WORDS AND FASHION MAISIE DANIELS – PHOTOGRAPHY EVA PENTEL
With a love for music, art, and culture deeply rooted in his childhood, Joe has always had a craving to be a part of the creative industry, with music being his calling.
A self-produced singer-songwriter who can turn his hand to any instrument, Joe is indeed a varied and determined artist. And today marks the drop of his incredibly charged double single. The first track, titled Shit That Gives Me Life brings sounds of pop and disco, layered with optimistic vocals, which is in contrast to the second track, Fucked Up My Life which is a more raw, dark, uncut body of work. The singles are joined in harmony as they perfectly reflect Joe’s personality and his own self-acceptance, a sentiment that he encourages the listener to pursue.
Unapologetically never shying away from vocalising his journey of mental health trough his music, F Word got the chance to discuss this deeper with Joe along with the new releases, the future of the music industry, and much more.
Maisie Daniels: Hey Joe, how are you today? J.B: Yeah, I'm not too bad thank you!
M.D: What have you been up to this week?
J.B: Had my birthday this week! So I’ve just been seeing friends and family. I went to the Andy Warhol exhibition.
M.D: Happy belated Birthday! How was the exhibition?
J.B: It was fantastic. It was at the Tate Modern and they have a huge retrospective of his work there. It’s been done really well- it goes right through from his early inspirations, his drawings, the screen prints and pop art.
M.D: I’ll have to check it out! Would you say that art is a big part of your music? J.B: Yeah, massively. I love art; I almost enjoy going to galleries and exhibitions more than I do concerts. Even though that’s a sacrilegious thing to say- laughs. I find more inspiration outside of music these days.
MD: When did this love for art and culture begin? JB: When I was a little kid really! I remember when I was 3 years old falling in love with Elvis, The Monkees and that kind of pop culture. The first thing I wanted to be as a kid was a pop artist. My first ‘big-break’ was when I was around the age of 7 and I had one of my drawings published in Smash Hits magazine.
M.D: Laughs. That’s amazing- I used to love Smash Hits! What was it a drawing off?
J.B: It was a really colourful scene from The Jungle Book. I was so excited to see it in that magazine and I won a box of Kinex. And it made me think, ‘hmm I can just create and get free stuff’, which is basically what I’ve been doing ever since- laughs.
Joe wears suit and shirt SCOTCH&SODA; socks IETS FRANS; hat and shoes; ARTISTS OWN
MD: When did you realise you wanted to be a singer-songwriter?
JB: I (on-and-off) picked up the guitar when I was around 11 years old. And then I brought a CD from Woolworths, which was a Red Hot Chilli Peppers album – ‘What Hits?!’ I remember putting the disc into my Sony Walkman and one of the songs came on and it completely changed my whole perspective of music, and what it could be. And that made me want to pursue music as a career forever, and I never looked back.
MD: You can turn your hand to almost every instrument! At what point did you realise that you wanted to do this, and do you have a favourite to play?
J.B: I only ever really wanted to be a guitar player and when I was in high school, I realised I was one of the kids that wanted to take it seriously. No one really wanted to be a singer. When you’re young - especially in your teenage years- it’s a bit embarrassing to get up and sing. After a few years of struggling to put a band together, and finding reliable people, or someone who could sing, I decided one day that although I have no idea how to do all this stuff, I’d give it a go, otherwise I wouldn’t get anywhere with it. So when I was 17 years old I brought a bass guitar, a key board, a drum machine and a microphone and I literally started one after the other, layering sounds. Drum, bass, keys etc and I taught myself how to play. Once I got the first track out the way- even though my singing was terrible- once I got past that barrier, I was off to the races.
MD: How did you get past that barrier?
JB: I had support from my friends. I would upload things I’d done, send it out for feedback and through their encouragement, it spurred me on.
MD: How would you describe your genre of music?
JB: It’s a mix! My tastes and inspirations are very varied. It’s got a strong RnB, funk foundation, with a lot of pop melodies in there. It’s also got an alternative element in there, more edgy pop.
MD: It’s a great mixed-bag! Has your musical style changed with you over the years?
JB: It’s always had that thread thought it but I think it has developed over the years from pure electronic to bringing in my guitar playing and in the last few years. Now the electronic and the guitar playing have merged together.
Joe wears top & trousers SCOTCH&SODA; hat NOBIS; sunglasses; WOODCOCK
MD: Let’s talk about the new release of your double single, Shit that Gives Me Life and Fucked up my Life. Congratulations on the tracks, they’re great! And as you can assume from the titles, they’re unapologetic and raw. It seems this is an exploration into the two sides of your character…?
JB: Yes! I wanted to do something that was a striking contrast, my two extremes. I wanted to continue the thread of my last E.P, which surrounded mental health and self-acceptance and exploring those challenging ‘taboo’ themes.
MD: You don’t shy away from being vocal about your mental health, which I love. When did you realise you wanted to shine a light on your Bipolar through your music?
JB: Good question. I think it’s probably only been within the last 2-3 years. I’ve only recently been in the place to talk about it. When you’re going through that, and in the rawest place, it’s the hardest time to talk about it. Once you’re on the other side of a bad period, it’s easier to talk about, in a sense.
MD: Would you say it’s been a cathartic experience for you?
J.B: Yeah, it’s cathartic for me and I hope its cathartic for the listeners. The last music that I put out, some people thought it was on the extreme side, but my intension was never to shock people for shock values sake, it was to tackle those hard issues head-on and without glossing over them in a way that we so often do in society. I know it’s not because people don’t want to talk about these kinds of things but it’s often because people find it too difficult or uncomfortable. So my idea was not to pussy-foot around it. I thought, what I would say if I didn’t have to care, or worry about everyone thought. And that’s reflected in my past album and these new singles.
