Jay Kay: A Deterrent For Being Famous.

We’ve all dreamt of being smothered in glory, money and all the tinkered perks you find sewn into the title of ‘celebrity’. It’s a striking sensation of bitter realisation and anger when you see the sentimental smirks of ‘celebrities’ such as Jason Cheetham, that damped those once innocent dreams to wet sand.

 It’s more than enough for some celebrities to hide away from the cameras, pull up their hood and let their work do the talking for them. In a very specific sense, anonymity can be the master stroke to a celebrities plan to put their art before themselves, and steer the attention to the reason they are famous, instead of actually being famous. For Jamiroquai’s Jason ‘Jay Kay’ Cheetham, however, feeling the heat of the spotlight isn’t nearly enough. If he had his way, he’d take that very same spotlight, swallow it, and have the concentrated beam of light shine out of his arse.

Back in the early nineties, Jamiroquai planted a brickwork patch of acid jazz funk scene, and fashioned a new, post-modern patch of dance music. Flanking towards the chill out sector of dance music, Jay Kay’s on stage charisma and quirky style brought a growth refreshment to the British music scene of the late, which was mostly made up of the expansion of Brit Pop. However, as is often the case, remove the thick layer of charisma and you’ll discover a dense plate of arrogance, egotism and ostentation.

Surrounded by controversy, Jay Kay has made more of a living from abusing paparazzi than for being a singer. In a countless array of confrontations with photographers, Kay has painted a black mark on his reputation. From assault charges and criminal damage, the script usually reads for itself. Jay Kay laps up the limelight and public attention like a malnourished cat, targets an unsuspecting victim, hides behinds the bounces and drops in the odd expletive. No longer a rock star, but a petty, school yard bully. Gleefully driving around in one of his many over-priced collectives, Jay Kay still accommodates the same, sanctimonious, sour smile that has soiled his public persona.

Yet, he is still portrayed as a celebrity, ‘gifting’ the public sector with his repetitive, manufactured and tasteless music. I used to enjoy the works of Jamiroquai, and it’s odd to see how much one mans personality can manipulate opinions. For the paparazzi, he can be a wet dream or a complete nightmare. Some will perceive him as being a goldmine for stories, scoops and altercation. I guess that’s the massive irony of this article. I’m debating the credibility of a man who, by any means, would love the publicity he gets in whatever form, including this piece of writing.

As it turns out, I used to quite like the music of Jay Kay and Jamiroquai. I found it to be an nice alternative to hard dance music, but a jazzier and more interesting take on chill out music, speaking from the perspective of a few years ago. As for Jay Kay, I remained fairly impartial as my interest never surfaced anywhere else on the man. To me, he just used to be a bloke who sang a few songs and said “ooh” a lot whilst I attempting to do my homework. It was only after seeing his media confrontations and interviews when I decided to rid the bitter sound from my ears, and find the devil behind eyes of an extremely overrated and pretentious individual.

He was cocky, arrogant, self assured and wore bloody ludicrous hats. Even watching him on the BBC’s Top Gear was excruciating. Colloquially talking about having a dozen Ferrari’s and how he once dated Denise Van Outen like it was the most natural thing in the world. His type A competitive personality boiled me up even more, as I knew, just knew, that he’d get to the top of the Top Gear lap times board as soon as he said “I’m going to be the fastest”. Annoyingly, Jay Kay is one of those people to which things just happen for them. The cards are placed perfectly on the table.

To my complete animation, determinism that can be criticised very heavily, as proved by a photographer whom was involved in Jay Kay’s most infamous incident. After someone had allegedly kicked Jay Kay’s new Bentley after he was leaving the premiere of Star Wars in 2006, Jay Kay quickly exited the vehicle and pointed for his hallow companions to give chase to the closest photographer near him at the time. Defending his honor, and in a very calm, resolving manner, the photographer contested his innocence whilst Jay Kay threw expletives over the shoulders of who described to be his “boys”. To Jay Kay’s misery, and to the hilarity of masses, every man has his limits. Reacting to the inundation of abuse, the photographer head butted Jay Kay square in the face. And just like that, there was a little bit of justice in the world.

Will Jay Kay ever change his ways? That’s about as likely as Bill Turnbull ever being prescribed ritalin by his GP. People will still dream of being famous, and living a life of glamour and allure. I just hope they’re aware of the Freddy Krueger’s that roam these dreams, like Jay Kay, don’t show them the real tragedy of fame. Yes, you get the money and the girls. But you can also become a dick too.

