2016 Artist Survey: Ellery James Roberts of Lost Under Heaven (LUH)
Roberts on 2016's Best Albums, Trump and the Election, Brexit, First Kisses, and Scary Movies
Feb 07, 2017 Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary Photography by James Loveday (for Under the Radar)
Find It At: AMAZON
For Under the Radar's 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Ellery James Roberts of LUH (which stands for Lost Under Heaven). Roberts is the former frontman of WU LYF and LUH also features Ebony Hoorn. The duo released their debut album, Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing, in 2016 via Mute.
For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016's deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn't have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.
Pick up or download Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat's Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.
A shorter version of Lost Under Heaven's survey appeared in the print version of Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue, this is the full unedited version.
Top 10 Albums of 2016
1. Show Me the Body: Body War
2. A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service
3. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Key
4. Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition
5. Savages: Adore Life
6. Julianna Barwick: Will
7. Marching Church: Telling It Like It Is
8. Death Grips: Bottomless Pit
9. Fat White Family: Songs for Our Mothers
10. Babyfather: BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow
2016 was regarded by many as a fairly tough and negative year. Was it also a hard year for you personally? If so, how? And also what were the high points for you?
In part, the trouble of 2016 was people lamenting into an echo chamber. We have learnt the ineffectual lesson of taking part. The atmosphere amongst the "civilized" is that of collapse; but this is inevitable given our lifestyle on the planet. It ain't materially sustainable and it exploits and dehumanizes. The past 30 years have led us stupefied into this normalized inferno. I think the most positive thing to take from 2016 is the wake-up call to the human spirit—the cultural slap in the face. Trouble is perhaps it wasn't hard enough yet, it's just getting going. On a high, [bandmate and romantic partner] Ebony [Hoorn] graduated and LUH been rolling with flow and inspiration.
What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?
Politics. The political establishment is crisis management on an imploding monolith. The coverage, polls, what ever is flashing spectacle, entertainment for a passively distracted mass. If there was any possibility that Bernie Sanders could have proceeded then perhaps there may have been some meaningful discussion; but Trump vs. Clinton just left a void for fanaticism to out shine the depressing acceptance of the status quo.
Let's discuss Donald Trump. What does the rise of Trump tell you about America in 2016? What concerns you most about a Trump presidency? How do you think his presidency might personally change your life? What message do you have for those who voted for Trump? What actions will you take over the course of the next four years to either protest a Trump presidency or support it?
People get the politicians they deserve. Trump is contemporary culture—or the culture of an empire in decline. Trump is Romulus in Rome. He is the foul stench of the dying breath—conservatives fears the future for it shakes their self imposed supremacy. The tragedy will be the destruction of the environment, the suffering of the global south.
What reality TV star would you have rather been elected president?
If you were president, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days in office?
The entire deconstruction of the concept of presidency, of singular or externalized authority.
What are your thoughts on Brexit and the future of the European Union? To what extent do you think the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were motivated by the same factors?
We are all on the same path. The rise of the far-right is the product of the failures of globalization, neo-liberalizm. Culturally we have had our senses, our ability to make judgment—the intellect, has been systematically deadened—simple questions are easier to answer. Thus, Mickey Mouse racists are able to jump on the zeitgeist of the oppressed and somehow convince them of an archaic sense of isolationist utopia. We are one people on a small rock in infinite space.
We lost three highly influential music icons in 2016. What are your thoughts on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen? And what are your favorite albums by each artist?
Each left a legacy of deep understanding. They truly actualized their time as human being on the planet. Every living member of the species can learn from their life—that they gave it in song, codified truth in such a way that many can access was expression of our times. There have been many like them before, and there will be many in the future.
What do you think Prince and Bowie's afterlife project sounds like?
Which Friends character are you most like?
The pissy cat that the blonde sings about.
What scary movie did you see way too young as a child, how'd you end up seeing it, and does it still scare you now?
Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Late-night TV when I was young enough to see no separation between fiction and reality.
Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?
Yeah, bring it on. Human potential can get a hella lot more weird than this mundane limitations.
Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.
There was this one fan, who after the show, said he liked the show.
Tell us about your first kiss.
The first kiss I recall was from my ma or pa, on my crown before it was covered in hair.
Under the Radar has been around for 15 years now, since December 2001. How do you feel the music industry has most changed in that time, both for the better and the worst?
I ain't been in the game that long, but it appears harder to stack your cash if you want to pursue art rather than commerce. Kids seem to have less moral barriers in turning themselves into a product to be exploited for the momentary entertainment of the masses. Good news is the gatekeepers are falling back into sand.
Which Stranger Things character do you most relate with? Why?
That spooky slime-demon. Felt like our shadow trying to unify with waking life.
After Donald Trump won the election which band (or song or album) did you first turn to for solace and motivation?
Moments like that I like to turn up Scott Walker's song "Mathilde" and take my head out the fish bowl.
What deli menu item could you buy with your 2016 Spotify earnings?
Probably can afford a $1 slice.
What would be the worst punishment the devil could devise for you in hell, if he exists?
To live this life again in ignorance.
Would you survive a zombie apocalypse? Explain.
I am surviving now: you get me?
What rock 'n' roll lifestyle cliché is truest?
Void: drugs: deeper void.
In which ways are you most like your parents and in which ways are you least like them?
I have my father's temper, mothers pride. In contrast, I am comfortable standing singing on a stage.
What's the best practical joke you've ever played on someone?
Formed the Lucifer Youth Foundation and pretended I wasn't serious.
What's your favorite year for music and what were your favorite albums from that year?
2017. Next Lost Under Heaven LP. Yes G.
What song would you like to be performed at your funeral and who would you like to sing it?
[Curtis Mayfield's] "(Don't Worry) If There's a Hell Below We're All Going to Go." The entire congregation can sing it, like a hymn.
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