Most of you probably haven't heard of Gareth Icke yet, but across the pond in England's live music scene he's starting to make some waves.
At first glance, Icke is a perfectly ordinary bloke, in his late twenties, about to get married, an island boy from the Isle of Wight who plays beach soccer on the weekends. He grew up middle-class, the son of a BBC sports announcer, in a sleepy seaside resort town mainly for old money and ocassional royalty, is the middle sibling in a family of three, and though his parents split in his teens, they're still friends.
But Gareth is hardly typical. Illnesses in his early childhood left him nearly blind and unable to walk if it hadn't been for undergoing very serious surgeries. His father is also one of the most controversial figures in England, for better or for worse, and was a subject of intense ridicule for his beliefs throughout Gareth's teens.
Perhaps it's these experiences that give Icke's music the depth that separates him from other up and coming artists. There's a dark edge that his songs like to tumble toward before they retreat back into their pop hooks that makes them resonate with people. It's a melancholy that people respond to, and that has a lot of critics saying, he's about to break it big,
Like so many muscians, he has a (relatively) modest MySpace page where he blogs frequently about the rigamarole of life; but don't let that fool you; his debut album It Gets Worse At Night was also produced by the same people behind Aqualung and Snow Patrol, he just finished playing the Isle of Wight Music Festival, headlined by The Pixies, and his songs have been in rotation on BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music, Kerrang! Radio, BFBS Radio, BBC Regional, XFM, and Virgin Media.
Not to mention he's easy on the eyes, easy enough that he was chosen as part of a Virgin Media ad campaign in the UK.
But contrary to what you'd expect from a handsome musician on his way up, he's hardly cocky or pretentious. He's written openly about his struggles with alcohol, often joked in the past of his inability to get a woman to stick around, and corresponds with his fans personally, which keeps him likable despite all of his good qualities.
He's the stuff girl dreams are made of, but with enough humility and outright bawdiness in his humor to be one of the guys. Too grown-up to be punk, too political to be pop, too soulful to be a swaggering hipster, too witty to be emo, his presence is hard to define, but his sound is genuine and compelling. He's not going to blow up tomorrow, but he's going to be around for a long time, which is fine by him.
"We're all on the long road to the middle anyway," he wrote to me once, "And even if its a wee bit bumpy, I like bumpy. It's more exciting."
When I caught up with Gaz this time around, he was on a train back from London, and gearing up for another slew of gigs on the Liberty Tour he's currently a part of.
What exactly is the Liberty tour, how long have you been doing it, what's it about, and what can people expect if they come out?
The Liberty Tour is a bit of a fingers up to the system really. The live music scene in the UK has been struggling for the last couple of years and venues are closing down left right and centre. So we’ve gone back to basics. Its three blokes in a car with their guitars, traveling the nation, playing to anyone that will listen. No frills, just good old honest music. As it should be. Some of the shows are venues, some are bars, and some are people's houses. Anywhere with beer and a roof.
This is its second year and it’s grown massively since our first seven date tour last October. We’re up to 29 dates I think now. And it’s still growing. I'm hoping it will grow continuously over the next few years so we have more and more artists filling out the line up.
I missed The Pixies which was slightly annoying but the show itself was great. The crowd grew and grew and by the time we went on it was packed. I’ve spent the last couple of years traveling further a field and trying to spread out, but it’s always nice to come home and play to your locals. I’m hoping to be back there next year on a bigger stage and further up the bill. That’s what keeps me going really. Stepping stones and all that! Let's hope I don’t slip.
Your father David Icke, has become something of a cult figure on the fringe of politics, though I hate using the words cult and fringe. He's most definitely an ardent social critic. You have a bit of a political streak in you, does that come from your father?
Probably a wee bit yeah. I think most of it comes from the fact that I can’t stand being bullshitted. Whether it be by a President or by a girlfriend. “It’s not you, it’s me”… Well, it’s clearly me!
I didn’t get on with school for the same reasons. I hate being lied to and no one does it better than politicians. I read yesterday that Tony Blair was actually an actor through his youth. That explains a lot.
