"This isn't King Blues part two…" – hmv.com talks to Itch
The King Blues were one of UK rock's recent success stories, mixing brash political punk rock with folk, but they ended things suddenly in 2012, parting ways without much warning.
Their firebrand frontman Jonny 'Itch' Fox quickly moved on and is now establishing himself a solo artist, with his debut album now on shelves and boasting guest appearances from the likes Matisyahu, Less Than Jake's Roger Manganelli and Taking Back Sunday's Adam Lazarra.
We called him up to find out all about it…
Your debut album has just come out, have you been pleased with the reaction?
"It's been very humbling actually. The reviews have been great, but the most important thing to me when I make a record is that I like it and I can be proud of it and play it to my friends, so I'm very happy with it."
How have you found releasing an album as a solo artist compared to releasing one as part of a band?
"Not really. The last two King Blues albums were the same as this; most of the band didn't play a huge part of putting those records together. All the songs start on acoustic guitar and a pen and a pad, whatever they end up becoming, I put the lyrics first, so it's not that different. I'm able to be a bit freer in terms of arrangements this time though."
So when did you record it?
"Two years ago. We did it on no money after the last King Blues album, after that record I continued doing this, just me and my producer. After that we shopped it round to labels and I wanted the time to be right. I wanted to explain to people that this isn't King Blues part two, I wanted to introduce people to me properly and I wanted to tour it heavily before the album came out."
You've got some pretty big name collaborators, like Matisyahu and Taking Back Sunday's Adam Lazarra, how did you get them all on board?
"I put a wish list together and sent tapes off to them and weirdly they all wanted to be involved. I didn't know any of them, I think because a lot of them are in rock bands it was cool for them to work on a record that sounds a bit different and play on it."
Where you in the studio with all of them? Or did you any of them remotely?
"I wasn't in the studio with Roger from Less Than Jake or Matisyahu, but I was in the studio with everyone else. It's wicked to be in the studio with people collaborating on the spot, but sometimes practicalities get in the way."
What kind of record is this lyrically? You've known for being quite political, but do you think that's overplayed?
"Yeah I do think so. Politics is a very important part of what I do, but I've been guilty of hiding behind sloganeering, this is me making myself vulnerable, putting myself out there. It's also me saying that I don't have all the answers, no-one does, people who say they do are lying. It's a bit deeper."
Are there any songs you're particularly proud of?
"The first track 'Life Is Poetry', I'm really proud of that, and there's this one called 'Not My Revolution', that's my favourite one. It's super-personal, I open up in a way I've never done before."
How have you found playing live? Have your new songs been going down well?
"Yeah, weirdly well. Especially in America (where Itch was speaking from), here no-one knows who the King Blues so I'm being judged by what I'm doing what right now. Back in the UK I'm enjoying being back in small clubs and being in people's faces again."
So what's the plan for the rest of the year?
"I'm finishing up this tour and then heading back to the UK to tour with Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip, and then festival season starts. We've got lots coming in, thick and fast."
Do you have much for album number two?
"There's load, I write every day, I wrote 100 songs for this album, I've got loads to go back to."
Itch's debut album The Deep End is out now in hmv stores and you can preview it by clicking on the icon on the right-hand side of the page.