Interview by this Fansite, 6 May 2009:
On the Italian fan site there is a story about you being adopted - something I haven’t read anywhere else - is it true?
Yes this is true, I was adopted by my family when I was a young child. It was an Irish catholic orphanage.
I have little information regarding my biological parents apart from a young Irish mother and Mediterranean father which is quite a large target area. In various interviews during King's promotional years depending on where we were or how affectionate I was feeling towards the country we were sitting in I have claimed a Spanish, Italian and if memory serves even a Greek father.
But in truth I have no real evidence of my biological parents' nationalities and having been raised in a happy and loving family who supplied all the affection and support a child requires I have never had any inclination to ever pursue further information.
Sometimes magazine articles are very confusing. In some it said that you moved to Coventry as a 3-month old, and some say as a 3-years old. Which is true?
At what age did you learn to play musical instruments? Did you get lessons or did you teach yourself? And what musical instruments do you play?
Self taught from around 15 years old, firstly piano and then synth technologies plus very basic rhythm guitar playing. Like a majority of today's musicians I tend to play a wide variety of instruments with the assistance of computer software and programming ha ha.
Questions about your musical career
How did you write your songs? Did the music come first or the lyrics? *)
As a music fan I've always been firstly attracted by melody and musical performance then turn my focus towards lyrics.
As a recording artist I tended to follow the same path however the more I operated as a song-writer the more I started to also collect lots of scribbled notes, titles and lyrical themes for tracks which occasionally instigated the songs.
But the only track that comes to mind where that was the case is 'I kissed the Spikey Fridge' from Steps in Time.
Which song (from your three albums) is your favourite one, lyrically and why? *)
I think probably the opening track in our recording career 'Fish' from Steps in Time. It was a song dealing with the mixed feelings of alienation and affection for our home town and its citizens ha ha. Looking back on it now with the distance of time and experience I can still drop into the shoes or DM's of that younger me and it's actually the words that do that for me, much more than the music or its recording.
Why did you quote Henri Matisse in your “Joy” album? *)
Apart from a wide love of his paintings it was after reading his biography and discovering that he always referred to himself as a craftsman and work-smith as opposed to an artist. I always felt uncomfortable with the 'artist' tag for my own creative output.
It's probably to do with the working class chip on my shoulder and the fact I didn't go to art school ha ha.
What do you think is King's legacy as to their musical influence up to this day?
That's a hard one for me to really identify because no matter how emotionally detached you try to be from such evaluations your ego does get involved. Due to working in music television on the other side of the fence so to speak I have been required to deal with acts and artists on a daily basis making judgement calls on their popularity and positions in pop's rich tapestry etc so I believe I've a realistic assessment on King's musical legacy.
King's recording career and output is/was very small so consequently easier to miss or overlook when faced with the billions of hours of alternative historical or contemporary music options. I believe there's a large affection for the group's recordings and performances from a generation who witnessed the band's short career first hand.
I guess legacy/influence is always dependent on the access/awareness of the new generations of both fans and musicians which is easier to achieve/maintain if the acts or artists are still active in either recording/performance/media terms.
King as you know ceased to operate in any of those arena's in 1986 so it was one of the reasons I decided to put the group's official web site together to actually help create a new and wider access to the band's story as well as King's music and performances.
Questions about your television career
How much fan-mail did you get as an MTV VJ and what did you do with it? Did you read all letters or just part of them?
Loads. I joined MTV Europe just as it exploded across the continent so at its peak I was presenting to 50 million homes a day.
I confess the mail usually ran through the channel's press department who would censor any unsavoury or weird correspondence before passing on letters to the presenters so in fact I never saw all my mail. I would try to respond where possible or practical but I never kept the letters once I'd read them and or replied.
What was your most memorable MTV show that you presented?
Gosh too many, MTV was an exciting place in the early 90's but if only one then probably the most memorable would be the '120 minutes' special from the Glastonbury Festival 1993. Great weather, fantastic people, some brilliant music and I got to meet the Velvet Underground.
Why did you so rarely show your own videos while you were an MTV VJ?
As a presenter I was far more into sharing passion and affection for the videos/music so I enjoyed showcasing new material and any great sounds that people maybe hadn't yet caught up with. I guess having already enjoyed success in my own right as a performer I was less interested in trying to be the star of the MTV screen and preferred to let the music take priority.
What did you like the most about being a VJ? And what the least?
The people I worked around and with during the early MTV story most definitely made the whole period a joy. Not really a lot I didn't like if I'm truthful but I guess one forgets how those blocks of day time shift recordings working around the play list could seem endless on occasions.
What was the reason you moved from MTV to VH1?
The opportunity to become a full time producer.
What was your most favourite show to present (either for MTV or VH1) and why?
For MTV I'd probably settle on the '120 Minutes' series as a favourite mainly down to the production team I was working with in combination with the acts/artists I got to meet and see.
