James Blake says nothing beats mum’s advice


Special To The Japan Times

Two gigs in one day, you must be busy balancing your schedule right now.

No, not really. I’m here and c’est la vie. I’m so bodily topsy-turvy that I don’t even know what time it is. I’m just happy to be here. But I’m only here until 3 a.m. tonight, it’s ridiculous. I’m a bit gutted really. I mean this is my favorite place to come, I toured Japan last year and it’s really one of my highlights so far.

How do Japanese audiences compare with those in Britain?

I think Japanese audiences are much more attentive than a London audience. In England there’s kind of a sense of, “Well we’ve seen this all before, what have you got for us?” Whereas in Japan people are much more appreciative of you making the trip — and that’s beautiful. But I think the differences are more to do with less how they are as an audience, but more of the people here having a sense of being humble and polite, and generally treating each other with respect. The level on which Japan seems to have picked up on my music seems to be on a more abstract level.

Do you enjoy playing indoors or outdoors?

I will take your question and raise you. I would say I prefer playing at night, so my (10:25 p.m.) slot is perfect. Playing in the day is like … people are not in the right mindset, there’s no point. It can work, in the right setting. If it’s raining it helps.

What parts of your personality do you let out in your live gigs and your DJ sets?

They’re both creative but DJing lets me showcase my taste in other music, as opposed to just performing my own, and reveling in my own music. It’s less self-congratulatory in some ways. It’s slightly more sociable; with my music I can connect with people, but when DJing I can party with everyone in a way that’s less intense.

Do you enjoy one more than the other?

Not really. I think if I didn’t do both, then I’d probably be frustrated in some ways. It’s kind of like some sort of libido that needs to be …


(Smiles) Yeah, expelled every so often. And if you don’t, then your natural tendency is to get frustrated.

Is there anything musically that has really been motivating you in your life right now?

I’ve been really trying to hone the art of songwriting in a way that doesn’t follow any sort of guideline. I’ve been trying to work our what it is I can write. The second album at the moment only consists of my own songs, so there’s slightly more pressure to connect, as opposed to something that I didn’t create from the beginning. So I was thinking about what it is that I can do, and I came to the conclusion that I should follow my ideals and just stick to my guns.

Do you listen to other peoples’ songs for inspiration, or is it more abstract than that?

Yeah, definitely more abstract. It’s a bit more like writing a lot until something hits.

I can certainly feel that as a writer…

Yeah, yeah. You know what? You should ask your mum what she thinks. I didn’t do that with the first album, I didn’t care. For the second album I’ve asked both my mum and dad, and also my friends. I’ve sat them down in front of some speakers and I ask them what they feel and think of the song, and to tell me honestly at what point they get lost. And my good friends tell me exactly what they think because they know I’d never be pissed off about it.

Or believe them when they lie to you?

Yeah, because I can tell when someone’s lying to me (laughs). But yeah, parents are great for that. They’re interested in where I’m going. My mum especially listens to music in a way that is incredibly feelings-based. There’s virtually no snobbery about what sounds are in it, she just wants to hear a song and that is quite refreshing. Some people might tell you it’s forward-thinking, or that a sound effect is cool. But after all, the actual song — regardless of how you dress it up and where it’s played — has to shine through in some way.