Michael Jablonka is a London based singer, songwriter, and guitarist. I first saw him perform live a few years ago when he was with his previous band The Dark Tides, and went home raving about his mesmerising guitar skills. In recent years he’s released a few singles and EPs under his own name, the latest being the fuzzy lo-fi blues rock EP Go-Go, which came out in May. I’m obviously not the only person to have been hugely impressed by his guitar work though, as in recent years he’s also been part of Michael Kiwanuka’s band, and so it was a real treat to meet Michael and see him perform again last weekend at Glastonbury. Before he headed for the festival however, he took part in this Q&A, so read on to find out more about the EP, drum machines, and banana cake!
~ Where are you right now, and what can you see?
I’m in Wroclaw, Poland in my hotel room staring at a tall fan trying to keep cool.
~ I first saw you live about 5-years ago and it was an unforgettable performance, so when did you first pick up a guitar, and who influenced your musical direction back then?
It was a coincidence that it happened. My neighbour and I were about 13 playing outside in the street and we were daydreaming about becoming rockstars. We both had guitars from previous endeavours (shortly lived when I was 7) and we just started learning anything and everything we could listen to. I got introduced to John Frusciante (chili peppers) and all I wanted to do was be a musician. After hearing him I then heard about Jimi and all the blues greats.
~ The Go-Go EP has a more lo-fi set of tracks than you’ve previously made, but was that a conscious decision during the song-writing process, or did it evolve in the studio?
I guess it was a conscious decision. Initially I wrote Go-Go as another single, and put it to the side for a while, and when I rediscovered it it felt wrong not to make more of that particular sound and darker tone. The concept of the lead track gave way to the others which were really rough demos but fitted really well with the drum machine concept.
~ The EP doesn’t just contain the drum machine, you’ve also said the EP was inspired by one, so tell us more?
My mate introduced me to this particular drum machine (maestro rhythm king MK2) when he brought it to a rehearsal and I instantly fell in love with it. I searched online and found one selling in New York and at the time it turned out I was due to pass through there so it was perfect timing. At first it was a great way of accompanying myself and laying down demos at home (and I still do now) but then I thought it would be really cool to showcase it on a bunch of songs.
~ You must travel a lot as part of Michael Kiwanuka’s band, so what have been your favourite destinations & venues, and is there anywhere in the world you’ve yet to visit that you’d love to?
Everywhere we’ve played feels unforgettable, I have the best time with MK and the boys. I loved visiting Seattle and Atlanta when we’ve toured the US, and Australia is an incredible country too. Gigwise nothing will ever top playing the Royal Albert Hall, that was totally surreal and I still can’t believe that even happened.
~ Which famous song by another artist would you love to have written yourself?
I can’t decide, but it’s either between ‘Across the Universe’ by ‘The Beatles’, or ‘All Apologies’ by Nirvana. They both have stunning melodies and loving sentiments. Win win win!
~ Are there any other new bands or musicians local to you in London (or seen abroad when touring) that you recommend we check out?
Ok so to name a few you gotta check out:
BODEGA (New York)
~ If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be and why?
I’d like to see major labels endorsing independent acts and creatives more. It’s all very pop and kinda boring right now.
~ We’re fully into festival season now, and so if you were asked to curate a festival stage, what bands or artists would you invite to perform?
Thee Oh Sees
The Lemon Twigs
~ Aside from music, do you have any other creative skills? (or obscure talents!)
I can paint, but it’s been a while! And I like baking, I make damn good banana bread 😉
~ If you could have a superpower for a day, what would it be?
Gotta be the ability to fly. Would be nice to escape the noise of city life.