It Used To Be About The Music. Now It’s About The Business.

Faxing, stapling, press conferences, the lot. It’s a never ending schedule of bleak meetings and tedious administrative paper work that needs completing to a precise, drawn out quota. If I had said that back in the 1970’s, you’d probably struggle to believe me when I say that the music industry was being sucked bone dry by corporate lunacy, and no one can get a break anymore. How badly is the music ‘business’ being effected by this money orientated puppetry.

I don’t understand it at all. Nothing can be said to make the soul-crushing, asperous reality that new bands are struggling to get a break nowadays. Calling it difficult to find the time, money and right sound to prize your way into one of the most elusive and alluring professions existent on out planet today. As a group, you can do everything absolutely right and still end up a million miles away from your ultimate aspirations and dreams. And, sadly, this is a fact that is now acknowledged by the masses, which makes the needling puncture all the more bitter.

Bassist of Chippenham post-indie rock foursome Aztec Sam Wozniak let his thoughts known to me about this very matter, in a small interview I conducted with him earlier in the week. As a member of a band that has wide recognition over Chippenham; which is creeping it’s way into the back streets of the Bristol music scene and even smearing over into London, Sam knows the frustration and neglect of trying to break through the industrial music hymen. Sam and his band Aztec were asked to play a set at a small venue in London called The Purple Turtle for Birth Records a few months ago, but they were sadly removed from the bill due to a certain ‘administrative issues’. “They said we couldn’t play because we weren’t 18”. Tragically, Sam isn’t joking. As the venue held a license to sell alcohol, they weren’t happy having a band play that might consume alcohol when bellow the legal drinking age. In legality terms, fair enough. In the even more complex terms of rock and roll, are you being serious? To my annoyance at Sam’s story, he went on to explain even more farcical conditioned they had to match if they were going to play. “The events manager at Purple Turtle told us on the phone they we had to bring at least thirty-five people with us”. This is one of the final straws.

Now, if you are a thirty year old man with a desk job and a rosy cheeked, organic wife who makes jam and packs your lunch every morning, you can easily clip on your stripy silk tie and hop on the train to London. When you are sixteen, seventeen or even eighteen, it’s not as simple as that. In the back pocket of his functionalist working man lies a wallet spilling out ten pound notes like they were morning-after pills at the local GP’s. All that lies in the pocket of the scruffy young teenager is half a packet of air-waves and a Durex condom. So for Aztec, bringing thirty-five fans isn’t as easy was assumed by the administrators behind the gig at Purple Turtle.

I feel a great deal of accord for Aztec, there case stands out in a very personal level. Knowing the band and it’s collective members quite well, it’s hard to see where they have gone wrong. Because simply they haven’t gone wrong at all. They’ve spent way more money than a student makes in months on recording two sublime post-indie tracks ‘Palms’ and ‘Aperture’, they’ve gone from playing at The Old Road Tavern in Chippenham to playing at Proud Camden in London, as well as being lined up to playing at the Fleece in Bristol next month. Writing, working and performing their fingers to the bone, their efforts go unjust and unrewarded.

Things ever used to be this depressingly formal, organised and anal. Back in the 1970’s, if you wanted to start a band you just threw caution to the wind and did it. You never needed to spend money on equipment, recordings or even to find a small slot to play at your local pub or club. In the smokey, working class says of The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks and Joy Division, just to name a few, objectives presented themselves in a less distorted and simpler fashion. Bands like The Buzzcocks would have gone to the land lord at their local pub, asked them to play and that would be that. No contracts would be signed, no phone calls would be made and no arses would be kissed.

As a writer and a concupiscent listener of music, I’m feeling just as compressed and indisposed of as Aztec and the rest of the dampened musical followings. Artists shouldn’t need forty thousand public views on YouTube to be recognised, nor should they be poked, prodded and stripped of their integrity by spider-like fingers of the suit wearing cog turners that flood money through the funnels that barely keep the music industry running.

Peeling the skins away, and digging behind the pragmatics of what I’ve been ranting about simply condenses down to what I believe is the only option. And I don’t think that this article should extinguish any creative fire that you own, but it should ignite it even further. To be honest, nothing is ever completely water tight. There is always a way in, and if you can find it, take it. No matter what happens, the existence of the small independent band will never die.