For VH1 I'd say 'Sounds of the Cities' again for the people I was working with on the show. Also SOTC was a nice combination of all my experiences/skills coming together be that presenter, writer, producer and even composing/recording the show's theme music. I wore many hats at VH1 ha ha but great learning curves.
Which artists did you enjoy most to interview?
Really too many in this category but in the interest of supplying some kind of response I'll say meeting and working with David Bowie and Bryan Ferry, two of my key music influences as a teenager. Both proved charming, smart and open to work with - a real joy to be around.
How did you get from presenting into producing? Was it a natural career move?
Yes it was a natural career move but thanks mainly to MTV's open approach to television making in those days. I think more traditional TV production companies would not have offered the same opportunities to learn the job whilst doing the job but MTV was far more inclined towards the spirit and ideas behind their output as to opposed to necessarily supplying 'broadcast standard content'.
What is the most interesting part of your current job as an executive producer (i.e. what do you like most about your job)?
Same combination as some of my earlier answers regarding my television career and actually my experiences as both performer and recording artist. The best parts are seeing ideas or projects you're passionate about being developed and worked into full productions that hopefully go on to be appreciated by a wide audience. Then along with that process which can sometimes be months or even years in the making it's a pleasure when you also get to work with talented, bright and enthusiastic people all pulling in the same direction, aiming for the same goal.
Do you still present TV shows sometimes? If not, when was your last TV presentation and on what occasion?
I stopped presenting in 2005, I actually found I didn't have enough time to give this role its required commitment.
I enjoyed presenting when I could spend time thinking, listening, researching, writing and really getting inside the material I was working with.
The further I moved along the producer path moving onto responsibility for running teams, shows, series, channels I found myself turning up as presenter not properly prepared for the task. Even though I had gained enough experience to bluff my way through a presenter gig I would watch the work later and feel uncomfortable with the result. So for the time I felt it better to call a halt.
My last presenting role would have been VH1's Official Chart Show.
What was your motivation for appearing in TV ads promoting CDs?
I liked the producer who made the job fun and it was a chance to work in Sweden where I had friends all of which made for an attractive incentive along with the wages of course ha ha.
But seriously it was complimentary to be approached for the project based on my knowledge and appreciation of music and kind of interesting to see yourself over dubbed into various international languages from Africa to Asia and beyond.
I confess I hadn't appreciated how omnipresent they would become or indeed for how long the adverts would keep on playing. I knew it was a three year option but I had naively expected the rotation levels to dip off in six months after initial sales instead the CD's just kept on selling so they took more rotations on the advert across more channels and more territories for what seemed like six years.
What role does music play in your life at the moment?
As large as ever. I'm currently back in the recording studio, this time as a producer working with an Electro dub-pop collective called Birdhouse.
Hopefully material will be completed and ready for a wider audience by start of 2010.
What music do you listen to nowadays? What bands of today do you like best?
Everything and everyone that comes under my radar really. I've been investing in a lot original Jamaican dub material from the 70's that I used to own and lost down the years so lots of Upsetters, King Tubby and production work from Joe Gibbs which has been inspiring to re-engage with.
As for new acts/tracks currently enjoying Calvin Harris, Lilly Allen, MGMT, Vampire Weekend, M.I.A, Fleet Foxes and still have last albums from LCD Sound System and Radiohead on high rotation.
Although I’m very reluctant to ask anything personal, I’ll try a subtle one. In what direction is your ring pointing?
The ring is facing inside. I've been very happily married for years with a family of three and a boxer dog called Ted who's completely spoilt but supplies hours of delight.
Do you still get recognised in the street by fans, and do you like it?
I do and it's usually always pleasant and fine.
What do you think of the current 80’s revival (with bands reforming, etc...)? *)
Totally fine, I'm looking forward to The Specials London shows and hoping to blag some tickets to catch Spandau Ballet come October.
The great thing about group reformations is the live shows are so celebratory from both audience and performer perspectives and you usually know every song that's played. Bonus.
What inspired you to finally have an official King website made?
I've spoken about it for years. I inherited the band's press and recording archives along with hours of performance tapes and photos.
The hold up has always been about having the time to sort through it properly and oversee the digitising into relevant media formats.
I realised that it's not really something you could just pass onto a third party and expect them to fully grasp the value in all the material, you kind of needed to be there to help put all the pieces together and understand when certain photos or performances were more important than others.
Anyway the time became available and I was surprised at how rewarding the process proved to be. It's been an education getting back in touch with this period of my life.
Do you ever read what people write about you on Internet and if yes, what is your opinion of the quality of information about yourself on the net?
I don't actively seek it out but friends occasionally direct me towards things they've seen.
As for quality of information, well for the most part it's close to correct.
And finally, do you have any suggestions to improve the fan site I dedicated to you?
None at all I think you've done a grand job.
Many thanks to Paul King for his time and effort!
All questions by Audrey except those marked by *) which are by Iris from France. So thanks to Iris for her contribution.
Also thanks to Jonathan (UK) for making this interview possible.
© 2009 www.paulking.nl