Alex Da Corte

Annie Clark, who records under the name St. Vincent, is one of pop’s originals.

The missing link between Kate Bush and Jimi Hendrix, she is noted for her mezzo-soprano voice and her virtuoso musicianship.

A multi-instrumentalist of Prince-like ambition, Rolling Stone magazine once named her the 26th Greatest Guitarist of All Time.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Clark began her career as a member of sprawling Noughties’ oddities The Polyphonic Spree, before joining Sufjan Stevens’ touring band.

She released her first solo album, the excellently-titled Marry Me, to critical acclaim in 2007, and has not stopped since.

Each release is significant both for its handbrake-turn in music styles and for Clark’s accompanying new visual direction, sometimes provocative, sometimes demure, but always fascinating.

She has won shelves-full of awards, including a trio of Grammys – most recently for her 2021 album, the 1970s-influenced Daddy’s Home. If all that sounds a bit like hard work, she also knows how to write a hit.

St. Vincent’s seventh album All Born Screaming is a big, noisy, crunchy record, heavy on fat 1980s synthesisers and a growling industrial menace that has already seen it compared to Nine Inch Nails.

We met in a central London hotel to discuss it recently. As celebrity cliché dictates, Clark is a big presence on stage but tiny in real life.

Dressed exclusively in black and red she was dwarfed by a suite-sized sofa as she waxed lyrical about her love for a UK restaurant that doesn’t get enough love from visiting global superstars: Pret A Manger. (Formidable porridge, apparently.)

Impossible to credit with being 41-years-old, Clark chose her words with care, weighing up each question before answering.

Alex Da Corte

Is it weird doing interviews when you’ve finished a record? A succession of complete strangers meeting you for 30 minutes to tell you their opinion on something you’ve made

I don’t mind. I feel like anything that helps bring this little cow to market is okay. [Laughs] I’m bringing my prize pig to market.

And what a pig it is

Some pig! I mean, anything that helps get this music that I love and care about out there….

Somehow, this is your seventh album. They all sound very different. When does a collection of songs start to become ‘an album’?

Making albums to me is sort of like polishing perfect little puzzle pieces. Toiling away on these intricate little puzzle pieces. But you don’t know what the big picture they make is. Until the end. Everything on this record was, like, ‘Does every song go deep enough? Does every song take a big enough swing?’

I can hear echoes of Talk Talk, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie…

Oh, I love all those things!

but then the press release mentions Steve Albini and Nine Inch Nails. Who’s right?

Everyone’s right. You’re right, too! I love all those people. Yeah. But it’s missing The Specials.

Two-tone ‘done wrong’ on the track ‘So Many Planets’, apparently

Two-tone done wrong, yeah.

Is there a more satisfactory way to talk about new music than comparing it to old music? That Elvis Costello quote: ‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture – it’s a really stupid thing to do’

To me, this music is black and white and all the colours in a fire. That’s the best way I can think to describe it. And ‘This is the sound of the inside of my head’.

All Born Screaming is the sound of the inside of your head?

Like, ‘Let’s just get into it’, you know? Like, life is impossible. But we get to live it. We’re all born screaming. If you’re screaming when you’re born, that’s a great sign because that means you’re alive. It’s miraculous! The baby’s alive. But we’re all born in protest in some way. It’s just… heaven and hell. And everything in between.

Where does the title come from?

Actually, that line has been with me since I was 22. I’ve been trying to write a song with that in mind since I was 22. [Archly] So, you know, three years ago.

Does it still mean what it meant to you when you were 22?

I don’t know. I think it was always, like, [what-are-ya-gonna-do? voice] ‘Well, we’re all born screaming!’ It’s just: ‘Here we are’.

Haven’t you described this as your ‘least funnest’ record?

No! I think it’s so fun. Or, at least, funny. I meant: it’s not ‘winky’. You know I spent a few records, for sure, dissecting the idea of persona. And dissecting the idea of a ‘pop idol’ and using certain kinds of iconography. In this case there’s not a persona. I’m not really playing with the idea of persona. This is just what the sound of my head sounds like.

What’s ‘the look’ going to be for this one?

Black and white and all the colours of the fire.

Okay! You’ve had some good dressing up moments in the past. Daddy’s Home came with a dishevelled 1970s nightlife vibe

That was so great. It was exactly what I need to do at the time.

Is your job fun?

Which part?

The whole thing

Oh, my God. Playing music for people? Best job in the world. I mean, it’s so miraculous and it’s so rare that anybody gets to make a living doing the thing that they love the most. It’s crazy. I’m so lucky. I’m so fucking lucky.

Alex Da Corte

You’ve also said you want to ‘fuck people up’ with this record. What have we done?

Don’t you sometimes go to a show and you just want to be pummelled? Like, you just want to be thrashed. If artists are a weather vane for culture, or, like, a psychic mirror to what’s happening in our collective unconscious [then right now everything feels] violent, chaotic. And the great thing about music is that, even in the process of making this music, it was using modular synths, which are chaos machines, to create a little bit of release and transcendence. But I just want to be pummelled. I want to hear something that makes me want to go ‘Fuck!’ That’s what I want.

Does that mean you want to shake people out of their complacency?

I mean – any reaction people have to this is totally fine by me. Because that’s for them. And I don’t prescribe to [the idea of wanting] to know what that reaction will be. But for me making it was raw. I just wanted to make something that to me felt dangerous.

There are some fantastic jarring sounds. What’s your favourite noise on this album?

I love noise. Like [the sound of] a snare or something – [makes snare sound ] pchzch! pchzsch! – so there’s some of those. Like, in ‘Broken Man’. The snare in ‘Broken Man’ makes me happy. There’s Two-Tone dub-gone-wrong, running Josh Freese’s [Devo/ Foo Fighters drummer] drums through a Hawk Japanese tape machine [vintage reel-to-reel contraption], playing with the speed of that, so it sounds like absolutely melted. Another of my favourite sounds on the record is Cate LeBon playing the baseline in ‘The Power’s Out’ on an A2 fretless [bass guitar noted for its melodic sound], Cate’s playing it left-handed and my engineer is holding the e-bow. [imitates sound] Raow! Raow! Raow! Raow! And it’s ugly. It’s ugly in something that is otherwise quite sonically beautiful. I would say another of my favourite moments in the record is the way the chorus in ‘Hell Is Near’ just sort of blooms…

You’re a bit of a musical gear-head, right?

I’ve got a lot of gear. But I also went to my friend Justin Meldal-Johnsen [Beck, Nine Inch Nails, Air], who played bass on the record, and he had all the synths. So I would go over to his. He’s got quite an impressive collection. I’ve got a solid collection. Maybe 20 drum machines. And synths… a bunch of them.

Do those jarring sounds originate from, for want of a better expression, ‘mucking about’?

Most of the music-making was me going in, syncing up all the drum machines, syncing up the modulars [synthesisers] and then running them through my board and just making 8am dance parties for myself, on a little bit of mushrooms. Just entertaining myself, for hours and hours.

That’s quite a strong start to the day

Yeah! But you gotta do what you gotta do.

Dave Grohl plays drums on some of the songs. You can tell

Yeah, he was the most fun. I sent him the songs and he comes over to my studio and he drinks a bunch of coffee, he smokes Parliments and he tells the best stories and we have a laugh. We trade war stories. And then he’s, like, [brightly] ‘Alright’. And then he goes in and he plays the song perfectly. Every hit. Every turnaround. He just nails it.

This is the first album you’ve produced yourself

I mean, I’ve co-produced everything that I’ve done. But it’s a lot longer of a process because you just don’t have somebody going ‘Yeah, alright, that was good’. [ie: ‘We got it now. Let’s move on’.] But I think I knew on this record that sonically there were places that I wanted to go that I just had to do alone.

Would another producer have stopped you going there?

No. That’s never the kind of producer I’ve worked with. It’s more like there’s a different energy to a room when you’re with someone. And that’s the beauty of it. I love collaboration. There’s just a different energy to the workflow, to the amount of – I sang some of these songs 100 times to get any ounce of falseness out of it, to make it exactly what was happening here in my chest. But that’s not something I would ever put another person through. That’s sadistic at a certain point. I’m fine being masochistic. But I’m not a sadist!

How much of making a record is inspiration, and how much is perspiration?

It’s never a straight line, is it? You just go in there until you know that if you spent five more minutes on it, you’d make it worse. It’s just knowing the point of diminishing returns.

The other thing that’s mentioned in the press release is the influence of your first band, The Skull Fuckers

That was a noise band I played in, in college. We were very inspired by [challenging US noise/ ‘math rock’ band] Polvo.

I found a photo of The Skull Fuckers on Reddit. You don’t look quite as intimidating as the name suggests. You’re wearing a brown felt hat and a scarf, playing acoustic guitar, sat on a chair

I know! I remember that. Yeah, that’s really unfortunate.

Was that not representative of The Skull Fuckers?

