King Biscuit Time: The Last Interview?

"Peace to you all. I'm out of here. It's been amazing but I've had enough. The mountain beat me. and sadly you too/that don't mean you should give up. It just wasn't me. Over and out. Steve xxxx"

Feature by Milo McLaughlin | 16 May 2006

Steve Mason aka King Biscuit Time has spoken openly of how he struggled with depression during the eight years the Beta Band were together. However, chatting to him prior to the release of his stunning new album Black Gold, it seemed as if his current situation was more conducive to a healthy state of mind; "Every now and then I have a bad week but other than that it's all good. I lived in London for about 10 years and a couple of years ago I moved back to Fife and have been living here ever since in a tiny village.

"Before I suffered from mental illness I used to spend a lot of time on my own so I needed to get away from everything and everybody and learn to deal with my own company again. But the problem with a tiny fishing village is that there's nothing here. You can go for two or three days without seeing anyone at all - there's no cinemas, decent food or women! So I'm going to move to Edinburgh as soon as I can 'cos I'm bored out of my mind."

The proximity of a certain diseased swan aside, it seemed that the Fife air was doing Mason a world of good. The album, on which he played and produced everything himself, is crisply modern but also has an organic, acoustic feel along with the jittering beats, and dubby synths and melodica you would expect from the main songwriter of the Beta Band. Below, he talked the Skinny through some of the key tracks on the album:

C I AM 15
The first single confounded some critics with its combination of Top Cat's overtly political closing rant and Mason's more obtuse lyrics. "I sometimes think my lyrics are a little bit too open to interpretation so with this album I've tried to make things a bit more obvious. But there's quite a childlike mentality with the general public, who are being pampered and treated like morons a lot of the time. Even on something like the 80s quiz show Bullseye, the questions were really fucking challenging compared to what you get now!"

"This is about an eight year relationship I had with a girl that finally ended at almost exactly the same time as the Beta Band ended, around Dec 2004, and I started going out with her just before the band started so those two things were in total parallel the whole time."

"I wanted to make the chorus as uplifting as possible. It's about being up here in this tiny village on your own and realising that there's only so long you can sit around the place and feel sad about things, you eventually have to come alive again."

"This is about a girl I met after the eight year relationship who I had a two or three month relationship with and it was like falling in love again, but at the same time I knew it would be a short term thing so it was like we were packing a whole relationship into a very short time."

"An out and out love song to the girl I had the eight year relationship with. It's about waking up and turning round to look at this girl and hoping every day that I'm going to wake up beside her, and when you open your eyes and she's there it's just an overwhelming sense of relief. At that time there was still a lot of darkness in my life and she was the constant light that I'd look for."

The stand out track on the album which cheekily references 80s saxophone anthem Baker Street. "The predominant sound on this was made using an old cruddy keyboard, which I'm not into using for the hilarious lo-fi effect, but because I loved the sound. I can't remember what the setting was, probably vibraphone or something like that."

"There's a part of the film '1984' starring John Hurt where they get out of the city and go to the fields. Rising Son's about that, it's about the state of this country and the situation we're living in. I was imagining, as with '1984', when these things that are happening now reach their logical conclusion and we really do actually live in a police state, running off to the country and finding that little bit of space."

The Skinny also spoke briefly to Mason about the label he has set up with Alan McGee, No Style (of which he said "I haven't got a fucking clue about any of that") and his forthcoming tour which he seemed positive about, mentioning that this time round he would be joined by a live drummer.

However a couple of weeks after speaking to Mason he appears to have had a dramatic change of heart about returning to the music industry, posting the following message on his myspace page; "Peace to you all. I'm out of here. It's been amazing but I've had enough. The mountain beat me. and sadly you too/that don't mean you should give up. It just wasn't me. Over and out. Steve xxxx".

At the time of going to press, even his PR company are non the wiser as to his reasons for quitting, having been unable to contact him. His tour has now been cancelled and will not be rescheduled, although the album will still be released as planned. Perhaps Mason has sunk into depression again or has decided that touring posed too great a risk to his mental health. All we can hope for is that he's safe and well, and that one day we might hear from him again, because he and his sublimely original music will otherwise be sadly missed.

Black Gold' is released through No Style Records on May 15.

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