Featured Image: Jake Osman
If we hadn’t already realised that rock threw out the rule book years ago, we need only look to Kid Brunswick a.k.a Harry James – an artist consecutively pushing the boundaries on every attention-grabbing release.
After changing his name from Brunswick to Kid Brunswick for legal reasons, this self-proclaimed ‘grunge lord’ is ruling over the emerging alternative-rock music scene. He’s caught the ear of industry tastemakers such as Radio 1 DJ, Jack Saunders, Elton John, and Head of Spotify Rock, Allison Hagendorf – and for good reason. His signature style of ‘rhythm and grunge’ explores previously uncharted waters with fierce ingenuity.
Having had an interest in music from a very young age, he began on some red dragon bongos at the age of three. After religiously taking them to school with him, he was then recommended by his headteacher to try his hand at the drums, which was followed by noise complaints by his neighbours.
A multi-instrumentalist, he’s an accomplished pianist and guitarist too. Classically trained, he’s also known to throw in the odd cello and violin section into his music too. His work is an accumulation of changing tempos, perfectly-crafted lyrics, and how in James’ world, anything has the potential to be an instrument.
Notably, in his lyrics, he never shies away from discussing difficult topics, such as addiction and mental health. It’s this unabashed honesty that has earned him both respect and admiration from those who listen to his music.
His latest track, ‘Bipolar Rhapsody’ (2020) is a chaotic rock anthem, cathartically drawing on a past relationship. Offering two sides of the conversation, ‘Prescription Kid’ (2020) describes the perils of over-prescribing pills in the U.S, with furiously powered guitars mellowing out in the mid-section – but with the lyrical message never weakening. Beginning with the soft strumming of guitars, ‘4AM’ (2020) is another emotionally charged track, dealing with addiction. There’s something innately beautiful about music crafted from the darkest of places and how one person’s lyrics contain the power to resonate with millions.
aAh! Magazine catches up with Kid Brunswick over Facetime to find out more about the weirdest place he’s written lyrics, potentially being one of the first rock artists to smash a cello onstage, and swimming with a turtle in Thailand.
Earlier today, you were included in an article for Kerrang by Jack Saunders on the best nu-metal, post-hardcore and trip-hop artists…
“How weird is that right? I’m kind of losing it, I’m not going to lie. I’m back in the zone now, but I’m really glad that we weren’t interviewing when that happened because I grew up with their radio station. You’re the first person I’ve spoken to about it, so that’s why I’m kind of off-loading right now. But I had this sh**ty radio growing up, that my mum got me. A little black one. I just used to blast Kerrang all day long, every day. That’s kind of how I got into rock music as a kid and finding bands for myself through that radio station. My mum used to buy me the magazines and stuff. She works in the industry as well. She would go into record labels and pick up Kerrang and bring it home for me. I’d just read all this stuff and I was obsessed with the magazine. I saw that stuff today and I was like, ‘Okay what the f***, that’s so weird!’ It was a really cool moment. That’s something which I will always remember, just because it means something to me.”
Kerrang seems to be one of those publications which many in alternative music were inspired by, which artists did you look up to?
“I love Dave Grohl because I think he’s the kindest guy in rock and roll. For live performances, I really look up to Travis Scott. I think he’s got the best live performance in the world because his energy is just insane. The dude is just superhuman. Musically, I look up to a lot of artists like Radiohead and Kanye. There’s a range of people I look up to.”
I think you can definitely get those influences from your music, but I also like how you’ve created your genre of ‘rhythm & grunge’. How did that come together?
“I just thought that I wanted to do the most obnoxious possible thing ever and then I was like, ‘you know what, how do I be a complete prick and just shake things up? Okay, I’ll just create my own genre man.’ And then, I kind of accidentally f***ing did it. I was like, ‘Holy sh**! This is sick!’ So, I’ve just kind of been doing it since. It was just a happy accident. I made beats when I was fifteen for rappers and stuff. I took that production into stuff I started producing in ‘band’ music and mixed these things together. It became this industrial, really noisy music, that I really like. It’s melodic though, that’s the rhythm and R&B sort of side of it. And, the grunge side is really chaotic, distorted stuff.”
If you first heard it you may think that it was just noise but I noticed when you were explaining the breakdown of ‘Bipolar Rhapsody’, there are lots of different layers, including a cello. Is that your classical training bleeding through?
“You’ve done your research, you’re like f***ing Nardwuar. He’s the one person I don’t want to be interviewed by. He’s so insane and I know he’d find out loads of stuff that I don’t want people to know about me – that I probably don’t even remember. Yeah, I was classically trained, and that sh** has stayed with me since. I love strings. I love the cello. Cellos are my favourite instrument after the guitar. One of my favourite songs of all time is ‘Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ by Aerosmith, because of the mixture of rock and roll with strings. Rock music, especially, classic rock, uses a lot of classical chord progressions and stuff like that. It’s a really mental mixture. I do want to get to that stage where I’m in a big studio and there’s a big orchestra recording my songs if I ever get to write, like a rock anthem. An ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’, rock anthem. I love a lot of songs which have used cellos, like ‘Something In The Way’ by Nirvana. Anything with rock and roll with the cello, that’s my kink. You know, people ask me what my kinks are, it’s definitely a cello and an acoustic guitar.”
You did your first ‘live show’ on Twitch with Scruff of The Neck the other day, would you ever bring a cello into a live performance?
“Oh my God yeah! That would be insane! I mean, I could be one of the first rock artists to smash a cello onstage, that’d be f***ing cool. I don’t think anyone’s smashed a classical instrument onstage before, so that’d be pretty cool!”
I think it would too! How did you find your first ‘live show’, did it go how you wanted it to?
“Yeah, it went great. I loved it and apparently, my fans were taking over the entire chat and I felt so bad for Jack [Cullen] who went after me. I was watching his show downstairs and my fans were still on there, basically, speaking in inside-jokes during his performance. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is f***ed up.’ Maybe people needed that to calm down because the live show I did, was really f***ing intense man. I really enjoyed it. It was the first show I’d done. I’d played in a band before under my old name but I f***ing hated performing with those guys. It didn’t feel like me. So, I basically played my first show. Yeah, we f***ing killed it, it was great. I mean, we made so many mistakes and I just don’t care. I’m a massive perfectionist but I just had so much fun, I don’t give a f***. There are so many points where I’m singing out of tune, but I just don’t care. It was great, I loved it.”
I saw it and thought it was really good too, and you can imagine it live with lots of mosh pits, especially like the one in the video for ‘Bipolar Rhapsody’. How do your ideas for music videos come to you, especially with keeping in mind they’re all zero budget?
“I don’t know. I just listen to the songs on repeat and I’m just like, ‘What’s the weirdest thing I can do with a zero pound budget?’ And, I did the whole edit for ‘Bipolar Rhapsody’ myself. I’ve never edited anything myself before, so I had to learn how to do it online. Then, I was doing it with my mate Jack, who’s in Houston, Texas. He was just a fan, to begin with. Now, he and I speak all the time and we’re really good friends. He’s six hours behind, so I’m up ‘til 6 am, like ‘How do I crop this?’ And he’s like, ‘Dude, c’mon.’”
“It was f***ing awful, but with the videos, it’s mainly the music. I kind of know what I want in my head and for some reason, if I let someone else produce my music, it sounds sh** to me. It’s the same thing with videos as well. I get so protective, I’m such a little b****. I just want everything to be my way, like a spoiled little girl, like when you take my dolls away, and I’ll want to ruin your f***ing life. That’s genuinely how I feel about my music. I’m so protective of it because I know exactly how I want it to be. I think that’s really good though because you meet so many people, who don’t know what sound they want to go for. I’m so glad I never had that problem. So, I do feel like I’ve been blessed with that. I don’t have any money to make them right now, but I have some f***ed up ideas. So, I’m really excited to do those in the future. And, nearly all of them involve me topless with some sort of animal, yeah.”
I quite like how you always combine the unexpected in your videos and your music. Such as in ‘Prescription Kid’ where it mellows near the end but still has the same strong message, or the sections in ‘Dear Anonymous’, which has a section from War of the Worlds, and ‘Bipolar Rhapsody’, which has the sound of paper along a surface being reversed.
“You make me laugh man because you’ve done your f***ing research and it’s making me really happy. It’s making me laugh, sorry. Also, I laugh when I’m talking to someone new, it doesn’t matter the conversation or if I’m in trouble. I’ll just p*** myself. So, this is good. I’m enjoying this, thank you.
How did you think to add these sounds in, like something as random as paper or a film?
“Ah, I see you watched the ‘4AM’ video too. I think honestly, the only thing that I can think to say is that I think that there’s something wrong with me because when it comes to those sounds, I just… when I hear a really weird sound, it’s always stuff that no one else would like. I remember going to this community centre in Shepherd’s Bush, and it was in the middle of this estate. I was having a p*** in a toilet and there was like an air-conditioning unit and it was like… I actually do have it on my phone, but it was making this sound [imitates sound]. I was like, ‘Fuck, that’s the sound! That’s the same thing as Joker’s theme in The Dark Night.’ It was the same exact note and then I sampled it and put it in ‘Dear Anonymous’. Then, I made it into a bass [imitates sound], a really weird sound too and that’s in there.”
“I think the main thing, I’m not one of those artists that can just get inspired from just sitting down with a guitar. I need to have heard something that just pricks my ears, like a weird thing. And then, I get this feeling in my f***ing core. I’m like, ‘Yes, let’s f***ing go, it’s on!’ Then, it just happens naturally. There’s no right or wrong way of doing anything. I know it sounds really vague but to me, it’s all down to this weird connection that I have with sound. I don’t know, to make the music that I make everything has gone through a journey. The kick. The snare. The f***ing sound has been processed and processed, reversed, bounced out, distorted, and delayed. It becomes this whole new thing from what it originally was. That’s kind of how it sounds unique if that makes sense. Anyone can make a simple beat and make it sound cool, but it takes a lot of time and an intuitive effort to try and kind of create something unique. That’s a long answer, sorry.”
That’s really interesting, with your process you always write your lyrics second. Where is the strangest place where you’ve written some lyrics?
“That’s a good question, you know. Oh, f***, strangest place I’ve written lyrics… I know I’ve got some weird places. Do you know what, I’ll normally write a song and I’ll always have one or two lyrics, which I’m stuck on and have to come back to. I’ll just take a walk around wherever I am. I’ve definitely finished a song in the shed by my house. I’ve thought of some lyrics in some very weird places, where something will come to me at random. That’s the thing, so whether it’s in a coffee shop or the tube, a lot of writing on the tube when I’m bored – I’m just on my phone [imitates sound], and people are looking at me. I don’t remember one specific place, just a lot of different places.”
“If you saw me in the street doing that [imitates head movement], I’ve been on Zoom sessions before and a woman messaged me asking if I was okay, because she saw me doing this [imitates head movement]. When I’m writing music, I always move my jaw. You might see it with some drummers. You know how guitarists have this face, a close friend of mine used to say that they were orgasming when the guitarist does a solo [imitates it]. Drummers do this thing and it’s really weird. I used to do that all the time and I do that when I listen to music on a Zoom session. I do that a lot and I think someone thought I was having a fit or something, you know. Oh f*** yeah, it would be on a Zoom session. I go to AA for Alcoholics Anonymous and it was in that meeting that I was doing that. So, that would be the weirdest place where I wrote lyrics like, [imitates sound]. The woman thought I was having a problem with my face. So yeah, there you go in an AA meeting.”
Aw, I think it’s inspiring how you’re so open with your lyrics, discussing addiction, mental health, and everything, and have turned it into art. How does it feel to have so many people relate and connect with your music?
“Yeah, I mean I think they will relate to it because I’m not bullsh**ing anything that I say. So, you know, I’ve been through some pretty, f***ing hard times and I’m glad I made it out alive. I very nearly didn’t. You know, it’s pretty awesome. The messages sometimes that come through throw me off and I’m like, ‘Okay.’ The one thing though, I’ve said this quite a lot recently, sometimes people say you know, ‘You saved my life.’ But the reality is I didn’t save anyone’s life. If anyone has, it’s doctors, nurses, and actual professionals. Or, it would be the person who is actually struggling with something that chose to get help, and maybe music helps them relate to something. But, the people I used to say saved my life, was like Kurt Cobain and Morrisey from The Smiths – if I’m being honest, all that music did was that. It did not save my life. What saved my life was me checking myself into a rehab centre. But, I definitely appreciate the messages when they’re like, ‘I really related to this lyric’ or ‘I went through the same thing.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, f*** yeah that’s cool!’ But that whole, ‘saved my life thing’, that really needs to stop, especially with other artists when they feed into that too. You know, you’re making someone dependant on you, it’s not cool.”
It’s really admirable how you’re aware of that. Also, you’ve previously mentioned a forthcoming potential mixtape, can we expect that soon?
“Yes! I haven’t written all of it yet. I’ve got like two songs but I need to write more. My manager called me out the other day and was like, ‘Get back to London now because you need to write these songs because they’ll go really well.’ So, currently, I’m in the middle of all this work I need to do, which isn’t to do with music. It’s to do with my recovery and stuff. I’m doing that and as soon as I’ve done that, I’m going to get into the ‘musician’s headspace’, f***.”
