"I can't be bothered with collaborations..." hmv.com talks to Example
So you’ve got a new single ‘Kids Again’ out this weekend ahead of your album 'Live Life Living' being released in June. Is the album done & dusted?
"Yeah, I haven’t written any new songs for it for a while, but I’m still making tweaks to the mixes and stuff. We recorded about eighteen tracks for this album and I think about twelve of them will make it onto the album, you always have to do a few more than you’ll end up using. But yeah, it’s sounding good, I’m really happy with it. It feels like the most complete album I’ve done in terms of the way it flows.
"In the past my albums have all had about eight producers, so even though they were all mixed by the same person and all had my voice on, they didn’t always flow as a whole thing, just because there were so many different production styles. This album’s just been done by two people and me, basically."
Who’s producing this time?
"On this one it’s Stuart Price (a.k.a. Les Rythmes Digitales mainman Jacques Lu Cont) and Fraser T. Smith. Both massive pop song writer-producers, between them they’ve done Adele, Madonna, Kylie, they’re high calibre. But what I’ve liked about working on this album is that we’ve done everything from scratch. You know, in the past I’ve been sent beats and picked ones I liked, but on this album every song has started on piano or guitar, it’s more a ‘classic’ songwriting style if you like, then sort of converted into the more electronic-sounding songs that you hear on the album."
You mentioned that this album flows together as a piece of work instead of being just a collection of songs, is there any overarching theme to the record then?
"Well, I just wanted to make something for the fans really. My last album The Evolution of Man was a bit more experimental, you know, it was live guitars over electronic beats, I had Graham Coxon playing on it and stuff. But it didn’t really sell that well, I think people didn’t really get it because it wasn’t very ‘zeitgeist’ I guess. Everyone else was making EDM-style shit and then here’s me and I’ve made a guitar album! I mean I personally enjoyed that, but then on this album I’ve signed a new deal with Sony, there’s expectations on me and I just wanted to kind of realign myself, get ready for all the big festival shows in the summer and stuff. So the new songs are probably up there with the biggest festival bangers I’ve done, like ‘We’ll Be Coming Back’, ‘Kickstarts’, ‘Changed the Way You Kiss Me’, stuff like that."
Can you cite any specific influences on the tracks?
"The rest of the album is kind of like a love letter to the 90s. It’s a modern sound, but there’s little nods everywhere, you know? There are certain songs where one sounds a bit Chemical Brothers, one sounds a bit like Underworld, some it sounds a bit like The Prodigy. So I mean they’re undoubtedly me, but there’s stuff we’ve done with the production and the programming that’s got that kind of vibe. There’s a couple of tracks where we’ve used a 303 (legendary Roland bassline synth), there’s some acid house type stuff in there, we’ve sampled breakbeats and stuff. When you hear the album you’ll know what I’m talking about but it’s like if you’re in maybe your late twenties or early thirties it’ll feel a bit nostalgic. If you’re fourteen years old it might sound completely new, I don’t know!"
Has signing a new deal changed anything about your approach to making records?
"Not really, I mean I’m a mainstream artist really. I work with underground artists sometimes, I did a couple of cool little bits which were more like dubstep or techno tracks over the last few years. But you’ve got to know where you’re at. I’ve got no problem with being mainstream or being on playlists at Captial FM or Radio 1, you know? That’s where I’ve had success so it’s not an issue for me. I only have one rule which is never put something out that I’m not proud of or I’m not 100% behind, and never do stuff for the money. I’ve turned down so many things – and I’m talking hundreds of thousands of pounds – where people want me to rap on this or sing on that or wear these clothes, but if it’s not me the answer’s no. I want to maintain 1000% integrity."
Are there any collaborators on the new record?
"Nah, I can’t be bothered with collaborations. I think you only need to do that if you’re a producer or a production duo or something, you know? If you’re not a singer or a rapper or whatever, if you don’t do vocals then I guess you need other people to come in and do that on your records. I’ve got a full live band and I can perform all my tracks myself, so it’s pointless for me having a featured vocalist, because when you come to do it live they’re not there! If you come to my show, there’s nobody jumping on stage with me at the gig, it’s just me."
Is there anyone that you would like to work with though?
"I mean, if I was going to do that I’d probably be more inclined to do it with someone from back in the day, you know? Maybe someone like Elton John, get him to play piano and sample it then turn into a sort of house tune, something like that. I’ve been lucky enough to work with loads of big names already, I’ve worked some of the world’s biggest DJs and producers, but for me it’s like unless Jay-Z calls me up and says ‘do you want to be on a chorus?’ then I’m not really into it, you know? I don’t have like a list of people I just kind of get offered things and now and again it’s interesting, like with the Pet Shop Boys. I never really imagined myself being on a Pet Shop Boys record but they said ‘do you want to be on a record’ and it was like a dream come true."
Where have you been recording the album?
"Five of the tracks were recorded in L.A., the rest were all done in London, a lot of it at Fraser’s place, he’s got a studio near Parson’s Green that’s like a five minute walk from my house, which is nice!"
What does 2014 have in store?
"Lots of festivals, I can only confirm the ones that have been announced already but T in the Park has just been announced and I’m doing that. There’s some in Germany, Denmark…basically over the next two or three weeks I’ve got about thirty festivals to announce, I’m doing five in the UK I think and then loads more in Europe. Then probably about twenty in places like Majorca and Ibiza, so about sixty shows in total."
Are you doing your own tour as well?
"I’m not doing the arenas until November, which we’ll announce when the album comes out in June, but I’m doing this little Ultimate Weekender tour in March, which is like six gigs in three days, so London, Manchester, Glasgow, all my favourite small venues."
Obviously you’re looking forward to your album coming out, are there any other albums coming out this year that you’re looking forward to?
"To be honest I’ve been locked in the studio, I don’t even know who’s got stuff coming out! But I don’t tend to listen to that much current stuff really, if I want inspiration I tend to go back and listen to, I don’t know, a Leftfield album or a Pearl Jam album or something!"