Power lists his mum, JSA, fashion powerhouses, and talks the state of the world with Dummy.
Elliott Power: "This image of Nick Kamen is from his 1990 single Agony and Ecstasy, taken by Mark Lebon and reworked by Nick's brother Barry Kamen. It was the visual precursor to the artwork for 'Once Smitten' that I'd done with Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones, with design by Ben Drury.
I found a 7" single of Nick's song in a charity shop on South Ealing Road, and though I didn't care for the song, the artwork spoke to me. I went home and looked up the names on the back of the sleeve - I was already familiar with Mark Lebon's image making - but I knew nothing about Barry Kamen, which made me delve deeper into Ray Petri's Buffalo and connect all the dots.
I reached out to Barry Kamen, who I wanted to do the album art originally. We had several meetings, but unfortunately, it never worked out due to scheduling, but he gave me a photo of his brother Nick, on one of the several trips I made to his studio. Unfortunately, Barry Kamen passed away in October 2015.
Rest In Peace, Barry."
Elliott Power: "'Once Smitten' has an industrial undercurrent throughout that was informed by Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails. Every aspect of the Nine Inch Nails project is considered and coherent; the live show, the artwork and the videos, as well as weird little pieces of additional content and promo."
Click here to watch Nine Inch Nails' Woodstock '94 performance.
Elliott Power: "It sounds lame to say "my mum" but she was the first tastemaker in my life. She introduced me to Bjork, Massive Attack, and Radiohead, she would play their music while doing the dishes as I sat in the front room playing with Lego.
She exposed me to pop culture and counterculture from the beginning, hence why my album draws from so many different places, but still manages to be a full coherent body of work."
Elliott Power: "I'm from the outskirts of West London (Brentford) and for those who don't know it well, it's near Heathrow Airport and very Ballardian.
I was introduced to J.G. Ballard by the artist Karborn and in my opinion, he's one of the most important writers of the 20th century. His recurring dystopia and Brutalist themes can be found in cinematic masterpieces like Blade Runner and Akira. They impacted me from a young age, and inspired the more brooding areas of the album, and its overall film sound throughout."
Elliott Power: "When I was finishing the back end of the album in 2013, Phantasy released Daniel Avery's debut album 'Drone Logic', Andrew Weatherall had been championing Avery for some time, but I was blown away on its release.
You don't really hear many techno LP's that hold up as solid, coherent journeys from start to finish, and this is one of that does. I also saw Avery b2b Wetherall around the same time; that was pretty sick."
Click here to watch Daniel Avery's All I Need video.
Elliott Power: "Jason Chue aka Wookie is an unsung hero in British electronic music in my opinion. Maybe not unsung, but should be held in much higher regard; especially because songs like Storm and VCF were prototypes for grime and dubstep before grime and dubstep.
Wookie was ahead of his time; his production was unpredictable and sophisticated with great basslines and arrangement. Wookie takes you on a journey with his songs, and I try to apply that idea of a journey to mine, because of this man.
Thank you, Wookie."
Elliott Power: "The visual aspect of the Elliott Power project is just as important as the music. In the packshots and on the album cover I'm wearing both Yohji Yamamoto and Comme Des Garcons; I love the ethos of both designers and how both re-appropriate images and meanings.
It's all about making subtle statements and flying under the radar but with a slight rebel attitude; you don't always have to shout to be heard. It's the understated attitude and model of longevity that has impacted me and been applied to this record both physically and in spirit."
Click here to watch Yohji Yamamoto's short documentary This Is My Dream.
Elliott Power: "Although going into to Hounslow Job Centre fortnightly wasn't a lot of fun, the day to day rut of mundane unemployment was a breeding ground for creativity and the frameworks of my album were born out of the year and half of unemployment. The writing was cathartic for me back then and still is now.
I remembered being in a nice house in Belgravia, mid-week all-nighter and said, "Shit I need to go, I have to sign on." People laughed; they thought I was joking and they didn't realise that was actually part of my life. These were the good old days just before they brought in the online JSA stuff, so I didn't actually have to look for a job, and I could piss about with my mates, make music, etc.
Thanks to the state and the taxpayers for looking after me, I appreciate it, I'm a taxpayer now. I was in between worlds back then, in a sort of limbo, I'm kind of still in that limbo. It's healthy, I think."
