Ruarri Joseph’s new rock focused project William The Conqueror premieres their new video for their single ‘Tend To The Thorns’ via Folk Radio UK before they release their debut ‘Proud Disturber Of The Peace’ on 4 August via Loose. We also talk in-depth to Ruarri about his new project, which you can read below.
Ruarri stated that the video, “tries to strike at the contrast between the innocence of youth, simple wide open spaces and imagination vs. the inevitable claustrophobia of what happens as you grow up, getting boxed in and the clarity muddied. Would it be believed if I said the kid is actual 8mm footage of me as a kid? ”
They will celebrate the release of their record with an album launch party at The Social, London on 2 August.
The trio have recently become an industry buzz band, getting snapped up by promoters Metropolis/Live Nation, after they were championed by influential media including Metro/Killing Moon, The 405, One Stop Record Shop and The Guardian who described their music as “stomping country rock veering into stoner grunge”. In November they will tour the UK with recently announced shows (see details below after interview).
William the Conqueror Interview
Ruarri kindly agreed to talk to Folk Radio UK about his new project including why he needed to kill off Ruarri Joseph and become William the Conqueror.
Can we start by you talking us through why you felt shackled by your previous folk/singer songwriter persona?
It was never my intention to be a folk singer and actually I don’t believe I ever was. For whatever reasons, (something to do with having a beard and playing solo?) I was invited along to tour with some real staples of the folk world and inadvertently picked up an audience in doing so. So then I’m in a situation where I have an audience and a chance to make a living from making music so long as I don’t step outside the box too much. A couple of albums later and I was feeling restricted. Not necessarily in what I was writing but definitely in regards to how it was being presented or interpreted. My first bands as a teenager were either grunge or punk or rock and they were my ambitions. At a certain point I imagined my younger self being kind of disappointed in what I’d become creatively. William is me paying off some kind of aspirational debt maybe? And by the way, I have nothing but respect and gratitude towards those that helped me stay afloat for so long, it just didn’t feel like home.
By becoming William the Conqueror are those ghosts now put to bed and why the name William the Conqueror? The name, along with the album title sounds like a cry of freedom, a release from a long battle.
That’s an interesting way of looking at it. The battle between my older, more subdued, straight-laced self and the younger, ludicrously over confident bundle of energy that wouldn’t take no for an answer! The name keeps finding new meaning but essentially it represents that ballsiness that came with my youth. It’s the kind of name I’d have given myself role-playing on the farm as a kid, naïve to the real world. It was a disguise to keep me off the radar too, plus it automatically changed the way I wrote songs, suddenly having to find the same set of nuts I had before it all got professional and fell in line. I couldn’t call myself William The Conqueror and sing about how sweet my kids are, I needed to dig deeper. As for ghosts being put to bed, they’re in their pyjamas for sure.
How has the recording process for this album differed from what you’ve done before?
I had my good friend and drumming octopus Harry Harding with me on production and engineering, which freed up some headspace for sure. He’s got a ton of experience working as a session player for all sorts of different acts, always poking his nose in and picking up techniques and ideas that I wouldn’t have thought about. We rattled through it, recording in my garage. I have neighbours pretty close by which meant there was an extra level of mischief every time we did a take, always feeling like we were pushing our luck, about to be shut down or something. Proud disturber of the peace indeed.
Did you have a musical vision before you chose the band or was that all part of a long process? Were there musical touchstones, other artists that inspired the sound you were after?
If there was a vision it was less about the music and more about the attitude and ethos towards the creative process. I was fed up of compromising and holding things back because of what my ‘audience’ might think. Harry and Naomi (bass), were my backing band but also my very close friends and when I told them about my frustrations and this idea I had for an outlet, they jumped on it, having their own frustrations to vent. We didn’t tell anyone about it for a couple of years, just gigged off the radar between our legitimate touring schedules and used it as a creative punching bag. Musically, we work with what we’ve got which in our case is guitars, drums, bass but rather than be inspired by the sounds of others we opted to trust our individual instincts as we come from different back grounds and it threw up something pretty fresh.
I understand there were a few hurdles to overcome in making this record – including a hurricane in Scotland?
That was one of many expeditions that didn’t really have a purpose beyond escaping our confinements and seeing what it conjured. My friend Colin Macleod has a studio on the Isle of Lewis and it seemed like a good idea to go there and see what happened when we hit record. We only got a couple of days recording because the hurricane killed the power on the island but just being together with nothing to think about other than William, blacked out with only playing music to pass the time, was an experience you couldn’t have planned or hoped for. I don’t think any of the recordings ended up on the record but what we learnt bled into everything from them on.
Where did you look to for lyrical inspiration? Many of songs feel very personal. Pedestals springs to mind with the refrain “Don’t build me up, you can’t knock me down.”
