Miles Kane: the 10 records that changed my life
With the release of his latest record Coup De Grace earlier this month, Miles Kane deservedly secured his fourth consecutive Top 10 UK album.
Kane’s third solo outing follows in the high-charting footsteps of 2013’s Don’t Forget Who You Are as well as the two Last Shadow Puppets long-players, Everything You’ve Come To Expect (2016) and The Age Of The Understatement (2008), which both hit the number one spot.
The 32-year old couldn’t be prouder of his latest work, which is packed to the brim with spiky, punk-infused tunes, spin-you-on-your-head melodies and some truly knock-out guitar tones.
“For me, this record is everything that I love,” Mile enthuses as we chat to him over the phone.
“It’s definitely an upbeat record and, I think, if you’re walking down the street with your headphones on listening to it, you’re going to want to headbutt someone! It’ll definitely give you a spring in your step. I love records that do that; they give you energy and I’d say this definitely has that.”
Once again, Kane opted for a collaborative approach across the album, with old pal Jamie T eventually co-writing all but three of the 10 tracks. However, the initial writing started quite a while before that and certainly wasn’t the easiest of processes.
“It started getting written a long time ago, after I'd finished my second solo thing,” explains Miles. “After we did the second Puppets record, I went back to those songs but they just didn’t feel fresh and, looking back now, they weren't good enough. There were good bits in there, but not solid songs, do you know what I mean? And then there was a period where I went to New York and wrote there for a bit and made some demos and, from them sessions, I got the song Silverscreen, which is a real sort of angry full-on tune and the track Coup De Grace was born then, too.”
So how did Jamie T end up becoming involved?
“Jamie was in LA last January,” says Kane. “He was doing a gig there and he planned to stay for a week after so we could try and see if we had a connection on a work level. It's been something we'd been talking about for a long time.
“I had so many half-written songs but I couldn’t sort of finish anything and I just couldn’t get into anything. It was a funny thing... it was like a bit of a block. I was still doing it but I was questioning everything and that's not a good way to be. But then Jamie came in and he was like, ‘Oh, this tune's fucking mega, man!’ and I could see him getting buzzed off it. I just didn’t know myself if they were any good or whatever.
“He had an acoustic in his room and we just started playing and we got this tune called Nothing Changes. From that day on, for the rest of that week, we just wrote every day at my little apartment. Then, about a month later, I came over to London for a month and we'd just go into his room and literally just write a song a day, demo them, then go home and listen to them and we started putting them into the texture they are now.”
The first single to be released from Coup De Grace was Loaded back in April. In addition to Jamie T enjoying a co-writing credit on the track, Lana Del Rey was also heavily involved in helping sculpt the tune. Her invaluable contribution to the chorus almost came by chance…
“I went to that gig J was doing in LA and, as I walked in, Lana was there,” explains Miles.
“I’d just split up with my ex and she said, ‘What’s the matter with you? Is it girl trouble?’ She’s mates with Jamie and I’d only met her a couple of times before but then we started having a chat and she said, ‘What are you doing at the moment?’ and I said, ‘Me and J are going to try and write and re-write some tunes.’ She said, ‘Oh, that’d be amazing, I’d love to hear them.’
“Then, just the next day, I think, we started to write Loaded and she FaceTimed us and said, ‘Shit, what’s going on?’ I said, ‘Well, come over if you want!’... so she came over. We already had a chorus on Loaded but she said, ‘Can I try something?’ I was like, ‘Go for it!’ and she started doing that de-de-de-da-da-de-de-da… and we were like, ‘Wow that melody's mega!’ It pissed over ours!
“Then we just finished it off, got some words and that was that one done. Me and her wrote a lot of tunes as well during that period while I was over there but that one felt like it still had the sort of grit that I wanted on this record… but there are more great tunes that are just sort of sitting on the shelf, really.”
The album was produced by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Explosions In The Sky, Swans, Anthony & the Johnsons) in LA, and he and Kane were both on the same page from the very start.
“It was really good working with John,” says Kane. “The writing on this album took a long fucking time over a five year period but I recorded it over a week in August and a week in October.
“I think, mentally, I was so ready for it. I knew the songs were good and I knew that all the arrangements were there and the lyrics were done. It was just literally all about getting the best version of each that we could.
