It’s the return of The King, as punk gets political blues

The King Blues, with Itch centre.
The King Blues, with Itch centre.
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Right now the world needs The King Blues.

After producing four albums of politically conscious and incredibly angry punk-fused ska and hip-hop, the group went on hold in 2012.

But last year they came bouncing back with the righteous fury of Off With Their Heads and have just finished album number five – due to be released later this year. But before then, they play the Wedgewood Rooms during Independent Venue Week.

During the break, frontman Jonny ‘Itch’ Fox embarked on a solo project. So why did they revive the band?

‘It was probably a number of things. I was definitely missing playing punk rock and wanted to get back to doing that. But also there was so much going on in the world politically that it was time for us to come back.

‘I didn’t want us to come back in a way that was retro, or a throwback – it needed to be relevant and speaking to the kids right now.

I didn’t want us to come back in a way that was retro, or a throwback – it needed to be relevant and speaking to the kids right now

Jonny ‘Itch’ Fox

‘When I saw what was going on – we were leaving Europe, the kids were being screwed over, they can’t buy any houses, and they were having their future taken away. And then with what’s going on over in America, I certainly thought it was time to come back and say something about it.’

So are we entering a new golden age for protest music?

‘It’s not been good for many people except the protest singer – the worse things are the better it is for us in a strange way,’ he laughs ruefully.

‘It’s very sad. The strange thing for me is that there hasn’t been a lot of protest music – there’s been some, and we’re looking to showcase some of that on this tour. But there hasn’t been an awfully big rise in protest music, which is another reason why we wanted to come back.

‘Back in the days of the ’80s and Thatcher, artists were expected to have a voice and have an opinion on these things. Now it’s almost as if artists are self-censoring. There are people in the underground who are brave enough to push through, brave enough to stand up and have an opinion, but it’s something that really shouldn’t be seen as brave.

‘We’re in a very different culture now, protests have largely moved off of the streets and on to the computer screen – that immediately encourages passivity and stops people from organising properly and creating those connections.

‘When you come to a gig like ours, and you realise there are all these other people who feel the same way as you, there’s a real connection in the room, and you realise you’re not along and that’s a powerful thing.

‘It’s important that people come out and connect again – you can’t get that from a computer screen.’

How does he think the younger generation will fare in coming years?

‘I anticipate that there’ll be plenty to protest over the next four years.

‘We’ll certainly see genuine casualties to come. It will be an interesting time.

‘This generation of young people really have it tough right now, in terms of what they can do.

‘Again it’s early days with regards to Brexit in this country, but the coming years seem pretty bleak and this generation is truly the jilted generation so it will be interesting to see how they react.’

Does Itch ever worry that their songs could by their very nature become outdated?

‘With political music, by its very nature it is very much of a time and it becomes outdated very quickly but that’s how it is, but what we’ve found is that the same things come around and they can be applied to different situations. I guess it’s fairly depressing in away – we never seem to learn, it’s this same cycles. But there are other songs that we’re happy to stop playing.’

Their gig at The Wedgewood Rooms comes as part of Independent Venue Week, the annual showcase to highlight issues facing music venues. What does he make of the initiative?

‘It’s a great campaign, the tragedy that these venues are closing down is ridiculous. This country has given the world the greatest music it’s ever had. The popular music from this country has been incredible – The Beatles, through punk, heavy metal.

‘We hold up these great artists who died, but we don’t give the encouragement to the new artists. We don’t value culture in this country. We need to nurture art.

‘There’s always going to be wonderful music from this country, but unless it’s developed, we’ll lose that. The British Empire has been responsible for some terrible things, but music is the most wonderful gift we’ve given the world.

‘I am incredibly proud to be British and that is because of artists like The Clash, artists like The Beatles, and because of Bowie – these are wonderful timeless gifts.

‘We need to nurture art. In other countries I feel that they hold culture as a much more important and precious thing and we only seem to care about putting up another Subway or another Tesco. These things aren’t going to add true value to the world in the way that art and culture can bring us together, make us questions things, life-affirming things.

‘There’s more to life than another sandwich shop or a Starbucks. It would be lovely if we can start to value culture again.

‘I love the Wedgewood Rooms I’ve played there loads of times, and it’s a very good crowd run by great people.’

The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

Wednesday, January 25