No. For some reason we played a gig when the drummer couldn’t come. And we were, like, ‘Okay, I guess we could still do a noisy set with the three of us’. The early 2000s were not a great time for fashion.

When we spoke in 2021, I asked you how we should best listen to Daddy’s Home. You said ‘Put it on a turntable. Pour yourself a glass of tequila or bourbon and smoke a joint. That’s the vibe’. How should we listen to All Born Screaming?

Like, on what drugs?

Just ‘How should we listen to it’?

Listen to it loud! Listen to it loud, wherever you listen to it.

So would you advise drugs, too?

You know, I think the end of ‘All Born Screaming’ [a wild instrumental section, seeing out a seven-minute song] – I think that’s where the ecstasy is peaking. Before any gurning starts.

For the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and for other tribute performances, you have variously stood in for Kurt Cobain, Kate Bush, David Bowie and Prince. Is there anyone you can’t do?

You’ve just named four of them.

That is some list

That’s wild. I don’t know… they asked me.

What’s your reaction when they ask?

Usually terror. And then I cycle through that and then just practise a lot.

I rewatched your performance of ‘Lithium’, with the surviving members of Nirvana, for their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, last night. It’s astonishing. What was going through your head on stage?

It’s genuinely indescribable. I mean, that’s the first music I heard that was like ‘This is mine. This isn’t something my parents played me. This is mine. This speaks to some resonating frequency in me and some experience that I’m gonna have’. It was like a premonition of a whole life when you heard that music.

Presumably people now have a similar reaction to the music you make

It blows me away. Especially when young artists come up, and they’re, like, ‘Your art has helped me making more art’. That’s the generative spirit. That’s the multitudes.

What do you look for in a good stage outfit?

I need to be able to jump into the crowd if I want to. And I also need to be able to be as active as possible in my footwear. So I require ankle support. So I can jump and move and run around. If it’s constricting, it’s because I’m constricting myself intentionally. For [2017 album] Masseduction I was in latex. I was making myself as uncomfortable as possible because it would give me something to fight against in a performance, you know? Daddy’s Home was a lot more comfortable. Easy-breezy. Got to move those hips. And this [album] I just need to be as kinetic as possible.

You did a MasterClass, one of those multipart online tutorial guides. Yours was on ‘Creativity And Songwriting’. Did people find it useful?

I don’t think I gave them any practical theory. Except to say ‘Try to get out of your own way. Let yourself throw it at the wall and then judge it, or be critical of it, later’. You can’t be critical of it as it’s coming out. Or else it just won’t come out. I hope that was helpful. But I don’t think I was, like, ‘Well, here’s how to write the perfect bridge!’ I wouldn’t necessarily know how to do that.

Let’s talk about your contribution to the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack

Lipps Inc. ‘Funky Town’. Lipps with two ‘p’s. I love that song! It changes keys. It’s so weird. This was before the pandemic. I was working on Daddy’s Home. And [pop music’s current favourite producer] Jack Antonoff was working on the Minions soundtrack. And he just said ‘Okay, you want to do something?’ And I said ‘Can I do ‘Funky Town?’’

Another highlight of your CV: you co-wrote ‘Cruel Summer’ with Taylor Swift. It went to Number One this year, four years after being released

I mean, it’s very cool and it’s very indicative of the way people consume music now. Like, it wasn’t a single from that record [the album, Lover]. The fans just decided it was a hit – four records later. It’s crazy. I’ve never experienced anything like it, first-hand. But also I’ve never actually seen it happen before [ever] – except maybe with ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’ when it was in Stranger Things [Kate Bush’s 1985 song, finding wild new popularity on the back of a pivotal role in the Netflix series]. The fans just decided it was a hit.

Hurray for the fans

Yeah, hurray for the fans.

Where does Taylor Swift’s insane work ethic come from?

You’ll have to ask Taylor Swift.

Taylor can’t come to the phone right now

I think she’s just tapped like that. She’s just built for it.

Are you planning to tour this record?

Yeah, of course.

Can you tell us more?

I think it will be a pummelling. A pummelling, plus making sure the beat don’t stop. Like with Daddy’s Home where I took catalogue material and reinvented it in [a new] style with that band. I’ll do similar. With shows your job is to surprise, shock, delight, console, surprise, shock, delight, console, disgust, console. Not necessarily in that order. So sometimes you need to give people a kick in the teeth. And sometimes you need to tell people that everything is going to be okay. And then sometimes you need to dance together in ecstasy. And that’s what I imagine the show will be.

Who’s missing from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Let’s go Throbbing Gristle.

What do you like about ‘noise bands’?

The nerdier answer is that I like that there were these [music] scenes that existed because people lived in a place and a time and everyone was in communication with one another and people were cross-pollinating in a very organic way. I mean, that’s why you have Two-Tone, right? The UN couldn’t have made a better cultural collaboration. And I like that. Because it’s genuinely the thing that music does which is to bring people together and give people a voice. It’s also fucked-off people just expressing the violence and the chaos of the wolrd. And it’s ugly.

Peter Gabriel. Lipps Inc. Taylor Swift. Throbbing Gristle. Polvo. Is there any sort of music you don’t like?

Coffee shop singer-songwriters aren't for me. You know – [sound of an acoustic guitar being strummed] - ding-ding-ding-ding-ding. I don’t begrudge anyone their taste. But that’s not for me.

All Born Screaming is out on 26 April

Originally published on Esquire UK

Paul Slattery / Camera Press

It’s late January, 1994. Alerted by a friend, I go to see a new Manchester group, Oasis, at The Water Rats near King’s Cross in London. There’s a buzz: the smallish venue is packed, which makes it difficult to see what is happening on the low stage. A couple of numbers in, I get it: they’re good. The four musicians, dressed in scally/baggy/sportswear, erect an overdriven wall of sound, while the vocalist—wearing what looks like a Marks & Spencer’s pullover—commands the crowd with a definite attitude.

The frontman’s swaggering demeanour suggests confrontation but, at the same time, he embodies a curious precision: I’m going to stand just here, place the microphone just so, and sing the lyrics exactly this way. He elongates various vowels and phrases in an almost exact reproduction of John Lennon’s psychedelic sneer on “Rain”, a deal sealed by the group’s rather convincing cover of “I Am the Walrus” at the end of the set. They make it their own, and I’m impressed.

This isn’t Oasis’s first London show, but it’s a kind of showcase: full of journalists and fans, the curious and the competitive. The band carry it off with what many people will, soon enough, recognise as their customary blithe insouciance. On the way out, I’m accosted by an EMI press officer: why didn’t I go see Blur rather than this lot, she demands; I reply that if I wanted to go to see Blur then I would, and I don’t. Seems like unprofessional behaviour, but the needle is already there.

Nineteen-ninety-four was a good year for music. The dominant sound that I heard emanating from cars, shops, pubs and clubs in London was dance music and its myriad derivatives: the seemingly infinite and proliferating varieties of house, techno, rap, hardcore. I absolutely loved the multiple times of jungle—hyper-speed breakbeats jamming up against half-speed reggae bass—and heard it at its best at that summer's Notting Hill Carnival, where the record of the year—Shy FX’s Sound of the Beast—sampled the Carnival song of 1976, Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves”.

At the beginning of 1994, the UK charts were the usual mix of contemporary dance music (Chaka Demus & Pliers’ great Latin/ragga cover of “Twist and Shout”), novelties (Doop), and boy-band pop (Take That). There wasn’t much sense of the rock style of the moment—grunge—and the great UK hope, Suede, were temporarily stalled after a banner year in 1993. There was a pre-echo of the future in February’s number one, “Things Can Only Get Better” by D:Ream, which would have an afterlife that no one could have predicted.

Britain was living under the 15th year of four consecutive Tory governments and, by the beginning of 1994, the party and the public were definitely getting fed up with each other. The week before Oasis played The Water Rats, a Mori poll had the Labour Party at 48 per cent, 20 points ahead of John Major’s government that, despite improving economic data, was beset by sleaze, misguided “back to basics” rhetoric and an irreversible momentum of decline. There was a sense of light at the end of a long tunnel.

Oasis were determinedly a part of this from the beginning. In the middle of 1993, they had produced a few copies of a demo cassette with an artwork that depicted the Union Jack going down a plughole. Asked about the image, Liam Gallagher replied that, “It’s the greatest flag in the world, and it’s going down the shitter. We’re here to do something about it.” Along with their coevals and competitors Blur, the group would be involved in nothing less than an attempt at redefining Britishness—one that would gain political impetus as the year went on.

There was a definite British-rock resurgence at the start of the year. In February, the female-fronted Elastica went top 20 with their stuttering, sarcastic “Line Up”, followed shortly afterwards by Suede’s magnum opus “Stay Together”, which went top three. In March, Blur released “Girls & Boys”, the first and best single from Parklife, their next album, which, aided by a launch at Walthamstow dog track, went top five. In early May, Parklife entered the charts on its way to number one and an ultimate chart run of 106 weeks.

By that time, Oasis were making waves. An incident that February, when every member of Oasis except Noel Gallagher was arrested after a brawl on a ferry to Amsterdam, made for amused coverage from the music press. In late April, John Harris began his agenda-setting NME article with the following set piece: “Liam Gallagher is poised above his elder brother, pressing his hand into Noel’s face, and occasionally barking frantic questions, like the one about whether or not he fancies being pushed through the window. ‘Let’s f—ing go then, you DICK!’ says Liam. ‘Let’s have a f—ing FIGHT.’”

Bad boys; battling brothers—rock archetypes all. In their early days, Oasis were both reassuringly familiar—mashing up rock history from the 1960s to the 80s: The Beatles, The Sex Pistols, The Stone Roses—and strangely adapted to the times. Their first generally available single, “Supersonic”, pushed baggy tropes onto apparently random lyrics that chimed with post-rave hedonism as well as offering affirmative advice: “You need to be yourself/You can’t be no one else”.

“Supersonic” was released within a few days of a shattering event: Kurt Cobain’s suicide, on 5 April. Nirvana had long seemed poised, like Joy Division, between the light and the dark, and the darkness had won. The news cast a black pall, marking the end of grunge and a definite change in pop culture: after the shock and sadness, people wanted something different, if not uplifting and joyful—which was precisely what Oasis were constructed to provide.

Noel Gallagher already had lots of songs, including one called “Live Forever”. As he recalled in 2006, “It was the tune that changed everything. It was written in the middle of grunge… Nirvana had a tune called ‘I Hate Myself and I Want to Die’ and I thought, ‘that’s fucking rubbish’. Kids don’t need to hear that nonsense. We had fuck all, and I still thought getting up in the morning was the greatest thing ever, ’cos you didn’t know where you’d end up that night. And we didn’t have a pot to piss in but it was fucking great.”

Early that summer, I went to see Oasis for the second time, at Manchester’s Academy 3, the university’s students’ union. “Supersonic” had gone to number 31, and the group had a second single, “Shakermaker”, which opened the show. The reasonably sized audience were interested, but not manic. Seeing the five clearly for the first time, I turned to their manager Marcus Russell and told him that I understood: it was the brothers, that was it. Russell protested that, no, they were a tight unit, but time would prove otherwise.

“Shakermaker” continued the slightly lightweight feel of Oasis’s trajectory so far, with burbling lyrics, taken from a Trebor Mints commercial, about Mr Soft, and a tune distinctly reminiscent of The New Seekers’ “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”. Noel Gallagher rationalised the lift that August: “The Beatles, the greatest band in history, write ‘Hey Jude’, and it’s a cheap-shot melody. Our singles—‘Supersonic’, ‘Shakermaker’—are cheap-shot melodies. Never be afraid of the obvious, because it’s all been done before.”

The CD single of “Shakermaker” contained three extra tracks, one of which was a live version of their first released masterpiece, “Bring It On Down”: “Good evening Great Britain! Hello,” Liam Gallagher intones over a fast, tribal beat, while the lyrics addressed contemporary realities: “What was that sound ringing around your brain?/You’re here on your own who you gonna find to blame?/You’re the outcast, you’re the underclass/But you don’t care, because you’re living fast”. It was this song that made me realise that Oasis had intention.

Shakermaker: Noel Gallagher performing with Oasis at the Astoria, London, on 19 August 1994 / Getty Images

“It was a tribute to The Stooges, MC5 and punk rock,” Noel Gallagher remembered 20 years later. “We smashed it when we used to play it live. For my part, all those songs that have a political undercurrent are real because I was just writing from the heart. At that point I was unemployed, in rented accommodation, trying to make it in the world, living from one week to the next, not knowing if you’re gonna have enough money for a pizza. You are in a political situation even if you don’t realise it, ’cos that is the battleground, that is the essence of politics: accommodation, food and trying to make a living.”

“Shakermaker” occasioned Oasis’s first performance on Top of the Pops, where they played to an enthusiastic crowd in front of the Union Jack design from their first demo tape. Coming after a successful appearance at that year’s Glastonbury, it propelled the single up to their highest chart position thus far, number 11. Along with Blur—who had headlined the NME stage—Oasis seemed to embody the new pop mood: British, guitar-led, hedonistic, upbeat and laddish.

Class was a strong element. The Gallagher brothers were from Burnage, a district in South Manchester whose suburban appearance masked deep poverty. As shaped by Noel, Oasis were defiantly Northern and had a working-class work ethic: as he told me at the end of the year, “We’d always get in a van and go anywhere to play a gig, whereas your middle-class groups will say, ‘I’ve got college in the morning.’ We just say, ‘Fuck it, we wanna play.’ I like working hard.”

They were committed to the classic, mainstream idea of a good time: cigarettes, alcohol and the white lines. “I think our music is quite universal,” Noel Gallagher said in 1995. “I wouldn’t consider myself a great lyricist. I’m not a poet or anything. I write like an average person would write. ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ means the same to some kid in Brooklyn as it would to someone from Belfast. Go out, get drunk and have a good time. That means the same in any language.”

The group’s early publicity played up the hedonistic-lad aspect: the drugs, the drinking, the fights, the football. They appeared in the third issue of a new magazine aimed at young men: Loaded. The influence of this lad bible would prove baleful but, like the antics of Oasis themselves, it had seemed fresh and light-hearted. Blur attempted to tap into this mood with Damon Albarn’s Sergio Tacchini sportswear and support of Chelsea Football Club—a pose that was successful in the short term but ultimately unconvincing.

What went unnoticed in all the laddish cosplay and sibling rivalry was Oasis’s optimism. As Noel Gallagher said that year, “I know how shit it was living in Burnage, so I don’t have to write about it. You want to write about how great life could be if only you could pluck up the courage to ask that girl out, or if only you could fly.” The group’s third single, “Live Forever”, made this explicit, as Liam sang: “Maybe you’re the same as me/We see things they’ll never see/You and I are gonna live forever”. It was their first top 10.

This poptimism found its parallel in party politics. After the sudden, shocking death of John Smith in April, Tony Blair was elected Labour leader in July. At 41, he was young enough to have been a pop fan—even to the extent of singing with a rock band at university—and, unlike the Tories, understood the importance of British music to the country’s economy and its youth. In early August, the first poll since he became leader had Labour at 56 per cent, a 33-point lead over the Conservatives.

At the end of that month, two days before I saw them for the third time in the decidedly unglamorous surroundings of The Tivoli in Buckley, North Wales, Oasis’s first album was released. With 11 tracks, four of which had been or would be singles, Definitely Maybe was a greatest hits before its time. As well as the archetypal wish fulfilment of rousing opener “Rock’n’ Roll Star”, there was another statement of Oasis ideology in “Digsy’s Dinner”: “These could be the best days of our lives”.

With a power belying its troubled gestation—the finished album was the third attempt—Definitely Maybe included rerecordings of the relentless “Columbia”, betraying its origin as a house-inspired jam, and “Bring It On Down”, which attained a new level of ferocity. As John Harris wrote in his definitive history of the period, The Last Party, “Some of their best songs—'Columbia’, ‘Bring It On Down’, ‘Supersonic’—pulsed with a kinetic sense of confrontation as if, despite the absence of a real agenda, the Gallaghers could not help but vent some deep-seated rage.”

On 4 September 1994, Definitely Maybe entered the UK album chart at number one, beating The 3 Tenors in Concert and End of Part One: Their Greatest Hits by Wet Wet Wet, the Scottish group whose version of The Troggs’ “Love Is All Around” lodged at number one for 15 weeks that summer. Two weeks later, Oasis left for their first US tour—a fraught, drug-sodden affair that resulted in Noel Gallagher going AWOL for over two weeks, leaving a question mark over the group’s future.

In the middle of the turmoil, Oasis released their fourth single, “Cigarettes & Alcohol”, featuring the most concise of their live-for-the-day lyrics: “You could wait for a lifetime/To spend your days in the sunshine/You might as well do the white line.” It went to number seven in the UK charts, no doubt boosted by the feral cover of “I Am the Walrus” included in the package. “The Beatles, to us, were the be-all, end-all,” Noel later recalled. “Where it starts and where it finishes. Everything we do is inspired by The Beatles.”

Oasis recording at Monnow Valley studios in Wales, photographed by Michael Spencer Jones, who also shot the cover of their debut “Definitely Maybe” / Michael Spencer Jones

The day before the release of “Cigarettes & Alcohol”, there was a huge march in London protesting against the Criminal Justice Bill, introduced by the then Home Secretary Michael Howard, principally to prevent illegal raves and to clamp down on the traveller festival circuit, the popularity of which had been highlighted by the huge Castlemorton Common Festival of 1992. This presented as a direct attack on rave music—famously, and rather loosely in legal terms, defined as “repetitive beats”.

If the Tories wanted to alienate a large section of the young, they couldn’t have planned it better. There had already been two demonstrations against the bill, in May and July, but the third—held on 9 October—attracted a crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 (according to the police; the organisers put it at 100,000). When protestors tried to bring sound systems into Hyde Park, there was a confrontation, and the day ended in a full-scale riot, with tear gas, charging police horses and random beatings. That weekend, Tony Blair addressed the Labour Party conference.

