2016 Artist Survey: Harry Burgess of Adult Jazz

Burgess on 2016's Best Albums, the Election, Recurring Dreams, and Memorable Fan Encounters

Jan 23, 2017 Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary
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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 Harry Burgess of Adult Jazz. In 2016 the Leeds, England band released a mini-album, Earrings Off!, via Tri Angle. It was the follow-up to their 2014 debut full-length, Gist Is.

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.

Top 10 Albums of 2016:

A lot of the below are based on live shows around a record-as we haven't done much actual listening this year.

Kero Kero Bonito: Intro BonitoThese guys are so much fun live, it's so inclusive and there are some great melodies. I've been arranging these songs with some of the young people I teach, and they go down a storm. 

Tyondai Braxton: Oranged Out EPThis is a really rhythmically interesting record, and has a pretty frenetic feel, but there are some really fun grooves in there.

G-Bop Orchestra 6 Drummer SituationAmazing experimental percussion ensemble, headed up by Greta Eacott who I've been lucky enough to play with a few times. The live show of the ensemble that recorded this recorded was absolutely stunning-six drummers and a tuba.

Solange: A Seat at the TableAn incredibly moving record that SOUNDS amazing. But the melodies too, I really like the less reticulated stuff she is singing, the bits stripped of melisma.

Frank Ocean: BlondeDidn't dig it a first, but it feels homely now. I think his collagey approach to a record is bewildering initially, but it seeps in in a really unique way.

Oliver Coates: UpsteppingOlly's done it again! This time with a dance record. Lovely textures and good to cook alone to, if the dish requires repetitive chopping.

Anna Meredith: VarmintsAgain I'm thinking about live shows around the record. Usually very bombastic and just incredibly loud, except for the track "Honeyed Words," which a synth and cello duet and is thus beautiful.

ANOHNI: HOPELESSNESSI think the record's strength is its insistence of the interconnectedness of our problems, and the view of Earth as an organism. I also think it's important that someone is singing about drone strikes, and clearly about American/Western foreign policy. The record itself seems weirdly sacrificial because it kind of took few knocks to straddle its content, clarity is ungainly sometimes, but the result is super exciting and reflects what she said about removing the "gossamer curtain."

Chance the Rapper: Coloring BookTim is a big fan!

Nicolas Jaar: SirensTom is a big fan!

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?

I have been quite dismayed with politics here in the U.K. recently also, so the broad social atmosphere has been negative. But personally I have enjoyed myself this year. I moved into a much nicer house, there is a good bunch of friends and musicians in South East London, so lots of creative-cross pollination has been exciting, not to mention the resultant totally incredible social life. We have started writing a new record after taking a pretty substantial break after Earrings Off! It is nice to be back in the studio for our own stuff, and doing some writing/production with some other artists again.

What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?

It was sad and illuminating.

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?

It tells me that things are fractious, much like they are here. What concerns me most about a Trump presidency is his foreign policy/normalization of the ludicrous notion of nationalism. Message for Trump voters: Isn't it conspicuous that your man "of the people" is an inherited-wealth billionaire? I don't know what actions I can take. I am trying to be more active on a local level with positive projects in England. Also keen not to demonize illiberal individuals into further illiberalism, to not fetishize outrage, to not binarize. To not define myself in opposition to individuals and groups, but to ideology.  To remember policy is more important than rhetoric and language choices.

What reality TV star would you have rather been elected president?

Alex Parks from Fame Academy seemed sound. 

If you were president, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days in office?

Fund and inflate the state/welfare, enforce big business tax. Particular to U.S.: review foreign policy.

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?

I think they were similar in that "talk" was foregrounded and its relationship to truth was deemed unimportant in a quite terrifying way. The idea of creating problems to solve them in ways that serve certain interests, see the factories that Trump "saved" from closure that were at no risk of closure, or here, the NHS is chronically underfunded, subsequent struggles blamed on immigration increasing demand for services, the £350m promised post-Brexit is apparently unworkable, and whaddayaknow, the answer is privatization. Also that legitimately disadvantaged people's concerns were co-opted by the wealthy.

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?

I only really know Musicology and a Greatest Hits collection by Prince well. Bought them bootleg off a beach in Malaga when I was 14. I have read some great Leonard Cohen lyrics too, but I cannot remember which songs. You are meant to say Low for Bowie right?

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?

I remember seeing and being scared by the Prodigy's "Firestarter" video when I was like 10 and assuming that it was Marilyn Manson, because I knew, through playground hearsay, him to be scary.

Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?

Yes! If we can sort out universal basic income!

Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.

Haven't really met any this year. Someone waved at me at a festival and then tweeted that I didn't respond? It was by no means a clear "I like your band" wave though, thought he knew someone behind me.

Tell us about your first kiss.

Never have never will.

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 don't know enough about it! I would hazard a guess and say it is in the main a little more conservative currently, both financially and artistically. But we do get to hear a lot more. It might be age, but I am struggling to drum up devotion to artists because of too much choice!

What advice do you have to the leaders of the Democratic Party in terms of how to rebound from this election?

Back a genuine alternative.

If you have kids or plan to have kids one day, will you encourage them to be a musician or artist or would you prefer they get a more stable job?

Do both! We do both! Lots of musicians also have to have a "stable job." It can be tricky, because your time is severely slashed. E.g. we haven't really been able to tour. However it is nice to do something useful too, meet a variety of people, and not just musicians and their acolytes. I think I would encourage any child I had to be expressive in some form, that's important!

What's usually the biggest stumbling block to your happiness?

Over-thought, anxiety, tiredness were three that came up when I floated this one to the rest of the band.

What celebrity, musician, or historical figure, living or dead, would you most want to be stuck in an elevator with?

Milo Yiannopoulos is on my mind a lot at the moment. His whole schtick seems like this thin veil over a bulging stack of projections/psychodramas about approval, self-loathing, and shame. Gay boy in a public school vibe. Shame is a powerful fuel!

What band, besides your own, has the best name?

We like the name HEALTH.

What's the most vivid dream or nightmare you had in 2016?

I dreamt that I was on a never-ending cruise, which was horrid. Never docking.

What VHS tape or DVD did you wear out growing up?

Dogtanian! The theme tune (www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-xO72s5EBY) is a regular reference in new AJ writing. 

What problem in the music industry isn't discussed enough and which one is over-covered?

Isn't discussed enough: How to manage doing art and earning some form of money. We don't know many other bands so it would be good to have some role models a bit further down the line, who aren't megastars, to explain how they balance what they do with more practical stuff. There is a kind of blank future awaiting some artists. Make it or give up! I hope it doesn't have to be that binary. A place for sharing flexible jobs that are good for artists that aren't completely soul-sucking. Over-covered: u r setting a trap!

What song, past or present, best sums up 2016?

 "Me, Myself and I" - Beyoncé. The year individualism rotted its way to the top!

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