MANHATTAN AND LOS ANGELES have fallen for Archy Marshall. The rest of America may not be far behind. Back in September The New Yorker's resident pop music critic Sasha Frere–Jones described Marshall – the 19 year-old South Londoner who records as King Krule – as "a raw guitar troubadour... a Tom Waits several time zones removed." To those of us who'd been tuned in to King Krule radio since the earliest broadcasts of 2010, this seemed all rather welcome but odd, as if Marshall's heavy-lidded delivery and lazy Peckham drawl was having a powerful mesmeric effect on our Transatlantic cousins.
Since then, Marshall has appeared on Late Show With David Letterman and Conan O'Brien's late night TBS talk show Conan, performing tracks from his debut album, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon. The Conan performance is striking for the manner in which Marshall's sullen out-of-register ska-jazz twitchery is brought into line by the horn section of the Conan house band. Suddenly, you can see it all working for him over there, South London and southern soul vernaculars knitting together into some weird new language.
Check it out below and then have a read of what we wrote about Marshall back at the start of the year.
MOJO's King Krule Interview from January 2013.
The interview had been scheduled for 1pm. “If you don’t get an answer,” said the press officer, “Call his mum.” When mum eventually tracked him down, it was 4pm, and 18-year-old Archy Marshall, a.k.a. King Krule had just woken up. “What can you do?” explained mum, by way of apology, “He’s a teenager!”
This is undoubtedly, numerically true, but in the past two years Archy Marshall has done a lot of growing up.
When he first appeared in 2010, under the alias of Zoo Kid, his Out Getting Ribs 7” was a thing of strange plangent beauty, a dreamily claustrophobic blend of Telecaster tremolo, dubplate echo and teenage angst delivered in a low, lonesome sneer that suggested a teenage Joe Strummer, crooning for Go! Discs in 1984.
“All the music that surrounded me when I was growing up hit me around then,” explains Marshall. “The Skatalites, King Tubby, Fela Kuti, Suicide, a lot of dub and jazz.” The accompanying video for Ribs only added to song’s unique appeal, revealing Marshall as a bequiffed redhead blessed with high cheekbones and photogenic punk sneer. The son of artistic BBC parents, Marshall grew up in South London, round East Dulwich, Nunhead, and Peckham, instilled with urban angst. “You’d see them knocking down estates but not replacing them with anything affordable,” he says. “all this money going into new flats for young businessmen.”
“All the music that surrounded me when I was growing up hit me... The Skatalites, King Tubby, Fela Kuti, Suicide, a lot of dub and jazz.”
It was this shifting London landscape, coupled with the atmosphere surrounding the riots of August 2011, that led to a new, more intricate sound. Changing his name to King Krule (a salute to Donkey Kong’s fat-bellied crocodile villain, King K. Rool) Marshall released the remarkable King Krule EP, five tracks of abstracted, echoing lyrics detailing wasted mornings and concrete landscapes over sleepwalking rockabilly guitar decay, cheap beats and shimmering echo.
“Way before the riots kicked off there was a lot of tension around,” says Marshall. “I guess that EP explained how pissed off I was at how people were being treated. Plus, I was really bored of guitar music. I wanted to make it more about the tone, and the rhythm of that tone. I got a lot from my uncle who is a really good ska guitarist. Very ragged makeshift rhythms and intricate lines.”
However, an immersion in Friedrich Engels soon caused Marshall to realize that he needed to study more, research more, before continuing with political songwriting. This period of study coincided with a period of re-education at the BRIT School in Croydon.
“It got me my GCSE’s at a time when I was out of school with nowhere to go,” stresses Marshall. “I got excluded a few times but they let me back in. Maybe now it’s more about creating fame now, but I got a good education from it.”
As a result, Marshall’s debut album, due for a spring release, will be a conceptual, cinematic affair, “a vast soundscape of dubby highs and lows”, inspired by Suicide, Henry Mancini, The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come For Free and wealth of romantic research, from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to A Young Poet to a spate of Belgian UFO sightings in the late 80s.
“I’d gotten myself into a really dark mindset,” says Marshall, “and Rilke helped me out of that. It taught me that life is what you make of it. You need to get through the shitty side of it and carry on doing art.”
As if to prove his point, before he signs off Marshall tells MOJO that he is now working on another musical alias to add to Zoo Kid, King Krule and sonic experimenter DJ JD Sports.
“He’s called Edgar The Beatmaker,” he says, a smile in his voice. “He’s influenced by King Edgar The Peacemaker, St Dunstan, the Saxon kings and South London history. There’s a lot of tension in London, but then you realize it’s always been there, in its history, and that the best thing about London, that there’s always been this tension.”