Bullish after Labour’s success in May’s council elections, his speech set out a programme that included investment in public services, an accommodation with market forces and enthusiasm for “the information revolution”. He concluded: “The next election will offer us the chance to change our country, not just to promise change, but to achieve it—the historic goal of another Labour government. Our party: New Labour. Our mission: New Britain. New Labour. New Britain.” The hall rose in a standing ovation.

Nineteen-ninety-four was the year of two novel coinages. Blair’s speech was peppered with the word “new”, an attractive concept after years of Conservative stasis. New Labour soon entered the political lexicon, along with another term that was invented to mark the upsurge of popular British rock groups: Blur, Elastica, Oasis—and the others in their wake, most notably Sheffield’s Pulp, whose The Sisters EP had made the top 20 in summer 1994. Suddenly the time seemed right for a short, sharp style that harked back to mod and punk, while still remaining contemporary.

The idea had begun with the famous April 1993 Select magazine front cover, which featured Suede with the sub-head: “Yanks Go Home! St Etienne, Denim, Pulp, The Auteurs and the Battle for Britain.” In May 1994, The Face coined the term Brit Pop, which by the autumn had turned into its more familiar form: as The Guardian wrote in September 1994, “We are in the middle of a Britpop renaissance.” As a term it was useful, but exclusive: Britpop was more like Eng-rock, omitting any Afro-Caribbean, Anglo-Asian or Afro-American influences.

Nevertheless, New Labour and Britpop were joined in time and place, and soon the connection would become more definite. Six days after the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act became law, Noel Gallagher met Tony Blair at the Q Awards on 9 November: the meeting was brief but affirmative, with the rock star apparently exhorting the politician to “fucking do it for us, man”. Blair’s speech at the event celebrated the British music industry and the importance of rock’n’roll to the British “way of life”.

The next month, I went to see Oasis for the fourth time, at Manchester’s Academy 1, a large venue packed with an enthusiastic crowd. The set included most of the first album, a few B-sides and a three-song acoustic feature by Noel Gallagher. I liked the punky thrash of tunes like “Bring It On Down”, but I noticed that Oasis weren’t a moshpit group: the crowd would leap up and down for the first 20 seconds of a song and then subside into the more mid-paced tempos. That didn’t denote a lack of enthusiasm, but a different way of responding.

The previous day, I’d travelled to the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool to interview Noel Gallagher for The Guardian. I was spending a lot of time in the North West then, reconnecting with my father’s Irish roots. Oasis seemed to me to be in a direct line of Anglo/Irish revenge, where “Bring It On Down” sat next to The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”, Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Dance Stance”, The Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead”, and “I Am the Walrus”. I asked Noel about his Irish background:

“Mam was born in Mayo, and Dad was born in Meath, which is just outside Dublin. They would have come over in the early 1950s, looking for work, and they met in a place called the Carousel, which was an Irish club, which was part of the National 2. My dad was a DJ, plays country and western. It makes a difference to yourself that you have an Irish background, I think it makes you more passionate about music. Obviously, you’re always brought up Catholic and you always end up denouncing that.”

He talked about his lyrics: “I always say the whole song doesn’t really mean anything, but if you ask about a certain line, I could talk for days about what it means. Then you try and make them all rhyme and it becomes a song and has a title and has to be about something. But they’re just sentences: ‘All I want to do is live by the sea…’ Lyricists can be a bit too clever for their own good; the audience has to be part of it, or I don’t think it’s any fucking fun. I hate that division that says: “We’re the band, you’re the audience.” I’d rather involve the audience in what we do.”

WENN

I got the impression of a serious musician who was sure of his own talent and his achievements: “I’m in for the rest of my life now,” he told me. “Even if I don’t have the band, or never write another song, I can always pick up an acoustic guitar and walk out in front of 2000 people and sing ‘Live Forever’—not even bother singing it, ’cos everyone else sang it last night. I just sat there and played it. I’ll always be able to do that, and so I’ve earned it, writing that song.”

On 18 December, Oasis released their fifth single of 1994, a six-minute, string-laden epic called “Whatever”, full of Christmas communality and hints of freedom. On the CD version, there were the customary good-value extra songs, including the tender “Half the World Away”—written by Noel on the US tour—and the anthemic “(It’s Good) To Be Free”, a song about pressure and release that ended with an Irish jig. That line—“All I want to do is live by the sea”—stuck in my mind. Within a few years, that would be my life.

The year ended with Tony Blair triumphant as the latest Mori polls showed Labour support at 61 per cent, nearly 40 points ahead of the Conservatives. In the charts for 25 to 31 December, “Whatever” entered at number three, bested only by Mariah Carey and East 17. In the last album chart of the year, Blur were at 15 with Parklife after 35 weeks, while Definitely Maybe was on the rise again at number 27 after 17 weeks. The Beatles were back, with the Live at the BBC compilation of 1960s radio shows at number six.

It was the 1960s redux: competitive, ambitious pop groups being courted by an ambitious, media-savvy Labour politician. At the March 1995 Brit awards, Oasis won British Breakthrough Act, while Blur swept the board with Best Group, Best Album, Best Single and Best Video. That same month, Damon Albarn—who had registered his intention to vote Labour the previous December—spoke to Tony Blair at a meeting arranged by Darren Kalynuk of deputy leader John Prescott’s office, which reaffirmed the link between new pop and new politics.

Early the next month, the Labour Party contested their first UK local elections with Tony Blair as leader. The results were shattering for the Conservatives, who lost over 2,000 councillors. Labour received 48 per cent of the vote, a record high for the party. I remember the feeling of euphoria and hope at the results: at last, it seemed that the 16-year Tory nightmare might be coming to an end. It was as though a door had opened in a dusty, dark room.

On 24 April, Oasis released their first single of 1995, “Some Might Say”, an uplifting tune with a soaring, surging chorus—Liam at his best—and lyrics that, again, cemented the group’s connection with their audience: “Some might say you get what you’ve been given/If you don’t get yours I won’t get mine as well”. Backed by the acoustic “Talk Tonight” and the tender “Acquiesce”, “Some Might Say” went straight into the charts at number one in early May. Oasis had caught the mood and the time, and it was their first zenith.

Thirty years later, it’s easy to remember the decadence and demise of Oasis, the disaster of lad culture, the failure of Labour to capitalise on the 1997 election landslide, the creeping march of populism. But in 1994, both politics and pop were moving in the same direction, towards a more hopeful and inclusive Britain. For me, that move was soundtracked by Oasis songs: “Bring It On Down”, “Columbia”, “(It’s Good) To Be Free”. They gave me hope in a personally very difficult year, and they were the last rock group ever to have that effect on my life.

Originally published on Esquire UK

Today’s the day. After months of anticipation, Beyoncé has finally released Cowboy Carter, the country-inspired follow-up to Renaissance. Cowboy Carter is the second entry in a planned trilogy of albums—though the artist just revealed that it was meant to be Act I. “I was initially going to put Cowboy Carter out first,” said Beyoncé in a press statement, “but with the pandemic, there was too much heaviness in the world. We wanted to dance. But I had to trust God’s timing.”

Like its predecessor, Cowboy Carter features plenty of stellar collaborators. First up are budding country stars Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, and Tiera Kennedy, who appear on a cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird.” In the Cowboy Carter version, Beyoncé trades the Beatles’ hum for a smoky, bluesy melody. Later on, her youngest daughter, Rumi, gets a brief cameo to request “the lullaby.” Cue “Protector,” Beyoncé’s touching ode to motherhood.

Then country legend Willie Nelson makes an appearance in a radio-show-inspired interlude. “Welcome to ‘The Smoke Hour’ on KNTRY Radio Texas,” he says. “You know my name, no need to know yours / Now, for this next tune, I want y’all to sit back, inhale / And go to the good place your mind likes to wander off to / And if you don’t wanna go, go find yourself a jukebox.” Nelson’s message is followed by the charts-topping single “Texas Hold ’Em,”

Then, just when you think Cowboy Carter can’t get any better, Dolly Parton (!) shows up. “Hey, Ms. Honeybee, it’s Dolly P,” she says. “You know that hussy with the good hair you sing about? Reminded me of someone I knew back when / Except she has flamin’ locks of auburn hair.” With Dolly’s stamp of approval, Beyoncé delivers a Sasha Fierce-coded cover of “Jolene.”

Later on, in “Spaghetti,” Beyoncé loops in Black country star Linda Martell to talk about the concept of legacies, before breaking into a rap duet with Shaboozey to remind us of their star power. (As if we could forget.) Afterwards, Nelson returns to announce “Smoke Hour II,” ushering in the second half of the album. “Sometimes you don’t know what you like until someone you trust turns you on to some real good shit,” he says.

