Cyrus King is not a man who enjoys having time on his hands. As the brains behind one of the most intense new projects in UK rock This Be the Verse, one couldn’t blame him for looking for some downtime after the lengthy process of creating TBTV’s dramatic and ever-challenging self-titled debut releaed last month. However, sat in his London flat he is already in the middle of putting together a new song.
“The plan is to get 20 songs together then choose the best ten, then start writing the vocals which will be different for the way I did it first time,” Cyrus explains. “This time I want the lyrics to be very focused like a concept, so that’s why I’m leaving them to the end, but all the while I’m thinking about what I want the concept to be, whether it’s very focused or something like ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ which is about everyday anxieties and problems. We’ll have to see.
Evidently, This Be the Verse is a project with a lot of scope to it, but for Cyrus, making music has become a way of life. “For me, it just comes naturally. If I don’t do it, I go insane. I get agaitated and I’m not happy, so getting the album out has made me much happier and now that I’ve done it, it feels like a huge achievement and I want to do more and more and more.
“What I’d love to do is to put an album out a year over the next ten years. It would be insane by today’s standards, but musicians I love like Prince and David Bowie did it.”
Cyrus is unashamed in his level of ambition, but his ability to talk the talk is matched by the craft displayed on TBTV’s debut. As Cyrus is responsible for all the lyrics, instrumentation and production, it contains a lot of reflection both personally and on a wider scale. “A lot of those songs are personal and it had to be because when I first started writing, the personal stuff was on the top of my mind. It was quite cathartic which helped me a lot,” Cyrus says. “Then after that, I addressed a lot of wider issues that were bothering me. I was thinking to myself it was an exercise because this is something I want to do for the rest of my life so I was thinking about what are the kinds of things I want to address in the future that piss me off because when I’m pissed off, that’s when I write the best.”
You don’t have look far to realise there is a lot in this world worth getting pissed off about. In the case of Cyrus, abuse of human rights in the name of oppression and religion has inspired a lot of TBTV’s lyrics. Most specifically, closing track ‘I Am Charlie’ is a reference to the rallying cry heard across the world last January following the tragic Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. “Everyone’s been picking up on that song. I guess because it’s so raw and it’s so blunt”, Cyrus says. “Maybe I could have dressed it up and disguised it more like I did on ‘Unveil’ but that one’s really raw and in your face, but the music is as well, the vocals are really dry. But [The Charlie Hebo attacks] were just something to me that made no sense at all and were completely ridiculous. I was just saying what I feel and what a lot of people feel.”
As well as lyrically, a personal touch can be felt in the music of TBTV, which takes it’s cues from the most in-your-face brand of hardcore, the enormous riffs of Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon and rich industrial soundscaping, a testament to Cyrus’ craft in production. “I’m a big fan of techno and house music, I’m a DJ myself and I like journeys,” he explains. “You listen to albums like ‘Deloused in the Comatorium’ by The Mars Volta or ‘Lateralus’ by Tool and they flow” he says. Considering the fashion in which TBTV’s album begins to pick up more on electronics before reaching the track ‘Alone’, a claustraphobic piece of pure industrial music as intense as any heavy riff on the album. “Maybe from the beginning, it wasn’t intentional but once I had all the songs, it was important that they flowed. ‘Rabbithole’ is one of my favourite phrases when listening to music, so by the time you reach ‘Alone’ it is meant to be fully industrial.”
“Moving forward, it could be the case that one of the records I make is entirely electronic. I might have to be in the right environemnt to make it, maybe after living in Berlin for a year. This album, however, has a range of influences, but I wanted there to be a sound which is always there, which is kind of moody, deep and intense.”
An album with as much finite detail and unique character as ‘This Be the Verse’, it is a breath of fresh air when the landscape of UK rock has been shaped by a number of groups in the past few years who have had big hooks to their songs, but not much else to say, and Cyrus acknowledges this. “There are still loads of amazing bands, but these bands aren’t getting the media spotlight they deserve, or they are living in a very underground world. I’ve been listening to this band called Head Wound City who are fucking amazing and bands like Black Peaks are brilliant and have a sense of character, but the bands that are getting the spotlight, for me are pretty crap.
“I think a lot of those bands are about being in a scene and posing, I’m not into that at all. I’m into genuine art but for those guys it’s not in their agenda. Credit to them though, because they’re playing huge crowds but it’s sad that that’s what’s being used to represent rock music in the UK, just because it can get played on Radio One.”
For Cyrus, rock is in need for a band to infiltrate the mainstream with a hit that brings the masses to them. “Can you imagine if System of a Down didn’t write ‘Chop Suey’? Instantly everyone loved them, and they’re one of my favourite bands, but had they not written that, they wouldn’t be so mainstream.”
“Nine Inch Nails had ‘Head Like a Hole’, Faith No More had ‘From Out of Nowhere’ and Biffy Clyro had ‘Mountains’, but that’s what you need to cross you over into the mainstream. But those guys all toured it and slogged it hard and now they all headline festivals.”
With the commitment he has to TBTV, Cyrus sees no reason why he couldn’t be the one that writes that breakthrough single. “I’m going to sound so full of it, but I know I can write a catchy song. If you listen to ‘How Can You Sleep’, I can write a catchy pop song. It’s not that easy to, otherwise everyone would be doing it, and everyone would be minted, but there’s other things that come into it.”
“You could write a really catchy song, but it might be released at the wrong time, but in terms of writing the music, I have a lot of confidence in myself.”
But until that time comes, Cyrus King’s main objective is to work away with This Be the Verse, continue touring and be in a constant mode of writing, recording and producing. “The main thing for me is to keep writing and I’m just greatful that people are connecting to it, which is all I can ask for right now.”
‘This Be the Verse’ by This Be the Verse is out now.
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)