“I guess it’s been sort of a long old journey to find the craft. After the Puppets, I sort of found it, really, making the Colour of the Trap album. And then now on this one, when you get people coming forward and saying they wanna work with you, it’s just a complete honor. It sort of raises my game.”
Miles Kane at length about his second solo LP, working with the likes of Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, Gruff Rhys and Ian Broudie, and being prepared to start small in America. Oh, and also wanting to do what T. Rex, Oasis or the Four Tops can do for a Saturday night (with no regard for Sunday morning) …
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PS: Well, greetings from the U.S.A.
Miles: Greetings from sunny Bradford, England, mate. We’re on tour over here.
PS: Yeah, and I know things are pretty busy for you right now, so thanks for taking a few minutes to talk to me. Appreciate the time.
Miles: No worries. Have you heard the new album?
PS: I have. Been blasting it in the car. It sounds a lot tougher and fuller than Colour of the Trap. I enjoyed that, but this has a bit more oomph to it.
Miles: Yeah, cheers, man.
PS: Well I know you had a big weekend, sharing the bill with the Stone Roses and Johnny Marr. What was that like?
Miles: It was fantastic. We did a couple of gigs on our own, as well. We did both Friday night and Saturday night, but yeah, that one with the Roses was really cool. You know, we went on, had a massive crowd and it was just a great atmosphere there. We smashed it.
PS: Are you used to playing to crowds that size or is that kind of a warm-up for the summer festival season?
Miles: Well hopefully this summer the festivals will be like that for us, you know what I mean? It was a big old crowd, but it felt comfortable. It didn’t feel strange and it didn’t feel like we were out of place. Those songs were built for sort of a big crowd, really.
PS: Right. And you’re heading off to Germany in the next couple of days, right?
Miles: Yeah, man, yeah. It’s just sort of nonstop at the moment.
PS: For a musician, that’s gotta be the way you want it, though, right?
Miles: That’s the way I want it. I make music to play live. That’s my drug—to be on stage and to perform.
PS: Do you get more of a kick out of playing live as opposed to going into the studio?
Miles: Um, well, it’s kind of a roundabout, really. It’s good to get the new songs out of your system, but for me, I guess I just love getting up there and performing. I really do.
PS: So working with Ian Broudie on Don’t Forget Who You Are—how did that collaboration come to be?
Miles: It just happened, like. I kept bumping into him in Liverpool and kept like seeing each other and it just happened that one day we had a coffee. He said, “What are you up to?” I said, “Oh, I’m making this new album,” and y’know, we just tried an afternoon together and hung out and really sort of got on. It was really cool, you know what I mean? And that was it.
PS: Growing up, were you a fan of his previous work with the Lightning Seeds?
Miles: Yeah, you know, I remember all those big hits. Sure. I loved his cover of “You Showed Me” when I was a kid.
PS: Well and it’s something to look at the names that have come up on your last couple of albums. I mean you got not only Ian Broudie, but you see Gruff Rhys, you look at Noel Gallagher, you look at Paul Weller, obviously your work with Alex Turner. It’s almost like anyone—well, not anyone—but certainly plenty of kids who picked up a guitar in the late ‘90s or early ‘00s, those are names that they’d wanna be working with. Probably the reasons they picked up a guitar. So having those names on your first two solo albums, what does that mean to you?
Miles: It’s a complete honor, isn’t it, really? It means loads, really. It’s cool to get, with the likes of Weller and that—just to get recognized and that these people wanna work with you, you know what I mean? I mean, these opportunities arise, don’t they? The thing is, I still feel that even though I’ve been in the game for a while—I guess it’s been sort of a long old journey to find your craft. After the [Last Shadow Puppets], I sort of found it, really, making the Colour of the Trap album. And then now on this one, when you get people coming forward and saying they wanna work with you, it’s just a complete honor. It sort of raises my game, I think. Because it puts a little bit of pressure on. Obviously if your hero or someone you look up to—if you’re in a room with them with guitars, it can be a little bit nerve-wracking. But it does raise your game. I think I sort of work better in those situations, really. It sort of pushes you, doesn’t it? It brings the best out of you. Now I’ve got a great relationship with Weller and Broudie. I’m really close with them. I think I’ll probably do more with them. It doesn’t feel strange, you know.
PS: That’s great. I think I had read that your first gig, or one of your first gig experiences was actually seeing Super Furry Animals?
Miles: Super Furries, yeah, and then it was Gruff on the first album.
PS: And then you showed up on his album, Hotel Shampoo, right, on “Space Dust #2”?
Miles: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. I did the guitars on that.
PS: So what was that like for you?
