Miles Kane - Much more than just a shadow puppet
When Miles Kane's collaboration with Alex Turner went to No 1 and was nominated for a Mercury, some doubted his contribution. But now he's a solo star. By Gillian Orr
Life is pretty good for Miles Kane right now; he's "buzzing", to borrow his word of choice. Having experienced his fair share of ups and downs throughout his musical life, the 25 year-old's latest venture – a solo career – is going from strength to strength.
His debut album, Colour of the Trap, released back in May, has been a hit: it reached No 11 in the charts (and has just re-entered the Top 40 this week), as well as garnering some glowing reviews. He has played to packed-out crowds at festivals all summer and now he is looking forward to a UK headline tour next month. Slowly building on word of mouth and hard graft rather than arriving on a wave of hype, he is one of the break-out stars of 2011.
Of course, it's not his first taste of success, having already enjoyed a No 1 album and Mercury Prize nomination as one half of The Last Shadow Puppets, alongside Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner. But he has also had two bands, The Little Flames and The Rascals (both formed with friends at home in the Wirral), both of which quickly disbanded after their debut albums failed to capture the public's imagination. Kane realises that he has had some convincing to do, only too aware that many people thought The Last Shadow Puppets' success was really all down to Turner, despite the project being a collaborative effort.
"If I'm being completely honest about it," says Kane, stretching out on a sofa in his PR's office, "there was definitely a point to prove because a lot of people out there just see me as Al's best mate and the new kid that was in the Puppets who didn't really do anything. I'm not soft, I know some people think that. With this record I wanted to be like, 'well here's a great album and you can either take it or leave it'. I think I've turned a lot of people's heads, definitely."
A mix of classic rock'n'roll, soul and psychedelia, Colour of the Trap is unashamedly retro-sounding – quite at odds with much of the charts today, where dance and hip-hop reign.
"There are a few bands around but there are not many solo artists doing that style of music really. That's what sort of sets you apart, which is a good thing, I guess." Still, he wants to be embraced by the mainstream, and has no desire to be esoteric.
"It's great if your music can appeal to different types of people, whether it's a 15-year-old lad or a housewife. The Beatles did," he grins. "You want your music to be on Radio 1. You want to come on after Lady Gaga because that's great, that's how it should be."
While Kane today is confident and clearly loving life, he tells me that, prior to the record coming out, it was a tough couple of years. Solo success was never a sure thing and Kane admits to being impatient during the making of the album, as well as going through periods of self-doubt.
"It wasn't easy, there were dark periods," he says. "But I had that belief. I didn't do a gig or an interview or a photo for nearly two years which sort of killed me because I love it. There was a time halfway through making the record and I thought, 'nah, let's just leave it at that', but it wouldn't have been half as good as it is. I'm glad that I listened to my manager and mates and took my time because that made it what it is."
Recording and touring the album has also given Kane the opportunity to work with a few of his heroes. The Super Furry Animals' frontman (and solo star), Gruff Rhys, acted as a sort of mentor to Kane and produced a couple of tracks on the album as well as offering some bold sonic suggestions ("he opened my mind to not be afraid of pop," says Kane). The sparring Gallaghers jumped on board too. Both of whom presumably saw something of themselves in the young Kane (of course, the brothers were never this charming). Noel contributed some backing vocals on the album while Liam invited Kane on tour with his latest effort, Beady Eye.
"They're my heroes," enthuses Kane. "They were such a big influence on me growing up. They see I'm a lad who wants to work hard and get better and it's nice to get the thumbs up from people you look up to." Another cameo on the record comes from the French actress Clémence Poésy, who appears on the track "Happenstance".
"I wanted to do a really sexy duet," he explains. "That Gainsbourg and Bardot thing or Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, I've always been a massive fan of those sorts of songs and I've been listening to a lot of that stuff over the last couple of years."
Kane has a strong affinity with these colourful characters who brightened up the sixties, people like Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Dutronc. Much like the reaction such men elicited from the opposite sex, I've witnessed first-hand women going all giggly in front of Kane. When I tease him about being a ladies' man he laughs. "That's just an image! But, you know, I like to dress up and look smart."
There aren't too many dapper frontmen around these days, ones who admit to loving clothes and who will happily wax lyrical about the cut of a nice suit. You can see why he was picked to perform at the recent GQ Men of the Year awards bash.
He's certainly a bit of a natural show-off and you can understand why he can't wait to get back on tour. Not only is he really pleased with the band he has, but this is the first opportunity for them to play an hour-and-a-half set and really make it their own. Kane plans to throw in covers and try out new songs.
"I absolutely love it on stage: strutting round and getting sweaty," says Kane. "My confidence has really grown and I feel so comfortable."
Miles Kane tours the UK from 13 to 26 October (www.mileskane.com)
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