“I hadn’t worked with John before but we hit it off straight away. Like me, he kind of likes to work in the moment. I don’t really like dwelling and spending loads of time on a kick drum or a hi-hat! I also had great players because I had the lads that we had in the Puppets band and they were all on the same page with sounds and they’ve got cool gear and we were using his cool studio.
“That was the other thing, because I recorded the demos in my mate's apartment and there was something about them. They sounded so cool with lots of cool tones and stuff, and I realised that you don’t need a fancy studio. John likes to work out of this house, basically. The bottom of the house is just all sort of set up with all this old amazing gear and there’s something about being in that kind of environment that I really wanted as well.”
Before we move on to the top 10 records that changed his life, we just pop one more album-related question to Miles and ask him what gear he utilised to get such an array of fantastic tones. A refreshingly simplistic approach was absolutely key...
“It was all old gear - loads of mad, tiny little amps and a Fender Princeton and a Fender Champ, both from the ‘70s. Then, on a lot of it, I was just using a Les Paul Junior with P-90 pickups. That’s about it.”
1. Oasis - (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995)
“The first album I got into as a kid would be (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and that was around the time, I think, when my mum got me the video one Christmas of that Maine Road gig, when Liam’s got the Umbro tracksuit top on.
“That was the first album that really blew my mind and stylistically it was really turning me on. I think it massively impacted my writing, even to this day.
“My favourite song on that record is called Hey Now! It’s not a song that people mention often but I think that’s a fantastic tune, man.”
2. David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
“I’ll go for Bowie, Ziggy Stardust. Again, that was as a kid, growing up. My mum's a big music fan - she likes Motown soul and loads of stuff and she would have played this to me originally.
“Me and my mate really got into this album and the song Soul Love reminds of me of being at school - you know when songs sort of give you a feeling of a path to the past or whatever? That song Soul Love makes me think of being that age at school and I love it. I definitely remember listening to the album and thinking, you know, ‘God this is weird!’ but maybe listening to it when I was younger made me feel weird because the sounds were so different to what I was used to… but in a great way and a sort of intriguing way that makes you want to get more into that kind of stuff.
“It’s influenced me massively. I mean, lyrically, no-one can touch it and Moonage [Daydream] is just like the best song on there. He was such a clever guy. I love it when he goes with the punk vibe on Hang On to Yourself. That’s very sort of me, that tune. I’d love to do a cover of that, actually!”
3. The Beatles - A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
“A Hard Day’s Night is my favourite Beatles album. Obviously, I love every Beatles record but this has always stuck with me and it’s been my favourite one for a long time. I think that’s because it’s just so simple and every tune is sort of two-and-a-half minutes and they're all little pop songs.
“I think my favourite tune on that is Things We Said Today. I can’t picture the where and when and what I was doing when I first heard it but it would have been at my Mum’s house.”
4. Neil Young - On the Beach (1974)
“This is not in order, but my most recent favourite album that I’ve got into is On the Beach by Neil Young. I remember, years ago, I tried to get into Neil Young, but I don’t know what it was.
“I liked it but I just couldn’t really get into it, but then I watched a documentary about six months ago called Don’t Be Denied. It was about an hour long,- I saw it on YouTube and it blew me away. When he’s talking about each album, he’s such the real deal and he was talking about that On The Beach album and they played a couple of snippets off it and I was like, ‘Wow, this is eight-track; they sound mega!’
“It came after his first big success [Harvest, 1972] and he just went straight in to make this record really fast and, for me, it’s just got everything. I love it all. I love the song Motion Pictures and the song On The Beach and then you’ve got Revolution Blues. Yeah, that’s been blowing my mind lately, that. There’s a couple of upbeat songs there, but most of it’s all pretty mid-tempo and I don’t usually sort of go for that.”
5. The Verve - Urban Hymns (1997)
“This definitely sort of goes hand in hand with the Oasis one. Again, being that age, growing up, I can remember when that first came out. It’s got The Drugs Don’t Work, Lucky Man, all the classics.
“As a kid, I loved The Drugs Don’t Work. The emotion on that struck a chord with me, for sure. When you're a kid, you're sort of figuring out what makes you tick, listening to what’s out at the time and realising what kind of music you like. When I heard that, I was definitely like, ‘Wow! That's my music.’”
