Monday, 28 July 2014

LAST TRAIN FROM SILVER STREET: Our interview with Lester Clayton!

Below is our exclusive interview with London-based street folk artist Lester Clayton!
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What was your first musical memory and what pushed you towards pursuing a career in the record industry?
"My first musical memory was being a little kid maybe four or five, hanging around my dad's friend's Reggae Stall in Notting Hill... I was always surrounded by music and remember playing piano when I was tiny! So I was never pushing the 'industry' I just grew up in and  fell in love with the culture and could always remember seeing music that could make people smile and dance as a beautiful thing."
What kind of records were on around the house when you were younger and would you say that these records still have an influence on your music today?
"Growing up around so many different types of music has definately had an influence on the music we write... My dad was really into reggae, jazz, soul and rock 'n' roll, he was an old school hippy with the full beard and everything, he grew up with the BEST music, and so he passed that onto me, always having his records and tape collection playing in the house. Then on the flip side of that at school we were all listening to hip hop, people like Dre, Busta Rhymes, Nas,  Eminem, 2Pac, Biggie, Wu-Tang Clan and then the UK scene was coming up aswell. I really loved the story telling and social commentary of that era of rap. Our music just became elements of everything I've ever listened to."
How would you describe the sound of Lester Clayton?
"We call it street folk, with elements of reggae, soul and hip hop... I am blessed to have been working with a wonderful band over the last six years. We are a family and seem to creatively bounce off each other, we are quite different to other bands in that we don't put ourselves in a box to only play one thing, we play whatever we feel is good for the song... so some tracks are straight soul, with a ballad edge, or a reggae tune with a hip hop edge for example."

"Mehmet Raif on bass guitar comes from a jazz, funk and metal background and writes some really cool instrumental music, Wolfe Hogan on violin comes from a folk, country and classical background and is a fantastic songwriter in his own right, and 'Big Daddy' Steve on percussion has worked with some amazing artists like Benjamin Zephaniah and Desmond Dekker. With all of these backgrounds and a combination of instruments that you wouldnt necessarily see together, we sound very different and organic."
What instruments do you play when performing your music?
"I play guitar but then put some piano on the recordings, Wolfe plays violin and does backing vocals and has played some guitars and keys on the EP's, Mehmet Raif plays bass and guitar, Big Daddy Steve plays cajon, percussion and drums and has dropped a few guitar lines too! We like to mix it up a bit!"

You have recently released an EP entitled ‘The Lifeline’. Where did this title come from and why did you choose it?

"Our first EP was called 'The Breadline' which was about a time when I was growing up around lots of disillusioned young people, with no direction and a lack of money and this EP came out just before the riots happened. 'The Lifeline' was a followup to 'The Breadline'... the title is about unity, about needing to treat each other with a bit of love and respect, and was about trying to be a bit more positive in a difficult time."

The artwork from the EP is quite striking visually. What was the influence and direction behind this?

"The artwork was an idea I came up with when looking at a cheeky fiver I had in my wallet, I was skint, and so was everyone else around me... and I saw the picture of the queen on it and thought that people like you and me are as important to this country as she is, so why can't your average Joe's face be on our currencey!"

One of the finest songs on the EP is the final track ‘Last Train from Silver Street’. What is this song about and what influenced it?

"Cheers I'm glad you like it mate! A few years back a mate of mine, director Lee Tarrier from DOF Producions had written the script for 'Last Train To Silver Street' and sent it over to me asking if I could work on a song for the movie. The film is about a young kid who has just been released from prison, but is struggling to break free from a life of crime, he makes plans to get on the last train from Silver Street, in Edmonton, and escape to a better life. The script blew me away and was something i could relate to having seen it a lot growing up and so this is the song that I came up with..."

"Originally the song was just me and guitar, but I recorded it at Wolfe Hogan's house and left it with him, two weeks later he called me to say he had written some extra parts for it, and what he had done was make it sound so much more epic than I pictured it could be... so most of the love for that song has got to go to Wolfe for making it epic, and Lee Tarrier for the inspiration from a great script."

You have played a support tour for Ed Sheeran. How did it feel to get this recognition and opportunity?

"Supporting Ed was an amazing experience! We were lucky enough to have known Ed since he moved to London about six years ago as a fresh faced teen just starting out playing loads of nights in London, including one that the band and myself were running... we became good mates and like the gentleman that he is, when he made it big with 'The A Team' in 2011, he chose us, and a few others that he came up on the music scene with, like Kal Lavelle, Ryan Keen, Antonio Lulic and others on a couple of tours with him to support him. It was a mind blowing couple of tours that got us loads of exposure and helped us get a loyal following from some of his awesome fans! We also got to play some of the biggest venues in England because of it! It was very surreal!"

What would you say you learnt from playing the bigger venues that you did on this tour?

"I definitely learnt to not let the nerves get the better of me... if anyone had told me six years ago I would play to a sold out Brixton Academy I would probably have shat a brick, but I managed to keep it together on the tours! It also helped me massively learn how to talk to a crowd, its so different from playing a 200 capacity more intimate venue... when you've got 3000+ people looking at you, they don't want to hear you talk, they want you to make them dance and feel good so its a completely different setup."

Do you have any 'rituals' before going on stage?

"I don't really do the whole singing scales thing but I do tend to sing 'No Woman No Cry' at the top of my lungs to warm up a bit. Which is always wierd if you're getting funny looks from others who don't know you're going on stage!"

Any live dates coming up?

"We'll be announcing live dates later in the year, but in the meantime we always run nights where we give others the chance to perform. Check the Facebook page for details on our upcoming gigs and our 'Lester Clayton Presents...' shows!"

Any new songs in the pipeline?

"Yes! I'm writing loads at the moment. My latest song is abut racist English people who blame foreigners for all of their problems... there is a lot of underlying racsim in this country, and this new song is about how the real problem with this country is closed minded racists who put up barriers instead of building bridges. I can't wait for people to hear that one!"

When can fans be expecting the next release?

"Hopefully by the end of the year."

Who would be your dream collaboration?

"Wow - it would be mental to work with some of the great lyricists - Bob Dylan, 2Pac, John Lennon, Bob Marley or Gil Scott Heron."

Who would be in your dream super group?

"Bob Marley on lead vocals with 2Pac as his hype man, The Beach Boys on backing vocals, Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on bass, Van Morrison on sax, Prince on guitar and Ringo on drums... that would be madness!"


Favourite Beatle?

"John Lennon."

Favourite band?

"The Wailers."

Favourite new band?

"Hot Under Collar."

Favourite song?

"No Woman No Cry, the live version by Bob Marley."

Favourite album?

 "Moondance by Van Morrison."

Vinyl, CD or download?


Style icon?

"Sully from Monsters Inc."

Favourite clothing brand?


Favourite film?

"Forrest Gump."

Favourite TV show?

"The Wire."

Who would play you in a film of your life?

"Jim Carrey!"

Favourite food?

"Chinese - New World, China Town, Dim Sum. The best!"

Football team?


Hope you enjoyed this feature on Lester Clayton!

Check out our previous feature on Neighbours!

You can check out Lester Clayton here -

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