R OGER DALTREY WALKS through Kore Studios near London’s Shepherd’s Bush, opening doors and looking for Yungblud. “Is he here?” the Who frontman asks. Yes, he is. “A young musician on time! Unheard of,” Daltrey booms. Everyone within earshot laughs.
This location was chosen for its familiarity (Daltrey has recorded here) and for ease — the 78-year-old lives not too far from Kore, just outside of London. On the contrary, the much younger star he’s meeting has flown in from Paris, where he played a show last night, and will soon hop on a flight to L.A.
It’s the first in-person meeting for Daltrey, one of the quintessential frontmen of British rock music, and the 25-year-old Yungblud — real name Dominic Harrison — the new face of British pop rock. Both are invested in this conversation in their own way: Daltrey is genuinely curious about how Yungblud manages the modern music industry and social media, both of which he finds disagreeable, and has questions from his granddaughters, two big Yungblud fans. Yungblud, a new U.K. style icon who released his self-titled album in September, is simply in awe of Daltrey, having grown up listening to his music being played by his dad and granddad.
Daltrey: I feel sorry for young people now — there’s so much real style, sharp style in the past.
Yungblud: I remember when I was kind of figuring out what I wanted to look like. It was you lads, the Clash. It was Jamie Reid, who did all the Sex Pistols designs. And it was just like, “How the hell can I bring that to young people today?” Everyone I was seeing in music was just wearing jeans and a T-shirt.
Daltrey: I’ve got to tell you, when Axl [Rose] first appeared with shorts and T-shirts onstage, we all fucking laughed.
Yungblud: I want people to have identity because there were so many [sub]cultures back then.
Daltrey: There’s always a wasteland time, isn’t there? A barren period.
Yungblud: That’s why I couldn’t wait to speak to you about it, because you were there at the first [wave of rock].
Daltrey: I was only on the tail end of the first one. I was 13 when I heard Little Richard and Elvis. Little Richard still rings in my head. He was everything. Lots of people talk about Elvis and all the other people around, but Little Richard kinda gets forgotten. Paul McCartney will always tell you it’s Little Richard, that’s where [the Beatles] got their [wooo noise].
Yungblud: It’s so mental, because to me I thought you lot were first, just because I was English. I knew Elvis, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry because my old man and my granddad were like, “That was it,” but it felt so far away to me.
Daltrey: Well, [Pete] Townshend tapped into the feeling of the youth at the time. There was all this pent-up aggression that’s always there in youth, but it’s whether you channel it in a creative way. Prior to us, of course, they channeled it into the Second World War. We don’t wanna go there again, do we? Thank goodness rock music came along. It was Townshend’s observation of our fashion and [that] the times were changing. And in between it was a kind of weird barren period, that early Rolling Stones period, the Beatles-look thing. All of a sudden there was this whole new [mod] fashion movement coming out of two little parts of London: Lewisham and Catford in South London. Instead of having motorbikes and long drape jackets, like the Teds, these guys had short hair and smart suits, three-quarter-length coats. I can remember it clear as anything. …You thought that’s going to be the new movement.
I was just listening to your new album, and it’s really uplifting. I love the way you use the crowd-singing sound that you use in your mixing. How do you do that, by the way?
Yungblud: It’s just me and my mates, basically. Ten of us will stand around a mic, but it’s mental because it’s “Sing it high, sing it low, sing it drunk, sing it out of tune,” because when you play a gig, 50 percent of people don’t know how to sing. And that’s what makes the feeling of “Fucking hell, this feels massive.” And then we all change positions and start clinking glasses and all that shit.
Daltrey: So much of the music in the last 10 years, it’s kind of ignored what you can do with just voices. I’m talking about mainstream big-selling stuff. Harmonies — when you listen to the Beach Boys, I mean, their kind of image was totally alien to us. They were these square guys in swimming trunks. It meant nothing to us, except Keith Moon, of course, who lived on another planet. All he wanted to be was the drummer of the Beach Boys all the time he was the drummer of the Who. He’s waiting for Dennis Wilson to pop his clogs and jump in his seat. When you listen to the songs of the Beach Boys and the harmonies and all that stuff, it truly lifts your spirits. We really need it these days. Too many solo voices singing mediocre lyrics.
Yungblud: When I came [to London from Doncaster], I started playing gigs and went to art school for a bit, and I was completely lost. . . . We put a video on the internet that we’d made, and a young A&R found it and went into Virgin, and then went, “All right, let’s put you on The Voice.” I was like, “No fucking way.”
Daltrey: Thank goodness. They wanted me to be a judge on that, and I just wouldn’t do it. I’m not gonna judge anyone’s singing — you’re only gonna squash their spirit, whatever you say.
