Interview: Nothing But Thieves talk about Korean Fans & Touring

Now with the release of their second album ‘Broken Machine’, Nothing But Thieves are continuing their path upwards – after their first album which climbed the charts in 2015 and their sell-out tour which followed. Since then, they have supported Muse on tour and have recently played to a crowd of more than half a million at Woodstock Festival in Poland.

AC: You’re music is being used a lot in adverts and commercials from the Madden Football Game to BBC’s Poldark, have you ever unintentionally stumbled across your own music?

NOTHING BUT THIEVES: Yes, in a pub in Essex. Definitely didn’t have friends who worked there. Definitely not.

From all of the places you’ve played recently, which has been your favourite? Which other countries have you seen take a big unexpected interest in your sound?

That’s hard because so many countries we’ve played have been amazing. We get a crazy turn out in places like Poland and Holland. I always enjoy playing those two. The one we didn’t expect to be so huge was in South Korea. We showed up to this festival thinking we’d play to a couple hundred new fans and we played to over 15,000 Koreans. Just mental.

With your first album charting really high upon release, do you have any targets for how well you want your new album to do?

I just want it to continue our success. The path upwards is very enjoyable and I want to stay on it. I’ve heard the path downwards has loads of slugs and used condoms on it. I want stay far away from it. I want to stay away from the used condoms pleased.

What’s your favourite song on the album and why?

That’s tough. I have eleven babies how can you make me pick one? To be honest, it switches depending on my mood, as all albums should. Currently loving ‘I was just a kid’. Just madness. Can’t wait to play it live.

In the future, which other acts do you hope to one day support of their tours?

I’d love to support Radiohead or Foo [Fighters] mainly because they’re our collective band favourites. Can you just imagine.

Nothing But Thieves’ new album ‘Broken Machine’ is available now.

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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Interview: X Ambassadors are blurring genre lines

Now two years after their debut album ‘VHS’, X Ambassadors give us details on their highly-anticipated upcoming second album.

AC: You’re often described as a rock band — but how would you describe yourselves?

X AMBASSADORS: Genre lines are so blurry in this day an age, that I don’t even know what is considered rock anymore. We’ve always taken influences from so many different types of music, new and old, and we’ve always been proud of the fact that people can’t seem to categorize us easily.

Which song are you most proud of to date?

We are always trying to write better and better songs, so we tend to be most proud of our most recent material. I’d say right now, it’s a tie between our new song ‘Ahead Of Myself’, and another new one we’ve started to play live, but haven’t released yet.

Is it during Live Performances that you decide which songs you like the best?

These days, we generally record an entire song before ever playing it live. I’d say for me personally, I do at least discover which songs of ours I like the best by playing them live. As we tour and keep playing the songs, they evolve a bit too, and sometimes I’ll find whole new depth to songs we’ve played for ages.

Is there a new album coming? How many songs are you working on?

We are actually in the final mixing and mastering phase of making our new album, but I can’t give too many details away cause, you know, it’d ruin the surprise. All I’ll say is that it’s a full length album of entirely new material. So far, the only song from it you’ve heard so far is the first single, ‘Ahead Of Myself’.

Who has been designing the merchandise? Was that a collaborative effort?

Honestly, it’s mostly my brother (the lead singer), our manager, and a few artists and designers we’ve met over the years. We’re going to be doing a lot of new merch to go with the new album, so keep your eyes peeled. We’re pretty excited about the new designs.

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Interview: Logan Henderson on his new single ‘Pull Me Deep’

Logan Henderson
Photo by Catie Laffoon

LOGAN HENDERSON is currently embarking on a solo career as a musician, after gaining fame a decade ago with a breakthrough role in Nickelodeon’s ‘Big Time Rush’.

Raised in Texas, Logan moved to California at the age of eighteen to pursue an acting career. ‘Big Time Rush’ centered around a four-part pop band and quickly became a big TV hit, catapulting the fictional band to sign some very real deals with Sony Music Entertainment and Columbia Records. The band went on to release a three albums – which featured much of Logan’s songwriting.

