have to talk about the stuff that interests you – it is a conversation, you know, it’s not just a PR piece is it? It’s a different thing, podcasting, I think.

LK
Yeah, it is. First of all, could you introduce yourself to the listeners of this show?

MB  
Hi, I’m Miki Berenyi. I’m in a band called Piroshka. I’m a songwriter, I sing, I play guitar. I used to be in a band called Lush, that was back in the ’80s and ’90s. And yeah, just surviving…

LK
Yeah, that’s great. That’s all we can do, isn’t it?

MB  
Haha, yes!

LK  
I think that’s the absolute bare minimum of what we can do, and it’s sometimes incredibly hard. So, I was just so delighted to hear that you came back to music, because I know there was a reunion in 2015/16. And I’m sure you’ve talked about that length in lots of other interviews, so let’s not do that necessarily here, as we just talked about, but um, that’s what interests me a lot, actually.  I think having been in a band is a great story. And it’s obviously a really big part of anybody’s life if they’ve done that. But coming back and doing more music and releasing two new albums – that’s to me what’s impressive, is that determination, the grit, the keeping on keeping on stuff. So how do you feel about that, at this moment in time?

MB  
I think you’re crediting me with determination and grit that isn’t actually there. I mean, I genuinely admired… You know, I would bump into people in the kind of interim 20 years when I wasn’t making music, you know, someone like Mark Gardener out of Ride and you think, wow, you know, well done you for keeping at it through the highs and lows, and just keeping going. I thought that was really admirable. I mean, part of it was that the way that Lush split up, obviously Chris committed suicide so it was a real, you know, the rug was pulled from under us. And it just made me, for my own mental health, have to sort of vanish away from a lot of that, just to avoid all the triggers. And then I had the kids and then you just think, well, life’s moved on, and I’m doing a different job. And that kind of was in my past.

I think, you know, without wanting to sort of retread all the Lush history, the girl I was in a band with, Emma Anderson, you know, we had a sort of…as many people in bands do, you know, there are difficult relationships…but she was genuinely the one who had more of a vision of where the band could go, right from the start, and was the ambition really. So I quite relied on her for a lot of that. And so in the 20 years when I wasn’t making music…and I was with a musician, I was with Moose who is in Piroshka. And people were like, “why don’t you do some music”, it was like I just didn’t even know where I would start, to be honest. So when Emma came back into my life with the offer of the reunion, you know, she was the instigator again, and it was kind of, you know, I had to think about it long and hard. But it did feel like something that I had closed the door on, was being reopened. And it felt like…it was almost like if I didn’t do it, I would probably regret it.

And then once I made up my mind to do it – which did actually take quite a long time – then I just, you know, then I will work really hard and, you know, make it happen, and weather all the bumps in the road and all of that. And it was really good that I did it, and I was really pleased, and really it’s the back of that, getting back into it and thinking God, this is actually quite, this is actually really good fun. This does actually beat sitting in an office all day. It’s at that point that, you know, I thought well, even if Lush is going to end, it would be quite nice to continue on. But again, because I am completely useless at getting things going. I had to rely on Justin who was the drummer in Elastica, and then he was doing the Lush reunion, and he was the one who was like, “Come on”, you know, “We should do something, it was really good fun rehearsing!” and was sending me ideas. And you know, again, I thought, all right, this is an opportunity that I would feel kind of…you know, it’s more about the regret of not doing something, you know, than the confidence to actually do it, I think, in my case.

LK
I see, I see. I used to play bass for Viv Albertine – I’d played with her for a few years, so I was really delighted to read in an interview that you said that reading her first memoir was quite an encouraging thing for you when you’re thinking about doing that reunion. Is that true? 

MB  
Yeah, it was really key actually. 

LK  
That’s awesome. 

MB  
Because I think when the band ended, there is…you know, I don’t know, if you – you probably remember clear, because I just ducked out of music in 1996. So you’ve seen those sorts of interim years, I was just well out of the picture.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
But at the time it felt like, you know, anything kind of past 30s is like, you’re not welcome. You know, it’s like, ooh that’s a bit sad isn’t it, look at her now, she’s got quite old…and I just didn’t think I could deal with all that crap. So that was an extra sort of…you know, men tend to get more…you know, they can slot into the sort of elder statesman, you know, genius slot or whatever if they carry on, whereas women tend to just – you just start to lose stuff, actually. And I felt that quite consciously, so reading the Viv Albertine book, you know, great all the sort of early days and The Slits, but it was actually the bits of her going to some crappy open mic night full of old blues hands or whatever, and getting up and just playing her guitar and no-one knowing who she was, that she’s actually someone with a real pedigree here. And none of these wankers even realise it, but she doesn’t fucking care, she’s just gonna get up, and she’s using the opportunity to get over her own stage fright, or whatever. And that was actually really inspiring. Because I’m not a real pioneer, I think that most of us need someone else to sort of beat the path for us to follow. And we all do it in our own way, but just someone to put their head above the parapet, and you know, “it’s fine, you can come out”.

LK 
Do you know what? You were one of those people for me. So that’s so interesting, because there is obviously a continuum of that stuff and you just have no idea as an artist who you’re going to affect. I wanted to have bright red hair because you had bright red hair, you know, and that’s like such a simple thing but it’s because it was a symbol for something so much deeper that I couldn’t articulate at the age of 15/16. It was huge to me, that kind of thing, like, “She doesn’t give a fuck, I want to not give a fuck”. You know what I mean? “I want to be able to do that”, because that’s freedom I currently didn’t have that at that age, you know? And I couldn’t play…I could play instruments like classical instruments (I mean, not very well, but just sort of school band sort of stuff).

And I didn’t pick up the bass til probably a year after I first heard “Lovelife”. But I could see all these cool women playing instruments, so I thought I could. And that’s so powerful. So I just loved that then Viv showed you that through her book as well, because she’s someone who’s been massively inspiring to me, not just having played with her, but before that as well, you know, just what she’s done in her life. And then since I’ve played with her all these incredible books she keeps writing, it’s just so inspiring to see people do stuff. And you’re writing a memoir too, aren’t you?

MB  
I am writing a memoir. It’s going quite slowly.

LK
I think they tend to…yeah, quite a big undertaking though, isn’t it?

MB  
It is a huge undertaking. It’s like deep therapy.

LK  
Yeah, yeah. I don’t want to pry too much into it, because I think there’s a thing with writing any kind of thing, or any kind of art really, if you talk about it too much it’s almost like your brain thinks it’s done it already. So it might be harder to write it if you tell everyone what it’s about, you know?

MB  
Yeah. There’s always two sides, isn’t there? Because I think sometimes talking about it, you can sort of go “Oh, yeah, yeah, this is what I’m going to do” and then you can actually walk away and think, actually, that sounded really boring. I’m gonna have to think of another way to do this, do you know what I mean?

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
Rather than feeling that you’re giving stuff away, I actually think sounding boards are quite good for testing how it sounds when you say it out loud. When you think that actually sounds really unappealing, it might make you think again about how you’re going to tackle it.

LK
Yeah, well, feel free to use this as a sounding board if you like, but I just don’t want to take away the magic of it either. I was wondering…I’ve read you know, a lot of things over the years and recently before talking to you today about how you felt that this sort of “Miki from Lush” thing – I’m using little air quotes here…

MB  
I do as well.

LK  
…became a bit of a caricature, really, yeah, a caricature of of something that wasn’t actually you. But then of course, you know, someone’s impression of you is always going to be an approximation or a sort of versio – their version of what you are. Is writing a memoir something to do with putting the record straight, telling the story in your own words?

MB  
I mean, I’m not gonna lie, it’s another case of someone approaching me and going “Oh, I’m opening a music imprint at this publisher, I’d love you to write your memoir”. And then me literally losing my job the next week, and thinking okay, this seems like quite…it’s a bit Kismet, isn’t it? Maybe I should do this. Not that that’s the only reason. But again, I don’t for a minute think that if I hadn’t been approached, I’d be sitting here going, do you know what, I think I’m going to write my memoir and set the record straight – wouldn’t have even crossed my mind, I can promise you.

LK  
Right.

MB  
It’s another rope that was thrown in my direction that I think, okay, that’s interesting, that will take me to the next phase of whatever’s going on in this life.

LK
Yeah. But there’s a lot to do with grabbing onto the rope, because someone could throw you the rope and you’d be like, “Oh no, I’m too scared” or whatever. And that would be fair enough, there’s nothing wrong with being scared of something. But I think the fact that you want to grab onto the rope is, you know, testament to your character.

MB  
Yeah, and I don’t think I would take something on if I didn’t think I could do it.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
And again, I did even that I did think about for a good six months, you know, and the practicalities of it. So I do sort of sound myself out and think…I mean I have a long climb out of a hole that is basic lack of self confidence, which I think a lot of people, whatever their outward appearance, you know… The thing is, is you’re seeing the finished product, you’re seeing Ladykillers on Top Of The Pops once it’s all been recorded and done, and all I have to do is like, you know, mime or something.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
But if you’d have seen me while I was writing the song and recording it, and the arguments that I had about whether it would be on the album, it would be a very different person.

LK  
Of course!

MB  
Which I think is the case with all creative people, you know, it’s that you mask the sort of struggle behind a lot of what you know, goes [on]. And equally I think people who bear their souls, and who, you know, come across very deep…having met a few, could be really bloody shallow, actually, in real life where you think “Wow, so that’s interesting. I was expecting a bit more”.

LK
Oh, yeah I’ve met a few of those people. Yeah, it’s mindblowing when you’re like “You’ve really constructed quite an amazing myth around yourself there. That is quite impressive. Yeah.

MB  
Exactly.

