Kai Fish Interview
Kai Fish was chosen as the headline act of this year's Strummerville Sessions last Saturday in Hammersmith. Ahead of this performance, we caught up with the Mystery Jets bassist to talk songwriting, film, travel and the future of music itself….
Hi Kai. Now that you've started on your own musically, I was wondering if you've always had a commitment to writing your own music, throughout the history of Mystery Jets, or has it been a recent decision that you wanted to represent yourself individually?
I have always enjoyed writing the most out all the other aspects of being in music. One of the first songs i wrote was The Tale, a bside to On My Feet, one of the first singles off Making Dens. I don't think it's very practical having too many writers in a band either as the direction and impetus needs to be concentrated. I always enjoyed singing around campfires as a child and to sing a song about something you find interesting and others might do to is a very rich experience.
You've always done stuff individually anyway though, haven't you? I remember thinking the film you made for the special edition of 'Making Dens' was really cool. Does it bug you that people have treated your decision to 'go solo' as a sudden one?
Not really as it is my first venture musically away from the band. I have a sickness which means i feel i have to be constantly doing something, preferably creative. it sounds great but isn't very balanced, i'm trying to learn to say no to things! I started shooting the Making Dens documentary but quickly found that being in the band and also shooting the band and playing every night was quite tricky and ended up asking Sea Buzzard to come in and finish it off.
Mystery Jets seems like a relatively open band; Henry's responsibilities seem to be fairly loose and Will is given the oppurtunity to front the band on some songs. Did you not want these songs of yours to just fit into the Mystery Jets framework?
I had a clear vision of what Life in Monochrome needed to be, it needed to be me finding my own force which wouldn't have been possible in Mystery Jets.
Coming back to the film, I remember you mentioning that you were bi-lingual and that everyone's main passion in life should be travelling. Do you get to do enough of that being a musician or is there ever the temptation to just sack it all in and travel around the globe?
I was very young when i said that! I think inward travelling is probably richer and more meaningful than outward travelling today but it is certainly an important thing to do. Even just travelling outside your postcode can give you a new perspective on things!
With Mystery Jets, it seemed like with each additional album, the mood was getting lighter and a glitter-pop sound was taking more and more of a forefront. In contrast, 'Life in Monochrome' seems noticeably more mournful, with a more haunting sound coming out in the production choices. Was this shift in mood a conscious decision?
I have never been the leader in terms of Mystery Jets choice of musical direction. I tend to wait and see what the others are writing and try to write something which fits in with that. With my album the mood was directed by the Lyrics which were mainly written first. I tried to be honest with representing the material sonically so bits are tougher and darker, although overall its an album of discovery, of light, maybe serious but still UP, and i hope that is felt by the end of it.
What's it like being a new artist at this kind of time? If you think of this time last decade, a new wave of bands had just come in and swept away alot of what had gone before. However, it doesn't seem like any new trends in guitar music have emerged yet this decade. Does it feel like people are hungry for 'the next big thing'?
I feel people are quite lost in music at the moment. There is no strong current pulling in one direction and the internet enables people to be much more picky. I like an open landscape, where hopefully quality of music not quantity of marketing spend will persevere.
Is there anyone, aside from yourself, who you think is really going to lead the way in the new year?
I really don't know…!
Never mind then! A while ago, it seemed like people had got so impatient with bands, meaning their second album was such a massive make-or-break moment.Now though, bands seem to gather momentum whenever the public consciousness gets round to it, like Elbow's sudden success on their fourth album, or the sleeper success of bands like Yuck. Does it give you hope for the future that people seem to have more patience with new music now than before?
I think if you look at the history of bands over the last 50 years, it is quite common gaining commercial success on later albums. I think it is good because if you can't make at least two good albums, then you're probably not ready to be doing it or shouldn't be doing it at all! Bands who can carry on despite the ficklety of commercial radio surely deserve success? I guess we need to be able to stand on our own two feet, and not be propped up by the changing winds of whats in…
Cool! How are you feeling about your upcoming solo shows then? I get the feeling the visual element of music is really important to you, are you going to try and reflect this in your live show?
I'm finding it incredibly satisfying finding my feet as a singer and performer. Sometimes you can be a magician on stage. Sometimes not! I try and make it as stimulating visually as possible through my performance.
Kai's album, 'Life In Monochrome' is out now on Rough Trade.