Fault meets Dan Croll

Upon the release of Dan Croll’s third single ‘Away from Today’ taken from his yet untitled upcoming new album, Dan sits down with Fault Magazine to discuss studio life in Georgia, and his past struggle with anxiety but coming out the other side stronger with a new label and a renewed drive to succeed.

Hey Dan, how are you?

Yeah, good man. Bit tired, but good.

You enjoying the campaign so far?

Yeah been up and around today, things are good. We’ve decided to pencil in the release date and to get things going. So now I guess the PR wheels are turning and there are a lot of interviews and stuff, and its great. It’s this part that I like, when you start to get people excited, you know?

It’s the start of something much bigger isn’t it?

Yeah definitely, and to remind people that you’re alive.

You’re doing a lot of social media, for the likes of pancake day!

Oh god yeah, that was such a depressing one! [Laughs]

So you’ve got this new single out, ‘Away from Today’?

[Pause] Oh yes! [Laughs] it’s been really busy. I’ve been trying to keep up with what’s going on! The single has been doing well; it’s been fun to see it out there. It’s a different sound but in a good way I think, it’s something that is probably the first track really that has revolved around a heavy sample; so its been quite fun from the whole writing process to people hearing it.

Did it make a big difference with the sampling?

Yeah I think the sampling is typically considered something hip-hop scene and Rn’B and stuff so it’s quite weird to bring it into a different element.

Brings a different vibe to your music, would you say?

Absolutely yeah.

With the horn section included, is that something you’re hoping to bring across to the live performance?

Oh god I wish yeah [Laughs], I’m already broke so I’d need to find some trumpet players to come with me and break me even more! But no, I think we’ll find cleverer ways to do that but I would love to don’t get me wrong. Maybe there are some fans out there who would want me to do it, but yeah.

It would be awesome to see! You’ve got the video for the single that was recorded within a deep forest, where was it filmed?

Its funny that actually, when the director Greg rang me and he was like “Oh Dan we’ve got the location for the video”, and I was like “Wicked!” because I knew what the idea was and everything so I was like “Oh amazing, where are we going to do it?” and I had a few ideas, like we might be going up to Skye in Scotland or something like that. He was like “you’re going to Portland” and I was like “you’re fucking kidding me? We’re going to Portland?” And I was absolutely buzzing. Then I asked “Portland, Oregon?” and he was like “no, Portland in Dorset”. [Laughs]. So we just ended up in Dorset which wasn’t as cool as Portland Oregon but it was good, it has a major (going really geeky now) but it has a major port from the war – batteries, big long range guns so it was quite…

…a historical site?

Yeah definitely. It had been battered itself so it’s quite a rough and ready environment to shoot a video in, so it was quite cool.

Did that sort of fit the theme of escapism?

Yeah it sort of was, it was all about escapism and being your own worst enemy, all of that.

It comes across that you’re washing your hands with the events of the past?

You got it, I’m glad [Laughs]. You nailed it.

You’ve got the new tour coming up in May, what’s your plan before that? What is your tour preparation?

Just stay busy, lots of interviews to do and sessions and hopefully radio, just keeping very busy. Rehearsals and I’ve just recently built a little home studio in my house. So I’ve actually been writing a lot so it’s been quite nice. Trying to keep busy.

More tracks for the new album?

Just whatever comes, yeah. All sorts! Like I say, I go mad when I’m not busy so I’ll be keeping very busy.

Especially with the tour, you’ve got the likes of Glasgow, Manchester on the bill…

Yeah just the kind of standard little UK run just to kind of test the water I guess before the album comes out and then we’ll hopefully go from there and visit more places afterwards.

Does that mean the setlist will be more of a mix?

Yeah definitely, it’s been quite weird and it’s the first time that I’ve ever had too many songs and it’s quite a weird sensation to have to axe some of them. I’m obviously attached to them all because they’re my songs, so it’s been weird.

Will it tell a story?

Yeah, a lot of it is to do with just the basics of pace and tempo, I like the kind of science behind it. I really like the phycology behind a setlist I think; it’s kind of an artful thing. So yeah I’d like to spend a bit of time doing that. Tried a few ways out and I think I’ve got the right way now.

To help perfect it?

Yeah, it’s like do you start with a bang? Do you build? Do you dip in the middle? Do you finish on a high? Do you do one of those pretentious sort of encores where you walk off and prepare for it.

What do you do in that kind of situation?

You know what we’ve done it a few times I think it’s so; I get why people do it but at the same time it’s like you’ve know you’ve got another 2 songs to play. Unless the gig is bombing just play them all [Laughs].

Do you try and gage the vibe in the room?

Yeah, it’s weird. Its just kind of an egotistical slap on the back you know? You’re going to get a cheer. So between now and the tour I’ll be working on the perfect setlist.

Who is supporting you on the tour?

You know what, we’re just about to chat about that today. Yeah it’s good because when you usually do your tours, it’s everyone’s names in the hats. So the booking agent will throw in names, the manager will throw in names, I’ll throw in names and band members will throw in names. It all goes into a big pot and it’s nice to have some fresh music after a while. People you’ve not really heard of, people you’ve heard of with new material, it’s exciting. So we haven’t confirmed anyone yet but there’s a lot of great people I think. People are really up for it, lots of talented bands.

