In Conversation with… Declan McKenna

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How are you feeling?

Good thank you, excited for the show tonight! Up until later in the tour, this is the biggest headline show we’ve done, so it should be cool.


How’s the tour gone so far?

Really well, we didn’t really know what to expect – we did Bristol and Cambridge after only having done one gig there before and they absolutely blew us away, we weren’t expecting it at all. Good way to start the tour, though Manchester is certainly one we always look forward to – the last one we did here was amazing so we’re hopeful we can bring that same energy. The last time we were here it was at the Deaf Institute and the cards were stacked against us, but it was a fantastic show in the end. Having a crowd that’s up for it always kind of helps.


How important do you think it is that the creative arts band together and start creating more positive messages for the world in the wake of what has been a very turbulent time in British politics?

I think a lot of the time artists can get looked down on by a Conservative government and can get disregarded as unimportant when it truly is. The creative arts are what make people happy and it’s what ultimately creates fun. Music especially is everywhere; it’s in the shops, the streets and it’s the first thing you hear when you get out of bed and it’s often one of the things that can help people most when times are shit so I think it’s just important to make statements as it is to just have fun and make people happy – that’s the end goal of being an artist, you’ve got the focus on making things better whilst enjoying it too.


Is that something you’ve always looked to do? When you decided to make music your main priority in life, is that a goal that you set yourself? To make people happy?

I think so, you can kind of get this impression through social media, through magazines and through the government that things are excessively scary and confusing for everyone. Things are made out to be so bad that they can never get better and that creates apathy towards any kind of positive change ever happening. So working towards changing that and trying to put out the message of life not being all ‘doom and gloom’ is really important. Politicizing young people is especially important, making people realize that it isn’t always going to be shit is a big part of that.


If you had any advice for young people who perhaps feel disenfranchised or disillusioned with politics at the moment what would you suggest?

Just vote, it takes a minute to register and 20 minutes to read up on some manifestos – just get an outlook and make your own decision. I of course have my own views, but it’s just so important that young people get their voices heard. The older generation are always going to assume young people are apathetic and won’t take us seriously if we’re not voting and that’s a big deal – it’s just so important to get people wanting to vote and to stop seeing it as a chore.


You have a number of songs that have political messages deeply rooted within them, have you found that easier to incorporate into your music over time? Or has it been something you’ve always found quite easy?

I think it gets easier, though I’m quite a confused songwriter as it comes. I tend to write about multiple things and combine them into one song, when I was writing this record I wrote so much and blended so many ideas together that it got to a point where I’m not even sure what each song is specifically about. I’m definitely a better songwriter now than when I was 15, writing songs like ‘Brazil’, but I do tend to mesh ideas together. When I was first starting out, there wasn’t a lot for me to write about – I wrote about what I saw on the news, in the papers and at school or about what I’d get up to with my friends, whereas now I’ve experienced so much and the world has been swept into a very publicized, political climate that finding inspiration for songs is much easier than it was before. There’s never been a moment where I was like; I’m going to write a political song now, or I’m going to write a personal song now – it’s all been one cohesive writing experience.


You did a song featuring ‘clipping’ – the remix of ‘Isombard’, how did that come about?

Well I wanted to do a remix for the B-side of ‘Isombard’ but it never really ended up happening as we couldn’t get it finished. But I wanted to find someone to do it with and suggested clipping to my label as I am personally a huge fan of their work. I got an email back later in the week saying that they were happy to do it and that for me was a big achievement, you don’t really expect one of your favourite bands to actually do that, but it happened so quickly which was great.


Are there any other artists you’d like to collaborate with in the future?

Yeah definitely, I’d love to get Romare to do a remix although I doubt that’d ever happen. There’s so many; someone like MF Doom would be great to work with. The only writing collaboration I’ve done for the new album is with Rostam who was formerly a member of Vampire Weekend. Growing up they were a massive influence on me.


Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?

The drummer from Pink Floyd, Nick Mason. I’m sure there’s somebody more immediately famous but their names escape me.


What was the last song you listened to?

Declan: ASBOy’s by GIRLI
GIRLI (who had just entered the room): Fuck yeah it was.


You got featured in FIFA this year, how did that come about?

Well, I got an email through saying that ‘Isombard’ had been put among a list of tracks that could potentially make it into the game and a week later another email came through that informed me that the song would be included.


Are you much of a football fan? Who do you support?

I’m a Spurs fan, we’ve done quite well this season although I’m disappointed we didn’t give Chelsea a bigger challenge. I’ve not been able to go to many games since I’ve been on tour, but I do have a season ticket. I share it around family and friends when I’m not home and do my best to get down to the games when I can.


If you could pick two living or dead historical figures to have around your dinner table, who would they be?

I’d probably pick two totally conflicting characters. Martin Luther King and Vlad The Impaler would be brilliant to watch. Can you imagine? That would be carnage. I’m not sure how much Vlad would appreciate a vegan salad, but it would be quite an interesting meal.


Declan McKenna’s debut album ‘What Do You Think About The Car?’ will be released on 21st July via Columbia Records.

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