Elliott Power: "Mo'Wax was a foundation of how I wanted to curate a whole world, so James was one of the first to brand every aspect of his life and make it bigger than just music. Although Mo'Wax aesthetic is different to mine, the attitude and the energy is the same; James recognised that when we met back in 2014.
It's crazy to think that someone I once looked to as reference point is now one of my peers, and shares the same passion and enthusiasm for my album - so much so he wanted to put the Mo'Wax stamp of approval on it. Thank you, James."
[Pictured is Dorian (Mïnk), Elliott Power, and James Lavelle on the Murmur video shoot. Photo by Toby Dye.]
Elliott Power: "When I first saw the video for Clipse's Grindin' back in 2002, I can honestly say it changed my life. It was gangsta rap over this weird hip-hop production, with this skater guy (Pharrell) in the video.
The whole thing made no sense, but complete sense at the same time; I could relate to that scenario - being alternative but around roadman - and being accepted for being me.
Off the back of Grindin', I then got into N.E.R.D. and all the great Neptunes productions that would dominate MTV Base throughout the early to mid-'00s."
Click any of the images above to launch the gallery.
"So R.I.P. SoundCloud then? Yeah, that just isn't going to work. I think if you set up something for free that you then make people pay for, they won't pay for it. It doesn't work. What is going to get better? How can you justify that now it is worth money? It's hard to make your product worth buying when it was once free."
An hour before my conversation with Elliott Power, news broke that - after a long protracted affair - SoundCloud and Universal Music Group had reached a landmark deal that will see UMG gain revenue through the streaming service. Power is at home in Brentford, and our chat is set to the backdrop of an evening when we've both been at full-throttle all day. As darkness descends our energy and memory fail us; for the best part of 15 minutes, we're trying to remember the surname of a mutual friend (Tom) that introduced us to one another. "That's what I love: word of mouth," he says, and then laments the indifference of online culture by expounding his experiences of reaching out to like-minded people who ignore his messages. "People don't like things anymore, and that upsets me," he sighs. "Nobody is a fan of anything; or, they're afraid to say what they like. That's what I wanted Elliott Power to be."
But, we're still trying to remember Tom's surname. Eventually, I send him a picture of Tom, and he explains that his friend Dorian (Mïnk) studied music with Tom at college. "Dorian is the magic," he says. "I am merely the driving force, the art direction, and the world, and Dorian is the musicality. I kind of curate and orchestrate, but Dorian is the technicality behind Elliott Power; he did the string arrangements and instrumentation for the record, and when you see the vinyl, you'll see how much he is credited. There is no Elliott Power without Dorian."
After waxing lyrical about his best friend and putting to bed Tom's surname (it's Connolly), we begin to discuss the real Elliott Power.
Following what you just said, initially, people described you as elusive and mysterious and I guess I'm guilty in believing too!
Elliott Power: "I think there is a misconception about me; that I'm a recluse or an anti-social person, but it accidently happened that way. I didn't exist online and had no interest in existing on the internet. I wasn't expecting to be a musician; I was doing photography and had a demo that got into the hands of people at [BBC] Radio 1 and from there I was having meetings with people at labels. I always loved music but as a listener. I went from being a listener to someone messing around with music and then eventually it sort of become a job. I say sort of because how we monetise music now is a grey area. I'm almost like an apprentice recording artist [laughs]. There's only 1% that is getting money.
As soon as you find an artist, you can Google them and find out everything about them; where they went to school, their mum's maiden name, their national insurance number; everything! In the age of information, there is nothing more exciting than not giving anyone any information. At the same time, I appreciate that you have to feed before people eventually switch off."
Your label [Marathon Artists] has an ethos that is evident in their name - it's a marathon, not a sprint, so they're not going to make anyone an overnight star. What they're doing is a long-term project similar to how Stax Records fostered their musicians.
Elliott Power: "I'm romantic about music, but at the same time, you have to eat. It's tough, but there's got to be a way of making it easier for independents. Everyone is suffering. At the end of the day, you want to make music but there's always a balance between art and commerce. There have to be compromises along the way, and I don't mind making those.
