Friday night at 5pm, I find myself scurrying through the tunnels of the Piccadilly line, onto the sardine tin carriages that also masquerade as an public transportation service known as the ‘Northern Line’. Upon reaching the crowded platform, I was greeted with the news that another poor soul had chosen London Underground to end his journey…completely. Tragic. However, the real irony lay in the fact that i was on my way to an interview with ex-King Blues frontman turned hit solo artist, Itch on behalf of suicide prevention charity, CALM. He’s a busy man, is Itch, but i was granted 15 minutes before his Camden Underworld gig, into which i squeezed as much of the good stuff as i could…
The wonders of Google led me to your real name, Jonny Fox. How did you get the name Itch?
Itch: I really can’t tell you.
Is it X-rated? Was it given to you?
I: I don’t tell anyone. It was when I was four, that’s all you’re getting.
How difficult has the transition been going from a member of a critically acclaimed band, adored by their fans, to a solo project?
I: With lots of rumours around, it was simple: 10 years of living in each others pockets, a loss of passion, especially in the last year, a feeling of just going through the motions. Add in threats from Nazi skinheads, overall it just felt like the right time…
I: It was written with Fall Out Boy‘s Patrick Stump and we were thinking of somebody to jump on it. I heard Adam’s voice and I believed in the emotion, and in him. We sent him the track and didn’t expect to hear anything back. Thankfully he got back in touch and now we’ve met a few times. I really admire his humility. He’s so quiet and shy, however when he is on the mic, he transforms. It’s inspiring.
Have you a formula when it comes to writing or a preferred setting/atmosphere??
I: Like your body in the gym, the mind is a muscle and I like to work out. I write between 32-64 lines a day to keep sharp.
Would you regard yourself as a UK Hip-Hop artist?
I: No, although I incorporate elements of hip-hop, I am equally inspired by punk-rock. I don’t want to put myself into one particular box. At the moment UK hip-hop is only a small scene and think I’m a more well-rounded artist than that.
I think you would excel in Battle Rap! How do you fancy yer chances in that arena?
I: I think it has negative connotations. – I like to promote love and happiness, instead of dissecting someones family, or something equally as personal. I have taken small steps in that lane before, however I would need to see progression in terms of content. It’s overtly negative and I would need to see it evolve before considering it.
Do you think a UK urban artist will ever break in the US??
I: Tinie Tempah has made small waves. However I wouldn’t really call him a hip-hop artist as he is so influenced by the American scene, so, still nobody’s really done it yet.
I first saw you live at this year’s Camden Rocks Festival, where you did an ‘Owen Hart’ and vaulted off the balcony and injured yourself. How’s the foot, and did it affect your appearances in the US @ Warped/Vans tour?
I: Yeah it’s much better. After extensive rehab, I could’ve either sat about for 3 months depressed, or taken advantage of the opportunity presented. Thanks to Kevin Lyman giving me a chance, plus having a great team of people around me, I had to adapt, learn new techniques to add to my stagecraft. I’m a physical perfomer and put everything into it, and all I had to do was give it my all from a chair.
How was the crowd reaction in the US?
I: Most of the people in the audience had never even heard somebody from the UK rap before so I did feel truly humbled at the affection and love offered.
Life is Poetry (spoken word piece and my personal favourite Itch viral) has a section addressed to your fans. Could you break it down for me a little?
I: It’s a thank you for the support from King Blues days, and especially after the split as they showed love and now still support me as a solo artist.
Finally, I’m here in conjunction with CALM, and a statistic that troubled me is that 77% of suicides in the UK in 2012 were men. What are you thoughts on this shocking stat, and what do you think might be behind it?
I: I actually read that stat on the way here today. I think it’s a mixture of a lot of things. The system at the moment is a top down hierarchy, where people feel they are missing out, plus there is a disconnect with the political system. I prefer simple politics – People Over Profit. Also, mental health has a real stigma attached to it plus there’s the British ‘stiff upper lip’ syndrome. We need to be able to talk about these things without fear of rejection or ridicule. It’s good that you are talking about real issues. If we continue to sweep these things under the carpet, then we can never move past them, it’s a shocking statistic…
And with that, I left him and his band to tear up the Camden’s Underworld. Shouts to Joe @ Division Promotions for the hook-up and to Itch for being candid and real. Our celebrity infested world is full of bullshit, so to see an artist develop and retain lyrical and artistic integrity is a real jewel in a haystack of mediocrity.
Check out more from Itch here:
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