Where The Child of Lov identity was a secret for so long, the involvement of Damon Albarn and MF Doom has not been so coyly protected. Recorded at Albarn’s studio, and boasting a long-awaited verse from Doom, it’s an album that can’t help but be built around expectation, and it’s a rare weight of line-up for any debut to bear. For Cole, they’re nothing more than positive factors; the outcome of a few network contacts as opposed to an albatross of expectancy around his neck.
“My manager managed Danger Mouse a long time ago, and he did some production on one of the Gorillaz albums, so that’s how he knows Damon,” explains Cole. “It’s not like he’s a friend of the family or anything but he got in touch and Damon was really into the music. That was really cool because a guy like that doesn’t need to do anything he doesn’t want to do, you know?
“Then it was kind of the same with Doom. It was through the DangerDoom album he was able to get to him. It took a year for him to deliver the verse but it was great for me, because he’s one of the few people alive I’m really a fan of.”
Cole is a lifelong hip-hop fan and needs little encouragement to talk about his influences. As he sips his coffee and gradually sinks into the sofa, it’s easy to hear how the fusion of soul, delta blues, funk and R&B blazed into the Child of Lov sound. A beat maker from his early teens, a combination of discipline and devotion underpinned the majority of his creative progression, and whilst his technical music education might have largely been one of self-taught discovery, his inspiration has always been consistent from the start. Most inspired by the Georgia sounds of Little Richard, Otis Redding and James Brown, the neo soul of D’Angelo, and a heavy dose of the delta blues, it’s little surprise that Cole’s listening habits verge more on the traditional than the contemporary.
“I don’t listen to a lot of music,” he tells me, “not compared to other people, but I listen to the same sort of stuff over and over again. My favourite album is probably ‘Voodoo’ by D’Angelo because it’s the album I listen to most. I listen to it once every few days, just trying to find the hidden harmonies and the things I didn’t hear before. That way of listening to music becomes part of you after a while and it’s the same with singing; you subconsciously try to model yourself on these great singers like Otis Redding and James Brown, so it just comes naturally after a while.”
It’s a simple, almost stubborn ideology, one that’s at odds with the modern desire to mindlessly download and acquire music instead of taking the time to appreciate it. It’s another in the Cole/Child of Lov contrasts; the bold bombast of the music masking the candid, almost analytical outlook beneath.
“I’m weird,” he laughs. “Well, different, or something. It’s weird to say that about yourself but I’ve been quite a solitary person all my life, never had many friends. I’m a special kind of person according to a lot of people in that I’m not bothered much with what other people do. I didn’t ever think of myself as a musician. I didn’t hang out with any musicians, didn’t really know any, I wasn’t bothered and I’m still not really.”
It’s a thought process that also extends to the wider perception of the album. Apathetic, bullish, indifferent, however you want to interpret it, all of the interest and anticipation that’s been building, in terms of Cole’s attitude to the wider reception to ‘The Child of Lov’ is decidedly black and white.
“I don’t give a shit about the fans, basically,” he deadpans. “It’s not intended badly, and I’m not trying to be blunt, but that’s the way I feel about it. I have the same feeling towards journalists and fans: if you don’t like it, you’re not really a fan anymore, are you? I’m pretty hard-headed.”
It’s less of an admission than you might expect considering The Child of Lov has never played a live show, despite the imminent release of a debut album. In an age where touring is the lifeblood for bands to make a living, it feels like even more of an anomaly considering the energy and spontaneity the album exudes. On first listen, the on-record flamboyance feels destined to inform a live set of show-stopping decadence; one of MCs whipping crowds into a neo funk frenzy of lights, camera, action, and wild party spirit. It’s a prospect Cole is remarkably unmoved by, preferring to focus on the long term perfection of the record instead of the disposable experience of the live show.