Kirsty Johnson 14/11/2008
Chris T-T is a man of many marvels. His music and writing keep him ever busy, while his wit and clever songs gain him continued attention from critics and fans alike. I caught up with Chris supporting his pal, Frank Turner, on one of his biggest tours to date, to chat about life in the world of today.
This is one of the biggest tours you've done, so far do you feel that you're winning over some of Frank's audiences or pissing them off?
In the past, when I've played solo supporting Frank or we've done duo shows, I've got a real amount of love from his audience and they're really supportive. His support has brought a younger audience to my gigs. I think with the band it's tougher, because we are rocking out and, in a way, given his roots in punk rock, it's funny that his band is based on an acoustic guitar and voice. They still rock, they're not soft but they're definitely an acoustic: sort of band. Whereas we are deliberately going out there to rock our bollocks off: just because that's what we want to do. In a way that's the luxury of a support slot, and the new album is rocky as well. Even though we're not compromising, they're being really nice.
You've done a lot of different projects, not just music-related. Do you think it's important to keep that variation in what you do, rather than to solely concentrate on music?
I would love to just do music. If you said to me I've got three hundred gigs for you next year, and each one pays £1000, I would do that. I've just been confirmed for South By Southwest, in Texas in March, which means that I can afford to go and do a big tour of the States. I love writing, one of the reasons that I write as an alternative career is that I can do it here. I wrote my last column for the Morning Star in the dressing room in Glasgow and I can keep supplying material to them, so it's very much the convenience as well. I'd much rather do that than be a dustman. Oh shit, not that there's anything wrong with being a dustman. What I really want to be doing is writing music, performing music and recording music, that's where my heart is.
Do you plan to develop your writing to incorporate any books?
I have done a lot of short fiction and I would like to publish that in the future because it's good enough and it's interesting. I have never managed to develop something longer because my writing style is inconsistent. If I start writing and I start building characters that last, when it comes to the part of actually physically writing the thing, if anyone reads chapter one and chapter three or four, they read like a different writer. I can't get the consistency. I don't know if that will come with age, maybe I'll mature into it, but I really don't know. Maybe I don't have that skill, but I'll definitely do short fiction and creative journalism as well.
Do your interests in writing ever distract or delay your work on new music material?
Yes, but only because I feel beholden to other people. For example, if I'm late with a column or I owe someone a piece of writing, then it will get in the way, but that's my fault. I would never find myself so into the writing that I think oh now I'm not going to do music.
Do you feel the research for your writing provides you with musical inspiration?
Yes. Quite often the ideas swap, so I'll have an idea that I really like, it's a strong idea, and I'll start writing a short story, but I can't make it work Then two months later suddenly I'll realise it's a song, and it fits a song, or vice versa. 'Hedgehog Song', from '253', was a short story for ages and it just didn't work as a short story because it was too cheesy, and it was too many words for a really simple, sharp focused idea, then suddenly it was a song.
When you play live sometimes you're joined on stage by others, such as Frank, who sing along. Do you enjoy a bit of team spirit and the tone it adds to songs, or do you wish he'd just get lost!?
I love it because I can pinch his arse. With Frank, I've never been attached or connected to someone who is doing so well before. There's a simple, professional reality that one focuses on, which is that to a lot of people out there he is important. Obviously I value what I do, and the fact that he is a proper, honest songwriter about to break through is really important because there's so much shit out there. He's got this single, it could chart, it's a fucking good song, but more importantly, it's true and that's what I've always wanted to do myself.
Are you bothered if people take things a bit too seriously and feel offended by your lyrics, or are you happy that you provoke a reaction?
I've occasionally been bothered when people misunderstand, but I'm certainly not bothered if someone does understand what I'm trying to say and disagrees. That's fine, I am trying to provoke a reaction. If someone comes up to me, on the rare occasion, and says they really enjoyed my set, but. I'm always quite impressed that they had the courage to do that, so I do like it, it's a cool thing.
Could you summarise what your latest single, 'We Are The King Of England', is all about?
'We Are The King Of England' is now about something slightly different from when I wrote it because when I wrote it, it was part of this fictional idea of the collapse of London and a civil war. But more and more I think of 'Capital' as an album about money, it's almost like 'Das Kapital' rather than a fictional battle. All of the songs, that were written to be a battle, you can read in the context of what's going on now, apart from 'Where Were You'. I really like the idea that 'We Are The King OF England' fits this fictional rescue - that the people in charge who ripped us off are ripping us off again under the guise of rescuing themselves from the fuck up they made, and we pay for it.
Do you get fed up with everyone going on about the economic crisis, saying how terrible it is, or do you worry about it yourself?
I worry about it to do with violence actually, and crime, particularly in the States. I have a very frightening picture in my brain of where the United States could go as the empire crumbles. They're armed, they all have guns and so it's really dangerous. You get more and more people with no money. They don't have a National Health Service, the problems of people getting sick and then just dying because they can't afford to save themselves are extraordinary and I think we're going to see enormous bloodshed within our lifetime. Not that I want that, but that's my feeling about the economic crisis.
What plans do you have for after your European dates?
A quiet Christmas and then I'm going back to the United States in the new year, but before that I've got to finish demo-ing my record and I've got to hand in the new songs, or everyone will just scream at me, because I do owe some new songs.
Chris T-T's new single 'We Are The King Of England' is out now through Xtramile Recordings. It's taken from the album 'Capital.'