In 1995 Kenny Anderson, then lead singer/songwriter for the Scottish bands Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra and Khartoum Heroes, launched his own label Fence with his own solo project King Creosote. Demoralised and with a healthy cynicism of all things music related, KC set out to make home recorded music in as stress-free an environment as possible. In short, the heels were dug in, and northeast Fife would become home to Fence.
We managed (eventually) to track him down after his performance at this years Bestival, this is what he had to say.
Contactmusic.com: King Creosote, thanks for coming along and having a chat.
King Creosote: No Problem its my pleasure
CM: We're here at Bestival & it's pretty much the last major festival of the summer, how are you feeling about being a part of that?
KC: Well, we've been away from home like every weekend and that's been pretty much since the middle of June, and that's pretty weird because i was talking to James about this, it's kinda like your on tour but with all these gaps in-between because when your at home there's not enough time to feel like your at home and then your away again. At the moment, I never really know if it's been a really long summer or if there hasn't been any 'real' summer at all, do you know what I mean? We did Accelerator festival in Sweden and all through July we did a lot of far flung festivals, so whenever we travel, time gets pulled out a bit, so I suppose I'm quite a bit worn out by it now.
CM: Have you had chance to look around the Bestival site at all yet?
KC: I haven't at all, we played on the stage here quite early on in the afternoon and I also did a song with bands who were on in the Rock N' Roll tent and Big Top and after that it was time to get our gear packed up then we've been up to the bar at the top of the hill.
CM: Of Course!
KC: Then we remembered we had to check in at our B&B and taking a little trip down to Sandown so this is it, the start of us having a look around.
CM: I read a message somebody posted on your myspace profile about how they met you at the Greenman Festival and your now playing at there wedding!?
KC: Yea, well it was the night after we played and it was myself and a guy called John Hopkins sitting under a tree and I thought he knew this crowd because he started talking to them and they were like "Oh it's King Creosote" so I was like "Yea Yea" One of them was telling me how his wife is a huge fan, and at that point you never know really quite what to say and he said were getting married in a months time and it would be amazing if you could maybe send us a song or send us a message or something, so I asked him where he was getting married and he said Plockton on the West Coast of Scotland, I found out when it was and basically, I offered to play a song for them.
CM: What an offer!
KC: Well it was easier for me in a way to do that then to record a song and then send it forward, then they started saying how we can get you this and get you that but i said all i need is some diesel money and if they could put me up then that would be brilliant. They are gunna put me up for the night and I've been invited to the whole thing, I've got a bar tab so I'm not going to do just one song, it takes me about four songs to get into it and they have sent me a list of songs they want so I'll end up doing a small set.
CM: So how does it compare to you performing at an outdoor festival to a more intimate gig like that?
KC: Well the festival thing your never really sure if its your audience or an audience that just happens to be there so it's kinda like how gigs were before I got signed where if there's a room full of people you obviously always try to play your best but you never know if your stuff is going to impress them or hack them off , you're never to sure so you kinda just hope that a few people grin at ya and if that happens then you know your on a winner, but touch wood, the festivals we have done people have genuinely come up to us and said 'ya know we didn't know the first thing about your band, heard the name maybe but didn't know what you did and we thoroughly enjoyed it.'
CM: That must be a real boost for you guys
KC: It obviously works, I think the set we've got is quite a good festival set, we've got rid of a lot of the tour songs and a lot of the downbeat depressing ones and were just left with this great set, so yea, its gone down really well and it went down well today, I always have a look around while were playing and if there singing along it's great, they know our stuff.
CM: Am I right in saying it was 3 years ago your first album under a label was released?
KC: Yea, Domino helped us put out a King Creosote record so it was Fence in the UK and Domino licensing outside the UK, so yea we got a bit of help, I suppose it was Domino Records but they let us do it under our own label.
CM: So 'Fence' is your own label, how did that come about was it started to get your own music out?
KC: Yea, I had a band and we did all the things you know you do with a band and you trial it and take advise and do shows, then you loose money and the band gets hacked off then the band breaks up and it just got to a point where I just questioned why I was doing it in the first place. In a way, it seemed like the fun had gone out of it.
A lot of the songs I was writing were written for the band & things became big things, I just got to a point where, I thought the band were hating every song I was writing for whatever reason, some people were like oh no I don't want to play that, that's too this or that's to that, It just got to a point where the band broke up and I thought, well, you know what I just want to get back into recording again and doing it on my own, I don't have to watch the clock I'm not in a studio anymore more, and at the time I got one of the really early stand alone CD Burners and that was like a revelation because it meant I could make CD's so I'd have a DAT tape as a master then burn albums one at a time and do artwork.
