Boxed In Interview: Oli Bayston on London’s Club Culture, Max Ernst and The Creative Process

October 25th 2016


  • Boxed In :: Interview with Tanya Bonnie Rae

“When I originally conceived the project, I wanted to come up with something very specific. I saw this Francis Bacon painting, ‘Head VI’. It was described by an art critic as “the operation of which the entire body escapes through the mouth”. And that, to me, was a description of creativity and songwriting. I guess by creating a very specific electronic project, with only a few composite parts, I wanted to try and break out from within that by expressing myself from inside a metaphorical box.”

Oli Bayston is the brains behind UK electronic project Boxed In. Initially a solo project by the producer, singer and songwriter, Boxed In has since expanded into a four-piece live band. Their second album, Melt, was released last month via Nettwerk Records. Bayston took some time to speak with Tanya Bonnie Rae about what inspires this project, challenges in the London club scene, and making a video with laughing pensioners.

There’s an undeniable pop sensibility that powers every Boxed In track, and it’s no surprise, given Bayston’s history. Prior to this project, he played keyboard on Willy and Steve Mason’s most recent LPs, and was one quarter of an English rock band called Keith. Despite having worked with a plethora of well known international artists, as well as having just played at Glastonbury for the third time, Bayston still remains eternally critical of his work.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be completely happy with anything I’ve done. I think ultimately both Boxed In albums have left me feeling very very happy with what I’ve created, but there are definitely things that I would change. The moment you believe that you’ve created something perfect is the moment you should give up. I think a lot albums are actually ruined from people just taking too long with it. A lot of the best creativity happens within the first few moments, the spontaneous moments of creation.”

Many of these moments of creativity were heavily inspired by an art comic book by Max Ersnt, which Bayston has based over 20 pop songs he’s written on.

“That particular book, Une Semaine De Bonté, has just inspired me so much with writing. What I really love is the translation of mediums. So often I’ll take lyrical inspiration from images rather than words. There was a time where I was songwriting a lot, where I’d just have a load of art books just around, open, in my living room, the kitchen and the bathroom – and that particular book was so evocative to me. I think the combination of the real and the surreal just brought up so many concepts, metaphors for my everyday life.”

There’s certainly some very real, and very surreal, elements in the video for ‘No Joke’. Bayston worked with German artist and fashion photographer Juergen Teller on the clip, which features a laughing therapy class in Kolkata.

“A friend of mine is a video director and he was working with Juergen Teller up in India. He was walking in a park and saw a sign for ‘the laughing society of Kolkata’, and thought maybe this would be an opportunity to take quite a literal approach to the ‘No Joke’ video. So we went along to this weird meeting in a park at 6.30am in the morning, and it turned out to be some sort of pensioner yoga class/laughing club. We decided to ask if it would be alright to film them – and they were more than happy for us to do so.”

On a more serious note, Bayston shared his thoughts on the diminishing club culture in UK after the recent closure of Fabric.

“London’s nightlife has been affected beyond repair already, to be honest, but Fabric closing is just the final nail in the coffin. Club culture is at worst dying, at best it’s just sort of forming into a new generational trend.

“I think the conditions in which Fabric closed, and the fact that there was probably a physical approach by the council to try and shut it down, is indicative of the situation that we’re in – trying to homogenise society, not just in London but in most capital cities around the world. That’s quite cynical, but generally I think it’s a case of club culture just changing and being marginalised.”

This rhetoric is far from new to Sydney night-owls, as our city’s cultural landscape continues to shift since the introduction of lockout laws. Offering a more positive insight, Bayston added:

“It’s nice to move on and not rest on your laurels. I think people should just accept that the new generations aren’t so into going clubbing… They’re more interested in house parties, which is fine. You can have as much fun in a house as you can in a club.”

Listen to the full phone interview with Oli Bayston above.

‘Melt’ is out now via Nettwerk Records / Footstomp Music.