King Size Slim: This here is a tricone resonator guitar. It has a steel body and a wooden neck. And inside of it’s three spun aluminum cones. Like speaker cones. It is a mechanically amplified instrument. It’s quite loud. And it was designed for rooms just like this. Big, boxy, resonant rooms. With your kind permission, I would like to do my 30 minute set entirely acoustically in the manner in which this guitar was designed. Is that all right with everyone?
King Size Slim: It kind of changes the rules a little bit. It all becomes about physics. If this is not loud enough, you need to come slightly closer. And if this is too loud, you need to go further away. And if you want to chat during the next half an hour, you need to go quite a long way further away. Maybe over the bridge, into Whatley. There’s a pub there, I’m sure. Just playing that, so I had to stop.
Nick Bloomfield: Nick Bloomfield.
King Size Slim: Hello.
Nick Bloomfield: King Size Slim.
King Size Slim: Good morning. All right? How have you been?
Nick Bloomfield: We’re sitting in a pub. We’re just over the yardarm, I think.
King Size Slim: The sun is definitely just over the yardarm. I can see it over there, just out of shot. It’s definitely over there, yeah.
Nick Bloomfield: We’re in the garden at the Jenny Lind, which is a place of momentous beauty, as you can see.
King Size Slim: Slightly overgrown right now. Sunshine and rain.
Nick Bloomfield: The gardener’s on holiday perhaps.
King Size Slim: I believe so. I think he is. As you say, it’s that early July holiday he’s having.
Nick Bloomfield: Okay. When did you start playing music? At what age were you?
King Size Slim: Oh I was eight when I started playing guitar. Classical guitar. My mom sent me and my brother for guitar lessons with a little old lady around the corner who played guitar called Miss [Stebbins 00:01:37]. And I learned then, from eight. And then, when I was about 12, I got given an electric guitar. And that was when the fun started.
Nick Bloomfield: Did you love this straight away?
King Size Slim: No. No, I didn’t. I was certainly more adept at it than my younger brother. But I didn’t enjoy… I can’t remember enjoying it. I was a kid, having to think about where your fingers are going. It was really boring. Electric guitar is a lot more immediately fun than classical guitar. Obviously musical instruments, they both have their place. But for a 12 year old kid, getting a guitar and amplifier is loud, and brash, and you look like a rock star. So it certainly got easier.
Nick Bloomfield: So there was initially sort of the rock star attraction thing?
King Size Slim: Yeah, I suppose so. Yeah.
Nick Bloomfield: We all go through it, but some of us it’s in front of a mirror playing air guitar.
King Size Slim: Oh I did that. I had a guitar. It was still in front of the mirror. Same thing. Yeah when I was at school, so when I was about 13 or so, I got into bands with friends at school. So I had a friend who played drums, and another one who played bass. So we’d get together, do gigs at school, and fight, and all kinds.
Nick Bloomfield: What was the name of this first band?
King Size Slim: That band was called The Rivals.
Nick Bloomfield: The Rivals. That’s a good name.
King Size Slim: Yeah, it’s a good name, that. Now it’s been used, I’m sure. But we did all kinds of covers, and some original stuff, rock and roll covers.
Nick Bloomfield: You played with The Selecter.
King Size Slim: That’s right.
Nick Bloomfield: Was that in the days when Pauline Black was with them?
King Size Slim: Well Pauline Black is The Selecter, pretty much. Yeah, she’s always been in there. She’s never The Selecter. So yes. I played with her between 2001 and the beginning of 2005. So four years ish.
Nick Bloomfield: In terms of genre-
King Size Slim: It’s difficult to pin down. I mean obviously it fits under the blues banner, and roots, and Americana, and kind folky. But it doesn’t fit particularly comfortably in any of those genres. But I can play an Americana and get away with it. And I can play a blues festival and get away with it. We call it heavyweight acoustics, which is suitably vague.
Nick Bloomfield: I like it.
King Size Slim: (singing).
When I left school, I started getting into bands that did really the holiday camps and the ferries, going out of Portsmouth to Santander, and Spain, and France, and Ireland, and all those kind of places. So professionally, pretty much straight after I left school. I went to school in Broadstairs, so, you know.
Nick Bloomfield: What made you move to Hastings then?
