PAUSE caught up with Aston Merrygold before the Topman Design show to grab some insight …
PAUSE Meets: Bilal
Where many have shifted into the world of grime and house, Bilal is flying the flag for the soul genre. Working on a new album which includes the likes of Kendrick, we grabbed Bilal for a chat the morning after his London gig so we could find out more behind the man of soul.
How does it feel singing a genre that is rather unrepresented and giving it a modern twist?
That’s what my music is all about, taking risks and stretching the landscape of what can be done.
So your music is kind of within you we guess. How did you start, without sounding cliché, finding your sound?
I started doing the album in 2001 on interscope and that was pretty much the beginning of what I do. My later albums stretched out into experimental electronic rock thing, but still mixing soul into it as it has a heavy influence and R&B and jazz pretty much.
What’s it like to have Kendrick on the new album?
It’s dope! I feel like Kendrick is an old soul and he really speaks to a lot of things my music represents as well so it was really easy and dope. Kendrick brings that young energy to me and gives my music a new relevance.
Jacket: Christian Lacroix, Trousers, Scarf & Shirt: Gant Rugger
After your London gig last night, are you looking forward to the rest of the tour in Europe?
Yeah absolutely. I love touring in Europe. The crowd seems to like it when we stretch out. I’ve been in the industry since 2001 and I come to Europe every year.
Talk us through what we can expect from the new album? How long did it take to craft?
It didn’t take no time really as I’m in a really creative space. It took me about six months to put the record together. The record was produced by Adrian Young and I’ve known Adrian for about a year now and pretty much as soon as we got in the studio we were just doing music, up to like three songs a day.
So what advice would give to new artists coming through?
Find yourself. Be yourself. Don’t let anyone change that shit after you’ve found it. Everything encompasses everything, the style, pushing the sound. My music pushes the sound as they work together. As for the industry, it’s changing, so you’ve just got to have your own thing and form it well so it’s easily understood.
What do find yourself wearing a lot of the time?
A lot of the time I put myself into a different headspace, a movie role vibe. Like at the minute I feel like I’m from Warrior, the 80s, wearing a lot of cut-off jeans and shit, old school 70s gang look.
Biker Jacket: Samsoe, Jumper: Samsoe, Trousers: Gant Rugger
Does your fashion change on and off stage?
It doesn’t really change that much because I pretty much I like to stay in the same vibe from off stage when I go and perform so it’s all me.
Casual or formal?
Casual, but I can go formal!
So tell us about your hair, because everyone wants to have his or her own individual look and you have one!
The hair is an old blues hairstyle that I got from Robert P. Johnson. I pretty much straighten it with a high comb and then I take a bunch of wave grease and smash it down. It’s an old blues hairstyle.
What do you think New York does differently in terms of fashion in comparison to the UK?
I don’t know, I feel like the UK is pushing everyone into a certain look, sleek almost. It’s like that way all over the world.
And what are you looking forward to for the second half of the year?
Just touring and getting the music out there. That’s pretty much the focus at the minute.
Coat & Jeans: Gloverall, Denim Shirt: Blue Collar Worker, Boots: Christian Lacroix, Frames: Cubitts