Marshall’s third record as King Krule illustrates those remarkable moments with new clarity on a disjointed past, while still acknowledging how important dishevelment is to personal growth. Becoming a father at 25, he says, has evoked a ‘strength in him he never knew he had. The arrival of baby Marina early last year pulled the rug out from underneath him. However, an injection of honesty, he believes, is a perfect remedy for belligerency.
“I actually wrote most of Man Alive! before even knowing I was going to have a kid, but yeah, it’s a real juxtaposition”, he says. “I can see a lot clearer now, I’ve got strength that at least I’m aware of, and I can see so much positivity in the highs and the lows, and depression, and in despair, and in hatred and in love. Maybe it was a bit disjointed before, but I can see a big love on this earth.
“If you’re honest and you’re talking about yourself, your emotions in society, particularly in the Western world, then it’s natural you’ll stumble across things like the rise of the right-wing and fascism, and how concerning being a young person is right now towards that. You have leaders who are proven to be sexist, homophobic and racist all in one. And that exists in the UK and the US now. I think it’s very hurtful, for sure.”
I didn’t know how my music taste was going to manifest.
But as far as politics goes, Marshall isn’t as engaged as some might think. “I’ve never really addressed anything politically so directly, but what I try to do is to put myself in the shoes of an individual in society. I feel like I’m always reflecting on what’s going on around me,” he says.
“This record really came from the last few years playing The OOZ live, and I discovered that if I was inspired in Texas, I’d be inspired in Tokyo. Or if I was inspired in Sydney, then I’d be inspired in Manchester. I’ve kind of realised that whenever I had moments of feeling really creative, then I just had to capitalise on them there and then.”
The sharp, vigorous tones of his voice, sometimes screeching with anger and desperation over heavily distorted guitars drowned in effects pedals, are in other instances far more timid and resounding: deeply crooning over jazzy and augmented guitar chords. But there’s a reason for all that too, Marshall says.
“I’ve always kind of intentionally disguised the core meaning of any song I’ve made through metaphors and the idea of colossus entities like the moon, or animal references where I’ve been able to paint things in a different way. I’ve always been very happy and content with the idea of multiple interpretations and leaving the listener to have as much as a say in the song as I do.”
Marshall is apprehensive about anyone using the word ‘jazz’ to describe his music, but understands the affiliation, spending his teenage years listening to the likes of Fela Kuti and J Dilla – just two of the iconic names that would eventually help shape his disparate sound. “I’m not sure if it’s even jazz! But I’ve always listened to stuff that has bled into anything that I do now. You know, mood, tone, performance, it’s never anything to do with actual musicianship. The moments in between the notes, the textures of the sounds. I love hearing the clicks of the instruments, the tones of someone breathing into their instrument, or the snare moving off the vibrations. It’s just kind of …. the space, isn’t it?”
Following mental health issues in the wake of his debut album 6 Feet Beneath The Moon in 2013, it’s been Marshall’s insatiable creativity that’s helped keep him grounded since. He puts himself in positions of vulnerability for his creativity, and he feeds off it through artistic choices that help empower him.
“I didn’t know how my music taste was going to manifest, and I had no idea how much I was about to evolve and change in the landscape that I was in,” he says. “I didn’t know if I was still going to be inspired or if I was going to have any form of success. Maybe I could have been living in a mansion like a year later or something like that. You know, anything could have taken me a different direction, I could have got a cocaine addiction! I think I’m really lucky because I’ve had the same band and the same kind of people around me for that whole time and I have people around me that I genuinely love deeply …”
As he speaks a stranger arrives in the background, asking Marshall about the Christmas lights he’s sitting near. He drifts from the interview, a simple interaction could just as easily be his next source of inspiration.
“What? No no, they’re not Christmas lights! They’re just lights. Yeah it’s a nice place. No it’s not Christmas though, they just have them all year ’round anyway. Look there’s some blue ones over there, it’s not that Christmassy. It is nice yeah … sorry man, but yeah, all my life I’ve always loved conversation with strangers and people that I can kind of take stories from.”
King Krule plays Splendour in the Grass in July. His new album Man Alive! is out now via XL Recordings.
Benjamin is a music writer and is the SEO producer for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He is responsible for optimising content for search, particularly major stories and breaking news events.