Kele: 'I'm not a team player'

By Greg Cochrane
Newsbeat music reporter

image source, Not Specified
image captionBloc Party's Kele Okereke releases his debut solo album in June

This time last year Kele Okereke was keeping a secret.

While his band Bloc Party were clocking up high profile slots at festivals across the world, Okereke had begun recording a solo album.

Come the end of August they took to the main stage just before headliners Radiohead at Reading festival.

"I'd written all the music by then," says Kele. "Immediately after Reading I flew to New York to finish the record - but we didn't let on.

"Throughout 2009 I was amassing songs and working. By that point I'd almost finished the project - but we kept it secret. We didn't tell anyone. Well, I didn't tell anyone."

'Time being'

Following a nationwide tour dubbed 'Blococtober' in autumn 2009, the foursome - who released their debut album Silent Alarm in 2004 - confirmed they were taking time out.

Swinging on a chocolate leather chair, Kele is in relaxed, energetic and playful mood.

"Hello, I'm Kele - I used to be in Bloc Party," he says shaking our hand.

Used to be in Bloc Party?

"Well, still are… for the time being," he says grinning. "Only joking."

Like we said, it's a mischievous Kele we meet today. This cheekiness is the same boundless enthusiasm he showcases on The Boxer - his UK garage, 2-step, house music inspired debut album.

"Making this record was a really enjoyable and revealing process to me," he says.

"It made me realise that anything is possible if you're dedicated enough.

"There were times it did seem overwhelming but I had to keep going. That's the lesson I've learned from this - if you want something in life you have to work for it."

image source, bbc
image captionKele Okereke says making his debut solo album was a 'revealing' process

Bloc Party's past

The departure in sound is guaranteed to surprise some fans of the band, but the hints towards Kele's love for dance music have long been there. Especially in later singles Mercury and Flux.

"I've never been one that worries about what other people think," says Okereke, dismissing the idea that he was taking a risk with his new direction.

"Even with Bloc Party - we always did things that were about making us as a band feel satisfied more than anyone else outside of the band.

"It was about making sure we were doing something that we were creatively into. Or that I was creatively into. I don't really see risk - I just see creative endeavour."

Notice the way he uses the past tense. Bloc Party already sounds like it was a long time ago.

"I think that with Bloc Party we were definitely moving into a different direction, into a different phase, that has maybe crystallised in this record."

No 'weirdness'

He started the album totally alone before recruiting a brand new band for the live gigs he's set to play this summer.

"It doesn't feel weird," he states. "The people in my band now are great."

"We feel like a new band again. I feel like I'm in a new band again. It's a great feeling, I love it."

This was after he took up kick-boxing at the start of the year - an experience that has honed his body and sharpened his mind.

"I'm not like Jean Claude Van Dam yet - I'm not very good," he laughs. "It's quite an inspiring image that of the boxer.

"Having to rely on no-one but themselves to achieve what they want to achieve and having to be focussed despite being knocked down and having to be hit.

"I'm not a team player. I don't think I am a team player to be honest. I know what it is I want."

Rest assured though, Okereke says this is not the end of Bloc Party.

"When we get back together - I don't know when we're going to get back together - I'm sure we'll have a lot to tell each other when we do.

"I just hope people enjoy it and they dance to it and it soundtracks their summer," he says smiling. "That's all."

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