So tell me about ‘Waiting for the Postman’. What is different about it from your other releases?
Aside from the obvious reasons of time, place, and mind-set (which applies to every release) this is first full album I’ve recorded entirely by myself, producing it from start to finish. I guess as well this album has, more than any other, served as a marker in my life, a well needed full stop at the end of an unpunctuated stream of consciousness that has lasted 6 years.
What are your favourite songs in your own discography?
There’s many songs I guess, but I think it’s the songs like ‘Love Underground’ for instance, which are really special to me, because they are like diary entries. Those sort of songs, this one in particular, serve as cautionary tales. As for the new album, I would say A Little More Blood On The Tracks is pretty important to me.
You have a fairly individual musical style. Who/what are the biggest influences on you as an artist?
Not so much music, more people and events in my life and those closest to me. Humans are fascinating. Our actions, and responses to situations, the knock on effect of people’s energies and reaction to experiences are constantly evolving, but also repeating. We all have semi-stable character traits and quirks, but the dirt of each day challenges them, temporarily distorts them, for better or worse – bit of both probably. It’s these things that really inspire me. Music serves as a vessel, a way in which I can pin down my reactions and feelings toward this stuff. Without the music I’d be in a constant state of bewilderment, which I guess goes some way to explain why genre is not something I’ve ever thought about or cared for. Music is vast, and so are feelings – different things for different people, different music for different emotions I suppose.
How would you describe your sound? Do you think it’s changed in style since your first ep?
As above – an entirely different time, different environment … I’m not sure what style the first Ep was, nor what style you’d call my current work. I know for sure I’m not so uptight about my own music these days, though I’m a slave to it more than ever. I used to be very paranoid about very silly things, in the sense I would avoid choruses, and anything that might make my music too accessible, but I suppose that was insecurity within myself. I don’t know what makes music accessible for other people, only what I like in music. More and more I’ve grown free from my own paranoias, am becoming freer within myself and confident in following my instincts without any regard to how it will be considered by others. Whatever you do, someone is gonna disagree and interpret it differently from how you intended it to be taken, and that’s neither good or bad, it’s just a fact. The difference between how I thought and worked back then and the way I am now is not something I’ve made any conscious effort to change, because I don’t tend to make those type of choices about myself. It’s simply a maturity and self awareness that’s gradually developed over the last six years.
Do you aspire to make the music that you want to listen to? Do you listen to your own music in your free time, or is that work?
I guess naturally I aspire to make music that I respond to positively, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get through the writing process let alone have the chance to sit back and enjoy it. Anyone making music that they don’t like seems very bizarre, soulless even. Doing this isn’t a job to me, it’s what I am required to do – keeps the demons at bay.
Medway has featured heavily in your lyrics. How do you think your stomping ground has affected your music? What is special about Medway?
Medway is eclectic. There is no particular scene, no discernable style about it, instead something with far more longevity and importance – it has a spirit that touches all who pass through, a spirit that has been present ever since I’ve known the place, and one that no doubt existed long before. That spirit manifests itself in a variety of ways, some positive, others negative. No question it’s a hard place, a tough area with as many problems as it has potential. I love it. It’s home. I’ve been everything and everyone within that place.
The line between ‘Lupen Crook’ and ‘Lupen Crook and the Murderbirds’ seems rather blurry. ‘The Pros and Cons of Eating Out’ lists just Lupen Crook on the cover, while earlier EPs list the Murderbirds as well. I have heard ‘Waiting for the Postman’ mentioned as a solo album. This doesn’t seem as clean cut as acoustic or full band. How do you differentiate?