Any favourite venues on the upcoming tour?

A favourite? Well London is usually the big gig.

Heaven this time around…

Yeah, I’ve never been so I don’t know what to expect there. I like The Thekla in the ship, I’ve heard a lot of good stories and tales from Thekla. Actually the last time we were at Thekla, the last time we were in Bristol we ended the gig in A&E, which was quite mad.

Do I ask?

We had a freak accident on stage with my sound guy so we had to run to A&E during the gig. Something always happens at Thekla, that’s the thing.

Is Thekla cursed?

Yeah, it’s quite like exciting to go there though; there’s also the Great Escape Festival that is in the mix as well, as part of the tour. I love Brighton.

Always a good line-up there!

To tell the truth I haven’t checked out the line-up for this year yet but when I go its always good, it’s my fourth time probably there now so I enjoy it.

Do you try to check out the other acts that are playing?

Yeah all of that, to be honest I’m a sucker for a seaside town.

Well Liverpool is a seaside town I would say!

Yeah you can go across to New Brighton and stuff but a bit depressing than traditional do you know what I mean? That sounds bad but you know.

It’s like, can you get an ice cream or not?

You know I think places like Brighton or even Blackpool have got a weird charm about it than other seaside towns I think.

Yes, great reputations.

Yeah definitely!

When you go to these places, do they inspire you through the writing process?

Not so much Brighton and Blackpool [Laughs]. But definitely new places do massively; massively. Especially if they have something about them in terms of [Pause]

…atmosphere?

Yeah I guess so, kind of green cities, which are usually quite a nice thing. Places that are immersed in kind of a natural beauty; they are quite nice. That’s why I love going to America, it’s not like we haven’t got it in the UK but when you go there it drastically goes from desert to city or forest to city. That’s also inspiring.

It’s crazy how 2 vastly different ecosystems work well together like that.

Yeah it’s very steady, all over the shop! It’s mad.

It is, so the campaign is going well?

Yeah I can’t wait for it to get busier to be honest, looking forward to really getting going!

Have you got a name for the album yet?

I have but I’m not allowed to say just yet, this is the thing. I don’t know so for safety reasons I’m going to say no for now.

In terms of a release date?

I know that we’ll be aiming for the very end of June, start of July. But I think we’re just confirming that today. Today is my London day for things like that so I think we’re going to hopefully announce that very soon.

Nice summer album for your fans to look forward to.

Yeah, pre-orders up soon to get people excited.

Will there be a vinyl release?

Of course!

You’ve got the likes of PULS Open Air Festival to look forward to playing?

Great, where is that? [Laughs]

Geltendorf.

Great! [Laughs]. That’s not in a snobbish way, we’ve had things flying through and so I’m trying to keep up with a lot of things especially these types of festivals where; to tell the truth I haven’t kind of done a great deal of European festivals and I’m really excited to do them.

Obviously when names come through I’m just “Oh yeah!” One went up the other day that I forgot about called Summer’s Tale festival. I’m doing that and look at the line-up; great! My previous management and my previous label they were very much centered around the UK and East and West coast America and I feel that maybe on my first album campaign that I neglected Europe.

So I’m very excited to go, I’ve got quite a bit of work to do to build back up in Europe but I’m very excited to kind of try hard this year to push for lots of European festivals, lots of European touring and stuff. UK as well but its just such a mad idea that you wouldn’t go to these places, you know.

Easy to get across to Europe from here, lots of possibilities.

Yeah it is, so yeah I think they’ll definitely be some touring and festivals in there. Where about is Open Air?

I think it’s in Germany.

Oh cool! Know the line-up?

Nope! [Laughs]

Nope, me neither! But that sounds cool, lets go there.

It’s a great difference to play there and then your home country.

Yeah we’ve done a lot of UK festivals and it’s not like I don’t enjoy them, I love them. But there is something to be said about them, a new experience of a new festival.

Yeah definitely, new friends and new experiences.

Yeah for sure!

The new album was produced by Ben Allen?

Yes so it was me and Ben Allen in Atlanta, Georgia which was great.

You got to America in the end then!

Yeah, it was 2 months living in Atlanta on my own; it was cool. It was a fun experience, very hot place for a pasty white guy. [Laughs]. It was very hot, so that was great. Loved Ben and I think we’ve done a great job and it’s been mixed by a great guy over here so I just want people to hear it. There’s obviously been 3 tracks off it already so far.

You started off with ‘One of Us’ back in 2015…

That’s coming back around actually, there’s a re-release and a remix and stuff. So ‘One of Us’, ‘Swim’ and ‘Away from Today’ so that’s kind of 3 of 11 tracks I think, and we’ve got one more to go and then the release.

Brilliant. One more single so that means another video?

Yeah god, another video; hopefully not running this time. [Laughs] Hate running.

That was a good effort though!

Oh yeah, I don’t hate running really I just wasn’t prepared for that really. That was like one day off between America and coming onto the European tour so I was really ill. It was like “so you’ve got a video shoot.” and I was like “oh my god!”

