Only one year out of college, James Blake is truly living the dream.
Recently nominated for a Mercury Prize and days after his breathtaking set at this year’s Austin City Limits Festival, the Foghorn had the chance to sit down and speak one on one with the English musician James Blake hours before his sold out performance at The Fillmore on September 21st.
Foghorn: You just released a collaborative track titled “Fall Creek Choir Boys” with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver a few weeks ago, was this recorded together with the two of you in a studio or via email?
James Blake: It was going across The Atlantic, we both met each other (last year) at South By Southwest and we kept exchanging emails, sending each other music, sending each other beats, and vocals he recorded and we eventually worked out the song.
F: When your first started making music, what did your mom and dad think of it all? Was it seen more as a hobby to them or did they see it as a professional career?
JB: They saw it as a thing to do right to the end. When I was recording “Limit To Your Love” I actually recorded it in my parents’ home where I grew up and they came in (to my room) and it was the song they liked the best out of anything I had recorded up to then. Oddly enough I didn’t really believe them! I don’t think anyone really knows that, but yeah they definitely seem to be the barometer to what song is going to be popular.
F: What did your dad think of your cover of his song “Where You Turn” which you retitled “The Wilhelm Scream”?
JB: He really likes that song. It’s strange though, changing the name of the song, taking out some of the lyrics and chopping some of them out is kind of like changing your second name especially when it’s your dad’s song. I think he really took it really well to be honest, considering I really reinterpreted and chopped up his song. I think he understood and really got the point of it though.
F: Looking at some of your peers in the music industry who are some some people you look up to in the music industry or are people you’d like to work with more?
JB: At the moment I’d really like to work more with Justin (from Bon Iver) whether it’s in a studio, or or a bedroom or even over a cup of tea. I just want to play really. In terms of artist I’m on the festival circuit with… it’s really cool playing with (the band) Warpaint, they put on an amazing show. I really also enjoyed playing with Flying Lotus and The Gaslamp Killer in Los Angeles, I think they’re doing really great stuff.
F: Looking at California based artists, what are your thoughts on Tyler the Creator who also started to blowup at SXSX when you did?
JB: I think Tyler is great, I spoke with him him once. There is a lot of shock value with Odd Future which I really love!
F: I appreciate that about them too!
JB: The think that I really see about Odd Future is Tyler’s vulnerability. I think his album “Bastard” is a great album. It’s beautiful, heartfelt sentimental album, But I don’t think he needs my psychiatric summary. I do think he’s my favorite out of that collective.
F: To get more personal, how does it feel being 22, going on 23 next month and thinking about all that you’ve accomplished in this past year? You just graduated college less than a year ago, just played all of these major music festivals, and was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Is this all accomplishments you reflect on much?
JB: I haven’t had time. I’ve been so busy playing shows, writing songs , and getting as much time as home which is very little. I’m also trying to keep my friends and make sure it doesn’t…
F: Fall apart?
JB: Yeah, I want to make sure everything stays stable. I graduated college a year ago…and your best friends don’t need to be serviced, but you do lose touch with a lot of people because geographically your not in the same place and it’s hard…but I’ve made a bunch of new friends and have had such an amazing time. This next year since I won’t be touring and I’m going to have a year to look back and look at where I want to go with my career. I agree with you though that I’ve been lucky to do all of that stuff.
F: Will you be recording this next year?
JB: Yeah, I’ve already been recording a lot of stuff, but next year I do want to try some new stuff.
F: For you personally, do you enjoy playing at individual venues more or playing the touring circuit?
JB: Towards the end of the festival circuit, I felt that I wanted to get back to doing shows in venues, but last time by the end of doing a tour of shows though in smaller venues, where it’s harder to get the sound right, festivals do become more appealing because of big sound systems. Now though on this tour I’ve been playing in venues that do have big sound systems.
F: Last time you came to San Francisco you were playing at The Great American Music Hall and this time you moved up to the larger Fillmore Theater.
JB: To be honest though they’re both great venues.
F: The Great American is beautiful and one of my favorites.
JB: That venue is beautiful! It has a great sound system as well, so I couldn’t complain. Looking back though seven months ago, the venues really have changed. Working in a venue like this though gives us all a chance to do all the stuff our band wants to do.
F: Since we’re very much known for our food scene, did you eat anywhere special in San Francisco?
JB: I’ve been living off burritos and Salvadorean food the past two days I’ve been here. I wanted to go to the equivalent of a greasy spoon in England and scouted out mexican places since I’ve been here and have tried to stay away from chains.
F: As a final question I noticed on your tour schedule you have a lot of days back and forth on and off from touring, and what do you like to do on tour and in San Francisco?
JB: I like it when we’re by the sea. It lets me completely refresh.
F: Do you surf?
JB: No I just like looking at it. Being back in America is really exciting. When we went around on our first tour we got to get our first impressions of it all and now that we’ve come back it’s much like revisiting an old friend. I feel now I can navigate through cities that I’ve been to.
San Francisco has been really fun. The whole city looks so beautiful! Today though has been so beautiful, I walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf. I looked back at San Francisco and this glorious view and thought this is such an amazing city! I know some people here and have had such a splendid time.