Sarah J. Edwards invited Franz Ferdinand to the top floor of Centre Point in London for their cover shoot and interview. Back then, it was one of the tallest buildings in central London, so there was little time for vertigo and plenty of opportunity to soak up the extraordinary views. Sound tracked by Lil Wayne, Jay Z and James Brown, the band recount incredible stories and much hilarity ensued as we rolled out the BLAG Word Game.
The original story was first published in BLAG Vol. 3 Nø 1 print edition in 2009, this is an edited version.
Interview and Photography by Sarah J. Edwards
Art Direction by Sally A. Edwards
We’re frantically setting up at Paramount on the 31st floor of London’s Centre Point building and the light is rapidly fading. As Franz Ferdinand arrive the sun has set and London is re-lit by street, shop and traffic lights. The views are incredible, so much so, the atmosphere minutes before changes as quickly as the lights – leaving everyone calm and mesmerized. Mostly because there really is no soundtrack to the busy-ness of the views, momentarily silencing our conversations. We then talk just a notch up from whispers, until we acclimatize to the environment – Quick explanation, the west end of London has very few older tall buildings, so the Centre Point experience is a rare treat for all of us.
Bass player Bob is a keen photographer and darts around the top three floors of the building capturing stills from above hectic London life. Alex discusses the latest Charlie Kaufman project Synecdoche, New York and the often over-keenness of some film goers at Q&A sessions with Sally. He recalls one particular event with John Waters in Glasgow. ‘The guy asked if he could give him a hug! And John told him it would be really inappropriate’ while cringing at the thought.
Paul checks out the music on offer and tells us of his love of James Brown at the moment. He also shows us the new gatefold album sleeve for Tonight, depicting their new HQ and points out where all the recordings took place. Due to timings, Nick makes a pit-stop in for the shoot before speeding off to see a classical concert at the Southbank, he tells us, ‘It’s not often I get a day off, so I thought I’d go and see a nice show.’ He’ll later write his answers via email.
To celebrate the release of ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ we wanted to not only give the band a cover, but hear some of the fascinating stories behind what made it such a brilliant record. The other really cool thing about the group as well as their music, is that they’re ‘interested’ people. They’re interested in life, they embrace it and between them have a vast encyclopedic range and knowledge of many, many compelling things.
Sarah: Alex, can you describe Paul’s ideal night out?
Alex: I think there’s probably two ideal nights out for Paul. There’s Family Paul and then there’s Paul on Tour, is that fair to say?
Paul: [Agrees] Mmm.
Alex: There’s definitely two sides to his personality, there’s the gentle, caring, family guy and then there’s the...
Paul: Be careful.
Alex: Yeah! The more extrovert character that has a couple of drinks and enjoys a dance... I’m thinking of one night in particular in San Francisco where Paul was DJing.
Paul: At Pop Scene.
Alex: Paul just picked up a stack of late ‘70’s... It wasn’t Canadian disco was it?
Paul: Yeah, a range of French Canadian disco.
Alex: We went to this club, we went with our friend Andy and his boyfriend, Hank and they had a few cocktails. In fact, yeah, I hadn’t seen Andy for years, he used to hangout with us in Glasgow. He was pouring cocktails, which were basically a tumbler full of vodka and with a little bit of coke on the top. Paul had a few of them and...
Bob: Grabbed the microphone and...
Alex: I’ve never really seen a DJ do that before, it was like the ultimate hype gig.
Sarah: Really?! Good work!
Alex: Yeah, all of a sudden, call and response, real old school style. Paaarrty!
Paul: I thought, I can’t be bothered with the technique tonight because, I’m really drunk and I can’t be bothered with the hot mixing and trying to show off. I’m just going to play records and make people enjoy themselves.
Alex: Well, they were good tunes, the needle didn’t always find the groove, but! [To Paul]I mean, do you think that’s an ideal night out for you?