I bet you missed that during your transition from the first album to this one, you kind of had a long break in a way?

Yeah I mean it’s been a big break. There has been a lot of hardship really being dropped and losing management and all of that. Going back to square one has been tough mentally, a very tough couple of years but thankfully I managed to pick myself up and Communion I owe a lot of thanks to for picking me up.

You’ve come back stronger, do you think?

I hope so! I just hope it’s going to see the light of day. There was a point last year when I nearly uploaded it for free just to get it out there; it’s driving me mad.

Because you’ve been sitting on it for so long?

A long time, you forget how long you’ve been sitting on it but not in a bad way. You’ve heard it a lot and you just want to get it out there.

You had the single ‘Swim’ come out just before your Village Underground show just down the road, how was that? Sold out show and everything.

It was amazing, it’s an incredible venue and I had tickets to go and see Loyle Carner there and I think he played a few weeks before me so I couldn’t make it, so I thought I’d know what the venue would be like but I didn’t.

First time you’ve been there?

First time I’ve been and I loved it. I think as a venue it is pretty spectacular. It is this almost kind of a German and European kind of venue with the big warehouse brick structure. It’s quite a brutalist venue so I loved it. So yeah ‘Swim’ came out and it had a good reception and I was chuffed that, that one came out as a single. It’s got one of my best mates on it singing, Becky from Stealing Sheep. So it meant a lot to have her on it.

You had a lot of collaborations didn’t you in the first album?

Yeah we had quite a few, this new album is definitely a bit more sheltered in a way, Becky is the only collaborator on it. This album was more me on every track with a few band members pitching in on the first one. This was more a challenge; I think I’m a very competitive person. I’ve come from a very competitive sporting background so when it came to the idea of creating an album its like how far can I push myself? So here’s an idea, I’ll play everything possible. And I’ll compete with myself in a weird way to see if I can do it, you know.

Did you gather new sounds and new ideas that way?

Yeah there was definitely a point when I was recording my drums on the track, I’m not a drummer and I had a drum kit as a kid; but I’m kind of self-taught. I’m not amazing but I know the basics so I was doing takes for my own songs and like sweating in a very hot Atlanta. Then the producers found a way to really push me in quite a clever way, they kind of realized that I was very competitive so on the talk back, if I wasn’t doing well enough it kind of subtly threatened with the idea of that he could find someone else to play it, but in a very nice way. He was like “Dan you’re looking pretty knackered, I’ve got a friend who is a really good drummer and I reckon he’d do a really good job of this.” I was like “no!” and sweating. He got the best takes out of me so it was quite a smart way of doing it really.

How did you feel in the studio with him?

It was great, the studio was beautiful; it was kind of an old railway signalling house.

They’re kind of modernized in the UK now, right?

Yeah kind of, they’re in a weird brick over there and it was hollowed out and built into a big studio; it was great. Basically it was one big live room and that suits me very well. The way that I work is kind of uninterrupted chaos a lot of time, you’ll hit record at the start of the day and take it off at the end and try to make sense of it all.

My nightmare of a studio is when there are individual live rooms where each member would stand in a separate room, so there would be a lot of start and stop. Setting up and re-mic’ing and so when we’re looking for a studio because we’d already found Ben, we’d need to find a place to house all the instruments but have them permanently set up and mic’d. So there was no touching them from day 1. They were all ready to go from day 1; uninterrupted chaos.

I guess that is why it was quite a relatively quick recording process, only 2 months?

Only two months yeah, and maybe a week’s break in the middle. So one month and three weeks if we’re being really picky. [Laughs]

Got any phobias?

Yeah! To tell the truth I have this Emetophobia I think it’s called, I might be wrong, it’s a daft one since the kind of rough couple of years I’ve had; I developed a lot of anxiety and I had a real tough time with having a phobia of actually being sick in public. For some reason that became a very big thing for me, and stopped me from taking public transport for a while and made me very sheltered. I didn’t go out a lot and for some reason I was just very paranoid about embarrassing myself in public and being sick. It’s not quite a funny phobia but I think I’m alright with everything else; no phobia of cows or anything.

What is your fault?

I think being as competitive as I am is both good and bad. Kind of at times can be a fault; I think it’s because you’re so bothered and driven about succeeding so you know taking any pleasure in succeeding or failing and learning from your mistakes and stuff like that. So I think being very competitive sometimes can bring out a bad side but trying to learn to enjoy the small things.

 

 

Dan’s latest single ‘Away from Today’ is out now on Communion, you can watch the video for the single here. Dan is on tour around the UK throughout May 2017, you can get tickets for his upcoming dates at dancroll.com

Words – Stuart Williams

Photography – Dan Wilton

 

LFW Edeline Lee AW17 Backstage


Photographer Taras Shymbra

LFW On|Off Presents… AW17 Backstage


Designers for autumn/Winter 2017:

Timothy Bouyez Forge
Luke Anthony Rooney
Jack Irving

Photographer: Taras Shymbra

LFW RYAN LO AW17 Backstage

Photographer: Taras Shymbra

LFW Fyodor Golan AW17 Backstage

Photographer: Taras Shymbra

Live Review: Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – Clapham Grand, London

In a millennial age where almost every second of our attention is absorbed by some form of technology it’s rare to find a voice who can make you stop and listen. Introducing Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – a man whose voice instantly commands your attention from the first note.

