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Interview: Loyle Carner Talks Storytelling, Honesty And Cooking

Interview: Loyle Carner Talks Storytelling, Honesty And Cooking

Hunter Keane / Monday 5th February, 2018 12:42PM

South London rapper Loyle Carner (aka Benjamin Gerard Coyle-Larner) has spent the last four years on various tours, including support slots for internationally lauded hip hop artists MF Doom, Joey Bada$$ and Nas. Carner’s debut album Yesterday's Gone was released in early 2017 and made its way onto many influential end of year favourites lists as well as being nominated for multiple music awards, including the Brit Awards and the Mercury Prize. We caught up with the artist ahead of his performance at last week’s Laneway Festival at Auckland’s Albert Park. He sat down with Hunter Keane (with occasional contributions from Carner's manager Tom) to discuss being away from home, the Brit Awards, and the stories behind his music...

So it’s been just over a year since your album Yesterday's Gone was released, how have the last twelve months been?

Well touring has been wicked, and also really fucking difficult, it’s hard to be away from home, but also really nice to continue the conversation. I don’t really like to chat online so I feel like touring is the best place to talk to people and find out about real stuff. It’s been amazing.

Does it feel like a big step to be on the Laneway lineup and coming over to New Zealand for a show?

Y’know what’s weird, is that we were in Australia last year, and I wanted to come to New Zealand a lot, cause there’s this one guy who hit me up years ago before I was releasing many tunes, maybe my first overseas listener and he lives out here. I wanted to play a show for that one guy for years, so hopefully he comes down today.

Huge fan of Yesterday’s Gone, what I like most is that there’s stories behind the tracks. A personal favourite of mine is ‘Mean It In The Morning’, can you tell me a bit about the story behind that one?

That track in particular actually came from Chris (Rebel Kleff). He was working on a library music styled song, literally something from a big KPM sample pack. We had it for ages and ages and ages, we were actually just gonna leave it as an interlude on the album, but then one night I wrote the lyrics really quickly and it worked so we ran with it.”

You’ve worked with Rebel Kleff quite a bit right?

Oh yeah loads. On tracks like ‘No CD’, ‘Ain’t Nothin Changed’. Heaps.

Do you plan on working together in the future?

[Loyle and Tom share eye contact while laughing] Ah yeah fingers crossed.*

You also work a lot with Tom Misch, last week you two released ‘Water Baby’. What’s it like working with him?

Yeah it’s a nightmare... nah he’s wicked. We have gans of fun. We work together quite a lot and I think we have quite a good understanding of each other, our interests are very similar. We both listen to a lot of disco which I don’t think influences us very much, but it’s a nice common ground. He is really talented and really friendly.

On songs like ‘The Seamstress (Tooting Masala)’ and ‘Rebel 101’ there are samples of you having conversations with various people. What made you want to incorporate those conversations?

Well there’s a few. One was that some of my favourite albums have those in them…

Any in particular?

A Tribe Called Quest. One of my favourite groups of all time who quite heavily influenced me. The main reason I put the convos in was because I feel like before if you had an album, that was the listeners insight to you. But nowadays, because of social media and all this other nonsense there’s a lot more you can give away. So I wanted to draw back on the social media, then give away more on the record so that you can get a real insight into my life as opposed to what I’m pretending to be… and also it just sounds cool.

There’s also the poems that are incorporated into the album. What pushed you to release them as spoken word rather than develop them into raps?

I mean poems I can like write any day, any second, but writing tunes takes longer and it’s much more difficult. Poems come naturally to me, and when I have to make tunes there has to be a reason for it. I mean If someone asked me to write a poem for them I could just write it but tunes are just another thing.

A lot of what you write and perform is very personal. Do you think it’s important for you as an artist to open up like that?

I think it’s cathartic. It depends on the day though, some days I’m really up for it, some days If I’ve had a shit day I might not wanna share anything. In saying that If I’ve had a good day then I wanna pass on my good days to the people who might not be having a good day out in the crowd so it’s always different. And I think that’s how it should be everyday. Every set should be different cause if you treat em the same then the crowd isn’t getting what they deserve, and you aren’t getting what you deserve... an honest show.

