The Kaje talks “Shrug” to Mr Fogg

Having first come to public attention in 2005 with the self-released single “Giving In”, Reading’s Mr Fogg could easily be described as an electronic DIY guru. In a music industry that seems divided by those that align with the big labels and those that don’t, Mr Fogg certainly ticks the latter box. Having spent the past few years fine tuning his debut album “Moving Parts”, Mr Fogg finally decided it was ready for public consumption in April. An intriguing Athlete meets Calvin Harris melange ensures Mr Fogg stands out from his contemporaries. As Mr Fogg prepares for the release of the single “Stung”, The Kaje took a moment to find out more…

“Stung” is the third single from “Moving Parts” – can you tell us a little bit more about the track?

“Stung” is one of a few songs on the album that has gone through several incarnations. I wrote it a few years ago now and have re-recorded it over and over again to try and get it right.  For the album, I ended up starting again almost from scratch so it has changed quite dramatically over time.

Lyrically it was inspired by a news story that broke around the time I wrote it, but I try and get to the core of the emotions at the centre of the story rather than concentrate on specific facts or details. So hopefully it means something to you even if I you don’t know what I’m singing about.

How do you decide which tracks are single worthy?

It’s difficult. I’m very much an album person, and I put the record together to be listened to all the way through. But I think the singles tend to choose themselves from how people react to individual songs on the album.

How representative of “Moving Parts” is “Stung”?

“Stung” is definitely at the more upbeat end of the spectrum, but it has various elements that are kind of “trademark” Mr Fogg sounds. Like the way the bass and beats work – I quite often use more than more than bassline at once and “Stung” is a good example of that.

Mr Fogg is an unusual name. Is it a tribute to Phileas?

It’s a nickname that came about naturally because my first name is Phil, but I chose it because I wanted something that separated me from the music and because early on it suited me to be anonymous.  I only told one or two people that I was Mr Fogg until the songs started getting played on the radio and people worked it out for themselves.

Just a quick look at your MySpace shows everyone that as well as music, your image is very art driven. How important is the combination to your project?

One of the advantages of using a pseudonym is that it allows me to create a whole world around Mr Fogg.  The album was the starting point, and then everything else takes its lead from the music.  But I think if the visual side is done right it can really enhance the impact of the songs. So, for example, each song from the album has an abstract film to go with it, which I project during the live show.

You are a multi-instrumentalist – how many of the instruments did you play on “Moving Parts”?

I played everything on the album except the brass and strings.  So I played various keyboards, drums, bass, guitar and did all the programming of the electronics. Because of the way I work, the writing and recording processes merge together and I have learned to play all the various instruments through necessity – so if I am working on a track and I have an idea that needs the sound of a real drum kit I don’t have to phone up a drummer just to hear what it sounds like. The fact that I am a solo artist also means that I don’t offend anybody if I delete that part later on.

Is there an instrument you haven’t mastered, that you would really like to?

I’m not sure I have mastered any of the instruments I play yet, but I would love to be able to play the trombone. It’s the one instrument I use a lot where I have to get somebody else in to play it, and because I don’t play it myself it’s less certain whether my ideas are going to translate.

Who would you say have been your biggest influences?

My two biggest influences are Radiohead and Bjork. It’s certainly where I got my taste for experimenting with electronics, but I also think they both place the song itself at the centre of everything – it’s not experimentation for experimentation’s sake – which is what I try to do.

Is there anyone who you would really like to collaborate with?

I enjoy collaborating with people from other styles of music. For example, there is a string remix on the “Keep Your Teeth Sharp E.P” by the Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds, and I have also recorded a version of “Stung” with a chamber choir. I think you learn more by working with people from a different world to your own. 

You launched earlier this year with your own pop-up shops – what inspired the idea?

I wanted to play a show in London that could reflect all the elements of Mr Fogg – the musical side, the video side, the artwork side – but I couldn’t find a venue that interested me.  In the end, I happened to be walking past an empty shop in Soho and had the idea of renting it for a week.

Because I essentially created my own venue, I was able to build the whole experience around Mr Fogg – from the way the shop was decorated to the signs and fittings to the music.

It was also great to be able to strip away any hype or gatekeepers and be able to play to people who had literally walked in off the street. People were coming in with no preconceptions and so were more open to whatever was about to take place.

Do you have any other novel methods to help establish yourself?

I have been working on a way of taking the Fogg Shop on the road. Creating some kind of mobile venue that I can decorate and take over completely in the same way as the shop, but that also allows me to play anywhere at any time.

What can we expect from Mr Fogg over the coming year?

I’m about to go on tour, doing 7 or 8 shows around the UK in August and then I’m doing a couple more festivals and a live session at Maida Vale for Radio 1.

Later in the year, I’m starting a dual residency in London and Oxford that allows me to explore the different ways of doing a Mr Fogg performance.  So one month might be acoustic, one might be solo electronics, one might be with my band.

Hopefully, the mobile Fogg Shop will also be up and running this year.

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