The real good shit? It’s just beginning. Next up is country singer and former X Factor contestant Willie Jones, who is featured on the ballad “Just for Fun.” Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus (!!) shows up to sing her heart out in the unexpected (but perfect) duet “Most Wanted.” Moments later, Post Malone appears on “Levi’s Jeans,” followed by Linda Martell again in “The Linda Martell Show.” Before closing the album with a heartfelt reflection in “Amen,” Beyoncé reunites with Shaboozey for some well-deserved fun in “Sweet Honey Buckin.”

I don’t know if you’ve been counting along with us, but that’s a whopping 12 features. Like Renaissance, Cowboy Carter is a team effort—and the result is one of Beyoncé’s greatest records.

Originally published on Esquire US

ESQUIRE: Coldplay is in town for the next few days. Have you adjusted to the time zone?

GUY BERRYMAN: Not quite. Getting there. We were in Manila prior and were stuck in crazy Manila traffic. I’ve never seen anything like it. Have you been there?

ESQ: Once. A long time ago. You’ll need to frame your appointments around how bad the traffic is. But having the concert held across several days must be great for you.

GB: So many people want to buy tickets, which is amazing. So, if we only do one show, a lot of people will be pissed-off. From a business point of view, it’s better to be in one spot for many shows because it saves on all the transportation and setup costs.

ESQ: I’d assume that it’s enough time to get acclimatised.

GB: It’s nice not having to move. I like coming to a place, unpacking my stuff in a hotel room and staying there for a week as opposed to flying into a city, doing a show and flying to the next place, y’know? That’s way harder.

ESQ: You have outfits that you have collected over the years. What is that one piece that you’re amazed by?

GB: I’ve got so many garments that I’m completely in love with. Quite often, they’re 50 or 70 years old, something like that. There’s one jacket that I have, which is a Royal Air Force Ventile parka from the 1950s that I think is just one of the greatest pieces of menswear ever designed.

ESQ: Why is that?

GB: It’s hard to say initially... but it’s the details, really. The Ventile fabric, the fit, the lining... what’s particularly nice about the jacket is that it’s 70 years old. It’s faded and got little holes in it; there’s a certain patina to it that brands try to recreate with their products. These days, you can buy new jeans that are full of holes, that’s been faded... it’s all fake. What I love about the [Royal Air Force] jacket is the way it looks, it’s old and really beautiful. I wear vintage pieces all the time. I love them because they look a certain way that you can only get from a vintage piece.

ESQ: Do you think, in this day and age, that it’s easier to buy vintage pieces or harder due to fast fashion?

GB: I’m somebody who buys mostly old clothes. When I go to a different city, I don’t head to the luxury retail experiences. I go for the flea markets, the antique shops and the charity outlets. That’s where I’d find the things that I like. I do shop from Dover Street Market but I’ve no issue with wearing secondhand clothes at all.

ESQ: Was your T-shirt, “Love is the Drug” inspired by one of Roxy Music’s songs of the same name?

GB: Actually, that was just a coincidence. The phrase has nothing to do with Roxy Music. So, we do all of our own screenprinting by hand at our [Applied Art Forms] studio. Somebody in the team said since Valentine’s Day is coming up, we should make a special Valentine’s Day T-shirt. I was thinking about what can we do that isn’t super cheesy like a heart or the kind of typical imagery associated with Valentine’s Day. I kinda thought that “love is the drug”. It kinda had that slightly edgier feel to it. I wrote “Love is the drug” on a piece of cardboard with a pink marker. I let the paint run down a little so that it looked cool. We photographed it, screenprinted about, I think, 50 T-shirts and put it up for sale the next day. When it was sold out, we kept getting e-mails from people wanting to buy it. After a while, we kept printing and making more of them. Then, Chris [Martin] wore it, which led to more people wanting it. So, here we are two years later still with “Love is the Drug”. (shows a T-shirt from the rack) We have a version only for Singapore. This is a black on black T-shirt. But, yeah, “Love is the Drug” has nothing to do with Roxy Music.

ESQ: Has Roxy Music contacted you about the phrase though?

GB: No they didn’t. I mean, I don’t know what the IP rules on this are like. I’m not sure. Actually, the phrase I meant to write was “Love is a Drug” and I wrote it wrong. The “just say yes” portion of it has to do with this 1980s anti-drug campaign in the UK... no, wait, it was an American campaign to stop kids from taking drugs and the campaign slogan was “just say no”. So when I wrote, “Love is the Drug”. I changed and added “just say yes” to it. So, that’s how it came about.

ESQ: Will you do more slogan T-shirts?

GB: For me, my real passion for the brand is outerwear jackets. So whenever we launch a new collection, it’s always built around my ideas for the jackets that I want to make. Most of the time I just wear plain T-shirts... that’s just how I like to style myself. But, of course, graphic T-shirts are what the public wants so we always offer a few different graphic T-shirts. Some are sometimes photographic-based. We do a lot of handwriting or stencilling. “Love is the Drug” is a nice phrase and I don’t think I’m going to introduce another kind of slogan anytime soon.

ESQ: You have a studio in Amsterdam. What does that do for you, creatively as an artist?

GB: My partner, Keishia [Gerrits] is Dutch and so I was spending more and more time over there visiting her family. I fell in love with Amsterdam. It’s just such a wonderful city and it made sense to move there. I’m now a full-time resident of Amsterdam. As a city, culturally, it’s very diverse. The centre of the city looks the same now as it did hundreds of years ago. I always think that it’s very beautiful. But there are a lot of creatives in Amsterdam. Many talented people, like musicians and designers. There are incredible restaurant tours there. The city changed a lot even in the last five years since I’ve been there.

ESQ: Hannah Martin is your partner for your jewellery line, A Vanitas and your meeting with her was serendipitous. Do you like collaborating with other people?

GB: I do. Collaboration is such a big thing these days. I feel almost every day you’re looking on social media or whatever and you’re presented with news of a new collaborative product. When the idea of collaborations first started happening, it was interesting but now I kinda see it for what it is... which is just a big marketing exercise. where big brands are saying, you take some of our customers and we take some of yours. That’s what collaboration these days are like. But the collaboration between Hannah and I was not about that. It was just this very chance meeting. We’re two small brands so our collaboration isn’t gonna move the dial for either of our businesses. Our partnership came about with a focus just purely on the product and the designs that we came up with.

ESQ: What’s next on the collaboration front?

GB: The most sensible collaboration would be with a footwear brand. Applied Art Forms don’t do footwear. For a small brand like us to go into footwear is quite challenging because the minimums on shoes are very high and you have a range of sizes for them. What would make more sense for us, is partnering with an established like-minded footwear brand for shoes. That would probably be my next logical step for any kind of collaboration.

ESQ: You mentioned there was a steep learning curve when you first created Applied Art Forms. Is it easier now? Or do you still find it challenging to sustain it?

GB: No, I love it. I’m very passionate, very driven about design. I’m always full of ideas so it is never an issue to realise them. I mean, we did launch the brand at the start of the pandemic; I was living in the UK at the time and the studio was in Amsterdam. So when the lockdown happened suddenly, I couldn’t go to the studio to work. Very quickly, we had to come up with a new way of working, which was, as you know, would be Zoom calls.

I’d be at home talking through the screen with the team in Amsterdam. We’d have an open Zoom meeting for half a day. If a prototype came in, they would hold it up and try it on. I’d look at them saying, no, the shoulders need to be wider, that needs to be longer, y’know? It’s not ideal but it works. Now, I’m on tour and it allows me to come to places like Singapore and speak to you. That’s helpful for the brand. But I can jump in on a Zoom meeting any time because we have the remote working method really dialled in. Eventually, when I move to Amsterdam, it’ll be fantastic because then I can cycle to the studio every morning and be together with the team. This would be much more productive.

ESQ: What about scalability? How do you navigate that and try to stay true to what you’re doing?

GB: We’re always going to stay true to what we’re doing. Of course, we needed to grow and we needed to scale a bit but I definitely don’t want to turn [Applied Art Forms] into a huge mega brand. It’s always about product quality. It’s about building a community around the brand who understands where I’m coming from. And for me, that’s all it needs to be.

ESQ: We’re curious. Your jewellery line with Hannah is about the memento mori trope (“remember that you’ll die so do all you can in this limited lifetime”). Whereas Applied Art Forms is about the longevity of clothes. What does time mean to you?

GB: It all stems down to trying to leave your mark on the world. If you make something which isn’t very good, or if it doesn’t last a long time, it will disappear. I guess it’s kinda the same way when you make music: you’re trying to make songs that will have an impression on the world. And it’ll still be playing after you’re done. For instance, (points to a jacket) that denim chore jacket there... it’s a beautiful Japanese selvedge denim and this is fantastic in the way it’s put together. Somebody like me could go to a vintage store and find this jacket because it lasted that long. But not only that, it will look so beautiful. It will have faded and there might be some holes in it but it’s going to look beautiful. I always want to make meaningful things whether that be music or clothes or jewellery. It has to be something which will stand the test of time.