It’s a typical Tuesday night in south London but inside the intimate setting of Clapham Grand BRITs Week is off to a flying start. Rappers Dabbla and Nadia Rose take to the stage respectively before the main event, a performance from this year’s BRITs Critics Choice recipient, the aforementioned Rag ‘N’ Bone Man. The event is in association with War Child, a charity whose aim is to help and support children living in war-torn countries with the sentiment echoed in their slogan, ‘Live music changes lives’.

As the singer, real name Rory Graham, appears on stage his presence fills the room, standing before an awestruck audience it’s not the first time during the evening you could hear a pin drop between verses. The set is filled with a diverse mix of material from recent debut ‘Human’ and older EPs, and whether the song subject be melancholic or uplifting the rich, soulful tones that inhabit his vocals circulate around the venue captivating the crowd endlessly.

“I’d say I have another happy song but I don’t, I’m full of misery” he jokes alluding to the somber sensibilities that bleed through into his music and introducing ‘Skin’ with its primal percussion and heartfelt lyrics, “It was almost love.” Arguably gaining the most rapturous response from the Grand, ‘Human’ hits the hardest emulating sonic palpitations, while ‘Bitter End’ is delicately endearing.

Tonight also acts as a warm up for Rory who is soon heading off on a European tour before embarking on festival season with appearances scheduled at Isle of Wight Festival and Parklife Festival. Proving just why he’s the man of the minute, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man deserves more than a second of your time.

For more information about War Child head to https://www.warchild.org.uk

Words: Shannon Cotton

Photos: Anna Smith

 

FAULT meets rising star Fisayo Akinade

With a number of theatre accolades already under his belt, Fisayo Akinade first graced our screens in C4’s “channel-defining” series “Banana”, “Cucumber” and “Tofu.” After adding a big screen debut to his resume in “The Girl With All The Gifts,” we caught up with Fisayo to delve a little deeper into the life of this rising star.

Jacket by Levi’s

Your breakout role was in “Cucumber” and “Banana.” Can you talk a little bit about what it was like?

I had never really done screen before. I did a tiny role in “Fresh Meat,” which is a Channel 4 comedy. And so I had never really had an opportunity to do screen properly for the first time. When the audition came through for “Cucumber,” I was sort of really baffled, thinking: “I’ve never done screen; I don’t really know any of the producers.” Normally, you know somebody to get a role like that in a drama written by someone as prestigious as Russell T. Davies. I soon discovered that Russell likes to find new talent as does the casting director. And so, I just thought: “I’ll go in, I’ll do my best, and see what happens,” and then I ended up getting the role. Honestly, it changed my life. It changed my entire career path. It changed the agent I was with. It changed the work I was going up for. It was a real baptism by fire, because I had to learn very quickly how to be on a set, but luckily, we had the most wonderful, welcome cast and crew imaginable. You have Vincent Franklin leading the whole thing, and he was just so wonderful with me. Any questions I had, he answered without hesitation or without annoyance and you had Julie Hesmondhalgh; she was just wonderful. Although it was a bit of a baptism by fire, it very quickly became a joy and I was able to understand the inner workings of television drama. It was a real learning experience, but a joy, because I was surrounded by the most generous bunch of people. Also, I got to do a lot of crazy things at that job; I was very, very naked a lot of the time! Once you do that, then you can sort of do anything. It made me much bolder, I think, because you can’t half-do those things; you can’t half-do a sex scene ornude scene. You just have to do it. And so, it really emboldened me — the jobs I took afterward. It was a real eye-opener and a real formative experience for me.

 

It really kind of rerouted your career path. What were some of the best aspects of that happening?

You’re suddenly being seen for roles that you would never have in your wildest dreams considered. You’re suddenly up for a film that has Glenn Close and Paddy Considine and Gemma Arterton. “This is insane! When have I ever been afforded that opportunity?” You’re suddenly doing plays with Judi Dench and Mark Gatiss and Nina Sosanya and Hadley Fraser. You’re sort of thrust; it takes your career and not only raises it a level, but sort of shoves a rocket up its ass and fires you forward! So, I was suddenly in rooms, meeting and working with people that I never imagined I would work with.

 

That series explores 21st-century gay life. Obviously, that’s a hugely culturally important issue. How do you feel that’s impacted the prevailing culture?