After four seasons of ‘Big Time Rush’, both the show and the band went into hiatus by 2014. Logan took this time to focus on his personal life and begin developing a sound of his own – a sound which we’re now beginning to hear. 

Logan has just released his debut solo album titled ‘Echoes of Departures and the Endless Street of Dreams Pt.1’. The release introduces listeners to Logan’s sound and clearly shows that he’ll be a staple in pop culture for years to come. The second installment of the album will be released later this year. We talk to Logan Henderson about his brand new single ‘Pull Me Deep’.

AC: What was it like growing up in Texas?

LOGAN: I have a lot of family and great memories from growing up in Texas. It will always be home for me.

When you moved to California, what were the biggest differences in the culture for you?

I moved to California when I was seventeen, it was a complete change of life. It opened my eyes to a lot of different things.

Looking back at ‘Big Time Rush’, do you have any favorite memories from your time on the show?

I got to eat, sleep and breathe music. I was able to travel the world and meet a lot of interesting people. It was an unforgettable experience.

As a group you shot to fame in a short space of time. How did you manage that as an individual?

I was very focused on being present in the moment and the task at hand. I tried not to think about it too much because it can get overwhelming.

You’ve just released part one of your debut solo album – how long had you been working on it?

Part one is a collection of music and stories from the past year and a half.

Do you have a favorite track on the album?

Each track kind of has a life of its own.

Logan Henderson

What’s it been like shooting music videos for the singles? Do you get involved in the concepts for them?

I’m very involved in the process and vision for my music videos. Filming and story development has always been a huge passion of mine.

Would you consider returning to acting?

Music has been my focus, but acting is something I’ll do for the rest of my life.

How important is social media to you?

I love the ability to talk to my fans, but I’m not huge of social media.

What’s the best thing about performing live?

I have the best fans in the world! I love the energy and the journey that we get to go on together.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

No set pre-show ritual. Each show is different. I go off of the vibe at that moment.

Tell us about your new single ‘Pull Me Deep’ – what inspired you to write it?

‘Pull Me Deep’ is a new sound for me that I have been wanting to explore. It’s a story that I think everyone can relate to. It’s one of my favorites that I’ve released so far.

QUICK QUESTIONS WITH LOGAN HENDERSON

What’s the strangest food combo you’ve ever had?

I’m a huge foodie and I’ve eaten a lot of weird shit.

Everyone has a cool app idea, what’s yours?

No app idea, but if I have a few ideas for Apple! FaceTime needs to allow you to leave messages if the person isn’t available. Also, FaceTime should allow you to have filters. Come on let’s get with it!

What’s on your music playlist at the moment?

Nao, Brockhampton, Playboi Cartie, Greta VanFleet, Chromeo.

Is there a sport you wish you could play?

I love hockey..terrible at playing it.

What’s the last film you watched?

‘Hereditary’.

If you had one superpower, what would it be?

I’d be on some ‘Nightcrawler’ shit.

What’s the last photograph you took?

Lots of dog pictures.

If you could sing a duet with anyone right now, who would it be?

Clairo

Is there anything in particular that you’re really excited about for the future?

New music, traveling and more shows and seeing all of you at more shows and festivals this next year.

Listen to Logan Henderson’s new single ‘Pull Me Deep’ here

PHOTOGRAPHY: CATIE LAFFOON

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Interview: Tom Odell – The Songwriter Finding Home Again

Tom Odell Photoshoot CROOKES Magazine 2018TOM ODELL is gearing up to release his third album ‘Jubilee Road’ – after rising to prominence just six years ago with the hit single ‘Another Love’.

It was at the age of thirteen that he began to secretly write songs – telling nobody because he felt it was “uncool” – unaware that in a decades time, he would top the charts with his work and be named ‘songwriter of the year’ at the 2014 Ivor Novello Awards ceremony.

Tom intended to attend the University of York having been offered a place to study chemistry. But his is passion for songwriting broke through, as he attempted to gain a place at a music college in Liverpool – ultimately attending the Brighton Institute of Modern Music. At the Institute, he played as part of the band Tom and the Tides.