CM: You released quite a few albums through CD-R didn't you?
KC: Well the first album that came out proper which was in autumn 2003 was a pick of about 25 different albums.
CM: That's a lot of songs, how do you come up with new material to fill 'em all?
KC: Well certain things just happen in your life you know? A lot of singers rely on relationships and things, a new relationship you get a lot of songs out of that, when it's on the plateau you don't tend to write very much, then you come down the hill again and it gets better, but you know I got some very major events like I had a baby, she's seven now and that was a huge amount of inspiration for me, just to be blown away emotionally by that event and to have all the realisation of what your parents went through, what it means to be a dad and to have a different view on the outside world, and all sorts of things, it's a crazy crazy time. Then I had a business that failed, there's always something that you need to say, I had a record shop that went under and for a year I had a big debt to the bank, and I had no job, but the label was just a fledgling label at this point, I had help from other labels and they were telling me to hang in and they will help me do this and do that, just don't give up on it. So I basically ended up doing a year with no money coming in and selling things to pay back the bank loan, and I just had no money to do anything so I just either stayed at home and recorded songs that I'd written and hadn't recorded yet or just wrote new songs, it's not hard you know, anybody that says it takes them a month to write a song, it's just nonsense, your well up the wrong creek if your taking a month to write a song.
CM: So the eternal question what comes first for you, the lyrics or the music?
KC: Well, I've only got a handful of songs where the two things came together, I cycle a lot, and I walk quite lot in Fife and sometimes I'll be walking along and a line or a melody will come right there and then and then you get home and you think well wait a minute that's obviously a Coldplay song that I've rewritten the words for, sometimes it is, then other times I'll have bits and pieces of chords that don't have lyrics yet and I've got a big book that I just write lyrics in, so it's always a lot easier to have the lyric first and then try to put that into a tune because if you have the tune and the la la la melody in your head you end up trying to squeeze lines out of ideas an that's a lot harder.
CM: So you've obviously worked very very hard to get where you are now, what's your opinion on these tv talent shows that have come along and people just sing other peoples songs and get a massive record contract out of it?
KC: Well, it's a different side to the music business really you know? You wouldn't have a Pop Idol say here at Bestival, but I think if 'Joe public' can't make that distinction then its quite dangerous and i do have a bit of gripe about the Simon Cowells, they get a band, give them a big song or big cover version then they fill there albums with a load of dross. It's like an overblown talent contest and we've always had those you know like Opportunity Knocks, it's just a continuation of that, I try and give it a bit of kudos but you know, these pop idols are just so quickly forgotten, I guess a lot of bands are too, I'm not going to be around forever either but it's such a quick turnaround it's frightening, like what happened to Michelle McManus it was like one song and gone! And in a way it's quite cruel isn't it to give them that little window of being a star and then just taking it away as quick as that, then they move onto the next series. Obviously people in bands know the difference between a pop idol band and a band that just does the toilet tour but I think your average joe doesn't, i dunno, maybe my wee sister would, she's like oh it's all the same thing, why don't you go on pop idol, thing is we always have a laugh because if everybody we like or know in the music industry went on pop idol we would just be laughed right out the room, that's a fact! But I do get worried when labels start adopting that model to sell there bands like whoa! Don't think that it's now the way forward, suddenly every band has to do a talent contest before you can get your single out
CM: Christmas number one then gone
KC: well obviously that's the curse right there, you get your Christmas number one!
CM: Going back to the Bestival have you had a chance to see some off the costumes going round today? (Saturday is fancy dress day)
KC: Ha, I actually just met Rob Da Bank back there and he is looking very very dapper in his Ringmaster outfit! There's some other really good ones out there!
CM: Have you got a favourite fancy dress costume you like to adopt?
KC: Yea i always go as some kind of hybrid witch, the best witch i had was when i found a potato and i scooped it out, i know ive got a nose like a potato but i had a bigger potato and i scooped it out and painted then to keep it on i kinda did that bank robber thing i got a pair of tights and pulled it over, it looked very freaky i had the frock, the hat, a proper broomstick, proper glacier cherries that looked like eyeballs, that was my best witch outfit! So I always kinda veer to the witch! Really, It's just an excuse to put a frock on isn't it!
CM: All men do it, I don't know why it's denied..
KC: Ha, You get to be your mum for the day (laughs)
CM: Excellent, well i wont keep you any longer ill let you get back to the bar and enjoying the festival
KC: Nice one!
CM: its been a pleasure meeting you
KC: You too, Thank you very much