Yungblud: I remember them saying, “We’ll put you on The Voice, and if you win it, we’ll sign you. But you can’t sing about politics” — because I was starting to write about sexuality, fashion, gender … And I just said no. If you say no to a major label, it’s like, “Oh, shit, what do I do now?” And I literally just [picked] up my iPhone and was like, “This is how I feel about the world.” People started responding, and 1,000 followers turn to 10,000 and 20,000.
Daltrey: I don’t do the internet at all. I have a very bad opinion of social media, I’m afraid. It kind of turned bad once they put the “likes” in on Facebook. And then people start to play for the “likes,” which is their ego, and egos destroy you. So, I don’t even go there. I don’t care what you say about me, do what you like. But I wonder, you have built your career on it. Do you have sleepless nights about it? Do those “likes” worry you?
Yungblud: That side of it only came into my fucking psyche when I quote-unquote made it, in inverted commas. I was bored of everyone taking a picture on a fucking beach of the perfect life. I wanted to kind of do the opposite, and was like, “Right, this is how I want to communicate with you.”
Daltrey: I understand what you’re saying, but what I’m asking you is: Does it affect you?
Yungblud: Not really. For a time in my life, it did.
Daltrey: So it did have an effect on you to a certain point. Because a lot of people aren’t as strongly guided as you are with where you want to go, and that crushes them. … You talk about Yungblud as if he’s different from you. He’s your alter ego. So who’s the real Dom underneath? Is he insecure?
Yungblud: I’m confidently insecure.
Daltrey: You sound like how I would have been at your age, because you’re thrown into this limelight and everyone expects you to do these wonderful interviews. And sometimes you just can’t pull it out, can you? Because you’re always shitting yourself.
Yungblud: That’s one thing I think the world needs to know — every time you walk into an interview, especially for something massive, every rock & roll star in the world is like “Fuuuck.”
Daltrey: I’m not an interviewer, but it intrigues me the way these youngsters are reshaping the [music] industry. I hope that you get the industries to really work for you. Because I tend to see a lot of people being financially abused in it: People having God knows how many million streams of a song that they’ve written, and they get a check for 10 quid. That is a great form of robbery.
Yungblud: I agree. In this world of social media and trends, we forget about the culture, we all become so passive. Whereas me old man took me to see you lot at Sheffield Arena when I was about nine—
Daltrey: About four years ago, then [laughs]. Were we doing Quadrophenia?
Yungblud: Yeah, and Zak Starkey was playing drums. And the old man took me for a curry, and everyone around the fucking surrounding area, even in the curry house afterwards, was in a fucking parka. So in my head, I wanted a parka, and I’m looking around and even that young I was thinking this is what’s missing a little bit from fucking music. And that’s why I put pink socks on. I only wear pink socks because I was like, “What can people wear to be like me?” Because when you say “Who is the Dom behind Yungblud?” — I wanted Yungblud to be the same thing for Charlie in Holland or Freddie in Texas or Sarah in Australia.
Is anything integrally different between British and American rock now and then?
Daltrey: Oh, American rock is still deeply rooted in Chuck Berry [and] the blues far more than British music is.
Yungblud: For me, British music is all about feeling. Like if I go into an American studio, it’s got to be perfect. Whereas if I’m writing at home and I’m a little bit out of tune, it’s a little more cigs and beer, you know?
Daltrey: Tell me about it. What is it with American producers? The last album we did, we had an American producer, I won’t mention his name, but I couldn’t work with him because he wanted everything in the pocket. Music’s not like that. Music comes from inside. If it straddles the beat, it don’t matter.
Yungblud: I think that the musicianship in America feels a lot more technical, and almost a bit better. But when you look at musicians from England, they fucking feel it. I just think we’re a bit more naively great.
Is there anything in your career, Roger, that’s kept you up at night?
Daltrey: Oh, loads. I’ve got one of those brains that’s very difficult to turn off. It’s one of the hardest things of all. Especially for a singer. People don’t realize that singers, unlike guitarists, they can’t change the strings. And you are the instrument. One of the few bits of advice I’ll give you, Dom, is never sing on a cold.
And I’ve already told you about rehydrating yourself when you come offstage. When temperatures get too hot, you can cook your brain. We did a gig in Paris, and it was [115 degrees] in the audience. Liam Gallagher was there at this gig in a tent in Paris, and dear Liam is standing in the audience in a bloody anorak. He’s the coolest dude, I love him to bits. Have you met him?
Yungblud: I’ve never met him. But I love his band. I like his naughtiness. He’s got his bite.
Daltrey: He’s just got an edge, and I wish [Oasis] would just get back together. Liam, though, has really carved out a niche for himself now, and I love him. I think he’s fabulous. He’s totally honest. He’s not frightened of saying how he feels. Very similar to you. You remind me of him a bit. He’s from the other side, though! I’ve got a Yorkshire daughter from Huddersfield.
Yungblud: My childhood best mate Elliot’s from Huddersfield.
Daltrey: I love the Yorkshire accent. I love English accents. Never let us lose them, please never let us lose them.