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

Contributor

Michael Segalov

The GuardianTramp

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