“How I hate middle age, in between acceptance and rage”
Nicky Wire wins my prize for the verse of the year 2013 in Builder of Routines, a Manic Street Preachers song on the new album: Rewind the Film.
No, this is not a post about Manics.
But it can be seen as a post about acceptance and rage and maybe… middle age.
King Krule was playing the Quietus stage at Field Day 2013, last May. I was covering the event for The Quietus so I spent some time in their tent and among Jack Bruce, Tim Burgess and East India Youth, I came across this set. Soon after I looked at the faces of John and Luke at the mixer.
I was not surprised when the Quietus review of 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, King Krule debut, goes like this.
Here it comes the middle age, maybe.
No, not King Krule, he is nineteen. Born as Archy Marshall in 1994, at those times I was older than he is now, I had seen more concerts than he has played and I already started doing photography.
Formally still a teenager, who listened to his voice on the radio would say he is much older. Because of the baritone, because of the accent, because of the lyrics.
Until you see him live, you miss this kid…. erm key… element.
My personal “King Krule experience” went the other way. I had not listened to a single note of his music before I came across him live.
Last May, at Field Day. I was unprepared.
I saw was a young guy, arriving on stage with a white telecaster, red hair and a quite arrogant body language. Kind of, “don’t mess up with me, I’d be a teddy boy if I wasn’t so young”.
I am rarely convinced by straight expressions of self-confidence, elementary psychology teaches it’s an easy way to hide insecurity. Call it prejudice.
Before hearing the first chord, I would have said this kid was another Mod wanna-be. A working class boy grown up watching Quadrophenia and listening to Paul Weller. Learning Johnny Marr’s riffs while dreaming one day to open for Miles Kane.
As always, I was wrong. Not only because in 6 months King Krule got bigger than Miles Kane in 6 years, but his image pointed elsewhere.
After the first few verses I was, protected by a lens and a camera, in front of a Joe Strummer-ish voice attempting a Billy Bragg rant against something I couldn’t understand. Surely he was singing about someone he didn’t like.
(Why in 12 years in England I still cannot grasp songs lyrics when sang live is something I cannot tolerate. I am bad at languages.)
So what? I try to image him in front of an audition with Ken Loach recruiting his next actor and I saw him failing. Lack of spontaneity?
Back to my middle age improbable wisdom.
I could not, when 18, teach my listener about life. And it wasn’t a audience. It was probably a friend or my mum.
Nevertheless I thought to be able to, though. At 18 you’re sure to have understood the whole of the world.
It takes 18 more years to realize that, in the next 36 you’ll likely get to scratch the surface.
This could sound my “rage bit” but, honestly, I’m not angry at all. Maybe just Jealous of Nicky Wire penning so much perfection in few words.
Let’s get to the acceptance aspect of this post.
King Krule is conquering the world (well England) despite his age or thanks to his age.
His single Easy Easy, from the debut, was apparently written when he was 12.
“Well same old Bobby, same old beat
Well yeah they got nothing on me
The same old clutch, same old streets
But yeah they got nothing on me”
Really? Reading other lyrics he mainly speaks about personal experience and life with a baritone older than his eyes. He is a good songwriter and needs some skills in arranging a tune. Let’s wait he gets a bit older, meets life and discover to know much less than he thought at 19… or 12.
I’m waiting for new songs talking about how much these songs are overambitious.
Oh, there is another bit I wanted to mention: XL. The Label.
XL is by far the label with the best marketing team out of (and beyond) the indie labels.
At XL they know how to launch an artists’ image. How to break through new markets.
XL is the same label of Radiohead (and Thom Yorke and Atoms For Peace). They have Adele, Jack White, Vampire Weekend, The XX, Sigur Ros, Titus Andronicus, Friendly Fire, The Horrors. They had The White Stripes and The Prodigy in the past.
Notice nothing in common?
We are talking of someone which has an incredible skill to pick artists whose image is a key aspect of their success. Yes, I know, they have Jack Penate too… even the best can make some mistakes!
I saw King Krule articles on the front page of Italian main newspapers. A place usually relegated to artists that have at least the same age of the interviewing journalists. People in their late 50s or early sixties.
That is Italy, until someone retires, around 70 years old, there is no place for a young person to replace. In the meanwhile half a century of rock has passed ignored by the main press. You read about Rolling Stones, Dylan, Springsteen… Patti Smith.
Then one day King Krule arrived. Interviewed. Praised as the future of British rock. Wow.
History will teach us something?
As any pro concert photographer I spend quite a lot of my words complaining about the bad coloured light at gigs.
If I was a consistent person I should love daylight festival sets. Plenty of light, no colour dominants. I do not.
Anytime I shoot a concert in daylight the atmosphere of my images goes away. It may work better in black and white (a tip) but King Krule, red hair are as important than his guitar riffs, image-wise, BW doesn’t work as well.
One of the problem of daylight is the lack of colours, which someway people expects to see from rock concert images.
The other, bigger, problem is the diffuse light lighting up everything, including all the things on back stage that no one wants to see. They distract from the subject and a concert image struggle to not look the image of the stage being set up.
Amount of light is good, so you can do pretty much everything with your settings, I still work wide open to blur as much as possible the background, use a fast shutter to pin sharp some portraits and to use a telephoto. It is of help, you crop and focus on the subject and the depth of field improves.
If all of this doesn’t work, burning, dodging and vignetting tools are your friends. Or have a break on an iron wall.