6. The Coral - The Coral (2002)
“Okay, I'm going to go with The Coral's first album. Their new album's really cool as well, by the way. My cousins are James [Skelly] the singer and Ian [Skelly] the drummer, so they turned me on to a lot of music.
“I think I went to a gig of theirs just before they released that first record and James was spitting and stomping round the stage - I'd never seen anything like it really and I was definitely like, ‘Yeah, I want to do this as well!’
“That record's got just incredible tunes on it and, from start to finish, it's a solid, solid album. I love the song Skeleton Key and I Remember When and Goodbye and Dreaming Of You… it's just that solid! It's a great summer album. I listened to that a lot and I always have.”
7. John Lennon - Imagine (1971)
“It would have to be a Lennon record but it’s hard to choose between Plastic Ono [Band, 1970] and Imagine.
“I have said this a lot, but a thing that changed my life was when I saw... John Lennon's ghost... no, I'm joking! It was when I saw the making of the Imagine album film [Gimme Some Truth] and it was when he was singing the song Gimme Some Truth. He just has that real venom with the politics. It's an angry song, and he's really raw with his feelings when you see him doing that live take.
“The key of the song is probably too high, so it sort of rips his vocal. It’s a bit like my song Silverscreen on the new album where the key is slightly high so you've got to fucking scream it! He just rips it a bit but it sounds great and it sounds cool.
“When I first saw him doing that live take, it was definitely like, ‘Oh my God, this is blowing my mind!’ You can see he was totally in the moment.”
8. Paul Weller - 22 Dreams (2008)
“I remember that came out around the time we were doing the first Puppets album and it reminds me of that time. All I Wanna Do (Is Be With You) is a great tune, and then it's also got Echoes Round The Sun on it.
“I was in my early 20s and I remember loving them tunes. It was before I'd met Paul as well. I'd say that album really inspired me. Stylistically, there's so much going on.
“I met Paul properly when we were both doing this radio thing one Christmas. I'd just done my first album Colour Of The Trap (2011) and he was there and he came over to me and he had this coffee table book on ‘60s fashion and there was this French singer in it called Jacques Dutronc. He goes, ‘I brought this to show you. I’ve been reading your interviews and you said you like Jacques Dutronc - doesn’t he look fucking cool there in his suit!’
“Then we just started talking and chatting and I was obviously in awe, but then a few weeks later, he mentioned about working together in an interview and so I followed that up and said, ‘Of course, I’d love to!’ So we did that [Weller co-wrote two of the tracks on Kane’s second album, Don’t Forget Who You Are (2013)] and that was great, and then he invited me up onstage with him, too.
“Since then, we’ve been friends, and I can't speak highly enough of Paul. He’s such a nice fella and he’s been lovely with me. To have a career like that is something I aspire to.”
9. T.Rex - The Slider (1972)
“I probably should pick a T.Rex album, and I do really like The Slider. It’s got Metal Guru on it and I love Buick MacKane as well. That tune is mega, with that riff that’s kind of like Led Zeppelin. I remember hearing that and getting totally buzzed off it.
“Let’s put that album in then, but I love so many T.Rex albums. Electric Warrior's great as well, isn’t it? That’s got Jeepster and Get It On, and Life’s A Gas is a killer. I got into them just from delving into Bowie and stuff like that. I love Bolan’s persona onstage. He's sort of got that feminine look that's sexy and manly, too. I love that sort of persona... and he was a great guitarist, too. I love the way he moves and plays guitar.”
10. The Damned - Damned Damned Damned (1977)
“The Damned were inspiring me a lot on this album, songs like Neat Neat Neat and New Rose. I love the sound of it as well, all the energy.
“Last year, I remember being in New York and I’d be walking to the apartment where we were writing and doing these demos and I'd always be listening to Neat Neat Neat and New Rose while I was getting on the subway, trying to get them to inspire me because I wanted to write something like that… but it did work, that, because I guess you can definitely sort of hear The Damned in that Silverscreen tune - or you probably would know it if you've ever heard The Damned. So, yeah, that album was definitely inspiring.”