~ Interview mit Joe Payne ~
Joe Payne war von 2011 bis 2016 weit mehr als nur Sänger der britischen Legende THE ENID. Dann fiel er in ein tiefes Loch, aus dem er sich mit der Arbeit an seiner Solo-Scheibe ´By Name. By Nature.´ herausgekämpft hat. Befreit von vielen Fesseln der Vergangenheit, konnten wir mit ihm einen längeren Plausch führen. Hier im Originalwortlaut nachzulesen. Enjoy:
Hi Joe, are you really THAT JOE PAYNE, because of the two footballers also named Joe Payne?
Hahaha! This is something I’ve always found very funny, that I share my name with famous football players, only because I have absolutely no interest in the sport whatsoever! I suppose you’re asking if I added the „that“ to differentiate myself? The truth is it’s more about how I always felt people must look at me; a kind of self-deprecating humour. In the UK, if you want to gossip about someone, it is common to add the „that“ before the name to imply a negative connotation. Over the years, I’ve been at the centre of a lot of controversies with my work, so I always felt it was appropriate to try and laugh about it in this way.
Do you ever want to be something other than a footballer or a singer?
I can’t see myself ever in a million years wishing to become a footballer, but being a singer was really something I was born to do. I get a lot of gratification from other forms of entertainment, too. Acting and dancing, for example. But I don’t think I’ll ever stop singing!
What other dreams did you have of your adult life during your childhood?
Ooh, I was very keen to go into acting. I think people assume I mean musical theatre when I say that, but that is really not the case. I loved abstract performance pieces, mainly. So, I wanted to sing – like a pop or rock star – or become an actor. I was lucky to land on my feet with a job in rock-music during my early 20s, and I guess I’ve stayed committed to that path.
Who were your idols, in the music world or elsewhere?
It’s quite a complex mixture, but I’m sure every artist will tell you that! I guess the adventurousness of pop-songwriters like Freddie Mercury, Kate Bush, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel and people in that vein were always a real love of mine. But in contrast, the people I was more interested in for their singing style was vastly different. I’ve always been a big fan of athletic female voices, like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. Of course, as a child I was also very conflicted by my ambitions, wishing to be seen as a great classical composer and the male equivalent of Britney Spears at the same time. If that’s not a good explanation for my sound and style, I don’t know what is! Haha!
May I ask you, if you’ve always been so open about your sexual orientation?
Well, I officially came out on my 18th birthday, about 13 years ago. I told myself „ok, you’re an adult now. You need to just be brave!“ But it wasn’t something I found very easy to accept. I carried a lot of internalied homophobia, which I suppose you could say is normal for any young gay man of my generation. You are constantly battling stereotypes and stigmas, to the point where you will do anything to make sure your sexuality doesn’t define you. You make sure you dress straight, act straight, talk straight, all just so you can say „see, we’re not all different, we’re just like you“. But I began to realise that this is not a helpful mindset to have. It only reinforces bigotry. So, now, I wear my sexuality with pride, setting a positive example to everyone that being yourself can bring joy to others. It’s a shame it took me until the last few years to realise this, but I’m glad I did.
And how did you get into music, when did the fever seize you to listen to music? Or to make music yourself?
As I said before about wanting to be an actor, that had actually been my first career choice, but it didn’t quite work out – I was forced to drop out of university to take care of something at home. Determined to continue channeling my creativity in other ways, I decided to focus on music, singing for bands, writing some bad songs, stuff like that. So, I started making my first studio recordings. The studio I chose to record at happened to also be the home of THE ENID, an old progressive rock band. I showed an interest in their music, symphonic rock, as I love anything that could be considered classical-crossover. I guess they also saw my potential, because next thing I knew they had invited me to run their record label and office. Suddenly I was their new lead vocalist and co-writing songs. It all happened so fast!
When did you finally decide to become a singer?
I’m not sure I can really call it a decision. It was more of a destiny, really!
You had one of the world’s leading teachers of classical voice, Paul Farrington, training you in opera singing technique. When was that?
Ah yes, Paul is a really fantastic teacher, and a really kind man. He taught me so much, in what was actually a very short period of time! I was wishing to make an operatic album with THE ENID – The Bridge, 2015 – to push myself further vocally, and I guess I was also trying to prove something to my more sceptical fans. At the time, I had already developed quite far under the tuition of a pop-vocal coach who is also one of the top voice specialists in the industry – Kim Chandler. Her advice was that I go to an opera specialist if I wanted to do something more operatic, so she put me in touch with Paul. I would now say it’s a combination of both their teachings that give me the sound I have developed!
You’ve been with THE ENID for five years. In retrospect: was it a good time?
I’m sure it’s the same story for any band. People have their differences, fall out, break up… But it’s quite a unique story for me with THE ENID, or at least I think it is. They invited me to take on a lot of responsibilities, essentially running the companies – record label, tour management, fan club, etc – and then also made me the front man. Most of the pressure was on me, so I was always stressed. Managing the unmanageable. We lived together in a studio, which was basically a commune for the band and roadies, and we lived and breathed our work. In that scenario, none of us had anything to call our own, no time to ourselves, no financial freedom. It’s seemed like a great experience and opportunity at the age of 22, but by 27 my mental health couldn’t take any more of it, and I had a breakdown. There’s not a lot more I can say without making any personal attacks, but I’d certainly say it’s the reason I’m a solo artist now. The thought of joining a band as anything but a „guest vocalist“ makes me very anxious!