‘Someone Like You’? I Was Hoping For Someone A Bit Different.

She’s successful, she’s popular and she’s everywhere. From radio 1 to to the 54th annual Grammy Awards, last year you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing or hearing about Adele. And that was my biggest problem with 2011.

I’m not taking a single thing away from Adele when I call her boring, because she’s already got enough innovativeness under her belt. Would I agree that she is a multi-instrumentalist? Yes, I definitely would. Is she a good singer? Without question, she’s a good singer, taking a lot of the contralto Motown influences that shaped the vocals of singers like Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald. Her fame spans across the globe as a ‘British icon’. That’s exactly my problem with Adele, and that’s why I wont be buying into her industry of generic impersonation of pop music.

The puppets administered by the BBC described Adele as “leaving her contemporaries for dust” in a review of her acclaimed record 21. Now, folk law and masses of public opinion place rhythm and blues connoisseur Ray Charles as releasing the greatest soul album of all time with The Genius Of Ray Charles. You could probably put him as number one in the poll for ‘most pretentious album title of all time’ too. But as well as being an album of pure brilliance and invention, Charles does something that Adele has not yet done. Charles gave his fans and the public a taste of attitude and a blink at his personality.

Adele can show us that she can sing, but that’s all. She can weep behind her piano, topple the summit of Everest with her melodies and give her fans the grotesque, plastic parasocial relationship they crave. That’s not what I want out of someone who makes all of the headlines. I want someone who sketches the ‘anarchy’ symbol onto Adrian Chiles’ face everyone they perform on ITV’s Daybreak. I want a singer who coughs up a little bit of blood when they go for the hight notes. When I see a band live, I want to see them rip a stage into and to fling pig shit at the audience. Sadly, with Adele, all you’re going to get is a cacophonous Tottenham accent telling you how expressive the colour brown is.

I was lucky enough to see Crystal Castles live once. And my God, did they put on a show. Two people built of abstractive mystery and acidic material, they divided their art on stage into twenty percent of following their set list and performing unfathomable experimental dance music, and eighty percent of dosing up on LSD, Jack Daniel’s and electricity. Even with a foot engrossed in plaster, font-woman Alice Glass threw herself around the stage at the 02 Arena in Bristol, clasping her crutch in one hand and a bottle of bourbon in the other. It was astonishing, and I’m glad to have shared the experience with Crystal Castles.

Surely, when you go to a gig, thats what you want? An experience. Those I know who have looked up at the presence of Adele haven’t had an experience. They’ve simply seen her live, watched her sing or witnessed her sit on a chair while her backing band look bored. To me, that is the musical equivalent of queuing up at the post office for a book of stamps, or cutting the grass in my back garden with a pair of felt scissors. There’s nothing vining around the foundations to it. There’s nothing extra.

Maybe it’s unfair of me to purely pick on Adele, because it’s the same with a lot of singers. I could have just as easily ranted about how unoriginal Lady Gaga is, or how mediated the antics of Pete Doherty are presented. Unfortunately, Adele perfectly embodies the trains that represent the dull, diluted and stripped down music that the corporate majority want us to listen to. We need more popular music stars to mirror what the Sex Pistols did in their infamously uncensored interview with Bill Grundy. We need more GG Allin’s to take a handful of laxatives before a gig.

When I first heard the hype surrounding the popular singer Adele, I took a great interest and planted great expectations to listening to what she had to bring to the nations table. And sure enough, she was impeccably tight to the notes, technically sound and a joyful representation of what our countries pop music could do. And from that first listen to ‘Chasing Pavements’ back in 2008, I’ve not listened not tuned into Radio 1 since. Pop music is dying, and Adele is an accessory to the murder.


The Cool List: Who Made The Cut?

Motorbike and leather jacket. Check. Cigarettes under a short rolled up sleeve. Check. Unnecessarily big glsses. Check. Excluding the obvious, 2011 was an over flow of variety, novelty and extravagance. But mostly, the blissful year just gone was an abundance of cool. Let us salute those furthest from the sun, and find out what separates them from the kingdom of tragically uncool.