Paul: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Alex: What I love about those kinds of nights is they’re pretty unconsidered and really wild.
Sarah: So, Paul, can you tell us about a dream Bob has shared with you? I’m going with your night theme here by the way.
Alex: Yeah, brilliant.
Paul: You don’t generally tell me about dreams.
Bob: It’s because no one cares what you dreamt about, unless you dreamt about them.
Paul: I have this tendency to... if someone says, ‘Oh, I had this really weird dream last night...’[Slowly turns away and covers face]. ‘And you were...’ [Turns back around with interest, which results in mass laughter].
Sarah: It’s a shame he’s not here, but I wanted you, Bob to describe Nick’s best party outfit.
Alex: Oh wow! Where do you start?!
Bob: One time, we hadn’t done a gig in New York for about a year, maybe a year and a half, or something. We were playing the Bowery Ballroom and he’d gone wondering in the afternoon and came back – he has a favourite shop he goes to all the time, somewhere in Alphabet City – and we were in the dressing room, about to go on, half an hour to go and Nick’s in the bathroom and he comes out in this seventies Safari suit that was primary colour red. Bright red.
Paul: Polyester... Stiff.
Bob: Polyester, yes, really stiff. And it’s boiling hot! The middle of summer, it’s June in New York City and we were playing at the Bowery, really, really hot. And he came out, ‘What do you think?’ and everyone just pissed themselves. And he was like, ‘It’s never been worn!’
[All in hysterics]
Bob: Yeah and our manager’s like, ‘Yeah, I wonder why.’
Sarah: And I’ve got a question for him.
Bob: Oh, I can answer for him because I know what he says all the time!
Sarah: Do you?
Sarah: So, it was to describe Alex’s favourite Breakfast.
Bob: [Pauses] Oh, oh, er, er.
Sarah: Go on, you can guess.
Alex; You can guess between you.
Bob: Something meaty, maybe like an Italian sausage or something.
Alex: That’s pretty good.
Paul: Poached eggs
Alex: Yeah, yeah.
Bob: Maybe it would be like a Mexican breakfast, like when you go to that place in Austin.
Alex: Oh yeah. Or Acapulco on Manhattan Avenue.
Bob: Or a breakfast burrito of some description.
Alex: Yeah, something spicy, I don’t drink coffee anymore so, my replacement these days is a bit of chilli in the mornings.
Sarah: Wow, I like chilli and chocolate, that’s really good.
Alex: Oh yeah.
Bob: Yeah, we used to work in a kitchen and we used to make these handmade chocolates. Painstakingly. You know, the Petit Fours dish and when we’d gone home, all the waiting staff used to come in and knick them, so we started coating chilis in chocolate and putting them in amongst them. They were birds eye chillis; they’d eat them and regret doing it.
Nick’s answer: “A tasty snack. Grapefruit juice, tea and loads of bits and pieces. Eggs, bacon, Smarties.”
Sarah: I wanted you to chat about what you did in between your last album and touring, to recording this album. You all split off and did different things, didn’t you? What I really wanted to know was, when you had your time away from each other, what did you really discover that you brought to the table for the album? That you discovered by yourself, as opposed to as a group, or on the road or anything like that?
Alex: For me, because I spent so much time away working with The Cribs, there were lots of sonic ideas which I discovered that I was trying out in the studio with them. Some of which they used on that album, some of which they didn’t want to use because – quite rightly so, they’ve got a really strong idea of how they should sound as a band and we can use it ourselves instead.
Nick visited Central America, “They’re pretty good at playing the old guitar there. Loved the bullfighting – without killing – in Nicaragua. They had a great band with them as well. But that bloody car that I bought and didn’t work... I’ll get that car sales guy. Maybe the rhythm of the broken motor was an influence. The tarantula sitting between my legs, whilst rowing across the only lake in the world with human flesh hungry sharks definitely featured on the album. A situation with no way out. Good theme for a song. I wrote a few melodies along the way.”
