Sitting in Blue Daisy’s studio, it is easy to see why it’s named ‘The Gas Chamber’ a windowless space proving quite cramped with all the pianos, organ and other miscellaneous instruments. This place could become hot boxed in no time but it is also easy to imagine some pretty productive music sessions going on here. Blue Daisy aka Kwesi Darko explains on the way up how there’s a good creative community and vibe, with Mount Kimbie also working in the building, creativity must simply beg in the air. We’ve taken some time out- skates off- from The Jamz Roller Disco that’s kicking off, conveniently located just below his studio in Hackney Wick.
Despite being relatively new on the scene with his debut track ‘Space Ex’, released in 2009, Blue Daisy has had a number of noteable successes including working on a track for Tricky and supporting Public Enemy. His sound has been likened to Burial and Massive Attack, but has a darker, more sinister edge. A number of his tracks such as overnight hit ‘Fuck a Rap Song’, include Kwesi rapping, in a loose form, with a distorted, perplexing sound.
His most recent EP ‘Mermaids’ is loaded with high emotion, disturbed unrest and delivered with sincerity. He explains how important it is for his tracks to come from a real experience. “From my first release to now, I always try to have that normal relation. I remember Alan Moore, the comic book writer, saying that if you are ever going tell a story make it a story that has some kind of truth so it resonates with the listener. I know what the experience is about, but it’s about how the listener interprets it. That’s the thing with the arts; art is a thing where everyone interprets it differently.”
‘Home and Heartless’ the opening track, he explains, resulted from the end of a seven-year relationship and ‘‘going a bit wayward… getting high and drinking too much.’’ The title track, ‘Mermaids’ features a sample taken from a voice note that he received from his ex-girlfriend quoting, ‘Mermaids are real’. “When I received it, I though it sounded sweet and I just started playing keys on a kind of mermaids-vibe trying to make it more beautiful.”
‘Mermaids’, featuring South London’s Lizbet Sempa (“…aged just 18 yet full of soul”) , begins to showcase Blue Daisy’s diversity, less dark than his previous outputs, yet equally as charged with emotion. “’Mermaids’ shows a new angle, not just mad noise, some of my noise can be quite composed,” he remarks. “’Angels and Demons’ is about my life experience growing up but not in the typical cliché way… I think that’s why I release so sparsely before I could make a tune that will mash up the club, but it would be a spur of the moment thing. The stuff I’ve released now, I know I will listen to ten years down the line and remember that mode and mind-set I was in. That’s why I’m so picky to what comes out, because everything is related to me on a personal level.”
He explains how wrangling with the label over the latter tune, put the EP on the backburner for short while. “It’s actually an old EP that was supposed to come out a few months ago, but I had a problem with the label. There’s one track that didn’t get used. There was a bit of conflict because it was probably the biggest track on the EP, they just didn’t know how to direct it.” Although unwilling to compromise on his artistic vision, Darko was contractually forced to release the EP and has therefore been shocked by the response he’s received. “I’ve had people contacting me saying how much they’re feeling it and people hitting up my manager wanting to do sessions, it’s crazy.”
With a completely unique sound, it’s clear that this is not an artist who’s simply following trends. “For me I’m just in my zone in my world, I don’t really care about new stuff or keeping up to date, I listen to what I listen to, unless I know them personally. You can just step out of that zone, it’s like not being part of that situation but being on the outside then stepping back in.”
Having spoken about the need to interpret real experience, the converastion is directed to where this high emotional energy derives from. “I’m not an emotional person as it were. If I were to say sit down with people and try and open up, I’d be useless; however, that’s why a lot of my problems or issues go straight to music, before last year I wasn’t really writing, I was just making sounds and getting people to feature. It got to a point where I thought I wanted to express it from a different angle and that’s where we are now. I’m not at all a musician, until I was about 18 all I cared about going out on the road, smoking and fighting until a grave situation with my brother made me open my eyes.”
Blue Daisy describes growing up in Camden in Regents Park Estate. “Round the corner there were all the posh houses, George Michael, (ex-England manager) Sven Goran Eriksson, literally just behind the estates, but in the actual area we didn’t have much. We wanted to have what they had, so we would do stupid shit, things we shouldn’t. I’ve always been an outcast – or at least I’ve seen myself as one, I always see how a situation occurred and I think that’s how its got me out of it- me being able to see a situation rather than just being a part of it. I could have easily ended up in jail…I’m blessed to be here.”
Going back to where he grew up, he describes his motivation to give something back. “When I have the young ones around and they see me coming on a different vibe now, I always talk to them and try and let them know there’s a whole world out there – let them know that I’ve been there and lost friends through that life.”
He describes how things are opening up now, with the internet playing a big part in young people having more opportunities than ever in the music scene. “It’s mad. It’s all about life choices and having that open mind. My mind was opened through music. I was born in London and went to Ghana when I was two years’ old until I was about six, since then I had never been on a plane. So when I had my first release and gigs started coming abroad, I didn’t have a passport. I couldn’t fly. My whole thing was London and my area. As I branched out into music more and more, I was realising how much more there is out there. There are a lot of people who come from under-privileged backgrounds and haven’t had that opportunity or those influences from society you know they just hear ”I’m making a grand a week from fraud,” or whatever, so they choose that option and don’t progress or see the bigger picture in life.”
Having pulled himself out of the mire through music, he’s now focused on keeping himself open to as many artistic directions as possible – something that should come through strongly on his new album. “The new album is a lot more colourful – a bit more accessible in a sense. In terms of sound it’s not as dark. There’s not only rapping, but a lot of singing too and a lot of keys from here (his studio). I’ve used a lot more authentic sound and I feel more comfortable using live instruments now – especially keys. With the old label I hadn’t been in a space where I felt as creative; I was in this stagnant mode where I felt like I needed to compromise. They’d say ‘lets make a radio song’, but I’m not a radio artist.”
Despite possessing a strong musical and visual identity, Blue Daisy’s creativity and direction is completely organic. “Creatively, I haven’t been taught anything, I’ve just taught myself and done it that way. The ‘Psychotic Love’ video is my direction debut. I always have a vision and I could have gone further with it, we were on a budget but I’m getting into it more and more.
Wherever the creative madness is coming from: a troubled path, a form of escapism – characterised as an outsider artist perhaps, Blue Daisy shows no signs of reaching a plateau- his sound appears to be developing, maturing and reaching new levels of originality. It seems this album will be another chapter in a compelling story.
You can keep up to date with Blue Daisy via his official Facebook page.
Interview: Asia Huddleston
Photography: Jordan Troy