Did you actually get any hostility from THE ENID followers?
Oh, yes, I had fresh hate-mail in my inbox pretty much daily! But it’s important to remember that the vast majority of people getting in touch were actually very supportive. The haters were realistically only in the minority, but when you’re dealing with it every day, and it’s so hurtful, it’s easy to let it take over your mind in a negative way. Fortunately, I seem to have nothing but happy well-wishing fans these days!
Did they find you too bad or wasn’t it about the music at all?
Well, all I know is I changed everything I could about myself to please them. But some people can’t be pleased. I think all those negative people just wanted the band to stay locked in the past. I may have taken it personally, but honestly, I now think it wouldn’t have mattered if it was me or someone else, the same thing would have happened to anyone in my position.
You were in the band when Godfrey wanted to drop out/retire because of his Alzheimer’s Disease. How did you experience these times before you left the band yourself?
Wow, you know what? I actually find this quite difficult to answer. In some ways I don’t want to say anything that is too divisive or upsetting for others. At the same, it’s also still quite painful to look back on. It obviously wasn’t a very happy time for me, but luckily I’ve done quite well to move on now. On that subject though, it was quite interesting to learn that Robert’s Alzheimer’s was a misdiagnosis all along…
Were your expectations towards THE ENID too high, or maybe the others didn’t recognize your artistic potential?
I think there’s a balance you have to strike in any group of people. You have to make some sacrifices to allow room for the needs of others. It’s fair to say that I learned a lot from my experience in the band that has helped me develop. However, I’d also say that there wasn’t really room for me to develop any further without flying the nest.
Would you still be in the band today if you hadn’t gotten ill?
No, I don’t think I would still be in the band. To be honest, even if that environment hadn’t made me seriously ill, I would still be pining to do my own thing. By the time we did ´Dust´, I felt like I was trapped and that I was being held back in many ways. It was very clear that THE ENID weren’t happy for me to do a solo project, let alone collaborate with anyone else externally. I feel like leaving that band is an inevitable choice you have to make, which probably explains how they’ve had so many members come and go over the years.
Have there been any incidents in the past few years that have driven you into depression?
You know what, since the initial breakdown I’ve been making continuous progress. Ups and downs over the years, but it’s better every time, and I can tell you that right now I’m in the best place I’ve ever been, mentally!
How did you get past this low point? Or are you not out of the tunnel yet?
I’m definitely out of the tunnel now, thank you! I guess it just took a lot of strength to make some positive, but not very easy, changes. After that you need time to heal, and I suppose for me I needed about four years. It sounds like a long time, but I know some people in my position would need a lifetime, so I feel blessed in that respect.
Could at least other people help and assist you?
Two of my main rocks were my partner Max Read – producer of my album – and my best friend Duncan McLaughin who also performs guitar on ´By Name. By Nature.´ They were both in THE ENID at some point, too! I keep them very close, and it’s thanks to them that I got help. They basically dragged me to the doctor!
Do you have tips for other people in the same situation these days?
Looking after yourself is not the same thing as being selfish. You might carry a lot of guilt about the changes you need to make, and although worrying about the needs of others is commendable, make sure you take some time to be kind to yourself, too. It’s the same logic as on an aeroplane when they say „put your oxygen mask on before helping someone else with theirs!“
Did writing / composing help you during this time?
Absolutely, it’s been very cathartic.
During this time you also composed ‘By Name. By Nature.´?
Well, funnily enough, the title track is a song I’ve had in my head since my time with THE ENID. It took me years to write it down. I guess I was always quite nervous for people to hear it, as it’s very personal. There’s a lot on the album that took courage to commit to, and I suppose that’s the main reason why it took me so long to finish.
And this album is now the mixture of pop, rock and opera, the unique crossover à la THAT JOE PAYNE! Was your goal only focused on the solo work, or did you also think about to sing with another band?
I stayed very busy with collaborations. In the time it took me to finish my own album, I also got involved with an album for the French band ZIO, and appeared on two albums for UK writer John Holden. I enjoy collaborating, and I also enjoy performing with other people. I’m open to working with anyone if I think the music’s good!
Now I want to give you two names, you should prefer one of them and maybe justify why:
Ludwig van Beethoven or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?
Beethoven! I find his music a bit darker, but I’m still a Mozart fan, too.
QUEEN or YES?
Queen! I don’t think there’s a single song by Yes that I could sing along to… sorry!
BEACH BOYS or BEATLES?
Beach Boys, but not the surfer stuff.
John Lennon or Paul McCartney?
Are we talking music or personality? Cos my answer might be different… haha.
Wembley Stadium 1985 or Sydney Opera House?
Wembley Stadium 1998 – Spiceworld Tour! (Don’t hate me, I’m a child of the 90s!) I had the VHS…