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The Original Penguin Plugged In Sessions Interview: Miles Kane

A few short weeks ago, we were lucky enough to be part of a tiny audience to see Miles Kane for Original Penguin’s Plugged In session. You can check out footage of the event (and play spot the Notion staffer) below:

We also caught up with the guitar-toting indie boy of the moment before the show to chat about his style, his new record and why he avoids festivals…

Seb Law: Let’s start with fashion: I read that you’d been looking at Rod Stewart’s style recently?

Miles Kane: Well I’ve just finished reading his book, and I loved it. I think he’s bosh, and then a few years ago I did see him in a leopard print jacket and that’s what made me buy a leopard print suit from Paul & Joe. So I bought the jacket, went back to the hotel, and on the way to a gig and I thought ‘shit I really want the trousers!’ So I went back and – I’m just terrible like that – you know when something just gets in your mind…

SL: Do you do that all the time when you’re touring, do you spend a lot of time shopping?

MK: No, not really on tour. No cause it’s weird cause I know what I like I guess. And I’ve got loads of A.Sauvage stuff, he’s a mate of mine. I like his clobber, great chinos and that. He’s sort of moved away from his suit thing recently and gone a bit more casual. I really love Sandro too – their fit is really cool, good skinny arms you know. At the moment I’m on a vibe just like a Smedley polo and these jeans I got in Paris which are April 77.

SL: Do you follow what’s going on with LCM?

MK: Hmmm not really. I’ll buy GQ or something like that now and again. When I do gigs I sometimes get made stuff. There’s this guy called Ray Brown who’s made some clothes and me and him designed a couple of bits about a year ago. They were all white but with a thick black stripe cause I wanted Beetlejuice trousers.

SL: You’ll have to have some made.

MK: Yeah cause I didn’t do it properly, I just went for a thick black stripe down the side

SL: Like a military stripe?

MK: Yeah, it’s cooler isn’t it.

SL: Do you ever work with a stylist?

MK: Nah never. I’m just clear in what I like. If I do a shoot (I’ve done a couple of fashion things before), I always make sure I go and meet the woman doing it and pick out what I want. I can’t get photographed in something I wouldn’t buy, or I don’t feel right in. It just feels false.

SL: Obviously we’re here with for the Original Penguin sessions; is it refreshing to do something so intimate?

MK: It’s gonna be weird in there, it’s gonna be interesting.  We’re only doing three songs: two new ones and then ‘Rearrange’ which is off the first record. I’m kinda up for doing mad little things like this, but we’ll see how this goes. I haven’t really done anything like this before, especially acoustically.


SL: Tell us a bit about the new record, how your sound is evolving.

MK: Well it’s quite an upbeat record. Every song is quite pounding even though there’s one sort of slow one in there. I just wanted it to be so direct really, whether I’m doing angry or happy or I’m talking about love or falling in or out of love, I didn’t want to hide behind anything. That’s been important to me, especially on this record. Maybe it’s just a matter of time – I’ve always tried to do this, but you sort of hold back a bit, in terms of words or whatever, and with this there’s no disguising what each tune’s about.

SL: Would you say there’s more honesty on the record too?

MK: Yeah it is. It’s real to me and that’s what I mean cause you’re sort of a solo artist and in a way those singer songwriter tunes, but its rock and roll cause it’s not just me on the acoustic being angry, or whatever, its pumping and that’s what I love and that’s what makes it kind of unique. It’s quite big sounding from a production point of view too., I’m just excited for it really. There’s some great moments. I think the title means a lot to me, ‘Don’t forget who you are’, and I did the album cover with my mum in the background. My mum and my aunty have worked in my Nan’s butchers in Liverpool forever, and I used to work there when I was younger. I’m outside their butchers and they’re in the background behind me. Even the cover tells a story and it’s real. It just means a lot.

SL: It’s a big thing as well I think the northern roots sort of thing. I guess you’ve had quite a healthy career too; in your different guises, you’ve had five different albums – when do you feel like you’ve made it? Do you feel like you’ve made it now that you’re a solo artist?

MK: No, not at all, I feel like I’m just starting. I feel like there’s so much more to achieve. But I guess I don’t think that will ever leave you, it’s a never ending search, or a never ending want to be better at singing, to be better on the guitar, to be a better performer, write better songs…

SL: Who would you say is the most memorable or the people you’ve worked with?

MK: I’m very fortunate for people wanting to work with you or approaching you. That’s the great thing I guess about being on your own, is that you can try anything, and I’m quite open to that. I’ve got a lot of influences and I thrive off that and learn from it. I quite like being put in a situation that’s new; it keeps you on your toes. Maybe I didn’t think I was like that before but when you’re put in that situation you have to raise your game and I quite like that.

SL: Do you think you’re forced to do that as a solo artist rather than being with other people?

MK: In a way you are. I worked a lot with Andy Partridge who was in XTC on this record, we wrote about 20 tunes together and three of them made it on to the record. We finished touring last September and on my days off from touring, I’d get the train to Swindon for two nights and we’d write a tune a day. It was proper old school and that was amazing.

SL: In Swindon? It’s not the most inspiring place in the world…

MK: [laughs] Andy lived in this little terraced house and he’s got a little shed at the end of his garden. In the summer it’d be boiling in there, we’d just be sweating our fucking guts out, and we’d have a little break for some soup or something. It was heart-warming doing that, and it reminded me of being back at home and that was really good. Working with Paul Weller as well was fantastic, he’s a close mate now and over the past year we’ve been doing stuff together. It’s inspiring to see him, the age he is and the career he’s had and the energy he’s still got is something that I definitely want to be like.


SL: What are you looking forward to with festival season coming up? Whereabouts are you playing?

MK: Yeah we’re doing a lot and yeah I’m excited for it. If you’re on your A-Game then getting it right at a festival and drawing a big crowd can take you to the next level. You’ll have people there who like your music and people who’ll just come check you out, cause they might not buy a ticket to your gig, but they’re there so they’ll go see what you’re about. I thrive off that and it’s that space you have to show them so yeah I’m excited for it.

SL: Did you do festivals as a punter as well?

MK: I went to Glastonbury once when I was like 15 with a couple of my mates.

SL: How was it?

MK: I didn’t really enjoy it… I mean I had a laugh, but I can’t do the camping thing…I’ve done it but it’s just a nightmare, I just lived off brunch bars, cause I didn’t really want to shit…

SL: Haha, I think everyone can relate to that! Last up, what sort of stuff are you listening to at the moment?

MK: So my friend told me yesterday to check out Aiden Young. He’s this black producer from LA and he does samples and stuff. There’s this old motown-y kind of group called the Delphonics and he’s put beats to all their tunes… He’s taken their records and done production over the top which is really cool. The best tune is this one called ‘Stop and Look’. I’m on this sort of trip at the moment, it’s quite dark. This is only from yesterday and I’m already buzzing off it. I also watched this great Tom Jones documentary on BBC4 the other week and it had some of his latest stuff. There’s one called ‘Bad Is Me’ and it’s off his album ‘Spill it in the room’ from a couple of years ago. It’s quite rootsy and I quite like this when I’m in a ballad mood.

SL: He’s still got that awesome power in his voice.

MK: On a similar trip, I’ve been loving Charles Bradley. He started his career as a James Brown impersonator and now he’s just released this new record. I’ve seen him on Jools Holland and thought ‘Wow this is cool’ and the record’s called ‘The World’. It sounds like James Brown but it’s this guy Charles Bradley. It’s great to put on in your house.

SL: Thanks Miles! Great to meet you.

- Interview by Seb Law

- Images by David Paul Vail

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