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

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

Few indie musicians have made the type of impression on pop music that Oliver Sim has. With the xx, the band he based as a teen with Romy Madley Croft and Jamie xx, Sim has gained a Mercury prize, topped the UK album charts twice and performed on a few of the largest levels on the planet. In the meantime, the xx’s distinctive, minimalist tackle R&B and indie-pop was infiltrating the mainstream: by the mid-2010s, you can 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 believe actually will get to the center of the report: “Radical honesty / May set me free / If it makes me hideous.” Was that concept a guiding mild as you have been making the album?

I believe 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 displaying and the way a lot I’m holding on to. And it hasn’t labored in any respect. I’ve been doing that my whole grownup life and in my teenagers as properly.

I’ve change into a believer in sharing stuff. Disgrace and concern 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 manner into music.

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 corresponding 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 believe 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 perhaps a bit extra of what I see myself as.” That and in addition a class of ladies I might name “feminine rage”: ladies corresponding to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sigourney Weaver in Alien, Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween and Sissy Spacek in Carrie. These ladies possessed a gaggle of various qualities in a single individual that I didn’t assume 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 “ultimate ladies” [in horror] have been those that spoke to me essentially the most.

Buffalo Invoice and Patrick Bateman faucet into this concept that vainness 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 possibly can 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 believe that monologue is so relatable, about carrying a masks ultimately. When I’m making an attempt to current myself as superbly as potential, it’s usually for a motive, 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 again and again?

Anyone who has meant increasingly more to me is John Grant. I believe he possesses one in every of my favorite qualities, which is the power to be darkish and discuss probably heavy issues, however be humorous in his music as properly. I believe [maintaining a sense of humour] is a hack to coping with life.

And undoubtedly Jimmy [Somerville]. Jimmy, as a voice, has all the time been round – earlier than I knew who he was and what he represented. Changing 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 folks, simply for those that felt a bit “different”.

There are movies of him on YouTube within the early 90s on breakfast tv speaking about issues that no person wished 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 obtained to know him, he’s not that – he is filled with concern, which makes the whole lot he has achieved 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 gained’t discuss Covid for too lengthy, I believe everyone seems to be a bit uninterested in it. However early on in isolation, I realised I wanted to talk to folks, and I wanted to talk to folks that I love and perhaps haven’t spoken to earlier than. Jimmy was high of my checklist. I messaged him saying: “Hello, Mr Somerville, my title is Oliver, I’m an enormous fan, how are you doing?” And type of fashioned a relationship.

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

However he was very light 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 must do.” He’s been by way of lots, and he will 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 believe, was holding again tears – as a result of his voice is unimaginable, and hasn’t deteriorated in any manner. If something, it’s stronger than ever.

Jimmy has taken care of me lots. 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 gained’t say older! – extra skilled queer folks.

Popping out and singing about being HIV-positive should be tough these days, particularly whenindividuals are given a burden of illustration. While you have been getting ready to launch Hideous, how did you navigate ensuring it was all the time for your self?

I went to Coachella earlier this 12 months, and I seen that midway by way of most acts’ units, they became a life coach, or a preacher. It was stunning seeing that there was an obligation to be a voice, versus simply taking part in songs.

After I made Hideous, I met up with the Terrence Higgins Belief, who’re a very massive HIV and Aids organisation. I went into that assembly saying: “OK, what’s all the latest data that I would like, put together me for the whole lot.” And so they stated: “Maintain on – you’re not a healthcare skilled. You’re not outfitted.” You understand what I imply? I’m a musician. They stated: “Positively discuss your experiences and your emotions to no matter diploma you need, however you don’t must be that individual.”

Additionally, I’ve made an album about concern and disgrace to unburden myself – however I nonetheless have concern, I nonetheless have disgrace, I’m not a completed product. I don’t wish 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 some extent.

Hideous Bastard is launched on 9 September (Younger).

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