James Blake doesn’t want to make the same old songs

CorrespondentMay 10, 2013 

James Blake.


  • More information

    Who: James Blake, with Samiyam

    When: 9 p.m. Monday

    Where: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro

    Cost: $22-$25

    Details: 919-967-9053; www.catscradle.com

James Blake is a bit perturbed about being accused of being a bit perturbed.

The 24-year-old Londoner is currently on tour, promoting his latest album “Overgrown.” (He’ll make a stop at Cat’s Cradle on Monday.) The follow-up to his acclaimed, self-titled 2011 debut, “Overgrown” has Blake continuing to meld live, analog instrumentation with digital loops and beats, often highlighted by Blake’s woeful-yet-ethereal vocals and moody lyricism.

While “Overgrown” has been getting just as much critical praise as his first album, Blake has also been getting noticed for his less-than-enthusiastic comments in the press about his record label, Polydor, wanting additional tracks for online retailers to sell along with the album. “Well, I’d say my comments were really sort of about a specific week in the process,” says Blake, calling from Chicago. “I felt frustrated by the way the record was handled in the U.K., and nowhere else. My experience with the label has been incredibly positive. Like, I was working on the record. It was all going fine. They were giving me all the creative control I wanted and, really, to be treated by a major label was very special.”

Considering how much “Overgrown” took out of him to record -- he’d often come up with tunes and lay them down in the wee hours -- pulling out more tracks on the fly was too much to handle. “It was just, you know, very, very, very late in the day, having to produce a whole new set of things that just weren’t there,” he says. “So, you kind of have to mess around, thinking about what you’re gonna do, and that’s not an ideal situation.”

Blake finds it odd that, in today’s popular music culture, artists have to add bells and whistles to an album that’s already special. “I accept that that’s how it is and that’s fine, but if I had known earlier about that, then I’ve would’ve been a lot more – you know, I’d have been capable of doing it properly.”

Of course, Blake would much rather talk about the album, which he says is a step up from the work he did on his debut. And although the album is a layered mix of electronic, soul and melancholy music, Blake’s intention was always to show how multifaceted he is as an artist. “I’m very resolute with my thoughts and my opinions on stuff. … We all go through different moods and we all have good days and bad days,” he says. “And, such, I have a gamut of different types of music, because I can’t make the same thing all the time, you know.”

Blake got together with a couple of other musically adventurous artists on “Overgrown.” He and ambient music trailblazer Brian Eno collaborate on one song, while Wu-Tang Clan captain RZA provides rap vocals for another track. By working with these men and creating the sort of music he does, Blake is forever reminded of what is most important: coming up with songs that never sound the same.

“For some people, they only make music when they’re in that zone, and they will then make that kind of tune that they’ll make over and over again because that is when they like to write music,” he says. “I don’t really have the ability to work like that. I wanna do too many different things and, sometimes, that is to my detriment because some people might not want all of these different – or they might only go to one type of thing that I do or whatever. But, for me, I like to look at some of my favorite artists. You have a catalog of different things that they’ve done and I can go between the things I like at the times I want to, and they can offer me a song for every point in my life, you know.”

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