"If I could delete one instrument and its entire contribution to music, it would be the saxophone": James Blake says he "hates" the saxophone

james blake
(Image credit: Getty Images)

James Blake has revealed a deep hatred for the saxophone in a discussion with hip-hop artist Lil Yachty for Complex, shared ahead of the release of their joint album Bad Cameo.

In the video, embedded below, Blake and Yachty cover a range of subjects, picking out songs that make them cry and songs that they wish they had written. The conversation arrives at their favourite musical instruments, and Yachty accuses Blake of hating his favourite, the saxophone. "I absolutely hate it," Blake confesses.

"I'm sorry to all the sax players out there, but if I could delete one instrument and its entire contribution to music, it would be the saxophone," he continues. "The saxophone is like the guy at the party who's done too much coke, and he's telling you about his new business idea and you don't give a shit."

Yachty responds by making a convincing case for the sax, saying it's "the sexiest instrument ever", with the "most cool, laid-back sound... The saxophone is like that cool-ass uncle who you can't let your homie's mom be over when he's over, cause he's probably gonna fuck your homie's mom".

Blake's hot take prompted strong opposition on social media; Hollywood actor Elijah Wood even chimed in, naming renowned jazz saxophonists Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Wayne Shorter in the instrument's defence. "I figure it just means he's extremely unfamiliar with jazz and/or hates it, which is worse", responded another commenter.

Elsewhere in the interview, the pair discuss modern vocal production techniques, pondering why contemporary artists sound so different to classic soul vocalists while discussing Otis Redding's (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay. "What do you think it is that gave soul music artists their tone?," asks Yachty. "I feel like [nowadays] there aren't musicians who have that specific tone".

In response, Blake points the finger at vocal processing tools such as Auto-Tune. "The way producers package those vocals means that we're not really exposed to their real tone of voice", he says. "Its almost like every one thing we do to a vocal takes it one step away from feeling human. If you compress a vocal too much, that doesn't sound like the real dynamic range of a human voice, because it sounds flat."

"Pitch correction, compression, and sometimes EQ... we've done this [Blake gestures with his hands] to the human voice to the point where it sounds microwaved. You want to use it as an effect, that's amazing - I do and you do and all of us do, but pitch correction is kind of like the FaceTune of the voice. 

"Once you've corrected the pitch of your vocals enough, you start to feel like you're not a good enough singer, because it's not unnaturally tuned. But actually, the thing that we love about records like that is the real raw humanity."

Read the full interview over at Complex's website.

Matt Mullen
Tech Editor

I'm the Tech Editor for MusicRadar, working across everything from artist interviews to product news to tech tutorials. I love electronic music and I'm endlessly fascinated by the tools we use to make it. When I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.

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