King Size Slim: Well I moved out of Kent to Brighton, initially. Because there was going on in Brighton. I mean there’s more going on in London, but I never really fancied living in London. There’s too much, and da da da. So I moved I to Brighton. And then I did about eight or so years there, I think. Perhaps a bit longer. And I had to move out of where I was in Brighton anyway. And I came over here to do a gig at a bar called The Street, which is no longer here. Parisian style café bar. And a friend of mine ran it. And he got me over to do a gig there. It might have been a [inaudible 00:04:46] there, or something like this. A celebration thing. And I just looked around and thought, it’s all right here. I could… And then I looked in an estate agent window and thought, “Ah. I can afford this.”
So I moved here, and I’m really glad I did. I didn’t know much about the music scene. I knew there was a music scene. But not as rich as it is now. So it was quite a surprise, really.
Nick Bloomfield: And when you won that award in 2014 for the Emerging Blues Artist.
King Size Slim: Oh yeah. British Blues Awards, yes.
Nick Bloomfield: Did you think at that point, that would make any difference to your career?
King Size Slim: Yeah. Yeah, it has.
Nick Bloomfield: It has made a difference?
King Size Slim: Yeah, things like that do. It’s a thing you can put on the poster, or a thing you put in the promotional stuff. So instead of saying, my email’s going out, “Hi, I’m King Size Slim, I’m great. Book me.” I can say, “British Blues Award winner. Da da da da.” Banners across the top. And it makes people listen. Another thing like that is Glastonbury. So if you play Glastonbury, you can put that on the CV, and it makes people, “Wow, he must be amazing, he’s played Glastonbury.”
Nick Bloomfield: You have played Glastonbury.
King Size Slim: I have played, yeah, twice, yeah. But it really works. I played there once, headlined the Avalon Stage on a Saturday night with The Selecter, which was a cool gig, back in the day. And then three or four years ago I went and did it on my own. Few shows. Carrying the guitars in a wheelbarrow around.
Nick Bloomfield: Brilliant. So then of course 2015, just a year later, on New Year’s Eve, you played support to Queen.
King Size Slim: Yes.
Nick Bloomfield: Not the Queen, but to Queen.
King Size Slim: No, not the Queen, thankfully. Queen the rock band.
Nick Bloomfield: Yeah.
King Size Slim: Rock band. Yeah, it’s a strange old gig for them, really. On their terms, it was an intimate gig. So it’s only 2,500 people. Which for me is quite big. And it was a New Year’s Eve, and it was a televised thing on the BBC, and essentially they had 45 minutes to kill. I had played a show a few months before, and a couple of members of the production company that put the Queen gig on were at this gig. And we got chatting, and they said, “If we ever need someone, we’ll give you a call.” So they did. So I played support to Queen, which was cool. It’s all right. 2,500 Queen fans, and I got away with it.
Nick Bloomfield: That’s very good, actually.
King Size Slim: Yeah I’ve done loads of support stuff.
Nick Bloomfield: Did Geno Washington, of course.
King Size Slim: Did Geno, yeah. He’s cool. He is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. He’s just cool. It oozes out of him. Lovely bloke.
Nick Bloomfield: I don’t know how old he is, but when I was 15, he was already a mature star.
King Size Slim: Yeah. Yeah, I mean he’s getting on a bit. But he’s still got it. He still rocks. Really does. Still got that great presence about him. He’s brilliant.
Nick Bloomfield: How do you see the future for you in terms of music?
King Size Slim: I’m going to keep doing this. Keep playing, and keep doing what I’m doing, and keep writing music, and keep gigging, and that’s the way it goes.
Nick Bloomfield: So basically you’re happy with your lot. Okay you’d like more, but-
King Size Slim: Of course I’m happy with my lot. No, who is? No, in terms of that, I’d like to be playing more theaters and slightly larger venues to ticketed audiences who are there to enjoy the music. And maybe do a few less pubs. That would be nice. Yeah.
Nick Bloomfield: If you’re in a pub, a lot of the time, you’re probably not being listened to, as such. Not specifically.
King Size Slim: Okay.
Nick Bloomfield: How would you respond to that?
