Heartache and tragedy inspired London’s club queen Katy B to make new album ‘Honey’, a record about “escaping through raving”, she tells David Renshaw
Katy B is sipping a green tea and talking about her upcoming album ‘Honey’, a project that sees her collaborating with, alongside others, R&B’s comeback king Craig David, US carnival-dancehall act Major Lazer, cerebral electronic artist Four Tet and fast-rising grime MC Novelist. If it sounds like a night out at the world’s most eclectic club, that’s sort of the point. “It’s like being at Fabric on a Friday,” she says. “Like wandering through a multi-genre rave.”
Katy’s career was born on the London club scene – home to superclub Fabric. She broke through alongside Magnetic Man on 2010’s dubstep banger ‘Perfect Stranger’ and since then has established herself as the voice of the dancefloor, lending a human narrative to house, soul, R&B and speaker-rattling bass.
She can still be spotted out with friends at London clubs such as Peckham’s arty Bussey Building and Brixton’s newer Phonox, but it’s nights out further from home that excite Katy the most, as the looming threat of gentrification continues to play havoc with London’s club scene. “I’m always raving in Birmingham,” she says, recommending local nights Rainbow and Void. “Everything’s shutting down here [London]. It’s getting really boring.”
‘Honey’ started life as an EP, designed to give Katy the chance to work with others and create new material for live sets. But when you’re as well liked as she is, the offers flood in. Alongside the aforementioned guests are producers Wilkinson, Jamie Jones, Mr Mitch, KDA and Geeneus. There are, however, only three female collaborators among the 21 present: Radio 1 resident Hannah Wants, producer Kate Simko and Disclosure collaborator Sasha Keable, who lends her voice to ‘Chase Me’.
“When I finished I did think: ‘Wow. It’s a bit of a sausage party here,’” Katy jokes. “But I’d never see other women as competition. I once had a massive support slot taken away from me because it was decided this artist couldn’t tour with another female act. I’ll definitely work with more female acts in the future.”
Katy endured both heartbreak and tragedy while making the album. Her older brother Andrew passed away in September 2014 following a cardiac arrest, having suffered brain damage in an accident 18 months earlier. She released her second album ‘Little Red’ a few months before his death and split her time between promoting the record and jetting back to be by her brother’s bedside. That album provided an anchor for her, she says now. “I got to hold on to something while going through that crazy time.”
‘Honey’ doesn’t tackle this loss directly, instead acting as a portal to a happier place away from the stress and hardship brought on by losing her sibling. “I’m not ready to write about what happened with my brother – it’s too painful,” she says. “So this is an album that celebrates escapism through raving.”
One thing that she does address head-on is the end of a three-year relationship on the “dark and sinister” track ‘Water Rising’ – a highlight of the album. “I thought we were going to be with each other for ever,” says the 26-year-old. “That song is about that specific moment when you know you’re going to break apart. It’s me saying: ‘You hurt me so much that I can’t walk away from you crying. I’m not going to let you have that last dig at me. I need to be strong.’”
Having survived a torrid two years, Katy’s looking to the future and speaks about plans to set up a home studio and start producing music herself. “I studied at college so I can use Logic, but I was doing it to get a grade,” she says, revealing she has ideas for her next 10 albums. “I’d love to do something with a unified sound. But I could never make an album of ballads. I need some flavour.”