TR+ Extended Version – Welcome Back: Big Boy Bloater
The British R&B kingpin talks about scary gigs, killer robots and his fightback from depression.
Big Boy Bloater has been around the block. Through the 90s and noughties he was the nearlyman who gained a cult following for his fusion of vintage/modern R&B, fur-ball vocals and black-comedy lyrics about bad strippers and hating your girlfriend.
Now, following a new deal with Dutch heavyweights Mascot Records – and his more rocking label debut Luxury Hobo – the Boy looks set to get bigger.
Is it better to slog your way up rather than be an overnight success?
Yeah. In these days of X Factor, where people are elevated to huge superstars over six weeks, I just don’t think they’ve got the longevity, because you haven’t had all the hard knocks playing pubs and clubs. It teaches you a lot, about the music business and about yourself.
I remember one gig, I didn’t even want to get out of the van, it looked so bad. It was a bikers gig, on their own private land, lots of guns around, very scary. They were tapping on the windows. I eventually did the gig – and they absolutely loved it. We won them over. I can’t see an X Factor star getting out of the limousine for that.
Journalists struggle to categorise your music. How do you see it?
I’m always getting the blues label. I think there’s a bit of blues in there, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on as well. I dunno. Labels: are they that important? I think it’s whether you like a band or not. A lot of the guys that I like, they wouldn’t put themselves in a niche market. I guess it makes it easier for PR people to say: “Oh, I’ve got an acid-jazz-reggae-funk album here.” But if you don’t define anything too much, people have to actually sit down and listen, which is a good thing. For Luxury Hobo I was listening to T. Rex, Mott The Hoople, lots of Nick Lowe, early Elvis Costello. I think you can hear it.
What’s the song Robot Girlfriend about?
This guy makes himself a robot girlfriend. The true definition of the word ‘robot’ is ‘slave’. And that’s basically what she is. She does everything for him, but he treats her so badly. Y’know, when he wants to watch TV he just switches her off. Eventually he leaves her outside in the rain, and she malfunctions and puts her fist through his head.