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Jake Bugg Interviewed

David Blake chats with the Xfm Winter Wonderland headliner

Written by . Published on December 12th 2013.

Jake Bugg Interviewed

WHEN Bugg (real name Jake Kennedy) burst from the confines of his Nottingham council estate with tales of hanging around in car parks, popping pills, smoking ‘fat ones’ and gang land stabbings, many hailed the return of that Northern Brit-rock swagger that seemed to evaporate with the inevitable combustion of that tumultuous Oasis ‘give-a-shit’ steam-rolling party bus (Kasabian held the torch for a good while).

"I don’t even know where I am tomorrow. Oh we’re at the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway actually. Me and Morrisey are playing."

The hat certainly fit: the floppy haircut, the vacant ‘stoner’ eyes, the working class credentials, the Fred Perry Harrington jacket and button down shirts, plus the compulsory swipe at that 'X Factor shit'.

Lapped up doesn’t do it justice. Aged only eighteen his debut album knocked ponce rockers Mumford and Sons from the number one slot and went platinum. Tours with Noel Gallagher and The Stone Roses soon followed. Rep established.

There have been hiccups. He started hanging out with models and sitting by catwalks for one. Still, in his defence, he didn't much care for it, stating that the best thing about a fashion show is “how short it was”. Rep restored.

After an all-conquering debut album, his second, Shangri La, has been mostly well-received. His star is now so high that Xfm have seen it right to place Bugg at the top of the bill for tonight's Xfm Winter Wonderland concert, oddly, above Primal Scream. Still, strike while the iron is hot.

When we catch-up with Bugg he's backstage at the Apollo, a few hours before taking to the stage, he's slouched on a couch picking at his guitar. Dressed all in black, black leather jacket over a black hoody, black jeans and black Nike trainers on a black couch, he resembles a council estate Johnny 'The Man In Black' Cash. He's characteristically reserved, not off'ish, but this is a young man clearly carrying out his duty.

So Jake, how often do you have to pinch yourself?

Yeah sometimes, when you're smoking a cigarette and taking a moment, then you can think wow... this is pretty mad. But you can’t dwell on it too much because you could be using that time to write more songs and enjoy it.

Manchester is a favourite tour date for a lot of artists and bands. Is it the same for you? 

Well this’ll be the fourth time we’ve played this venue in a short space of time, everytime I’ve played here the crowd have always been cool. They can be all arms folded at the start of the show but are always well loosened up by the end.

Can you spot the differences in each crowd?

The Man In BlackThe Boy In BlackIn America and Europe they come to see the music, they stand and watch the gig. It can be quite polite and quiet. Then there’s us who throw pints of piss and fists at each other. It was really strange after doing the UK tour, I loved it, then went to Sweden and everyone was really quiet. They’re beautiful people though.

Is it strange for the Americans to have a young British lad writing heavily American-sounding songs?

Musically it is influenced by America but lyrically it’s about life as I know it back here on a council estate. It’s interesting to see over there how they respond to the more British lyrics. It’s a slow process America, it’s so big it's hard to see how things are even going over there. But you've just got to go there and tour it.

You recorded the second album in Malibu. Bit different to Nottingham. Could you ever see yourself moving out there?

I’d go yeah. Malibu is peaceful, relaxing. I don’t miss home, I miss the people but there’s a big world out there and I want to see it. I sat in my bedroom in Nottingham for seventeen years playing my guitar. It's good to be out.

Do you find it harder to come up with the grittier lyrics now things are more cushty for you?

I'm doing what I love but I think, whatever we do, we'll always find something to complain about. It's human nature. I can’t sing about the same things that I did on the first album, some people may want the same kind of stuff from me but that’s what I put the first album out there for, the second is its own thing and the third will be too.

Jake Bugg at Xfm Winter Wonderland (courtesy of Andy Squire)Jake Bugg at Xfm Winter Wonderland (courtesy of Andy Squire)

Two albums in less than two years. Should artists be striving for that output?

There are some artists out there that could do it, but they decide to milk a record for a few years, then there are some who couldn’t put a record out every year, they haven’t got it in them. Whenever the record is ready that’s when it should be released. Put it out there. You shouldn’t sit on a record if it's ready.

You always seem to be on tour. You do loads of interviews but don't really like them. Are you a grafter, or are you trying to get as much out of it while you can?

Yeah I do a lot of interviews, with the second album coming out a short time after the first, obviously it’s beneficial for me to promote both records so I always seem to be touring and interviewing. Yeah I might get asked the same questions all the time, but I have to think, if I wasn’t doing this, then what would I be doing? I've got to give myself a slap some early mornings when I have to get up and go do some promo because I could be back working in a chippy washing the pots.

If you could be in any Manc band, who would it be?

That’s a tough one… Stone Roses maybe. I’d like to jam along with John Squire definitely. Yeah Stone Roses. Not that I think they’re the best Manc band, I'd just like to jam with John Squire.

What bugs you (whey) most? Lazy comparisons, being asked about sleeping with supermodels or your supposed hatred of boy bands?

Yeah you do get the odd lazy and generic comparison, like Dylan, but there’s worse people to be compared to. The other stuff, I can’t let those things bother me, I’m doing what I love. Yeah I’ve got to answer a few of the same questions every single day and people try to be intrusive on ones personal life, which may involve another person (that Cara Delevingnenegnene, the one with the eyebrows) that I’ll never speak about. I’ll always speak about myself personally, you can ask whatever you like. But people now, with all the social media, they love to start a fight or a gossip.

Slumville Sunrise, directed by This Is England's Shane MeadowsSlumville Sunrise, directed by This Is England's Shane Meadows

So you're into your music, you're nifty at table tennis and you're partial to the odd doobie. Sounds like you should have gone to University.

Luckily, I got signed before having to do anything like that. I got signed when I was seventeen and that was it. I was on the road.

Is it all you've ever wanted to do?

I really don’t know what else I’d be doing. That’s why I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to maintain it. Just keep travelling around and keep making records.

Heard you're not big on festivals. What’s your beef?

Hmm why don’t I like festivals? Well, the weather, the mud, a load of bands knocking around all looking the same, giving out dirty looks. Actually I’m probably the worst culprit for that. I appreciated people making the effort to deal with all of that, come see me on stage, listen to my music, but I wouldn’t be able to do it. Fair play to 'em.

So what's next?

I don’t know. I don’t even know where I am tomorrow. Oh we’re at the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway actually. Me and Morrisey are playing.

Nobel Peace Prize? Morrissey? As you do.

Follow @David8Blake on twitter

We spoke to Bugg at Xfm's Winter Wonderland 2013 in support of War Child.

Jake Bugg is playing Manchester again at The Ritz on Sunday 23 February. Tickets here.

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