ROCK & POP: For Mylo's next trick...
He has resurrected dance music and destroyed rock'n'roll. Myles McInnes talks to NOSHEEN IQBAL about runaway success
Friday 11 February 2005
Dance flavour and saviour of the month, Mylo is holding forth in a Brighton pub about Destroy Rock & Roll - an album produced entirely on an old Apple G4 in his bedroom, using MP3 samples and loops chopped and mixed through computer programs. Guinness in hand, he earnestly explains: "I only learn - and it's mostly through trial and error - as much as I need to do what I do."
The success of Mylo's debut album has been slow; it has sold just over 100,000 copies since its release in April last year. But last week, Mylo signed a deal with Sony, which means the album is near-guaranteed to jump off the shelves this summer, once the Destroy Rock & Roll disco tours the festival circuit.
Mylo's music is a slap in the face for critics muttering that "dance music is dead" as they point to the latest Prodigy and Fatboy Slim albums(both dying a sales death somewhere outside the Top 40). There is a little of the former's musical fairy dust and a lot of the latter's big beat head-rush in Destroy Rock & Roll.
The crossover appeal is huge; Elton John, for one, is besotted, telling talkshow host Jonathan Ross that "every home should own a copy".
"He's definitely the biggest celebrity fan I have," says Mylo, who is visibly disappointed to have discovered, when they met, that the notorious prima donna was "just pretty normal".
Mylo himself is relaxed, courteous and the kind of nice that appeals to mums. Despite this, he still manages to be quite extraordinary. "I was quite a spod-ish kid at school, to such an extent that I got skipped through a year at primary school and when I got to high school I was younger than everyone else and probably - well, I did, get a lot of abuse for it," he says.
Earlier in the day, after a short walk along Brighton's seafront, he decided we would sit in one of the tiny boats-cum-benches on the beach for the first part our interview.
The first-born son of "quite strict" Cambridge academics, he describes his politically conscious parents as "hippies - environmental, not the sex and drugs kind". He grew up on the Isle of Skye with an older sister and three younger brothers. Though the children were banned from watching Eighties TV staples such as The A-Team - "We had to turn it off after the theme tune finished" - they were given far more freedom as teenagers. "There was never any intervention of what I should do with my life and where I should go."
Before he settled in Skye to start working on music, Mylo had lived in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paris, Los Angeles and London. He had been in a long-term relationship with one of his philosophy lecturers at Oxford, spent the third part of his PhD stipend from UCLA on a cross-country road trip, and worked for the BBC as a researcher on Panorama. "I never really knew what I wanted to do," he says, "but I needed to do something that was interesting, a bit creative - something cleverly dumb, fun and populist that would reach a lot of people."
He chats away comfortably on all manner of topics, from philosophy and Jean Baudrillard's take on phenomenology, to Belgian lesbian DJs and the influence of The Beatles, The Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays on his formative years.
Mylo recorded Destroy Rock & Roll, released initially on the independent Breastfed Records, over a period of two years, though he says the tracks came to him quickly. The Sony deal involves financing Breastfed's promotion costs rather than delivering an advance to its main artist. Mylo says simply that he "won't see a penny". At least, not until the royalties start coming in. Yet he acknowledges the benefits. "I can pay the rent for the next few months and I'm doing okay. I get DJ fees and we get money from the live shows, which the band splits equally. I've got nothing to worry about."
His album is a mellifluous mix of samples he's cannily recycled from different sources, but he stresses that he still has ultimate control. "With a lot of stuff I created or took, it's treated in such a way that there's no copyright infringement and I've made it my own. I'll probably only lose a quarter of the publishing royalties," he says.
The Mylo live performance is shared between a handful of friends, bouncing and sweating on stage with guitars, keyboards, bass and a live feed of projected cut-and-paste visuals. "I always had a cool gang of friends from an early age. Louis and Willie, who are my band now, I've known forever. We spent hours hurting animals, burning ants, climbing trees and all those other boy cliches growing up."
The three met David, who is responsible for the band's onstage graphics, a few years ago in Glasgow. Their tourbus is comedic testosterone territory: brilliant but obscure mixtapes, loud enthusiasm for the merits of live, German rock-metal shows, and long discussion on V, an obscure Eighties TV series (Like Dallas in space, apparently).
For a band living the rock'n'roll life, drugs and debauchery might be expected, and yet it's worth mentioning only because there is none. Mylo reckons the last time he took drugs was "in a Leeds club and only really then because Howard Marks turned up after the show, doing coke, and offered me some". The gravel-voiced, stubbly Scot admits to having been "a total stoner at university" and, as such, the Mylo take on drugs is pretty relaxed. He laughs at the throw-away remark made by a friend that his album is "Ecstasy music for people who don't take Ecstasy" and says: "That's probably spot on. I'll take it as a compliment."
Of the album, Mylo says: "It's music that survives and transcends the club environment and uses simple tricks from pop, and it is quite instant. It could easily be listened to at home, doing the washing up. Hopefully, it's like the kind of CD you'd burn from the internet, a compilation of really good electronic tracks."
For all his opinions, experiences and education, Mylo says his music is not overtly political. He says the single "Destroy Rock & Roll" "throws ridicule upon this absurd preacher who gets into a self-righteous frenzy, passing judgement on Eighties pop icons". Mylo, who is anti-Bush (and increasingly anti-Blair), believes "this fundamentalism is very much in line with Bush and his cronies". But he stops short of saying the single is a political number. "I'm not a songwriter and I don't really buy political songs. They have a place but they're not usually done very well... If you're really fired up by politics, get into it and be on stage as a politician, not a popstar."
It is somewhat perverse then, that he names Bob Dylan as an all-time personal hero, but "wouldn't want to meet him as he's probably very rude". He mentions Bez as another idol, probably more understandably given that he spent his early teens in a Madchester covers band with his younger brother: "[The band] met Bez a while ago and went out together a fair bit. He's great. We haven't heard from him since the whole Celebrity Big Brother thing, but I expect he's got loads of people hassling him. I think he's disappeared into the stratosphere of Bezness."
He is excited at the prospect of working with a variety of instrumentalists and vocalists for the next album, and names the Swedish synth-pop missy, Annie, as a wish-list collaborator. "I'm also quite jealous of people like Richard X and Jacques Lu Cont, who can do their own thing, work in bands, do DJ sets, remixes, and crossover with people like the Sugababes and Madonna. I'd like to have that. I'd really like to work with Madonna but she's all hooked up. Her and Jacques Lu Cont are quite close aren't they?" Mylo can't really complain. "I do get paid for not doing a real job. The lifestyle I have at the moment isn't really sustainable, at least not for my liver, and we've had some rough bits - like getting all our equipment nicked in Liverpool when it wasn't insured, and a pretty scary car accident at Christmas - but I'm motivated because I'm enjoying this. I want to do it for as long as I enjoy it, and not a moment longer."
Mylo says he isn't suffering difficult second-album syndrome because he "recorded enough tracks in the first round to have a good headstart on the second album. I'll be using them as templates to work from." And he explains why making music is slower for him than for others. "With Coldplay, say, they wrote their biggest songs from the first two albums in the same sessions. With the music I do, I've got to sit down and get a bunch of new equipment, figure my way through it, sort out collaborators and take time to control and produce it."
When I joke that he will be lucky to have finished his next album by 2007, he replies: "The way I'm going, I don't see another album release until 2009 - absolutely seriously." Given that joining the Stone Roses school of second comings is no way to sustain a potentially brilliant career, it may be time for Mylo, spod or not, to read the instruction manual.
The single `Destroy Rock & Roll' and the album of the same name are out now on Breastfed/Sony
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