Photography: Jaya Khidir

Pharrell Williams and Tyler, the Creator share a longstanding collaboration in the music industry, with many of Tyler’s songs produced by Williams. They also feature in each other’s tracks, including Williams' 2022 single “Cash In Cash Out” and Tyler’s “IFHY” from his 2013 album Wolf. The close friends are in constant creative dialogues and thrive on it. Taking it to a new level, the Louis Vuitton men’s creative director delivers a new capsule collection created in collaboration with Tyler.

This isn't Tyler's first brush with Louis Vuitton having most recently composed the soundtrack for the Maison's Autumn/Winter 2023 menswear show. The Louis Vuitton Spring 2024 Men’s Capsule Collection by Tyler, The Creator is a melodic combination of the visual vocabularies of Tyler and the Maison, especially the one that Williams has established—it's preppy meets dandy with a whole lot of fresh interpretations of both.

A special-edition Courrier Lozine 110 trunk featuring the Craggy Monogram.
The Craggy Monogram with daisies and Airedale Terrier details on jacket and shorts.
The Craggy Monogram on a windbreaker.

The collection features pieces that Tyler would personally wear. “I dress the same in a meeting as I do a performance or grocery store trip, so hand drawing the monogram felt like the perfect balance to me,” he says. Dubbed the "Craggy Monogram", his hand drawn monogram comes in chocolate, vanilla and pastel shades. In addition to the usual LV symbols and 4-petalled LV Flowers, the Craggy Monogram incorporates representations of daisies and Airedale Terriers—familiar motifs from the visual universe of the artist. The uneven shapes of the hand drawn Monogram are echoed in lines and details throughout the collection, from chocolate down jackets to vanilla windbreakers, denim jackets with matching denim pants and denim dungarees, along with accessories.

Known as the guy who turns up to awards shows in shorts, Tyler’s collection just had to include them. Classic shorts and chinos with pleats and fold-ups appear alongside dandy-esque shirts adorned with graphics. With his penchant for pastels, the collection also features baby blue cable knit jumpers with a craggy V-neck and cuff stripes, and a pink fair-isle vest. As a nod to Tyler's obsession of luggages, a special-edition Courrier Lozine 110 trunk featuring the Craggy Monogram was created for the collection.

Tyler's authenticity shines through his recurring playful motifs in the collection’s accessories ranging from flower-studded rings to a Craggy Monogram cereal bowl with a matching spoon. The collection also features a chess set with its chess pieces portraying melted chocolate, hand-sketched by Tyler himself. This is also, unsurprisingly, the rapper’s favourite item from the collection. “I wanted to mix my style and Louis Vuitton’s codes together in a way that felt slightly whimsical but could still be worn to the gas station on a Tuesday,” he explains.

Needless to say, Williams is a fan of the collection: “This collaboration is unique to Louis Vuitton because it’s a natural extension of our LVERS philosophy, building on our network of incredible artists and creatives. There are so many elements specific to Tyler built into these pieces and it’s been inspiring to see him hone in on his craft and collaborate with him for this spring collection."

The Louis Vuitton Spring 2024 Men’s Capsule Collection by Tyler, The Creator is now available in boutiques and online.

Here's something to do over the weekend. The fellas who added "hypebeast" to the lexicon are adding something different to their portfolio: a concert on our shores. Called Hypebeast Live, this concert will occur 23 March from 4pm-10.30pm at Somerset Skate Park and TRIFECTA SINGAPORE. We are talking a line-up of live music, DJ sets, arts and food; the event promises a night filled with partying and fun. And if music doesn't do it for you, there are always the activities at TRIFECTA SINGAPORE... but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Here's what you can expect at Hypebeast Live.

The Line-Up

Autograf
Haven
KIARA
Nicolette
HBN
Sivanesh
TropicLab
DONN

Courtesy of HighHouse, the music event will be headlined by regional act Autograf, an electronic dance music duo from Chicago. Having performed at big events such as Coachella and Lollapalooza, Autograf knows how to get a crowd moving. Helping them keep the energy going, two musicians presented by WILD Entertainment will join them—local singer, Haven, and KIARA, a versatile DJ renowned for her eclectic music style.

The line-up concludes with DJs from Sivilian Affairs, including Nicolette, HBN, Sivanesh, TropicLab, and DONN. All the acts will also be livestreamed on the official Hypebeast Youtube channel, providing international fans a virtual front row to the shows.

TRIFECTA SINGAPORE

Clogtwo

It's not just about the music. It's about the culture. And nothing enlivens the culture than with a permitted graffiti presentation. Helmed by artist Clogtwo, who will work on a large mural artwork called "Canvas" on-site at TRIFECTA SINGAPORE. See the process as it starts from basic sketches and transformed into a colourful finished work. For some extra sugar, a giveaway will be held, gifting winners with an exclusive t-shirt designed by Clogtwo. 

There will be pop-up stores as well like ASICS, Don Julio, Guinness, Häagen-Dazs, Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray, Rip Curl and more.

Capping off the night is an intimate afterparty held at HighHouse. Ticket holders of Hypebeast Live are entitled complimentary access to this restaurant-bar, where Autograf will deliver another exceptional performance.

Tickets for Hypebeast Live are available for purchase here.

Michael Clement

I LOVE BLACK. I love leather jackets, and I like having my old favourite T-shirts. I end up buying the same outfit over and over.

I WAS NEVER Mr Hardcore. When we first started playing together, there was a big trend of who can play the fastest. And it was like, “Well, I don’t want to do that.” That’s not really musical for me. It became almost a bit macho, which is something we were definitely trying to get away from.

WE DIDN’T WANT TO be a bunch of tough guys. We would rather have bigger hearts than bigger muscles.

I’M ONE OF SIX KIDS. I’m the youngest. It was loud. Everybody was funny. Everything seemed pretty much like a normal big family, whatever that means. But then that dynamic really switched when my father passed away when I was 10.

IT WAS DARK. Everyone was sort of forced into dealing with that pain. It was that ghost that was always there. It still is.

THIS WOMAN NAMED Mrs Fiatarone taught me how to sing when I was really young, four or five. I was almost like this child lounge act. I’d sing show tunes. I would sing at veterans’ hospitals. Children’s hospitals.

I MADE A RECORD when I was five. It was called “Look for Love,” and it was recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. It got local radio play. That moment stuck with me my whole life. “Oh, you can make records.”

I MARRIED THE RIGHT PERSON. That’s a big deal. My wife really was smarter than I was. I was more spontaneous and wild, where she could be more practical and knew how to make plans better. But we were the right people for each other.

WHATEVER THE CRITICISMS WERE, though, I had enough of a chip on my shoulder that I wasn’t going to let anybody hold me down.

I’M OBSESSED WITH MUSIC. I just am. If I wasn’t in a big band, I would be working at a record store or teaching guitar lessons or doing anything to support my musical habit.

I LOVE THE BACHELOR. I love watching Bachelor in Paradise. You could play a drinking game and every time they say, “Welcome to Paradise,” you drink.

I NEVER GREW UP in any kind of religion. I tried to go to Sunday school, but it never really worked out.

SURFING IS ONE THING for me that has really been kind of spiritual. When you’re out in the ocean, it’s the most powerful force in the world.

I DO PRAY. I try and think of something out there that is a higher power, just to make sure I’m keeping my ego in check.

I DON’T LIVE IN LOS ANGELES. And when I do go to Los Angeles, you really get to know what all the perks are of being a rock star. It’s like you’re almost on someone else’s vacation.

I LIKE BEING A NORMAL PERSON. I like being someone that just lives in a community and has good friends and strong relationships that are based on the same life experiences that we’re all going through.

THEN I’LL PLAY A GIG in front of a hundred thousand people and I go, “Holy crap!” That doesn’t get old. It’s fun. But I don’t ever want being a rock star to be an excuse for being lazy.

I WAS TALKING to someone once and they asked me, “Why are you afraid of dying?” And I said, “I’m afraid of the darkness.” And they said, “How do you know it’s dark?” And I was like, “That’s a really good question. I have no idea what it’s like.”

SOBRIETY IS NOT a one-and-done kind of thing. I’ve definitely fallen off the wagon several times.

RIGHT NOW I don’t drink. And I like myself. If I was to put one thing that would get in the way of everything I wanted to achieve in my life, alcohol would be it. I make no guarantees. But right now it feels better.

PUNK HAS NEVER BEEN DEAD. It’s alive with the kids. When kids get together and want to play music together or create art or create fanzines, that’s what keeps it alive. Not what’s popular or anything like that.

Originally published on Esquire US

Blouse and skirt, SIMKHAI via SOCIETY A. Necklace, SWAROVSKI

ESQUIRE SINGAPORE: We understand that you’re a big fan of podcasts.

DAPHNE KHOO: I’ve been listening to so much of the Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast.

ESQ: Oh, yes. Duncan can be very deep with the big questions about life. Are you in a better place right now?

KHOO: Yeah, I think I am. When I was younger, I had this beautiful image of the future. No matter how bleak my reality was, everything was going to be better. The equations in my mind, social expectations of people and life... they made sense.

