On 'Diamond Mine', time and touring

You've heard Jon Hopkins' take on his collaboration with King Creosote (read our interview with Hopkins HERE), now read King Kenny's story of the creative process behind the 'Diamond Mine' album.

Diamond Mine is a remarkable collaboration that sees material by King Creosote selected and interpreted by London-based electronic musician, Jon Hopkins. The result, through various means, captures the small village of Anstruther on Scotland’s east coast where King Creosote is based, from captured café noises to stories about local fishermen. It’s a dense and fascinating half an hour of music that has taken many years to create. The result isn't too perfect or polished. Instead, it's real, and delicate, and quite beautiful. Kenny Anderson, aka King Creosote, spoke to us about creating the album.

How did the collaboration with Jon Hopkins come about?
We had the idea for a combined album six or more years ago. I was working on my album, Bombshell, at the time, and I suggested Jon to produce it. This was before his Coldplay stuff, and the label was like, 'Has he done a band?'

Presumably this was quite different process. How did the collaboration work, practically?
Jon came up to Fife with his digital recorder for field recording, and I would come to London and do guitar and vocals. Jon had this idea that the album would sound very 'Fife' – my world, if you like. I'd put songs forward, but he had the grand design.

Were you also interested in creating something that sounded like where you’re from?
I don't go out to write songs about living in a fishing village, but it just so happens that these are my influences. I'm bound to use the language of the area, and use place names that mean something to me. Like Bats In The Attic mentions the church – I was cycling past it when that lyric came to me. There's me feeling like I'm ageing, getting unhealthy, and so I was taking my pulse while cycling, with the clock chiming so I had an idea of how many pulses there were while I was going downhill.

On the subject of time, the pace of the album doesn't seem overly concerned with it.
We're both fans of albums that take longer for you to hear everything, to have it click into place. Not all records should be played on the tube, with that background noise. What's wrong with an album that only works at 2am, or in a living room with a decent pot of earl grey? As a label, we're keen on going back to vinyl. There's something about that ritual, saying 'I'm going to play an album now.'

It takes its time, and yet the album's not much longer than half an hour long.
It's a short album, but if you concentrate on it, it feels like an hour and a half. It's the aural equivalent of when you leave the cinema on a summer's night, and you've been completely immersed in it, and then you come out and it's still daylight. You have to do a reality check and go, 'This is my life,' and find the car. It's not something you'd put on in the background, playing off your laptop while you're Twittering and Facebooking and all that shit.

Why 'Diamond Mine'?
There was song by that name that was going to be the centrepiece of the album, but it didn't fit the sequence. Jon loved the title though. He was the one trawling through my catalogue of songs, hopefully picking out the gems, and so he had the title for it way back. Even when the song didn't make the grade, the title remained.

Hopkins somehow manages to avoid giving the album a processed, digital feel – in fact, the very opposite. Was this your influence?
Jon and I laugh at this. I'm very much of the modern-life-is-quite-rubbish school of thought, while he's reassuring me that there are positive benefits to blah. And I can hear that in this record – my pulling back and trying to halt progress, while I can hear Jon taking it further. He's tried to disguise progress, going 'I've not used any electronics' and 'That's just your guitar.' His genius in using the whole digital sphere is to create something that sounds analogue.

And you prefer that?
It's better if things are slightly wrong – I don't think your ear is built to hear so precisely. For centuries we tried to nail accurate timekeeping, but an analogue clock, whether it loses or gains time, is kind of preferable. Why do you need to know so accurately? It's like, the more accurate clocks get, the less accurate everything else gets. You've got these big mechanical devices – how can you run these to the second?

There’s a narrative to John Taylor's Month Away. Could you tell me about that?
He was a neighbour of mine that, any time he was home, seemed to be rolling about pissed. Then he'd be gone, and then back. One day he was outside with a blackened settee after setting his place on fire. Speaking to him, I realised my idea of what it was like to be a fisherman was obviously off the mark. It's a pretty bizarre life. You work 16 hours a day for a month, and then you come home and have zero to do. You've got all this money, but can't maintain relationships... so they just drink, spending their time on shore dreading going back, but needing to be back because it's their life, and the only thing that makes sense. I was thinking about that, and how it's a bit like touring. You're home, and you get and fed up and bored, but then when you're on it you wish you were home.

What is the plan for touring with Diamond Mine, in that case?
With the nature of the record, we want to do a few festivals, but we've got to do the right ones and play the right time of day. It would have to be early afternoon, or 3am maybe. The atmosphere has to be conducive. We wouldn't want to play the type of venue where it would be lost. So we're doing the Union Chapel in London, and a guy in Cardiff has a converted church. It's obvious that churches are more suitable for an album like this. We're keen to do other shows, but it's about how we're going to do them. The last thing you want is bottles of pee thrown at you.

How about when you’re done with that?
I've started work on a King Creosote album, and want that out by the end of the year, assuming I get it finished and it's all accepted and the usual baloney. I've not had an album out since 2009. Of course, if you want a decent album tour, then it's a mistake to do festivals. You make an album and you tour it, and then the following year you do the festivals, because if you do festivals, you're playing to people that would have gone to the tour. But I can't afford to sit on my arse all summer and not do anything.

Words by Clinton Cawood


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