The trouble with any drama that focuses on homosexuality is that because there are so few of them, all the hopes of the gay community get pinned onto this one drama, and no drama could ever hope to represent 100 percent of a particular community. And so, as true to life as I think it was and as honest a representation of certain types of gay men it was, I also feel that it couldn’t please everybody. I don’t think any show could. But for the character of Dean, I knew [people by the name of] Dean. I had met Deans. I had spoken to Deans. For me, it was very true to life, as was the character that Vincent Franklin played, Henry. I had seen them and I had heard about them and read about them or met these people in real life, so to see them represented was sort of amazing. It was odd, because we split audiences. Some audiences were going: “oh my god, it’s so true! That’s so me. That’s how I am.” And then a lot of people were going: “I’ve never met a gay person that speaks like that or talks that way in my life.” And so, it split audiences. But I think for me personally, I loved it. One, because the strength of the writing was just phenomenal: it was so raw and honest and so fully realized. The characters that were created were so real and vivid and unafraid to express their genuine feelings, whether that was “I’m really scared, but I won’t have another taste of adventure again, so I’m going to go live with a bunch of teenagers.” Or whether that was “I think my life is pretty boring, so I’m going to lie about my life.” All those sort of themes were the best things about it — those truly relatable things that people have, that they feel they are boring, so they fabricate stories, or they lack adventure, or they get intrigued by a slightly dangerous but incredibly sexy younger man, or whatever it is. The strength of the show laid in those universal truths.

 

Shirt by Natural Selection

You mentioned Glenn Close. What was it like working with her on “The Girl With All the Gifts”?

It was incredible. So, I was in my hotel room, and I got a phone call from the second assistant director. He said: “Glenn would like to run some lines, and she’s asked me. I told her it’d probably be better if she read them with an actor. Would you like to do it?” I said, “yes! Absolutely!” And so they sent the car and I went into her massive trailer and read the scene with her a couple of times, and then we just chatted. It was really lovely. And I said, “I’m so sorry; I have to talk to you about ‘Dangerous Liasions.’” And then she just told me all these stories: how much fun she had working with John Malkovich. It was incredible. The thing that I love about her is that she’s so generous, because she’s had such an extraordinary career, and she’s so generous with stories from all the films she’s worked on. She’s really wonderful in that respect and so much fun! I think you can build up an image of a person in your head, and you may think: “I hope she’s not this Hollywood diva who keeps to herself,” but she was with us the whole time, played backgammon. It was just wonderful. She was really a part of the team.

 

One thing that intrigues me when it comes to acting is the horror genre. Specifically, it produces by virtue of the genre itself some very surreal scenarios. What’s it like for you as an actor to try to put yourself realistically into these surreal scenarios and adapt to that world around you and act within it?

It’s odd! We all know the tropes of genre movies. And so when I was reading the script and I knew Gallagher is going to die, you know he’s going to die. I think everyone in the audience knows: “well, he’s going to die. He’s going off on his own in a zombie movie, of course.” And I think the thing is to get rid of that analytical part of your brain that says: “this is the bit where Gallagher goes off and dies” and just go: “no, this is the scene in which Gallagher wants to help his friends and find some food and bring it back to prove himself.” And you start to live in the mindset of the character, which then eliminates that second after-brain that’s floating above you, going “I know exactly where this is headed.” If you focus it down to what the character wants, then hopefully what you’re portraying is completely realistic and believable, even though we are adhering to the horror movie trope of “man goes out on his own and dies.” If you bring it into the mindset of the character, it eliminates that bit, and then you try to pour as much belief into the fake scenario that script-writers worked out as possible in order to make that situation hopefully set apart from all the others that have come before. There will be things that are always repeated in every genre movie, things that are staples. But what you hope is that you can put either a unique spin or an emotional spin or just a new beat in there that just slightly tweaks it, so it is the same trope or the thing we’ve seen before, but it’s slightly different. People go: “Oh, the way it happened wasn’t the way I’ve seen it happen before,” I think. I think that comes from rooting it in the reality of your mindset of the character.

 

So then, in preparing for the role, how does that differ from a normal role?

Honestly, it’s hard because I don’t think it does differ; I just think there are things you’re aware of. You’re aware that you’re in a genre movie and you’re aware that “this is the scene when,” but I think like with any role, you prepare it through the script and the character and his interactions with the other characters in the screenplay. You go: “so, he’s like this. He’s not seen the outside world for ten years and he’s sort of afraid of Melanie, but also is really intrigued by her. There’s a really nice mirror image of her discovering the world for the first time and him being discovered in the world that he’s not known for ten years. There’s a really nice mirror image there, and that could potentially bring them closer.” All that sort of stuff that is exciting less so than the shooting guns and all that stuff. It’s the character stuff that you focus on rather than the genre stuff, because that will happen anyway, but the thing that makes it interesting and the thing that will hopefully keep audiences coming back for more will be the depth at which you play the characters.

 

You’re starring in “In the Dark.” Tell me a bit about that.

So, that is a four-part drama based off two novels. They’re completely separate stories. The first two episodes are set in a country setting and have nothing to do with the following two episodes. But the thing that links them is our lead actress, played by MyAnna Buring. She’s a pregnant police officer. She’s the thing that links these two separate situations. In my two episodes, I play a young guy who has a new baby and is desperate for money and like a lot of young people, he doesn’t have a lot of options. He’s not particularly well educated, and so decides in order to get money, he will join a local gang and join in their drug operation. What happens is as part of his initiation, he has to shoot a car. That car happens to kill a police officer. Then, slowly but surely, members of the gang start being killed, and they don’t know whether it’s the police getting revenge or somebody else, and then, there’s a big mystery as to who’s killing off these young boys and why that particular car drove into that bus stop at that time, killing that police officer. So, it’s a mystery that deals with gang culture and being a female police officer in a very male-heavy world. That’s where the two characters meet, and what happens happens. It has a really cool conclusion.

