THE FANZINE THAT FEATURES SMALL AND UNSIGNED BANDS
Friday, February 26, 2010
INTERVIEW WITH WHITE TOWN
It’s with the greatest pride that The Original Sin presents you the interview with Jyoti Mishra aka White Town, the band who scored in every country around this globe a smashing N°1 hit with “Your woman”. Yes we did it, yours sincerely managed to interview the first popstar in his life!!!! But then again, is Jyoti a popstar? It’s in the way that you see it of course… Technically speaking he is as I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t know “Your woman” but perhaps he wasn’t the average popstar EMI was waiting for… Not many people know that White Town made music before and after “Your woman” and it’s not the first time that Jyoti is seen as one-hit wonder. Again, technically speaking he is, but White Town is still making music whether it’d be bedroompop for the romantic indiepopkid (what a terrible name, not?) or if it’s for another forthcoming smashing hit is something we could only ask the man himself. I (that’s your editor Didier) wants to thank Jyoti for having this interview and for taking it seriously which makes it one of the most thrilling things I’ve done in my zineyears. Thank you, Jyoti
HELLO, JYOTI. AS I’M CONVINCED THAT MANY OF OUR READERS DON’T KNOW, I KINDLY REQUEST YOU TO DESCRIBE YOUR OWN MUSIC…..
I’d say I make pop music. Some of it has actually been popular pop (like ‘Your Woman’) but most of it is unpopular pop. In terms of genre, I feel what I do is mostly folk, electronic and gothy music. Not really very indiepop in the current sense of the term but definitely ‘alternative’ in the sense that was used as a tag in the ‘80s. Love, sex, women, death, dialectical materialism, straight edge, nihilism, existentialism, astrophysics, enviromentalism. That’s what I write about.
EXCUSE ME IF I’M WRONG BUT I ALWAYS SAW WHITE TOWN AS A PART OF THE BEDROOMPOPSCENE WHATEVER THAT MIGHT MEAN…..
Umm… if I’d had the money, I would have been in studios. Indeed, in my first bands, pre-doing my own stuff, we went to proper studios. But I started recording myself on cassettes in 1982, sound-on-sound (bouncing). Then I got a four track in 1985. So, yeah, I’ve been making bedroom pop music for around 28 years now.
ACCORDING TO SOME SOURCES, YOU DECIDED TO START MAKING MUSIC AFTER SEEING THE PIXIES. EVEN IF I’M A DEDICATED FAN MYSELF, I CAN’T SEE THAT MUCH OF A LINK………
That’s not quite right. I formed White Town specifically as a noisy guitar band (leaving my beloved synths behind for the time) after seeing Pixies in Nottingham. They were sooo cool – pop songs but with shattering noisy bits. I’d got hooked on guitar noise in the latter part of the ‘80s, got ‘Daydream Nation’ the day it was released, ‘George Best,’ ‘Isn’t Anything,’ all the usual ‘80s’ Indie Kid obsessions.
AND THEN THERE WAS “YOUR WOMAN”. DO YOU SEE THAT AS A GODSEND OR A CURSE BECAUSE MANY PEOPLE WILL SEE YOU AS ONE-HIT WONDER?
Very much a blessing! Most musicians struggle their entire lives with little money and no recognition whatsoever. In fact, that was exactly my plan: when ‘Your Woman’ hit, I was at Uni doing a degree so I could get some sort of shit job with which to support my music. To think that something I made totally by myself in my 9’ x 9’ spare room has connected with so many millions of people is quite, quite bewildering and wonderful.
I WANNA ASK YOU SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THAT PERIOD, IF YOU DON’T MIND. WASN’T IT A SIGN THAT PEOPLE ARE ABLE TO BUY GENIUS MUSIC IF ONLY THEY ARE ABLE TO HEAR IT?
People connect with ‘Your Woman’ for the catchy riff. But it’s the ambiguity that drives them, infuriates them. Ambiguity I deliberately built into the song, of course. If you take a look at some of the comments left on my You Tube upload of the song, you’ll see what I mean. People aren’t stupid. What might be bubblegum or bland pop to one listener may have huge, deep resonances for another. Listening to The Monkees can make me cry, yet they were hated at the time by “serious” critics. When I was a kid, Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’ got to number 2 in the UK charts. There’s this kind of rockist, fascistic idea that the masses are idiots. This is, of course, absolute fucking shite, ruling class vitriol. Pop music is the living affirmation of ordinary peoples’ dreams, hopes, nightmares and everything that makes one alive. I believe pop music to be the greatest art form of the 20th century and probably the 21st.