Sarah: Can you tell us about how you found the HQ?
Nick: I’d seen it a few times cycling around the south side of Glasgow
where the old docks give all the kids an amazing adventure playground. Then I was talking to David McKenzie, a Scottish director who we’d written a song for and he told me about this place he was using and that I should come down and have a look. He walked me through the place and that was it. Love, love, love.
Sarah: What was your initial feeling when you first went into the building?
Nick: The first time I went in I knew straight away this was the new place for us. I love places where history is dripping off the walls and this was one of those places. So many different rooms and parts of the building to be explored and used. Endless opportunities. I met the old caretaker who had been using the room we would use as a booze hideout. He showed me his favourite places of this amazing building and I thought ‘What a perfect place for us.’
Sarah: Were you able to experiment more knowing you had your own place exclusively?
Nick: It’s always been important for us to have a place to let it all out in. We started with the Chateau – an old sewing sweatshop – then on to the Jail – an old jail – and now the old Govan Town Hall and this one even had heating. We had made it. To have an old theatre and do what the hell you want with it is pretty amazing. Put on shows, turn up the amps to max, paint the walls red, dance with the ghosts. It’s a great feeling. Experimenting was possible because we could do whatever we wanted.
Sarah: Is there a track on the album that you think you’ll radically change live?
Alex: I think the long version of Lucid Dreams, probably because there have been a couple of versions of it already and I know that we could reproduce that exactly live...
Bob: ...we’ll have to do a different version every night.
Alex: Yeah, definitely. It’ll be like Outsiders was on the last record – the recorded version of that, which changes into something much bigger live. I think that’s going to be the starting point for us going somewhere else as a band. I know we’ve got lots of ideas, things to do with the electronic side.
Paul: Playing live, on tour, it makes it clear what direction you’re going to go in.
Alex: As well, I think it’s going to go to almost a purely electronic element of the set with percussion as well.
Sarah: Do you think you would ever open with that at all?
Alex: Ah no, I think that’s going to be something that we build to within the set. I can see that kind of going on. [To Bob and Paul] There was something I was thinking about the other day and I didn’t mention it to you, but we can maybe take that and do other versions of songs that exist already like Outsiders or something like that. Instead of doing them in the conventional arrangements that we have just now, we could just completely re-arrange them and make them much more electronic and around that sort of set up.
Alex: Towards the end, so in a way that a DJ would mix from one song into another, say that we go from one tune into another. It’s an idea, we’ll have to try it and see.
Sarah: I just love how many people get your sound; I was really interested to find out which elements you think it is in your music that make you crossover so much? There’s a whole science to music, how sounds tap into and trigger your emotions.
Alex: I know that we do hit people who are into disco or dance music, but also people who are interested in heavy rock. Maybe because it’s all things that we are into ourselves, all those extremes so maybe we pull them into our music. Maybe it is because collectively we have quite wide taste in music ourselves and don’t want to restrict the sound to just one area.
Sarah: So, I wondered if you have recognised your tipping point. Do you know about the whole tipping point thing? There’s a book by Malcolm Gladwell and it’s all about...
Paul: Oh! I just bought Outliers. I haven’t read it yet.
Sarah: Ah, I don’t think I’ll be giving anything away by telling you.
Paul: It’s like four books away for me.
Sarah: I see! It’s very kind of factual, but he talks about brands and where it kind of becomes a hit. For example, with Hush Puppies, they were having a really hard time and then some really cool kids in New York, some downtown kids, picked up on the shoes and from there it just kind of spread like wild fire.
Alex: Oh right, right!
Sarah: So, I just wondered if you think there’s something you’ve done along the line that you have noticed has made a difference and for things to go bigger? [laughing] To Paul, you’re like, ‘Nooo!’
Bob: It’s difficult to. You have to step pretty far back from your own brain and your own life to notice that.
Sarah: Maybe was there a point when you felt things were different?
