Getting To Know: BLOKEACOLA
PSYCHEDELIC indie pop artist Blokeacola was born in Wales, cut his teeth on the Leeds music scene, lives in Hangzhou, China and has a celebrity fan in Tom Robinson.
“Getting played on the radio and being complimented by a songwriter I have a great deal of respect for in Tom Robinson is of course flattering,” he said.
“I haven’t always made strictly psychedelic music, but it’s always been there lurking wanting to come out. I think these days it’s purely about escapism. But if someone asked what kind of music I make I’d tell them ‘superbly psychedelic’ because that’s what Tom Robinson said and that’s that as far I’m concerned!”
Following in his father’s musical footsteps from an early age, Blokeacola previously performed in several bands but now prefers to work solely on his own terms.
“I’d say recording is my main passion. I rarely gig these days, partly due to work and family commitments, but I’m always looking to record music whenever possible. I write, record, engineer, and produce my music by myself.
“I love that sensation of being whisked away into my own little world working on my own creations, and that feeling of stumbling on something you can tell is going to lead somewhere you really like.
I like my music to have a groove and to be melodic, and feature harmonies. I’m not averse to a jangly guitar part or blistering solo where needed, I love to play a simple, catchy bass part and to mess around with synth sounds.”
But growing up it wasn’t music that first took young Blokeacola’s interest, he clearly had other dreams – music wasn’t his first career choice, it wasn’t even his second.
“I actually wanted to be a cartoon character when I was very young. People said that was impossible but I like to think I’ve proven them wrong. Then I wanted to be a footballer. That did turn out to be impossible sadly. Wanting to become a musician was largely being naive enough to think that would offer some form of escape from mainstream society. It didn’t. It was a lot of fun for a long while, but it brought a lot of pressure too as well as poverty and various other issues.
“Now I teach English as a foreign language in China to help put food on the table and keep a roof over my family’s head. I still have time to devote to music thankfully. I’d love to find a way to earn more money from my catalogue but if not, no problem, my life is a lot more fulfilling than what lots of people must go through. I’m very lucky. I’d rather be living like this than being on the road constantly as a working musician. That’s not for me any longer. I love coming home to my family every day. I feel like my gigging days are behind me unless someone makes me an offer I can’t refuse. It just doesn’t suit or fit my lifestyle any longer.
“I did start a live project a few years back and the gigs we played went well, but we missed out on big festival slots due to bureaucracy and I just couldn’t be doing with all that disappointment any longer. My work schedule doesn’t mix with a gigging schedule either. I work evenings and weekends and my days off are Monday and Tuesday. Not very rock and roll!
“I feel like some people think to be a musician you’re supposed to just accept a relentless gig schedule and the unhealthy lifestyle, physically and mentally, that often goes with it, but I think we need to find different ways of doing this that don’t just serve to put money in the hands of the alcohol industry. Soundcheck at six o’clock? I’d rather be eating dinner with my family, thanks. I’ve played solo acoustic shows here in intimate venues where people are there primarily for the music. I can see myself doing those from time to time as those have been beautiful experiences, people so attentive you could literally hear a pin drop. But that’s about it unless someone decides to pay me properly for the huge amount of work this all involves.
“My dad once said to me, accentuate the positive, meaning in life and with music I’m guessing, and I’ve learned to do this more and more. What do I have in my arsenal that will appeal to the listener – what am I good at? Don’t dwell negatively on things you’re not so good at. Try and do the best with what you have and force yourself to maintain a positive outlook even when that’s admittedly difficult.
“My dad also taught me early to be disciplined with recording arrangements. Cut out the fat. Don’t add loads of stuff that doesn’t need to be there. I’m glad I spent time learning with my dad’s equipment and on a 4-track recorder a friend loaned me. It teaches you to record parts well and plan ahead. Limitations can make for quicker progress.
“Before I start a project, I’m always trying to impose a framework on it so it doesn’t spiral out of control or lose focus. These are the types of things a lot of musos will say but my dad was the first to convey them to me so he can take the credit. I’m always finding myself relearning these types of lessons.”
And if you haven’t yet heard any of Blokeacola’s prodigious output, don’t worry – here’s how you can help support another great unsigned artist.
“I’ve been releasing a single a month this year. They’re available for a limited time only in that format. Best places to pick them up, from the point of view of the creator, are Bandcamp or Amazing Radio. Next year I’ll release them all as the album they were intended to be at a more expensive price. So, pick them up cheap whilst you can!
“And I have to get a plug in for Amazing Radio – they’ve been absolutely fantastic to me. DJs Jim Gellatly, Frankie Francis, Charlie Ashcroft, Shell Zenner and Scott McGerty have been very supportive – this year Amazing Radio have been playing every single I’ve released, constantly.”
Listen to the superbly psychedelic Blokeacola here: