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September 18, 2023
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Joe Talbot, From IDLES On Anger, Art, And Empathy

We caught up Joe Talbot from IDLES band, England's biggest rock sensation of the last decade, and we can affirm that they set the Montreux Jazz Festival stage on fire! Intense, explosive, turbulent, and chaotic...

Chloé Bruère Dawson: So how are you feeling, not too tired? How is it to be here at Montreux Jazz Festival?

Joe Talbot: I’m never too tired [laughs]. It's a festival season. It's really easy when you're sober. It's beautiful here. I love it. I don't like the decibel limit, but I do like the scenery and the people. I'm going to swim in the lake right after our interview!

 C: Wet Leg is performing before you tonight, they formed in 2018 after seeing you perform. Are you a fan?

Joe Talbot: Allegedly. We're friends, because Rhian, the singer, used to live in Bristol. We've known for a while, we played with them before and they're wonderful human beings. The whole band. And I love their music. I think they're incredible songwriters, they’ve always been incredible songwriters before Wet Leg. So I think they are exactly what the world needed and it's exactly what other bands needed. It was some healthy competition of people that knew how to write solid pop songs, and rock songs with love and vigor, which is something the IDLES have tried to attempt and we can learn from Wet Leg.

 C: You’re full of good energy tonight! You reissued your debut album "Brutalism" after 6 years, have your connection to the album shifted?

Joe Talbot: I never grow tired of our music. I love all of our songs apart from one, ??? , cause it's shit. It just annoys me, I don't know why. The melody annoys me. I don't like singing it, so I don't sing it. I've always loved all our music but playing it a lot and especially your first album is all you have for a while. So you play the same song and you have to learn how to appreciate the currency of your music as a gift and as a platform to make love with people. And that energy can subside if you have an ego. That's a beautiful gift for a musician. And it's something that we never forgot because we played for 5 people, 10 people, 20 people, 50, 100… So we learned that skill of understanding how important every show is. And over the years, we've had slow but steady progress, really touring a lot. We are grateful for the journey.

C: You released "Joy As an Act of Resistance" in 2018, 5 years ago. Is it still a protest act you recommend in today's world? 

Joe Talbot: Yeah, of course. I mean, I think Europeans and old Europeans, British, are very disillusioned, miseducated, scared, greedy, racist, obviously different people, different things, but I think there's a lot of disillusionment. I think a lot of people are lost. I think right-wing politics has found a stronghold in corners of the world that have no money and a lot of fear. So art and music are the only way anyone on the planet can truly feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves. The universe and humanism are the currency of art and music. Truly. I have no other language to speak and I only have love. Now I have a child. I want to show her what I believe, which is love, and show people love through violent guitar.

C: In interviews, you talk a lot about turning anger into communication. Any advice on how to do that for your young and angry listeners like me?

Joe Talbot: I guess I wouldn't like to say advice. I'm responsible for one human being. That's enough [laughs]. But yeah, I mean, anger is a secondary emotion. It comes from fear, hunger, fatigue, and sadness, but anger comes out after all of these things. I don't think I use anger as a communication, but I use violence as a communication. It's a brush stroke, it's a guitar tone. It's the words and the violence I choose in our art, our music. I think if you feel angry, you should try to understand why you're angry and then have a dialogue with the reason you're angry and where you wanna be. And then use art and music to be that bridge between where you are and where you want to be. It's a really good advice.

C: And you've always been writing about politics, and been very vocal in your lyrics on many subjects. Do you sometimes feel pressured to comment on political topics?

Joe Talbot: Maybe for a small while during the writing of Ultra Mono. But that's why I made it, so that I could cut, kill that animal. I'm done and I don't answer to anyone, my words are my words, no one else’s. If you want me singing about what you want me to sing, you got IA or you're going to have to fucking make it. I don't care. Political anger is a fear that I live in a country that's leaving the European Union. This leaving democratic process just leaves out empathy and some remnants of socialism from the sixties. So it's scary. And I was also scared because as an artist, we were becoming very popular and that's a strange world to be in when you're fighting. But when I let that go, I realize the only thing I owe to my audience is what I declare in my music, but I can declare whatever I like. And for me, that's honesty. I feel like I go to bed at night knowing I've been honest and I don't care anymore about what other people think, though I do care how other people feel. I want our audience to feel love and I just tell myself and the band to stay honest. And I just want to be and I will always be a cheerleader who wants to smash fascism with a big fucking hammer.

Pre-order the IDLES' new EP, to be released on October 6th on their website.


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