Posted on 5 March 2012

King Creosote speaks to Green Man

Green Man legend Kenny Anderson, aka King Creosote, returns to Green Man 2012 with long-time collaborator Jon Hopkins and their Mercury-nominated masterpiece Diamond Mine – one of the most acclaimed and heartfelt albums of the last year. “I was acutely aware that this might be the record I'd never be able to better,” he tells Green Man…

Green Man: You must be absolutely delighted with the press and public acclaim for Diamond Mine. Why do you think the album has been so successful?

King Creosote: Jon and I are absolutely thrilled and amazed by the reaction to Diamond Mine. This record was recorded with the same aspirations as every other record I've ever made, so I can only surmise that what makes this such a success is the addition of "& Jon Hopkins" to the sleeve? But really, through an application of great heat and pressure Jon managed to metamorphose my carbon voice and sooty songs into at least a 12-carat diamond gem.

GM: Having released 40-odd records since 1998, what were your expectations for Diamond Mine when it was first released?

KC: One thing I've learned after all those pretty obscure record releases is to not have any expectations at all.

GM: How did the collaboration with Jon come about?

KC: Jon and I met after a KC show a number of years ago, and as a huge fan I begged him to remix one of my songs. He point blank refused, but I continued to harass him via royal mail, and then by electronic mail, and I may even have camped outside his house in Walton-on-Thames with my guitar. It wasn't until the band Magnetophone used my vocals on their The Man Who Ate The Man LP that he reluctantly agreed to remix Circle My Demise - for them!

After that it was a little easier, and Jon remixed The Vice-Like Gist Of It, produced and played on my album Bombshell, and during his busiest year contributed to Flick the Vs. During those seven or so years we worked little by little on the songs that became Diamond Mine.  

GM: Was there a pre-meditated plan for how you and Jon would work together and what you wanted to achieve?

KC: Yes - Jon would indicate which songs of mine he'd like to work on, I'd turn up at Cafe Music in Bow, East London, to sing them, and then return to Fife. After about seven years Jon not only separated the wheat from the chaff, he'd distilled and filtered the mixture, and they'd matured into cask strength malts.   

GM: Alongside the newer compositions, some of these songs previously appeared on older King Creosote records and were written several years ago. How did you choose which songs to record?

KC: The oldest song on the record was written in 1988. Jon chose Your Own Spell, Bubble, John Taylor and Your Young Voice from earlier records I'd put out on Fence. I know he picks songs for melodic and mood reasons. I chipped in with Running On Fumes and Bats In The Attic purely because I was happy with the lyrics.

GM: As a songwriter and recording artist, what new elements and influences did Jon bring to your music on Diamond Mine?

KC: Jon puts my voice centre stage. After that he subtly alters the underpinning chords throughout the duration of the song, he adds a myriad of textures and background treats, and knows how to pace it all just right. If you listen to it in peace you'll get the most from it, but there's heaps to discover with repeat plays. Jon distorts time, his treatments amplify the emotions in the songs, and it becomes a heart warming musical journey.  

GM: How much of Jon’s contribution had you heard when he played you the final finished tracks, and what was your reaction on hearing them for the first time?

KC: I heard very few rough mixes, but the final version absolutely floored me, and I was acutely aware that this might well be the record I'd never be able to better.

GM: The Diamond Mine tour has also had rave reviews. How has your approach to performing live with Jon differed from a King Creosote solo set – have you had to tone down the onstage banter to recapture the mood and atmosphere of the album?  

KC: We play the album, in its entirety, with no banter at all. That's over a half hour of intense listening. Some folk cry. Then we play a few older KC songs and cover versions. Don't forget - Jon is a master of the piano, and pitch perfect, so he'll join in with anything I crank up. It's during this part of the show we get a right laugh, usually at my mistakes, alas.

GM: You’ve appeared at Green Man numerous times - as a solo artist, with the Fence Collective and most recently for last year’s amazing set with The Burns Unit. Which performance has been your favourite and why?

KC: Difficult one that - at GM 3 (Baskerville Hall in those days) we had a Fence sing-a-long around the fire with HMS Ginafore, Uncle Beesly, Johnny Pictish et al. There was quite a crowd around us, and when they all joined in singing, I cried real tears.

Catch King Creosote & Jon Hopkins at this year's Green Man on the Mountain Stage for what promises to be a very special performance indeed