“This whole country is slowly being Mumfordised”: Q&A with artist Scott King on the state of popular culture





scott king cover


Conceptual artist and one-time art director of i-D Magazine, Scott King reveals the shocking story behind his debut single “You’re My Favourite Artist” and goes off on one about Mumford & Sons.

“You’re My Favourite Artist” defies criticism. Elevate or disseminate it and you begin to sound disturbingly like the fawning, fictional and aptly named ArtForum hack David Rimmer, whose gushing review adorns the cover sleeve. Write it off and you risk missing what is an amusing and necessary retort to the superficiality of the celebrity art world.

A classic piece of self-referential satire (note the tongue-in-cheek Yves Klein imagery) in a recent body of work that has seen Scott King wax parodical on the possibilities of a touring show featuring only Kurt Cobain’s lighter and decry trust-fund folksters Mumford & Sons in an exclusive series of prints, “You’re My favourite Artist” sets the manic adulation of an over-stimulated socialite to a penetrating and suffocating dance track, and all but eats itself in the process.

Based on a true story of sorts, “You’re My Favourite Artist” is a piece of work best discussed by the artist himself, and with the single released by The Vinyl Factory this week, we caught up with Scott King to find out a little bit more.

Could you describe the personal experience on which “You’re My Favorite Artist” is based?

I was once in New York – a few years ago now – when a woman I’d just met, a woman I didn’t know and whom I’m convinced had never heard of me – took me by the hand and dragged me around the room, introducing me to groups of people by saying “Hey! Have you met Scott King? He’s my favorite artist!” I don’t think I was her only favorite artist.

That’s extraordinary and must have been somewhat unsettling. Are such levels of sycophancy not commonplace in the art world?

Well the art world is built on varying degrees of sycophancy isn’t it? Some people do it very well, very smoothly, so that it’s barely even noticeable. Others are a little more aggressively sycophantic … sort of militantly complimentary. Polite networking is the engine of the art business, meeting and befriending people. So, the great fear is forgetting someone’s name – or even worse – getting their name wrong. Someone once told be a good tip for dealing with this: you just call everyone ‘Darling!’ all of the time. This is only flawed if the person you are talking to then needs to be introduced to someone else – so if you see a third person approaching – if you are threatened by needing to make an introduction – you just start waving and shouting ‘Darling!’ at someone else across the room, then scarper.

The track confronts this head on. What’s the story behind the production of the record and who was involved?

I worked on it with Jamie Fry (formerly of the legendary Earl Brutus, now of The Pre New). Jamie is a very old and close friend of mine. He’s 52 but has the enthusiasm, energy and drinking habits of 20 year old on holiday in Magaluf – so it was great to work with him. Then we worked with Brighton based producer Tim Larcombe. Tim and Jamie make a very good team and they just wrote the song at the mixing desk while I sat there quite confused. I wrote the words – that was in the morning – then in the afternoon, an actor called Polly Martyn came in and sang the song in a couple of takes. She was brilliant and brought the whole thing to life. Polly couldn’t really read my handwriting, which is why some of the names are mispronounced, but we liked it so left it like that. It was all done very quickly.

As it’s your first, why release this as a record rather than a piece of visual art?

I think that this record is just as much a piece of visual art as it is a song. The sleeve is essential to the whole thing. It’s very much a ‘package deal’. I’ve always wanted to make a record, so was grateful for the opportunity – and I enjoyed it so much that I’m now making another one.

How about the music industry? Does it suffer from similar levels of superficiality?

I don’t really have any involvement in the music industry anymore, unfortunately. But I would imagine it is still very superficial – probably more so than ever.

Earlier this year you made a print bearing the slogan “Stop! Mumford And Sons”. What’s your opinion of the band?