A short time later, Tom caught the attention of singer Lily Allen – who had just set up her own label under Columbia Records called ‘In The Name Of’ – which he was quickly signed to. It wasn’t long before Tom got shortlisted for the prestigious BBC Sound Of 2013 award – as his song ‘Another Love’ gained traction, appearing in adverts and fashion runway shows. He later released his chart-topping debut album ‘Long Way Down’.

The songs from Tom’s second album – ‘The Wrong Crowd’ (which was released in 2016) –  follow a narrative of a man ‘held at ransom by his childhood’. Each song tells a story that’s elaborated and exaggerated – with a heightened sense of reality. But across all of his work so far, it’s clear to see that Tom is as much a songwriter as he is a storyteller.

Odell holds a commanding presence on stage – whether he’s perched behind a piano or standing in front of a microphone, his vocals lead the charge. Off the back of the success of the last album ‘Wrong Crowd’, Tom went on a lengthy sell-out tour of Europe and America (‘No Bad Days’) which ended up merging with some on-the-road writing of his upcoming album ‘Jubilee Road’.

I think this album is very much about finding home

Talk to us about ‘Jubilee Road’, what’s the story behind the name?

The album is inspired by a road I lived on in London for a little while. For me the name represents the neighbours and friends I made whilst living there. It was wonderful community of people who’s lives inspired me greatly. I would sit at my piano in the living room of the house, and hear the old man next door’s television coming through the walls, and see the family opposite sitting down for dinner each night. At midnight the pub at the end of road would call last orders and I could hear the drunken conversations as people walked home. It was home. And I listening back to the album now, it takes me right back there.

You described the lyrics from your last album as having a ‘heightened sense of reality’. The lyrics from your recent single feel slightly more grounded. What do you think?

I think there is an element truth to that yes! I knew that after living out of a suitcase for five years, touring the world, I needed to stay put for a while, throw my passport in the draw and get to know what day the bin men come. And I think this album is very much about finding home. And in a lot ways about accepting who I am.

Does ‘Jubilee Road’ follow a fictional narrative like the last album?

When I write songs, to a certain degree it is irrelevant to me what is real and what is fictional. The closest thing I can describe it to is dreaming. Often dreams are located in places that feel familiar, with people that are real, but the narrative is boundless, and sometimes real memories are interweaved with things that you heard about or perhaps never happened at all. I think my approach to songwriting is similar quite similar!

Why did you decide to opt for a fictional narrative in your songwriting?

With the last album, Wrong Crowd, there was a degree of fiction to it, but looking back actually, it was closer to home than I realised. In many ways, I was living out that very life I was talking about in the songs. I was yearning to find a home, to belong somewhere but I was stuck in this world of transience, of hotels and airports. I guess I had to make Wrong Crowd to make this third album Jubilee Road.

Three years have past since your last album. Having spent much of that time on tour, were you writing a lot on the road?

Two years have passed actually! And yes, I’m always writing, every day! I find the road an inspiring place to write as its so extreme. But having written the second album almost entirely on the road, I yearned to write this album all on the same piano, and that I did.

Which artists do you think inspired this upcoming album the most?

I’m really not sure. I think I’m proud of this album the most because of its richness. Some people may like it, some may hate it, but what I don’t think anyone can say is that its not full to the brim of music and lyrics. I found new ways of writing, using imagery, and other people’s lives to dig a little deeper into how I felt about things. I think that was quite inspired by listening a lot to artists like Elvis Costello and Carley Simon, but also by reading. I read a hell a lot of books when I was living in Jubilee Road, authors like John Updike and Sinclair Lewis and Kazuo Ishiguro, and Arundhati Joy. Words inspire me just as much as music does.

Tom Odell

Earlier in your career, you spoke about having writer’s block, has that returned in recent years?

Touch wood, I haven’t! I mean, I think like most songwriters there are certainly days of intense frustration, where nothing seems to sound right, but overall I’ve been lucky to able to keep feeling the need to write.

How do you get past the writer’s block?