LK  
Definitely had that. It’s almost too amazing to me when someone’s actually all right when I meet them, to be honest. I’m expecting just, you know, horror, and most people actually are pretty great. So that’s nice.

MB  
And I think most people are just normal, aren’t they? So whatever… Because I think so much of what you’re saying, like, “Oh”, you know, “I saw you with the red hair” or, or me even reading about Viv Albertine and I construct this image of her in this blues bar just being amazing, you know, and like, really fucking “fuck you” and doing her thing. It probably wasn’t like that. Do you know what I mean? But there’s this sort of element that the person who’s being inspired adds to what the reality is, in order to make it a kind of thing that they want to head towards. I mean, you kind of have to add a bit of magic, don’t you?

LK
Yeah, well, we’re looking for heroes, aren’t we? I mean especially as a teenage girl who was really interested in music, but not in playing the violin and the saxophone and stuff, which is what I was doing. I was into all these bands, and I was buying the NME and Select every week and just reading about all of you, and just being like, “how could I have a life like that? I know, I’ll move to London” – which I did. That didn’t fix any of my problems, but it was a first step. It was a new life, which was really exciting. But yeah, you’re just looking for heroes to go “Oh I’ll take a little piece of that, and a little piece of that, and a bit of encouragement here and a little boost here”. And then you just, you know, collage it all together for your own life, don’t you?

MB  
And so what age were you when you move to London?

LK
I was 18. It’s terrifying!

MB  
Yeah, I mean, that’s…and where were you from, originally?

LK
I was living in Suffolk. So my dad was in the RAF, so we moved around a lot and then I ended up being in Bury St Edmunds for like, what, six years or something? It just wasn’t for me, I had to get out. You know, it wasn’t creatively fulfilling for me. And yeah, I moved to London to go to university for a year, and that was my way of moving, really. And I wasn’t terrified at the time but I look back now and I’m just like how on earth did that happen, this child moving to this big city alone, essentially? And all of these things happening, and…I’m quite impressed by her, by past me, for doing that.

MB  
I think that, you know, university is a brilliant gateway because, you know, I think if you’d have had to move to London and just find a job and try and pay for a flat or God knows what, do you know what I mean, it can actually be a bit overwhelming.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
And I think there’s something about, you know, that sort of still is a little bit of a bridge, isn’t it?

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
And then I think there is a lot of confidence in youth, you know. I mean, I think it’s actually harder to do that, I’ll be honest with you, when you’re 35, than when you’re 18. There is a sort of, you know, blind “it can happen!” sort of joie de vivre at that age, which I think really kind of barrels you through the kind of grimmer aspects of it, or just the anxiety of it.

LK
Yeah, the lack of experience as well. Like, I wasn’t thinking, you know, is this a good idea? What could go wrong? and all that. I just was like, I’m gonna move to London, the way I’ll do it is by going to university, and then I’ll find a band when I’m there. And that’s what I did! So it did work out fine, you know.

MB  
Yeah! And I think it’s even about maximising your opportunities, isn’t it?

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
Yeah, you could have done a degree in a sort of less overwhelming city. But then the opportunities…I mean, without sounding like a twat, because people hate Londoners all over the bloody country, but you know, if you’re going to move somewhere to make something happen, you need to go where there’s a lot of people that you can bounce off and a lot of chances, and some of those things are really small. It’s not like the streets are paved with gold and I’m going to become a West End superstar overnight. It’s just the crappy little venues and the weird dropout people, and I just think that’s the sort of way in, really.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
You know, it’s not the huge record contract, is it?

LK  
No, no.

MB  
It’s the bottom steps.

LK
Yeah, exactly. And just yeah, like you’re saying, it’s about being sort of pushed in with all of these new people and these new experiences. Because I found my first band in London by talking to someone at some after gig party thing that this girl I’d…I hadn’t even gone to the gig with her, I went on my own, and I knew her so we hung out for the night. And then she somehow got us into this after show thing, and I wasn’t that arsed, like, I wasn’t trying to get into the after show to hang out with the band or anything. But then she started talking to this guy thinking he was something to do with the band – I can’t even remember which band it was – and then he wasn’t, so she walked off. And I just thought that’s so rude! How rude is this girl? So I was like, I’m so sorry about her and started talking to this guy, and ended up getting an audition to be the bassist in this band, because he was the manager of a band who needed a bass player.

MB  
Exactly. Excellent!

LK  
Wasn’t an arsehole, and then got an opportunity.

MB  
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Not being an arsehole helps.

LK
Yes. But it seems like though, the arseholes get there faster don’t they. But I don’t want to be one of them, though. So…yeah.

MB  
I’ve seen people who were really nice, and became arseholes quite quickly.

LK  
Ohhh.

MB  
Like, it’s sort of quite remarkable. I’m not going to name names, but I do remember sort of…even in the kind of very early days where like, “Okay, you’ve had one review in the Melody Maker and you’re walking around like your fucking Keith Richards”, do you know what I mean, and I think maybe some of the arseholeness comes from…people want…you know, like, they are actually looking to the top of the tree by then.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
They’re not interested in where they are right now. Whereas I think it’s always been about.. it’s that, isn’t it? You know, all the bands I got into I just fell into. I had a similar thing when I first played bass in a band called The Bugs. It was like, they were literally, like, their double bass player was going off to America and it was like, “Oh, that’s a shame” and they were like, “Yeah, we’re looking for a bass player”. And I was like, “I’ll play bass”. Never played bass in my fucking life, you know what I mean, I had a week to learn… But again, you know, this opportunity’s there, you think “well, if I fuck it up, then they’ll just kick me out. It doesn’t matter that much”. And they probably think the same. They think, “Well, if it doesn’t work out, there’s a million other people we can ask”.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
So there’s just not that much pressure.

LK
No. And I think it’s really good to have that attitude of like, if someone asks you to do something, or there’s an opportunity presented, you don’t have to be the very best at the thing that they’re looking for to give it a go, because it’s much more about the kind of person you are, I think, especially in a band, whether you’re going to gel with people, and you can always just improve later, you know, you can practice a lot and get there.

MB  
Yeah, exactly.

LK  
But I think a lot of people just close themselves off from those things by going, “But I’m not the best bass player in the whole universe, so I couldn’t possibly go up for that audition” or whatever, and that’s just a bit of a shame.

MB  
Exactly. And I think that that was another thing out of that Viv Albertine book. It was just that idea of, I think she called it the year of saying yes, or something like that, you know, that I’m just gonna have a year where I just, yeah, okay, I’ll do that. And then I’ll worry about how I do it later.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
And I think that can be quite liberating. I mean, clearly you can’t live your whole life like that, because I’ve got to the stage where I’m going, you know what, I’m not…I’m just gonna say no, because it actually is too much. But, you know, I think it’s that first feed into wanting to be a part of things. Because I do think you just have to jump in the pool at some point.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
You know, I get all the kind of, “Oh, I’ve been sitting in my bedroom and learning this and writing that, and blah, blah, blah. But I just think at some point, you’ve got to fucking get out there. I’m also really quite easily bored and give up, and need a bit of feedback. I need someone to say “No, that’s going really well”, otherwise, I just think this might all be really shit that I’m spending all this time doing.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
I need someone else who cares about it enough to just not not go, “Yeah yeah yeah that sounds fine”. I need someone involved, and I think that’s where collaboration is, you know, it’s a real motivator, I think. You know, the sense of responsibility that you have towards the people in your band that you don’t want to let down. You know, the fact that it’s really hard to drive creativity on your own 24/7, the fact that it provides both carrot and stick. All of those things. I mean, I sort of stand back in admiration at people who can manage it all on their own. But I certainly know that I couldn’t.

LK  
Yeah, and I think that’s maybe not what’s obvious about collaboration, necessarily, or I’m just thinking of it now. Because I don’t…I tend not to…I do some collaborations, but I’m completely solo the rest of the time. So I hear all the things you saying and yes, it’s challenging. But I think the collaboration is not just on stage, it’s not just in the studio, it’s not just writing, is it, it’s the different personalities coming together to encourage each other and buoy each other up. I can understand why, maybe the writing thing didn’t happen earlier, because you’re putting a lot of pressure on, you know, a relationship and a home life and stuff to also be sharing a band. Because if the band’s going really badly, then that there’s no one sort of to lift you out of that, who’s not part of it?

MB  
I mean, I do think you can, you know, transfer that to friends as well.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
You know, I think when you’ve known someone and have a relationship with someone a band…well, work just adds an extra layer of stress to that and, you know, being together all the fucking time doesn’t help either. So I think in terms of relationships all of that is, you know, quite tricky. So you’re saying that you started off playing bass in a band? So at what point did you sort of think, “Okay, I need to do this on my own without that tussle of a band”?

LK  
When everyone kept leaving, basically, leaving me high and dry. It’s like, “Well, okay, you’ve all left, I guess I’ll do this on my own, then”. That’s what happened. I was in the band I was talking about when I moved to London, and I was in a band when I was at school, which I started after getting into Lush and Elastica and all them. And then I did session work, which was great because I didn’t have to get on with everyone, I just have to be really good. So didn’t matter if people were not the best people to hang out with, because it was paid, it was a bit better.

And then yeah, I started my own thing as a band, and then yeah everyone was like, not into it so I thought, well, I am, so I’m just gonna make this into my thing. So I did. And then I never even thought about getting anyone else involved after that, because I just thought I can be finally be the leader of this band and do it how I want. And then I just sort of kept going, really, but I do respect – you know, collaboration’s so interesting. It’s such a different thing. It’s magical when it works.