 Blood Orange – Contriving yet another alias, Dev Hynes has swapped the bifocals and Russian hat for a baseball cat and muscles. Locking away the acoustic guitar and Star Wars days of Lightspeed Champion, Devonté boogied his way into the cool list with his Blood Orange debut Coastal Grooves. Blending the ilumination of 1980’s pop and the rockabilly styles of 1950’s America, Dev has manage to extract blood from a stone once again, and still remain one of the coolest fellas in music.

Lana Del Rey – Baroque pop sensation Lana Del Rey has tossed a wooden spoon into indie music this past year, and her tracks are staying divinely uncovered going into the new year. With her second studio album set for release later this month, those cherry lips and velvet eyes will tighten an alternative grip on the crown of 2012. But is she cool? Describing herself as a “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” is probably the coolest comparison the human mind is able to generate.

Ellery Roberts – Attempting to unite the world in Lucifers youth foundation seems to going well for Manchester’s newest conquerer. Defining 2011 with Wu Lyf’s profoundly brilliant Go Tell Fire To Mountain seemed like a walk in the park for Ellery. Mastering the art post-rock public seduction whilst staying virtually anonymous and in a state of psychedelic control solidifies Ellery’s place in the cool list. Plus, he’s got a pretty good quiff.

Tyler, The Creator – Whether 2012 will indeed hold an Odd Future for us all is yet to be tested. But heading one of the stand out collectives of the past year seems cool enough for the controversial LA maverick. Perhaps sitting on the misogynistic side of the table when it comes to some of his lyrics, but his free spirited youthful essence sparkles above his mediated criticisms, and even above his own sanctimonious, pretentious self opinion. As much as we may hate it, arrogance has always been cool. Like smoking, or drinking alone in the dark whilst watching Magnum PI naked…

Gbenga Adelekan – It was obvious that a bass player was going to be in the cool list. And to be honest, it was probably more obvious that it was going to be Metronomy’s harmonising hipster Gbenga Adelekan. When he is not playing bass, he is mixing, remixing, retuning, panning and God knows what else in his solo project. Oozing cool, he even surpasses Joe Mount on the cool throne. If you ask me, it’s hair. Blocky but brilliant.

Laura Marling – Coolest folk genius going, Laura Marling is not unfamiliar with the cool brand; nor is she bothered about such a mark. Care free as always, she devises the equation of writing music. “Talent, integrity and self loathing. The three things every artists needs”. Couldn’t have put it better myself. Her words ring true in her own music and persona, and she keeps the beauty and anger caged and bound together.

Azealia Banks – Harlems rap harlet knows her attitude wont get her many places, but she’s found a few cracks in the otherwise unflappable system. Electro house and rap, street as it comes. And it’s all compact, compressed in the strangest, most fornicated way fashionable for modern music. Small woman, with a large sound, and an even larger personality, she tormented our speakers last year. And she wont stop there. Her collaborations with king of hip hop Jay-Z and Scissors Sisters has propelled her into the limitless boundaries of 2012.

Orlando Weeks – Shyness, solitude and a bloody good singing voice. Pushing his hair back through his hands and tuning his telecaster are enough to melt the minority girls hearts into a pool of incoherent babbling and awe. Yet filled with reluctance, self prophecy and a tiny hinder of low self esteem, Orlando Weeks seems to be the only critic he aims to please. As sure enough, he climes higher and higher in the cool ranks every year. Orlando Weeks: A man who can stay completely silence during an interview with The Maccabees, and still be the only member you really try and listen to.

Tom Fleming – Wild Beasts all rounder has done a lot to be proud of this past year. Co-writing one of the records of the year, surfing the void of the unfamiliar, and finally making his mind up on shaving his head. Hopefully, steering away from the pubic mess of the earlier days of Wild Beasts, Fleming has grown up. Impressed as we were with the adolescent stage Two Dancers was at, Fleming has finally found a little place perched just over Hayden Thorpe where he can rest easy. His minor and melodic brilliance strung together the cool aura of the man over 2011, and lets hope their live shows live up to expectation.

Jamie XX – I’ve never heard Jamie XX say a single word. To me, and probably to many others, he communicates robotically with his MPC and samplers. Lurking in the shadows on stage, Jamie is easily the mastermind behind the success of the XX’s indie revolution. Remixing the late Gil Scott-Heron was the final stroke the portrait of Jamie’s brain storm. Recording again with the XX, his solo work will have to been stored away for a while, but fans will be itching to hear more of his dubstep workings and duelings.