“I’m just going to ‘write these tunes, man’, once I’ve finished this stuff I’m doing now. Then, I’m finishing some songs and once those are ready, it’s literally ready to go. I’ve got two songs on there, which are just like, chef’s kiss, you know.”
Aside from the mixtape, do you have any other goals that you’re working on?
I’ve heard about plans for L. A and working with Grandson?
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Literally, the first thing that came to my mind was like, six-pack, six-pack, six-pack. But yeah, back to L.A. I want to meet Allison Hagendorf, the Head of Rock at Spotify. She’s been playlisting my music.”
I love her and that’s so cool, that’s how I first listened to your music.
“Oh really?! Yeah, she’s awesome! So yeah, I’m going to go out and meet her and go for dinner with her. I just want to give her my personal thanks. Buy a f***ing load of flowers and be like, ‘Dude, you are f***ing sick. So yeah, I’m writing with Grandson over Zoom next week, which is cool – sh**’s happening man. It’s right at the beginning but it’s cool. It’s really exciting. But I’ve been waiting for this sort of opportunity because nothing has really happened, and there’s a bit of buzz around it. Now, this is the exciting part. I kind of want to keep doing this, you know for the rest of my life. I don’t want to really do that thing where I play the same songs over and over again for ten years. I’m really enjoying this part. I’m just trying to be as unsuccessful as possible. So, I can just make this last forever. I’ve got a few goals. I want to be on that f***ing BBC, not introducing…”
The Live Lounge?
“Not the Live Lounge, well definitely, but like the ‘One to Watch’ thing. That list as Yungblud once won it like two years ago and it’s a really good look. I just really want to get it.”
That would be cool!
“It would and with all other goals, honestly, dude. If I can just stay sober and not go insane, I’ll be pretty happy. That’s all I want and also, I want to find a girlfriend at some stage, like maybe in ten years? That’s kind of what I’m looking for then but I realise right now, I’m so emotionally unavailable. I’m just addicted to work. Music is my wag if you know what I mean. If your job is like your life, you kind of have to sacrifice stuff. And, it’s kind of cool in a weird way, because you’re doing something a bit different from the typical, ‘get a boyfriend, girlfriend, get married and settle down.’”
I get that.
“Yeah, I couldn’t do that, I’d go insane. So yeah, in ten years I’ll probably try and get a girlfriend.”
I think a lot of people in music can definitely relate to that! Is there anything which you’ve never been asked, but wished that you had?
“I don’t know, why don’t you just pull the cat out of the bag and ask something … I don’t know, I honestly, would not know the answer to that question. Why don’t you ask me something really f***ing weird and we’ll see what happens?”
Okay, what’s your favourite tattoo that you’ve got?
“No, come on, that’s so sh**. You can ask a better question.”
You asked for a weird one!
“You can do so much better.”
Okay, I’m thinking.
“Go for something really f***ing personal! I will answer anything, I really don’t care. As long as it doesn’t get me cancelled or something.”
Actually, you’ve said in a previous interview that you had an eventful trip to Thailand, can you tell us more about it?
“I learned that I was a drug addict at the time. But other than that it was amazing, we went scuba diving on this open water scuba diving course and we diving down to like, 70 metres. Which is really far down. It was really cool! So, the day after we got our license we went snorkeling at this place called ‘Shark Bay’. If you ever go to Thailand, you need to go to a place called Koh Tao, and go scuba diving there. They have a thing with lots of sharks there and you can swim in this bay. Kind of like in the name. We had all of this equipment that I’d bought and gear like, fins and we swam really far out. And, we were looking for sharks. But, we couldn’t find anything and we were there for ages. As we were coming up, I just heard my girlfriend at the time, scream, ‘Oh my God!’ And, there was this really old turtle, like the size of my f***ing bed. He was just grazing on the ground eating these plants at the bottom of the sea bed. It wasn’t too far down, maybe three or four metres. And then, we both swam down to this turtle and were just looking at each other, like ‘What the f***?’ We held on to his shell and he swam with us and it was the most incredible f***ing experience I’ve ever had in my life.”
“I’d definitely recommend Thailand but I would say, don’t go with anyone. Go by yourself because I noticed that the people who travelled together would argue because they wanted to do different things. What I want to do next, is go to Vietnam. It’s amazing, apparently. It’s not been as westernised as Thailand, which is literally, like going to Leeds in some places. That was incredible and then I came back and checked myself into rehab. So yeah, that was Thailand. Sorry, long answer.”
You can stream his latest track, ‘Bipolar Rhapsody’ here.
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