That Joe Payne

Joe Payne has finally managed to release his first solo album under “That Joe Payne” moniker. It took him quite a while to finish it, but the final result has proved him right. Grande Rock had a very frank and out of the box chat with Joe about his debut solo release and other issues that take place in today’s music business and life in general. Read more below…
Joe Payne pic
Hi Joe and welcome to Grande Rock. You finally managed to release your first solo album, “By Name. By Nature”! Well-done! How many years did it take you and how did you experience the whole procedure?
J: Thank you! Yes, well I suppose you could say it took my entire lifetime to get around to it, but technically the production process was about two and a half years. The thing is, I knew exactly what kind of album I wanted to make at the start of that process, but it took much longer than expected, and I think the reason why was because every song represented a new battle for me. There were a lot of repressed feelings that needed to come out. So, the whole journey of making this record has been very cathartic, and at the same time emotionally demanding. It was almost like I needed a holiday between each track… Haha!
Which are the main influences that define the album’s overall music?
J: I would have to say Beethoven meets Britney Spears! People compare me to Freddie Mercury and George Michael quite a lot, but I think if they were alive today, they’d probably say something similar… Classical composition in a marriage with feminine pop expression.
How much has your period in The Enid influenced your music in general? Do you think that if you hadn’t been part of the band, this album would have sounded different in a way?
J: It’s impossible to say for sure just how much that period of my life influenced me, but I’ve always believed that I joined The Enid because I was already a huge fan of symphonic rock. We had a shared vision in that respect.
Of course the Queen influences are always there… and as I’ve told you in the past (and this is not just a compliment) you do remind me of the one & only Freddie at times. What do you think?
J: I’ve always been extremely flattered by this – I admire him for so much more than his voice. He challenged so much in popular culture that opened people minds. He had a free character and wore his heart on his sleeve. When people compare me to him as a performer I think “well, that’s just a coincidence that we are so similar”. But I can definitely say that I follow his example when it comes to being honest and true to yourself, no matter who might love or hate you for it.
What does the album title “By Name. By Nature” declare?
J: Well, the name ‘Payne’ sounds like the word ‘pain’ – as in ‘annoying’. Common phrases I hear are things like “Payne in the arse”, for example. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really upset too much by this. Almost every person will have been teased for something, and most of the time these things are said in jest. But it was actually a schoolteacher, who had a reputation for being a bully that used to call me “Joe Payne: Payne by name, pain by nature”. So, later in life, when my mental health began to suffer, this phrase seemed to perfectly reflect what I felt others must think of me.
Do give us a hint about each track (just a line)…
J: “The Thing About Me Is”: Gaslighting.
“By Name. By Nature.”: Cyberbullying.
“Nice Boy”: More gaslighting.
“In My Head”: A sociopath.
“What is the World Coming To”: Coming out.
“Love (Not the Same) [feat. Ms Amy Birks]”: Failing to be heteronormative.
“I Need a Change”: Suicidal thoughts.
“End of the Tunnel”: Empathy.
How did you come up with the idea to re-work those well-known classical pieces (“Music for a While” & “Moonlit Love”) and add them as bonus tracks on the album?
J: “Moonlit Love” was my first solo experiment. I decided to do that before approaching my own music, as my confidence in my own ideas was so low. I had dreamed for years about doing a pop-ballad version of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” anyway, and this was the perfect time. It was a test to see if I could manage to write my own string and choir arrangements, and also a push to begin playing the piano again, which I had barely touched in over a decade!
Purcell’s “Music for a While”, traditionally a piece written for countertenor, was a project I intended to do in a similar vein to “Moonlit Love” – traditional, and something to prove I could still sing the high notes. But I fell out with this idea and decided to turn it into a dance track. I suppose that was out of rebellion against a lot of music snobs who believe pop music can’t be credible. Well, I say it can!
Why did you decide to release the album independently? Did you talk with any music labels at all?
J: The truth is, no label has ever approached me, and I haven’t felt any great need to approach the labels either. That’s not to say that I am against the idea of working with a label – ultimately, I want what is best for the record. I guess I’ve been in this business for nine years now, and in that time I’ve had to learn to promote myself independently and still done ok. Eleven albums with five different projects, all released independently. But, as I said, I’m open to the idea of working with a label. It just depends on how much value they see in me, and how much they can offer to do for me that I can’t already do for myself.