MB  
But I think that’s really interesting, because I think…I mean, I don’t know how it is, you know, again, I’m so out of touch. But when I see there’s quite a lot of people who start off in that solo mould, you know, that seems to be the thing that they want to do from the outset. It’s interesting that, you know, you were in bands, and you were relying on people and it’s like “for fuck’s sake” and they’re like “Well, I’m not as into it, as you are”, you know, and that’s really frustrating. But then you ended up in a situation that probably suited you best from the start anyway, but you needed a bit of a journey to get there, you know what I mean?

LK  
Exactly, it’s that thing of like we all have everything we need inside, but we have to go on a journey to realise it. It’s that Wizard of Oz thing [coughs]. I should say that without croaking. That was a very wise thing I just said then! It’s that –

MB  
That was very wise! [laughs]

LK  
– Wizard of Oz thing, you know? [laughs] Thank you very much!

MB  
Sorry, I talked over you then.

LK  
But it is, it’s…no it’s fine! I think there’s a real – I’m used to feeling this way. I’m used to being this way. But I think it’s quite a strange kind of fixation or focus that I’ve had for my entire life, which I could blame on you actually, as we’re sort of talking about the people who got me into this in the first place. I could have had a perfectly normal life if it wasn’t for all those bands bothering me with their awesomeness every week in the pages of those glossy magazines. But um, I’m a bit of a weirdo, I think, and I’m cool with that. I think it’s interesting to be a bit strange, but I know that not everyone’s like this.

And I think that there’s naturally…if you had four of me in a band, it’d be a fucking nightmare wouldn’t it, you can’t have four leaders who are very specific about what they want to make in a band. It has to be give and take, and that magic that you get from those individuals coming together is so much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s absolutely magical. I’d love to do some collaborations like that in future. But this thing I do that’s my solo thing is very much, it’s just this, and then other things are other things. But yeah, it’s um…it’s quite a fixation you have to have, doing it this way.

MB  
Yeah, but then I just think everything has its own tone to it. So I was listening to the last album you did, and as I was listening to it I thought it’s quite interesting how there’s, you know…it does feel very solo-y, you know what I mean? You’re allowed to meander in whatever direction you want.

LK  
[chuckles] Yes.

MB  
And I can almost hear, even in the progression of one song, like, “Oh, that’s an interesting place that that’s gone to”, because that would probably be quite hard to achieve writing totally collaboratively. Like, that’s not going to come up in a jam session.

LK  
No, no.

MB  
That needs planning and, and like, this is the path I want to follow. And in a way, you know, even though I say I collaborate and blah, blah, I mean, even in Piroshka there are sort of songs that are…they come from me. I had to sit down with a guitar and just write the song myself. Now, if someone wants to come in with a bassline or, you know, fiddle about with the bloody drum bits, or add some keyboards, hey, I’m like really cool with that, because they come up with stuff that I wouldn’t have done. But the song itself and the structure and the way the melody goes and the path it takes – that, you know, I do think sometimes that requires one person.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
It’s not born out of collaboration. You’ve got collaboration in the later stages, you know.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
Whereas some people clearly write as a band, you know, it’s all about the energy of the how the song sounds. It doesn’t actually necessarily go anywhere that interesting, but it’s the way that the musicians play together that kind of brings it to life. So…

LK  
I just don’t know how they get anything finished, genuinely. Because I do it all by myself. How do you get to that point? Because I can understand how you can have a jam and come up with some cool bit, but then how does it end up being finished? And what if the drummer’s like “Oh, no, I don’t like that lyric”, or the keyboard player’s saying something about the guitar. I’d just be like, but [frustrated noise]. I want to do this! Just not being able to see an idea through to its conclusion and see where it could have gone, I find that frustrating. That’s what I find frustrating about social media, interestingly, because it’s so surface level, it’s like where could that thought have gone, if there was a little bit more space? Anyway, that’s a weird tangent, but also an interesting segue perhaps into something else.

MB  
No but it’s true, because I think that that is what happens on the internet or certainly on social media.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
You know, as much as I love Twitter – and I do find it quite addictive – it is that thing of you say something, and the bloody thing is derailed before you’ve even had a chance to sort of…then you’re explaining yourself, then you’re saying “not all men”, then you’re saying whatever the fuck it is that has to qualify, you know, your argument for every fucking person who wants to chime into it. So I think it’s quite a good trigger for certain things, but it’s definitely not a place for, as you say, even when you compare it to writing a song, digging into something and giving it time to develop and following that path with a clear head, you know, without fucking interruptions.

Laura Kidd  
And maybe some bands are like that, because I haven’t sat in with bands in their songwriting sessions, I’ve got no idea how supportive and encouraging they are to each other. Hopefully, they are, but whenever I’ve done…I won’t say “whenever”, that’s really unfair. A lot of the times when I’ve done collaborations, someone’s had a very specific idea of what they wanted, and I didn’t really get to get my idea across before they just jabbed in and started chiming in with their idea. It’s almost like sometimes people are so competitive about it, that they need to finish the idea so they feel like it was theirs in the first place. And it wasn’t a woman, I will just say, it wasn’t a female producer who did that to me several times. “Not all male producers”, blah, blah, blah. I don’t think they’re insecure enough to give a shit about what I say about them, to be honest.

But um, yeah, so I found that very frustrating, so that has put me off collaboration a lot. But I am currently working on an album with Rat from Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, and we’re doing a collaborative thing. And so far – and if he’s listening, thank you Rat – so far, when I send him ideas, he doesn’t go, “Oh, how about if you did this instead?” So thank you for not quashing my ideas. Because it’s just a horrible… It’s like when someone finishes your sentence for you. That drives me so mad, and I don’t know if that’s because of these negative studio and band experiences I’ve had in the past. Where I didn’t feel I could say the thing.

Are you being really quiet now so you don’t finish my sentence?

MB  
Yeah. [laughs]

Laura Kidd  
Thank you! I appreciate it! [laughs a lot] It’s maddening. I hate it so much.

MB  
I think, again, that’s probably down to finding the right people to work with. I know what you mean, there are people who sometimes just want to add something because they just want their stamp on it.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
It’s not that it’s a great idea, it’s just like, “Well hang on a minute. I haven’t got anything yet. It’s my turn”. And it’s like, well, yeah…unless you’ve go…and then you sort of feel like, well, it’s just not very good. So, you know, you need…do you know what I mean?

LK  
Yes.

MB  
Like, if you’re going to come up with something you need to have thought about it. And it is quashing, sometimes – I’ve done that where I’ve thought, “Oh I think this is a really good idea”. And then, you know, everybody shoots it down. But to be honest with you, a lot of the people I’ve worked with, I kind of get it – I have walked away and thought actually they were right, you know?

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
So swings and roundabouts, isn’t it? But I do think that I probably could…listening to you talk, it does make me think like, oh, maybe I could do all of this on my own. I’m just not sure I would actually ever get round to it.

Laura Kidd  
Don’t blame me when you sack your band, thanks! I don’t want that responsibility…

MB  
No, but like I said, I think the main thing is possibly not the ability to it, but just the motivation.

LK  
Yes.

MB  
And I think if you’ve tackled that, you’ve got your motivation and blah, blah, blah, then you don’t fucking need anybody else, do you know what I mean? And you’ve clearly established.

LK  
[laughs]

MB  
But you have tried it the other way…

LK  
Yes.

MB  
You know, so you do know what you’re talking about. And you do know what works for you.

LK  
Yes, I tried it the other way and no albums were released. And I tried it my way, and there’s been five. So I just think my way tends to seem like it’s going right.

MB  
Absolutely. And I think that that’s so much part of, you know, some of the issues that you’re talking about with creativity. You know, that idea of, oh, what tips have you got for being creative? Well none really, because whatever one way you say it, the flipside is also true.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
You kind of have to find out for yourself which one works for you.

Laura Kidd  
Yeah. I find that I need to constantly remind myself that I can do it, even though I’ve done stuff. And then I realised recently that I’m really excited about the thing I’m doing next, but not the thing I’m doing now, even though that was the thing I was really excited about when I was doing the last thing. And that’s frustrating, because I also like being someone who finishes things, you know, and completes things, because that’s really satisfying.

MB  
I think that’s pretty normal, that kind of first inspiration and the first wave of excitement of the prospect of doing something. There are a lot of people who have a lot of ideas and never do them, because that is quite addictive.

LK  
Yes.

MB  
And it’s completing it that’s the really hard bit, because that’s actually work…

LK  
Yes!

MB  
…and so, you know, equally with creativity, I think…look, I think everybody needs creativity in their life, whether that’s just cooking a bloody meal, or, you know, nurturing an orchid or whatever the hell it is. Everybody is creative in their own way. But I think when it’s work it requires a real…yeah, that’s hard. It is work.

When lockdown first happened, and there was lots of articles about baking bread, and what jigsaws you can buy, and all of this sort of bullshit, right? But I remember seeing something in The Observer that was like, people going, “Ah, I can finally write the book that I’ve always wanted to”, you know. And they had various authors giving tips on whatever, and I can’t remember who it was, but one person said, “Listen, it’s work, you know. Are you sure? All I’m saying is, are you sure you want to go into what is actually a really fucking stressful period, globally, setting yourself what is a fucking full time job for people, this is not just a bit of fun, it’s actually really hard work to write a book”.

And I just thought that was really good advice, because you can do that – you can immerse yourself in work. But let’s not pretend that this is just some sort of, you know, “Ooh, I’ve always wanted the time to”, you know, “write a symphony” or whatever, you know, it’s really fucking hard work. And it can be really frustrating. And completing an album is way more difficult, I think, then starting it, because you’ve got some momentum and enthusiasm and dreams at the beginning. By the end of it, they’re all fucking crushed out of you. You’re literally thinking, “Oh, Christ, what have I embarked on?”

