Tab Interview: I Am Kloot
‘The guy who wrote that sounds like… a bloody c**t who’s never had sex before.’ I AM KLOOT bassist PETER JOBSON sorts out his critics. STEPHEN YANG asks the questions.
I am Kloot have been bobbing about the British music scene with their ‘twisted torch’ songs since 1999. So, it came a quite a surprise when their most recent album Sky at Night was short-listed for the 2010 Mercury Music Prize. Bassist Peter Jobson is solidly grounded, straight talking, and friendly as hell. Plus, he’s probably got more charm in his defiantly straight-legged jeans than all of Mumford & Sons combined. I caught up with Peter over a casual drink in his local bar in Manchester.
Stephen Yang: First things first; explain the name. Who is Kloot? What is Kloot?
Peter Jobson: Absolutely anything. If you’re called The Strokes, you know you’ll be playing rock n’ roll for the rest of your life. So, we called ourselves I am Kloot so that we can do anything we want to do.
SY: What has the funniest interpretation of I Am Kloot been?
PJ: In Flemish, it’s a term of abuse. It means scrotum sack. We only found this out when we first played Holland. But they seemed to enjoy us, and we sold loads of t-shirts. There’s a bit of serendipity for you.
SY: Was the Mercury nomination a surprise?
PJ: After 10 years, we got nominated for the Mercurys, and it was like; ‘fucking hell!’ It was a real honour to be involved; especially with the likes of Paul Weller. We picked up instruments and started making music in the first place because of bands like The Jam, The Clash and The Sex Pistols. To be up there with them was great.
I am Kloot performing ‘Northern Skies’ at the Mercury Music Awards 2010
SY: Are you happy to be categorised as part of this new British Folk revival movement that is currently sweeping through music?
PJ: Absolutely not. We come from a different background. We’re into a lot of stuff; from Californian punk music to John Lydon, The Sex Pistols… We play the kind of music we want to play. We always rallied against being seen as a folkie band who jib around and chew straw. In fact, we want to call the airstrike in on these fucking bedwetters. A lot of people think that if you pick up an acoustic guitar, you’re part of some kind of authentic cultural musical tradition, and I think that’s really out of order.
SY: Pitchfork said that I am Kloot’s lyrics seem only to describe ‘the pub, the apartment and the rural scenery in between these two places.’ What do you make of that?
PJ: The guy who wrote that sounds like a vegan, veggie, non-drinking, bloody cunt who’s never had sex before. Listen to the lyrics, and you’ll find that there are universal themes. When Johnny sings, its all about love and disaster. You don’t have to be in a pub to experience that. Our lyrics aren’t in any way parochial or saccharine. You could say similar things about The Pogues: that they’re all fuelled by Guinness. But, you don’t realise that they were seminal and beautiful songwriters. There’s a long line of traditional lyricism: it’s James Joyce, Seamus Heaney and now Sean McGowan. Just to say that the man liked Guinness would make you incredibly foolish, I think.
SY: What do you think of the music scene in Manchester?
PJ: As a band from Manchester, you get associated with Joy Division, The Smiths and bands like that. I wouldn’t say I don’t want to be associated with them, because they’re great bands, but I don’t think it fits. For me, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it matters what you do. You playing acoustic guitar: are you a folkie? Are you in that tradition of Manchester bands? It’s a bit of a lazy way to put you in a box. Mind you, when I came to Manchester for the first time, and I was down in a club, at a dance party, taking E, I loved it. It was everything I thought it would be. I felt like a young Max Engels discovering Manchester for the first time. It was like: ‘fucking hell this is just brilliant!’ It was just visceral. Just as much fun as I thought it would be. That’s why I’m still here.
SY: I am Kloot have been together since 1999. Have there been times when you’ve thought about taking a hiatus?
PJ: To be honest this is the first time in 10 years we’ve had success. Most of the time we had no money, no label, no management; we were totally fucked. We’ve all done all kinds of shitty jobs to get to where we’re at now. We can’t stop. We don’t want to stop.
SY: You guys have played Cambridge before. What’s was it like to play a May Ball?
PJ: Well it was always good money, and Johnny always thought he was aristocracy somewhere down the line so we fitted in all right. The students were always inspiring folk. We were always shitting it about what we had to do to make our futures work out, but the students at Cambridge had things just totally mapped out. They were like ‘I’m going to do this, going to work in Geneva, going to work in anthropology…’
SY: Which bands do you rate today?
PJ: I’m going to see this band called The Jim Jones Revue. They’re getting a lot of plays on 6 music. This band have put traditional blues with like original sort of little Richards stuff, which is furious. It’s produced by the drummer out of The Bad Seeds; this guy called Jim who used to play with The Cramps. So, he’s a nutter, and he’s captured this really hardcore rock n’ roll band.
SY: Seeing as you’re in a bar, what’s your favorite drink and why?
PJ: Tequila and dry ginger with ice is a tremendous drink. The entire band is into it, but when I first suggested it, my sexuality was called into question. Bear in mind, these blokes are usually the type who mix tequila with three chilli and a codeine tablet. Try tequila with dry ginger and ice. Or if you want to sound like a tit, you could say ‘on the rocks’.
SY: And finally, what song did you lose your virginity to?
PJ: It wasn’t a song to be honest, but I was in one of my first bands. It was at a party. I was 14. I didn’t realise I had lost my virginity, and neither did she. At that age, she was wondering if she was pregnant, and I didn’t even know what had happened. At the time we were all passed out at this party all in this big room, and at which point, Doug Haze our drummer, turned me on my back and was like, ‘Pete what you doing?’ and I was like, ‘fuck off, Doug’. I’d love to say it was romantic but it was horrible.
All in all, a top guy. Yes, he’s outspoken and honest to the point of unease, but he’s also thoughtful, friendly and very funny. And let’s not forget how talented he is.