RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW LONDON ARTIST REMI CHARLES
Hiya Remi, thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
I was maybe three years old when I first realised I had an aptitude for it. I was at my uncle’s house where my family was listening to this Japanese band called Anzen Chitai. I remember sitting on the floor, figuring out how to play the melody to one of their songs on this little plastic toy electric keyboard they had. My family went nuts. That’s when I knew, I had to do this.
Introduce us to you and your musical history.
I’ve been writing music as long as I can remember. I used to write “love songs” for my schoolyard crushes when I was six. These were just pieces of paper with lyrics on them. I didn’t put music to the lyrics until I was about ten, when I learnt how to jam out chords on the piano and guitar. My big influences back then were the artists I grew up listening to through my mom. Elton John, The Beatles, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson.
I started my first band when I was about eleven. We played pop punk.
My second band, Circus Audium, I started at boarding school when I was fourteen or fifteen. I’m still in good friends with those guys. We did more pop rock. We had a modest following in South America for a time.
I started my third band, Bad Mammoth, at university in London. We were a no-fucks-given riff rock band, and we had fun. We always put on a good show. We went on a hiatus for a while, and then reformed as Heavyman years later. That was my last project. We put out an EP during COVID, but I left the band a little while after to pursue my own thing.
And now here I am, doing something completely different.
What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?
I can’t recall. But one of my earliest memories from the age of two is dancing in the living room to “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John. That and “Never Smile At The Crocodile” from Peter Pan. I had a whole crocodile thing. Both those songs are very green to me.
I think I’ve always been fascinated with how music inspires emotion, and I wanted to be part of that. We would always sing in the car, and I would sing pretty much everywhere else. I used to obsess over the lyrics in the CD sleeve. So, at some point, I just picked up a pen and started writing.
I used to rewrite parody lyrics to well-known songs (like Weird Al) in the middle of family dinners, and then insist on getting up to perform them. I was incessant.
Eventually, a musical uncle of mine (the family friend kind) took me under his wing and started buying me my first recording gear. Starting with a minidisc recorder, followed eventually by a Korg D8. That was a game-changer.
Where do you feel you currently sit within the music industry?
That’s hard to say. Most days I feel very much orbiting just outside of it. It’s a brutal industry. But the music I’m making now feels more relevant than stuff I’d done in the past. I suppose what I’m doing now might be described as dark soul alternative pop.
Or something catchier. But I’m terrible at sticking to one thing. I get bored very quickly. I’m hoping to build a reputation for being multi-faceted musically, in a way that works. I’m trying to find a way to blend my love for soul, Motown, singer-songwriter, pop-rock, dance, psychedelia, and cinematic music to distill my experience of the human condition into a single drop. It’s a work in progress.
What’s the biggest thing you have learned from someone else in the industry?
Don’t do it for the money or the fame. Do it because you love it.
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.
I have a PhD in Literature.
I fell off a twenty-foot boulder and walked away with no serious injury.
I was in a life-and-death situation with five hyenas.
If you could wish for one thing to aid your career what would it be?
To be a more confident vocalist. I’ve got years of bad habits I’m trying to undo. It’s hard.
Do you ever worry about people taking things the wrong way or cancel culture? Discuss….
I do worry about cancel culture. Not so much when it comes to myself—no one knows who I am. But I think the very idea of cancel culture is a dangerous one. Sure, people may behave in ways and say things we may en masse see as untoward. But I think the key to a fair society is one where we can engage in discourse and work things out together.
Do we really want a society where everyone thinks exactly the same way? We’ve all seen ‘Ants’. And ‘A Bug’s Life’. How else will we evolve? Or create new and interesting works of art? Life is a struggle between order and chaos. Completely eradicating a person’s right to have a different opinion is reckless and equally if not more untoward than the ideas people are trying to cancel. And you’ll only cause more division.
You never know another person’s backstory and how they got to where they are until you ask. There’s usually a reasonable explanation. And you’ll only ever change their mind if you ask. If you’re right, you may change their mind. If you’re wrong, you might learn something.
I say cancel “cancel culture”. The right to protest is the same right as the right to having a different opinion. Free speech.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories? If not why not?
I’m open to any theory provided there hasn’t been any irrefutable evidence to the contrary.
What was the worst experience on stage?
I remember my first gig a long time ago with my last band Heavyman. I was so nervous I almost completely lost my voice before the gig. I was heartbroken. The gig still went well, but I know I could have been much better. The mind is a powerful and often unruly thing.
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about.
I can jump pretty high. It’s the Jedi training.
What makes you stand out as an artist
I’d like to think my vocal performance is quite dynamic. I’m not exactly the vocalist I want to be…yet. But I do have range.
I hear you have a new music, what can you tell us about it.
Yes, my new EP is out on 20th October. It’s really a single, ‘Succession’, with a B-side, ‘Sugar’.
I started writing both tracks during the pandemic, and they’ve both gone through numerous iterations.
‘Succession’ is a dark alt track that starts off moody, but then reaches dancelike jubilation. It’s about becoming who you were always meant to be. It’s sort of a self-rallying message.
‘Sugar’ is more like a soul track. Super stripped-back and heart-warming. This one’s about not being sure you’ll ever get what you want, but wanting it anyway.
What was the recording process like?
The recording process was fine. It was the production and arrangement that took forever. Mainly because I’m in the middle of learning to produce, mix, and master everything myself and it’s new. But it’s exciting. I think I’m getting more confident with my choices.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
I learned that I am my biggest enemy, and it’s my inherent laziness that does it.
Take the bassline for ‘Succession’, for example. It’s the backbone of the track. I laid down the bassline in a hurry because I was so enthusiastic, and I loved what I’d played. But when it came to mixing, I couldn’t get it to sound right. The frequency range was limited, and I started to doubt myself. I wondered if it was poor playing on my part, or if I was just a terrible mixer.
Then my friend asked me how old the bass strings were when I’d recorded it. That’s when I remembered they were over a year old.
So I’m not a terrible musician or producer. I’m just an idiot. And failing to prepare foundationally has proven to be my downfall time and time again.
I’ll remember that for next time.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
Yes. But that’s a slippery slope. So I try not to think about it. Otherwise, nothing would ever be finished. Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Plenty. But I’ll get to that when it’s recorded and ready.