LK  
Oh, yeah, towards the end of my last one I was like, “Who thought this was a good idea?”

MB  
Part of the worst aspects of Lush was that these were my friends, this was my job, it was all my money. It was, you know, a lot of it was my social life. It was the “Miki from Lush” identity, you know. It was like without this band, I don’t know what the fuck I’m gonna do. Like, am I gonna start driving a minicab or something, and no one’s going to speak to me because the only reason half of these fuckers want to talk to me is because I’m in a bloody band, and all of that. And once you’ve got all that pressure on you, I think it actually can quite stifle creativity, because you feel that you have to maintain that wave, otherwise it’s all gonna fall apart.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
Whereas with Piroshka, I am in exactly the same boat as you where it’s like, well, you know what, there’s a bunch of loyal people out there who will buy it because they like what I do. But I really am not under any pressure to try and retain people who are just glancingly tolerating what I do enough to sort of buy it now, but if I fuck up one step in the wrong direction, and don’t match what they want, they’re just going to abandon ship.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
It is a bit liberating to think well, I’ve got quite a lot of wriggle room. I don’t…you know what I mean?

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
There’s no extra sort of weight on there. I can do what I fucking like anyway. Yeah.

LK  
And the thing is, we always could, that’s the funny part of it, isn’t it? That’s what creativity and songwriting stuff is. Use the opportunity to say what you want to say and be you as much as possible. It’s that thing again, of like, you just have to learn that you always had that. It was always there. But it’s not immediately apparent. But so talking about things being work, does Piroshka feel like work in the same way that Lush was work?

MB  
I mean, not in the same way, because it isn’t all encompassing. You know, everybody has got jobs and kids and dogs and different places they live. So it’s just not really comparable. It’s a section of my life, but it’s not overwhelming in any way at all, and if I didn’t want to do it, I just wouldn’t fucking do it.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
But, you know, yeah, sometimes it’s work. Sometimes it is like, fucking hell, you know, I mean, like, I’m not in the mood, got to finish this, got to write a lyric that I’m just not feeling inspired…but there’s a clock ticking, blah, blah, blah. I mean, there’s always bits of it that are like that. As long as that’s not the major part, then, you know, then you are going to have to expect some of that.

LK  
Yeah, of course. I mean, I don’t even label work as being a bad thing. But I think that sometimes, when people are working on creative things that are in addition to a day job, which we’ve all done, you know, and some still do, then labelling this thing you want to complete as work can help get it done. Because if you think of it as work, then work needs to get done, doesn’t it? You just do work, don’t you. You know that work doesn’t have to feel like you’re being inspired by a muse or something constantly. So it might mean that you can finish a song past the inspiration stage, through the perspiration stage to completion, rather than going “Oh, one day I’ll write the songs of my generation, but I’m not feeling like it right now. So I’ll just watch telly instead”.

MB  
No I think you’re right, that work is…well, I suppose it is, you know, rewarding, and actually sometimes fun. You know, when I was working in publishing for a couple of decades, I was forever [getting] “Oh, but you must miss being in a band so much. This must be so boring” and blah blah. And I was like, I’m not being funny, I actually quite like subbing. It’s interesting, and it’s diverting, and I did enjoy being in an office, and it’s fun to go to the pub at lunchtime. I didn’t sit there going, “Oh, God, how the mighty have fallen”, you know.

LK  
“I wish I was in a Transit van all day instead, yay!”

MB  
“Yay, setting up a drumkit!”

LK  
“I haven’t lifted an amp for years!” The things I haven’t missed in the last two years, I have to say…

MB  
I mean, everybody says that about touring and playing live don’t they, you know. You want the hour or however long you’re on stage to be…when it’s really good, it wipes away all the other stuff, it really feels worth it. But there’s a lot of behind the scenes bullshit that has to go on just to make that bit happen. Whereas yeah, I suppose other jobs are a bit more linear in that way, you know, you go in… I mean, to be honest, even the relief when I was a sub of just being able to clock in at 10 and leave at 6. And I think, oh, great, I don’t have to lie awake half the night worrying if, you know, Emma’s in a bad mood with me or whether my vocal is okay on the track that I just recorded, or whether I have to re-record it again, or whether we have to sack our manager or blah, blah, blah, some fucking interview you’ve done where someone’s going to crucify you or make you look like a moron. Whatever, do you know what I mean, all this shit that’s kind of in your control, but out of your control.

LK  
And you never had the right to reply. That’s what I think is such a, obviously there’s a lot of differences between the ’90s – although it feels like yesterday, it wasn’t – and today. Just the fact that people could write whatever the fuck they liked about these bands, and did every week, and you couldn’t respond. You couldn’t tweet going, “Actually, that’s bullshit. Or this person did this actually. Or, you know, I’m actually this person”. There was no way of rounding out “Miki from Lush” inverted commas to be you, you know, there was no mechanism for that.

MB  
Well, quite. And, you know, I qualify my slagging off of the press treatment, because I understand, you know? I have sympathy with the Melody Maker writer who has to find yet another way of making the phrase, “we just write songs for ourselves” interesting, right? And, you know, the photographer that has to do yet another reluctant band, or they’ve turned up late and blah, blah, and it was really badly paid, you know, so I get that it is not an easy job in itself. There was just a sort of edge of spite to a lot of it, that really fucking pissed me off. And the thing is, is that you do end up having to deal with the public face of that.

I would get people coming up to me with an attitude. I can remember walking through Tottenham Court Road station, there was a fucking busker there that every time I went past when I saw him, he’d just start snarling at me and go “I fucking hate Lush”, you know, and I thought I didn’t even know who the fuck you are, do you know what I mean? And it’s like, you can’t hate my music that much that you’re willing to do this, there must be something else that you hate, which is probably the fucking press face of, you know, whatever cider swilling, football going, redhead, you know, “Oh, she’s got so much attitude”, you know, whatever invention that is being rolled out there.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
And, you know, it does become really constraining when I don’t like necessarily sitting around talking about, you know, how we did the guitar solo on the last album or, “Oh yeah, it’s just our most fucking important record and this is why”. You know, I get it that that’s actually quite boring to listen to. But I felt like it almost didn’t matter what I did, it would be filtered through a certain way of presenting me that fit with this template that was never going to go away. You know, it was never going to be: there’s a different side to this person or… Nothing. It was just going to be come on roll out the “Miki from Lush”, easy peasy, double page spread, you know? Or if not, sit there and fucking moan about how “She’s not “Miki from Lush”, that’s annoying”. Know what I mean? It’s a box to put you in.

LK  
Yeah, there’s a distinct lack of nuance there. And I don’t know whether that was something that was planned, like they had a meeting going, let’s portray her this way, or it’s just because of the way people are? I don’t know. But that must have had an effect on the band as well. Because to be honest, no disrespect to your other band members, but I don’t really remember the focus being on anyone else but you when I was reading those magazine articles. It was always you, for whatever reason. Did that create issues?

MB  
Uh, yeah.

LK  
I did say we weren’t gonna bang on about the ’90s so apologies, but that’s just an interesting question.

MB  
I mean, I think there is, you know, always a bit of a focus on the singer. A lot of that is quite lazy journalism because, you know, Emma wrote a lot of the most important songs. But I think again, it’s about getting the story and maybe what I didn’t really appreciate is how tabloid those papers and magazines were. It just didn’t cross my mind. I thought the Sun and the Mirror were a separate thing, and that this was a whole different kind of ballgame. But now I look back, I don’t think it was – I think it was just as tabloid. And so then you’re gonna get the easy mark, aren’t you? You know, you’re not going to read a tabloid to get an inside insight into what, you know, someone thinks – they’re just going to go with some cartoony story, because it’s tomorrow’s chip paper.

LK  
Yes. And there’s a lot of pitting women against women as well, even if they’re in the same band, like, who do you fancy most kind of thing out of these bands? Like it’s relevant? I found a bunch of…I mean, this is how much of a hoarder I am, and I still haven’t thrown them away, but I found this load of magazines from ’96/’97, and it’s got like, Louise from Sleeper in there and all these cool people. But I didn’t realise at the time, because I was reading at age 15/16, I didn’t realise how tabloid it was, like you say, it’s exactly the right kind of angle on it. And it’s kind of horrifying now, reading it going “Ugh, oh, you weren’t really respecting these artists at all”. It’s just like this horrible thing where, you know, PJ Harvey’s on the front cover of Q Magazine in her pants.

MB  
Yes.

LK  
And there’s nothing wrong with her being in her pants, she can do what she likes, but I wonder, you know, I’d love to know what she feels about that now, if she felt like she had to, for some reason, or that that would be, you know, just part of the sort of ladette / Britpoppy time where, you know, women are very much sort of put in their pants on the cover of a magazine or you’re not on the cover of the magazine.

MB  
But you know, I think that that still exists now, you know. It’s not quite to the same level but…or maybe there’s just a different nuance. You know, I always felt with a lot of the kind of “women in rock” type features that we would do, definitely in the ’90s, where I felt I get it, I understand the nice side of this, you know, you’re trying to give a platform to women and sell it to a mainly male readership. But actually, what it does, you know, being grouped together kind of knocks off all your interesting edges, and it turns you into like a niche, you know, like, “Oh, so what we’re going to talk about is women who make music” – it just shouldn’t be a thing. You know what I mean? It’s like cats that have tails, or…I don’t know…it’s just fucking irrelevant, isn’t it?