I think the thing I’ve learnt over the years is that a huge part of the songwriting job is staying inspired. I have to keep the fire burning, look after that mystical muse. And so I continually surround myself in music, in books and art. People too! Conversations had with friends have countlessly inspired the idea for a song. But also adventure! Saying yes to things is a good place to start. Travelling somewhere I’ve never been before. I’m not sure, but I think if I continue to do all of this, the dreaded writers block will keep its wretched hands from my piano.

How important is social media to you right now?

I think its a wonderful tool to be able to speak to my fans directly, in a way that for many years artists could never do with traditional media. It’s quite wonderful when I recommend a book on my Instagram and people come back with their suggestions on what I should read next. I’ve found a couple of great books that way. I think it is also very addictive, and like anything, quite destructive when used too much, so I try to be careful about how much I use it.

I did see on your Instagram that you’ve been reading a lot of books – have you got a favourite of late?

I just started reading ‘Witches of Eastwick’ by John Updike and I’m thoroughly enjoying it!

Everyone seems to have an app idea at the moment, what’s yours?

I’d like to start an app which encourages young people to play the piano! Its such a brilliant instrument but also because I think its important music is a part of children’s lives. One of the things that gets me most frustrated about the government we have at the moment is the arts cuts in schools that have taken place over the past few years. I believe that arts and music are as important to education as maths or history. So anyway, anything to encourage more music I think would be wonderful.

Is fashion something that’s important to you?

When I’m not working, I pretty much wear the same pair of jeans and trainers every day. I really don’t care how I look. But on stage, I think the clothes the band and I wear are as part of the show as the lights and stage set up. I usually wear pretty simple suits, but they give me a little more confidence when I’m jumping up on the piano then my worn out jeans and muddy trainers. Also, for a few moments in the day, I feel like I have a real job.

Stream/Buy the new single “If You Wanna Love Somebody” here

INTERVIEW & STORY: ADAM CROOKES

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Interview: Ananya Birla Is Making Waves In Music & Business

Ananya Birla Photoshoot 2018

ANANYA BIRLA is successfully balancing both a music and business career.

Since signing with Universal in 2016, Ana has worked with Afrojack and Mood Melodies, shared the stage with Coldplay at Global Citizen and gained over 21 million views with her first two singles on You Tube. Her last two singles – ‘Hold On’ and ‘Meant To Be’ went Platinum in India.

On top of being a talented musician, Ana also at just 17 launched Svatantra – a microfinance organisation that helps empower rural women and make them economically independent.

Ana has been named as one of Forbes Asia’s Women to Watch, amongst the ‘Top 50 Power women of 2016’ by Verve Magazine and Miss Vogue’s 28 Geniuses under 28, as well as being a recipient of the CNBC Young Business Women Award.

Growing up in India, how much of a role does music play in the culture there?

Music is an integral part of our culture. Although it is so diverse and varied, it is definitely something which binds us together. Music and dance is central to festivals like Holi, films and weddings. In fact, I don’t think any Indian celebration is complete without music!

We’re not that different from the rest of the world – pop music started growing in the 60’s and MTV helped create a new generation who had music at the center of their universe in the 90s.

Pop, dance and also hip-hop continue to grow in popularity, with an increasing number of international acts coming over to perform every year. I think that the younger generations are growing to really appreciate international music as well as local artists.

What was your first introduction to music there?

Since I was a kid, music has been really central to my life. My dad is a businessman and my mom works in education, but they were both still really musical and encouraged all things creative in our household when I and my brother and sister were growing up.

My mother plays the santoor. It is this beautiful Indian wooden instrument, which is kind of like a guitar with loads of strings and you play on your lap. I used to sit and watch her play for hours and hours when I was small. Eventually my parents encouraged me to take up lessons myself when I was 9. I think I spent more time practicing that than doing anything else.

When I got a bit older, I used YouTube tutorials to teach myself the guitar and the piano so I could play along with my favourite artists like Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and John Mayer. The santoor training really helped me when I was starting out, what was tough was learning to sing along while I played.

Ananya Birla Photoshoot 2018

Then going on to study Economics at Oxford University – was the music taking a backseat?

Actually it was when I was at Oxford that I decided to make a career of it.

