The Streets - On Borrowed Time
Mike Skinners, aka The Streets, is back with a new album – his second last, as 3D’s Carlisle Rogers discovers. Then it’s onto the film world.
The first time I interviewed Mike Skinner, he told me about recording his debut album, Original Pirate Material, in a wardrobe in his bedroom, with foam on the door, in the pitch black.
The Streets have come a long way from those bedroom production days, but Skinner’s new album, Everything is Borrowed, goes back, lyrically, thematically and sonically, to those first lunging experiments in the garage that made him famous in the first place, and evolved into his last album, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living.
“I just wanted to do something that was positive. It took a long time to make the album; it was definitely the hardest album I’ve made. In a way, when you’re using musicians and instruments, it’s easier too,” he says. “You always get different sounds because it is such a natural way of working, whereas you tend to spend a lot more time just fiddling around looking for sounds that are good enough. You can’t really work that quickly when you’re recording musicians. There is a lot of it that doesn’t sound quite right. You have to do a lot of things and then slim it down.
“It was done piece by piece in a very slow fashion. There was a lot of tracking things and working things out very carefully; because the songs are quite sparse really. There is a lot of playing in unison rather than this big, embellished thing. The size of the thing comes about from a lot of people playing the same thing. It is very Phil Spector. I don’t think I could have achieved this when I made my first album. There was a hell of a lot of skill and it had to be highly focused. I had to know exactly what I wanted and be very brave to rein everything into the sound. There was a lot of engineering and the old recording technique brought into play.”
Mike says that the album’s title has nothing to do with the songs on it, which are, ironically, more original than the material on his debut. “The borrowed thing for me wasn’t a reference to the music, it was just a reference to life in general, about how everything we think we own is really borrowed,” he says. “With my albums, one idea gets carried through to its end and by the time I come to do the artwork, there is a definite heightening of ideas that happen. The album artwork is always an extreme representation of that, thus the natural theme of the artwork. All of that is borrowed.”
Skinner says that yes, his next album will be the last Streets album, because he’s done what he wanted to do, and doesn’t want to drive it into the ground. He says he’s looking to get into film now. “I’m doing this album one song at a time. I’m trying to have some element of the future in it somehow,” he says. “I don’t really know how it’s going to work out, but there will be questions more than spiritual type stuff. I’d like to do a film and then just see what comes along.
“I think making a film would be a way of getting to grips with the story, which has become a big passion for me. That was one of the things I’d promised myself, and one of the reasons this album wasn’t so good, because I was trying to write scenes for films rather than songs. I said to myself that I’d make a film, get that out of my system, but in the meantime I’m going to make songs. I’d like to get quite conceptual, but not stretch things too far.”
WHO: The Streets
WHAT: Everything is Borrowed through 679 Recordings/Warner
WHEN: Out now