Alex: I don’t know. For me, music’s such a funny thing, I always feel that it kinds of seeps out. It seems to be so much more based upon word-of-mouth, more than anything else. It doesn’t matter how much you hype a record, if you don’t get that reaction that you where talking about earlier - the gut reaction to whether they like it or not. If you don’t have that and a record is completely hyped, it’s still going to flunk really, really badly and you’ve seen that from the beginning of rock’n’roll to the present day. So, I can’t really tell when the point is for us. I don’t know. Can you guys think of anything?
Alex: No, there’s definitely a point, where you feel there’s a change in the audience, between people who are like, ‘Yeah, maybe, whatever?’ to ‘Alright, ok, there’s something exciting going on here.’
Alex: And I think it’s by the time that enough of that word-of-mouth has seeped out, that chatter. It’s like chatter; it’s like the murmur of somebody arriving at a party. Like some unexpected great guest at a party. They might be the other side of the room, but this kind of murmur passes along to you and there’s no kind of fireworks that go off to mark the event.
Alex: You can just sense that something’s happened.
Bob: I’m excited by really early gigs, even just that our friends came. They heard that we were playing and that we’d got a band.
Alex: Actually it’s funny, those early gigs, when you play them to your friends and you don’t get the...
Bob: The fake compliments?
Alex: Yes, the fake compliments! Which is like...
Bob: ‘You were really tight.’
Sarah: [Laughing] Yes.
Alex: ‘Oh, that was really good, well done! Well done!’
Paul: Or, ‘Yeah, yeah, that was alright. What are we doing now?’
Sarah: [Laughing] Aww...
Paul: When they enjoy it and they don’t come up to you or anything like that.
Alex: One that really strikes me strongly was Alex Frost. I remember we played once and he came up and said, ‘It was a lot more funky, like Prince or something like that. Not like horrible indie rock!’ He referred to it as something he liked rather than something he didn’t like.
Sarah: For me, the new album is really thematic; I know you kind of aimed for that a bit, didn’t you? Because you had your whole thing, where you said you didn’t have a plan, but now you have the plan where it’s basically a night, was that...
Paul: That you realise it afterwards?
Paul: It ended up being a plan you didn’t really think about.
Sarah: It’s a lot like doing art isn’t it, that can really happen with art pieces.
Alex: I think the idea of working to a concept is extremely restrictive and would probably stop you from coming across your best ideas. Your best ideas you stumble across.
Paul: It’s just like the pure thought you have when you dream and are not hampered by anything and it’s the fun part you’re dealing with.
Alex: And so while there may be themes coming together, you’re not always consciously aware of them. It’s always kind of afterwards that you... I know that you would work on notebooks or something like that, well sketchbooks where you would collect a set of your ideas together and then you would reassess them and then notice what the themes were, within them. I think it’s probably more like that when you’re writing songs. You just write, get your head down and get lost in it. I think it’s more of that idea, of being completely lost and unselfconscious which is conceptual. And then afterwards, you look for what the themes are.
Paul: You find a common thread with them, there must have been a reason why all these things were turning you on or have something in common and then you get your theme.
Sarah: You all have varied music tastes, but do you think there’s any element each of you bring more. I know there’s the obvious part with which instrument you play.
Alex: I think most importantly – over musical tastes and the instruments and people playing, it’s the personality because with a group it’s really the combination. The sort of marriage and clash of personalities, which makes it exciting. Say, Nick’s enthusiasm, in some ways naivety. Like, Nick has a real sort of gaucheness in terms of what’s cool and what’s not cool. Which almost kind of negates some of maybe our awareness, but then his gaucheness is tempered by the fact that ...like Nick didn’t know who The Smiths were, which I find amazing. I love that! Like, when we got together as a band he was like, ‘Yeah, who are The Smiths?’ We did an interview with Morrissey and he asked Morrissey if he was influenced by Arabic singers because of his choice of melodies. I thought, ‘that’s amazing’. That’s fantastic, whereas I grew up listening to The Smiths and learnt to play their songs on the guitar. I think [it’s] a combination of characters that don’t necessarily obviously mesh, on some levels, but really do on others.