ESQ: I’m hearing a “but”.

KHOO: But as I got older, I realised you can’t predict how people will react to me, so my mindset has changed. While I’m optimistic about my life right now, I also understand that it is because I had overcome tribulations and I'm just waiting for the ones to come.

ESQ: You are expecting the other shoe to drop?

KHOO: Always, always, always, always. But I’m also reminding myself to enjoy the moment. Like now. This is great and I’m super grateful for it.

ESQ: When did this shift occur for you?

KHOO: I think it was a gradual accumulation. Episodes where I got cancer kind of scuttled my plans. I was like, that’s ok. I’m resilient. I’ll get up, I keep going and then it’s one thing after another, you know. It’s not just the illness but also people disappointing you, taking advantage of you.

ESQ: Life and its lemons.

KHOO: But there is hope. That’s what keeps me going.

ESQ: Can we ask about the name change? You went from Daphne Khoo to Haneri.

KHOO: Ok, the reason that I needed a pseudonym... no wait, that’s not right. I’m thinking of another word.

ESQ: Persona?

KHOO: Yeah, thank you. I needed a new persona because I put out a lot of music as Daphne Khoo. It was fun but I didn’t know anything. I had no one to teach me, no music mentor or life coach at the time. I needed to figure out who I was and what kind of music I like for myself.

ESQ: What were some of the things you wish you’d known then?

KHOO: I didn’t know what I was aiming for. I didn’t know if I wanted to write a hit nor did I think about that side of things like marketing or PR. I was driving blind and I couldn't see anything ahead of me. But I’d just go.

Here’s how much I didn’t know: I didn’t hire professionals so instead, for a music video, I roped in my sister's mother-in-law who sells make-up to do my make-up.

ESQ: Selling make-up does not mean one can do make-up. At least, you were enjoying yourself.

KHOO: I was. But there wasn’t a lot of thought going into it. It’s like if you were painting but you don’t care about the brushes or the colours; you just want to get your paint on canvas. That was me.

ESQ: The “Just Do It” mentality.

KHOO: Yeah, just do it and figure it out later. Now, with experience, I find that there’s texture, storytelling and intention in music. I’ve learnt so much in the last 20 years of my career and waking up to that realisation—I didn’t know who I was; I didn’t know what I stood for; I didn’t know what I cared about.

ESQ: When did you start to realise this?

KHOO: The first was in 2008. I was in my mid-20s or early-20s. I wouldn’t have had that epiphany here [in Singapore]. Getting into Berklee College of Music and moving to the States helped. Even then it was this weird hybrid of who I was trying to be and who I thought I was.

That self-awareness came about later on, when I realised I wasn’t focusing on health and relationships.

ESQ: Back then did you think the music was superficial?

KHOO: Not at all. I thought I was super deep but I probably wasn’t. I was introspective; overthinking every possibility. It’s one of the things that served me well but it also ended up backfiring because you can’t take everything too seriously in life. I’m trying to look at one emotion in a thousand different ways.

ESQ: You can’t please everybody.

KHOO: Yeah, but part of being a people pleaser came from thinking that was where my income was coming from. That if I didn’t please everyone, I wouldn’t sell music and in turn, I wouldn’t be able to feed myself.

So, that came from a place of desperation. I was trying to suss out what everybody else wanted. I look at all these young artists these days and—I don’t know if it’s the way I was brought up culturally—but what they do seems selfish and yet, I get it. They are so unapologetically themselves and people vibe with it. It doesn’t matter how I present myself. The bigger question is: How do I feel? And I can also go off on a tangent and be like, Why does that matter?

ESQ: Must be fun living in your head.

KHOO: But going back to your question about “Daphne Khoo” and “Haneri”... people [in Singapore] remember me as Daphne. I’ve done so much more as a musician since I adopted the "Haneri" persona when I was in LA. If you go to Europe or the US, there’s a higher chance that people will not recognise me but they’ll recognise the music, more than all of my fans in Singapore.

ESQ: You work with other music producers.

KHOO: Yeah. With a lot of EDM producers. It’s one of the things that made the most money in my 20s. As Haneri, my first single was with Dash Berlin so I have a lot of requests coming in from around that region. When I returned to Singapore, it seemed like a smart move to go back to “Daphne Khoo”.

ESQ: You’re now working in radio.

KHOO: As you know, I'm now with Kiss92 [Eavesdropping with Daphne Khoo].

ESQ: Congrats. Are you satisfied with where you are right now?

KHOO: No, I’m never satisfied with where I am. But I am content.

ESQ: Was it easy to get to this level of contentment?

KHOO: Absolutely not. You saw me through some dark years.

ESQ: Are we talking about the COVID years?

KHOO: That was a terrible period when I lost my dad. I think that was the biggest reveal that disappointing things can lead to beautiful things. Imagine if I had my visa renewed and decided to stay in the US, I’d never have been able to be with my dad in his last days during the pandemic.

ESQ: But you’d have returned anyway, right?

KHOO: But I might have been too late. Or my relationship with my dad wouldn't have been the same.

ESQ: What’s your relationship with him like?

KHOO: We don’t have enough time to unpack that but in a nutshell: my dad was a wonderful human being but flawed like all humans are. He didn’t know what he was doing when he had kids. He didn’t know how to be a dad to three girls; he was so out of his element with us.

I think the hardest thing in the world is sucking at something for a while and figuring out how to do better. You can’t just be, I’m a bad dad so I won’t be a dad then. He took it upon himself to try and slowly get there. He didn’t know how to show he loved us because he came from a very difficult background and he felt there was no way out of it.

But watching him in the last few months of his life was quite something and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

ESQ: Did you get your closure?

KHOO: I think getting closure made me even more mad at him. In a, wow, you did this perfectly. You did everything you wanted and then figured out how to just make it all better just before you died.

ESQ: Took a while but he got there.

KHOO: He changed a lot as I got older. We had conversations like two grown adults. I mean, he was never good at talking about his feelings but he was consistent on how he apologises, which is never... but in other ways, he’ll demonstrate it by wanting to take you to work, you know? Towards the end, he just got very spiritual. He fought the cancer for eight months and in that time, did some very tough self-reflection. He told us about his life and where he thought he fell short. And then, asked us for forgiveness.

My mom found a bunch of notes on his phone. We kept his number alive and now use the phone as a media player now. He showed me that you don't have to have it all figured out. The people around you might disappoint you but you still can choose who you want to spend time with.

Those memories will stay with me for a very long time. Some good and definitely some bad because it is very tough to watch life drain out of someone you love. It was tough for him too, but he handled it.

ESQ: With regard to your career, would you consider this a comeback?

KHOO: I do, but it’ll be a very slow comeback. I had a new single called “Daydream” that came out. For the last three years, I haven’t looked for jobs; I haven’t been actively creative. I'm just trying to ease my way back into making and releasing music. I try not to let the last couple of years hold me down because I’d rather move forward.

All the accolades and achievements that I have gathered while in LA—even if just for a few years—have been part of the most amazing experience in my life. I’d like to believe everything that’s happened to me—good and bad—is leading me to where I’m supposed to be... which turns out is in this weird little cafe with you right now. And that’s ok. This is nice.

Blazer, ACNE STUDIOS via NET-A-PORTER. Dress, DOLCE&GABBANA

Photography: Jaya Khidir
Styling: Asri Jasman
Hair and Makeup: Nicole Ang at SUBURBS STUDIOS using DUNGÜD and CHARLOTTE TILBURY
Photography Assistant: Kerk Jing Yi
Styling Assistant: Lance Aeron

The move to Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa marked a new milestone for Maduro. Formerly located at Dempsey, the move to the luxury resort on Sentosa Island aligns with Maduro’s vision. Keeping to its goal as a lifestyle destination, providing an unparalleled experience for whisky and music enthusiasts in the region.

The beautiful new venue is filled with globally sourced artwork. Curated by Maduro’s culture-loving founder Peter Ng, the pieces add to its eclectic interior. Guests may spot a Banksy or two when exploring their new space. It is a haven of the arts for patrons looking for a respite from the relentless buzz of city life.

Live Jazz Music

Since its opening, Maduro has managed to build an identity and brand with patrons and the community through the gift of music, cementing itself within the local live music scene. Live music is held on most Friday and Saturday evenings, and it sure does know how to attract a crowd. Music takes precedence at Maduro, whether it's classical music, contemporary, fusion, pop or jazz. Unlike in other bars, when the music starts playing, the crowd goes silent as they listen attentively. No one talks over the music.

Cigars

(Editor: Look, we really wanna to highlight the negative effects of smoking. We don't endorse smoking but you're an adult with excellent reading comprehension so you can make your own decision, natch.)

With a special private room meant for cigar smoking, Maduro provides a wide selection of Cuban, Dominican and Nicaraguan blends. There is a 24-hour temperature and humidity-controlled walk-in humidor, creating a sublime smoking experience. Additionally, a cosy retail corner offers a range of Davidoff accessories including humidors, cases, cutters, and Maduro merch.

