Jac Bond 05/11/2007
Kid Harpoon Friday 26th October at Clwb Ifor Bach (The Welsh Club), Cardiff
Finally, after nearly two years of supporting exceptional acts such as Jamie T, Larrikin Love and The Mystery Jets (to name but a miniscule few) Tom Hull, aka Kid Harpoon, is taking centre stage and headlining his own British tour following the release of his first EP, aptly named 'The First EP.'
Last Friday I harassed the guitar-souled, great-music militant at Clwb Ifor Bach (The Welsh Club) to find out about his new release, inspirations and er… childhood cartoons.
Approaching Tom whilst he was finished his sound check with the band I set about asking him some relevant questions while he re-stringed, he seemed happy enough…
Last weekend at Rough Trade's East London Shop 1,000 copies of your EP were painted to form a massive mosaic of the artwork featured on the cover of the CD version, how did that go?
Yeah it was cool, there's this artist called Lenin that came down to do the painting…
Was he the bloke that took the original photo?
Naa, the guy that took the photo is a close friend called Tom Beard he's done all the photography for all my artwork. So he took the photo and Lenin used the picture to paint a version of it across all of the vinyl.
Did it look like the original?
Yeah it did, well one of the legs looked a bit fat but yeah it looked really cool.
Whose idea was it?
It was a combination of mine, and a friend who works at XL; we sat down and thought right let's do something different, so we came up with that.
There's also a printed word on one side of the cover, which links to a story?
Yeah you get a story of Kid Harpoon, where the name comes from, a story that I originally wrote and gave to a published writer friend called John Christie, who developed it into a thousand word story. So you get a 1,000 parts of a picture and a 1,000 parts of a story.
Did Channel Four film the day for a documentary?
They came down to film for something they're gonna feature me in, the guy filmed Lenin painting for footage they'll later speed up and put in a documentary that includes me. Afterwards I played an acoustic gig in the store.
Many people turn up for that?
Yeah it was really cool, really busy and it's nice to play acoustic because we play so many band gigs at the moment.
When I first saw you play it was as a solo act, the last time you were playing in a group - do you find you get more crowd response playing in a group?
It's different. People that have seen me play on my own say that they prefer it and people that have seen me play in a band say that they prefer that. The thing is I'm a songwriter that wants to take songs in different directions, do my songs in different ways, so at the moment I'm getting a set together which is a different type of band involving a double bass, a smaller drum kit, an acoustic and a fiddle. But it's about the songs more than the arrangement, when you saw us last I think it was only like the second time I'd played with a band and we've got a different line up now, new drummer and a piano player.
How does it compare growing up and living in Medway, near Chatham in Kent, to where you now live now in North London, the scenes completely different?
Well I think in a way Medway's quite cool because it's like everyone's just pissed off about not having anything there and that's when I find it easier to write when I'm really pissed off about something. So Medway's quite cool because you get frustrated really easily.
The thing about London is, at the moment especially, is that everything's really trendy. The thing I like about Medway, that I miss, especially with the whole Billy Childish thing (Medway's most well known export), is there's an almost retro movement going on there where people are into the old English garage bands, and that scene.
Chatham is well known to have spawned the chav sub-culture is there a noticeable split there between them and the more alternative?
Yeah I think there always has been that split. But in terms of London it's more like the scene is about what clothes you wear and who you are, whether or not you wear a baseball cap and what words you use, stuff like that. It's not about that for me and for what I know of Medway, the musicians around there and what I experienced when I was living there, it's not really about that either. Medway's more about whose doing the best music.
Which of your contemporaries do you admire?
Jamie T. I toured with Jamie T last year and I love Jamie because he's not about the trendy side of stuff, all he wants to do is write good songs. I love that about him. He's got a good work ethic, he's into it, and he's an amazing songwriter.
