Naturally, being granted an audience with Dean Blunt is unlike interviewing any other musician.
Rendezvousing in the affectless sphere of communication that is Skype’s instant messenger service, and instructed by Blunt’s people not to ask any questions pertaining to what – or who – might have inspired his anomalous album The Redeemer, the resulting back-and-forth puts the interviewer (that is, me) in a terrifying position. The balance of power shifts subtly towards the unseen subject who, hidden from the inquisitor’s gaze, is able to pause and reflect before answering, to brush off unwanted questions with a blank screen or leave non-sequitur replies hanging limply in the ether. Maintaining the appropriately deadpan composure is likewise unnecessary for the invisible interviewee.
As a result, the conversation slips from the serious (the shadow of his former collaborator) to the irreverent (Danny Dyer’s arrival on Eastenders), and every ‘sensible’ question on my list suddenly seems as facile as it does futile. Ultimately, it’s Blunt’s show, and I’m merely the messenger – a situation that few, if any, other musicians are able to orchestrate so successfully (even that great media manipulator, Kanye West).
Blunt’s impenetrable veneer has been in place since he first sloped into view as one half of engagingly weird duo Hype Williams, whose steady trickle of lo-fi, sample-heavy and deeply unsettling loops and collages finally petered out this year as the pair announced their split. The album that Blunt delivered this spring, The Redeemer, along with its low-profile companion piece Stone Island, which slipped out quietly via a Russian website this summer, presented a drastic about-face for the producer and singer. Driven by deeply personal (though perhaps questionably sincere) lyrics and constructed from pop music’s most familiar gestures of heartbreak and despair (weepy strings, gently fingerpicked guitars), Blunt’s new material is above all guided by his own voice.
His transition from art provocateur to doleful troubadour is both awkward and fascinating; a recent show at The 100 Club in London offered the unexpectedly weird experience of seeing Blunt simply perform, standing centre stage and singing the intimate details of his messy break-up (albeit with an interlude devoted to an aural onslaught of sub-bass). It’s hard not to assume this rupture has something to do with the disappearance of his former Hype Williams accomplice, of course, and though questions of this nature were decisively banned from our conversation, Blunt himself lets slip the occasional fragment that hints at his unhealed wounds, and what could be the title of his next release (A Bullet In Yr Eye, Throwin Money Tha Sky). Frankly, it feels like the closest we’re going to get to the artist in his current incarnation.
Apparently located in Atlanta, Georgia, for the duration of FACT’s interview, Blunt will soon return to Europe to tour his live show across Portugal, Germany, Holland, France and the UK before the end of the year, beginning with a performance at Unsound Festival in Krakow, Poland, on November 18. Catch him if you can.
Dean Blunt: da,hi
Hello. Where are you today?
Really? What brings you there?
teaching kids about agency
What kind of agency?
just making them aware of the wide palette
i don’t like kids
so its not one of those
I’m teaching them so hopefully i’ll like kids in the future
college park waterbwoys
Are you making music with them?
i couldn’t teach them anything in regards to that
Okay. Well let’s talk about music anyway then.
do we have to?
It’s vital that we do. You played at The 100 Club recently, and for once you were the visible ‘star’ of the show. How did it feel to be at the front of the stage, exposed? With Hype Williams gigs you were often hidden in darkness.
yeah i get paid more now
Who was with you?
joanne and dave
rosie and jim
tia and tamera
You had a security guy on stage with you too. Is that to protect you from rabid fans?
few reasons.always need a brother by my side
Tell me about the support act you chose.
he can do the whole maxwell mtv unplugged in acapella
working on the lauryn hill one
minus the breakdown
or maybe including it
j star valentine is his name
he believes in himself
The show included a section of heavy strobing and sub-bass – was that music that you had made especially for the show?
It’s not the first time you’ve created an extreme, visceral experience as part of the live performance. I saw the Hype Williams show at The Dome last year – it was pitch-black and I remember feeling like I was being physically attacked by bass. It was very disorientating – I couldn’t even work out where the stage was after a while.
On one hand it seems like a mode of performance art – bludgeoning your audience with volume, making them uncomfortable? Or is there a link with dub music too, maybe?
the dome is shaka country . don’t think I’ve ever intentionally made dub
I’m from here,so certain sounds enter your language
so can’t articulate beyond that
its a noisy city
But you enjoy forcing that intense experience on your audience, I guess?
people not from london obsess over london sounds
way more than actual londoners
they try too hard
so most ‘dub/uk/bass nonsense is usually swag
when its made by tom from bath
justin timberlake aint a good dancer..he counts his steps like raatid mathematician
it isn’t natural to him
and it translates
or whatever he is called
can’t ever nail what he’s trying
because its assimilated
dub…not thinking about it
or at all
Stone Island seems like a companion piece to The Redeemer, it seems to share the same musical DNA, if you like.
