In Conversation with King No-One
Photos by Michael Parr
One of the hottest outfits on the emerging scene of alternative British music, King no-one are fast becoming someone to watch. I caught up with the band in York to talk all things music, including, their new EP, inspirations, recording process and performing live.
This is your 12th time at Fibbers, good to be back?
Absolutely, there’s so many iconic moments that have defined the band that we are that have happened in this venue.
You’ve got your new EP out, ‘Toxic love’, what’s the reaction been so far to that?
The reaction has been, I mean, it’s a funny one really, because the stats seem to be great you know, the plays are double at this point where the others have been at this point. But we’re so used to releasing singles and watching plays go that a play doesn’t mean anything, you now. It might have picked up 50,000 plays in 2 weeks but that doesn’t mean anything to us, there’s no sort of reality to that, because you can’t actually see the physicality to it. So, playing a tour, that’s where we’ll know how it works out and the reaction to it both last night in Hull and the night before Glasgow have been great, however, we’ve been established here for a long time so, tonight is the real test of how our new single has really gone down.
What was the main inspiration behind that single?
So, the main inspiration for that song was… it’s quite vain, egotistical, whatever you wanna call it, so for the first time in years, since I was in early high school, I was actually interested in someone. I don’t really get interested in people very often, but this time I did, and they seemed interested back [shrugs], like I said, emphasis on ‘I never get interested in people’, but this time I was interested in this particular person, and… I couldn’t stop thinking about that person, and it really drew me in. The more that they gave me, the more that I was drawn to them and I needed more. It was like some sort of drug and, you know it went on for a while and they kept pulling me closer in, and it literally was just like, I needed it I needed it. I wasn’t the person that I was used to being, till eventually they were just like ‘I’m not interested”. It was rejection and I’d never really had that before, I didn’t know how to deal with it so my brain just got shut off for a bit and really it was a proper blow. It might sound silly to some people but, it really bothered me, and I was really affected by it, so I sat, the day that it sort of officially she was like “nah I can’t be bothered anymore” so casually, I kinda sat down in silence, I guess you could call it “pissed off”, and I walked up to the piano later on, and I was just sort of playing just for the sake of playing, not thinking about what had happened. Then evidently my subconscious was sort of driving this, “you are really pissed off”. This little affair that you’ve had has made you a certain way, and I just came up with this entire piano riff that then ended up developing into a full song within about 8 hours, and then I showed these guys, we met up the next day, and the rest is history.
Is the always the way that you write music? Is it a drawn-out process or is it always something that happens in a day?
It always depends actually. It depends what the song meaning is, it depends how instantaneous the feeling that needs to be expelled. Song writing is basically a self-expression, so it can take a while. Sometimes you don’t know what you are trying to say until the lyrics start coming. I’m very self-consciously driven, so, the single before that was ‘Two Islands’, and Joe had come up with this riff that was absolutely gorgeous, and that evoked a feeling within me that I hadn’t really visited before. That was what sort of drew out something. It ended up taking ages to write, because it was a feeling that was from a year ago, so [you’re trying to remember how you felt about it], yeah, but in a subconscious way, which is the key about it. All the writing is subconscious which is really confusing.
Where’s been your favourite place to play on tour so far?
For me it was Leeds Church last year, it’s cool, I mean it’s just a gorgeous venue and the crowd was ridiculous. It took me back to when I was 18 years old and I first got on that big stage and I’d first played to that big crowd before, and that excitement of being a little kid came back, I think it’s going to be difficult to get that feeling back again. It’s changed.
I mean that one is up there for certain, but, Gorilla in Manchester, which was the last tour, for me I just remember walking on the stage, and we hit our first song off, and there was this atmosphere in the room. I’d felt that before, from other gigs, but it was absolutely electric. Every single person in the room was singing from the get-go all the way through the gig, and you kind of have moments to yourself where you’re like holy sh*t, this is definitely next level. That stood out as my favourite.
For me, the second best was Deaf Institute, because it sold out in 3 weeks and there was a month and a half of solid time to go and it just sold out, and for us, nothing had sold out in advance that quickly, and that meant that 260 people wanted to be there so bad, this was a couple of years ago now. All of them people wanted to be there that much that they bought a ticket straight away, but like I said, it’s gotta be Leeds Church for me. There was just something so special about that gig, it was almost like it was written for a story, you know. We’ve got a song called ‘Antichrist’, we’re anti-politics, and we have such strong stands on things and it was the end of the tour, and that whole tour we were saying look, “the people that we say we are, we stand for equality, we stand for this, that and the other”. It was like we really need to prove it to this audience tonight and we really brought all our feelings that we’d developed across this massive 20-day tour over 25 nights and we still had energy left for this last blow-out. There were just some really incredible moments, we just thought, “this is what we’re doing it for, this is what we’ve literally dedicated our lives for” and its already happening at such an early stage.
I’ve seen videos from your gigs. Sometimes you get bands that come up to the mic and sing, and that’s that, and they walk out, but you guys really go for it.
