Ruarri Joseph’s new alternative project, William The Conqueror, released their awaited debut album, Proud Distributer of the Peace, earlier this year. Joseph’s new rock focused endeavour, recorded in sessions throughout the band’s trip to Cornwall and the Isle of Lewis, draws from Americana and bluesy-indie rock. The band’s gritty sound has gained them a following, outside of Ruarri’s own solo- project, allowing them to pursue their independent tour. The album features Ruarri on vocals and guitar, Harry Harding on drums, and Naomi Holmes on bass. Exeposé Music had the chance to interview Ruarri before their gig on the 26th November, at Exeter Phoenix, about their musical influences and the rest of their tour.
I’ve heard through the grapevine that you are a massive Bob Dylan Fan… how did you get into his music?
My Dad is obsessed, completely obsessed. I don’t have any childhood memories that don’t have Bob Dylan in the background, somewhere in the house. I got into my own music when I was around 11, 12 years old, and then, heard Dylan in my late teens and was like “I know this”, and went through his catalogue and I knew pretty much all of it.
Would you say moving around, from New Zealand to Scotland has impacted your style or any of the sonic themes?
I think the feeling of rootlessness, and feeling all over the place has impacted… more to do with moving around I’d never really tuned into a local in terms of the music of the place, more to do with what it’s like to adjust, has seeped into the lyrics rather than the music. It has all been an internal thin, like any teenager that grew up in the grunge scene..
Is there a deliberate sonic vision to the album, or is it more spontaneous and fluid?
Possibly… I was a solo artist for a long time, and just by virtue of it being me with a guitar, I ended up in the folk circuit, even though I wasn’t a folk musician. But I needed a job so it was fine, and I had no problem with it. But at a certain point, I think William started as a project that was meant to be off the radar, and it was more trying to connect with the reason of why I got into music, which was about making music for yourself, no pressure from a label or management, it was just gut instinct, so that was kind of what William became. From that, it led back to the earlier grunge stuff and heavier stuff, we were into, and America music. But there is no vision necessarily, more like a kind of ethos to the creativity- it has to be honest.
there is no vision necessarily, more like a kind of ethos to the creativity
What is your favourite track off the album? Or one that you like to play the most live?
I think that changes all the time- I don’t know. There are like watershed moments, like the first track on the album, (In my dreams), that felt like a turning point, as I had deliberated for ages about whether to do anything with William- we’d been gigging off the radar, for two, three years and just enjoying it and doing it for the pure love of music, but then when ‘In My Dreams’ came along it was like a shut through the door, and made us go ahead and do it and not worry about what people thought. It is essentially like quitting your job and starting again, so I was edgy about doing that just for financial reasons I guess, but songs like that are songs that are written from a different perspective. I suppose writing under your own name, with a beard and a guitar makes you a little limited. Calling myself William the Conqueror made me write differently- sort of a persona. It’s a name I gave myself as a kid, as I just to play soldier with myself, it was that kind of youthful confidence that goes as you get older and get more jaded.
I don’t have any childhood memories that don’t have Bob Dylan in the background
Your ‘Thorns’ music video has got references to childhood memories, was that a deliberate decision, drawing from where the band got its name from?
Oh absolutely- it is that thing of not caring, you don’t know the weight of the world just yet so we just tried to tap into that. We tried to juxtapose it with this idea that we were in this tiny basement, with these splashes of colour and oil going all other the place, but the image of the boy on his bike seems the opposite of where we found ourselves.
How is the tour going so far? It’s been a busy November by the sounds of things!
It has been really good- it has been busy, but this year has been our first headline tour, which has defiantly felt as if we have got our own fans, and our own audience rather than just carrying over people who used to just listen to me as a solo artist. That has been really nice. Obviously, the album is out, so people know the songs and sing along. I’m going home tonight for the first time in a month so that will be nice.
Have you got any album recommendations from any of the classics? I am a Joni Mitchel fan, so anything by here is always a pleasure for me.
Oh well she gets a pass from my Dad! Dylan and Joni Mitchel’s voice would permeate the soundscape at home, but any old Dylan records really. You can’t get enough of Highway 61, it’s just incredible. Recently, maybe Blackstar, that hit me pretty hard. Cohen’s last album before he died- there is something about them. I’d like to be there one day- I won’t want to be singing higher than my talking voice.