'I'm not on Facebook, or any of that s**t'
Kenny Anderson is a man who gets things done. The King Creosote singer takes time out from painting his kitchen to tell LAUREN MURPHYabout his quiet, ongoing musical revolution
I’VE CAUGHT KENNY Anderson at a good time. In fact, journalistically speaking, I’ve caught him at a very good time indeed. The man known to the music-buying public as King Creosote is enjoying a rare day off at home in the seaside village of Crail, Fife, and is happy to talk about anything and everything – from his long career to his burgeoning culinary skills (“I made an omelette last night that wasn’t complete bum food”) – for a good hour-and-a-half.
But first, the important stuff. “I painted my kitchen last night – one coat,” he giddily exclaims. “And I’m gonna do more today. Then I’m back in the studio, and then off to France to do a festival, but next week, oh yes, next week . . . I’ve got four days off. Four days! And the sander’s going to come out, and I’m gonna do the floor . . . it’ll be great!”
If Anderson sounds more enthusiastic than he should be about home DIY, it’s probably because he hasn’t had the chance to lead much of a “normal” life lately. A prolific musician who dabbles predominantly in the folk sphere (he is the founder and brains behind acclaimed Scottish label Fence Records and the collective that it spawned), the 45-year-old has released more than 40 solo albums since 1998 – and that’s not counting the numerous collaborations and bands he’s been a part of over the years.
Funnily enough, it was one of those collaborations that brought him to the attention of a wider audience last year. Diamond Mine – the record that he made with electronica musician and composer Jon Hopkins – became an unexpected hit, far outselling anything that Anderson had previously released, generating critical acclaim across the board and bagging a Mercury Prize nomination in the process.
His friendship with Hopkins stretches back almost a decade; in fact, Diamond Mine was in the works for seven years before it was released on Domino Records last year.
“It wasn’t an intentional thing – it was just that we did lots of other things in between,” he says of the record’s long gestation period. “I think Jon says that in actual real-time, the album took seven weeks to make in total; but it was spread over seven years. We first met at one of my early shows in London, and right off the bat, he was really keen to produce one of my albums, or at least for us to work on something together. We were three tracks into a collaboration when Jon landed the job of producing Bombshell , and those three tracks went onto Bombshell, so we basically had to start again. So it was 2009 – after Bombshell had come out, and my next record Flick the Vs had come out, and Jon had got his album Insides out – that we realised we had a bit of time to actually knuckle down and get this thing sorted.”
The album is a collaboration in the most faithful sense of the word. Anderson’s beautiful melodies and distinctive Scottish brogue are filtered through Hopkins’s production and subtle touches of electronic instrumentation, most strikingly on songs such as Bubble and John Taylor’s Month Away.
“The genius that Jon’s put into that album is that on the surface level, the songs sound like they’re very simple,” he says. “I’ve read that so many times; that ‘the beauty in this record is the simplicity of the songs’. Well, they’re actually not that simple. When you actually start to deconstruct a song like Bats in the Attic, you find that the chords are continually evolving. And that’s the real success of that record; when it came out, it didn’t come out to massive fanfare because it was seen as this record that sounds pretty basic. But it’s become a favourite in people’s collections, and it’s built and built.”
With a running time of just over 32 minutes, Diamond Mine is short, but Anderson is keen to emphasise the importance of the record as a “whole” body of work.
“I’m getting quite militant about it now, but I’m really one of the defenders of ‘the album’. Diamond Mine was a bit of a statement for Jon and I: we don’t like the way that the world is going when it comes to music, and we don’t like this distilling of everything into the three-minute pop song. We wanted something that would basically fuck around with your head a little bit. It’s all very subliminal, and when you get to the point that you do start listening to it in a deeper, different way, you realise that it’s more than a guy just barking over an acoustic guitar,” he laughs.
“Also, in that respect, you could play it in the background. That’s a little bit facetious, but I mean in the way that there’s nothing on it that would distract you from whatever you’re doing. It just chippers along; it only lasts half an hour; it’s not gonna drag you away from that all-important Facebook update.”
Technology and its role in the devaluation of the music industry is a recurring theme during the conversation. A proud eschewer of Facebook (“silly”), Twitter (“ridiculous”) and Spotify (“evil”), Anderson admits to owning a BlackBerry to check his emails, but that’s as far as it goes. “I’m constantly reminding people that I don’t have a computer, and it’s weird – you’re seen as a bit of a freak if you don’t have a computer,” he laughs. “I’m not on Facebook, or any of that shit. Modern life is rubbish – Blur were right. I don’t go online, but I’ve been in people’s houses when they’re listening to Spotify, or playlist.com, or whatever. It’s like sticking your iPod on random, and I find that despairing. There is an amazing joy in playing an album that you don’t get by shoving together your favourite songs of the summer.
“I think musicians and labels are doing themselves a disservice by kowtowing to all of that. But hey, I’m just one dissenting voice in a sea of ‘No, it’ll get better! It’ll sort itself. It’ll all come out good’. People forget that this is the fall of the empire; music is on its knees. It’s on its belly. People don’t value recorded music. To treat an album as some sort of hugely expensive promo for your live show is completely missing the point; it’s like saying that vast works of art are only done because Royal Mail will use that image as a stamp. I see this digital thing as a virus; these IT guys are just trying to take over everything, and they’re succeeding.
“There’s no sense of occasion. Music has lost its premiere showing that film has somehow retained. There’s no sense of the anticipation that we had when we were younger, and that’s the sort of thing that I feel my daughter’s generation are totally missing out on. They’re getting everything for nothing, but it doesn’t mean anything. And they’re listening to it in the worst possible way, too – on a bloody phone! That’s not how music sounds. But if the net result of all of this is that I only make an album for me to play, then that’s what I’ll do. Cos I will sit there and I will enjoy it, and two fingers to the rest of the planet.”
So the King Creosote wagon will trundle on, regardless. Anderson reveals that he and Hopkins are already discussing a follow-up to Diamond Mine, but before that there’s a 1980s-themed synth record with Delgados man Paul Savage and another King Creosote record (“a jolly, rambunctious celebration of music”) with a full band.
“So hopefully by the time the next record with Jon comes along, there will be two disappointments in the can,” he cackles. “And maybe people will come to Diamond Mine Part 2 and say ‘Thank God he’s back’. But I don’t think we’ll ever have another Diamond Mine, to be honest. I think that was a unique thing. I think that’s me, either until I’m dead or I last as long as Seasick Steve or something. I’ll just appear in my early 70s, sitting there, cranking out the accordion.”
King Creosote and Jon Hopkins play Vicar Street, Dublin, on July 27th