Miles: Yeah, well again, that was during the period of my life where I was sort of—it was after the Puppets and the Rascals split up. I was sort of a bit down in a weird way, because it was like I had nothing solid, you know what I mean? I’d gone back to root one. I had a blank canvas and you had to sort of rebuild it in a way. So I remember during that first album, Gruff sort of really helped me with that. I’ll never forget that. He was there for you. It was really cool. He’s a top, top fella.
PS: Back to the new album, as we were saying earlier, there’s a lot more “oomph” this time around. One of the first things that struck me was “Better Than That,” because it sounds pure, 1965 Small Faces. It’s got that Decca stomp …
Miles: Yeah, it’s got that Small Faces vibe, doesn’t it?
PS: Is that what you were consciously trying to go for and tab your influences?
Miles: Yeah, definitely, man. Obviously, I love the Small Faces and I wanted that energy of those songs that they had and that rawness. And I love it when you’re doing vocals and you do a scream or you do a “YEAH!” or “COME AWN!” It’s like live, you know what I mean? Live, it’s full of that and I wanted to capture those little moments on this record. Those little off-the-cuff, “WOW!” things. That song captures that for sure.
PS: When you’re doing something like that, is it better to capture the song live in the studio, or do you get more of that feeling if you’re doing an isolated vocal track?
Miles: Well, all the tunes were recorded live in terms of the rhythm, bass and drums, but then the vocals I did after. But I did them all in about four takes, you know what I mean? I like that, though, when the track’s a bit built up and it sounds really cool in the headphones. You’re like in your little zone. But every time I was doing the vocals, I was imagining I was playing live, you know what I mean? I was on stage. I always fucking do that anyway.
PS: Absolutely. Now on this album there’s a lot more of those vocal ad libs than there were on Colour of the Trap. Were you trying to go more down the electric stomp route this time around than the acoustic …
Miles: Yeah, definitely. It’s like I wanted it to be—the brief for this record was to make a Saturday night album, you know what I mean? I wanted this uplifting sort of record that you put on with your friends that you put on before you go out on a night out. I wanted to make that album.
PS: So what are some of your favorite Saturday night albums?
Miles: Pffff, there’s so freaking many. Electric Warrior, T. Rex or, you know, [Oasis’] (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? or a Four Tops best of. You know, I wanted one of those.
PS: When you get into one of those more lush moments—like “Out of Control,” which is beautiful or “Fire in My Heart”—how do you approach that? Is it the same thing or do you build up a bigger arrangement in your head?
Miles: Yeah, with those sort of songs, it’s like—even though I love to rock out and sort of have it and get that energy—to do those songs is a part of me as well, d’you know what I mean? I guess I can’t forget that either. I think I do need those little moments, because it can’t all be just “WAHH!” That’d be too much. I still do have that—I guess it’s sensitive—I can do a good ballad, as well. [Laughter] Or whatever you wanna call it. And yeah, a song like “Out of Control,” I guess it’s like at the moment in your life when you first ever fall in love. I know it’s an often subject, but when something is real and it burns inside you—I wanted to write a song like that. It’s quite an emotional one for me now when I look back. And I wanted to draw a sort of sentiment like “The Drugs Don’t Work” by the Verve. Even though it’s a different song lyrically, the mood and the sort of sound and feel is sort of similar.
PS: Well it’s interesting you say that, because you read reviews where you get that, “Oh, it’s another love ballad” or something like that, but I’ve never really understood that, because probably the first songs you identify with as a music fan are the love songs, because those are the first feelings that you’re starting to feel as a teenager …
PS: And you find the song that’s “Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel …”
Miles: Exactly, mate. It’s just real and everyone feels that shit at some point in their life.
PS: Now working in this context where you can be the front man, the solo artist—do you approach the songwriting differently than you did in the Little Flames or Rascals or Last Shadow Puppets?
Miles: Well, whether I’m with a producer or I’m working with Weller or whatever, it’s still just me bouncing off people to that degree. But I guess it is different. Obviously, when you’re in a band, you can jam out tunes with everyone in there. The way I do it, it’s more like trying to get a picture in your head to take in and smooth out, really. I like to sort of have a reference of a song that I like—say, the drums on it—“I want it to sound like Motown” or whatever song it might be. And then I sort of have that idea to play for the producer or whoever, play this track that you love the drums on, and then try to imagine it, really. That’s how I sort of done it on this one.
PS: Do you prefer that dynamic? I mean just as an individual performer, does that suit you more or do you enjoy being the guitarist in the band or the second vocalist?
Miles: Yeah, I fucking love when it’s my baby and I love leading it. I couldn’t sit back and just, like, be the guitarist. I just think, “… No.”
