An interview with Baxter Dury: Hastings Fat Tuesday 2020

Baxter Dury. Photo by Tom Beard
Baxter Dury. Photo by Tom Beard

Renowned indie singer-songwriter Baxter Dury is headlining the Friday launch night of this year’s Hastings Fat Tuesday festival.

The event takes place at White Rock Theatre on February 21 (doors 7.45pm) and tickets cost £21. Call the box office on 01424 462288 or visit whiterocktheatre.org.uk.

Baxter, the son of Ian Dury, is looking forward to performing his strange, soulful and deliciously dark tunes in Hastings, having heard about the festival from his sister Jemima who lives in the town.

The gig is also the first stop on his 2020 European tour, he tells the Hastings Observer, taking place roughly one month before the release of his new album The Night Chancers (out March 20).

“It’s the first gig for us,” says Baxter. “It’s kind of where we focus our craft on the gig, so it will be interesting. We haven’t played for a year and Hastings is always rewarding. It’s got a kind of old, honest, unglamorous but lovely nature to it.”

And Baxter will be supported by Hastings’ very own alternative rock outfit Kid Kapichi, who recently supported Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes on their UK tour.

“I don’t know about them,” Baxter admits. “But I’m intrigued...”

I ask about the upcoming record, an album that offers a collection of strange vignettes. Anyone who has read the official preview material will know that the descriptions are rather cryptic. “A ten-song gaze into the black hours and the characters and behaviours that swirl around within them,” says one account. “Failed fashionistas, Instagram voyeurs, jilted Romeos reeking insecurity, the willingly self-deluded, the comically unaware – the Night Chancers are the creatures, constructs and inspirations for the songwriter’s new album.”

“I don’t know if I ever really have an intention,” says Baxter when he’s asked about the artistic goal of The Night Chancers. “There’s no message set out. I’m only drawing locally from my own experiences and those around me to find a source of inspiration. It’s kind of micro-political and not necessarily about much that has a bearing on the global world. It’s more just about me finding a kind of environment that I want to talk about so I actually write songs. It’s all very vain basically. I’m just a very vain bloke and then I create a few characters to launder some of my behaviour through...or those around me.”

So are there any songs in particular that really stand out to Baxter?

“It’s hard for me to give you a review,” he laughs. “I can’t give you a four out of five review of my own music. But I can say there’s a song called ‘The Night Chancers’, which to me kind of encapsulates everything I felt very quickly. To me it’s a really perfect lyric and it’s quite an abstract song and one that was slightly alienating everyone that listened to it at first. But I fought for its right to stay on the album and consequently the album’s named after it.”

The record is the follow-up to 2017’s Prince of Tears and was co-produced by Baxter with his long-time collaborator Craig Silvey (Arcade Fire, John Grant, Arctic Monkeys). It was recorded at Hoxa Studios, West Hampstead, in May last year.

“I think sonically it completes a trilogy of slightly indulgent, narrative-based indie music with strings and stuff,” says Baxter. “I’ve probably taken that to wherever I need to take that and need to do something entirely different. I more or less write in the same way. I write accounting for how I’m feeling at that particular moment, I have a sort of free emotional channel of honesty so it just pours out.”

“There’s no difference in subject matter,” he adds. “But I think the actual style of it is me completing something I think I’m really good at.”

The same goes for the sound of the album and its instrumentation.

“I more or less refined what I was good at and I kind of excluded some types of instruments,” he explains. “It’s very simply constructed, efficiently executed and well mixed.”

“I didn’t use like an ancient Czechoslovakian oboe,” he jokes. “I stuck to the traditional set of instruments I’m used to.”

It was all remarkably quick, Baxter says. “I was in my game. It’s like when you’re a great golfer you start to be able to use the ‘third eye’.”

As Baxter explains, sometimes a golfer can just whack the ball, making it fly for hundreds of yards before it lands in a tiny hole.

“I was in that,” he states. “It was using my third eye.”

“My goals are always to impress myself first so I feel like that might impress somebody else, but I’m never sure really,” Baxter admits. “I just kind of go with what I feel I’m strongest at and go for it. And then I move on pretty quickly.”

Visit www.baxterdury.tv to see the new music video for ‘I’m Not Your Dog’.

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