And I have always said, you know, I get that women certainly may…I don’t know, it’s like that bell curve thing, isn’t it? I think that there are men on one end who write very masculine, very male music. I think there’s women at the other end who write, you know, very what you would call feminine music. But there’s a shitload of people in the middle, especially bands, who just write music. It really doesn’t make that much difference, you know, in terms of, the product, the end product of it. I mean, there are songs that are written by men that I completely…I don’t know what the fuck they were written about, and I don’t really care because I’ve made them my own. And I would hope that a lot of the men that have listened to the lyrics that I wrote feel exactly the same way, you know, that it might be a woman’s experience, but they can totally relate to it. That’s the fucking point.

LK  
Yes.

MB  
I don’t think that men who listen to my music are doing it in an objective way, like, “Oh, I’m looking at a woman’s experience. That’s what I’m appreciating”. No, I hope they’re listening to it and going, oh, I felt like that when I was left by someone, or I felt like that when I had a shitty day, and I can totally fucking immerse myself and relate to that. That’s the point.

LK  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think most people are doing that or I get the feeling that most people are pretty great about that kind of stuff. It’s just the way that it’s…ugh, yeah, like you’re saying…the way that we’re put into these little boxes. I mean, hopefully, you’ve noticed that I didn’t open the conversation today with “So what’s it like to be a woman in music? I don’t even know!” 

MB  
[laughs]

LK  
Because I would never in a million years – please don’t answer it, because I’m not asking you that. Please don’t respond! Because one of the reasons for doing this podcast the way I do is, because it’s completely independent, I can ask who I like, and because I’m the publisher of the thing, I decided to take on a responsibility of sharing the platform with a lot of different voices, but not in a tokenistic way. And it’s not so that we can get on here and bitch about how shit men are, because I don’t think men in general are shit.

MB  
Yeah.

LK  
There’s a lot of people who are shit, unfortunately. But you know, there’s a lot to celebrate as well. And I’ve always really hated it when you get through a conversation, and then then that question happens. It’s just like, “Oh, I see, you were just sort of warming me up for this bit you actually wanted to ask me about”. And it happened to me recently, and it hadn’t happened for so long that I didn’t have a response, and I probably stuttered quite a lot. And the person asking me the question’s very well meaning, I really respect what he does but I don’t think he understands or understood what that would make me feel like, you know, as this “Oh, now I have to answer for womankind, just me!”, you know, and I’m not willing to do that.

And so what I did was, there was another artist on the same event who is male, and I just said, “Well, I’d love to hear what this person thinks about it as well”, because I’m not here to fix that for you. Stop asking us how to fix the problem. The problem is not our problem. We didn’t create this problem…we’re human beings making music. That’s how I think of myself. I think my experience as a woman, obviously is part of that, because that’s my experience of life. And it’s not about hiding that or pretending that hasn’t existed. But yeah, it’s not to be different.

And when someone says, “Oh, yeah, you’re one of my favourite female artists”. I just…I don’t take that as a compliment, I get really annoyed. I’m never horrible to the person, because they’re saying something nice. But oh God, what does that mean? Have you got a list of male artists, or have you got a list of artists and the men are the ones above or…? I just don’t understand it, so it’s like that rating system. I don’t need to be rated against another woman, that’s so strange. It’s all completely different, you know?

MB  
Yeah.

LK  
I’m rambling a little bit.

MB  
No, no, but you’re absolutely right. That is quite a weird thing to say.

LK  
Yeah. Okay. It’s not just me. That’s good.

MB  
No. I don’t think that of even actors, so I don’t think “Oh, what’s my favourite female actor, or what’s my favourite male actor?” You just think who the people I like, really, isn’t it?

Laura Kidd  
“Who’s my favourite drummer with brown hair?!” That one. What’s that got to do with anything.

MB  
I mean, I think sometimes people ask in a kind of…it might be a bit of an eggshell treading way where they feel that “Ooh if I don’t ask, they’re gonna think that I’m erasing their experience or something”.

LK  
I suppose.

MB  
Like I said, in that bell curve, if you’re asking someone who is basically performing music that seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with being a woman, or a specific experience that is unique to women, then I don’t really see the fucking point in asking them about it because it’s clearly not what is on their mind. You know, they may even think the other way about it, they might be completely anti-feminist, and actually feel uncomfortable being asked because they don’t really want to fucking go there. You know, I get it.

LK  
Yeah, yeah. The thing is, I think it’ll come up naturally if it comes up, like we’ve naturally started talking about that stuff but it’s not because I had on my list of questions, best check what she feels like about being a woman in music, do you know what I mean? Because I think you’re probably aware of that – I don’t need to point out, “Oh, you’re Micki from Lush, aren’t you? And you’re a woman?” I think you know those things, so yeah, it’s just I think these things come up naturally or they don’t. And if they don’t, then there’s the work to talk about, which is surely the point anyway?

That’s kind of how I feel a little bit about going through the history of everyone’s past from, you know, 1987 til now. For one, it’s quite a big scope for a conversation to go through, and I also think that once it’s been done a lot – like if you hadn’t done any talking about that recently, then I probably would have been more inclined to go well, let’s talk about a bit of that if you want to, but I’ve just read like four or five different ones, and it’s like, well, I think she’s covered it.

So if anyone’s listening going “But I really want to know about the third album and how things didn’t go so well” – just go and look it up. That’s what Google’s for. There’s loads of information, and you’ve expressed very eloquently all of that stuff. I suppose I just don’t want to bore the people I’m talking to by making them say the same stories again, it just seems a completely pointless waste of your time and mine.

MB  
For sure.

LK  
But yeah, anyway, that’s why – it’s not because I don’t know that stuff has happened before. Yeah.

Can we talk about the latest Piroshka album? Because it’s just come out, hasn’t it?

MB  
Yeah.

LK  
Do you still like it?

MB  
I do. I…that sounded really unsure. And I didn’t mean that.

LK  
Shall I ask again? Do you still like it?

MB  
No, I really do. I do love it. I think I have a weird relationship with…I don’t know…when you record something, right? Do you listen to your old stuff a lot? Do you listen to the previous record?

LK  
Not a lot. But occasionally, but mostly I do it in a very functional way to remind myself that it wasn’t shit.

MB  
Right.

LK  
And it’s not because I’ve decided it’s shit, I just think it’s probably not that good. Then I listen and I’m like, “Oh, actually, I do really like this. I’m still very proud of this piece of work. Cool”. And it just gives me a bit of a renewed enthusiasm for writing songs. Because I tend to think, “Oh, I’ve written those songs and that’s finished now, but now I’ll never write a song again, I don’t know how to do it”. So I need the evidence.

MB  
Yeah, yeah.

LK  
So not a lot. But sometimes, yeah.

MB  
Yeah, so you’re listening for a specific purpose.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
Cos I think it’s really hard to listen to your own stuff for pleasure, right? I don’t know who does that. I remember years and years ago, Woody Allen being interviewed about his films and he said, “Oh I never watch them”. He said “I tried it a couple of times, and all I can do is see the imperfections, and it really sort of pisses me off”. And I kind of got, because at the time that seemed like a real revelation to me, partly because I was surrounded by male musicians who, you know, would go, “Oh, do you want to hear my new record?” Or they give you the record…you know when you give someone a record, as a mate, and they go, “Oh, should we put it on?” And you’re like “Fuck no, absolutely not. Right? You listen to this when I’m long fucking gone. Okay”. But there’s a lot of blokes who seem to really like that, which I just can’t… I can’t understand how you can sit there and listen to your own music in front of someone else who’s kind of like not judging it, but you know, listening to it…

Laura Kidd  
And what you’re supposed to do just go, “I don’t like this very much. This is shit”. Like, you’re never gonna…you’re just gonna politely go “Oh, yeah, very good. Mmm”.

MB  
Well, first of all, that’s what you’re gonna do as the listener. But also, you know, all I’m saying is, I have been in rooms with blokes who are going, “Hang on, hang on, listen to this spirit. It’s fucking genius”. Right?

Laura Kidd  
Imagine feeling that way. Imagine for one day, we could walk around with the confidence of an average man. Imagine what we could do. Imagine that. Fucking hell.

MB  
I know. It’s amazing, isn’t it? To be fair, I have known one or two women who do similar things with like, you know, poetry or something where you’re thinking, oh, please don’t…you know what I mean, but, yeah, in music terms I think it’s always been quite a male thing for someone to do that. So I suppose all I’m saying is that I find it quite difficult to listen to my own music uncritically, and I do tend to wince over the things that bothered me when I was recording it and then thought, “No, it’s fine. I think it’s fine”. And then I can still hear them and they still bother me, and so I just can’t listen to them properly, it’s really difficult.

LK  
Yeah, I have to listen to them a lot… Because I produce my stuff, alone – God, that sounds so sad and lonely, it’s not, I really like it! But because I produce my stuff, I have to listen to it so many times so that I can try and have that distance and hear it like someone else will. But obviously, I never will hear it that way, but I have to try and hear it as one big block of sound in order to see what’s missing, or what to add, what to take away, all that kind of stuff. Yeah, after that, I don’t.

MB  
But I mean I do think that’s quite normal anyway, because I think even if you’re working with a producer, you would be sort of going, “Argh, I still think that bass is too loud”, or blah, blah, blah, whatever, do you know what I mean?

LK  
Yeah, course.

MB  
But I think there is a period when you’re working on an album where you’re listening to it so intensely, that it’s then quite difficult to step away from it and just hear it as it is. Again, I think that the blokes in the band, you know, I mean, Moose, Mick, Justin, they will all go on our Whatsapp group and like, “I just got the vinyl, put it on, sounds fucking amazing”, right? So I guess it is just a bloke thing, and good luck to them. Whereas I will put it on and go, “I think it sounds really nice, doesn’t it? I think it’s all right”! “I really like your song, I think your song sounds great…I’m not too sure about mine.”