Jumper and jeans by Uniqlo

I grew up in Cleveland, which has a big gun violence problem, so gun culture is always interesting and relevant to me.

I think what’s sort of amazing about it is actually the reason why you get into it. The co-director and I had a lot of conversations about why people get into it in the first place, and I think a lot of the time, it isn’t about wanting to be the big, tough guy on the street. It’s actually just about survival, and they’ve got no other options. They have seen they have no other options. Even the gang leaders, they become father figures, I think, to a lot of these boys, because a lot of the time, they don’t have fathers in their lives, and so, this guy with all this money not only gives them work and money, but also protects them. I think there can be a sort of genuine love there with those characters.

 

What are some of your hobbies when you’re not working?

I am very into comic books. I’ve just started the new Batman 52. It’s absolutely stunning. There is a myth, a Gotham myth, about a Court of Owls that have been running Gotham City for centuries. Batman doesn’t believe in it because it’s a myth. He’s never met them, and he thinks it’s just ridiculous and silly. There’s going to be a new mayor of Gotham. Bruce Wayne is helping this new mayor get into power because he thinks he’s the right guy, and they meet at one of the old Wayne buildings, and an assassin from the Court of Owls turns up, almost kills the guy who’s running for mayor and almost kills Batman. It’s incredible, and you go, “whoa! Who are these guys?” So, then they write the very next day on a wall in fire, “Bruce Wayne will die in 24 hours.” That’s before this assassin shows up and attacks Batman. So, you go: “do they know he’s Bruce Wayne?” As the comic goes on, you realize how powerful these guys are and how many people they’ve killed. They seem to always target Waynes, and so, there’s a mystery about whether they were responsible for Bruce’s parents’ deaths. It just gets more complex and complicated and dark. It’s very dark and scary, actually. There’s a point in the comic where he’s in a labyrinth. You have to turn the comic landscape, then upside-down, then the other way around. So, it sort of reflects what’s happening in Batman’s head. It’s absolutely stunning. It’s really beautifully drawn as well. It’s incredible. You have to read it. So, that’s sort of my main hobby, and I’ve started writing. I have a few writer friends, and I’ve spoken to them, and they’ve sort of given me the confidence to put pen to paper and start to write, which is really scary, actually and really daunting. But if you have an idea, I think it’s only best to follow through, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m writing a short film at the moment and I’ve got an idea for a series that I’m hoping to make eventually.

 

What’s the short film about?

The short film is about bereavement and the lengths a person will go to to achieve their desires, I suppose. I don’t want to say too much.

 

What’s it like coming from one side of the script to the other?

It’s quite daunting, but one of my friends said to me that if you watch a film and it isn’t a particularly good film and you sit with your friends and say: “oh, what they should have done is this, and they should have taken out that scene and done that” — he says what you’re already doing is editing the script. So, if you can edit a script, then you understand the story structure and narrative structures, which means that you can create your own narrative structure. And then, what it all becomes about is your voice as a writer and how you like to write, rather than whether you can or can’t, because you can, because you understand narrative structures. Then it becomes what your voice is like, how you want to present your story, your narrative to the world, your attitudes about your narrative voice. So, I think it’s quite nice and quite freeing, and it’s really nice to type three pages and see it, and go: “that’s the beginning of something.” And then you write a bit more and go: “actually, I can take out those first three pages and just start here.” And that’s really exciting. You’re building something, sort of like how a carpenter makes a table. It’s just a big hunk of wood, this really ugly thing, then it becomes this beautiful, ornate table or chair. I think it’s sort of the same thing; you just have an idea, you plop it onto the page, then you start chipping away until you’ve made a narrative you’re happy with, I think.

 

What would your dream role be?

Oh gosh! Theater-wise, I would love to play Belize in “Angels in America” or Levee in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Those are two roles that I loved when I first read them and have stuck with me ever since. And then in terms of tele and film, it’s less about roles and more about genre. I’d love to do a big blockbuster film, just because I think it would be fun — like a proper big space odyssey blockbuster would be really fun. I’d really love to also work Paul Thomas Anderson. I think he’s one of the best directors in the world and his films constantly fascinate me. He shoots in a way that is really interesting and he writes in a way that’s really interesting and really dynamic. He really gets into people’s heads and his ideas are always so well-thought. I just think he’s incredible. And then you know, everything else! They’re the sort of main things. Also, I think TV is heading in such an amazing direction; over the last couple of years, we’ve seen some of the most outstanding writing from people and on TV. That’s something I’d love to get involved with, whether it be Netflix or HBO — whomever it is. I’m really interested in complex characters and fine writing.

Shearling jacket and Jeans by Levi’s, shirt by Universal Works.

You’ve worked in stage, TV, and movies. How does it compare, what’s your favorite? Tell me about the contrasts.

