The clip for "The Funeral" (2022) by Yungblud
At the Rock en Seine festival (in the Paris suburbs), Dominic Harrison alias Yungblud was welcomed like a rock star, or even a messiah, on 25th August. The British artist, followed by 3.7 million followers on Instagram, exudes a unique charisma, which whips up crowds into a frenzy as soon as he appears on stage. The man who started out studying theatre in London (then appeared in series) moves with an all-consuming punk energy and fascinates with his gothic clown look and make-up worthy of Beetlejuice and the Joker. Admittedly the young singer-songwriter has rock'n'roll in his blood. His grandfather, Rick Harrison, played the piano and bass and performed with the legendary British glam rock band T. Rex in the 1970s. And his father owned a prestigious guitar store that sold instruments to the likes of Noel Gallagher of Oasis and Johnny Marr of The Smiths.
No wonder Mick Jagger and Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath's frontman, who appears in Yungblud's 2022 video The Funeral) see the 25-year-old Yorkshire native as the new wunderkind of rock. And that the music scene is snapping him up, from Willow Smith to singer-rapper Machine Gun Kelly, rapper Denzel Curry and drummer Travis Barker. In two albums, 21st Century Liability (2018) and Weird! (2020), Dominic Harrison has displayed a knack for catchy tunes and a (clever) mix of genres (rock, punk, power pop, hip-hop, ska). Influenced by artists such as Oasis, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Arctic Monkeys, Eminem, The Cure (which he sampled on his new single, Tissues) and The Clash, he appeals to pop and punk fans alike. His mission? "To embrace the strange," the iconoclastic artist proclaims. For him, imperfection is perfection.
The ex-boyfriend of singer Halsey (who is also reportedly dating another music industry rebel, Miley Cyrus), has declared he is pansexual as well as polyamorous. And it turns out that this fluidity (coupled with his musical hybridisations) makes him a star perfectly in tune with Generation Z, of which he is one of the icons. This enthusiasm is amplified by the artist's tendency to talk about depression, mental disorders, addiction, consent and other societal issues in cathartic hits. As his touching new album (entitled Yungblud), very much inspired by the 80s and the 2000s, is scheduled for release on Friday 2nd September, we meet the "new blood" of rock who, according to rumours, could play Boy George in a future biopic.
The video "Tissues" (2022) by Yungblud
Numéro: When and how did you start making music?
Yungblud: My father owned a guitar shop when I was a kid. So I literally grew up with a guitar in my hand from a very young age. There is a picture of me as a baby with this instrument on my lap. But I think I really considered making music when I was 14-15, because I came from a place called Doncaster, in Yorkshire, which is a very small town in the north of England. And people didn't like the way I dressed and the way I expressed myself. But, and this is very strange to say, I don't think I'm a musician. I think I'm more of a "communicator", a kind of soldier who fights for individuality. If you want to see a singer, don't go to one of my concerts. If you want to see a guitarist, don't go either. If you want your soul set on fire, to stand in a room and experience an energy you've never known, then come see me.
What feelings do you want to convey with your albums and concerts?
I want to enable people to feel accepted, to feel heard, to feel that they have a voice. And when you come to a show, it is almost as if people could speak although they had never been able to before. I want the experience to be powerful and passionate.
How would you describe your new album?
I would almost say that this is actually my first album as a work of art. I think this LP is very consistent and very personal because everyone has an opinion about who Yungblud is. This album is an invitation. It's you, it's me. It's whoever you want to be. It's a story about me, but it's also a story about you. Because I believe that if I feel something, then someone else can feel it too.
“Memories” (2022) by Yungblud featuring Willow
In this album, there are angry tracks and others much quieter...
There is indeed a lot of anger and pain on this album. The way my music has evolved since the beginning is because I started as an angry 17-year-old making music. And this anger turned into love. I felt loved for the first time. And there's nothing more powerful than that. It all comes down to love in the end. This statement may sound "cliché" but when you have a fan base in France, Spain, Portugal, America, Australia, Japan, Ireland, UK, Mexico, Malaysia, and you feel that strong connection and love, it fills you with happiness. And I had to write about that. But there are also a lot of lyrics about death on this album because I can’t stop thinking about what will happen when I am gone. It's always in the back of my mind. I've come to accept the fact that it will probably always be on my mind. There’s nothing I can about it, but I can learn to live with that voice and deal with it. And I think to myself things will be okay.
What is your favourite track on this album?
The Funeral, in which I talk about my hang-ups and fears. The idea was to open up about what makes me vulnerable, and hope that no one else can make me feel bad about it. I wanted others to feel empowered by this song and invite them to express themselves. Because, to me, expressing yourself is the most beautiful thing in the world. A lot of people don’t get me. They think I'm a punk. Because that's the easiest way to pigeonhole me. But I love Fred Astaire, Karl Marx and Antonio Vivaldi as much as I love the Sex Pistols. You know what I mean? That's the young "Blood" (editor’s note: for the "Blud" in "Yungblud"). And that's what defines the spirit of punk. It's about expressing who you really are rather than just being angry.
The video for "Don’t Feel Like Feeling Sad Today" (2022) by Yungblud
You collaborated with Willow Smith on one of your latest songs, Memories. What was it like working with her?
I love Willow. She's amazing. We started out as friends before working together. Recording our song was just magical, a song that managed to touch millions of people (editor’s note: the track has over 4 million views on YouTube). I couldn't believe it. Rock'n'roll has become such a white, pretentious genre. Willow brings a new energy that is exciting and crazy. She's part of a new age of rock that "pisses off" the old guys and that's what this music is supposed to do. The generation before us had the great Arctic Monkeys. And the generation before ours said of them, "they sound like bad Oasis." But people also claimed that Oasis were copying the Beatles. And that the Beatles sounded like Chuck Berry. What about Chuck Berry? You could link him to New Orleans jazz. Everybody's always angry. And when people are angry, a new world of rock stars collides with the past and it produces something magical.
What are your biggest musical inspirations ?
Madonna, Placebo, Joy Division, but also Chris Difford from the English band Squeeze, Bob Dylan... The list goes on. But right at the top, obviously I have to say David Bowie because with him, it was never just songs, but ideas that he wanted to bring to the world and leave behind.
The video for "11 Minutes" (2019) by Yungblud and Halsey featuring Travis Barker
You seem to use your music and social media to talk about your activism, especially concerning the visibility of mental health issues...
Music is my way of telling the truth without being afraid. I think with my music I can say things that I didn't have the courage to say in everyday life. The funny thing is that against all odds the Yungblud project has become huge and commercial. So sometimes people are afraid of what I'm talking about. For a Sex Pistols fan, I'm a fraud. For an Ariana Grande fan, I'm scary. I'll never be Ariana Grande, or Harry Styles. But I love them. I really do. And I think what they bring to the world is cool, and they're brilliant. Except I would never challenge their art. Because art is the very expression of one's soul. And I would never dare to question someone's soul.
What would you say to those who don't understand why a man like you wears skirts (and make-up)?
I would simply say: "try it, and you’ll realise you feel great".
Yungblud (2022) by Yungblud, available on all streaming platforms.