Drinks

At the whisky bar, a key highlight is Maduro’s focus in sourcing non-mainstream labels for their bespoke whisky selection, presenting a curated range of premium whiskies from Independent Bottlers (IBs). Regular masterclasses and tasting sessions are organised to unpack these gems, where guests are taken on a sensorial journey of smell, taste and storytelling led by a whisky connoisseur. Unlike mainstream whiskies, IB whiskies are bottled at cask strength, displaying the full flavour of the barrel and elements of the environment they were produced in.

Exclusive bottles include: Cask of Distinction Lagavulin 200th Anniversary Special Collector’s Edition Aged 15 years, Isabella’s Islay Aged 30 years, and Eidolon Port Ellen 1983 Aged 36 years Sherry Butt, to name a few. Besides whisky, Maduro offers a range of other beverages such as rum, cocktails, champagne and wines.

“We are excited to present these new and choice selections and experiences to our clientele, many of whom are our loyal regulars who have grown with us since our early beginnings,” said Ng. “We look forward to welcoming new guests to Maduro and hope that they too will find comfort, inspiration and joy in our space.”

Maduro is located at 2 Bukit Manis Rd, Singapore 099891 Lower Lobby of Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa

At the recently concluded Louis Vuitton Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear runway show during Paris Fashion Week Men's, BamBam was one of many celebrity attendees. The Thai-born singer and rapper of K-pop group GOT7 easily stood out with his red hair and Pharrell Williams-designed fit. Wearing look 9 from the Maison's Spring/Summer 2024 menswear collection, BamBam (like the style savant that he is) put his own spin by opting for black trousers instead of shorts, heavy-duty boots, and finished it off with pearl accessories.

His presence at the show was quite a social media hit. The hashtag #BamBamXLVFW24—an unofficial, fanbase-initiated hashtag—amassed over 2.1 million posts on various platforms. It's little wonder that weeks after the show, BamBam was officially announced as Louis Vuitton's newest house ambassador. "I am super happy to join Louis Vuitton as a house ambassador this time," BamBam says in an announcement video. "What Pharrell is doing here is amazing. I'm super honoured to be part of it."

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A post shared by Louis Vuitton (@louisvuitton)

The appointment is made sweeter as not only is BamBam now part of Louis Vuitton's illustrious list of ambassadors, he also joins fellow bandmate, Jackson Wang, who has been part of the fold since 2023. Wang was even one of the faces of the Maison's "Horizons Never End" campaign that centred on its spirit of travel. It may be too soon to say for sure if BamBam will be featured in an upcoming campaign, but given his pull and reach, we'd say the chances of one is quite likely. In an official press release, Louis Vuitton has already hinted on "an exciting collaborative journey".

This road to an house ambassadorship with Louis Vuitton, however, was a longtime coming. BamBam had already been wearing Louis Vuitton on a number of occasions years before. And while it's common for those in the K-pop sphere to wear the newest threads from the big fashion houses, Louis Vuitton seemed to be quite a prominent fixture in BamBam's roster of brands.

BamBam in a Louis Vuitton suit for his first mini-album in 2021.
A Nicholas Ghesquière-designed Louis Vuitton womenswear look.
From a Louis Vuitton ring...
...to a Louis Vuitton bag.
Repping the new Pharell Williams-era Speedy.

In 2021, he wore a Louis Vuitton suit featuring a watercolour version of its famed Monogram for the music video of "riBBon" that's part of his first mini-album. The musician even wore a Nicholas Ghesquière-designed Spring/Summer 2022 womenswear look the very same year, proving that the man can rock just about anything from the Maison's universe. Throughout the year and years since, BamBam frequently repped Louis Vuitton—from jewellery to bags to ready-to-wear—in a number of magazine editorials, appearances as well as performances.

He made his first Louis Vuitton runway appearance at Williams' debut show, where he was visibly overjoyed to be reunited with Wang. And simply put, that moment became the turning point in his relationship with the Maison. Not only was he deserving of a spot on the front row of one of fashion's biggest moment that season, it was an official recognition of BamBam as a worthy ambassador of the Maison's new chapter.

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A post shared by BamBam (@bambam1a)

And to have it happen after celebrating 10 years of with GOT7, we reckon BamBam as a style icon is about to get more traction.

Edited by Asri Jasman

Extra·Ordinary Stars concert. EXTRA·ORDINARY PEOPLE

“Tonight, our audience members were visibly touched by the hard work and talents of our differently-abled performers, some of whom performed for the first time alongside international superstars," says Wee Boo Kuan, Co-Founder of Extra·Ordinary People.

1 December 2023 marked a transformative moment in the nation's performance arts scene. Singapore's Extra·Ordinary Stars concert was a groundbreaking showcase of not only talent but also inclusivity.

The curated performances, designed to highlight both mainstream and differently-abled artists, were held at the Star Theatre. The 5,000-seater venue was packed to capacity. The live show is set to reach an even broader audience through international broadcasts.

Cyril Takayama kicked off the star-studded evening with a mesmerising magic show, followed by Zanna's piano rendition of "Nothing Is Impossible." Benjamin Kheng, accompanied by Ng Kok Wee's flute performance, delivered a moving rendition of "Do I Make You Proud." Glenn Yong's energetic performance of "Break Out" with John Chan showcased the seamless integration of diverse talents.

Cyril Takayama. EXTRA·ORDINARY PEOPLE

The Unleash Your Light Taiwan crew brought the house down with a dynamic breakdance. It's followed by a performance featuring "The Story of Annie." A-Lin, a Taiwanese superstar, captivated the audience with four of her hit songs. Ten children were incorporated into her heartwarming performance of "Romadiw."

To generate excitement, the concert organisers launched the 54448 Dance Challenge on social media. Symbolising the word "LIGHT" on an alphanumeric keypad, participants not only engage in a captivating dance but also embody the inspiring message of being a "Light to the World." The challenge culminates with a winner announced in December. Not only that but with a chance to win up to SGD10,000 in prizes and a matching donation to a charitable cause.

"Donations will go a long way in benefiting the underprivileged and special needs communities, but most importantly, the human connections made today form a firm foundation for a kinder and more inclusive society."

Realising that special needs individuals cannot be thrown in the deep end after their education, and might require opportunities and guidance even in adulthood, Wee founded Extra·Ordinary People in 2017 to provide continual support to differently-abled individuals and to inspire a more inclusive world.

The Extra·Ordinary Stars concert is the flagship event for the Unleash Your Light movement. This cause envisions a world where genuine human-to-human connections form the foundation for personal and societal transformation. The movement believes that these connections can shatter limitations, ignite individual potential and empower everyone to shine.

Extra·Ordinary People

ENVY

If you know Envy, you probably know Envy. The Japanese band with more than 30 years of post-hardcore legacy revisits us this week. Coming off a successful European tour spanning nine countries and 16 shows, as well as their recent stint at Maho Rasop in Thailand and the release of their 10-inch EP Seimei last year, they will be showcasing an impressive catalogue in one night.

For those that don't know Envy, that's seven albums, six EPs and more seamlessly blending aggressive and melodic elements. We could talk about how the signature music profile is characterised by intense dynamics of hardcore punk and atmospheric soundscape but better to experience it for yourself. Especially if the genre sounds like your thing.

The six-strong powerhouse comprise original members Manabu Nakagawa on bass, Nobukata Kawai on guitar, and lead vocalist/keyboardist Tetsuya Fukagawa, and the fitting subsequent additions of y0shi and Yoshimitsu Taki on guitars, and Hiroki Watanabe on drums.

ENVY

The upcoming performance marks a momentous occasion since the last live show was 2012 at the Substation. Other festivals Envy has graced include HELLFEST (FR), FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL (JP) and the very recent MAHO RASOP (TH).

Top Recommended Records To Check Out

  1. Formation and Early Years (1992-1996): The band's early years were marked by a DIY ethos, and self-released first EP "Breathing and Dying in this Place" in 1996.
  2. A Dead Sinking Story (2003): Often considered a landmark in Envy's discography, "A Dead Sinking Story" received critical acclaim for its emotional sound.
  3. Insomniac Doze (2006): Another well-received album, this showed Envy's ability to blend intense, chaotic moments with beautiful, atmospheric passages.
  4. Recitation (2010): Besides continuing Envy's exploration of post-rock and post-metal influences, the album demonstrated their musical evolution and experimentation.
  5. Collaboration with Tetsuya Fukagawa (2016): Envy faced a significant change when vocalist Tetsuya Fukagawa left the band in 2016. However, his departure was amicable, and the remaining members continued to make music with guest vocalists. (Fukagawa’s retirement was short lived as he returned to the band in 2018.)

Envy Live In Singapore

Date: Wednesday, 6 December 2023
Time: 8pm till 10pm, doors open at 7.30pm
Venue: SCAPE The Ground Theatre, Singapore 239978

Purchase tickets on Eventbrite

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