PS: The Weller collaboration. In America, we got a peek of that John Varvatos commercial, but how did that all come together with you working with Weller?
Miles: Well, we just met each other a while ago now. We sort of just got on and then a couple of months later he mentioned in an interview that he’d like to work with me. Our managers called each other and then we booked some time in the studio. We just really got on, though, you know? Music aside, we do. We’re pretty close now and he’s such a nice guy—he gave me a lot of confidence. He’s very encouraging of the youth and young, new music. It’s inspiring to be around, and to a certain level it’s heartwarming as well.
PS: When it comes to songwriting, were you sitting down together to write something or was it just bouncing ideas back and forth?
Miles: It was sort of both, really. It was proper creative, we did a handful of tunes and two of them made the record, but it was proper, like, I don’t know, it was like when I’ve written tunes with Alex [Turner]. When you have that bond and it’s really sort of—he was in the same headspace as where I’m at. A lot of the lyrics and even that tune, “You’re Gonna Get It,” it was done really fast and it was done in the moment. We just felt it. I guess we just have a connection, in terms of understanding each other and having fun with it. That’s what makes it what it is. There’s no overthinking it. You just go on with it, you know?
PS: So now having this album out there and seeing the reception it gets, what does that mean to you?
Miles: Over here in England and Europe, it’s been fantastic. It makes me very happy, you know, because you want to do well and you want people to connect with it. I’m hoping that it ultimately gets released in America at some point this year, because I’d like to come over there and sort of do a promo trip and do a few little gigs and see how that gets feedback. Especially this album more than the first, I think, I could imagine it happening over there to a certain level, you know what I mean?
PS: I know you did the short promotional tour over here with the Last Shadow Puppets album. As an artist—and I’m interested in your answer to this, because I don’t know exactly how it works with UK artists. Obviously America must seem like a behemoth and a tough market to crack because it’s so big and you’ve got so many different areas to try to infiltrate. But in terms of doing a small promotional tour, is that overwhelming for you or do you think you can fill some small theaters in New York, Chicago, L.A—those kinds of places?
Miles: Well, I mean I wouldn’t know what I could do because no one knows me over there, d’you know what I mean? I suppose I’d have to be playing some really small places, but I want that. I’m up for that. I don’t know, if I get to put it out there and come over and do interviews and build it up like we have done over here, I’m sort of up for that. I’m ready, you know what I mean? I’m just ready for it.
PS: Well the interesting thing—and again, I don’t know how it gets back to UK artists—but with someone like you and what we’ve talked about with the last two albums is that OK, you’ve got Ian Broudie’s name on it. You’ve got Weller’s name on it. You’ve got Noel Gallagher’s name on the first album. Alex Turner on the first album. I mean these are all artists that, you know, maybe they’re not as huge as Justin Timberlake in America [laughter] …
Miles: Yeah, yeah …
PS: But at the same time, you have a very solidified audience in that. I don’t know that Colour of the Trap ever got a proper U.S. release …
Miles: It didn’t. It didn’t, no.
PS: OK. But I know quite a few people over here who have it because it might have been, “Oh, hey Noel did something on it.” That was his first appearance after the Oasis split. And then of course, with this, it’s “Hey, here’s something new that Weller’s done.” So eventually it gets to a point of “Who is this Miles Kane?” and you naturally want to look into it more.
Miles: Yeah, exactly. I think it’s there, isn’t it, mate? We just gotta get over there and get it put out. Do some gigs in it.
PS: Yeah, and that is something that you want to do?
Miles: Oh, mate, yeah. Too fucking right. And that’s what it really is to build up—you’re my first American interview I’ve done, you know what I mean? You’ve broken my cherry, mate.
PS: Well I hope it was good for you.
Miles: [Laughter] It didn’t hurt one bit.
PS: So looking forward, you talked about the “Saturday night record.” Are there plans for a Sunday morning record?
Miles: [Laughter] Mate, who fucking knows? At the moment, I’m all about Saturday night. I’ll get to Sunday morning after exhausting my Saturday night. It may come, but at the moment, it’s all about spreading rock and roll and feeling good and catchy sounds, you know.
PS: It sounds like you’re getting really into soul music.
Miles: Yeah, really. I think that’s sort of—that’ll be album three.
Miles: [Laughter] Yeah.
PS: Get the horns involved and everything.
Miles: Yeah, man. Nice one.
PS: Well I hope the new album does get a release over here because more people should hear it.
Miles: Let’s hope so, mate. I hope to do that, show it to people. That’s what matters at the end of the day.
PS: We’ll look forward to seeing you over here later in the year, hopefully.
Miles: Yeah, nice one, bro. That’ll be cool. You take care.