More from ellesse’s #MyStyleMySound, we catch up with MK_Ultra during a break from their live recording session at Metropolis Studios.
ellesse: Where did you grow up and was there a part of you that listened to music back then?
Zaza: I grew up with 4by4, garage.
Barns: Base line, dirty, dirty base line.
Zaza: Yeah, 140bpm, garage, you know, I’d just do that loads, like ‘Burger Boy’, ‘Sub Zero’, that kind of my space coming over from that, and I’ve been playing guitar since I was about nine.
Barns: I just jumped straight into the ‘ACDC’, ‘Guns ‘N’ Roses’, when I heard that I was like ‘yeah that’s all I wanna do’
Zaza: I think that we’ve both just always been surrounded by music. It’s just one of those things…it’s about expression for us.
Barns: Yeah, it’s what we’ve been pulled towards and that’s the only think we’ve got.
Zaza: It’s all we’ve got, it’s all we’ve got.
ellesse: Can you give us any examples of Garage?
Zaza: I’ve only just started ‘producing’, well not just started, but that’s when I had just started, like Reason, Logic, we still record all the backing tracks from logic. I was a classical guitarist when I was in primary school, so I was doing trinity grades and stuff and I was doing it because I was lonely, I was a lonely guy and I found comfort in just going on to the computer and making beats and creating something and expressing myself through that and I think that’s what we have in common. It makes us feel like we belong, I know it’s really cliché but that I why we do it. It gives us that identity and an outlet and I think that’s it really, there’s nothing to it, that just that.
ellesse: So, have you known each other your whole lives?
Barns: No, it’s a funny story how we met, he’s a little bit older than me, I won’t tell you his age…
Zaza: Yeah we don’t say ages.
Barns: My band supported his band, and you had to leave that band and I replaced him in that band.
Zaza: So basically, the band that I was in when I was younger got signed to Columbia Records, this is a part of the six foot lizard thing, this is part of our ‘ancst’ about ….
Zaza: Yeah and having to go through people who have got opinions and stuff. Anyway, I was in a band and we got signed to Columbia, and I missed behaved and got kicked out of the band and Barns replaced me as a guitarist. Then he basically left because he was unhappy, it’s deeper than that but we then found common ground and now we’re this and its good. We argue all the time but it’s healthy, you know what I mean. Yeah, that’s it really.
ellesse: So, is there a musical memory or a CD that someone gave you or a vinyl or a tape or something that was your first inspiration?
Barns: I can’t pin-point.
Zaza: Fat Boy Slim for me, straight up.
Barns: Mine are actually really, really lame so I’m not going to share that *laughs*.
Zaza: Fat Boy Slim definitely for me.
Barns: I think for me, my first few were hearing ‘Guns ‘N’ Roses’, ACDC and the classic Nirvana and just seeing on video a concert, was just like ‘woah’, that many people? That’s the goal. That many people knowing your songs, singing along – that’s it, that’s what it’s about.
Zaza: It’s that sense of being yourself, that’s what’s inspiring, seeing people being themselves. You don’t feel like you, and when you look at people on the screen and you see them being themselves, that is proper inspiring. But yeah, Fat Boy Slim was massive for me, my dad used to play it in the car.
ellesse: So, music can be quite influence to people’s moods, it can make people happier or sadder – how do you want your music to be interpreted? I’m guessing you want to get people up, out of their seats and jumping about?
Barns: Yeah, mostly, I think inspiring people. I think inspiring people like us or like, a lot of bands who are around now. The working class isn’t as relevant now, so this type of music isn’t as relevant, so I think inspiring people from everywhere to get into this kind of thing. It’s not just about grime it’s like, this is still going on.
Zaza: Yeah, it’s not about the class system, that’s kind of dated. I’ve not for one minute ever stood behind that mic and said ‘I am a singer’, I’m not a singer, but the thing is, I think it’s about empowerment. Anyone can get behind a mic. It’s just about being yourself and empowering the individual and I think that’s what we’re about, just like grime does, like what grunge did, just like brit-pop did. You’re looking at Liam Gallagher, who can’t sing…you know I’m saying it, it’s about empowering the individual to be who they can be, no, the best that they can be, and that’s it. It’s simple…
Barns:Working with restrictions is a big one for us, we’re not masters in this.
Zaza: It’s not about… you don’t have to be good at something, just be yourself and be confident in who you are, and that’s our ethos.
ellesse: Have you ever had to have a gap from music, or has it ever got too much and you’ve just been like ‘I just need a little bit of a break’?
Zaza: No, no, yeah, yeah actually.
Barns: Little gaps. Like hungover, for a few days to calm down.
Zaza: Then you just take an acoustic guitar to bed don’t you.
Barns: Nothing like… we’re only young, so nothing like ‘oh yeah I’m just going to do something else not’ because we haven’t really got anything else to be doing.
Zaza: Yeah, we can’t do anything else!
ellesse: Fashion is obviously a massive part of music, it always has been, you dress a certain way because you’re in a certain genre, how can you reflect on that?
Barns: For me it gets sick, like it gets to a point where everyone starts wearing the same thing and then you can just out that person into a category and we don’t want to be put into that category that’s current. So, we just look at whatever inspires you and we just pull from that.
