The Kings Will is the unique brainchild of Musa Okwonga and Giles Hayter. Combining Musa’s poetry with Giles’ music makes for an eclectic and unusual sound. Described by one critic ‘as if someone got Orbital played in the House of Commons’ you get the idea that this is not straight forward electronica. Indeed it is not. Emotional, meaningful and with a message to make you think. To enter the world of The Kings Will through their current album ‘The Swords Are Coming’ is to go on a journey with The Fool and The Vassal. I’ll let you find out what that means for yourself.
1. The King’s Will is a very interesting concept. That of a ‘Fool’ and ‘The Vassal’. How did you and Giles come together and create that concept?
We both felt there was a lot wrong with the world around us, both economically and environmentally: much of Europe is in recession, and much of the world is suffering the effects of climate change, which I increasingly find myself watching fearfully through my fingers. We wanted to convey our concerns in a way that was allegorical, and therefore hopefully entertaining: so we looked at our society as the King, this once proud monarch who due to poor judgement was now falling on hard times, and ourselves as two watchful servants, tactfully trying to tell him that he was, well, screwing the whole thing up. Each album that we write is the story of our attempts to rescue the King from his demise. My character is that of the Fool – whose lyrics are subversive, almost like a jester – and Giles’s character is the Vassal, whose music provides the atmosphere. We are also joined on some tunes by Ann Bailey, a celebrated singer, who plays the character of the Siren – she provides soaring vocals over our music.
2. It seems to be a collaboration of pure poetry put to electronic music. Very different from your Hip Hop counterparts, was this a conscious decision?
Not really – it’s just who we are. One of my best friends growing up, Yungun, is regarded as one of the best MCs the UK has produced, but I came through the spoken-word scene, and will always see myself as a poet: thought I do rap now and then, on tracks like “Human After All”.
3. Musa, you’ve been called the ‘Hugh Grant of Hip Hop’ How does this sit with you?
Honestly? I’m a bit bemused by it. In his films Hugh Grant generally plays these bashful, slightly wet, apologetic figures, and I would be a bit worried if that was what I saw in the mirror. Mind you, come to think of it…
4. All the songs seem immensely personal, and hark back to your family and your roots, how do you think the music reflects your words?
Giles has done a fantastic job of creating a soundscape for my words, I can’t admire him enough for that. We sit down and have a careful think about the lyrics that I send through – they’re written so that, though they’re personal, hopefully anyone can derive meaning or feeling from them.
5. Is social commentary important to you? What are you hoping people get from your songs?
It’s hugely important. The one thing that Giles and I can’t stand is apathy – we’re only on this planet for a short time, and so we have to make the very best of it. We hope that people are struck for the passion that we both have for making things better, and that they are entertained by what we do.
6. As the music is quite eclectic what are both your musical influences?
Giles is a classically trained pianist, and is a huge Hendrix fan – he also loves Deadmau5 and Nero, with some Pendulum thrown in. I love Faithless, Roots Manuva, The Streets, Radiohead and Wu-Tang, and Mount Kimbie – I have to mention Mount Kimbie, they’re phenomenal.
7. You released the album on your own record label ‘Cloud Chamber Records’ Why was this…is it hard to get your music out there these days?
We just wanted to get on with it, really. We’re doing something a bit different and so we wanted to realise the concept as fully as we could by ourselves. It’s taken a while to get everything in place, but now we feel its something that people can look at and say “yes, that’s the complete package”.
8. Tell me more about the label?
We’re looking to put out music that excites us, whether that be our own or that of other people. We’ve so far put out two albums in two years – As The Power Fails (2011) and The Swords Are Coming (2012) which have had some great reviews, so we’re doing OK so far.
9. I’m also very interested in the films that run alongside the songs on the website, why add these into the mix? Do you see The Kings Will as a piece of art in its truest form?
The films are really important because they give people another context in which they can experience our work – we love visuals and would love one day to incorporate these films into our live performance. They were made by some of the best animators in the country, graduates of some of London’s leading arts colleges, so we’re very happy to have them. And it would be great if people saw The King’s Will as a piece of art, that would be a serious compliment.
10. Looking at the music and the way The Kings Will was put together, am I right in saying the live shows are pretty special? What can people expect from them?
We think they’re special – we’re very proud of them, and we don’t spare anything on the visuals or the music. It took us about a year to decide exactly what we would wear onstage, and a fair while to build the set from scratch. We also work regularly with Tom Sheppard at Bryte Design, who is a genius – he’s done lighting for Rihanna, Nero and Calvin Harris. We normally play sets of about 60-70 minutes, and go all out in each one: we love it, and the reviews we have had have been fantastic. (If you’d like to see for yourself, you can check out some live videos at our YouTube channel, which is at http://www.youtube.com/user/thekingswilltv.)
11. Do you have any live dates booked in the near future?
We’re sorting out a London date for the end of October, and hopefully one abroad – we’ll update everyone at www.thekingswill.com, if they’d like to pay a visit there.
12. What’s next for The Kings Will?
More and better music, bigger and better shows, which we would love to play in Europe, North America and beyond. The initial response has been wonderful, so we just need to keep telling the stories of the King, the Fool, the Vassal, and the Siren. We’re looking forward to it.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.