They are shit. They represent everything that is wrong with this country today. They are a bunch of public schoolboys pretending to be hillbillies aren’t they? I think that’s quite funny, Etonians taking on bluegrass or Woody Guthrie or whatever they imagine they are doing – the sons of investment bankers taking a genre that was explicitly about poverty and making it into a multi-million pound phenomena. This whole country is slowly being Mumfordised. Even places like Margate now have a Mumford Quarter that sells lattes, vintage posters and rustic lunches. Everything presented as ‘real’ and ‘authentic’- real ale, hand cut chips – gastro pubs stuffed with broken furniture on stripped wooden floors – everything ‘hand reared’ and localised – you can no longer buy mussels, cod, pork or crab in these pubs – only Shetland Isle Mussels, Peterhead Cod, Suffolk Pork and Dorset Crab. There is an overwhelming folksy, middle class, twee faux-local attitude that means many urban areas are rebranding themselves as ‘villages’: people in cities lusting after allotments, going to farmer’s markets in their wellies – the Mumfords are the house band for this desire to create the rural idyll in cities. Bring back The Wurzels, I say. The Wurzels were much better than Mumford & Sons.

Perhaps this is a side-effect of a world that takes itself too seriously. Does the art world have a sense of humour about itself?

Well, nobody’s complained about being mentioned on the record so far – the only people who have complained are the ones who didn’t get a mention.

That’s pretty telling and seems to prove some of the point you make with the review on the cover. You’ve worked on cover designs yourself in the past for, among others, Pet Shop Boys and Morrissey – tell me about this one. It’s basically not a cover at all…

This cover is a fake review from Artforum magazine. It seemed like the perfect solution for the sleeve. Artforum is this strange mix of very ‘serious’ art theory and cocktail parties – so to parody the magazine in the form of a glowing review for the sleeve was an inspired move I think. I’ve designed many record covers in the past – and I have to say – I’ve never struggled so much as I did while trying to come up with the idea for this one. It’s much easier to design sleeves for other people … it’s awful trying to do one for your own song, but I’m very pleased with the result – and the text and photographs are great.

Were David Rimmer real (assuming he’s a parody of a fickle art critic), what kind of guy would he be and what do you think it is about the track that would have changed his mind about you?

He would be a very self-important man – it’s all in there – you only have to read the text to see what kind of character he is. I think he would actually hate the song – I don’t think Rimmer would find it funny at all – but because he was paid handsomely, he wrote a nice review. Also, there is a clear hierarchy between ‘rock stars’ and artists – it’s very evident in New York – artist’s tend to fawn over rock stars that are connected to the art world, they make a terrible fuss over them and like nothing more than to be able to claim a rock star as their friend.

Did you draw inspiration from other great artistic satires?

No, I don’t think so. We listened to ‘Losing My Edge’ and ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ when we wrote it – but the idea for the whole thing isn’t based on an existing satire. We really just wanted to make the idea into a pop record – a potentially popular record – it was very important that it wasn’t an ‘artist’s record’ – we didn’t want it to be arty or obtuse, I hate things like that.

Finally, who is your favourite artist?

I’m a great fan of Martin Kippenberger – I can’t help but be drawn to his comedy/tragedy. There’s a brilliant book about him called “Kippenberger: The Artist and His Families”, written by his sister. It’s hard to tell if he was a complete arsehole or a genius … maybe a bit of both. But I do admire the way he used humour as a weapon – something to goad people with. I’m an admirer of Jim Lambie because he just makes beautiful things without tying himself in knots about ‘what it all means’. I’m also very interested in the old work of architects like Superstudio and Coop Himmelb(l)au: critical ideas and visionary proposals … impossible propositions. But I’m not sure I could ever get as excited about an artist as I once did about great bands. I still think that pop music is potentially the highest form of art, even though – or perhaps because – most of it is utter rubbish.

“You’re My Favourite Artist” is limited to 300 copies pressed on to 180gram vinyl, 100 of which have been “hand-signed” in the Mumford Quarter by Scott King. Visit our shop for more info and to order copies of the signed or unsigned record.

Photography by Jonathan de Villiers.