Zaza: Nah, I’m saying on a serious level, as many times we walk around the house and we want to be inspired, there’s nothing better than being inspired physically and feeling good. If you feel good, you feel your best and you feel confident and going back to what we are about, feeling empowered, you feel empowered by very simple things like clothing, whether you’ve got a clear face, you know, very simple things. Style is very important to us, it’s empowering, and I have to feel empowered to create a lot of the time. Not all of the time, but a lot of the time.
ellesse: Have you got any other topics you want to us to talk about? Anything you want us to ask you about, anything coming up?
Zaza: Not really, no *laughs* just thank you. Thank you for, you know…
Banrs: Putting us up.
Zaza: Putting us up.
ellesse: Have you heard of ‘The pearl Hearts’?
ellesse: They’re a female duo and they we here last week and they were kind of like ‘punkesc’.
Zaza: We’ll check them out.
ellesse: They were really good, we went to see them live and they were ridiculously talented, they were awesome.
Zaza: We need to go see them, maybe support them.
Barns: Maybe yeah, The Pearl Hearts.
Zaza: They sound cool, that’s another thing as well, you know music, there’s so much of it, and I feel like when I get asked ‘what inspires you?’ it’s like ‘whatever I’ll listen to tomorrow’, kind of vibe.
Barns: You have kind of long term…you have inspirations from ages ago when you start, and then it’s like…there was a lot of stuff that inspired me that I would never pull from now.
Zaza: It’s like day-to-day, like that’s something that gets looked over, like ‘what are your influences’ yeah.
ellesse: So, if you were to get your phone out and put some music on…
Zaza: Yeah or like the radio, BBC 6.
Barns: I’d put on some sick… six nine, I love new metal, corn, slip note.
Zaza: Yeah slip note’s sick, and like six nine.
Barns: Shbongle, new trakcs.
Zaza: Transglobal underground, Tinariwen, but like north African stuff that’s really cool like, I went through a phase for about two months a couple of years ago where all I could listen to was Tinariwen and this band called Tinariwen and I went to see them in Leeds and their drum kit was like this massive like, I didn’t even know what it was and I dunno, it was just vibe.
ellesse: I think honestly, if you’re a good musician you’re accepting of all music anyway.
Zaza: Totally, and that’s why, when you get asked that question it kind of constricts you and that’s not what it’s about it’s about everything.
ellesse: The worst question to ask somebody is like ’what’s your favourite band or who’s your favourite artist?’ and it’s like ‘I don’t have a favourite artist’ so, I never ask that question, because it depends on like what mood I’m in that day.
Zaza: That’s why I think a great question, that I would always like to be asked is ‘what’s your favourite song right now?’. And I don’t think that’s a great question, but I think that it is a question that’s worth asking. Like what is your favourite song right now? My favourite song right now is, shall I answer my own question? My favourite sing right now is ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’ by Paloma Faith. And I think this is…it just gets… I don’t even know why, that is for me…what’s your favourite song right now?
Barns: Right now?
Zaza: Yeah right now, just like right now, today.
Barns: Fairies Wearing Boots, I think that’s what it’s called, I’m not good with remembering names.
Zaza: What’s your favourite song right now? You know, the song you go back to, today?
ellesse: Let me just check it, one sec. Actually, what do you call it? We had a band in called ‘Easy Life’ and they were sort of like jazzy, soulful and there’s this song ‘Frank’.
Zaza: Is it sick? The song Frank?
ellesse: It’s got really generic, classic lines it like it says something to do with city lights…
Zaza: But does it move you? If it moves you…
ellesse: It’s got this tone of voice…
Zaza: That’s the thing though, that’s why I think that question, you know ‘what’s your favourite band’ is too vague. You know, specifically, ‘what’s your favourite song right now’ is a really good question.
Matt: I think you should ask each other more questions, what’s the worst question you could ask each other?
Barns: Ohhh, let’s not get the worst.
Zaza: To be honest man, I don’t know. I actually don’t. What’s a good question?
Barns: Obviously music wise…
Zaza: I don’t know, I need to think about it.
Barns: What’s the best gig you ever saw?
Zaza: The best gig I ever saw? I actually dislocated my right shoulder, this is why I always keep clicking, I can’t help it, I’ve got like a twitch and it’s been pretty good in this interview. I went to go see ‘Block Party’ a while ago and this band called ‘Fouls’, they were supporting ‘Block Party’ and I was obsessed, you the whole Fred Perry, button up, big massive quiff and like skinny jeans. But the best gig that I’ve ever seen is probably that ‘Tinariwen’, couple of years ago, that was really good and they let us come in to the bus after the show. We were like ‘Yo can we come in?’ and they were like… That’s it really, boring really. We’re quite boring, we’re very boring, I’m a boring person, honestly, I’ve not got a lot to say. I do this….
Barns: And I’ve had a couple more beers.
Zaza: I watch ‘The handmaid’s Tale’ and I like coffee, that’s about it. Simple.
Matt: If you want to look into this camera, either one of you do it or you both do it at the same time, say who you are and what sort of music you make.
Zaza: That’s the worst question that can ever be asked, I think.
Barns: Ultra music? Make big tunes.
Zaza: I don’t want to answer that question if that’s alright. I don’t want to say what we make, I want you to listen to the music we make, we are MK Ultra, I’m Zaza and this is Barnsy.