MD: Yes, it’s all about not shying away and I think if you have a voice, you should use it to make a difference. On the flipside, have you had anyone reach out to say your music has helped them in any way? J.B: Absolutely, yeah. Lots of messages from people on social media, that I didn’t know, saying that they have experienced first-hand mental health problems, or they’ve lost someone to suicide, a loved one. And that they can identify with themes and all things I talk about. When I hear things like that, I’m glad I did it.
MD: It must give you a great sense of purpose?
J.B: Yeah. It’s good to be able to do what you love and also to help people as well.
MD: Today is Word Suicide Prevention Day. And this also surrounds the premise that suicide is not a dirty world, we can say it, and we can have open conversations about it.
J.B: Anything that can shine a light on mental health and breaking down those conversation barriers, anything that helps that is a great thing. Its charities like The Ben Raemers Foundation and YoungMinds, those places are doing great work to try and see it happen. Once the conversation is opened up, it could result in saving a life.
Joe wears t-shirt & trousers BEN DAVIS ; cap SANTA CRUZ; trainer NEW BALANCE; belt; TOMMY JEANS
MD: Let’s start with the first track, Shit That Gives Me Life – it’s dance, it’s pop, it’s upbeat! Can you talk me through the narrative behind that track?
J.B: Yeah, it’s exactly that. It’s about finding what you love in life, and enjoying your time. It’s about cutting out all the toxic things in your life that brings you down. It’s a disco vibe, a feel-good track!J
M.D: Does this reflect the more ‘up’ side to your Bipolar? J.B: I think so, yeah. Sometimes when you’re ‘up’, it’s not necessarily a feeling of happiness. I’d say The Shit That Gives Me Life is like the middle-ground, rather than the high.
MD: I (rather naively) thought the mania side to Bipolar would be the good side, but it seems that it can be on the same level of depression?
J.B: I think that’s a real common misconception, and a really interesting point you’ve just made. People think that side of things means you’re super, super happy but it’s the wrong word. It’s more an extreme adrenaline rush. It can be as frightening, or as dangerous as being depressed. It can lead to being more dangerous, saying things, or doing things you wouldn’t normally. It’s a real misconception. Happiness, for me, is the middle ground between the two.
MD: Thank you for shining a light on that for me. Your second single Fucked up my Life is more raw and uncut; would you say this works in a opposite to the first track?
J.B: Yeah, it’s the other side to the coin. It’s not necessary the good and the bad side…
M.D: They need each other? J.B: Yeah exactly! They’re the Ying and Yang. Fucked Up My Life isn’t complete darkness and Shit That Gives Me Life isn’t complete happiness. They seem extreme opposites but they’re more middle ground than they would first seem.
MD: So when the two tracks come together, it’s like the perfect depiction of your character?
JB: Yeah, I’d say so!
Joe wears jacket PREVU; t-shirt NICCE; cap; VANS sunglasses; BONNIE CLYDE
M.D: How has lockdown affected your mental health?
JB: To be honest, it was okay. I didn’t struggle too much. As I have experience in this area I noticed quickly that if we are going to be sitting at home, for 23 hours a day, for 3 months, this would take a huge toll on people’s mental health. So I could mentally prepare myself for this. I took the steps to make sure I’d be okay; I’d go walking, contact friends and family etc.
M.D: You write, perform and produce all of your own music. What is the part that excites you the most?
J.B: That’s also a good question. I love it when I see it finished and released. That’s the most gratifying part of the experience. Once the artwork is with it and people can listen, that’s the best. The ‘doing’ can be gruelling and go on for months and months. The beginning is also really exciting; you get all these ideas coming in!
M.D: How do you feel not being able to currently physically share your music to the world through live gigs?
JB: To be honest with you, it doesn’t really bother me. I had a live show planned, which was cancelled due to the lockdown. I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this but I think that Covid has almost sped up a lot of things that are going to happen in the future anyway. In terms of things going digital, how we shop, working from home, meeting online through the internet…and this is the way it’s going to be for the next few years. I know people will love to go back to performing at gigs as soon as they can, but as an Artist you have to embrace the digital realm. We can’t just rely on face-to-face contact. As we know, this can happen now.
MD: Let’s do a quick fire round:
M.D: Quality Street or Miniature Heros?
J.B: Quality Street
M.D: Country or City?
M.D: Favourite superhero?
M.D: A colour that reflects you?
J.B: A nice blue
M.D: Tea or coffee? J.B: Tea
M.D: Day or Night? J.B: Night
M.D: Favourite season?
Joe wears top & shorts PREVU; hat IETS FRANS; sunglasses; BONNIE CLYDE
M.D: Aside from Elvis and Warhol, what else inspires you?
J.B: I loved the 60s renaissance that happened in the 90s. I spoke of Elvis and The Monkees but then even with the cartoons from Hanna-Barbera such as Top Cat and Wacky Races. From there, I loved The Chilli Peppers, as previously mentioned, but after that it was Prince. Art wise, Lichtenstein, Picasso, Basquiat. Film as well.
M.D: Any film recommendations? J.B: A big influence on me was A Clockwork Orange, by Stanley Kubrick. When I was about 12 years old this film had been banned in the UK for around 30 years. And it got lifted and was shown on Channel 4 at midnight and there was such a hype surrounding it. Being a kid, I was so interested in watching this ‘evil’ film and I remember popping in a VHS tape and recorded it and when I got home from school, I put it on and watched it and I was completely stunned. It opened my mind to what was possible in film, music and culture, it blew my mind.
MD: What are you currently working on? J.B: I’m working on another couple of tracks to hopefully put out before Christmas. And then I’m working on an album for the New Year.
MD: We look forward to hearing that! And I can’t end the interview without asking what your favourite F-Word is?
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