Don Letts’ ceaselessly trend: ‘After I put on this shirt now, how do I really feel? Slimmer than I must be’

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‘ II’m Iall Iabout Ithe Iculture Iclash’ I… IDon ILetts Iin Ithe I80s. IPhotoograph: IDavid ILevene/ IThe IGuardian

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Don ILetts’ Idebut Isolo Ialbum, I IOutta ISync, I Iis Iout Ion I26 IMay Ion ICooking IVinyl

Fleur East: ‘I must cherish each second’

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Fleur’s Isingle, I IDepend Ithe IWays, I Iis Iout Inow

Richard Dawson on his post-apocalyptic new album: ‘I must booby-trap a cave to outlive’

Richard Dawson doesn’t suppose he would survive for lengthy in a post-apocalyptic world. Would he get killed off within the pre-credits sequence of a film? “Most likely, and it’s arduous to confess that. I’ve sleep apnoea as nicely, so I’d need to go off alone as a result of I make such a noise once I sleep,” he says, over a pint by a crackling hearth in The Boathouse pub within the Northumberland village of Wylam. It’s “most likely the most effective pub on this planet,” in line with the signal exterior, and at this time it feels prefer it. “I’ve really given this plenty of thought. The one means I might survive could be to discover a cave, after which to booby-trap it, as a result of the quantity of my loud night breathing is immense. So not solely am I going to need to sleep in a cave that’s booby-trapped, I’m additionally going to be completely exhausted. I’m not going to final lengthy.”

He laughs fortunately. “I already mentioned to [partner and Hen Ogledd bandmate] Sally that when it occurs, she’s higher off doing me a favour and making it fast.”

Dawson’s extraordinary seventh album, The Ruby Cord, is the reason for this dialog about survival in a ravaged world. It’s not that it’s a musical rendering of Mad Max – it seems to be set in a future that bears extra in frequent with the previous than the current, with scattered reminders within the lyrics that that is certainly the longer term: “Alongside weedburst motorways we tear / Previous the tangle silence of our emptied cities,” he sings on the nearer, Horse and Rider.

A few of the inspiration behind it got here from the state of the world, some from gaming, which appears apt, given The Ruby Wire and its two predecessors – Peasant and 2020 – kind a tough trilogy of previous, current and future, and showcase Dawson’s dedication to worldbuilding. Simply as video games create their very own surroundings, so does Dawson along with his information, with their accumulation of lyrical element (for Peasant, he even researched dyeing at the hours of darkness ages, in order to make certain of getting it proper).

The three albums additionally share the thought of Dawson imagining them as refracted by a selected artwork kind: with Peasant, it was the work of Breughel; with 2020, “I envisaged a bit telly, the sort I used to have in my room, with a video recorder included. And this one I imagined extra like a pc recreation – it appears sensible, however it has a barely pixellated high quality.”

When he performs video games, he says, he likes to undergo them “at clip-clop tempo, as an alternative of racing by”. And he notices how they modify his interplay with the world. When he was enjoying The Final of Us, he realised he was ready for an x to seem in his imaginative and prescient to allow him to open doorways. “I don’t know in the event you’ve picked up a newspaper and tried to enlarge it” – he gestures transferring his fingers aside to zoom in – “it was like that. That felt scary, but in addition a bit thrilling, like my mind had began to alter due to my engagement with this stuff.”

The artwork for The Ruby Cord.
The art work for The Ruby Wire.

He talks about his first encounter with a totally imagined gaming world, enjoying Skyrim in his late 20s, along with his good friend Ben. “I went into it, begin of the sport, and was going, ‘The place can I’m going?’ ‘You may go anyplace you want, mate.’ What? I hadn’t performed a recreation in so lengthy that the very concept of an open world was so new. And out of the blue you will have the sense of: ‘Fucking hell, I can simply go and stroll within the forest and research the timber and vegetation which might be there.’ And likewise, crucially, you might resolve your individual character – that’s a staple of those video games – and inevitably you begin gaming and three hours later you’re nonetheless making an attempt to resolve the slant of their eyebrow.”

That looks like a good abstract of Dawson’s strategy to creating information, too – he writes all of the music first, then the lyrics, line by line. “I don’t write forward of the place I’m at, so I’ll wait till I’ve actually obtained that verse or couple of strains just about as they need to be.”). There may be virtually actually the slant of an eyebrow described someplace on certainly one of his albums.

What he received’t do is clarify what he’s making an attempt to say, and even why, actually. Asking a blunt, direct query of Dawson about his music is like asking a main minister once they knew of the allegations towards such and such a minister, as a result of the response leads you away from what you wished to know. “It took a very long time to reach on the phrases within the songs, and I may simply undo some spell if I speak an excessive amount of,” he says. “However I actually wished to make one thing – I do know it’s going to sound corny – that was very lovely.”

The Ruby Wire is as unpindownable as Dawson is. Songs reminiscent of Thicker Than Water or Museum or Horse and Rider are virtually conventionally fairly (the just about is essential; nobody goes to be mistaking this for Lewis Capaldi). However it opens with The Hermit, a 41-minute monitor, through which I dare recommend nothing a lot occurs for the primary 10 minutes.

“You say not quite a bit occurs, however it’s actually important to the story,” he says. “It appears like a little bit of an improv session, however there have been fairly clear directions to the musicians to by no means let it construct – it ought to solely ever be a suggestion of one thing occurring, like a frond waving, or a bit animal scuttling. The concept of that part is a forest on its most simple features, idling earlier than daybreak. However the weight of that sleep could be very essential to the character waking up or being introduced into consciousness. That wouldn’t imply something in the event you hadn’t had that earlier than. There’s a pleasure in excited about YouTube and Spotify and the quick tempo of all the pieces, which is all tremendous, however it was a pleasure to go in the wrong way and gradual it down. There was by no means any alternative however to steer with The Hermit, as a result of it’s such a powerful concept to have as a single.”

Regardless of releasing a 41-minute single through which nothing a lot occurs for the primary 10 minutes, regardless of his excessive profile, Dawson is incredulous on the concept he’s the poster boy for British experimental music: “I’m certain individuals from experimental music and improv would discover that ridiculous.” When he performs experimental music occasions, he’s usually probably the most standard artist on the invoice, he says, then accepts that when he’s on a extra standard invoice, he usually seems to be the outlier.

“I’m primarily an old style melody man,” he decides. “I do know that’s a humorous factor to say, however I consider it. I don’t need to blow my very own trumpet” – after all he doesn’t, he’s Richard Dawson – “however they’ve been good melodies on the previous few albums. Melody’s the factor. Melody combined with phrases.”

He laughs.

“Oh, I do need to blow my very own trumpet!” Good for him. He deserves to.