King Size Slim: Well quite directly, and I’d get them to listen to me. I don’t see that as a problem. I see it as a challenge. I’m a solo show, so it can be quite tough to grab an audience. But that’s my job. I mean, don’t get me wrong. There are gigs sometimes, particularly some pub gigs, where I try, it’s not happening, so I’m just background music. And that’s fine. I’m just playing my music, doing my thing. But most times, I can grab the audience. And that I think is a really good place to learn to do that.
Nick Bloomfield: I saw you do that in Eastbourne, actually. Because-
King Size Slim: Where was that?
Nick Bloomfield: At Sovereign Harbour, you know?
King Size Slim: Oh crikey, yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Nick Bloomfield: What was good was, because a lot of the people who go for these restaurant kind of music evenings, they’re there with their friends, and they’re just talking, and drinking, and making their own noise. And you can easily become background music. But you kind of took them by the throat.
King Size Slim: Yeah, well they’d paid to get in to see a band.
Nick Bloomfield: And you had them all singing, and you really did a great job of pulling them round, really.
King Size Slim: Thank you.
Nick Bloomfield: But I think to achieve anything, you’ve got to be able to sort of speak to the audience very directly.
King Size Slim: You have to engage somehow, yeah. But there are many different ways to engage. My route to engage with an audience is quite showbiz really. It’s very little to do with musicianship. It’s about performance and theater, I suppose. But you go and see other acts where they don’t actually say anything, or say very much. But what they do is effective, and it’s succinct, and their act is about being self. Being able to be a smaller thing that people have to look at. So there are ways of engaging without shouting, “Hey, how are you?” It’s possible to do so.
Nick Bloomfield: Talk to me briefly about audiences now.
King Size Slim: Yeah.
Nick Bloomfield: My impression has been, when I go to these things, whether it’s up in Liverpool, or down here in Hastings, or anywhere that I’ve been, is that mostly, the audiences for the live shows, that I’ve seen… And I’m not talking about pubs now, are older.
King Size Slim: Okay.
Nick Bloomfield: I would say in excess of 50 years, generally.
King Size Slim: Yeah, I agree with you.
Nick Bloomfield: Which means, worryingly, that the future of music is not as sure as it might be, if we find that the youngsters are not going to live music.
King Size Slim: Okay, I think… I play a lot of shows in different places. And I do get, I’m going to say kids, in their twenties. They’re not kids at all. They’re adults. But I do get people in their twenties coming along and really liking what I’m doing. And it depends gig for gig. Generally speaking, what you’re saying is true. But it depends on where I’m playing. I’d say that if I’m playing blues festivals, then the demographic is pretty much as you’ve explained, with a few exceptions. But if I play a mainstream festival, for example, then there’s a much better mix of crowd. I don’t think live music’s ever going to die out, if that’s what you’re worried about. I can’t see that happening.
Nick Bloomfield: I kind of equate it to America in the ’30s, when the original blues musicians were out there on the road, their guitar slung over their shoulder, walking between towns. Playing outside speakeasies, and that sort of thing, for a few coppers. But they did it, because that’s the only way they knew how to make any money. And it’s all they wanted to do. And you’ve kind of got that kind of vibe about you. Not quite so penny pinched perhaps.
King Size Slim: Yeah, you’re right.
Nick Bloomfield: But the sort of general-
King Size Slim: I don’t know, have you seen the state of this. I could do with a new one.
Nick Bloomfield: It’s the most beautiful guitar, obviously, that I’ve ever seen. How many gigs do you think you play a year?
King Size Slim: Oh, well this last year I’ve kind of slowed down a little bit. Actually the last two years, I’ve kind of backed off a little bit from playing all the time. Because I’ve got a young family, and I just fancied a bit of a change. But until two years ago, I was doing 150 shows a year. So this year it will be about 100. Maybe 110.
Nick Bloomfield: Still about two a week.
King Size Slim: Yeah. Two or three a week, that’s what you want to be doing. I do, yeah. So that’s when it’s a living.
Nick Bloomfield: And basically you live from your music earnings.
King Size Slim: Yeah.
Nick Bloomfield: You don’t have any other income at all?
King Size Slim: That’s what I do for a living, yeah.
Nick Bloomfield: You’re not a secret millionaire-
King Size Slim: No.
Nick Bloomfield: No, no. Okay.
King Size Slim: No, no. If I was, we’d be drinking champagne, not beer.
Nick Bloomfield: We would, because I like champagne.
King Size Slim: (singing).