"It was like building Paris with your toenails. It was the hardest thing I've ever done" BAXTER DURY
Interviewed by Spencer White
Baxter Dury is no stranger to the eccentric. The all-rounder magsman has effortlessly hurled himself into the musical and literary ether with a revered catalogue, stretching over the past twenty years. Dury does not seem to lack confidence but is by no means aware of it. Rather, the son of the late Ian Dury is nothing-less than humble and solicitous while talking about his past and present.
So last year saw the release of your first book, Chaise Longue. I feel like there must have been so much content for you to sort through, was reliving and collating the stories positively nostalgic? And was it hard to detach yourself from it all and not be too reminiscent? It wasn't nostalgic because I was living it. I guess if you have a bit of a famous parent, you're either forced by yourself or other people to sort-of talk about it or get used to talking about it. But it was a good way of organising it. It's a version of the truth and that's good enough, you know? It's good to sort-of file it away and get on with something else.
Was there points where you thought you had too much, where I guess, you were trying to piece together what was more important to share?
Kind of, you know I'm not that skilled as a writer, so any minerals I could find to write about I used. I'm not in abundance of writing feverishly. It was like building Paris with your toenails. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. I wasn't really schooled so I didn't have that kind of flow, that academic flow that some people have. It was quite a struggle.
I feel like Chaise Longue is less of an account of being a shadow in your fathers path and more of a personal recollection of characterising stages in your life. Do you think the freedom you had when growing up shaped how you perceive life now and maybe in a future sense?
Sure, I mean I'm not entirely sure but I'm pretty sure. I guess all of our legacies are formed by what has happened. To break it down, it was just a bit of a potty upbringing and I just found some of the more crazy incidents and jotted them down. But it was just like normal life, like anyone else's, sort-of.
Even though you’ve chosen a somewhat separate trajectory (within the art realm) to your parents, do you occasionally find similarities to them, when in thought, manner or conversation?
I'm absolutely sure, there's different camps but some parties will see a lot of dad in me and If you're going to go into music and your father is a famous singer, you're bound to get that kind of comparative stuff, you've just gotta' deal with it and be able to push it to the side. But, with all my family, they're all pretty artistic, so we're sort of blessed in a way.
You seem to have such a content ability to create guises and characters within your songs.
When it comes to writing lyrics, do you find it more comfortable writing in a fictional sense as opposed to being more literal?
I don't really know how to be honest. I think you can be honest when you can sing, bedded in the melody. But when you can't really sing, which I can't obviously do, you sort of have to be careful to not be too honest, because if you can't sing and you're talking, it can be quite candid, I think. I don't know what, but I'm still trying to create an atmosphere, like a story. There are people who are very honest about themselves and can just talk, but I'm not able to do that.
Personally, your music floats from place to place with a certain ease, in terms of being not entirely defined by genre. Do you find excitement in exploring places of vulnerability when writing?
Ah I don't know, I think so, I guess it just depends when you're in the mode. It's quite good if you can tap into something that's strong. It's quite abstract really, song writing. You're thinking "why am I actually doing this?"- "what am I actually talking about?"and "do I believe in it?"
Which is kind-of the reassuring thing about writing a book, it's more or less factual as you're writing it, you're writing with a reason and there's a sort of a real life in it. Whereas song writing, you can go into real abstract and sometimes you're wondering what the actual point is. And then you're always trying to justify what the song's real meaning is and sometimes they don't have meaning, they're just atmospheric.
How important has collaboration been to you?
It's quite easy, just depends who with. It's good sometimes, I don't think you should over collaborate.
I see such a perfect fit with the Étienne de Crécy collaboration, he's been predominantly house most of his career. I would even say your solo music, has quite a few elements of House & Dance.
Yes, the primitive elements of it. I like repetition. It was quite easy doing that, I mean once you've got a drum machine and a few chords it's all quite easy.
Do you find your whereabouts a main part of inspiration for your work? Clashing of culture and differences I.e. The understanding of your sense of irony, say, with American audiences or even French? As I understand you’ve spent a fair amount of time in both places.
Well Americans don't really buy into it that much, I don't think. But the French, there's a fondness from French. But they obviously don't understand a word that I'm saying so I don't really know what they're getting out of it.