LK  
But I wonder if, in that context, everyone’s actually asking everyone else for something. Because if you were comfortable, I don’t mean you, but if one was comfortable putting a thing, having it sound amazing, and that’s enough, then you wouldn’t put it on the WhatsAppp group, would you? And so if you’re also sort of…maybe part of you is asking them to say “No, your songs amazing, too”. The reason we’re all addicted to social media is because we want outside validation, because inner validation could and should be enough, but it currently isn’t for whatever reason, you know, all those little likes and things actually do something for us chemically. So, yeah, I think that’s a much nicer way of getting it rather than going on Twitter going “I just listened to my album, it’s fucking amazing. What do you think?” And then people going “Yes, yes, yes. No, no, no”. You know, it’s a safer space, isn’t it, a WhatsApp group, at least?

MB  
Yeah, that’s true, that’s true. But anyway, yes, back to your original question. I do like the album, I find it always difficult to listen back to something that I’ve just done, and relax about it. But it was a really good record for us to make, because I think when we formed the band… You know, that’s another thing about creativity – I think because Lush had been put under such a spotlight, to the extent that even before someone heard the record, even when we released a record, we knew that people would have a tone that they would take in the way that they received it, because they’d already made their fucking minds up what they thought about us. And so when I was doing Piroshka, and we were doing Brickbat, we only told a handful of people, literally like four people or something knew. Close friends of mine had no fucking idea.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
Because I just thought this is such a sort of tiny seedling that I need to be able to nurture without people…even with the best will in the world going like, “Oh, I can’t wait. Oh, my God, it must be so exciting. It’s been 20 years since you did this”, you know? And then I thought no, no, I need to…I just need to be able to do this without feeling that there’s going to be any kind of expectation, judgement, whatever. And I’m sort of quite fascinated by people who don’t do that. I’m going to trade a bit carefully here, because it’s someone I’m not friends with any more, but this bloke that I know, who literally puts on social media all his processes, right? Just to add that this person has never had a successful creative project of his own but is like, “Oh, yeah, just came up with a great idea for this today. Throwing stuff out there, does anyone know another word for this? Like really struggling to write…” blah, blah, blah. And I think it’s all quite performative? You’re not…I mean, it’s quite “me, me, me” and loads of attention. And I actually think that’s really the antithesis of what you need for creativity, because you do need to be able to just be with your own thoughts, don’t you?

And yeah, I just remember years and years ago, a mate of mine who was writing a book. So, he wrote this book, he went to an agent, and the agent said, “Listen, it’s good. But you need to write another one. And then you need to write another one. And then you need to write an another one”. So in other words, are you a writer, or have you just written a book? And, you know, this isn’t about thinking what the cover is going to be like, and seeing your face on a dust jacket and calling yourself a writer because that sounds romantic…it’s actually doing the fucking work, you know? And you do it, whether you get attention or not.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
You want attention, that’s fine – but you do have to enjoy that process and get something out of it, and not just do it because I want to walk around and call myself a fucking director, do you know what I mean?

LK  
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s funny, I was talking about this very thing with Ginger Wildheart on the last episode, because I was listening to this thing recently about what do you want to do – what you want to spend your time doing? Versus what do you think you want to be? So yeah, do you want to call yourself a novelist? Or do you want to spend your days writing books that mean something and write them again and again, and be humble and put the work in? Yeah, the perspiration. Yeah, that’s really interesting.

MB  
And also get a lot out of it. Because I think the problem with a lot of people is that they’re already playing Wembley Stadium in their head. And you think, if that’s the only bit that you’re going to enjoy, this is going to be a really, really hard haul. Because most of the funniest and best bits for me, hands on heart, were the journey up. It was actually being stopped by the police on the way back from Newcastle in a Transit van that literally can’t go over 40 miles an hour. It was the first time we’d go to America like “Oh my God, diners, truck stops, amazing!”, you know, yeah, and all those sorts of little steps that you take – those are the really, really fun bits. Once you’re at the kind of pinnacle of wherever you’re going to get to, that’s actually quite stressful. Then it becomes “Oh, oh, not another fucking TV performance. Oh, I’m bored now. Right, there’s 3000 people out there baying, who love you. Yeah, I’m just not quite in the mood”. Like, you know, that’s when all that shit happens.

LK  
Yeah, well, there’s no plan for past the point of for success, I don’t think. So even if a band does reach this goal that they had, then what? Because you don’t cease to exist once you’ve played Wembley Stadium, if that was your goal, and you actually reach it, you then are still a person. So I spend probably far too much of my time worrying and thinking about people who made it too young, and then have nothing to do with their lives because they’re fine for money, and they’re not doing stuff now but they must be fine, they’re not doing jobs, you know. What are they doing all day, in their pool? Do they have a fulfilling life? I worry about that kind of thing. Because I think we all need that.

MB  
I’m sort of slightly fascinated by that exact thing. Because I do think when I look at some of, you know, the real success – you know, all the tragedies, but of people who became really successful, like Amy Winehouse, or, you know, whoever it is. For me to write a song and record it and do all of that – it’s a lot of work, you know, I’m not a naturally gifted…you know, I open my mouth, and everybody fucking stops, because I’m so amazing. And I do wonder, you know, when something’s so effortless, when you can record a song like that in one take, and you just sound fucking amazing…

You know, there’s no way I could record and perform on drugs, right? It’s just not going to happen. It’s a fucking disaster. Now, I know Amy Winehouse ended up in exactly that thing, but I think for a long time she managed it, you know, like, however fucked up she was or whatever she was on, she could still put out these remarkable performances. And sometimes I think that can be a curse. Because for those of us who have to actually be on board, you know, concentrating, working, you know, really making the effort and enjoy that work, if you imagine that all taken away from you, in a funny way, as lovely as it would be to just be able to record a fucking album in 10 minutes and go, “Wow, it sounds amazing”.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
You’re right, it becomes what else am I gonna do with my fucking time?

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
And then you take it for granted as well.

LK  
Yeah, so we need to be not so talented, that it’s too easy for us so that we don’t have time to develop a substance addiction that will end in our demise. I think that’s perfect.

MB  
Yeah, that’s a good rule for life isn’t it!

LK  
Don’t be too good, because it could just go wrong if you are. I’m fine with that. I’m absolutely fine with that. Because I think the music that’s the most interesting to me is not the best music there ever could be, the very best guitar solo that ever could occur. It’s just a bunch of people together who, you know, combine to make this brilliant thing, or someone’s weird mind, if it’s a solo project, where they’re happy to just go wherever and they don’t give a shit. That’s what I’m aiming for with my stuff, and I really respect when bands can create something that’s so wonderful together as well. So just to finish up, could you please share with me three…I was gonna say, I think I’m going to say Piroshka songs, three Piroshka songs. So if people are listening and they’ve never heard Piroshka before, which three tracks should they start with? And obviously then listen to everything and buy everything.

MB  

Oh my God. I think if you’re looking for a way into what we do, it’s probably…I do think that “Everlastingly Yours” off the first album, is… It is the kind of most popular track on that album, but I’ll tell you why I pick it is because when I first started writing with Moose, despite having been together for so long, it’s sort of – when you are suddenly creatively writing music together, it took me such a long time to get round my head around how he wrote. I can remember him playing “Everlastingly Yours” as a sort of really rough demo, and me being a bit like, “Really? You want to go three times round with that? Are you sure you don’t want to just go two times round?” “No, I want to go three times round.” And, you know, and “Really, that’s how you’re going to do that bit?” And, you know, so there was a bit of a tussle.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
And it took me til the whole song was virtually recorded to go, “Oh, okay. Okay, I get it”, right. And I think it was just sort of zoning into how someone else’s mind works, because it is really different. But it’s sort of brilliant to be able to join someone on that journey, and actually it is sort of educational, I suppose.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
And it was completely out of my ability, because I just didn’t get it. I literally didn’t get it. And then to actually go into it and thought, “Oh, well, yeah, that’s really good”. You’re probably thinking, now I’m hearing all those fucking producers who were going like, “Are you sure you want to do that?”

LK  
No, what I was going to say was well done for not doing that! Well done for not going “No, we’re not doing that, it has to be four times round”. I’m a big fan of the three times round thing, but I only learned about it from someone else. I was playing bass for a woman called Lydia and her songs…there was some songs that went three times around so I was like, “I am having that”. So I’ve done that recently, it’s fun. It’s a good one.

MB  
Yeah, because I think, you know, sometimes it just sounds jarring. And you think are you sure you want it to sound jarring? And then once you get into it, you realise it’s not jarring, actually, it sounds really natural. So I don’t know, it has a magic of its own. But I suppose it’s the idea of tuning into someone else’s… I’m used to doing that listening to music, I’m fine with that, I would never judge – I think, hey, that’s how it was written, I’m just gonna fucking love it or not. But when you’re actually involved in the process, and this is gonna have your name on it as well, and blah, blah, blah, and you are wanting to bounce off each other, I think it’s interesting that now I will just shut my fucking mouth in future and go like, yep, just gonna go with it.

LK  
Yeah! You never know where it’s gonna go. It’s about not finishing someone’s sentence, isn’t it?

MB  
Yes!

LK  
Excellent delay there. I thought you’d frozen on the screen there, that’s really funny.

MB  
Just making sure.

LK  
No more delaying tactics – what’s the second one?