It’s hard because I don’t really have a favorite. They all offer merits of their own. Theater is such a great training, and it keeps you so sharp and alert, because you have no choice but to be completely in the moment with a person, because it’s happening live. So, it’s such great training: being in the moment, being spontaneous, because anything could happen. You could forget a prop, a set could fall apart, the actors could forget their lines and instead of saying: “can we go again?”, you’ve got to just improvise something and help your fellow actor. It’s such a collaborative, wonderful thing, theater, and I really love doing it. And then you’ve got film, which again is another medium that challenges you to be honest. You can’t really lie in front of the camera, because it picks it up. As soon as you lie or have a false moment, the whole illusion is shattered, and the audience go: “huh? That was weird.” And so I think the challenge for TV and screen is to be as truthful as you can, which is often about being relaxed. It’s about being relaxed and knowing your lines. I think what you need to do is be so relaxed and confident with your lines that all you are thinking about when you’re acting is what you are doing to the other person and what they are doing to you, so you can just react. So you’re not going: “what am I saying next?” Because all the audience will get is a sort of confused, half-performance, because your brain is occupied with remembering lines rather than being in the moment with your other actor.

 

Speaking of stage, you’re starring in “Saint Joan” at the Donmar. How did you prepare for that role?

Because it’s all based off historical fact, I read as much as I could about Joan and particularly about King Charles VII. It was fascinating, and the thing is: all that research, the audience won’t see about 90 percent of it. A lot of it isn’t in the script. What it does is color certain lines. If I hadn’t done the research, I wouldn’t have known that his mother and father disowned him, and that has an effect on a person. It’s suggested in the script that he’s a coward, he can’t fight, and he’s not a soldier. He’s not a military leader in the way that a lot of kings were. He was more of a strategist. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t done the research. So, what happens is as you do more research, it props up and fills the text that is already there with another layer of complexity, which is always really interesting to play, because then, rather than just saying the lines, you’re saying the lines with a sense of the history where that line has come from and what that line means. So, when he talks about his father or talks about his great-grandfather, it has a certain weight to it that wouldn’t be there if I hadn’t done the research. Then, you just go into the script and you read it as many times as you can and get those lines in your head and make some choices and then get in the rehearsal room and genuinely just play: “I wonder if I could try it like this. And do that thing there…” And then you slowly, with the director and writers, build something that makes sense and serves the play and the story.

 

He’s historically such a complex character. I imagine that’s a really rich character to play.

It’s so lovely, because he’s incredibly funny. He’s written incredibly comically. That comes from a sense of wit, which is again George Bernard Shaw highlighting the character as much more brains than brawn, because wit is about a sort of intellectual dexterity, I suppose. So, you’re able, through his wit, to see that he has brains, and his brains ended up winning the Hundred Years War. It wasn’t him going into battle and wearing armor, it was him going: “if we make a treaty with these people, ally ourselves with these people, then we can amass these numbers and go to war with them and prepare ourselves.” He was much more a thinker. So, then at the same time, having that strategic brain, he’s a terrible coward — just likes to stay in bed and eat sweets and cakes and be looked after and not really have to do anything or have any responsibility. And so, you’ve got these two sides of him that are doing battle, I suppose, which it is his birthright that he should be king, but he’s terrified of what that means, which is really lovely and fascinating to play.

 

What do you want to do in the future then?

I’ve been very, very lucky, I think, actually. I’ve been able to work with some fine people. I mean “fine” from casts, to crews, to directors, to writers, and I just would like that to continue in whichever medium it takes, whether that be screen, stage, or TV. I’m just interested in good, complex, interesting work, work that I can stretch myself in, because sometimes, I think there can be a danger of being typecast, and so you end up playing very similar roles. I feel I’ve been quite lucky in that I’m not really too many parts too similar. I’d like to keep that trend going, because I think it stretches you as an actor and as a person, because you get to learn about a varied range of people and situations. I had no knowledge of the Hundred Years War or of Joan of Arc or of Charles VII at all until I started “Joan.” I’d like to say now I can hold my own in a conversation about them, and I think that’s a real asset. I think it’s one of the big positives of being an actor: you get to explore things you wouldn’t normally choose to look into. On an average day, I wouldn’t decide to pick up a book about Joan of Arc, but I have been — quite a few of them now — and it’s opened my mind to Joan and the Hundred Years War and all of that stuff. I think that’s the one of the best things about being an actor: you get to explore things you wouldn’t normally choose to.

Jacket and t-shirt by Natural Selection

You mentioned that you’re getting into writing. Are you looking to try your hand at anything else like directing or?

I would quite like, because I have a visual brain, to direct. I’ve done a bit of tele and a bit of film, but I don’t know the inner workings of directing yet. I’m getting there, and every time I do a job, I ask everybody: “what’s that you do? How do you do it? How does that feed into this? What’s your role? Ok cool.” And so I’m amassing a knowledge of how to direct and how one would even begin trying to. I would love to direct something, something I’ve written as well, but not star in. I don’t think I have the sort of impartiality to watch me. I think we’d end up doing my scenes for weeks on end until they were perfect. I’d give that to someone else. There are amazing people that can direct and star in their own stuff. I don’t think I could do it. I’ll hand it over to someone else.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to chat about?

