Story / Kristy Benjamin
Photos / Elizabeth Tesone
Today we are premiering CAMPION’S new single Death or Glory. Like stepping into a soft electric dream, this amazing audio/visual combo premiere is more than fitting. We talk to Alex Campion here, about his musical journey so far and what we can expect moving forward.
You are currently based in Seattle but are a London Native. You also spent a few years in Los Angeles. Which is your favorite? Do you think the three cities combined have influenced your music one way or another?
I mean, London’s in my marrow. It’s where I grew up, so it will always be woven into the fabric of what I am. I miss it terribly, sometimes–the drizzly, ludicrous city that it is. But I’ve been in Seattle or nearby for six years and was in LA for nearly four, so I’m fond of both those cities, too. How could they not have influenced me in some enormous way? Strife and suffering, inflicted by the peculiar culture of a city, and the strange sort of flavor that forms in one’s mind, are always present in me. Struggling in a particular city will make a person trying to do something reach right down to make useful what often feels like total uselessness. I also made some very dear friends in Everett, just north of Seattle, whose deep love of music had a profound effect on my understanding of what music can mean to a group of people stuck in the same place. Watching people I’ve admired try to free themselves to become better artists is the most important thing I’ve seen in any of those places.
You’ve been performing off and on over the years, have spent more time in the studio in the past few years and are beginning to perform live more often again! Which do you prefer (although we think we may have a guess on that) how has it been to get back out into live performances?
I have a love/hate relationship with live performance. I read somewhere that Grimes performs her stuff simply out of necessity, because, when she was first starting, she was the only person upon whom she could rely to make the music she wrote happen in a live setting. I sort of feel that way, too. Sometimes it feels incredible. Sometimes I come off stage and really hate myself. I had a live-looping setup for the last year-and-a-half and have played a few really fun shows, though. But if I’m honest, my dream existence would be to be holed up in a cottage somewhere in Norfolk, UK, churning out an album every now and again, and just being; going for walks along country lanes; milling about, drinking cups of tea to get the old gears moving, like some sort of musical novelist. I’d basically like to be Kate Bush. Writing is like playing with LEGOs and solving a puzzle and dressing up in your favorite outfit and admiring yourself in the mirror all at the same time! It carves me out a space in the universe like nothing else I’ve ever found. When I really plumb the depths, which I do on a regular basis, thinking of what I have managed to achieve with my songs is the only thing that keeps me right-side-up.
This song is the first release of a forthcoming album which we can’t wait to hear. You picked this as the single, can you tell us a little bit about why and what it’s about?
The song is about embarking on a patently doomed relationship in full knowledge of that fact, because what else is there to do in life? It’s set against the backdrop of the current political nightmare this country is enduring, as well as a general ambiance of self-loathing. The chorus is about the overblown rhetoric of romance, and how, very often, pedestrian, minute-to-minute existence completely belies such grandiose notions. There’s a propulsive quality to the song, lent chiefly by the neurotic, slightly threatening arpeggiated synth-bass line, that matches how I feel about my own mortality at least half of my waking hours. I’ve always had this panic that time is running out, even when I was little and right at the start of it all. It breeds a desperation that causes me to leap into ill-advised things feet first, and love affairs seem to be no exception. Still, like much of what I do, it’s curiously upbeat. I can’t tell you why. That’s just how it comes out. Maybe something to do with the fact that I do actually manage to claw myself out of bed every morning in spite of some fairly hefty pessimism. I picked it because I love the thing, obviously, but also because it’s catchy and easier to get into than some of my knottier stuff–a shameless market-driven decision! It was a pleasure to make, too. I produced it entirely on my own, and then recorded the vocals and mixed it with my friend, Seattle based producer/engineer, Luke Dumke at Pinehill Studios. I’m very excited to be able to say it was mastered by Burial and Flying Lotus’ mastering engineer, Jason Goz, at Transition Studios in London. He did such a killer job.
We love that you released this as an audio visual combo. How did this come about?
I got together with a photographer I knew and proposed a photo shoot in an abandoned gold mining town on the border of Canada and Washington State, called Bodie. I pictured lying naked on the floor surrounded by musical equipment, as if the things had kidnapped me or something. Maybe that says a lot about my relationship with art! The cinemagraph that accompanies the song was a way of presenting more than just sound, without necessarily having the budget yet to make a full-scale video. It’s pretty simple, but we managed to capture a slightly mournful, self-enforced solitude with it. That’s something I struggle with a lot, and there’s definitely that quality to Death Or Glory.
Do you have plans to incorporate visuals into your live shows, it seems like you have such a good eye for a fully immersive performance experience.
I do have plans to incorporate visuals into my live show. I saw Flying Lotus at Upstream Fest in Seattle after my set earlier that day, and he had the most incredible visuals I’ve ever seen at a gig. I would love to have something overblown and immersive like that, that just completely sucks you in and whirls you around and spits you back out again! I’m working on it!
What can we expect moving forward? Any details on upcoming shows & release dates?
I am putting the finishing touches to a cover of a very famous dance tune from the 90s. I won’t say what it is, except that it’s featured heavily in a well-known Will Ferrell movie about night-clubbing. It’s a bit of fun, really: it was a song I grew up with when it first came out, so I wanted to try my hand at reworking the thing and imbuing it with the moodiness that is so cunningly hidden amongst all that 90s pop-chart techno. That will be coming out in the next couple of months.
If you could have anyone guest sing on a song with you who would it be?
Bjork. She’s a massive influence on what I do. Homogenic and Vespertine are two of my favorite albums of all time.