King Krule on “The Ooz”

In the Theater of the Grotesque

Dec 14, 2017 Photography by Frank Lebon Issue #62 - Julien Baker
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Though much of the press Archy Marshall has received over the past five years has focused on the contrast between his boyish appearance and his mature, baritone voice, ask about the title of his new album and the 22-year-old Londoner becomes a kid again. The Ooz, his second full-length release under the King Krule moniker, represents a concept that has deep roots in Marshall's creative life, stretching back to when he and his brother were making music as teenagers. Then going by the name Zoo Kidone of Marshall's many creative aliases over the yearshe realized that those words read backwards created the rather unsavory sounding "Dik Ooz." With that, a metaphor was born. Human beings are factories of waste, both biological and psychological, forced to spend their lives helplessly maintaining bodies and minds that are caught in a constant cycle of degradation and repair. It's a concept that drives much of the writing on the album, one that still delights him.

"It's mainly the idea that you're just oozing," he says with a deep, rumbling laugh. "You can't even help it. You do it every single second. Your body is constantly pushing out gunk. I was obsessed with this idea that maybe one day I could cut open my skull and pull all this stuff out, because I felt like I had so much shit around the top of my skull. I wanted to just get it out all this tar and gunk and bogies. I was obsessed with it. I just felt right to name [the album] that."

But the songs on The Ooz did not emit from Marshall like so much daily waste. In fact, to continue the metaphor, Marshall found himself creatively constipated. Following the release of 2015's A New Place 2 Drown, his first release under his own name, he had intended to go back to a set of songs that predated his first King Krule album but that he could not figure out how to complete to his satisfaction. But the songs from 2013's 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, his breakthrough debut as King Krule, cast a long shadow. He had learned much since that release, having refined his studio production skills to the point that he could conceivably create the sound world for any album he wanted. He had little idea what that was, however.

"I'd been playing the first record for so many years at that point, I couldn't get past it," he says. "The compositions, I just wasn't happy with them. I was frustrated for many years, so frustrated, especially with my own writing. I wasn't happy with anything. I never really had an idea of what I wanted it to sound like. I wanted it to be heavier," he says vaguely. "I wanted the guitars to be dirtier."

Then, Marshall had a breakthrough in the summer of 2016. He met Argentinian saxophonist Ignacio Salvadoras, who promptly moved in with him for a few weeks of jam sessions. Before long, Marshall had written "Logos," a darkly jazzy mid-tempo ballad he says embodied everything he was working towards on the album. With sensual electric piano lines and leering saxophone lines licking around his sonorous purr, the song is one long, cascading rhyme, with Marshall describing a scene of overflowing sinks and the smell of cigarettes mixed with cologne.

The Ooz is a nighttime record, Marshall says, examining the minutia of mundane and lonely spaceswaiting for the last train, watching people do drugs, walking home alonewith an uncomfortably meticulous eye for detail. Here he assumes the dual roles of what he calls "the astronaut and the submariner," exploring unknown and unexamined terrains, straining for a kind of uneasy transcendence. Song after song oozes into the next, leaving a trail of poetic grotesquery and, yes, images of brains overflowing with literal and metaphysical gunk. And while it ended up the album Marshall wanted to make, he's not yet to the point where he can enjoy it.

"I got the test pressing back, and I found it really, really hard to listen to it," he says. "I started shaking. I don't know what that was about. I was enjoying it, but I think it was quite emotional for me in a way. I think I spent so much time frustrated, and to actually look at it spinning in front of me, teasing and singing myself back at me, I found it quite hard to listen to it. I usually pass out to it most nights," he says, with a self-effacing laugh. "It's boring as hell."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Fall 2017 Issue (October/November 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]



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