Moving from Mumbai to the UK was a massive change – Mumbai is so full-on, the sights, sounds and smells are more intense than anywhere in the world. At times Oxford was so quiet that I almost felt like the only person there. I had a difficult time adjusting to the move.

Music helped. Whenever I could, I travelled to London where I got really into the music scene. Before too long I was gigging in bars. However small the audience or random the venue, I used to love it. I discovered so many wonderful little nooks around London that I had never been to before. I think my favourite was this little venue outside Camden, it was filled with the most diverse people I have ever met, from old rockers to students from all over the world.
Living in the UK gave me great perspective. I love how accepting people can be of those who are different, and how these super diverse communities can thrive, especially in London.

At that time, where could you see yourself in terms of a career?

By the time I got to Oxford, I had already set up Svatantra. It is a business which helps rural Indian women to grow their businesses and become self-sufficient by giving them access to small loans. It was tricky to balance Svatantra, music and my studies.

I think because of that and because I was studying economics at the time, there was definitely some expectation to move into something more in the business side of things, something more conventional. That, combined with the fear of failing at the thing I loved, held me back a little bit.

Today, I am so happy that I made the leap in to music. I know how lucky I am to wake up every day and do the things I love. I hope to encourage people to realise that they too can break down barriers and stereotypes, follow their passions and hopefully achieve their dreams.

Ananya Birla Photoshoot 2018

What was it like to support Coldplay at the Global Citizen Festival? What does that festival mean to you?

Just being around musicians who have achieved so much and who I had looked up to forever, was a huge inspiration. Witnessing how they work and perform was really valuable and continues to inform my own process.

Global Citizen is an amazing initiative, they use their music events and massive international reach to build movements for social action. It really shows how music, especially live music, can bring people together to support amazing causes.

For mental health awareness month this May, I worked on a piece for their website about stamping out the stigma around mental health in India and internationally.

Svatantra is such an amazing concept – how did the idea for it come about?

I was always very conscious of the huge income gap in India. As soon as I could, I wanted to develop a vehicle to address this, to give back to society but in a sustainable way that encouraged social progress and self-sufficiency. Svatantra, which means freedom in Hindi, provides loans to low-income, rural women to assist them in growing their businesses. I believe it’s incredibly valuable to empower someone to do something for themselves. I wanted to enable women to make their presence felt in India’s economy and, most importantly, to have the opportunity to be financially independent.

It must have been a pretty risky business to have started at 17?

There were definitely challenges.  When I started, the industry was heavily male dominated and the leaders were middle aged and very established, even my own team was much older than me! It was tough to prove to people that I knew what I was doing. I had to reinvent myself on a daily basis, I had to continue to learn, to make mistakes and then be resilient rather than demoralized, and steer myself and the organization forward.

Even at the end of the toughest days, my vision was still strong and that was what drove me to achieve my goal. I never lost sight of the fact that Svatantra is a business with a heart. It’s not just about capital, but socio-cultural development.
All entrepreneurs, but particularly females, have to be resilient and brave. I continue to experience challenges and resistance. Part of what contributes to success is having the grit and determination to do the work and see it through.

Ananya Birla Photoshoot 2018

That kind of business sounds like it needed a significant amount of funding to even get going – was that the case?

Not really, I worked from a small office (where I often ended up sleeping when we were starting out due to the long hours) and we secured very low rates from the banks. We also leveraged technology and tapped informal social networks to grow, which kept marketing and promotional costs in check.

It took three and a half years for us to become profitable but it is amazing to see now how far we have come. Today, we have over 380,000 clients and continue to grow.

The business model and processes were very strong, but it took some time for things to fall into place. Were it not for the support of my team and those close to me, it would have been a lot more difficult.

The business has expanded and grown considerably since its conception – what are your future plans for it? 

I hope that the business continues to grow, not just in India but also internationally. We have a really strong model which can make a hugely positive impact on people’s lives. Svatantra is showing that when women work, not only do theirlives improve, so do the lives of their families and communities.
In everything I do, from Svatantra, to my charity MPower which works towards dispelling the stigma around mental health issues, to my music, I hope to make a positive difference. I am a big believer that everyone should aim to leave the world a better place than they find it.

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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