I finished this record in 2014, so I've been sitting on it for two years. It's frustrating because publicly it looks as though I've put out sporadic singles and disappeared. I've finished half of my next record in Paris. I recorded it in Francis Bacon's old studio. My girlfriend's dad [Michael Peppiatt] is an art critic and when Bacon died, he left him the studio in Paris. Whenever we go to Paris, we stay there because her parents live in another part of Paris. So inevitably, I asked to record there and usually, I just jump on the Eurostar and hang there for a couple of days.
I don't get this whole idea of London being the epicentre anymore. It just seems like such a dated notion. There needs to be another Factory Records. There doesn't appear to be a community or scene; no-one has to physical meet up if you can just make it look like there is one on the internet."
I find it interesting that you discuss your identity separately. You've referred to Elliott Power in the third-person during this conversation and only say I when you talk about you as a person.
Elliott Power: "Yeah, because Elliott Power is a commodity. In my teen years, all I wanted to do wear was street-wear and I bought into that because it seemed attractive and suggested a sort of lifestyle. It's the world we live in now. People don't understand that just playing the guitar isn't a job that exists anymore."
I noticed on the album that you mention chess, samurais, swords, etc. in a similar way to how Wu-Tang Clan did in the past.
Elliott Power: "Dorian and I have been listening to a lot of East Coast rap - Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang - so we have been referencing that a lot in the production and heavy drums. But on record two, there're a lot of Oriental and Shaolin references. The first record hints at that and on the second, we've run with it as a theme. Even stylistically, I've started wearing hoodies when in the past I was a little clean-cut there's an urban edge to my attire. Subtlety, though - I don't think you'll see me in Fubu or a basketball jersey. It's the little nuances and signatures.
I made Sword Souls in 2011 and at that time, I was watching samurai movies and listening to Björk's 'Homogenic' a lot. Katy England's artwork and styling have Björk as an Oriental queen, and the sound is industrial with an eastern twist. As a kid, I was into manga like Akira so it's funny that these references have come back full-circle."
I bet you're bored of speaking about an album you started in 2011.
Elliott Power: "I'm so bored of rehearsing songs that are so old. When I delivered them, they were old. In their first form, some of them date back to 2010. In the last two years, I've tried not to listen to the songs too much, but I heard the test pressing the other day and it brought tears to my eyes. I was like, "Shit, me and Dorian made this together" -but I'm not a musician! I can create and curate a world, know who I want to work with, and dictate what I want, but I'm still amazed that you will pick the record up in Rough Trade or Phonica.
It's hard to keep my energy up while living in the past. As an artist or a musician, you constantly have to do that. What makes me happy about the situation is that the songs haven't aged badly; they're like a bottle of wine. I can appreciate them now I'm older. Sometimes I surprise myself by thinking that what I've done is beyond me. I'm not an intellectual person and I didn't strive at school - I got a degree, just about - but the cliche is true: if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.
I've never had a singing lesson in my life and I write melodies just by feeling. Anyone that I admired - bar Björk because she is a classically trained musician - like Goldie, James Lavelle, or even hip-hop artists, there's a DIY attitude with them. Sometimes not knowing or understanding gives you an advantage; you approach them in a different way. You're not formulaic and you're free because you don't understand. I think Björk said to Tricky once, "Don't ever learn because what you do is interesting", and at that moment, I decided I wasn't going to learn either!"
Can you tell me about your family heritage?
Elliott Power: "My mum is half-English, half-Irish, and my dad is half-Nigerian, half-Trinidadian. A lot of people think I'm Spanish or Portuguese and don't identify my mix. I think that I look like the future. I think everyone in 2050 will look like me. Everyone is having mixed-race babies and you don't meet anyone these days which is 100% English - especially in London."
People are beginning to see what you look like, so I appreciate what you're saying.
Elliott Power: "I have people asking if I'm Philipino and tourists in the street speaking Italian or French don't understand that I'm English. If I go anywhere in the world - I'm not particularly well travelled - I can blend in. I think that's the future.
Check out Elliott Power's influences in the gallery above.
Elliott Power plays Dummy Presents: Mo’Wax and Marathon Artists on January 21st at Miranda, Ace Hotel London (free with RSVP). Elliott Power releases his debut album 'Once Smitten' on February 26th through Marathon Artists/Mo'Wax (pre-order).