Example: I’m not the best rapper or singer, but I convert people
Elliot Gleave, or Example as he’s better known in the charts, got his breakthrough with the catchy pop song ‘Kickstarts’ last year. His upcoming third album will take a darker turn into dubstep and dance, featuring ‘Swallowed Up By The Floor’ which is about “taking shitloads of ketamine”. The ubiquitous rapper will be playing at 25 festivals across the summer, so if you haven’t seen him live already expect to be seeing him at a stage near you. The confident star describes what he thinks makes his act so appealing to the public, and how he intends to stay at the top of his game.
Compared with some rappers, would you say you had quite a privileged upbringing?
Not at all. I grew up in Fulham. It wasn’t a council estate or anything, I’d say I had a middle class upbringing. Back then, there was a big black music culture at school. Everyone was into jungle and hip hop and I wanted to fit in.
How has your act changed?
I’m into dance now. I’m a live dance act in Britain. The way I present my shows, I want it to be more in gear with, say, Chemical Brothers, Pendulum, Prodigy. The difference between me and all those acts is that I am the band. Example is me, I’m the front man. But the main thing is that all the music’s going more epic, darker, harder, trancey, dubstep, rave. And all the lyrics, they’re moody lyrics but uplifting, and everything’s pretty much about broken relationships and drugs and staying up late and constantly questioning our existence and our generation and how people behave.
The way I’d describe your voice is that you talk in tune. Have you ever had any singing lessons?
I wouldn’t say I talked in tune, really. Would you say I talked in tune? [to manager]
I went to one singing lesson once and the guy said I didn’t really need anymore. He said “the interesting thing about your voice is that it doesn’t sound like a typical singing voice”. It borrows from blues and grunge. It’s like a bit Mick Jagger and a bit Kurt Cobain. It’s a rugged, rough voice.
Who’s exciting you in UK music at the moment?
I’ve been working with a lot of new producers on this album that are up and coming as well as established people. I’ve got the Brookes Brothers, they’ve been around for a while in drum ‘n’ bass, and those guys are ones to watch. I’m a big fan of Ed Sheeran. But there aren’t many people [on the radio] I’m a fan of. There are people who have great voices and people who look great, but not many people with that star quality. You’ve gotta have a little edge about you, a glint in your eye, be a little cheeky or a little bit arrogant or a bit confident.
When do you feel you made your breakthrough?
I was really excited the first time I got played on Radio 1 cos’ these DJs get sent 100 records a week. Pete Tong and Zane Lowe both played my song. I really enjoyed the Lily Allen tour because it was my first experience of arenas. I wouldn’t really say that having chart hits is a highlight – I don’t need them cos’ my live show’s banging. And I do honestly believe that I’m a great performer and that’s why people come to see me, I convert people. I don’t think I’m the best rapper or the best singer but that’s why I’m playing more festivals than any other UK act this summer.
Are you not worried about playing too many and people getting sick of your act?
No, no because it’s not like everybody goes to 10 festivals, most people go to one or two. So you’ve got different fan bases and what I’m gonna do this year is convert everybody and educate everybody about Example’s new sound. I think I sell myself when I’m on stage.
Do you have a favourite festival?
Last year I really enjoyed T in the Park, it’s got sort of a magical vibe about it and a real energy. Ibiza Rocks is always amazing. Whenever you’ve got 20-30,000 people bouncing and singing your tunes for half an hour, you come off stage feeling like God. It’s a real comedown coming off stage.
What about if you lose the fame?
I thoroughly believe you can stay at the top of your game as long as you’ve got the best songs. Everyone has dips in their careers and comebacks. Like, Robbie was amazing. He headlined Nebworth then had a bit of a dip and went away for a bit. And Oasis’ last few albums weren’t as good as their first few.
You’ve got to keep going to the clubs. I’m constantly studying producers and MCs, because that’s what inspires me. But if you lose touch with that, you get to 35, and you’re a millionaire and you’re not out partying anymore and your life’s too easy so you’re not experiencing any emotion, it’s hard to write songs.
What’s been your biggest bender?
About five years ago I stayed up for three days. There’s a song on my album called “Stay awake the longest”. It’s about this generation that we’ve grown up in, that have been seemingly taking more drugs than ever before. And drinking more, and spending more money on partying, raving and festivals. Is it right? Does it affect our personal life, or our work? Some of the best albums have been written on drugs. I don’t think enough people talk about it. It is a bit edgy, but there are kids at 14 now doing things that I wasn’t. Taking pills and smoking weed and having sex. I think because of that people shouldn’t be scared to sing about it, even though I’m 28. I just hate bland music, with no emotion or message.
What’s your attitude to drugs?
I would never force people to take them.
That’s good to know!
No, no, you know what I mean. Some people are like that. I just think you’ve got to decide yourself whether they’re for you or not. I’ve met people that have never tried them, and I think that’s really impressive. I’ve had some good times on them, but other times I wish I’d never taken them. I’ve never tried Acid, Heroin or Crack, those things are scary, man. There are a lot of people in dance music I know who wouldn’t be able to make the music they do without going out raving. You have to live and breathe what the clubbers are doing. It’s all about when that bass drops, when that vocal hits you… you can experience it sober, but I think it’s important to experience it fucked as well.
Do you get a lot of female attention on tour, and do you take advantage of it?
Yes, but no, I don’t, honestly. I don’t think it’s good to meet people like that. Maybe if I was a bit younger I’d act more like an excitable rabbit and probably take advantage of it. If you connect with someone I think you have better sex. I think if you meet somebody that just wants to shag you, you can end up having really bad sex and it probably wasn’t worth it. It’s better to have an energy and a vibe between you.
Do you think you set a good example?
Yeah I think I’m a role model to all sorts; there are kids out there who love partying and see me as a mad geezer. I haven’t got that classic look, I look a bit funny. I think I’m an outsider. People who look like me shouldn’t really be important figures in rap or urban or dance, traditionally. But I’m sort of breaking the mould. If you’re a young kid out there and you feel you look a bit different or you’re bullied at school or you want to be respected by the cool crowd, maybe you’ll look up to me for that reason, because I’m doing music with Giggs and Skream. People had a go at my lips and teeth in school. When I had a smaller head my teeth were still the same size…but I was so happy at school and in life really it never really bothered me.Tagged in: brookes brothers, dance music, Ed Sheeran, Elliot Gleave, Example, kickstarts, music, Playing In The Shadows, rapper, skream, Swallowed Up By The Floor
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter