Ahead of the release of her debut solo record ‘British Road Movies’, and her forthcoming performance in Cambridge (Portland Arms, May 17th, tickets), former Long Blonde and all-round creative Kate Jackson took the time to talk about her latest project.
‘British Road Movies’ was written by Jackson alongside former Suede guitarist and producer Bernard Butler at West Heath Studios in London; The songs were conceived as cinematic starting points, movie titles with lyrical story-boards, which have a series of paintings to accompany the concept – Here, Kate discusses painting in solitude, her love affair with road trips and the joy of getting back into music.
Hi Kate; thank you for taking the time to chat. How are you, firstly?
Very well thanks! Very busy, but it feels good to be busy.
Congratulations on ‘British Road Movies’ – it’s an astonishing record. It’s actually an accompaniment to a series of visual work that you’d been producing – did the idea for linking the two art forms come during the painting process, or were you already planning to link each piece of work to the music?
Well, the album came first really. I used to see my painting practice and my musical output as two very separate things. It wasn’t until last summer when I was invited to be artist in residence at Smiths Row that I started to see the connections between the two. Thematically my lyric writing and my visual art are coming from the same place, looking at the British landscape almost voyeuristically, fetishising buildings and scenery which people tend to pass by without notice.
With all the multimedia in mind, would you describe it somewhat as a concept album, perhaps?
I guess it has become that, although it didn’t start life that way. I first wrote a lot of these songs with Bernard Butler as demos back in 2009/10. It was only when I revisited them a few years later that I realised there were common concerns running through the lyrical narratives. Themes of home and belonging, journeying and transition, family and alienation. I reference the road a lot, and always liked American road movies, so I started thinking about what British road movies might look like and how this record could somehow be a soundtrack to a British road movie. I thought it made a good album title anyway!
There’s a seemingly cinematic and literary influence to the music that’s uniquely British. Where do your influences stem from, and was it the intention to create something that seems to play back to your roots?
I think it’s hard not to create something that stems back to your roots and early influences. I think musically this is quite an eclectic record as it takes in a lot of mine and Bernard’s mutual influences, such as David Bowie, Brian Eno, Neil Young, The Smiths, The Pet Shop Boys, The Fall. Most of those have one thing in common (with the exception of Neil Young), they are all British artists. I’ve always preferred the Englishness of bands like Suede, Pulp, The Kinks, Bowie, Roxy Music, St Etienne, The Smiths, The Fall, to American bands, most of whom I couldn’t relate to. I like lyrical content that references places I know and things I have seen. I think The Long Blondes did that well too, it’s something I’ve always aspired to.
Do your influences in visual art and music overlap in any way? Would you say that you managed to draw inspiration from either art form for creating the other?
Yes, it’s all coming from the same place. Painting a motorway bridge and writing lyrics to a song like Homeward Bound or 16 Years stems from thinking about the landscape in a certain way, imagining the trace of lives lived within that landscape and imposing a narrative onto it.
Your professional relationship with Bernard Butler played a very integral role on the making of ‘British Road Movies’. What was it like to have his input and contribution?
Incredible, the guy’s a genius in my opinion. He was able to bring the best out of me as a writer without being intimidating or imposing. I found writing with him flowed very naturally, we always managed to come up with something that excited both of us. His production sound is very cinematic too so that adds another layer to the whole soundtrack concept!
And lastly, what are your plans after this? We’re aware you’re on the road following the album (including a Cambridge show and a performance at The Great Escape), and are part of some great projects outside of the solo work, including your visual art and organising your own DJ nights. Anything else to keep you insanely busy?
I’d like to develop The Wrong Moves now. We’re going to record an EP over the summer which will contain a few songs I’ve already written, a track called The Westerlies and another called Future City. That will lead on to writing new material later in the year which I can’t wait to do. It’s a different creative process to painting which is me working alone most of the time. I can’t wait to start this creative collaboration with the rest of the band.
‘British Road Movies’ is out May 20th
Kate Jackson and The Wrong Moves play The Portland Arms on May 17th
Interview by Jack Stevens