YOU SAW WHAT’S BEHIND THE CURTAINS OF THE INDUSTRY AND IT WASN’T VERY BEAUTIFUL WHAT YOU SAW I GUESS…..
Indie kids are often full of shit. So many pretend to be lo-fi or DIY or whatever flavour of the month will advance their own petit bourgeois business agendas. I got so much flack for signing to a major even though, at the time (and still!), no-one in the “scene” liked White Town. So, in a way, dealing with honest fucking capitalists was a relief after all the ersatz revolutionaries and their toytown sloganeering. But the thing is… major labels are shit. It’s all about market share and politics. Within a label like EMI, all the sub-labels are in competition, each a fiefdom with its own warring hierarchy. I thought that, at the very least, majors care about selling product, MAKING PROFITS. Not so, they care about their own agenda. Which can often include screwing an artist over to further another cause. I couldn’t get off EMI quickly enough. But my aversion to the majors now is, unlike most prattlers, based on actual experience. Meanwhile, I’ve had the great fortune to work with wonderful indies like Parasol, Heavenly Pop Hits, This Almighty Pop and now Arctic Nutter.
HOW MUCH OF A STRANGE QUESTION IT MIGHT BE, IF YOU SEE YOUNG ALTERNATIVE BANDS …..DO YOU WISH FOR THEM THEY HAVE THEIR 15 MINUTES OF FAME OR ARE YOU THINKING, STAY IN YOUR INDIESCENE….
It depends. Do they make pop music? Are they singing songs about life, love, raccoons or whatnot? Everyday things? If so, they probably would like to connect with as many people as possible. Go for it! Or are they making “challenging,” “experimental” music. You know – music for blokes. Music to stroke your fucking beard by and go, “heyyyyy, those duuudes can really play, maaaan!” If they’re doing the latter, stay pure, stay indie! Don’t sellout by making music that a kid at a bus stop can sing. Wait for the inevitable Mojo retrospective and detailed boxset including out-takes of the artist coughing.
THE INDUSTRY CHANGED A LOT, EVEN SO MUCH THAT THE WORD INDUSTRY IS EVEN IN DOUBT. THE BIG MANAGERS FROM THE MAJORS ARE STARING AT THEIR EMPTY POCKETS WHILE THE YOUNGSTERS ARE PLUGGING THE NET FOR FREE….. WHAT DO YOU THINK FROM THAT CURRENT SCENE?
There has never been a better time for music in my entire life. Every time I DJ, I play shitloads of wild, new talents, artists eating life and throwing up these chunks of rabid, raw colour.
There has never been a worse time for mainstream music. It’s worse even than the ‘70s, pre-punk. The channels of access are sooo controlled, the gatekeepers so narrow. Something like ‘Your Woman’ couldn’t happen now. And that’s why they want to stop us downloading. It’s not to stop piracy, as every study shows that heavy downloaders are also heavy buyers of music. It’s to limit our access to only their product.
ISN’T IT STRANGE, JYOTI, MUSIC IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING BUT THE DEVIL BEHIND IT IS THE MOST UGLIEST THING? I ALWAYS THOUGHT IT’S SO TERRIBLE THAT IF SOMEONE BUYS A CD OR A DVD THAT THE FIRST THING HE SEES IS A WARNING THAT HE MIGHT BE A CRIMINAL IF HE COPIES THE CD…..
Fuck all that shit. Anyone is welcome to upload any of my music any time. Or download it. I really don’t give a fuck. I mean, I sell it via CD Baby and iTunes but if someone downloads it for free, that’s a compliment! Please, steal my music. Give it to your friends. I’d be immensely flattered if anyone went to that effort. Of course, you could argue that I’m doing myself out of my future musical income. But, as I said, I’d planned to get a shit job anyway before I made any money out of music. If I run out of money and people are not paying me to make new music, I’ll just get a job. Big fucking deal. When musicians bitch about downloading, it makes me go off them instantly. You want a career? You want money and job security? Try training as a plumber. That’s well-paid and it’s a proper trade. And, Dollhouse notwithstanding, you can’t download plumbing expertise instantly and absorb it into your brain…
WHAT DO YOU THINK FROM THE CURRENT MUSICSCENE IN THE SENSE THAT IT IS NOW A REAL DIY-SCENE, ALMOST FOR EVERYBODY……
Like I said, it’s a fantastic time to discover new music from every genre and every corner of the globe. When I think of all the time I’d spend hunting through record shops as a kid… now it’s all just a click away, if you can be arsed. The irony is that most people don’t bother. Or they don’t have the time.