And you gave it away as a free download – was that a way of drawing a line under this particular phase, so that the next record will be quite different?
i gave it to the russians because they always have to rip things from us,no one wants to give them anything
didn’t want it to leave russia
Unfortunately that’s what happens when things appear on the internet. So will you be drinking the same champagne in a different hotel soon, or are you onto a different drink entirely now?
she chooses i drink
she rolls i smoke
That’s a bum deal. Let’s talk a bit about actually making music. How long do you spend on composition, or does writing happen almost at the same time as recording?
the answers to all these things can come in a less direct form.
its not important how long i spend
or what happens in that space
Let me try to be less direct, then. Why do you think some people might find your music “difficult”?
never thought about what people think
inga was the only opinion that mattered
and i can’t answer ..as its not difficult to me
why would someone make something purposefully difficult
i understand it
but aint nobody here got time for that
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 1/2)
You obviously prefer not to “explain” your music – but do you welcome other people’s attempts to excavate meaning from it?
And if I’m talking too fast it just means you’re listening too slow. And if you listen a little faster maybe you’ll catch up
and i think I’m talking at a normal pace so who nose
I’m not on the net so i don’t know what people think
has nowt to do with me
but someones listening and keeping me out of trouble
else i’d be back in the ring
But the fact that you release music means you know that people are out there, listening to it.
people bitch about the world
You could choose not to release it – surely you’re putting it out there for others to enjoy as well?
but its there job to make things exist
that they want to see or hear
nobody listened and i had to do other things to get by
then i didn’t have to
production of work has never ceased
in all that time
but now i don’t have to do certain things to get by
and can own a bugatti
bugatti without drivers licence
evander is a serious name
What happened to the play you wrote? It was going to be performed at the ICA but I think it got cancelled.
yeah the ica is bruck pocket
no pay no play
turned it into a bbc radio play
should air this year
trying to get the cast of that itv show oasis to do the sequel
but dean gaffney is a bit of a long ting
Aren’t you in the play yourself?
no i wrote it
Have you heard that Danny Dyer has just moved into the Queen Vic? I’m deadly serious. Maybe Dean Gaffney is not such a long shot.
danny dyer has had a reverse career..all he wanted was to have his name above that door
everything till now was for this moment
I’m getting a tear tattoo in his honour
and pouring some hen-dog in his memory
What’s your favourite British gangster film?
blunt wraps , and
a pembury estate coming of age story
yoots , dreem
You’re from round there right? Do you spend much time in Hackney these days?
pretty dry now
all the new people think I’m gonna rob them
other wise they ask me to sign shit
Have you left London completely? I read you once said something along the lines of Berlin being a coffee shop for people who’ve failed in their own city. I always remember that.
yeah i lost a few berlin soldiers after that one.skype contacts dropped a bit
but they too sensitive
all that damn coffee
i lived in lisbon
Do you think living in London is better for making art and music then?
its just better than berlin..people like to remove themselves from the place that triggers their insecurities
or to save relationships
go where temptation doesn’t exist
But maybe insecurities are inevitable.
like mice in a hole
face the demons
london is full of them
new york is worse
hence why i like it
need to go through the inferno
to know the truth
and find peace
Does pain always make for good art?
I’m just going to ask a few more questions cos I’ve kept you for an hour now.
I’m easy.watching a film
What are you watching?
depends what amuses you in it
gotta see a black face on screen at least once a day
I don’t know it but a quick Google tells me it’s a solid one-and-a-half star rated film. Is that unfair?
today its a bad reel
Okay, two more questions. Hype Williams has come to end. You’ve described it before as a project that gets passed on from one artist to the next, but it seems like you held onto it for quite a while. Have you passed it on to another person? Would we be able to recognise the next reincarnation of Hype Williams somewhere?
hype williams hasn’t ended
inga just isn’t there
but she wasn’t the only other person involved in the project
sometimes to work with someone ,you need to consume each other to realise things.and unfortunately once that consumption has run its course,things may change
but the child remains
Do you think you would want to work with someone else again? Or is it a solo mission from now on?
as i said,hype williams is not a two person affair
just two fools that take the flak for it
Ha. Okay, final question.
A Bullet In Yr Eye ,Throwin Money Tha Sky’ ….soonish
Do you think I’m going to ask what you’re releasing next? And is that the answer?
I was actually just going to ask what the weed’s like in Atlanta.
like a slap in the face from a tootsies miami doorman
Perfect. Okay, well enjoy the rest of Black Gestapo. Thanks for Skyping man.