With a European tour recently finished, several singles under his belt and a debut album ready to be released in the very near future, King Charles is a busy man. I spoke to him about Hollywood, Huddersfield, his upcoming record and his rather confusing Wikipedia page…
So you’ve recently finished your tour?
I’m just off tour, been in Paris and been back in the UK for a few months now.
That’s not fair. Can you compare Paris to the UK?
You can compare Paris to the UK, sometimes favourably, sometimes not so favourably!
Where’s your favourite place on the tour that you’ve been?
Huddersfield? That’s a really weird choice – why’s that?
(laughs) Yeah, I love Huddersfield so much, it’s so awesome. I don’t know, there’s something about the North of England that really resonates.
I could have had a thousand guesses and I wouldn’t have chosen Huddersfield. So how have the audiences been – have they been all right with you on the tour?
Yeah, it’s been amazing; there’s been some really full and engaging crowds. They’ve really been up for it, especially the Northerners!
(laughs) The whole [population] of Huddersfield are so jokey, I love them!
So, the new album is being released on the 7th of May. I heard you recorded it in Hollywood; what was that like?
Well, I recorded some of it in London at my studio then some of it in Capitol Studios in Hollywood. It was unbelievable; absolutely phenomenal place. The drum sound in that place is second to none, I’ve never heard anything like it. Absolutely ridiculous.
Did you get to take in some of the sights or was it strictly studio time?
Yeah I took in some of the sights, but i don’t really like being a tourist but I guess everyone feels like a tourist in L.A. The best thing was this guy called “The Drum Doctor” who has a massive warehouse full to the brim with drums; the best drums in the world. He’s spent the last 20 years collecting drums and he now has the most legendary drums. One of them was a ‘70s Ludwig which is on most of the album, and the other one was a 1960s crocodile skin drum last played by Stevie Wonder. It was like the best thing ever! As soon as he told me that I was like, “done, bring it!”
How similar is the new album to some of the singles that we’ve heard already such as ‘LoveBlood’ [single review here] and ‘Bam Bam’?
Well, there’s three different muses on the album that the songs are about, I think there’s a different style for the songs about each muse.
If I was to say ‘Ivory Road’; who would that be about?
That’s Coco Schiffi.
Who are your three muses?
Coco Schiffi, Lady Percy [previous Video of the Moment here] and Mississippi Isabel.
How do you know these three people?
Well, you know…(laughs) life!
Now could you describe for album in 10 words for those who aren’t aware of you and your material? How would you describe it?
Okay right, 10 words. Love and Blood have to be two of them. Reallife, one word! Lightning. Loss. Definitely Unrequited. Battlefield, that makes 8. God and Time.
How would you define what genre you are? This time I’ll allow more than 10 words.
(laughs) I only need two words this time: glam folk!
Who would you say are your influences?
I started being influenced by folk, but it wasn’t the sound of the music I was influenced by; it was the drive of the folk artists to be bedded in with the people and understanding the identity of them personally as a generation.
If you had to say a specific folk artist, who would it be?
I like to do my research before an interview and an important part of that definitely has to be reading your Wikipedia Page. I don’t know if you’ve been on it but there is a bit where it says “He is greatly influenced by the songwriter Mahatma Gandhi and Alexander Bunker.”
I’m not too sure who Bunker is, so I was hoping you could shed some light on that?
(laughs) This is legendary! Alexander? I don’t know who that is.
You don’t? Well he majorly influences you. As well as Gandhi. Another part of your page states that “Charles has been described as an epic guy, who is too cool for the charts.” How do you feel about that?
I have actually heard that one before. It’s quite hard to comment on – I don’t want to argue with the first part; I want to be an epic guy who is too cool! But you don’t want to be too cool for charts. I’ve definitely got my eye on the charts. Although I have seen that Wikipedia has my name down as Charles Johnston, which is not my name. I don’t want to correct it, I want to see how far it goes. I might edit it myself and give me an interesting middle name.
(laughs) Yes! And maybe Mahatma. Charles Enid Mahatma Johnston.
Named after the infamous songwriter, of course! Anyway, what’s your festival circuit looking like this year? Where are you playing?
I’m not 100% sure on all of them, but I know I’m playing Secret Garden Party and Great Escape as well as a few in Paris. Also Positivus Festival in Latvia, which I’m very excited about. It’s so dope that festival; it’s legendary. They treat you so well.
So when you’re touring in Paris and playing festivals there, what are the audiences like? Do they appreciate the lyrics?
I think a lot of my set at the moment is less lyrical; I’m not sure what people focus on the most but at the moment my show is much more showbiz. More showy. I try to be as entertaining as I can.
Are you going to any festivals?
No, no. I play a lot of festivals so when I’m there I want to play. Like being at Glastonbury, all I’m doing is looking at the pyramid stage and being like: “How long? When’s my time? When’s my time?”
What sort of music are you listening to at the moment?
I like to listen to a lot of my buddies’ music. Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale, the Vaccines. But I’m also liking Sam Cooke a bit at the moment, some Alice Cooper.
And finally, if you could have written any song already written; which would it have been?
That’s a good question, I think it would have to be ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’. ‘Hallelujah’ as well, or maybe ‘The Times They are A-Changin’’. Really wish I wrote that song.
Many thanks to Paul for setting this interview up for us at TGTF.