The return of Katy B: ‘Being looked at all the time is not very natural’

Back after a five-year hiatus, the dance-pop star answers your questions, from the death of dubstep to London’s greatest pie and mash

Was becoming an artist everything you expected it to be when you first started, and who inspired you the most to get into music? MYWORLD2014

I went to uni and did music and I went to the Brit school, but I didn’t really have any expectations. When you’re that age, you’re gigging and recording music, but you’re doing it because it’s what you do, and it just snowballs from there. I would say my dad definitely [got me into music]. He has a really, really wonderful voice and was a musician in his earlier life, making kind of Beach Boys vocal harmony music. When I was younger, he used to teach me guitar and piano and actually had good advice for me.

I’d say, unlike most of your fans, my favourite song of yours is Disappear from your first album. I think it’s an amazing bit of songwriting and storytelling: “I woke up one day to find that I had disappeared” is just beautiful. I wonder, unsubtly, if during your [five-year] public absence from music you again felt that you’d disappeared? What’s it like now to reappear? OhWellPartOne

I’m quite a shy person naturally; it’s kind of stressful when you feel like you’re being looked at all the time and eyes are on you. I needed time to dip out of that, because I’m not sure whether it’s very natural. Going back into things I’ll definitely do more of that, because there were times when I felt like I couldn’t take a day off. It’s exciting to be releasing music again and coming back into it with a different lens.

The genres that you came up on [dubstep and UK funky] are pretty much dead now. How would you classify your new music? OooohYehhh

They’re not dead [laughs]! With any genre, music naturally evolves. Every couple of years everyone’s like “UK garage is coming back” – it’s never left! I get that it’s probably not in the mainstream, but it’s in different forms. House will never die and we’ve got [African house style] amapiano at the moment. I just did Ministry [of Sound], like 2,000 people, and that was a UK funky rave; you still hear UK funky in every DJ set, every time it just goes off and makes people happy. I guess my new EP is a bit slower, though. There’s no intense dancefloor stuff that I’ve had before. It’s got a bit more of an R&B vibe to it, and those syncopated rhythms I love dancing to. It’s a bit more chilled out.

America ruined dubstep. Discuss. Paulie_Walnuts

It’s a funny one because I went on tour in America and at one point I was like: “This is actually bonkers, I’m in a dubstep rave in California.” But how Americans do club music or club culture – and this is obviously a generic statement because it’s the birthplace of so much club music – is not the same as it is here, for that market and the EDM world. It’s so amazing to travel through America and see their club subcultures; I felt like I was accessing some secret world. But I don’t think they really understood me. I wasn’t for the EDM people, and I wasn’t poppy enough to be a pop star out there. So I think it’s a kind of mixture; I’ll just say: I don’t know!

Would you ever consider Eurovision if the chance came up? A slightly cut-down version of Perfect Stranger would be immense as an entry. Crossvader

My dad was in Eurovision back in the 70s! He lived in Germany for a while, and appeared as part of a band called the Les Humphries Singers, there were 20 of them or something like that; I don’t think they did very well unfortunately [they came 15th in 1976]. I’m a very competitive person and we get zero points every year. I wouldn’t put myself through that at all.

Whose music do you prefer: Adele or Ed Sheeran? WordChazer

Ed Sheeran’s new song has been stuck in my head for like, three weeks. But I think I’d have to go with Adele, just because I feel like she’s our queen or something. I think there should be a petition to sack the Queen and get Adele in.

Katy B performs during Pride In Manchester 2021 on August 28, 2021.
Katy B performs during Pride In Manchester 2021 on August 28, 2021. Photograph: Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images

Do you feel like the music world you’re returning to has changed over the last few years? If so, for good/bad/both? Eelsupinsideya

One hundred per cent. I feel like an old granny going into meetings, they’re talking about DSPs (digital service providers) and all this jargon. I’m like: what? But I think it’s exciting as well because there’s not as many rules. Some of the people that I follow on Instagram haven’t even got music out, but they’re making money by putting up content. I feel quite old school; it’s gonna take a bit of catching up to figure out what’s going on. I do miss CD sleeves, though. I know we can still buy physical copies, but I feel like vinyl is different. I’m just attached to CDs, I don’t want to throw them away.

Do you feel like Jess Glynne sort of stole your mojo? I think you’ve got a much more interesting voice, but maybe the UK only has room for one flame-haired dance queen at once? DrRic55

No, I feel like her music is quite different to mine. There should be more flame-haired redhead singers; there’s never enough!

How did you cope with the pressure of being the anointed “face/voice of dubstep” when the genre crossed over? Do you think the mainstream exposure was good for the scene in general? jonbeat

I don’t know whether I would say “the face”, but I was happy feeling like I was bringing a piece of London, or shining a light on that kind of world. And I think it’s inevitable with anything that crosses over, things build, build, build, and then [the genre] settles into another realm because things are always changing. I think people that love dubstep and go to dubstep raves are still going. They don’t care what the songs in the Top 10 are; they’re not bothered it exists in a different space.

Now that clubs have reopened, when the lights go on at the end of a night out, which song would you choose to have playing while you keep on moving? sharmadelica

They need to bring back playing slow jams at the end of the club night. It needs to be something really old school like Jaheim, maybe Just in Case. I’d do that, though there should be no lovemaking on the dancefloor.

Can you get on all the rides at Alton Towers, or have you had to buy a pair of tactical platform trainers? LiquidFootballFC

Yeah, I can get on all the rides [laughs]! I do really love a theme park. I’m 5’3”, I think it comes in quite handy being small because you can manoeuvre around. Only thing: being people’s armpit height is horrible. That and not being able to see anything.

Manze’s or Goddard’s? zblargx

I’m very passionate about pie and mash. I would have to say Goddard’s. Sort of controversial as it’s not very traditional, but it’s because they do an apple pie and crumble with custard. So if you get pie and mash you can get that afterwards. You can get frozen pies from Goddard’s as well; the business model is just out of this world.

Katy B’s new EP, Peace and Offerings, is out now


As told to Christine Ochefu

The GuardianTramp

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