Also I've been writing a lot with William from the Mystery Jets, I like the way they see music. We're doing a thing for the BBC's Electric Proms it's gonna be a Mystery Jets / Kid Harpoon collaboration, so we're gonna perform Diamonds [In The Dark] - we've got fiddles and the double bass for the track. Tomorrow I'm heading off early to London for that.
I'm also getting into the whole blog thing. There's so many great bands that I keep discovering on the Internet where you can download tracks. There's a lot more on there than there is commercially. There's a lot of shit coming out at the moment, I don't think there's a lot of great music at present, apart from a notable few.
What inspires your quirky song writing style, you've written over 200 in the past year?
Yeah I write loads. Bonnie 'Prince' Billie was a massive influence on me he made me think, shit, I've gotta write something with substance. I'm always playing music and writing melodies, riffs and lyrics. Really it's all about the lyrics for me; I can't stand a song that's got a good melody but bad lyrics. I've been reading a lot of poetry and books to draw inspiration.
Whose poetry do you like?
I've just got into this guy called Rainer Maria Rilke who's amazing. His style's really musical, the images you conjure up while reading his work really appeals to me. I found out recently that Jeff Buckley was a big fan of Rilke, so that's cool. I think some poets are more musical in the way they write, as in the way some directors are when they produce films - like David Lynch, I think he's quite musical in the way he directs his films.
What areas in Britain react best to your style?
It's different, like I've never had a bad gig in Southampton. There's this one place, The Joiners, in Southampton and every time I'm there I have a good gig but I don't know why that is. I just think some places are more receptive, especially places like Newcastle, Liverpool and up north in the Midlands. Particularly with my music because it's not like traditional singer-song writing but it is more about the songs and people there seem more into that than say wearing pink jeans, they're into substance, the music.
Over the summer I saw your unreleased track “Late for the Devil” on MTV 2, a version where you're busking on the streets of Texas during the time of SXSW. Kid Harpoon to me at the time was someone I'd heard just on tour, a kinda underground thing - then I saw you on MTV?
That was a weird blag actually, it wasn't planned or anything. The label had sent me out there and I was kinda just running around getting pissed and having the best time ever. I had a few shows out there, but it wasn't a big thing me being there. For some people it was really big to push them, but for me it wasn't a massive thing [promotion wise] so I thought cool I've got no pressure, so I had the best time ever. I was out there with people like Jack Peñate and all that lot, they were doing MTV stuff, and Jamie was doing MTV stuff and I ended up getting trolleyed with the production people. It ended up with loads of mad stuff happening out there crazy, crazy things and MTV were like 'why don't we do something with Kid Harpoon he's round the corner with his guitar - ok we'll film him busking here', it wasn't a planned thing.
Completely unrelated and irrelevant but when you were a nipper which did you prefer He-Man or Thundercats?
Well I had a He-Man Battle cat when I was younger, so I guess at the time I preferred that.
To be honest with you I had an ulterior motive with that question, a bet I've got on with my girlfriend - that's a tenner for me! Thanks for that and cheers for the interview, it's been a pleasure.
After the interview I went to see his set with the revised version of his band, The Powers That Be. I'd heard many of the tracks live before but with the new arrangement it adds real depth to the melodies. The club was rammed and buzzing to the sounds of Kid Harpoon. Most of his set consisted of tracks from the EP; additional favourites like “Late For The Devil” and “Death Of A Rose” were also thrown in the mix.
Kid Harpoon is a very down to earth guy that is obviously more concerned with content of his music than just the aesthetics. This certainly pays off; on listening to The First EP you get a window into Kid's world, a world of obscurity, certainties and truths.
Irritated by the state of pop culture Kid's lyrics are quirky, intelligent and original - A breath off fresh air in the current shit-laden climate of crap British pop. Kid wades through the stench of samey-samey and comes up smelling of true talent. Britain needs him.
If you want a piece of music history, Kid Harpoon's The First EP is available on limited-release vinyl (and CD) at