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Kings Have Long Arms
By Liam Ronan
Swine has the pleasure to introduce you to Salford born, Sheffield resident genius Kings Have Long Arms (KHLA) for a cheeky chinwag about glam rock, fame in France and appearances on Coronation Street.
The mysterious sound that is KHLA has been moulded out of many life experiences; from writing about birds and bagels as a kid, to receiving an ever gracious welcome to Sheffield’s fair city. KHLA’s self-confessed awkwardness, gypsy-like qualities and un-willingness to ever conform has created a true enigma.
I asked KHLA about his reasons for moving to Sheffield,
“I’ve always had the heart of a gypsy, I never felt settled anywhere and still don't… When I came to Sheffield 10 years ago, I'd go to the Leadmill [sweaty indie haunt] and I’d always get some knob pointing his finger at me going "Fucking Manc"… The irony that they were dancing to the Stone Roses like Ian Brown, at a club night called Step On was completely lost on them.”
I quickly look down and ask the next question at this point because I think that silly Sheffielder could have very possible been me. I ask KHLA about the music, and how he got started,
“To say I ever started out in music is to suggest that it was all a big showbiz plan…Everything about me is more accidental than by design, I’ve made up songs since I was a little kid… I got one of them little Phillips tape recorders on my 7th birthday and id make up daft songs about spiders, bagels and birds of prey... KHLA came about when a member of the All Seeing I heard some of my little rough recordings in 2002 and declared me special…needs,” laughs KHLA.
Since he was ‘discovered’ in 2002, KHLA has released 8 singles, an album and a DVD. He has also managed to get himself on a large number of compilations across the world and has performed sold out shows in Spain, France, Denmark and Belgium. It cannot pay that well though as KHLA keeps a low profile by making breakfasts for beefy builders in a backstreet Sheffield cafe.
So where does a name like Kings Have Long Arms find its origins? KHLA explains himself,
“I wanted a name that thick people could never remember!” chuckles KHLA,
“It has lots of different meanings, it's subversive. Did you know that in Jamaica they call thieves ‘long hands?’ I was gunna call myself The Long Arms, play all the toilets of the UK and become a darling of the indie scene… It could have been so easy if I’d not been born such an awkward fucker!”
KHLA also has a new single which is out now. Big Umbrella features Scouse sixties soul throwback Candi Payne (sister of Howie Payne, formerly of The Stands and Zutons’ drummer Sean Payne) who has also recently collaborated with Mark Ronson. I ask him what the reaction has been to it,
“Its pretty much sold out in all the major cities and it even made it in to the UK Official Top 30 Indie Singles Chart which was cool.”
Cool indeed, The Sunday Times named it as the first great pop single of 2008 and it has received airplay from BBC Radio 1, 2 and 6. KHLA was most chuffed with its radio play in a particular Salford-based soap. Boasts KHLA,
“Best of all, is that it was played on the radio in Kevin Webster’s garage on Coronation Street! That brought a genuine tear to my eye… Can you imagine how I felt? A scene with Tyrone and Sally Webster with my tune playing in the background? It’s one of my greatest achievements…”
Weatherfield isn’t the only place where KHLA is popular. He has also found popularity in Paris. Exclaims KHLA,
“I’ve done TV and radio and been in loads of respectable mags over there… I was even caricatured in the French answer to Private Eye; they love me them French! I’ve played in Paris quite a few times… When we did the festival a couple of years ago in Paris we were the headliners for the Saturday night…We played to about twelve thousand party people and got all these cool Parisians doing the Conga… Turned a park by the Seine in to a Working Men’s Club in Kersal [seedy Salford district]…”
“It’s weird going to a country who’s first language isn’t English and connecting with them. The French probably get me more than the English do… we [KHLA] do get treated really well over seas. I've had more insight into I guess what it would be like to be a proper pop star over there; its fun for a few days but I'd miss my fryer in the café.”
So France is where it’s at is it? Staying closer to home what does KHLA have to say on the UK music scene as a whole?
“It’s really hard to say. I'm sure there are hundreds of really ace, inventive bands out there, making great music… But the people who run the media are not really ever going to represent them fairly when there’s money to be made out of adverts, corporate record labels, its all a sewn up, ‘who you know’, kind of industry… Everything is predetermined.”
KHLA continues to illustrate how he sees our music industry using his Marxist cultural critique,
“Bands used to form so they could get on Top of the Pops and somehow subvert from the inside, so what did the media do? Kill it off… Aspirations are being muted and squashed everywhere… I guess you just have to get out there to gigs and hopefully stumble across something great.”
I guess KHLA is not a big fan of the NME then? I was correct,
“Even Smash Hits was better than what the NME has become. It's Upsetting.”
So without much gigs and a hatred of the NME, how does KHLA plan to get his records out to the people. Will he look towards the future with Facebook, or the past with Minidisc or cassettes? KHLA answers simply,
“Pigeons, mind control, telepathy, violence…Whatever it takes.”
Things seem ambiguous with the album. When I asked about the date of completion I got another question instantly thrown back at me, “How longs a piece of string?”
Obviously I didn’t know the answer to this. It surely depends on how long the string actually is. Doesn’t it? Anyway, while I was getting all tied up with rhetorical questions KHLA told me about the future album,
“I’m getting some more lovely people to sing on some of my new tracks, I will then make a track order, the rest is Business/evil.”
KHLA then concedes that it will be out hopefully in the Autumn. So not that long at all then.
Considering the famous faces he has already worked with, the album should be star-studded. I asked him how he went about getting such enviable collaborations such as Mungo Jerry and Phil Oakey,
“When I write a tune, if I think its good enough for human ears then I’m pretty sure I could convince almost anyone to sing on my records. It’s simple really: write ace song, ask legend if they would sing it, jobs a good un'… Don't be afraid to be cheeky but don't be cheeky if your crap… it won’t work.”
Good advice indeed for anyone looking to start collaborating with established musicians.
KHLA does seem to embody the very creative package that modern music is currently freely offering us, but whether this artist could be a commercial success I do not know. However, if the Klaxons can bring ‘New Rave’ to the Ten O’Clock News, then I’m sure Kings Have Long Arms can bring post-modern pop to Panorama. Expect to hear and see more of this guy along with his mates who dress up as space men pretending to play instruments.
KINGS HAVE LONG ARMS single BIG UMBRELLA featuring CANDIE PAYNE is out now on ltd 7"and available on ITUNES.
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