Paul: I think Morrissey’s answer to that question was quite interesting as well. [Pauses] No.
Alex [Laughing]: A really perplexed no! I also like the fact that Bob is not a muso at all. Whereas Paul, Nick and I are very interested in the construction and technique. Bob has a much more instinctive reaction to the music that’s made and it’s a balance and clash, and marriage and clash.
Sarah: I was really interested to hear about your performance with T.I, for me that was really unusual to see. How did it come about?
Alex: We played this party in Brooklyn, it was us and T.I, M.I.A, Chaka Khan...
Paul: Hot Chip.
Alex: People were doing these collaborations, Chaka Khan played with Hot Chip, M.I.A did something with Pharrell and N*E*R*D and there’d been talk of us doing something with T.I, but we’d not met up with him. We turned up on the day and during the sound check – I didn’t really know much about his music, I hadn’t really heard anything and somebody had an iPod with some of his songs on it and they were great. So, we had a listen to Live Your Life and thought, it’s four chords, let’s see if we can work it out. And we were jamming it in the sound check when he turned up. He was like, ‘Ah, sounds good.’ Yeah, it was very off the cuff.
Sarah: That’s nice, I like that.
Alex: Yeah, I think it really works when you do things like that.
Sarah: What do you think would be the most radical and at the same time most interesting collaboration?
Alex: Hmmm? I’d like to do something, just because I love the sound of his record. His records are so powerful, just in terms of pure sonics and that’s Dr. Dre. I don’t think he’s the best rapper in the world or anything like that, but his records sound phenomenal, still now. I think they were the most kind of revolutionary sounding records of the last few years. It’s eight years ago really now.
Paul: The Chronic’s like 10 years now.
Sarah: I have the instrumental on vinyl; it’s a good thing to have.
Paul: Yeah, I’ve listened to a lot of that stuff from then, that kind of G Funk era. Regulate by Warren G, Luniz, it’s the same kind of easy tempo.
*Regular BLAG readers will know, about the BLAG card game. If you’re new, this is something fun we bring in to interviews, effectively letting the band take control of their own interview. We place out a series of cards with words on; each band member chooses one and creates a question with that word for the others.
Sarah: So, do you all want to pick a card from here, but not share it with each other and have a think about your questions? In the meantime, I got you to write down these things earlier on. Paul has written Lucid Dreams as his track from the album, I wondered if you’d like to chat about that and why you think Paul has written it down?
Bob: I think he’s probably chosen it because he likes the end bit with all his drums and stuff.
Sarah: [Laughing] Really?!
Alex: [Laughing] I think the end as well, the end of Lucid Dreams is some of Paul’s best drumming ever. It’s not kind of steady, it’s not a kind of regular drum part and it was very off-the-cuff, wasn’t it.
Paul: It was an instinctive reaction to hearing what was going on, I put a hi-hat symbol on top of the snare drum and played that. It was just my response to it hearing for the first time and that’s what you hear on the record. It’s sort of improv to the record.
Alex: Yeah, I think that we will record [more like that] in the future as well.
Sarah: Ok, Alex chose Send Them Away. Ah, Bob’s miles away,
Bob: [Pauses] I think he chose it because he likes it. It’s got this different kind of rhythm I guess, [compared] to a lot of the tracks on the album. It’s got some great bass playing on it.
[Everyone creases up]
Sarah: [Laughing] That’s good.
Paul: The way it was made as well was sort of unusual. A whole lot of improvisation. The [6/8 Ethiopian beat] aspects, the piano. It’s quite complete as a song, it’s kind of got everything in it, musically as well, it’s the band playing at it’s best.
