Few days ago, Kele Okereke was in Paris to present his new solo album, Trick, after a last tour with Bloc Party band. He shared with us the genesis of these new sensitive and rhythmic songs.
United States of Pari s: Do you often look back on your past career ? Do you have special memories of some things that surprised you as a singer, as a musician ?
Kele: Yes, but to be honest I don’t spend much time, I don’t spend any time looking back, with nostalgia or anything like that. I’m far more concerned with looking forward but yeah, there have been cool things that happened, of course, over the 10 years I’ve been doing it. I remember the first time we played in Paris with this show, at Pigalle, Les Inrocks Festival. The kids were just going completely crazy. At that point, I’d never seen anything like it for us. I also have lots of fun memories of coming to Paris.
When I listened to your first album The Boxer, I felt that you were a sensitive, or even a very sensitive man. Am I wrong ?
Kele: No. I feel that I am a human being and I have more than one side. There are different aspects to my personality. You know I am a sensitive guy but I can also be a douche bag, I can also be a jerk, so I am not just like a wet lettuce , I can also be funny.
But you share your feelings with the audience in these two albums.
Kele: Yeah. I share certain feelings. As a songwriter I’m really only concerned with telling stories. These records are not entries in my journal, or my diary. I’m telling stories, I’m obviously projecting aspects of my life in these songs. I don’t want people to feel that this is what I am. This is what I’m choosing to share.
About Stay the Night, can you tell me few words about ?
Kele: Stay the Night is one of my favorite songs on the record. I like… it was a different type of start of singing for me, and it was a different kind of subject to me to sing about. I like that idea of me as a spurned lover.
To me the lyrics seemed very kind of sad, melancholic, more…It was a different type of song for me to write.
Do you remember where and when you wrote this song ?
Kele: I recorded the record over 2 years from 2012 until the start of 2014. I started to work so I was touring, so a lot of these songs I’ve been working on for 2 years. Stay the Night was one of the first ones from this session. But it started off in a very different way. I had a lot of different lyrics, it really took a year for it to tend to what it became.
I was listening to an Usher song called Climax that he released a few years ago. I wanted something that has the same kind of emotion, that is romantic, kind of pretty sweet somehow.
Do you suffer a lot because of love, or did you suffer a lot ?
Kele: Yeah, I guess so. I’ve always been quite a romantic person. The thing is, I always fall very quickly into love with people that maybe are not really deserving. But I haven’t had my heart broken for a long time. The last time I really had my heart broken was probably when I was a teenager and it really, really hurt. And there was nothing else I could think about, that kind of crazy feeling of… you can’t get it out of your head. That was the last time I felt that and I think because of that I’ve always quite well insulated myself in oncoming relationships. I was more, not pessimistic, but I’ve always reminded myself that at some point this isn’t going to be there, which is kind of a self-defeating attitude perhaps, but it’s realistic.
What was your first desire or wish for Trick before writing and recording it ? Did you have an idea or a direction for this album ?
Kele: Yes, I wanted it to feel like it was a night time record. I wanted it to feel like it was slightly underdone, like there weren’t too many ideas in the songs, like there wasn’t too much happening. That there was a real, clean, minimal, sense of space in the music. That’s what I wanted from the op cit. Because I’d spent a lot of time over the last years doing Dj’ing and I think playing house music or techno music on loud speakers you become very aware of the separation that needs to occur. The softer sounds you can get in the music, the sound is good when it has very few elements in it . Whereas in the past with all the records I’ve made, I’ve always fixated on getting as much happening in the space as possible. And I thought this is the time maybe to try something different. That was the only thing I had going into making my record.
Did you try something new during the writing or the recording of this album ?
Kele: I guess the lyrical matter was something that is not really an area that I’ve been so confident about writing. I’ve never really written about desire, I’ve never really written about expressing that. I’ve written about love or heart break, I’ve never really written about that feeling of getting an erection or something, or that kind of feeling. I don’t think that it’s like coarse or smutty but I think that desire is a very important part of pop music.
Do you remember what mood you were in during the writing process ?
Kele: Trick was recorded over two years. That’s a long period of time for a sustained kind of mood, but I guess initially I was touring with Bloc Party for the first half of that. The initial sections were very kind of furtive, I didn’t know yet what was going to happen but I wanted to create, to express myself. And then we stopped touring and I started DJ’ing. I DJ’ed for a year and a half, every week-end I went to the States, Australia, Asia, Europe. I have just been DJ’ing for the last year and a half. And to be honest I’ve really enjoyed that rhythm.
But for the most part I was just DJ’ing on the week end so I was busy and the week free and I’ve never really had that kind of routine of travelling but then also being at home. And I realised I actually prefer it because you can still have a semblance of a normal life when you’re at home in the week.
It took quite a long time actually I remember, making this record, I had it at the end of 2013 and they were : « Oh no, we need more songs. « Oh great« , but then I wrote Coasting and Humour Me and a whole bunch of songs which turned out to be my favorite songs on the record. I’m glad that I had that period, I think it’s good to have people around you that you trust, that can bounce stuff off . But as for the mood I don’t remember being in an especially anxious need, and if I was making this record or something that I had to make me feel good, so I don’t feel that lead into the music at all.
Is your relationship to the audience different when you’re alone on stage from when you’re with Bloc Party ? Do you have different sensations or relations to the audience ?
Kele: I’ve done five or six shows as a solo artist for this run of shows and as I said I’m only doing it on the week end, so I think personally I’m still finding my feet a lot with the act of performing giving that there is not a band and it’s all about the visuals and stuff. Personally, I feel it’s still a relatively new experience for me, but that said, standing in front of a room full of people, singing to them, it’s the same emotion that I feel when I stand on stage and I sing in Bloc Party. You’re expressing yourself and you can feel the crowd. But it’s about how I feel and I still feel that sense of joy about performing, so yeah, I think it’s the same.
Kele, new album Trick
Interview réalisée avec l’aide d’Aude Saucey