Yeah, we always describe it as a performance, like a theatrical performance kind of thing. We have big personalities, we like to dance around and be big personalities on stage.
To be honest, especially for me, to express the song about how we actually feel. Even though we call it theatrical, it’s not pre-conceived, it’s completely natural, it’s just another way of self-expression apart from in music, it just goes hand in hand with the performance.
It’s not just an audio experience, it’s a visual experience, an audio experience and a feeling experience, you know, you have to immerse yourself into these concerts, and we do the best we can to do that. But there’s a little trick I do before we play a song. I remind myself what the song was written about. The feeling, the exact feeling of what that song is about just before we start playing it, it gets me in the zone. You’d think that it stops working after a while but it absolutely doesn’t.
So, presumably then, performing would be your favourite part of the whole process, or would it be writing?
It changes. You get highs and lows on everything. I mean the highest that I’ve ever felt in my life, was past any recreational drugs. It was actually when you have a breakthrough moment in song writing. When you have a moment where you suddenly feel like, rather than being part of the world, you’re on top of the world. Those feelings for me can’t be matched, but neither can the feeling of, getting nearly 1000 people in one room to be on the exact same wavelength, at one particular moment in time in history, I mean that feeling, again, you can’t beat it.
It’s incomparable isn’t it, it’s like when you spend this much time as a band together it’s like family, so when you have them breakthrough moments with song writing, it’s an intimate moment that everyone shares in that room. You can’t get, it’s a totally different feeling than when you’re on stage and its sharing that with 1000 people. It’s totally different but both utterly unique and fabulous in their own way.
I was just going to say I f*cking hate recording, because, you’ve got such a stubborn idea of the song you want, you have to spend so long trying to get that vision and you know that vision isn’t going to be the end product. You have to wait and wait, and the first day you’re hearing absolute crap, but by the end of it, and you’re like “I like it now” and you hear that first mix back and you’re like, “oh, sounds alright”, but you know, I hate recording, because it can let you down.
Is there any song that you guys wrote that you thought, “right this is going to be big”, this is going to really boost us?
The first time, was when we were at ‘Millennium’, and that was one of the one’s that came instantly. Zach had this idea of a riff, which was the base of the chorus, so we had the vocal melody and this riff, and within that we’d already written a verse and a middle layer. I think everyone heard it and was like “this is new level for us”, and for some reason everyone just brought something new to the table that we hadn’t done before, and it just worked.
It was so easy.
Everyone just got super excited, and to be honest we were right in thinking that, because it did wonders for us and that was our biggest song for years, until we wrote ‘Alcatraz’ which was probably one of the most difficult songs ever to write, that took months and months and months. It was like, “that bit’s sh*t, that bit’s sh*t, that bit’s sh*t”.
We didn’t overcomplicate anything, it was getting stuff that served the purpose of the song.
Going back to the initial question, that [eureka moment], happened the second I wrote ‘Toxic Love’, as soon as I got that, [sings the song], I was like this is it, “I’m sitting on a hit right here, I can’t wait to show the guys”. The funny thing is, we recorded this song 3 times already, which we’ve never rerecorded a song, and the version that’s out now is the 3rd time we recorded it, because every time we were like, ‘that’s not the version we wanted”, and I still think that we’re sitting on a hit, but it probably needs to be rerecorded again who knows!
Mark my words, in this interview, ‘Toxic Love’ will be a hit.
Is there anybody that you’d love to be on tour with?
I’d love to go on tour with Grimes actually, or Stormzy. Actually, to be honest I’d like to do a collaboration with Stormzy, or any grime artist for that matter. It’s a very established scene now, but, I quite like a lot of grime artists, and I think collectively, one of our records mixed with a grime artist would be absolutely buzzing.
We talked about the idea of Wiley a lot.
We played Coco in Camden, we headlined Coco in the same night Wiley did, as part of club NME, and Wiley did his own sell-out show, so we both did a sell-out show on the same night and as soon as we saw Wiley play we were like, “we should collaborate”.
What’s next? What do you envision as plans for the future?
Funnily enough, I was actually writing on the back of a book, all my predictions. So, I made a prediction in March 2015. The first one’s pretty spooky. We played a gig then, supporting someone first on, and you know, we were so immature by that point. Anyway, I said, we’ll headline our own show here and sell it out, and so they were like “what date?”, and I said “December 2018”. So that’s this year, and that was the Ritz in Manchester.
Are there a lot of these, are you quite good at them?
I dunno, I said we were gonna play Leeds and Reading in 2013, and we played Leeds and Reading in 2013.
He’s pretty good at it, he’s almost a little bit annoying, but because we’re negative, but because kinda like. It’s so hard in that moment to fathom something that far ahead, also that magnificent I suppose, when he did say it I was almost, not negative but, nervous, and like “that would be incredible, but let’s wait and see”.
I’ll give you two far out ones then. We’re going to headline and sell-out Madison Square Gardens in New York, I think it’s November 2027, and unfortunately, I can’t give a particular year, that we’re going to headline Glastonbury, but before 2030.