Example: "I became an arsehole, and I’m not proud of it"

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In 2006, Mike Skinner delivered The Streets album fans didn't want. Drawn from his experiences with new-found fame, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living traded every-man stories for a cocktail of celebrity hang-ups, cocaine and bravado. In short, there wasn't a whole lot for people to relate to. It’s a misstep that Elliot Gleave has been wary of in creating his fourth album as Example, The Evolution Of Man. Like Skinner back then, Gleave's life has become a rapidly-escalating blur of chart successes, international jet-setting and temptations on tap. The music, though, has to stay grounded.

When inthemix got on the phone to Gleave in July, his summer was going from busy to ridiculous. Down the line from an airport lounge in Spain, he seemed surprisingly energised for a guy about to board his 29th flight for the month. Gleave’s girlfriend, Australian model Erin McNaught, was certainly contributing to his sunny outlook.

The Evolution Of Man, however, was written pre-McNaught, when Gleave was messing up his last relationship. One of the new album’s tracks, Come Taste the Rainbow, delves into his fondness for drugs (“It’s all in there – coke, ketamine, MDMA,” he recently told The Guardian newspaper), but largely he’s written a break-up album the non-celebrity can relate to. As he elaborated to The Guardian, “the most monstrous thing" he did was “repeated cheating, which was something I'd never done before." Like its predecessor Playing in the Shadows, The Evolution Of Man features a cast of dance producers, led by Dirty South, Tommy Trash and Skream, to help make heartbreak festival-appropriate.

The Example live show is of course coming to the Stereosonic mainstage this summer – essential match practise for a huge arena tour of the UK in early 2013. We had ten minutes on the phone with Gleave, which turned out to be enough time for a casual bit of soul-searching.

I see from your Facebook that you’re filming the video for Say Nothing. How’s that going?
I’ve been in the Spanish desert. It’s pretty crazy, man. It’s where they filmed Conan The Barbarian, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Lawrence Of Arabia. It’s a pretty mental place. The weird thing is, the landscape changes here every mile. So one minute, it’s like volcanos, then it’s the beach, then it’s the desert. You can imagine how they’ve shot so many films here, ‘cause it looks like 10 different countries.

Are you often seeing weird, exotic locations on music video shoots?
Yeah, I went to Chernobyl, where they had the nuclear disaster, and shot there. I shot the video with Calvin Harris in L.A. where we’re driving the fast cars around the mountain. I mean, I’ve done like 28 music videos now, so they all just blur. It used to be really exciting, and now it’s…like, not. I’ve kind of been spoiled by multiple cameras, hair and make-up and amazing locations. Not that I don’t appreciate it.

So where are you flying to now?
I’m on my 29th flight for this month. I’m now going to Madrid, then to Barcelona, then it’s a three-hour drive to the south of France to play a festival. Then I’ll be home to see my girlfriend briefly, then on to Romania, then Ibiza for one night with a private jet. It’s basically non-stop. I kind of don’t think about it anymore. I wake up, look at my emails and see where I’m going that day. It kind of gets you down. While you feel privileged, you also long to sleep in your own bed and not just carry luggage around in and out of hotels. I suppose you get to see the world, though, and meet fans.

The crazy thing for me is that three years ago I was struggling to get gigs in the UK and now I’ve got places like Hungary and South Africa booked. After I do Stereosonic, I’m doing a 15-date tour of Asia, including four gigs in China. I never would’ve met my girlfriend if I hadn’t been overseas doing gigs. So I’m really thankful for the job.

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