Do you speak French?
Not a sausage. I've just been really belligerent. I mean the English are surrounded by Europe but refuse to learn. With London being an exception, Britain is the culinary disaster of Europe. We never learnt how to cook, we're just isolated culturally. It confuses me that why some more-sophisticated European types, find it or us as a nation, quite interesting musically and why I have a popularity in France, I could never explain.
I don't know if you're into him at all, but I just listened to a little bit of Kendrick Lamar's new album this morning. That's what you call lyric writing. That is the ultimate.
Oh yes, I had the pleasure of seeing him a few years ago at Blues Fest. in Byron Bay, it was fantastic and strange because it wasn't the obvious choice of festival for an artist of his style or creative distinction to play something like that. So there was a little hesitation by the formalists of "Blues and Jazz" I guess, but everyone who went absolutely loved it.
He's pretty amazing really, the best of the best.
I think so too. Myself and probably everyone I know thrashed 'To Pimp a Butterfly" non-stop. That was such a fantastic album.
I think that's one of the best albums ever made. It's hard to think of that and whatever anyone else is making, it all seems provincial compared to him.
Does anything frustrate you about the whole creative process or say, music in general?
Oh yeah, I mean everything. It's all full of knobs y'know what I mean? The people, everything. You've got to offset what you do with a few other projects, like writing books or something. Especially being here, in an overpopulated indie scene, it's really kind of tiresome sometimes and just the lack of really good music. I think the only good music is probably made by Kendrick, probably haha.
It's a fair point
And then you've got people going on about Arcade Fire....I shouldn't be so dismissive...
There's no real comparison is there...
I don't know why I feel so angry this morning (laughs)
I mean it is early where you are, have you had your coffee?
I tried too, I fucked up the first three interviews this morning, the first one I missed, the second and third all got confused. So you're the only interview I'm doing..
Well, I feel special, thank you.
Here's a wanky question for you,
What scares you?
Flying to Australia bzzzz. I'm not a really good flyer.
When I fucked up one of the interviews this morning, I've never really done this before, but I looked up "Fear of Flying courses" but I don't know if you look into it whether it makes it worse or not, because I don't think I'm that scared but I just got the itinerary through and it says we're flying direct to Darwin.. 17hours. (Zingdingdingding). Qantas Dreamliner, doesn't sound like a Dreamliner to me.
You know what I want to do, is I learnt how to surf the past 6 months. I just want to surf. But I think that might be a little idealistic. On tour in Australia and all I do is surf, I'm a shit surfer but I just love it. Can you surf where you are?
Mmm not really, but the beaches are about 45-50 minutes down the road, so I guess it isn't too bad. A lot of people surf though, I'd say most of us have surfed or tried to surf at one point in our lives.
Is there good surfing territory near you?
Absolutely yeah, actually some of the best surfing beaches in the world, crowded as all hell.
Really? God I'd love to see it, I mean, I'm really shit at it and I fall down 2 seconds into every wave. But I still like it, (in pursuit of).
Well, about 2 hours from Brisbane there's a place called Noosa, which has more of a long-boarders wave, a little more forgiving for beginners, I guess. Less of a locals only vibe, (which isn't really a thing hah).
Yeah locals only, coz they get pissed off with some knob from London falling over all the time. I can get that..
Look, I'm sure you'll be fine mate, I'm sure someone will help you out.
Someone to gently warn me not to embarrass myself.
So this year, you've released Mr. Maserati. I won't say "Best of" but more of a collection of the last twenty years.
It's weird y'know, the "best of" has come out two or three times, but it's not actually out yet. I shouldn't undersell it, It was meant to coincide with the release of my book, but because Vinyl takes so long to make, It all got a bit messed up. And then I get a bit embarrassed talking about it, because it sounds a little silly talking about it. I'm not really into the concept of "best of's" It's a bit more of a gimmick. But it'll be out soon I believe.
Well, that's about as much as I can muster up for you today.
Best of luck with your time in Australia, lovely talking to you mate.
See you soon.
Baxter Dury is performing with The Goon Sax & Shifting Sands at Felons Barrel Hall on the 5th of June.