© Copyright Stuart Robinson 2012. All Rights Reserved

BASTILLE

So how do you normally go about your writing? What’s your creative process?
“Generally when I try too hard to sit down and write I find it harder to get something good. Normally I just think of things and try and record them into my phone without looking like too much of a weirdo if I’m in public. Then at some point I’ll sit down at a piano or at my computer and make some songs out of the ideas. Sometimes things come together really quickly, sometimes it can take ages.”


For some people, age seems to be a barrier into the music industry, even in their early twenties. Has age ever been an issue for you?
“No, not really. I mean, I’m 25 and I only got signed at the end of last year, and I only started thinking about doing music at the age of like 21/22 when I left uni. I wanted to be a journalist, it didn’t even occur to me to do music as a job. And only really realistically for the last sort of two or so years. I mean, look at a lot of people that are sort of releasing stuff at the moment, people like Michael Kiwanuka who’s 25. Ultimately if you’re doing something good or different and you work hard, your age shouldn’t and doesn’t really matter. I mean, Wretch 32 is in his 30s and he did pretty well as a “new artist” didn’t he?”


It also seems that many people find money to be an issue, especially with some musical equipment being so expensive. Was money ever an issue for you?
“When I first started out I was juggling a full time job and doing gigs in the evening and trying to record. And I guess it was quite hard. When I started being managed by that slightly bigger company, luckily my parents were just quite cool and encouraged me to stay at their house, so that I didn’t have to work other jobs quite so much. It was amazing having a bit more time to spend on making my music. I’m very lucky though that I’ve got parents who live in London and who were happy for me to stay with them for free. It’s definitely difficult, and equipment is expensive. But then again, a friend of mine recorded his first songs through the built in microphone in his laptop, and it was those recordings that lead him to work with a producer and make his album properly.”


How did you go about getting gigs when you first started?
“When I moved back to London from university I didn’t know anyone who made music or anything like that, so I found it really difficult. In terms of starting out, I think I just got in touch with people, that’s all you can really do isn’t it. Do a bit of research into where would be appropriate for you to play and find out who the promoter is and send them an email. But also, I guess, understand that they’re going to be getting really quite a lot of emails from probably quite a lot of other people.”


Do you have any other advice that could help out newcomers to the music business?
“I guess for me, I would just say to be incredibly harsh on yourself and your song writing. Also that there are so many people who have nice or interesting voices or who can play their instruments well, I guess if you want to do music as your job you have to understand that obviously other people have to like it, and there has to be something about it that’s interesting, or different, or progressive, or whatever. And just to be really harsh on yourself, which can be quite difficult, but try and look at your songs objectively and not be too attached to them if they’re not good enough.”



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Just a few years ago, Dan Smith, AKA Bastille, was a student writing tracks on his own, thinking nothing more of it. He never considered that his unique sound, a blend of modern electronic music and acoustic indie, would ever be heard by anyone but himself.
“I’d been making music very, very privately since I was younger - I didn’t play it to anyone apart from my girlfriend for years. I played it to one of my friends at uni, and she entered me into this competition…and as part of winning that I had to do a relatively big gig and do a day of recording and stuff…and then I realised that music was kind of something I might want to do.”


Skip forward several years, and Dan is hidden away in a studio working on the debut Bastille album.
“I’m having a lot of fun. We’re in the middle of doing the album, but we’ve done it in a couple of chunks. The first half of the album involved re-doing songs that we’d already recorded and this half is all new stuff, so it’s been a lot more satisfying.”

Talking to Dan, it’s clear he’s passionate about his work. Music has been part of his life for a long time, and while he’s been writing and recording for years, it seems that Bastille is still very much in its youth.
“Bastille is only a year or so old, and it’s all happened relatively quickly, but before that I was doing stuff by myself for quite a while.”


At the end of 2010, with the help of a producer friend, Dan began posting tracks from a new project on Myspace. Soon after they were posted, the tracks quickly started getting attention.
“Immediately I was getting calls from managers and labels, which was quite weird. But that didn’t really mean a huge amount. I met with a few people but mainly just kept making more new songs. I made a video that I put online at the beginning of 2011 which luckily quite a few people stumbled upon and did covers of. It was only then that I picked a manager and then we toured as a band as much as possible and got ready to release a single in the summer. After that we kept touring and released an EP at the end of last year.”


Things haven’t always been simple for Dan though. Finding the right manager has always been tricky in the music business, and Dan is no stranger to difficult relationships.
“I went through various different managers which was pretty interesting. Just before I started the whole Bastille thing I was being managed by quite a big company, which I didn’t particularly enjoy.”


So was being with the right manager important to you?
“Yeah that was really important for me actually. [Being managed by a big company] was a really interesting experience, seeing the corporate side of stuff. I think I was really wowed by the company and the people who they managed. I was massively sucked in by that stuff, but then when it came to the nitty-gritty I was kind of just left to myself. Although, overall, it didn’t seem that positive at the time it was definitely good for me. If I hadn’t spent time at that company, I wouldn’t have had the time and the studio time in particular to write the songs that were the first couple of Bastille songs.”


Good points and bad points then?
“Yeah. I’ve had three managers I think, so I’m on my third (laughs). And it’s interesting, people say that the relationship with the manager is really important, and it really is. Obviously you have to go with someone who has the knowledge and clout to help you get somewhere, but also who’s on the same page as you. Or someone who, if you’re not on the same page as them, you at least really trust what they’re saying if they’re telling you to change.”