A couple weeks ago you were nominated for Best Solo Male and Best Breakthrough Artist at the Brit Awards, how did that feel?

Just like any other day man [laughs]. Yeah awards mean everything while also meaning nothing. It’s a weird thing for me, the Brit Awards for a long time were something that has put focus on the wrong kind of music so I never really used to get hit to it but then over the last couple years it has been pushing some good music. So yeah It’s wicked to be apart of it ‘cause I am British and me being nominated hopefully means they’re going in the right direction. Who knows…

Something that a lot of people in New Zealand don’t know about are the things you do outside of your music, one of which is the cooking school you’re involved in. Tell us a bit about that.

So I’ve got a cooking school for kids with ADHD, between ages 14 to 16 which we are hoping to grow. In an ideal world I would hope to have a school, like a proper school where you could come and study your maths, english and science but also get to study cooking. Because cooking is important, especially for those with special educational needs like myself. It’s good for these kids’ self esteem to learn something and be told that they’re good at it which is basically why I’m doing it.

It only runs in the summer at the moment because I’m pretty busy, which is what I’m upset about. I want it to get to a point where it can run without me but I need to find enough people who are as passionate about it as I am.

You’re quite open about having ADHD, do you think it’s important to be open about that sort of stuff?

I think it’s important to be. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s not nice and I’d be lying if I said everyday is wicked and having ADHD is a walk in the park. But I do think it’s important to accept it, otherwise I’d be in denial and it would be ten times worse to deal with. Its a fucking super-power if you look at it in the right way. It’s all about communication, as soon as you say it, it’s not an issue, but if you don’t say it, you think about it and it bottles up.

You also write plays and short stories. I read that one particular play you’re working on is called 'Pension', that was a wee while ago has there been any progress?

Nah it’s still in the same place, I gotta do it but it’s just about time, I’m a bit lazy at the moment and I’ve been busy with touring and that. Once life slows down I’ll get back on the plays cause it’s something I want to do.

You’re an actor/director yourself, right? You made your own music videos?

Yeah, I storyboarded them all myself and then got in touch with directors to work with collaboratively. I love it, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be involved when you could be, and be in a position where you can create things. In theory I can make whatever I want in a video, so why not do it.

Is there any project in particular that stands out to you as the most fun to work on?

'Ain’t Nothin Changed’. The video where Rebel Klef and I became old men. Working with Chris (Rebel Klef) was good fun, It took us eight hours in make up. I like to think I look like Morgan Freeman in it.”

Also the ‘The Isle of Arran’ video cause that was the one that had the truest representation of what I wanted. If you watch that video all the way through frame by frame that is exactly what I drew out in the storyboard process. Looking back on that is mad for me, thinking I wrote this, I directed this, I acted in this and it looks how I wanted it to look.

Is there anything in New Zealand that you wanted to do while you’re here?

I really wanted to go to Hobbiton, my missus recommended it and wanted me to get photos for her. I wanted to pretend to be Gandalf and roam around, see if I could find any Hobbits.

Tom from across the table: What the fuck are you talking about?

Hobbiton, from Lord of the Rings. Is here. It’s actually not that far away, only a couple hours out of town. It’s on the top of my list for when I come back.

Have you got plans to come back?

Of course. I wanna come back, play a couple headline shows instead of a festival show so I don’t have to battle it out with peeps like Mac Demarco to get people to my set.

Are you interested in seeing other artists on the bill today?

Oh Anderson .Paak is a big one. I also got recommended to go see a local artist, Melodownz, so hopefully I can get down and check him out.

Yeah I definitely recommend Melodownz, thanks heaps for chatting with me.

My pleasure, see you at Melodownz.

*Later that day during Loyle Carner’s set at Laneway, Carner and Rebel Klef performed a yet to be released collaborative track, suspected to be titled ‘9 to 5’.


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