MB  
Okay, so I did really like writing “Loveable” off the new album. I think on the first album, I was trying a bit to not write like “Miki from Lush”, and I think with “Loveable” I kind of thought, you know what, this is how I write and that’s fine. But like you said, when you go back and listen to something and think, how did I write with this before and you’re trying to give yourself a bit of boost? To me, it was…listening back to Lush stuff was always tricky, because it’s written from the perspective of a much younger woman, you know, who hasn’t had children, who hasn’t done a lot of stuff. So to write a song like “Loveable”, which is much more…it is about having a long term relationship. It’s a love song, but it’s about all the shit that you’ve been through, really. And that can be a friend, it doesn’t have to be a partner or whatever. But it felt like a mature song.

Laura Kidd  
It’s nice to get wise, isn’t it?

MB  
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a song of yours that has that…”I Used To Know Everything”.

LK  
Oh yeah.

MB  
And I thought yeah, exactly. And that’s got that nice sort of backward looking, but now present moment cast to it, which…it is about wisdom, literally, you know.

LK  
Yeah. Well, one of the reasons I was really keen to talk to you was, like I said at the beginning, about your return to music and making music as an older woman than you were before. And I just think we need voices who are different, different from what we’re used to, you know? I saw this irritating greeting card, it was in an Oxfam bookshop in Bristol, it was a birthday card for a man that said, “Men don’t get older, they just get more interesting”. I can’t laugh at that, I just can’t. Why is that in a charity shop being sold to people in 2020, maybe 2019? (Realistically, it’s probably 2019.) Disgusting.

So the fact that you are writing songs about your experience as Miki now – and past Miki – and that Viv Albertine is sharing her thoughts on her life, and whoever else is doing it, too. That’s what we need. That’s what I’m interested in. And of course, young musicians have a lot to say, too, and I love hearing from them as well. But why would we only want to hear from them? Bonkers! It’s stupid.

MB  
Yeah, and I think that that is one of the nice things about when people go “Ohhhh, is the music business dead?”, you know, “there’s no money, la la la, blah, blah, blah…” – but I do think that what is happening is a breadth of voices, you know, whether that’s down to race or background and blah blah, but it does seem broader…

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
Certainly for voices of older women, I definitely find that and, you know, I genuinely think if in 1990 you’d have asked what an older woman’s record would have sounded like, they would have said, “I don’t know, what do old women sing about? Crocheting…or fucking, you know, chilblains or something?!” I mean it really would feel like another country, you know?

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
Whereas I think now, I do think music is a communicator. I mean, you know, there’s a track on the album, “Familiar”, which is actually about menopause. It doesn’t have to be, it can be about just depression, or feeling out of sorts. But, you know, that is the sort of jumping point for that lyric.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
And I think it’s sort of important to, you know…things that just aren’t talked about. And you suddenly think God, no one really writes or talks about these things. I’ve just got this fresh sort of pasture to jump around in because no one really does that. It’s quite liberating.

LK  
Yeah, but you know, having released a lot of albums now, if you were still writing about, you know, shagging and drinking pints – I don’t even think Lush wrote about that, so apologies, that’s not what I’m saying – but if that was what being written about in your twenties, as an artist, you’re probably going to have to write about something else, some other aspects of life that you have lived. And so yeah, you’ve had kids, why wouldn’t that come up? You know?

MB  
Yeah, I mean, I think even if you’re writing about shagging and drinking pints, or whatever, I think if you’re doing it from a place of experience and truth, then I think it will resonate, you know, I think the the difficult period is when you start writing songs about being on fucking tour or something, which is like…

Laura Kidd  
Or hating your label!

MB  
Yeah, now you’ve really run out of subject matter, you actually have to go off and live a little now and build up some more things.

LK  
Go to a museum on that tour, maybe. Read a book! Yeah, I just think the eighth album of singing about shagging and drinking pints might get boring, as well.

MB  
No shit, but you would hope that the person actually writing that would be bored with it themselves.

Laura Kidd  
Yes ideally, yeah. I like the idea of chilblain rock. That could be a thing. I’m not even sure what a chilblain is, but it’s such an awkward word I feel like that’s a songwriting challenge to get that into a song now.

MB  
Okay, so next album we both have to get the word show playing chilblain in somewhere.

LK  
It could rhyme with quite a lot of good stuff. We haven’t talked about a third song off your list, have we…

MB  

Oh, shit, okay. So I’m going to slightly cheat because it’s two tracks. So I just mentioned “Familiar”, but it’s sort of seamlessly goes into “We Told You”. I’ve never done anything this pretentious, actually on a record, which is this sort of epic, kind of, you know…I don’t know, soundscapey, thematic shift – whatever the fuck stupid words you want to invent, feel free to throw them in, okay? But yeah, basically, “Familiar” started off as a kind of idea from Mick and then so that was a proper collaboration, I wrote the lyrics and I wrote a melody and then Moose came in and wrote some [guitar] so it just kind of evolved, it genuinely was like a really organic track. And “We Told You” was something that Justin had kind of come up with for the first album, and it just wasn’t really working. So we sort of took it apart and put it together again, but it was a really…the reason I’m rambling on about this is because it was a genuine studio moment.

A lot of the stuff that I’ve done, you know, it’s live, I’ll either play it on a guitar or we’re rehearsing it as a band but, you know, it starts off not from a studio environment, it really does start on an acoustic guitar or something. Whereas this really was studio, and I did sort of feel like, “Oh, this is a whole different thing here”. You know what I mean. You probably know more about this, because you actually have all that stuff at your fingertips.

LK  
Yeah, it’s because I can’t remember anything though. That’s why. So I have to sit on my computer and write it and record at the same time, otherwise I don’t stand a chance. It’s gone.

MB  
But that leaves it quite open, because you can actually chop it up even as you’re going.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
I’m sure you could record something and then sort of fiddle about with things and actually think I’m just gonna keep that tiny bit there, and then go off in some other direction. Whereas to me it’s like, you know, right, this is the verse, this is the middle bit, this is the chorus, these are the chords, there you go, you know, send bits of paper everywhere, and it kind of has to be quite nailed down before I can get to that fucking stage.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
But with this song, I mean, down to the fact that when I did the vocal for “Familiar”, I was just sort of guessing my way through it. It really wasn’t til we had nearly the whole song recorded that I suddenly thought, do you know what, I think the vocal is actually out of time, because I didn’t realise when I was writing it what the fucking time signature was. I just thought this is really loose, I can do what I want. And I could suddenly hear the time signature, so I had to take all…”Okay, go back, I’ll do the vocal again”.

LK  
That’s happened to me a few times where I’ve written something and…it’s not that I don’t know what I’ve done, it’s just that it’s come out that way. And then later on, I get to the point where I have to count it to put it into the project properly in Logic and then gone, “Oh, that’s why I had a headache for three days, it’s in 7/4” – my favourite, actually 5/4’s my favourite but – and then I had one that’s in 13/4, or like, it’s 6/4 – 7/4. And it wasn’t like I went, “Hmm, what can I do that’s really interesting and off kilter?” It just came out that way, that’s how it happened. And then yeah, there comes a point where you have to count and then go, “Oh, right. Yeah”.

MB  
That’s why it doesn’t sound quite right. Yeah.

LK  
But in a good way.

MB  
But so you played the violin, you said…

LK  
Very badly, yeah.

MB  
But still…you can you read music?

LK  
Yes, I can. I say that with hesitation because I can…I just choose not to. There’s no good reason for it.

MB  
I literally played the recorder at school, that was it. Right? Everything came after 18, and learning how to play a guitar, and I can’t read music, you know, all my notes are A with a star next to it with explanatory notes for what that chord actually is, you know, I just, I never kind of got there.

LK  
Well, I don’t think you need to. I mean, I got…I’ll be very honest with you now, because we’re having a chat…I signed up to do this music course, which has a bit of theory on it, right? And I started it the other night. And I think it’s because I’d had a really tiring weekend, the guy started banging on about a load of theory stuff that I don’t know, I just don’t understand it. I got so angry and upset, that I just slammed the laptop shut, and then started crying and saying to my husband, Tim, “I’m just a fake musician. I’ve made it all up. I don’t even know what I’m doing”. Because the guy’s talking about what key stuff’s in and I was so panicked by it. I think I was just really tired and on the edge, for whatever reason, because it doesn’t really matter, because I don’t think I’m a fake musician at all, people listening (if I leave this bit in), anyway, so um (probably not). And I was just like, okay, what’s happening there is my fear of the thing that I thought I’d be found out for, which is not knowing what notes I’m playing, what chords I’m playing – because it doesn’t fucking matter, as long as they’re the right ones (and not the right ones, not the correct ones, but the right ones). And so whenever I was doing bass session work, I was always waiting for someone to be like, “Let’s transpose this to G sharp minor”. And me being like [terror noise] “don’t know what that means! Transpose I understand, but the the notes you’re saying pfffft, dunno”. So I realised that what’s happening with me is that yeah, the fear of my big secret – like in EastEnders, my big secret is going to come out and ruin my life – and what I have to do is just not do the course at the moment, cos I’ve got quite a lot on, and just maybe do a bit of theory beforehand. Do it when I’m not tired, and when I have eaten, and then just like, take it from there. Because I think there’s a lot of benefits to being free of that way of thinking, because you’re not and I’m not going “Ooh, but that chord doesn’t go in that key”.

MB  
Yeah.

LK  
Cos I don’t know what the key is. I don’t know what it is. I’m just going “What sounds good next? And then what sounds good over that?” And I’ve got a friend who knows a lot of shit about music and he was going “Oh, it’s really clever, Laura, what you’ve done at the end of that thing” and I was just like “These are words I do not understand. But thank you (I don’t know what you’re saying!)”

