Kele Okereke: ‘I was always the last one to leave the club’

The musician, 40, on driving his partner wild, gorging on Real Housewives, teenage raving and sparing his mum the gory details

As childhood’s go, mine was relatively lovely. Our family was stable – my parents were generous and kind. We had difficult moments, but I don’t resent my upbringing. My parents valued discipline, a trait I see in myself as a dad today.

Being obsessive has always been part of my personality. As a kid, I was often left with my imagination, more interested in internal worlds than what was happening around me. I had friends, but preferred being alone. At first I was consumed by Marvel comics, then music took over in my teens.

By sixth form I was partying – clubs and raves opened up a whole new world. And I was always the last one to leave, desperate to feel and experience as much as I could. I’ll say I’ve lived a life, but I’ll save the gory details out of respect for Mum. I’ve got away with it so far.

I feel most alive when I’m in the studio. There’s this magic to getting an idea down, the alchemy of pulling threads out of the air and seeing where it takes you. It’s such a magical feeling, that moment of creating something that’ll live on after you die.

Reality TV gives me my fix of drama and conflict. If I have free time, I’ll gorge on Real Housewives (Potomac is my favourite), or Celebrity Ex On The Beach. There’s something about watching people navigate love and romance in artificial scenarios that keeps me hooked.

Frank communication is the only way relationships can function properly. Bottling things up leads to disaster; let trauma come in and go out.

Since having kids I’ve found myself crying more regularly. Yesterday I was reading my daughter a book – Lubna and Pebble – about a young Syrian refugee, when I broke down in tears. Explaining suffering and war to her broke my heart. My younger one is still so beautifully innocent. I keep asking myself: how long will it last?

People with views antithetical to my existence needn’t be invited on to TV to be debated. Something strange is happening where racists and bigots are given airtime for so-called balance, when they believe one group of people is simply lesser than another. It makes no sense.

I’m quite messy. It drives my partner wild. I spend a lot of time in my head, planning and scheming, so I don’t mind walking past piles of clothes or washing up in the house. I appreciate it’s not so considerate. I’m working on it now.

Turning 40 felt insignificant. Now it seems like a milestone. I noticed grey hairs in all sorts of places – I’m in a different part of my life, worrying about different things. And for the first time in years, I have a routine at home with my family. I feel happiness and security, which I never saw for myself decades ago.

Co-writing Leave to Remain, a musical, cross-cultural gay love story, was a real achievement. We created something that explored life for queer black men growing up in Britain. Seeing how people who look, think and live like me were moved by it, I felt so proud.

Bloc Party’s new album, Alpha Games, is out 29 April. The band tours the UK in May-June


Michael Segalov

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Singer Kele Okereke and his sister Susan on their special relationship
Bloc Party’s frontman and his teacher sister have always been close. They talk about playing school, Nigerian nicknames and feeling proud of each other

Candice Pires

26, Oct, 2014 @6:00 AM

Article image
Rufus Wainwright: ‘I have always been an old soul’
The musician, 46, on coping with grief, becoming a parent and why he loves being a pop star

James McMahon

19, Apr, 2020 @7:30 AM

Article image
Graham Coxon: ‘Music has always been there for me’
The Blur guitarist, 53, on his addictive personality, making music as you age and being a Britpop brat

James McMahon

03, Dec, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
Nile Rodgers | This much I know
The musician, 66, on being united in the disco era, his friendship with Stephen Hawking, and inventing hip-hop

James McMahon

13, Jul, 2019 @1:01 PM

Article image
Matt Goss: ‘I always say, a good heart and a dirty mind’
The Bros musician, 52, tells Nick McGrath about saying what he feels, looking for a partner – and he and Luke not being genetically engineered

Nick McGrath

06, Feb, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
Kele Okereke: 'Being in Bloc Party isn't always easy'
The lead singer and guitarist tells Laura Barnett about being bold and life beyond the band – including DJing and writing a novel

Laura Barnett

13, Jul, 2013 @11:05 PM

Article image
Louis Theroux: ‘I’ve always found anxiety in the most unlikely places’
The broadcaster, 51, tells Nick McGrath about his first memories, last meal, lockdown resets and his brainier older brother

Nick McGrath

04, Dec, 2021 @2:00 PM

Article image
Paloma Faith: ‘Kindness has become very uncool. But the world needs empathy right now’
The singer, 36, talks about being a shy child, how her mother taught her about empathy and why life is all about phases

James McMahon

24, Mar, 2018 @2:00 PM

Article image
Charlotte Gainsbourg: ‘Art shouldn’t be censored’
The musician and actor, 46, talks about her controversial debut with her father, Serge Gainsbourg, the death of her sister Kate and #MeToo

James McMahon

09, Jun, 2018 @12:59 PM

Article image
Gary Numan: ‘Eye contact is something I find incredibly difficult’ | This much I know
The singer and musician, 60, on having Asperger’s, voting for Thatcher and threatening to stab someone in Mexico

Michael Segalov

28, Apr, 2018 @12:59 PM