When you were ten, your dad was let go from the BBC, had what he's called "an awakening" and wrote his first book about it. When he went on the Wogan show, the most popular chat show in England at the time, to talk about it, he admitted to calling himself the Son of God in his book. His appearance on the show made him something of a laughing stock at the time, and for years after. How did it affect you?
It made me I suppose. But short of looking into a parallel universe and seeing me without that shit, I can’t really judge how it moulded my character.
It was horrible getting all that crap off people in the street but to be honest, it didn’t really affect me that badly. I found out who my friends were and I guess that’s a positive. I’m counting it as one anyway!
People here in England are slowly waking up as well. If I had a pound for every time someone has come up and apologized after they've actually read some of the old mans stuff. I'd have enough money for a round of drinks or a Douglas Coupland novel.
Injuries to be honest. When I was a kid I had Perthes disease. Look it up, it’s nasty! But basically it turned my hip bone to mush and required shed loads of surgery. That caught up with me later in life and squashed my dream of playing for Derby County. Don’t get me wrong, 10,000 pounds a week would be nice but I think I would have got bored after a while.
Doing this throws up so many surprises that it keeps me excited and on my toes. Plus I represented England at Beach Soccer about 20 or 30 times so I’ve ticked that box. Country represented. Next stop Eurovision. Ha. I jest. Sort of.
My brother is at the same place as I was with my career. He's 11 years younger than me and it's weird seeing myself in someone else. In a non sexual way.
You tend to have a strong pop/folk sound, what kind of bands were you in before, and why the decision to strip it down and go on your own?
I played a show in London last night and a fella described my old bands as ‘fun bands’. That’s probably about right to be honest. I was in a band called Kody and we toured constantly. We had a van and a man called Taffy who drove us everywhere. We were all mates from school and we drank ourselves stupid every night and mucked about.
It was great fun but we couldn’t sustain it. Both mentally and physically. Now I’m alone, it’s more professional and serious. I do miss the old days a lot because we were void of responsibility. It was almost like being 7 years old again. Only drunk and hairy.
Sometimes it seems like there are more bands than people, especially since the advent of MySpace. How does an aspiring artist stand out?
You live and die by your product. It’s as simple as that. Obviously you have to plug away to try and get noticed but when you get down to it, if you’re shit, you’ll be found out.
I’m much more from the old school opinion of ‘get some decent tunes and get out on the road and learn your craft’. If you set up a MySpace music page and put a song up recorded on a laptop, it doesn’t make you a musician. In my opinion anyway. It’s like buying a pair of football boots doesn’t make you a footballer.
We should keep music live.
MySpace should be used as a tool to promote, not as the basis for your music.
Who are your favourite bands right now? What bands leave you scratching your head at their success?
I used to scratch my head a lot at bands successes. But now I think that there must be a market for it otherwise they wouldn’t be there. If people didn’t buy their records then they wouldn’t exist so I guess it’s everyone to their own.
I’m old school in my music tastes. The Smiths, The Cure, and the like. Idlewild are still going so I guess they count as recent. They’re playing near me next week actually. That reminds me, I need a ticket!
You write a lot about love and loneliness. You've called yourself broody. You're about to get married, so, does that mean you're going to hang up your guitar? What can we expect with your next effort?
More of the same only better. It’s weird actually because people always say that the songs make me seem melancholy and then when people meet me, I’m the complete opposite. I think I must only write when I’m down. When I’m up, I’m out celebrating life being swell! Swell? Am I in The Breakfast Club?
I’ll never hang up the guitar. Mainly because I don’t have any hooks that would take it’s weight.
I’m getting married in June and then I would love the idea of starting a family. Then my tunes will be uplifting. "Sweet Child o' Mine" meets "Reach" by S Club 7. Youtube that tune America. You’ll love it’s cheese factor.
You've toured parts of America with your previous band. My English friends say American women are easy, my American friends say English women are stuck up. Care to weigh in on the debate?
I’ve been to America a bunch of times and been to a lot of bars. I’ve never got in with any American women. I’m not sure if that means they’re not easy or just says I’m a slob that’s not worth taking home!
I know English girls that are easy and I know Americans that are stuck up. We’re all the same really at the end of the day. How was that for sitting on the fence? I deserve to have a splinter in my arse for that one.