Kele Okereke interview: Beyond Bloc Party

Jack Riley

89257285 300x213 Kele Okereke interview: Beyond Bloc PartyWhile his reputation as a difficult interviewee precedes him, I was still excited to get a chance to talk to Kele Okereke at the Creators Project last weekend. I figured that since I wasn’t going to be asking him what he had for breakfast, or doing a meta-piece on his disdain for the interviewing process, as the NME tried in 2005, I’d be ok. We talked about his latest album and recent live appearances, and in his closing remarks he let me know that Bloc Party have officially not split up. So there you go.

Is there something about the metaphorical aspect of The Boxer [his recent album] that lends itself to the idea that electronic music is more of an individual pursuit than your work in a band?

Making this record was definitely a triumph of the individual over the idea of a collective band effort. I didn’t always want to make a solo record, but once the opportunity arose I ran with it. I’m not going to lie – I found it very liberating to take an idea to its complete natural conclusion, and that was always the appeal in making a more synthetic record: that you could do anything you wanted to any sound. You could time-stretch things, you could change the MIDI sound. The point about making a record like this is that you can do anything you want. You’re only limited by your imagination and as a songwriter that’s a very exciting place to be, for me. That’s why I’ve always tried to embrace technology.

One common dilemma with synthetic albums is the challenge of converting something that wasn’t conceived live into a live experience…

When making the record I didn’t know how we were going to do any of it (live). We recorded straight into the computers, so we spent months after the record was finished with the files working out how we were going to play it live, what we were going to run, what we were going to recreate live. It was a challenge, but it was exciting; it gave the musicians in the band – and they are all very capable musicians – a chance to express and imprint their own personalities on the music and express that for themselves. That’s what we did with Bloc Party as well; for the last Bloc Party record certainly, and parts of ‘A Weekend in the City’, we were only ever taking out interpretations of the music. That’s maybe where some of the others felt part of the process; if they hadn’t been as involved in the conception of the idea, they were definitely involved in the recreation of the music live.

What equipment is most important to that process?

I’m not really a big fan of retro or analogue synth stuff – it’s just hard to work and it’s hard to get a consistent sound. I think the most important tool, and program for this live experience, has definitely been Ableton. It’s definitely allowed us to take the show on the road with us. And I guess the samplers that we have, that you can load a sound onto and it’s the same sound that you produce on the record – the way you trigger it is the human response. Those two bits of equipment are the most important, I feel, for this live experience.

(You can listen to Kele’s album ‘The Boxer’ on Spotify here, and download it from iTunes here. Picture: Getty Images)

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