Crispian Mills from Kula Shaker talks to Steven Loftin in this exclusive GIGsoup interview. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.
Steaming back into our consciousness are Kula Shaker, who you may remember from their mid-90’s number 1 album ‘K’, which was in-fact released 20 years ago this very year. All of this is very apt because they’re releasing a new album, which is of course called, ‘K 2.0’, and it’s a solid return to form that sees Kula Shaker re-igniting what made them such a fresh noise in a wave of similarity.
Speaking to leading man Crispian Mills is a bit like speaking to a cool, older Uncle who has lived through the 90’s at it’s height (Britpop) and has a lot to say. Regarding this year being the 20th anniversary of ‘K’ and how they were going to celebrate this occasion he had this to say:
“A friend of ours mentioned that it was twenty years about a year ago and it was quite a big surprise. Discussions followed shortly afterwards about what we would do and if we would make an album…we knew that if we were gonna do it, it would have to be delivered to our record label and distributors and people by November, so we had quite a lot of writing, organising and recording to do with a very strict deadline and that really focuses your whole approach. It created a lot of excitement and momentum and I think you can hear that on the album.”
This was also their chance to celebrate the momentous occasion, “I feel that making a record is quite a big deal for us, we don’t make them that much and I can’t quite believe it’s been twenty years since our first record but it’s a great opportunity to look back and see where we are now and look at where we’re going”. They are also going to be doing a tour on which, you may get to hear both ‘K’ and ‘K2.0’ in their entirety, which Mills alluded to: “We’re going to be playing all year…here, there and everywhere…maybe we will do a gig where we play ‘K’ and then ‘K2.0.’ Yeah, it would certainly work as a gig.”
Speaking of retrospective, on the industry that has certainly seen a major shake up in the past two decades, Mills gave his opinion, ”…the whole landscape of the music business…it’s post apocalyptic…I went to the Ivor Novello awards recently and I’d never been before, but the mood there was like sort of post-nuclear holocaust. Seeing it was pretty strange, there was a lot of talented people there, the same faces, like music business guys, but there’s been this huge earth quake…” Here he refers to the advent of streaming and piracy before explaining a bit more in depth that it’s not just these services shaping things, “It’s downloading and the way we listen to music. Even more than that though I think the biggest change is actually the music itself. People work on Pro Tools and Logic, so much recording is done now that the opportunity to chop beats, tune them and keep them in time and polish them to the point where the character of the computer is over whelming the characters of the performer is pretty extreme. It’s a trap that I think most people fall into and it’s something that you have to really be careful of when you’re working these days.”
It’s not just this part of the industry that’s changed, it’s also the promotional aspect of it. Where once a band would’ve teased us with single after single, leaving us yearning for the full length release, now, as consumers we’d much rather have everything instantly. When I asked about a second potential second singles release Mills offered, “Well I think that the concepts changed now…I don’t think singles really are the same event that they used to be. Everything is all very visual and on Youtube. I think the approach of ‘let’s just see it as a track rather than a single’, we’re gonna see how things go. It’s a very concise album. there were lots of great tracks that didn’t make the album because we wanted to keep it quite concise and working as whole but there are other tracks that we may use and we may release as maybe exclusives, so I don’t know to be honest. It could be more tracks from this album or it could be something completely new.”
This disposability of music isn’t lost of Mills of course, “It’s an ocean of content now isn’t it, you know any band on the street can put their music out but they’re a drop in the ocean. You’ve got opportunities to get on a kind of platform, whether its tv or whatever but I don’t know, that’s just the way it is. I think the most important thing is the music has to be great. It has to keep its integrity, it has to have soul, and heart, and bollocks. It will always come down to that regardless of the industry.”
If you haven’t heard it yet, the first track released from ‘K’, ‘Infinite Sun’, is a fantastic return to form for the band who over the twenty years have released numerous albums after periods of silence. Years ago, when they released ‘K’, Kula Shaker were ahead of their time; they had an ethos and attitude much more adaptive of this day and age rather than, say twenty years ago, which is something that has helped Mills: “I feel more comfortable because I’m older, with a bit more of a sense of that the world doesn’t actually have to make sense which has made things, strangely and ironically, all now make more sense to me.”
Kula Shakers’ fifth album ‘K2.0’ is out on the 12th February via Strangefolk Records and they’re touring throughout February.