[INTERVIEW] BARNEY ARTIST
The phone rings, Barney Arist greets me with the warmest of ‘Hello’s” and then catches me up as to how his day is going… “I’m currently at my house, trying to be a domestic goddess, kind of enjoying the sunshine. I am, I am enjoying it. Its just that I don’t have air conditioning in my car right now, so it was a bit hot earlier… Can you hear me properly, because I’m washing up?” As far as introductory statements go, the start to mine and Barney’s conversation sums everything up. He’s present and experiencing, considerate and hilariously down to earth. So we start…
How important is it that your music maps some kind of journey for you?
Very important to be honest with you. I’m not the best at lying in music. I wish I could, but I can’t. I wish I could talk about how many guns I have, or massive cars, but I really can’t. The best thing about that though is that people connect and relate to that. I’m able to document my journey, the bad side of it is that people can kind of come up to you and go “oh, how’s your ex, how’s this or that?” But it is very important I feel. It’s like a diary really, that way you don’t have to really lie.
Everything in life is a moment, it passes, everything is guaranteed to pass. So when you do document these moments in your life, or these experiences, is it ever difficult to go on stage and perform it or recount those moments, when you have hindsight?
100%. The tour that we did for the album, was amazing, but difficult. At the bottom half of my last album I kind of talk about my relationship with my mum and my dad and what that meant. I always have to get myself back into the mind- set of when I wrote it. Which is not the easiest thing to do. But it’s important. Sometimes it’s bigger than you. It is a bit hard, but I get into it. We have quite a few cries at the show. I’ll have some 6ft five guy just sobbing on my shoulder after the show. For me, it is really important to get myself into that head space to perform it, so that people can relate to what I’m saying. Feel the emotions.
Is that ever difficult, after you’ve moved into a space of emotional clarity, is it difficult to immerse yourself into that again?
I was talking about this to my friend, about how weird it is to be a musician. I’ve recorded a project, that is finished. I am currently performing songs from my album that I released last year, and I’m recording new things for something else. The complexity of that, in your head space, is quite difficult. Performing songs, you’ve completed from time ago, anticipating releasing something that is new, recording elements that are going to come out when your new stuff is going to come out is quite a head fuck. But I suppose you’ve just got to embrace it really, it’s a show at the end of the day. Even though it’s autobiographical and it’s coming from a real place, just because you’ve grown up from that space doesn’t mean it loses its truth. Its always important to find the truth in what you’ve written or what you’ve said, regardless as to whether you’re at the point. You can still identify what that means.
I read that when you first started making music it orientated more towards Grime?
[Laughing] If you want to call it Grime, that is giving it way more credit than its due. It was something. That’s what that was. It was very bad. Yeah, it’s hilarious. If someone came up to me today and played me what I made. I think I’d be like “do you know what mate, I don’t think music is for you, listen, maybe something else other than music, accountancy?”
Okay, okay, so after that you transitioned more so into Jazz influenced beats, do you feel like that elicits a different kind of honesty?
I know a lot of rappers might be like, “I was listening to Nas from the age of five years old”, or “I was meditating on Rakim’s lyrics from the age of seven.” I wasn’t innit. I was listening to S Club 7. The good thing about that is, me doing the Jazzy kind of hip hop stuff came from my best friend and someone I collaborate with a lot. A guy called Alpha Mist. I’ve known Alpha since I was three, we met in nursery. He was that annoying friend that was good at everything, he taught himself to play piano at the age of 18 at college. So, he was making music, I started playing with the idea I might be able to rap to it (because the whole Grime thing was really not working out for me). I found it was giving me more space to tell stories. Because I didn’t have a fixed structure, from growing up on a certain type of music, I think my freedom, how I wrote, I had to learn on the job. I definitely think with Jazz music, there is a sense of emotion that I really connect with. Whether it is the spaces in between, or the idea of improvisation, it is quite an emotive genre. At the same time, there is a lot of emotion in Grime or Hip Hop. I think we are in a day and age where things kind of cross over. I definitely think there is a level of emotion in Jazz that you can’t really replicate anywhere else.
When you talk about stories, not just to do with music, have there been any stories that have shifted the dimension of the way in which you seek to tell stories yourself?
I’m really into film. I’m not going to say I’m a film buff. Last time I went on a date, I told this girl I’m into films. She started relaying off Italian directors and cinema from Singapore. I started stuttering. So I’ve learnt my lesson. I wont say that again. But yeah, I like watching a good movie. One film that really changed my view of story telling was a film called ‘The Usual Suspects’. It changed my mind-set on how a story can be told and shifted just at the end. I’ve always been in interested in the idea of having an ending to a song, that when you listen back, it has a totally different meaning. For example, their is a song that I wrote on my first album, it is like a love song, about this girl that I met. It’s about me getting ready to propose to this girl and at the end she says no. So when you listen back to the lyrics again you realise you can kind of hear the dips and chasms throughout the song that relate to it. I’ve always been fascinated by that.
What moment of sound are you in right now?
All music should have substance in my opinion, it just depends on what you want to say. I guess at this creative time, I’m just a little bit more confident in my sound and what I stand for and what kind of message and sonics I want to bring. A little more upbeat, London summer vibes, I released a song called calm down. Which is kind of an ode to Garage and London Esque vibe. That is where I’m at. Feeling with London. I want you to hear me, and know where I’m from.
Barney Artist’s Ep ‘BIKES ARE BIKES’ is set to drop AUGUST 9th, but in the meantime you can watch his latest, ‘Calm Down’, below…
Words by Anastasia Bruen