I like pinhole cameras, old Super 8 films, vintage lenses, and the photographs of Anton Corbijn - anything that is an antidote to the scrubbed-up, high definition, over-perfected images of this era. I try to take pictures that are a visual counterpart to the music I make - I like things that are resonant with atmosphere and nostalgia, and the texture is often as important, to me, as what's being described.
The music that I make is made with simple, even crude technology - but I know my processes very well, and I think this is one of the reasons why I've been able to make comparatively rich recordings largely at home. Likewise, my photographs are undoubtedly amateur, but I know my limited materials inside out. I'm a big believer in that Brian Eno adage that you should always prefer rapport to options. Modern technology gives us the ability to over-produce sound and over-tweak images – I think it's possible that in twenty years, the over-perfected sounds and images of this era will seem as absurd as any other passed trend.
The artwork for the CD of my new album, 'In Love With A Ghost', is made out of the pictures that my partner Elijah-Casper Blake and I took of New York City, in 2014 and 2015. These photographs were taken with a couple of different digital and analogue cameras, and a poor quality camera phone, which I then re-processed in various ways. I also made extensive use of the iPad 8mm film app to shoot the video for my single, "New York Boogie-Woogie" – the same app that the director of the film Searching for Sugar Man used when he ran out of Super 8 film.
My vision of New York is dark but not bleak. It's a vision of dark nights and bright lights, crowded streets, dark bars, and rented rooms - like an Edward Hopper painting, or the lyrics on a record by The Blue Nile. It is a vision of a city of ghosts, a city of Susan Sontag, George Balanchine, Robert Mapplethorpe, and David Kalstone. Agnes Martin on the roof of her studio at Coenties Slip, and Frank O'Hara writing poems on his lunch break.
In writing "New York Boogie-Woogie" I was borrowing a lyrical style from Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes", who in turn borrowed it from an African tradition - in Peter Gabriel's song, you can't tell whether he's singing about romantic love, or love for God. In "New York Boogie-Woogie", you can't really tell whether the love is directed at a person or the city.
I grew up in rural South West England in the 1980s and 90s. Nothing could have seemed more removed from my day to day life than the hustle and bustle of New York. And yet, all of the music I was listening to in my teens - things like Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson, The Velvet Underground - all came from New York, or had a New York connection. And so from the earliest age, I felt an irrational sense of attachment to the place. When I finally made it there, I felt like I had come home.
People think I'm crazy when I say this, but I think that New York is to the States what Manchester is to the UK. I lived in Manchester for 12 years and it seems to be cut from the same cloth, somehow. Manchester has often been used as a stand-in for New York in films like Captain America, or the Jude Law version of Alfie, so I'm not the only person to notice this.
These days, there's a lot of nostalgia for 1970s New York, when the city was savage and bankrupt and practically everything below 23rd Street was overrun with artists. It's become a bit of a cliche, really. But as an outsider I still find it interesting how many different artistic scenes were co-existing at the same time; whether it be the Patti Smith/punk axis around CBGBs, or Robert Wilson's theatre, or the No Wave movement circling around bands like DNA, or Woody Allen's films. At the same time there was an explosion in post-liberation gay literature coming out of New York as well, writers like Andrew Holleran, or Edmund White (who I love). It fascinates me now, that these mostly-independent scenes, which I became interested in separately (in true auto-didactic style) existed more or less concurrently.
I don't disagree with people who say that New York is over-sanitised now. So many artists have been priced out of Manhattan. Arto Lindsay says that New York has now just become the place where Donald Trump lives. I know what he means. We were in New York at the time of the election - a heartbreaking day for us. But there's plenty of great things happening at the edges, and in those artistic scenes, the city's energy remains undiminished. I find New York brings out the best in me; my sharpest thoughts and my best ideas. It's still the best city in the world.