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3rd December 2013

Interview: iTCH

Sam Woodgate speaks to iTCH about political activism, touring and The King Blues

“Everyone else is taken- you can only ever be you, and once you figure out who you are- which takes a while- and you put that out and you bring something new to the game people take to you… I’ve never been here to just have my 15 minutes of fame; I’m here to leave a legacy”. To some it may come across as trite, but the conviction with which Johnny ‘iTCH’ Fox speaks dispels any preconception of bravado that would normally accompany such a statement.

His claim is as convincing as it is ambitious; given his penchant for unconventionality, it’s perhaps a shock to many that The King Blues wound up breaking into the mainstream, with their third album ‘Punk & Poetry’ cracking the Top 40 and their music being featured on televised adverts. Success for iTCH has come through individuality- his spoken word pieces, for example, are a breath of fresh air for a generation who have grown up without any mainstream examples of the format.

iTCH attributes his initial interest in the genre to seeing punk poet Attila the Stockbroker live; “I saw how vulnerable he made himself and it really touched me. The whole reason The King Blues started off acoustic was so that people could hear the words; it was really important to us that the lyrics came first. If you’ve got lyrics that are decent and you can spit them as a spoken word piece I think people will take to it.”

The former King Blues frontman might have swapped the folk-punk of old for a more urbane approach as of late, but his attitude towards the music he makes hasn’t shifted an inch. When asked about what punk rock signifies on an individual level, he responds that “to me punk rock has never been about 3 chords and shouting; it’s always been about an attitude and a way of life and how you see things. Being politically engaged to me is vital when it comes to punk, otherwise it’s just a throwaway word that means nothing.”

iTCH is certainly well versed in the political and activist side of punk. Fans of The King Blues will remember their acoustic march to the Houses of Parliament as a statement of intent from a band that genuinely had something important to say. According to iTCH, there’s definitely a gap in the market for artists that are willing to talk politics with their fans. His claim that “no-one has really come in and filled that spot [left by The King Blues] of being a politically outspoken band” simply reiterates the uniqueness of his trade.

For iTCH the desire to make a difference does not come solely from music. He describes The King Blues as having been “activists first, musicians second”, and although there may not be a King Blues mark II on his radar, he still holds faith in the youth of today.

“We’re told that this generation doesn’t care about anything, but this generation has thrown the largest anti-war marches we’ve ever seen. We’re told they just go on Twitter and take selfies but at the same time they’re organising the massive anonymous and occupy movements which are done over social networking. I’d hope that there are kids out there that are pissed off who are going to make music with something to say.”

Life for iTCH isn’t all about bandanas and marches, however. He describes his summer in The States as part of the legendary Warped Tour as “a real honour” which not even a broken leg could dampen. “I did the whole thing in a wheelchair which physically was a challenge… it was pretty tough, but as a tour it was amazing.”

The show tonight is itself part of a Warped Tour package whilst also constituting iTCH’s debut solo headline tour. The man himself doesn’t seem fazed by the drop down from the festival stage to sweatbox clubs and instead seems to relish the idea of a fresh start. “The last couple of years of the King Blues felt like we were going through the motions a bit. Now I’m back to really enjoying it again and I’m revelling in touring once more; I’m a bit older and I appreciate it more now.”

“When [The King Blues] started out there was always a threat of Nazi skinheads turning up or the police shutting it down; it was that kind of danger that I weirdly enjoyed. After that it just felt a bit safe.”

Circumstance has cut short the lifespan of many artists, but iTCH seems adamant that he’s in it for the long run. “I’ve based my entire career on not following trends and not following fashions and I’m here 11 years later. I think that’s because I’ve never gone with what everyone else was doing- once you do that and you try to catch up with what other people are doing it’s too late.” It’s not unreasonable to think that as long as he continues to plug away in his own way- as he did the first time around-history may well be on the verge of repeating itself.

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