When did the recordings take place? I see that you cooperated with Max Read on the production. Moreover Max also did the engineering, mixing, and mastering, right?
J: Yes, we recorded the album at Max’s studio – The Lodge. Max and I seem to have a perfect symbiosis when producing music, because, while I have all the ideas and vision I need, I am also a huge technophobe! That’s where Max comes in. I’m not sure there are many producers out there that could understand what it is I’m trying to achieve in the same way he does, so I’m very fortunate to have him.
Do you have any special expectations from “By Name. By Nature” in general?
J: Well, all I ever really wanted was to get my thoughts, feelings and experiences out into the open. I needed to do that so I could finally move on, exposing my demons and leaving them in the past where they belong. I think I’ve achieved that, and I feel I am a much happier person for doing it.
Since all the touring has been postponed… what do you think of the virtual live shows in general?
J: Aw, I really miss performing live in front of an audience. I was luck enough to put on one full band show between lockdowns, and I’ve never been more thankful to be on stage, even in front of such a reduced capacity. We need that connection. Personally, I can’t see virtual shows ever fully taking the place of being there in the flesh, but it’s still better than nothing.
What do you think about this corona-virus thing? How much has it affected the music business and people’s lives so far?
J: I suppose everyone in the music business is affected by this virus. We rely so much on live performance as a way of engaging with our audiences, and performing has to be one of the most rewarding things. I count myself very lucky to be in the position I am, releasing my album this year, it really helped to keep me busy and not lose momentum.
It’s time for our “weird questions”!!! Which is the first album that you ever bought and do you still own it to date?
J: Haha, yes I still own every album I ever bought. I’m not sure if I should admit what those first albums were, though! Let’s just say, I was a child of the 90s… Although, ABBA had a resurgence in the late 90s, and I was obsessed with “ABBA Gold” (greatest hits) for a while.
What are those things that you do not like in the music industry nowadays?
J: I’ve always had a huge problem with the objectification of women throughout the history of popular music. Honestly, I’ve observed every female musician I’ve ever worked with being drooled over by men in a really inappropriate way. Not all men are guilty of this, of course, but I’ve tried to challenge misogyny in recent years by highlighting double standards. It’s amazing how many people are blind to it because they’re just so used to heteronormative attitudes and behaviour. Just treat people as you’d wish to be treated yourself, with respect. It’s not exactly hard is it?
What do you think about the “downloading & streaming issue” of our time? Do you prefer the streaming services better or not?
J: Again, I count myself very lucky, because I still have enough support from people who buy physical records, come to concerts or subscribe to my Patreon services. As long as what I’m doing is sustainable, I don’t really mind too much if people chose to stream. It would be counter productive not to embrace these new channels of reach. All I can do is be thankful for the support I have, whatever form it might come in, and do my best to reward the people who go that extra mile for me.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words:
J: Rockstar: Bon Jovi!
Classical Music: London Symphony Orchestra.
Eurovision: Loreen – Euphoria! My favourite Eurovision winner ever!
Music Realities: Erm… The Osbournes?
Fill in the phrase… “Rock wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
J: “Punk”… obviously! Lol!
Which are the best 3 Rock albums of all time according to you?
J: “War of the Worlds”, “Queen – Greatest Hits 1” (if that’s allowed to count), and “Hounds of Love”.
Which do you consider to be the best male & female vocalist in rock history?
J: Freddie Mercury and Kate Bush!
Which is that band that you’d like to be part of (any time & era)?
J: If I chose a band that looked like the most fun, I’d have to say ‘Scissor Sisters’! Haha
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
J: “Mr Blue Sky” by ELO has to be the one I’m most envious of.
If you had the opportunity to invite any musician, living or dead, to play on your album whom would you choose and why?
J: I know I’ll die happy if I get the opportunity to duet with Celine Dion – I don’t care what people think of her music – I believe that she is the greatest pop vocalist of all time, and I’ll always aspire to reach her standard of delivery.
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
J: It would need to be someone who is eclectic enough to combine all forms of world music with rock, R&B, classical and electronic. Off the top of my head, Basement Jaxx “The Singles” is possibly the best example of this that I can think of.
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
J: I think I’d rather leave the future as a mystery, so let’s go back into the past! Perhaps ancient Greece to meet all those historic play-writes and philosophers?
That’s all for now Joe. Thank you very much for talking to Grande Rock. Wish you the best for the future to come. Take care dude!
J: Thanks for having me, I’ve really enjoyed these questions!