Nobody’s Puppet: Miles Kane & The Return of the Wirral Riddler

miles_kane_1249265You should really know who Miles Kane is by now. Even if you missed his turn as the precocious 18-year-old guitarist in short-lived Merseybeat combo The Little Flames or his first front man gig as singer with The Rascals, you will surely have noticed him as one half of the Last Shadow Puppets alongside a certain Mr. Alex Turner. Failing that, his breath-taking work rate during his solo breakthrough year in 2011 should surely have seen the 26-year-old Wirral troubadour pop up somewhere on your radar. After releasing his début album The Colour of the Trap in late 2010, young Miles spent most of the following year on tour. Even if you didn’t catch his own shows, there’s a good chance that you may have seen him supporting the likes of Beady Eye, Kasabian and the Arctic Monkeys.

Despite a musical CV which now spans eight years in the business, and the imminent release of his second solo album, Don’t Forget Who You Are, Miles Kane somehow still finds himself saddled with the ‘next big thing’ tag. For a tender-aged stalwart of the scene, with a long list of fans and collaborators which reads like a Who’s Who of modern rock royalty, surely it must be frustrating for recognition to only now start being bestowed on his narrow shoulders.

“For me, the last five years have been all about working in bands and learning my craft so I haven’t really been that interested in whether people have been taking any notice of me during that time,” Kane says, his chirpy Scouse accent adding authenticity to this assertion. “I was too busy being on the journey, dealing with the highs and lows and taking the learning curves at speed. I’ve started from the bottom a few times and have served more than one apprenticeship. Everything that’s gone before has been driving me to this point so if people are now taking notice, I’m more than happy with that and ready for that because I’m really happy with where I am now and the sound I’ve developed.”

That sound has come on leaps and bounds since the early days as a teenager playing in and around Liverpool’s club scene, sweating through the circuit playing jangly pop alongside contemporaries like The Coral and The Zutons. Don’t Forget Who You Are takes the 60’s rock’n’roll vibe developed for The Colour of the Trap and puts it on rigourous gym regime. It’s another urgent record, full of choppy guitars and brimming with cocksure attitude, but it’s a much more muscular effort than before. The orchestration is more lush and the choruses, as you would expect, border on the anthemic, which suggests a growing confidence. But with lead single ‘Give Up’ screaming along to a heavy, crashing beat and almost metal guitars, it appears the Wirral Riddler is in no rush to lay aside the high octane rockers in favour of the cinematic, John Barry-esque theatricals of the Last Shadow Puppets which so distinguished his work with Alex Turner from anything he’d done before.

“I’d describe myself as a rock’n’roller even though there are some cinematic, grand tracks on the album,” he says. “It was great doing the big wide-screen tunes with strings with the Puppets but my heart’s in the rock’n’roll. I like to dabble with songs which people might be surprised with though, like covering Lee Hazlewood and Jacques Dutronc, and that’s one of the great things about being a solo artist that I don’t have to run that by anyone. I’m just obsessed with music and doing tunes like that lets people know that, it shows what mood I’m in.”

It seems that being a solo artist suits the perfectionist side of Kane’s character, the trait that refuses to allow him to leave the house without being immaculately suited and booted, usually in something from his favourite designer Adrien Sauvage, even to go to the shops. The dapper Miles certainly doesn’t regret his decision to leave The Rascals in 2009, even if it meant having to build a new identity from scratch.

“It felt right to go solo after two years of considering it,” he says. “I asked Alex one day whether I should quit and he said I should do it. To be fair, I’d already decided so it wasn’t a case of Alex Turner splitting up the Rascals. I could have gone on and formed another band after the Shadow Puppets but something beautiful happened with the songs I was working on to convince me to front it myself. It’s been a beautiful time for me. I’m a completely different lad. It’s a total buzz.”

Being a rock’n’roller from Merseyside, the obvious weighty legacy of a certain band hangs over Miles as it does all bands and artists from in and around the port city of Liverpool. There’s no escaping the influence of the Beatles; it’s there in every street, in every bar, in every heart. For some, fighting against the omnipotence of Liverpool’s favourite sons could be a way of asserting their individuality. For Miles Kane, however, it’s been the opposite to a certain extent.

“I’ve never felt any pressure from Liverpool’s legacy, in fact I’ve always embraced that and have never hidden that,” he says proudly. “There have been so many great bands from Liverpool and the influence is clear but you have to tread your own path. I’ve always been inspired by the great Liverpool bands and my ambition is to try and be bigger and better than any of them. Considering the Beatles are in there, that may sound a tall order but you’ve got to be in it to win it. If you don’t want to be bigger than the Beatles, what’s the point?”

With Don’t Forget Who You Are soon to be on general release, could this be the moment that Miles Kane finally goes from being the The Next Big Thing to an accepted national hero? Whatever happens, one gets the impression that it won’t matter to him as much as the quality of the music itself. People can view him how they like. How Miles Kane defines himself is through his art and that is something which won’t stop evolving, regardless of the titles awarded him by the public.

“I just don’t really want to stop working,” he says. “I put everything I have into every record and if it’s a hit or a flop, I know there’s nothing more I could have done. I just want to make every record better than the last; I want to improve my singing, my playing, my writing. I’ve always got to be at it. That’s just how I am. It’s like the music – that’s just me. No bullshit. I approach it all the same way. Full on.”