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Interview: Bloc Party's Kele Okereke

Talking with Bloc Party's singer/guitarist Kele Okereke about his recent shift to electronic music and his all-time favorite house trax.
2014-08-25 17:51:53

Rock and roll is dead, kids. Now it's all about turning up to EDM bangers and trap music, followed by a sweet deep house comedown. If you need proof of that, look no further than the fact that Kele Okereke, lead singer and guitarist of early-aughts post-punk megaband Bloc Party, is now touring the globe playing DJ sets and dropping EPs of slow-burning 120bpm house music. Here's his new song, "Doubt."

Which is pretty different from, say, this one...

He's DJing a FakeMusicMedia party this Thursday night at Arkham, and ahead of that I interviewed him via email.


SmSh: Let's start this off with some tunes. I read that you like dancing to soulful house tracks the most — can you please give us three of your favorite tracks from that genre?


1. South Street Players – "(Who?) Keeps Changing Your Mind"

2. DHS – "House Of God"

3. Loose Joints – "Is It All Over My Face"

SmSh: What do you use when you're DJing? What's the setup? Do you practice much?

Kele: I use CDs, USB sticks, sometimes I use Traktor for making loops. I used to practice lots when I was at home. Now I DJ so much that I just do it when I play.

SmSh: For your house productions, what are you using to produce? What's your studio look like?

Kele: I don't really have a studio. I have a spare room with a mic and my computer and some MIDI controllers and an electric piano. It's very basic, I know. I do most of my serious production in a proper studio.

SmSh: Do you listen to mixtapes much? What are some of your all time favorite mixes?

Kele: I don't really listen to mix tapes much. I don't have the patience.

SmSh: Do you work any rock or hip hop tracks into your DJ sets or is it just pure house? If so which tracks?

Kele: I don't play any rock or hip hop, I like to keep things around 120bpm and that is the wrong tempo for hip hop and rock.

SmSh: People say warm-up DJs shouldn't ever play songs by the headliner. How would you react if someone played Bloc Party songs when opening for you?

Kele: If it was tastefully done I wouldn't mind, we have a few songs that would probably work in a DJ setting, but most probably if it's before my set I won't be in the building so I don't mind.

SmSh: I read that you do a strict physical fitness routine on tour because "there always going to be someone younger and cuter" coming along. How do you stay in shape when you're traveling for DJ gigs where you probably can't bring your trainer along? What will you do in China?

Kele: I was joking about having a personal trainer by the way. I do exercise a lot when I am at home, but on tour I don't do it so much because your body is already compromised by all the flying and time zone shifts, so I think its better to wait until I get back to get physical again, I really hate being ill on tour.

SmSh: You've working on a book of short stories - can you tell us a story of something fucked up/crazy that happened at one of your shows? Either as a DJ or with Bloc Party?

Kele: There was a time in Utrecht in the Netherlands when I was playing a club and I didn't realize it was a sex party. All at once everyone starting making out and then it got really dark, people starting having sex in front of me on, on slings, on chairs, even on the dance floor. It was the smell that was the hardest to deal with, it was very intense.

SmSh: What can we expect from your DJ set?

Kele: Fun, good times and great music. I like to play music that I would like to dance to.

UPDATE: The email interview format does not allow for much back-and-forth, but after this initial round of questions, I sent some more over to Kele and he was nice enough to respond.

SmSh: Which of your house productions are you most proud of and why?

Kele: I really like a track called "The New Feel", it was on the Candy Flip EP I did and it features one of my favorite singers and closest friends Lucy Taylor from Pawws. I guess I like it because it has a very emotional feel, the vocal is very classy. 

SmSh: Many people are skeptical of DJ sets by people in rock bands. For example, Andy Rourke from the Smiths and Peter Hook from Joy Division played here and people said they were total shit. I guess a lot of people are wondering, can you actually DJ? And second, does it really matter anyway if the person is a big fan of that band anyway?

Kele: I think it totally matters. I completely understand people's skepticism about people in bands DJing. I know I have a lot to learn but I am confident about my abilities. I work very hard with my DJ sets to put on a good performance as it's very important to me. I wouldn't get onstage unless I thought I was expressing myself properly.

SmSh: Sometimes it feels like EDM and house music have become as big as rock was in previous decades. Has rock been eclipsed by electronic music? Why or why not?

Kele: I don't really know. I don't really know much about either of these worlds these days. I don't play EDM and at home I don't really listen to new rock music. I imagine though that there are people who will like either genre regardless of whether it is fashionable or not. 

SmSh: You mentioned that you're not in the venue before your set. Just curious, why is that? Do you not like to spend too much time in a club (smoke, etc)? Do you usually stick around after sets to see what other people are playing?

Kele: I don't spend much time in the venue before I play because I have to get ready for my own performance, that usually involves being on my own and not dealing with anyone. I tend to stick around after the performance if I'm in a party mood, it really depends.


There you go. Kele Okereke DJs this Thursday night at Arkham. Pre-sale tickets are 100rmb, available right here. To hear more of Kele's house productions, check out his Soundcloud right here.