Oliver Sim: ‘The best way I handled disgrace up to now hasn’t labored in any respect’ | Indie

Few indie musicians have made the sort of affect on pop music that Oliver Sim has. With the xx, the band he based as a young person with Romy Madley Croft and Jamie xx, Sim has received a Mercury prize, topped the UK album charts twice and performed on a few of the largest phases on this planet. In the meantime, the xx’s distinctive, minimalist tackle R&B and indie-pop was infiltrating the mainstream: by the mid-2010s, you might hear fragments of their musical DNA in songs by Rihanna, Beyoncé and Drake.

In September, Sim turns into the final member of the band to step out as a solo artist with Hideous Bastard, an album of ragged, off-kilter pop and post-punk that explores queerness, masculinity and disgrace. That includes vocals from Bronski Beat’s Jimmy Somerville on opener Hideous – which offers with Sim’s HIV analysis at 17 – and manufacturing from Jamie xx all through, it’s an album that, refreshingly, elides the empowerment/self-hatred binary that many pop data from LGBTQ+ artists appear pressured to suit into.

There’s a lyric in Hideous that I feel actually will get to the guts of the report: “Radical honesty / May set me free / If it makes me hideous.” Was that concept a guiding gentle as you had been making the album?

I feel it had change into one in my day-to-day life. I used to be beginning to come to the realisation that the best way I’ve handled stuff up to now, particularly disgrace, has simply been making an attempt to regulate it – managing how a lot I’m exhibiting and the way a lot I’m holding on to. And it hasn’t labored in any respect. I’ve been doing that my complete grownup life and in my teenagers as nicely.

I’ve change into a believer in sharing stuff. Disgrace and worry thrive on secrecy. And that’s how, for me, it’s grown and mutated and [given me] a warped perspective on issues. So I began opening my mouth socially, and it spilled its method into music.

Oliver Sim, Romy Madley Croft and Jamie xx AKA the xx.
Distinct … Oliver Sim, Romy Madley Croft and Jamie xx AKA the xx. {Photograph}: Suki Dhanda/The Observer

You actually dig into horror analogies on this report. What does it imply to you to evoke characters equivalent to The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Invoice and American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman?

I simply love them. Rising up, I undoubtedly wasn’t an motion hero, and I wasn’t a Disney prince. The characters in horror, these monsters like Buffalo Invoice, Patrick Bateman, Norman Bates, excited me, as a result of I feel all of these characters have both a repressed femininity or queerness about them. I’m not a psychopath, however I used to be like: “OK, that’s possibly a bit extra of what I see myself as.” That and in addition a class of ladies I’d name “feminine rage”: girls equivalent to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sigourney Weaver in Alien, Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween and Sissy Spacek in Carrie. These girls possessed a bunch of various qualities in a single person who I didn’t suppose I used to be allowed to be, which was to have femininity, but additionally be offended and on the market. So the monsters and the “closing women” [in horror] had been those that spoke to me essentially the most.

Buffalo Invoice and Patrick Bateman faucet into this concept that self-importance is one thing that makes you grotesque, which is one thing that you just reckon with right here.

In American Psycho, Patrick Bateman has that monologue whereas he’s doing his 15-step skincare routine, and he says you may shake my hand, it might really feel heat, however fairly merely, I’m not there. Let me stress once more, I’m not a psychopath. However I feel that monologue is so relatable, about carrying a masks indirectly. When I’m making an attempt to current myself as superbly as attainable, it’s usually for a purpose, and it’s usually to cover one thing I’m feeling. This report is making an attempt to push a few of the ugly to the forefront.

What’s your private queer canon – the books, artwork, music, icons you return to time and again?

Any person who has meant increasingly to me is John Grant. I feel he possesses one among my favorite qualities, which is the flexibility to be darkish and speak about probably heavy issues, however be humorous in his music as nicely. I feel [maintaining a sense of humour] is a hack to coping with life.

And undoubtedly Jimmy [Somerville]. Jimmy, as a voice, has at all times been round – earlier than I knew who he was and what he represented. Turning into a fan, [I realised] what he represented – being a beacon for many individuals, not simply round HIV and Aids, not even simply round queer individuals, simply for those who felt a bit “different”.

There are movies of him on YouTube within the early 90s on breakfast tv speaking about issues that no person needed to speak about – he was repeatedly saying: “HIV”, “Aids” and “homosexual”, and he was saying this to British households consuming their breakfast. I assumed he was a fearless individual, however having bought to know him, he’s not that – he is filled with worry, which makes every little thing he has performed a lot extra significant.

Sim performing at Coachella in 2010.
‘This report is making an attempt to push a few of the ugly to the forefront’ … Sim acting at Coachella in 2010. {Photograph}: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Are you able to inform me a bit about working with Jimmy, and his presence on the album?

I received’t speak about Covid for too lengthy, I feel everyone seems to be a bit bored with it. However early on in isolation, I realised I wanted to talk to individuals, and I wanted to talk to folks that I love and possibly haven’t spoken to earlier than. Jimmy was high of my listing. I messaged him saying: “Hello, Mr Somerville, my title is Oliver, I’m a giant fan, how are you doing?” And sort of shaped a relationship.

A part of my reasoning for wanting him on Hideous was that I needed some emotional help and steering. Once I got here to him with the track, I hadn’t solely made my thoughts up about whether or not I used to be going to place it out. I believed he was going to be … like: “Sure, it is a good factor, we should always do it.”

However he was very mild on me, saying: “Solely do that for those who really feel prepared, if you wish to – I’d like to be part of the track, however don’t really feel like that is one thing you need to do.” He’s been by way of loads, and he may be very darkish, however he’s additionally simply so savage and humorous.

Earlier than Jimmy got here into the studio, he stated: “I’m a 60-year-old man; don’t expect me to hit the excessive notes like I used to be within the 80s.” However the second he began singing, I cried. And Jamie [xx], I feel, was holding again tears – as a result of his voice is unbelievable, and hasn’t deteriorated in any method. If something, it’s stronger than ever.

Jimmy has taken care of me loads. I communicate to him each different day and he has been very beneficiant with me. He was part of the horror movie I made, and he allowed me to cowl him in glitter. I haven’t had many relationships till the previous few years with older queer – I received’t say older! – extra skilled queer individuals.

Popping out and singing about being HIV-positive have to be difficult these days, particularly whenpersons are given a burden of illustration. Once you had been getting ready to launch Hideous, how did you navigate ensuring it was at all times for your self?

I went to Coachella earlier this yr, and I seen that midway by way of most acts’ units, they become a life coach, or a preacher. It was shocking seeing that there was an obligation to be a voice, versus simply taking part in songs.

Once I made Hideous, I met up with the Terrence Higgins Belief, who’re a extremely huge HIV and Aids organisation. I went into that assembly saying: “OK, what’s all the most recent info that I would like, put together me for every little thing.” They usually stated: “Maintain on – you’re not a healthcare skilled. You’re not geared up.” You already know what I imply? I’m a musician. They stated: “Positively speak about your experiences and your emotions to no matter diploma you need, however you don’t should be that individual.”

Additionally, I’ve made an album about worry and disgrace to unburden myself – however I nonetheless have worry, I nonetheless have disgrace, I’m not a completed product. I don’t need to put myself able the place I’m making an attempt to current myself as one. I’m on a journey – however I’m keen to speak. To a point.

Hideous Bastard is launched on 9 September (Younger).

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