“I wanted to do something heavier and with more soul...” - hmv.com talks to Michael Kiwanuka
It’s taken a long time for Michael Kiwanuka to follow up his 2012 big-selling debut album Home Again, but it’s finally here. We chatted to him about why it took four years to record new album Love & Hate (which you can preview and purchase on the right-hand side of the page), working with producer Danger Mouse and his plans for a big summer of festivals…
Love & Hate is finally out today, you must be relieved to get this album out...
“It’s a relief to be here and to have gotten through this stage. I’m glad it’s done, but also that I pushed through, getting this album out will be quite a moment for me.”
How was the process? When did you start work after touring Home Again?
“There was a lot of scrapping and starting again. It was very slow and I’m quite picky, I’ve really been working at it since early 2014, it just took its time to get here.”
“It was actually the same on the first album, but obviously no one was waiting for me to do anything. I’d scrap and start again on a lot of songs and it really did take me a lot of time to get the album to where it got to. Getting the music to a place where I was happy with took a long time.”
How did you come to work with Danger Mouse?
“He got involved at the beginning of 2015. He reached out to me and we met up in America, I think he initially just wanted to collaborate with me and then I told him all about my album and he said ‘I can help you with that’.”
So what was he like?
“It was a lot of fun. He really helped me through the final hurdle and he brought so much experience. I asked him so many questions and it was such a load off my shoulders having him there. He really encouraged me and got me to explore different ways of writing, he’s a genius record maker and he knows how to get music out of people.”
Did you record all over the place? Or was it mostly in America?
“It was all over the place. Mostly in the UK, we did five weeks in all in America. I didn’t mind the travelling, it kept it fresh, we kept changing things up, I liked that.”
How did you want this album to move on from Home Again?
“I had a sound in mind. I wanted to do something heavier and with more soul, I wanted to aim for something bigger. I did want to see where the music would take me and follow the road, but that was what I wanted.”
Was there much pressure on you during the making of the album? Were people asking why it was taking so long?
“I was pretty much left alone until it was done. It was frustrating and I know people weren’t happy about how long it was taking. Even when I went to work with Brian (Danger Mouse) we were pretty much left alone to get on with it.”
Can you sum up the album lyrically? Does it have a theme running through it?
“There’s no strict theme, but it’s very much an album about being human. Human emotion and all the things that come with it. I’ve grown with this album, not because I’ve changed, I feel a bit more confident with my lyrics.”
How are lyrics for you? Are you writing all the time? Or do you need the music to be done first?
“I get the music done first and the lyrics come last, they take me the longest. I sit down with music and the melody and work around that. I’m a bit better at writing things down now and I do enjoy writing, but I won’t write anything. I can’t be inspired by anything, things have to mean something to me, it needs to be a personal thing.”
Where did the album title come from?
“It came at the end. One of the songs is called Love and Hate and it seemed like a good title. It’s a heavier record and it’s a stronger statement, it suits the music.”
Finally, are you excited to take the album out live?
“I can’t wait. I’m excited to play the songs to people once they know the album. My band’s great, it’s mostly guys who have been with me for years and we’ve got great chemistry. We’ve got some big shows, Glastonbury, Latitude and then a big tour in October, we’ll be busy and I’m excited to get out and play.”