Monday, 19 March 2012
Jyoti Mishra, aka White Town, is about to hit the stage in Athens this sunday. A proper chat with Candy Bar was more than essential.
You were born in India. Is Indian music inscribed into your project in any sort of way?
I believe so, yes. I didn’t move here till I was three and, obviously, I’ve grown up with Indian parents. I think that cultural background has informed all the music I make, particularly lyrically. For example, I’m an atheist. But I’m an atheist Hindu which is entirely different from being an atheist Christian / Jew / Muslim. The Abrahamic faiths are all, to differing degrees, misogynistic and sex-negative. A lot of my music is explicitly sexual and definitely all sex-positive. I think that’s a part of my Indian-ness. Love/sex are just normal, healthy parts of life. Nothing dirty or wrong or whatever there.
You mentioned in an interview that “the more unstable you are, the more you write”. Can you explain?
I’m not bipolar because I’m very functional. I just have big ups and downs. And it’s when I’m at those extremes that I’m most productive. Songs will just fall out of me, it feels like I’m not even writing them. Take ‘She’s A Lot Like You,’ off the new album. I remember that coming out of me in this rush of love and lust and thinking about the girl it’s about. I barely had to change a line after the initial ten minute burst of writing it. Conversely, ‘Anywhere But Here’ is a small song from the opposite place entirely: desolation, abandonement and that loneliness that scrapes at your insides continually. So, I guess I exploit my instability in terms of creating new work but then it’s the creation of that work, the catharsis that re-normalises me. Even at my worst, a night of singing songs calms me and makes me happier.
How important is it for you to incorporate political messages into your music?
This is a difficult answer. I think it was Billy Bragg who once said that all music is political. He was labeled political because he was a lefty but he pointed out that singing about money and mansions is also a political statement. So, all songs are political, whether they acknowledge it or not as they crystallise aspects of the culture in which they were produced. For me, I have to address political concerns explicitly and consciously. This doesn’t necessarily mean singing about unions or strikes. Most of my songs are love songs and there is nothing more political than love. Who do you love? How do you love them? Do you treat them as a human being or as property to be fucked and discarded at your whim. Everything is politics.
Are you bothered when people regard you as a one hit wonder because of the huge success of single “White Town”?
Not at all. I’m ecstatic I’ve had even one song that became a proper pop song, loved by millions of people. That was such a surreal time. So many people in the indie scene claim to be making pop music, it was bizarre to actually have an actual, real, pop hit. Y’know, that normal, non-scene kids could sing and dance along to.
You are involved in songwriting, performing, recording, album art and running your label, Bzangy. Is that a way to control your art in the best possible way?
Yes. It’s also that I can’t get the staff. And now I’m making all my videos too. Control freak is probably understating the situation.
Would you say that your new album “Monopole” is a heavily emotional and personal album?
Yes, it’s my most honest and personal so far and, therefore, my favourite. It’s pretty obviously about my divorce last year and the end of a fourteen year relationship, the love of my life. But the two happy songs on there are about the possibilities of new love, the way we get our hearts broken but then can’t wait to break them again. I love the album. I can’t not, it’s basically a diary of the last few years. I tried so hard to be honest, to be emotionally open, to not hide behind any metaphors or poetry or other bullshit. I hope that comes over. If I have one regret, it’s that the liner notes are a little too intense, in retrospect. I wrote them at a very bad time.
Name me a few new bands that you enjoy and respect..
Akira Kiteshi (just interviewed him for Sound On Sound magazine!)
Do you feel sensitive about the political situation in Greece right now? What is your opinion on the current political scene in Europe?
I feel it’s pretty obvious even to the most casual observer that capitalism works about as well as an economic system as Stalinism did in the USSR. They’re both anachronisms, remnants from another age. Capitalism lurches from boom to bust, tossing millions of people’s lives uncaringly into the air. Will you be living in a boom or a depression? Who the fuck knows, it’s the lottery of capitalism! Add to that the sheer criminality of the capitalist classes and you have an untenable situation. I believe that Greece needs to do an Iceland (), tell the IMF to fuck off and nationalise everything, dispossessing all international firms of their capital. If it’s in Greece, it’s Greek and you all own it.
What do we have to expect from your forthcoming gig in Athens?
Some songs, some chatting and, I hope, a real dialogue. I don’t do big, rock gigs because they feel like monologues. I like to see the audience, react to them. I want people to connect to the stories of my songs and to feel calmer and happier afterwards, even though a lot of them are sad. Let’s see if I can manage to do that!
White Town + Le Page will play sunday 25th March @ Tiki Bar (Athens, Greece).