The personal element of William happened by accident I think. My last solo record was a love letter to a friend that had sadly passed and I toured it for about three years, each night explaining to the audience where the songs came from, trying to give context to everything in order to do justice to the healing process. It was pretty draining after a while. With William I wanted to let the music do the talking so I deliberately wrote about things so personal and idiosyncratic that I wouldn’t be able to talk about them on stage without giving hours of back story. So I picked off some ideas I had kicking around about things that happened in my youth that I’d not processed and that’s where it clicked and made sense to marry the concept of channeling my younger self musically with whatever the fuck strange things were going on at the time. It’s interesting you pick on Pedestals. That’s one of the few that leans into the present as well as the past. It’s like a confession or warning to my kids not to do what I did and worship their parents as if they weren’t human and couldn’t make mistakes. If you don’t build me up, you can’t knock me down.
Was making the album a cathartic release?
Of course and it’s ongoing. There’s an essay by Hermann Hesse about the three stages of human development; essentially innocence, disillusionment and acceptance. This first album is the innocent one so there’s much more to purge yet!
I was listening to Laura Barton’s Notes from a Musical Island (BBC Radio 4) on which you recently featured. There are a couple of things you said on there which made I found myself relating to the new album. One was your father buying you an electric guitar when you were around 10-11. This was a big pivotal moment, the start of your musical journey…Does this new album feel like you’ve been brought closer to your boyhood dreams?
For sure. Through William I guess I’m not just trying to get close to them but actually try and live them out somehow, albeit in a hyper-reality where I stand on stage and play the part in my head. Like I said in an earlier answer, my younger self had visions of what he would become, certainly once he had an electric guitar in his hands, and I don’t know, maybe there’s still hope!
You father is a huge Bob Dylan fan, you spoke of Dylan always playing in the background. What does he make of your new album – a Dylan goes electric moment?
Judas!! Ha ha, maybe I don’t know. He digs it I think. ‘Huge Dylan fan’ undersells his devotion though. He uses it like divine gospel, calls upon his lyrics like it’s the proverbs or something. Just recently I was moaning about how long things take in the industry and how frustrating it was to have to let go of the reigns and leave your fate in the hands others etc. He just looked at me and said ‘They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn!’
When you talked about your upbringing you gave a very vivid recollection of an idyllic land of foxglove pink and nettle green. You also spoke of isolation and there being very few children where you lived as a boy. Do you still like to create music in isolation and how important an influence is Cornwall on your music now?
I can’t help but make music in isolation I think. Certainly in terms of writing it gives me the headspace I need to delve in. Cornwall doesn’t influence the music in terms of the sound or the content but living here definitely brings in that isolated feeling and probably makes it easier to shut the world out. It’s like the shed of the UK. Recording and playing live I’m sick of doing it on my own though.
Tell me about the album cover, is this your own work?
This is by my friend Tony Plant. It’s one of hundreds and hundreds of interpretations of the ever-evolving landscape around him. He’s like a beautifully free child stuck in a constricted grown up world. I took a lot of inspiration from his process for William. He has a ton of paintings all on the go at once that he moves around from wall to wall, adds this, covers up that until, like Da Vinci says, art is never finished, only abandoned. You can go round to his house and see a painting that blows your mind and then next time you go you’ll ask where it is and he’ll say ‘under there’ pointing at a totally different painting that’s now evolved over the top, layers upon layers, only ever trusting his instincts and leading from the heart. William applies a similar ethos with his songs.
As well a November Tour, the band are playing several other live dates including support dates with Danny & The Champions Of The World. Details below.
William The Conqueror Tour Dates
1 – EDEN SESSIONS (with Van Morrison).
08 – ST AGNES Exit Kernow Festival
28 – PORT ELIOT FESTIVAL
29 – BUDE Leopalooza
30 – CAMBRIDGE FOLK FESTIVAL
02 – LONDON The Social
06 – BRISTOL Valley Fest
13 – NEWQUAY Boardmasters
Supporting Danny & The Champions Of The World
2 – LEEDS Brudenell Social Club*
13 – NOTTINGHAM The Maze*
14 – SHEFFIELD Plug*
15 – MANCHESTER Soup Kitchen*
16 – GATESHEAD Caedmon Hall*
18 – BRISTOL Lantern*
19 – CAMBRIDGE Junction 2*
20 – LONDON Scala*
21 – CARDIFF Globe*
22 – OXFORD Bullingdon*
23 – TUNBRIDGE WELLS Forum*
14 Nov – LONDON Moth Club http://smarturl.it/wtc-ldn
16 Nov – BRIGHTON Green Door Store http://smarturl.it/wtc-brighton
19 Nov – SHEFFIELD Greystones http://smarturl.it/wtc-sheffield
20 Nov – MANCHESTER Castle Hotel http://smarturl.it/wtc-mcr
21 Nov – BRISTOL Louisiana http://smarturl.it/wtc-bristol
22 Nov – CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach http://smarturl.it/wtc-cardiff
*Supporting Danny & The Champions of the World
Pre-Order Proud Distuber of the Peace
Proud Disturber Of The Peace is released via Loose on 4 August. Pre-Order it here with a Limited Edition signed print: https://www.musicglue.com/william-the-conqueror/products/proud-disturber-of-the-peace-cd-with-limited-edition-signed-print