The cast of “Saint Joan” are so collaborative and open. I’ve been so lucky with casts, actually. It genuinely feels fresh every night, because everybody is so on it and so focused that the tiniest little change in intonation is picked up by everyone, and sometimes, entire scenes can feel differently because one person does something slightly different, which then has an effect on everyone on stage. You can only achieve that stuff if you are working with actors that are completely and totally with you. They’re not acting for their own sense of ego, they’re acting to serve the story. So, what happens is a collective “ok, we’re moving in this direction.” It’s really, really wonderful to be a part of and to work with people that intensely connected. I just want to give shout-out to them, because they’re amazing.

 

That sounds like a wonderful experience.

I’ve been lucky. My “Cucumber” and “Banana” cast were exactly the same. It was just wonderful; it was a joy every day. And the thing is, to me personally, I have to work from a place of joy. I can’t do it otherwise, I don’t think. I think if I’m not happy or there’s just something amiss, I find it really hard to then give the best of myself. I think you’ve got to come from place of joy and warmth. I’ve been very lucky with the casts I’ve had over the years. They’ve all been wonderfully joyous. It just helps.

 

What is your fault?

I think I’m quite ambitious, which is great, because it means I work hard at the roles I get and the work I get, but it also means that when things aren’t going my way or I feel like they’re not going my way, it can really negatively affect me. I do get a bit down when an opportunity that I’m really excited about passes me by or a job that could lead me close to say my goal of working with Paul Thomas Anderson or HBO — whatever it is — slips through my fingers. I think the fact that I’m so ambitious and the fact that I want those things so badly or to experience those things so badly can sometimes make me get a bit down in the dumps about it. Me being ambitious is a double-edged sword, because it propels me to do well, but also, when things don’t go my way, it makes me a little sad.

 

“SAINT JOAN will be broadcast live to cinemas on Thursday, 16th February. For tickets go to: http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/productions/ntlout20-saint-joan

Words – Alex Cooke

Photography – Stephanie YT

Styling – Plum O’Keeffe

Grooming – Justine Jenkins

Photography Assistant – Erica Fletcher

Styling Assistant – Natalia Schegg

Making it in the music industry – the 5 step guide

Music is a journey – it takes motion and perseverance to reach your destination. In this business, success doesn’t just happen like magic (unless you’re some rich record producer’s son/daughter – but you wouldn’t need this guide if you were).

Real success takes hard work, focused talent, and an unyielding determination to reach your goals. Dreaming of superstardom isn’t going to help you become a superstar, but it is a good start. It’s time to build a foundation under that dream, and start working hard to make your dream a reality.

STEP 1: DEFINE YOUR GOALS

Your goals should not read like a fantasy novel; meaning, you shouldn’t write, “I want to be the next Dio,” (for example) or “I’m going to sell out Madison Square Garden.” Instead, set realistic, achievable goals. If you want to be the next big thing, then write: “I will join a band, and practice my stage presence four times a week.”

It’s important to make two goal lists:

1. Short term: these goals should focus on the next three months or so.

2. Long term: these are the goals you want to complete within 12 months.

STEP 2: NETWORK AND PROMOTE YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST

Don’t waste your time hiding out inside – get out there, and make your name known. Heather McDonald, a music careers expert, warns that you’re going to hear the word “no” a lot. “You’d better get used to it,” she writes. Is there a particular club you’d love to play, or a local record producer you want to impress? Don’t be afraid to show up and ask.

McDonald writes: “The bottom line is that if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

You can network online, too. YouTube is a fantastic arena to show off your skills. Share those videos and recordings with your social networks, and ask your friends and family to share them with their networks. Your friends and family members are your biggest fans, so leverage them whenever possible.

STEP 3: HONE YOUR SKILLS

No one is a perfect musician. It takes a lot of practice to get to a superstar level, and you have to continue practicing for as long as you hope to remain at the top. Do you think Beyoncé just gets on stage, and does her thing? No. She’s a perfectionist; and proof that practice makes perfect.

It also helps if you’re multi-faceted. For instance, if you’re a singer, why not learn to write songs or play the guitar? If you’re a guitar player, you may benefit from some vocal lessons. Websites like LessonRating.com offer instant access to thousands of local music teachers offering vocal lessons and lessons for a wide range of instruments. You can study online, or meet in person.

STEP 4: DEVELOP YOUR IMAGE

Ask yourself: “What do I stand for?” Define who you are, and then dress accordingly. It’s important to look good for your audience, and have a cohesive image that’s both identifiable and relatable to your audience.

Don’t be afraid to snap a bunch of photos of your “look,” and use those photos in any marketing you do. For example, if you’ve recorded a demo, and you’re publishing it online, attach the photo and a logo as the demo’s cover.

STEP 5: HIRE A BOOKING AGENT OR ASK SOMEONE TO MANAGE YOU

This final step may be the most important. You need people – it’s important to recognize that, and be open to help. You can hire a booking agent to help you score gigs at local venues, or you can ask a trusted friend to manage you. Overall, it’s these people who are going to help hoist you to the top, so don’t forget them, don’t mistreat them, and always be open to their suggestions.