Published Jun 26, 2010Ask Kele Okereke about all of the rumours circulating that his band Bloc Party are finito and he rolls his eyes and mutters, "Blah, blah, blah." The official term he and his band members have given their time off from one another is a "temporary full stop." But they're all keeping busy, says Kele. "Russell [Lissack]'s got a new band [Pin Me Down] and he's playing with Ash. Gordon [Moakes] has got a new band [Young Legionnaire]. And Matt [Tong] is just watching Lost and playing video games. He's probably watching Mad Men as well."
But it's Kele who's currently traveling the world doing promo and preparing for a North American tour this summer. With his debut solo album, The Boxer, now among us, Kele appears refreshed and excited, like this was a long time coming. The Boxer is an unabashed expression of Kele's lingering passion for electronic music. With help from Spank Rock producer XXXChange, he found himself tapping deeper into the growing dance influence that began seeping into Bloc Party's 2008 album, Intimacy, singing over everything from two-step garage, house, acid and even jungle. "The idea was just to reflect what music I'm interested in," he explain. "It was just about making something I was excited by. I've always been honest about wanting to make an album like this."
What are you up to?
I'm doing interviews all day. After this I go to New York and do interviews all day!
What are your current fixations?
Right now I'm really obsessed with the rapper Nicky Minaj. She's sick and deranged and I love it.
Why do you live where you do?
I live in Shoreditch in East London because it's the only place to live in London if you're young. It's very vibrant with lots of different communities. There's a big arts scene and a big music scene and the people are great. But I'm feeling right now that I'm thinking of moving somewhere else. I'm kind of in the process of moving to New York.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
I saw Let The Right One In and that film had me re-examining what I thought beauty was. Every five minutes something really sublime and violent happened and it kind of made me realize that things with true beauty need to have an element of grotesque in them. The film moved me in a way I didn't think possible.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
I remember seeing Spiritualized at Glastonbury in 1998. That was something else. It was the year after they released Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, which is one of my favourite albums. What they did with the sound was so massive and huge, you were so immersed in it. The way a concert experience should be like.
What have been your career highs and lows?
The low was at the end of 2009 we were so exhausted with each other. We had been touring non-stop for six years without really taking a break. I kind of felt like we weren't really getting along. It wasn't really that enjoyable being out on the road. But I think one of the highs was that we played some of the best shows we've ever done last year. That last UK tour we did in October we were playing to people who loved us, and that really brought us together.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I like my ambition. I like the fact that I don't let anything get in my way if I want something. But I don't like that I can become absent-minded. I get both of those traits from my mother.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Staying in bed with a loved one and just walking around, eating, having tea. A casual day... Just a day to be in love.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Enjoy it more. I'm enjoying it more now...
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think of less uptight and hectic, mellower Americans. The accent is somewhat similar, much like it is with New Zealanders and Australians. All the Canadians I've met are easy-going people that don't have the manic energy of Americans.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
Elastica's first record. It was a tape.
What was your most memorable day job?
I used to work at an art-house cinema, the Curzon Soho cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue in London. I had just left home and all of these interesting creative people, artists who were in bands and making films. We were all working at this cinema for no money. There was always a good party after work. That was my favourite job.
How do you spoil yourself?
By eating. I have four meals a day. I'm always hungry. It's the one thing I don't mind spending money on. If I need to eat, I will buy a nice meal.
If I wasn't a musician I would be...
A teacher. I think primary school kids. The way they look at the world is awesome and I think it would be inspiring to go to work every day with 30 kids in a class.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
People that are funny. When they have that spark.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I met Karl Lagerfeld the other day. He shot me for some French thing and that was pretty surreal. He was okay, he was fine. But there's such a huge aura around him. I'm not big on fashion, but I know who he is and going into the studio was weird. The way people act around him is just so deferential. He had some great fingerless gloves.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Kate Bush. I'd like to pick her brain. I'd make her a vegetarian curry. She's a vegetarian and I hear she loves curries.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
She wishes I was a lawyer.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
"Let the River Run" by Carly Simon.