MB  
But I agree with you. I mean, I can remember even with the Lush album, I remember Terry Edwards coming in and he’s incredibly talented and blah, blah, blah, but you know, he knows his fucking music shit, you know what I mean…

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
…and I can’t remember what song it was, but he was just sitting there going “That’s so weird”. He said “I could not write that because it’s the wrong…it doesn’t go there. It just doesn’t go. It sounds really good…”

LK  
Yeah, yeah.

MB  
“…and I think it’s brilliant that you’ve done it, but I’m limited because to me that’s just the wrong thing to put…” and so I agree with you. I think that’s the first time I thought, actually there is something quite liberating…I mean, it’s frustrating sometimes because you think someone else would have this shit at their fingertips and they wouldn’t be trying to find a note, you know, what’s the right root note here? Going up and down the fretboard.

LK  
Yes.

MB  
And they’d just have it like that.

LK  
Yeah, but then maybe that would limit them, though.

MB  
Yeah, yeah.

LK  
I’ve met Terry a few times, he’s a lovely man, and I’m just really pleased that he was saying “Oh it’s sort of wrong”, but he wasn’t going “so you’re wrong”. And he wasn’t saying, “and it doesn’t sound any good”, where some people might go, “but it’s wrong, and I can’t deal with it, and this is wrong, and I can’t contribute” or whatever. Or you know, “it doesn’t sound good”. Because if it sounds good, it sounds good.

MB  
Yeah.

LK  
It doesn’t matter what the fucking key is. I don’t know what the key is. I never know what the key is, I don’t know what it is!

MB  
Neither do I…

LK  
How do people know? Anyway, yeah. This is a rambling end of our conversation. Music theory, what’s the point? Uhhh, lots of point. If you know your music theory, it’s probably very helpful, but don’t be constrained by it. Be more punk, I think.

MB  
Yeah, and again, I think it’s that thing of things having a flip side, you know, you can do it that way or you can do it that way, both are valid, you know, you can just choose which path you want to take. I mean, I remember John Cooper Clarke talking about, you know, being asked Sso why do you always write in rhyme?”, and he was like, I need a framework. Otherwise, it’s just…I just wouldn’t know where to begin and end, you know? I write lyrics that rhyme, because I find it – otherwise, it just feels way too loose actually. Yeah. So I think it’s, yeah, sometimes a framework is good…I mean, maybe I’m just being really fucking lazy and going, “No, I’m really glad I’m not classically trained, because it’s really liberating”, when actually, I’m just too fucking lazy to learn.

LK  
This is the dichotomy of that thing, because that’s what I’m saying. So I don’t take pride in not knowing stuff. I’m not being wilfully ignorant and saying that education is bad. But also, I think that given that we have all made these records that are not shit, you know, that no one’s going “but actually, the music theory on this is dreadful. No one buy it!” It just proves that there’s different ways of doing things.

MB  
And also in terms of being a sort of inspirational point for other people to make music.

LK  
Yeah.

MB  
I think it’s a terrifying thought that the only young people who would make music are people who have got their music A level and have done all their piano lessons, not least because that, generally these days tends to indicate a certain privilege in terms of, you know, financial backing. But I think you want people to be able to…I mean, you know, I have said this before, but I watched that We Are Lady Parts, I don’t know if you’ve watched it…

LK  
It is. Not yet.

MB  
It’s brilliant, right? And what I loved about it is that I thought…well, I loved a lot about it, but one of the things was, was I thought there’s going to be a load of people who watch this who maybe aren’t even really into bands, right – that’s the reach of television – and will actually go “Fuck, that looks like really good fun”. And that might be their route in, and it is about just a punk band and people who were, you know, some can play, some can’t, and so I think in terms of inspiring people, the idea of thinking that the only way you can become creative, musically, is if you sit there and do five years of theory and pass your grade 8, that’s incredibly restrictive. So, great for those who have it. But for those who don’t, there is a completely different path available there, you know, that is just as valid and legitimate.

LK  
Yeah, and it just all ties in so nicely because Viv Albertine was one of those people who, in the punk era, was inspiring people to pick up instruments. I mean, I don’t know, I’m not going to assume she doesn’t know what key things are in. I don’t know that she would have done. I was inspired by you – obviously, if I’d have known that you didn’t know your theory, Miki, I probably would have become an accountant instead…

MB  
Fuck her!

LK  
…so I blame you for everything. But you know, that’s the thing, just just fucking do stuff. Do stuff, stuff happens. That’s my motto.

MB  
But work.

LK  
Yeah, well that’s the doing bit.

MB  
Yes. That’s the doing bit.

LK  
Doing not being.

MB  
Yes. Wise words, mate.

LK  
Yeah, there you go. We’ll end there, that’s the best thing I’ve ever said in my life…I could talk to you all day, whether you liked it or not, but thank you so so much for chatting to me today. It’s been amazing to meet you. Thank you so much.

MB  
Thank you. That was genuinely really brilliant fun. I just feel like cracking open the wine now and carrying on but yes, I know what you mean.

LK  
Let’s do it!

MB  
It was great. Thank you so much.

LK  
Thank you.


LK
Piroshka’s gorgeous new album “Love Drips And Gathers” is out now wherever you get your music, and you can join them on tour in November around the UK. Visit piroshkaband.com for more details.

The deluxe show notes page for this episode is at penfriend.rocks/miki.

If you’re new to my show, welcome! Make sure you visit my website penfriend.rocks to pick up two free songs and receive thoughtful letters about art and music, and if you’d like to keep listening now, I recommend episode 39 with Stephen Jones of Babybird and episode 33 with Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit.

This podcast is a rare ad-free zone, but sponsorship from listeners keeps the wheels turning, so if you’d like to be part of keeping this show on the road visit penfriend.rocks/sponsorship. Thanks for considering it!

Massive thanks to my Correspondent’s Club for powering the making of this show and all my music.

I’ll be back in two weeks time to share another deep conversation with you, so I hope to catch you then!

Til then – take care!

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Ep47: Miki Berenyi (Piroshka / Lush) on celebrating a breadth of voices in music

Ep47: Miki Berenyi (Piroshka / Lush) on celebrating a breadth of voices in music

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Content warning: this is a very (joyfully) sweary episode so probably not best listened to in the presence of kids. Don’t @ me, Dad!



Miki Berenyi is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who first became known in the late ’80s and ’90s as a member of Lush, and currently makes music in Piroshka.

Lush released four excellent albums, parted ways in tragic circumstances in 1998, reformed briefly in 2015 and then called it a day.

Piroshka emerged in 2018, four individuals with distinct musical identities but also overlapping histories – Miki on vocals and guitar, Justin Welch of Elastica on drums, Mick Conroy of Modern English on bass and Moose McKillop on guitar.

After debut album “Brickbat” explored social and political divisions by way of what MOJO described as “Forceful, driving garage songs and dream-pop epics”2021’s new album “Love Drips And Gathers” follows a more introspective line – the ties that bind us, as lovers, parents, children and friends – to a suitably subtler, more ethereal sound, whilst still revelling in energy and drama.

In this conversation, we discuss:

  • how Miki was a huge inspiration for teenage wannabe-musician me
  • what it’s like for her starting a new band after 20 years out of the music world
  • how creative work *is* work…but that’s okay
  • escaping the cartoon image of “Miki from Lush”
  • our shared future in chilblain rock

Things to do next:

+ Get your copy of “Love Drips And Gathers”
+ Get tickets for Piroshka on tour around the UK
+ Follow Miki on Twitter
+ Follow Piroshka on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram





This podcast is powered by my Correspondent’s Club. Thanks to every single member for your support!

+ Sponsor a future episode here.

Get your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo


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I only did it for him | Garden cleanup time-lapse

I only did it for him | Garden cleanup time-lapse

Creativity Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

Join me as I clear my overgrown back garden so my elderly dog Mister Benji can use it, PLUS enjoy oddly satisfying timelapses! Accidental passionfruit! Gnomes lost in the undergrowth! Potential medical drama!

This video was made by mixing Go-Pro Hero 9 footage with footage from the Canon R6 with the RF 35mm 1.8 lens.

Subscribe to my channel for more!


THANK YOU for visiting my website! I’m Laura Kidd, a music producer, songwriter and podcaster based in Bristol, UK. It’s great to meet you.

Get your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ Browse episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer” here and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo




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Ep46: Ginger Wildheart on creating a you-sized shape in the world of music

Ep46: Ginger Wildheart on creating a you-sized shape in the world of music

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Ginger Wildheart has been busy releasing music since the late 1980’s: as the leader of British rock band The Wildhearts, as a solo artist and as a member of numerous side projects and collaborations. Ever keen to find new ways to embrace his special relationship with supporters of his music, over the years he’s experimented with release methods outside the record label model including crowdfunding triple album 555% and running fan subscription club “the Ginger Associated Secret Society” or G-A-S-S.

Pre-order The Wildhearts’ 10th studio album “21st Century Love Songs” now – out on 3rd September 2021.

In this conversation, we discuss:

  • why Ginger would rather be a member of Sparks than a bigger but vastly inferior band
  • songwriting as a service
  • the beauty and resonance of the direct to fan relationship
  • the life-changing power of a song
  • why learning what not to do is more valuable than learning what’s awesome
  • what about the music industry? – predictions for a more sustainable, less bloated future

Things to do next:

+ Pre-order The Wildhearts’ 10th studio album “21st Century Love Songs”
+ Book tickets for their September tour here
+ Explore Ginger’s solo work here and The Wildhearts here
+ Follow Ginger on Twitter





This podcast is powered by my Correspondent’s Club. Thanks to every single member for your support!

+ Sponsor a future episode here.

Get your copy of my new album “Exotic Monsters” right here.

+ Get two free songs immediately when you sign up for thoughtful letters about art and music.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo


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