“I’m not up to much to be honest, just chillin’ out, waiting for your call” - perhaps not the swaggering first liner I had imagined I’d get out of one half of indie’s most mischievous duo, but it’s always nice to feel important, I figure.
Last time Miles Kane was doing the interview rounds it was pending a new Last Shadow Puppets record, parading a rock ’n’ let’s-roll-with-it persona alongside Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner.
Chatting to Miles two years later, it seems as though he’s matured, somewhat mellowed - either that or simply absent of his best pal of whom to bounce banter. “I can’t believe it has been five years, man, since I was doing interviews and putting out tunes for the second solo one”. ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’ was Miles’ brash brand of decade-blurring, embracing the hip-swinging of the beating 60s, moody glamour of the 70s and, of course, those explicit 90s Britpop influences. “It feels great though, I think I just feel different doing it now than I did then”.
Upon first spin, his new single release is transparent evidence of a Miles 2.0 - or at least a Miles 1.5. “I think that tune ‘Loaded’ was a good one to come back with”, he talks of the track with genuine pride. “We thought that we were going to hit with a punky one first, which will now come later. But there was just something about ‘Loaded’, I think it’s a classy song, you know? So it was a no-brainer to drop it really.”
This new shade of Kane wasn’t without the help of alt-pop’s finest, though, co-written by music royalty Lana Del Rey and everyone’s top London geezer, Jamie T.
“Jamie, he’s mega, such a great writer. I think maybe you can hear his influence on the verses of the track. I would tend to use half the amount of words and maybe croon it a bit more but he encouraged me to be more rhythmical, it sounds more exciting, maybe. I’ve a lot of respect and time for Jamie.”
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I’m having my 'Adele moment!'
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A musician who remains at his most comfortable when collaborating with those he’d call friends - let’s drop in Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher in here - it’s clear that Miles has always been a social participator of his music scene. “I used to love writing tunes on my own. But the older I get these opportunities have come to me. I like being around people and working with people who it feels right and cool and natural with”, he comments.
“I think going in and out with different writers, I don’t seem to get anything solid. For a solid piece of work you’ve got to have a rapport with whoever you’re doing it with, if you know what I mean? I am very fortunate that I do like working like that.”
Despite an intrinsic love for music (we chat about a Beatles tribute band he put together “for fun, really” with Muse’s Matt Bellamy - “oh my god it’s like my dream job!”), Miles is truthful about his distracted personality. “I do like sitting on the acoustic in the house and just doing a tune like that as well, but sometimes I just get bored and sidetracked and keep putting the kettle on. It makes me concentrate more being around other people, if I’m being honest.”
Miles is a man with heart - despite perhaps a reputation of excessive bravado. If his last venture with the Shadow Puppets’ ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’ was lust, Miles talks of his upcoming album as love. “It’s all pretty emotional. The stuff I was going through at the time of making this record - being in a relationship, not being in a relationship - you know, the classic - I’m having my ‘Adele moment’, I guess!”
Don’t go in expecting a record of a lighters-in-the-air mentality, though. “There’s anxiety in these songs, but I feel like you don’t have to write a ballad to get the emotional point across. I like upbeat music, fast music, and sort of... aggressive music.”
These ‘aggressive’ sonics could be influenced by Miles love of wresting - the new LP, coming this summer, is titled ‘Coup De Grace’. “It means ‘the final blow’, like... ‘the end’, and in my weird mind I saw a correlation between this sort of album and that name. Me being a super fan of WWE and never growing out of it as a kid. It started off as a joke, but the more I thought about it it just seemed right”.
Does the title imply the beginning of the end for Miles solo venture? With our conversation on new-found inspiration, I’m not so sure.
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For a solid piece of work you’ve got to have a rapport with whoever you’re doing it with...
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Talks turn to a key association with Miles, bezzie mate Alex Turner. I’m half expecting a snappy response - this is a Miles interview about a Miles album, but he appears comfortable with (or perhaps simply accustomed to) my questions, content with his - we all know it - inferior position next to the Arctic Monkeys’ frontman.
I ask where he sees their musical futures together. He pauses for so long I assume the line’s gone dead, then he stutters. “I mean, I don’t want to speak for him, but I feel very comfortable and excited with the route that I’m going on with my music, and I guess I can sort of say the same for him”.
“We’ve gone on two different paths with these two records, mine and his, we’re sort of in sync with releasing music which has never happened before. It’s all sort of stemmed from that last Shadow Puppets; he’s gone down the road of the ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’ kind of style, and I’ve gone down the road of the ‘Bad Habits’ type of tune. Alex has gone left and I’ve gone right”, you know?”
As I am writing, Arctic Monkeys are just 12 hours into having dropped their sixth album, ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. Miles is right about this style split, and with mixed reviews of what some have termed an album of ‘lounge piano’ from Alex & Co., they’ll almost definitely be a fanbase awaiting ‘Coup De Grace’’s supposed bolder sound; we’re probably good to expect some guitar bops.
Has Miles had any involvement in the Arctic’s music this time round? His answer’s pretty blunt. “No, no. They don't need me, they’re fine.”
He talks as though him and Alex might have distanced themselves a little since their last musical reunion for that whimsical-bad-boy Puppets sophomore, perhaps well due a come-down after their ‘it’s just fucking rock ’n’ roll’ antics. The two of them together always seemed to equal trouble. Really great music, but really great trouble.
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Alex has gone left and I’ve gone right...
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In the spring of 2016, the pair were interviewed in the lobby on a fancy Manhattan hotel by a female journalist from SPIN. Miles was accused of inappropriate comments, and all was exposed in the write-up. As a female journalist myself, I feel it would be an opportunity wasted not to bring it up.
I ask about the incident and how he thinks the music industry can change with regards to female professionals being treated as just that, professionals. After what is an insightful, humorous and perfectly polite chat, I can’t help but feel a little bit disappointed by his response. “In my point of view, that was just a complete misunderstanding. I was raised by my mother and my auntie - strong women - and I’ve never seen women as being anything lower than a man. It’s the way I’ve always seen it, from being a kid, growing up with strong women around me. So I don’t know any different really”.
Throw in some stutters, repetition and some hesitant uncertainty and that’s an accurate response there from Miles. The equality he talks of should be a given, and his remarks echo an ingrained cultural perspective that’s never grown into anything more than a basic response.
In spite of all this, though, I am genuinely intrigued by this album, and Miles remains a charismatic personality and performer. His next step will be worth analysing.
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‘Coup De Grace’ drops this summer via Virgin EMI.
Words: Alice Mortimer
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