Quick-fire Questions: 10 minutes with Astrel K

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Off the back of releasing The Foreign Department, an intricate and expertly crafted sophomore album, I could ask Astrel K some serious questions about its development. I could ask him about the trials and tribulations of a solo album, or his work within the band Ulrika Spacek. I could even ask him to go in-depth on the synths and sounds he used for the record. Instead, I decided to get the information that matters.

The British-born and now Stockholm-dwelling musician is a multi-talent. Being part of the cultishly beloved band Ulrika Spacek would have been enough as the group have released three incredible records. But lead singer and guitar player Rhys Edwards has expanded beyond the group setting into his own project. 

On his second album, Edwards stretches his skills even further as he extends into exponentially vaster musical landscapes. Written, performed, and produced by himself, the record is theatrical in some places and futuristic in others. Merging synths and strings with a classic band setup, it’s a dynamic listen from start to finish.

Clearly crafted by a sharp musical mind and excitingly interesting talent, Edwards no doubt would’ve proved an incredibly insightful interview subject. Somehow, even with the silliness questions fired his way, his responses still manage to be meaningful, even if the answer is about his dislike for olives.

Diving into his favourite pubs, musical hatreds and dream riders, Astrel K hit back with some answers to some rapid-fire questions. 

Quick-Fire Questions with Astrel K :

1. Beyond your own, what album do you wish you’d written?

“Probably Pet Sounds. It’s perfectly happy and sad at the same time, bittersweet and quite rightly placed so highly in all-time album lists. The quarterly royalty cheque payments wouldn’t go a miss”.

2. What’s the most annoying thing about solo work vs being in a band?

“I’d say perhaps when you hit a wall and have a decision to make, like for example shall I go A or B. In a band that means discussion which hopefully leads to the right answer. In solo work, those instances can be more troublesome and ultimately lonely. In the end, the answer is always to go with the gut anyway. The flip side of solo is that you don’t have to put into words that gut feeling to convince any other people”.

3. Which is your favourite song of your own?

“I think the ‘best’ song I have ever written is ‘is it it or is it I?’ which opens my debut album but in terms of favourite I would say ‘Birds In Vacant Lots’ from my second album. I wrote it at a time when I was struggling to come up with anything, so I kinda see it as a gem I held on to in a few month period when I couldn’t come up with any other ideas; it was something to hold on to, to keep going.

“At its core, this album was mainly written on a 100-year-old piano at my studio, I feel like this track not only falls halfway through the track listing but very much lies at the heart of the whole record”.

4. What’s your current favourite song from another artist?

“Can’t say as I’m currently considering doing a cover version of it, but in second place I’d say ‘The Turning Ground’ by Tara Clerking Trio. Been following this group for a while, loved their first album and I think it sounds like exciting new terrain for them. On Ulrika Spacek’s most recent US tour, it was part of the tour playlist playing in the venues before shows, so it’s entwined with many great memories of travelling around America playing music”.

5. What venue, of any size or scale and in any country, is it your dream to play?

“Always dreamed of playing Tokyo or Mexico City, very exotic places to play. Couldn’t tell you the most iconic venues in either place because they feel so far away, but think it would be surreal to play in both those places”.

6. And who would be your support act there?

“A supergroup of all the talented musicians I have played with and become friends with over recent years. Swapping instruments after every track but no gaps in between songs”.

7. What’s your most controversial culture opinion?

“That I dream of a society where nothing is copyrighted, that everything is free game to take, cut up and adapt. I wonder about the future possibilities of collage-based art. I no doubt understand this is plagued with problems, but I’d say it’s hard enough to make money as an artist anyway. I wonder if the role of the artist in society could be seen as a more societal thing. Rather than an individualist thing? Perhaps paid a moderate but fair wage by their city or local municipality? Of course, that means a criteria that needs to be met, which unfortunately in itself means problems. But I dunno, it’s good to at least try and envisage alternative/original futures.

8. Where is the best pub in the world?

“Definitely in London, take your pick basically. But good signs generally for me are carpet on the floor if you’re in the UK, an electronic dart machine if you’re in Berlin, and ölkorv for sale behind the bar if you’re in Sweden”.

9. If you were the most famous person in the world and you had full permission to be a diva, what would be on your rider?

“It’s funny the more I have toured, the less I really care what’s on the rider, but a warm meal is important. I like what you see in Europe, so I’d say a home-cooked meal where everyone who works on the show, including techs/door staff etc sitting in a big hall together to eat. Beer on tap, self-service buffet. No olives”.

10. What song reminds you of a good memory?

“‘The Bay’ by Metronomy always makes me smile and is very nostalgic. There was a summer being young and playing a lot of festivals travelling around and that song seemed to be playing everywhere at all of them. Even though I wasn’t a huge ‘fan’ of the band or anything, there seem to be quite a few bangers on that English Riviera record. Think it has aged really well and still holds up, kinda perfect pop music”.

11. What was the last film you watched? Give us your review

“Last film I saw was Poor Things. Have loved most of Lantimos’ films and this one was equally entertaining. But maybe, just maybe, this one was a bit style over substance, though? I’m very interested in soundtracks, and the first-time scorer Jerskin Fendrix did an amazing job, hats off to him. It must have been a weird, kinda scary day that an email came in asking him to do such a big film”.

12. Who is your least favourite artist in history?

“No one in particular comes to mind to be honest, I try not to waste energy on stuff I don’t like/care for. Actually, that said, I really don’t like The Weeknd; everything is nails down a blackboard stuff for me”.

13. If you could be another person for a day, who would you want to be?

“I think it would be fun to be Adam Curtis, in a room with access to all the BBC archive footage, free reign to use whatever you find. For any readers unfamiliar with him, he makes amazing documentaries with amazing soundtracks with a unique perspective on individualism, the loss of collective thought and where we are at with dystopian politics and capitalism”.

14. If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

Maybe a filmmaker, graphic designer or something creative. I actually studied politics at university, though, so maybe something less appealing, as long as I could play football on the weekends”.

15. Are the Beatles overrated?

“Definitely not overrated, but perhaps it’s a bit boring how much they still get discussed. They were truly innovative and progressive in the small time they were together. But there’s so much innovation genre-specific in modern times that doesn’t nearly enough get talked about”.

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