Good question. And yes, it is blurry. Perhaps I should have been more strict in defining these two strands at the very beginning, but they never felt like separate projects, simply extensions of the same thing. I guess it’s all part of the way that I have been exploring my songs, so there never felt any need. Lupen Crook is how it all started out – just me and my tattered 8 string, playing and writing. That is the one consistent thing that everything else has grown out from – and this has been present on all the albums, whether with or without The Murderbirds. The Murderbirds came from my meeting brothers Bob and Tom during the recording of my debut album ‘Accidents Occur Whilst Sleeping’. We struck up a close friendship, and by the second album ‘Iscariot The Ladder’ their commitment to my songs came to surpass what one might consider the normal responsibilities of a ‘backing band’ – and so we became far more like a group of like-minded creatives. I would feed my stories and songs into the fold, and as a team of musicians we’d explore the musical possibilities. That process is not uncommon, solo artist singer songwriter types do this with producers and bands, but by way of naming their relationship with me ‘The Murderbirds’ were in affect being written into the actual narrative rather than just getting ‘back of sleeve credits’ as is the case with many players who work with singer/songwriters. Thematically there was never any difference between the two strands – the songs were being drawn from the same place, however to some it did get confusing. Come the third album ‘The Pros and Cons Of Eating Out’ a decision was made to try and address this problem, by presenting it as the one consistent thing ‘it’ has ever been – and so the album was released as a ‘Lupen Crook’ record. Any attempts to avoid confusion were fairly fruitless anyway, and ultimately irrelevant because by the end of 2010 I decided to strip everything back to its core – just me and my songs – and so even though 2010 saw a chapter close, naturally the narrative continues.
Do you have different goals with the band or solo?
I think as a band, we had different ideas of what success was at times, but then half the time we didn’t think in terms of goals, just the moment at hand less any consequence. As far as my personal goals, I guess they haven’t changed, because for me there is no end game, it’s the getting there that is what makes any career or any life interesting and worth having been lived.
Is there a difference in the creative process?
Working with a band is great, it’s like being in a gang, mischief and mayhem at every turn, but then a group of people also have different needs, different lives, which can get tricky. As for the actual creative process, there is no one I prefer, it’s hard to compare them, because they are such different ways of working. It’s been a long while since I’ve gone it alone, and so I’m enjoying the freedom of working at my own pace and under my own steam.
I was listening to the selection of songs you have on your website. 13 Songs that span your whole career. It is fairly noticeable that your last two releases, have been cleaner and more produced, rather than the slightly more raw sound on releases like ‘Iscariot the Ladder’. They seem slightly less ‘feral’. Is this a stylistic choice?
An entirely natural progression. That’s strange, I don’t see that so much, but then that’s the beauty of interpretation.
Having released ‘The Pros and Cons of Eating Out’ just over 6 months ago, you are an undeniably productive artist. Do you find difficulties in releasing material so regularly?
Self releasing is hard work, but it’s very satisfying. Myself and Stuart, with whom which I run Beast Reality, have been learning hard and fast. This year has been the most enjoyable release for me, almost a painless process. We’ve got some ideas to branch out and release some other artists, which will be very interesting. It’s an idea we’ve been eager to realise for quite some time now. As for my own work, like I say above, I need to work at my own pace and this is the first time I’m actually releasing material at the pace I want to and need to. I need to avoid congestion in my mind, and that means working under my own set of terms. Stuart understands this completely, more than anyone has ever, and together we work really well in making it happen.
You design all your own artwork and merchandise as well. Is this out of choice, or is it a means to your musical ends?
I love colours and shapes, music is that to me, so sleeve art is a natural extension of the songs and albums. It’s very important to me, as important as the music in fact. I do it entirely out of choice because quite frankly I don’t think anyone else can see the inside of my head as well as I can – I’ve had a fair few years struggling with this mind of mine, and look forward to continuing that way.
You also write paint and draw separately from your music. Do these artforms achieve something that music cannot? Do you use different artforms for different ends?
Some art is related to my music, whereas a lot of it occupies a very different place for me, and comes from a very different area in my mind. I find art comes second to my music, but that will no doubt change as I get older – because painting is less selfish and ego-driven, more about the subtleties in life, less any need to force my opinion upon it. Painting requires a certain degree of calm about me to get the job done, patience and posture. At this stage in my life, music is more reactionary, driven by my emotions.
What is next for ‘Lupen Crook’?
Well, I’ll be releasing CHASING DRAGONS as a single, which comes some interesting alternative versions, and then I’ll be doing some dates around the UK which can be found on my website http://www.lupencrook.com. I’m also working on a new album due for release in 2012. I aim to exhibit my artwork more generally, both in Medway and London. I’ve an exhibition at Bardens Boudoir in London with some other great artists on 20th October, and will be exhibiting my work at DEAF CAT Cafe in Rochester during November. Other than that, performing solo has given me a new found sense of freedom so I will be gigging as much as possible.