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Music Interview

Mr Hudson

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Mr Hudson
When Ben Hudson and friends released their first album, A Tale Of Two Cities, as Mr Hudson & The Library in 2007, they garnered critical respect for their melding of hip-hop influences with brass, steel and electricity. The good reviews didn't translate into chart success, but all that changed with the release of the 'Supernova', Hudson's stellar (ahem) collaboration with US rap superstar Kanye West. DS spoke to Mr H about losing The Library and his plan to make it as a popstar with new album Straight No Chaser.

How would you describe the new album?
"My mission statement was to make a pop record, but not a throwaway pop record. My heroes are people like Bowie and Prince and Damon Albarn. I didn't want to do anything niche. Kanye threw down the gauntlet. He said, 'Let's see if we can make you a popstar'. I was like 'Let's have a go!'. It's a bit more widescreen, a bit more punchy, but the eclecticism of the first record's still there. There's a tune where I'm a cross between Deliverance and Sade."

Did dropping The Library from your name cause any problems?
"Not at all. The first record was very much 'Mr Hudson & The Library - A Tale Of Two Cities'. It was all one big project. A couple of the guys left and this record was more about me working with Kanye. I've been working in the States on his stuff and on Jay-Z's stuff, so when I got round to making my record I wasn't in that same 'North London, pottering about with my friends' headspace. But who knows what the next album will be about?"

Has the success of 'Supernova' raised expectations for the album?
"I'm astonished at how well it's done. I would have been happy for it to go top ten for just a couple of weeks. If anything it's a problem because we want to put another single out, but they're still playing 'Supernova' on the radio! It's a nice problem to have though, so it's all good."

How involved has Kanye actually been in the new album?
"He 'executive produced' all of it, which means he's overseen it. He's got so many projects on the go so his role is kind of supervisory. I'd always be beavering away and playing him stuff, and he'd sort of adjust my course, but I was the engine. There's a queue of people asking him for beats and help, he's working on his clothing range, and he's got his own s**t to do as well. My whole approach was not to be demanding of him, but just to try and catch him when he was feeling disposed to help me."

Have you spoken to him since the Taylor Swift incident at the VMAs?
"I have spoken to him since the VMAs, but we didn't speak about that. It's not really on my radar. It's been the cause of much merriment and I haven't really got anything to add to be honest."

What do you think about the grand claims that Kanye's made on your behalf?
"As you say he does make some grand statements - I believe that he means it, but basically it's out of my hands. I'm just going to stay on my grind in the studio and play every show like it's my last. It's up to the people at home to decide who I am in the grand scheme of things. I think if I focused on the hype I'd end up taking my eye of the ball. My approach has always been just to focus on the music."

What was it like doing 'Young Forever' on Jay-Z's Blueprint 3?
"That was a quick thing. It's funny because sometimes big tracks come really easily. I'm not exaggerating, but we did it in an hour. Kanye spent about half an hour on the beats, I spent half an hour on the vocal and then we were like, 'Cool, let's send it to Jigga'. And he loved it, so it was almost too easy. If only that could happen every day!"

Was it intimidating working on an album that's the follow-up to two such well-received records?
"Of course, I was s**tting myself! But when they flew me all the way to Hawaii, it gave me time to realise that they actually wanted me to be there. I'd be wasting their time if I was too intimidated or too nervous. I wanted to do the situation justice so I wasn't going to be shaking like a leaf. But I was terrified of Beyoncé though!"

How do you feel about the tabloid speculation concerning your private life?
"Do I have a private life? I've asked the advice of people with a much higher profile and they're like, 'Look, you've just got to ignore it and get on with your thing'. I think if you start watching the people watching you, that way madness lies. You've just got to be careful not to pick your nose in public, that's all!"

Mr Hudson's album, Straight No Chaser, is released on October 19.

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