Creative Soccer Culture

In Conversation: Kermit | Four Lions

Making up one quarter of the 'Four Lions' who have released 'We are England' — the unofficial anthem for this year’s tournament — we sat down with Black Grape's Kermit to talk football, music, and working with Shaun Ryder on the project.

Let’s start with your relationship with football, what does the game mean to you?

"Being straight with you, in the past couple of years I’ve not watched as much or been engaged with it as I used to be. I’ve got a two year old and babies tend to take over your life but on a Saturday I’ll always look out to see how Man City are doing. I was raised in Moss Side which obviously where City are from. Maine Road was about eight streets down the road from me so football was a huge part of my life growing up."

"During the season, every couple of weeks you’d have the away fans passing through our neighbourhood, and that started it off for me and made me want to start supporting my neighbourhood team. Then going to the match, you’d look up to the older guys and start going to away matches too. I used to love playing it too and now one of my nephews is at the Man City academy so it’s in me."

"I moved to Chester so from then didn’t go to as many City games as I’d like but I really don't like the Etihad - it’s an awful stadium - no atmosphere at all. Too corporate. All these new grounds that we have, I feel they take the soul out of football. I know a lot of old stadiums were dangerous but they had an atmosphere about them."

"When I think about Maine Road, all those years where it was, the highs and lows and all the emotion that this place saw, there’s magic and power there and feels like that has been taken away and they’ve cut themselves away from the source of their power. That’s the way I see it."

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What are your memories of watching England when you were growing up as a football fan?

"I’m from West Indian descent and when it comes to the cricket I would support the West Indies but when it came to the football, I was all about England. I’ve always been behind England 100%. This team now, it’s such a multi-cultural team because Britain has changed, the face of the country has changed. That’s something we tried to put across in the track we’ve done and in the video too. England is a different place to what it was in the past. When I picture the English flag, I don’t see the St. George’s Cross. To me, that has racist connotations. When I think of England, I think of the Union Jack. Most kids whose parents are immigrants feel the same way too. This country is all united and when it comes to tournaments like the Euros, we’re all in this together."

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Can you remember your first game or experiences that helped shape you as a football fan?

"I used to go to Man City and was what was called the ‘Junior Blues’ and one of my teachers was friends with the coaches and would get us tickets. So I would go and watch the games and the first game I can remember was when Man City played Leeds United. I just remember being amazed by the size of Gordon McQueen’s head. Then watching it then next day on the Sunday and seeing myself on the tele. Great memories."

"As for international tournaments, I remember my first one I watched was in the early 70s. Being of West Indian descent, I remember the only team that had black players was Brazil so my dad and my uncles would always be looking at them. I remember looking at Pele and players like that and being amazed."

"I was part of that generation though, when you went to football what you wore was hugely important and the fashion around it was special. The type of music you listened too, the stuff you wore, defined who you were. Football had all of that too. You’d go and stand on the terraces with the lads wearing your gear, supporting your team, being real. Even when City went down to the old third division and I remember being stood there in the rain. It was just something part of me."

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What about this tournament then, how excited have you been for EURO 2016?

"I’m so excited. I think we have a brilliant team. What with Leicester winning the league too, we can all believe. I’m super busy at the moment but when it’s on and where I am, I’ll sit down and watch the games."

The track has obviously offered you the chance to blend two passions in football and music - how did it come about?

"Paul Oakenfold was working on the track and I got a call from Shaun Ryder one night. He called me late one night and usually that means and idea has come into his head. I picked up the phone and he said “Oakie wants us to do a football song for the common man” so then Oakenfold sent over the demo and we sat in Shaun's garage for a couple of nights bouncing some ideas around until we had some stuff to take into the studio. I like working with Shaun. He works like a rapper. But yeah it was Oakenfold’s brain child."

Now that the tournament is rolling and your music is out there, is it a good feeling?

"Yeah it really is. I think it’s a good track too. It’s a bit of a political statement too, to be able to say that England isn’t what the old heads think it is. It is a completely different animal now. We all have differences but we’re all British. It’s about being intelligent human beings and being able to embrace the country. With football songs though, the response you want is for people to be singing them in the stands so that for us is the litmus test. Ultimately, it’s about bringing people together. That’s what is so good about football."

Photography by Curtis Jehsta for SoccerBible.


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