ABOUT YOUR MUSIC, I ALWAYS THOUGHT, SORRY, THAT YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON SARAH RECORDS……
Ahh, I don’t think they liked my music! J As I said, no-one in the UK scene back then liked what I was doing, that’s why I released the debut WT single myself, in 1990 (eeek, twenty years ago!). And then Geoff Parasol got in touch from the US and he did like what I was doing! I was so surprised!
YOU ARE ALSO DJ-ING, SO I GUESS YOU ARE VERY INTERESTED IN MUSIC FROM OTHERS AS WELL, NOT?
I’m still 16 at 43. Falling in love with a new band, a new song is still the most thrilling, life-affirming thing for me.
SORRY, I CAN’T RESIST THIS QUESTION….WHAT DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU HEAR YOURSELF SINGING WHEN YOU’RE IN TESCO’S?
It’s a curious sensation. One immediately thinks that everyone else is staring. But, of course, no-one is. It’s weirder if I’m out clubbing and it comes on. I’ll dance round and sing along and that’s pretty strange. But, hey, I know all the words!
I UNDERSTOOD YOU ARE VERY INTERESTED IN POLITICS. WANNA HEAR THAT FROM SOMEONE LIKE YOU….CAN YOU KEEP ON BELIEVING IN POLITICS IF YOU SEE HOW LABOUR BETRAYED THEIR VOTERS SO MUCH?
The Labour Party is now a party run by war criminals. Mass-murderers. I won’t vote for it as long as that leadership is present. My politics has been hardened by being involved in the antiwar movement for the last seven years. Prior to that, I’d really stopped being heavily involved due to a mix of my own depression and disillusionment with Communism. Now, I don’t give a fuck. I can’t apply a label to myself. I’m too hierarchical to be an anarchist, I’m too libertarian to be a Trot. And I’m too Reichian to put up with the steaming bullshit all lefty parties pump out. If there was a Reichian party, I guess I’d join that. REVOLUTION THROUGH GENITAL ORGASM!
(Aptly, I’m listening to Refused as I’m typing this…)
DIFFICULT I KNOW BUT HERE YOU ARE….WHAT DOES MUSIC MEAN FOR YOU?
It’s the only thing in my life that’s never let me down. Even when I’ve not paid it enough due, it’s always been there. I guess I feel about it the same way nutjob god-botherers feel about their large ghosty of choice?
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE FUTURE?
1. Play good gigs where I can stare at people and sing weird shit at them. 2. As always, work on the next album. 3. Try to connect with people in a real sense, past all the barriers. 4. Confuse more people but not in a Dadaist way. 5. Play more gigs in different countries, internationalism in pop, as in socialism, is essential! 6. Work with good people, steer round the users, hipsters and scenesters. 7. Push myself to write songs that are more honest. 8. Have the courage to release / play those songs. 9. Try not to be squashed by the people around me as much. 10. Love.
LAST QUESTIONS ARE QUESTIONS I ALWAYS ASK, I CALL IT THE TRADITIONAL ORIGINAL SIN-QUESTIONS… WHAT’S YOUR FAVE RECORD OF ALL TIME AND WHY?
‘Computer World’ by Kraftwerk. It’s been my fave record since I got it in 1981. It remains a startling piece of music all these years later. It’s rhythms and melodies are unsurpassed and it’s also the blueprint for so much hip hop, electro, techno – you name it. EMI Germany took me to dinner with Wolfgang Flür. I can’t tell you how embarrassing and star-struck I was!
WITH WHO WOULDN’T YOU MIND BEING STUCK IN AN ELEVATOR FOR 8 HOURS AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO THEN?
Christina Hendricks, Melissa Joan Hart and Annie Sprinkle. I think you can figure it out for yourself.
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