Alex: The real reason I chose it, I like thinking of... whenever I hear it, I picture the band playing together in the room and it was a really special, wonderful moment. When you’re feeling totally in it and thinking, ‘I’m so glad I’m in this band, in this room, at this moment.’
Sarah: That’s so cool and Bob chose Live Alone.
Paul: I think it’s the melancholia.
Alex: Or I was going to say Bob likes the sentiment of the sound.
Sarah: Ok, have you thought of your questions?
Bob: No, er, can I choose a different card?
Sarah: Yeah, go for it.
Alex: Ok, I’ve got a question. Do you feel you’ve ever belonged to any kind of scene?
Paul: I think when I moved to Glasgow in the ‘90s’ I had a longing to belong to a kind of D.I.Y scene that sort of, revolved around everyone putting out 7” singles, limited to 500 copies. I’d just get turned on by people supporting each other and all the bands sounding completely different.
Alex: It’s weird, that was a scene, I remember at the time you don’t really think of it as being a scene.
Paul: But you knew who was part of the scene and who wasn’t.
Alex: Yeah, but it didn’t have a name. [To Bob] What about you, did you ever feel like you were part of a scene?
Bob: Yeah. Um... I guess when we got our band together and we were going out with the same 25 people or whatever. [We’d] go to parties all the time, go to the same clubs and pubs. They were all in bands that we’d play with all the time. They’d all work at various places in town. It was fun.
Bob: Paul, do you think drumming is your art?
[Everyone rolls around with laughter]
Bob: When you drum are you making art?
Paul: No, I would never claim that, [laughing] well, I don’t think I could.
Paul: Otherwise, all the other drummers would climb out of the woodwork and claim they were artists too.
Bob: [dryly] That would be awful.
Paul: We’re at the bottom of the food chain, us drummers, [laughs] we stick together.
Sarah: Do you want to try another one of the cards each?
Bob: Alex, have you ever done anything perfect?
Bob: Have you made anything perfect?
Alex: Have I made anything perfect? Umm.
Sarah: [Laughing] Nice question.
Alex: If I can, I’m finding it really difficult to remember it.
Bob: It’s a difficult question to answer, because if you say yes then you look like a total egomaniac.
Alex: Actually, do you know what? I can remember doing it once. Remember when we worked in Groucho’s? Do you remember we had to make those Chocolate puddings.
Bob: Yeah. The self-saucing inside-out puddings?
Alex: The self-saucing inside out puddings. It was a recipe, like a chocolate mousse cake. You had to bake it exactly right...
Bob: Each batch would be different.
Alex: Exactly, it was something like 13.2 minutes or something like that. If you baked it too long, it turned into like a little brick and if you didn’t bake it long enough, it would just collapse on a plate.
Bob: Yeah, it was quite hard to do.
Alex: And I would always get it wrong. Once, I got it.
Bob: I got quite good at it... I did a few, it took a while didn’t it?
Alex: Yeah. It took a while, but I did get it right.
Paul: Like a dessert sort of thing?
Alex: Yeah, it was amazing. Like if you got it perfectly right, if you tap it you got all this chocolate...
Bob: ...but it took 10 or 11 minutes and that means if it was the last order you had to... like you’re hanging out, because you get the last dessert order, when it comes through, you got to sit down for 15 minutes.
Paul: Isn’t making dessert, just kind of like cooking? [Perfectly cheating his way into the game and shows card.]
Bob: You heat things you change it chemically.
Sarah: Is that your question?
Paul: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: You’re quite smooth with this; you keep throwing things in that work well.
Alex: Yeah, yeah, he is. Would you rather be a rock star or a film star?
Bob: Oh, definitely a rock star, I hate myself on film.
Bob: Yeah, looking at images of yourself is horrible. I don’t like being photographed.
Sarah: You did well.
Bob: I’ve had practice.
Sarah: [Laughing] You have.
Alex: Paul, would you rather be a rock star or a film star?
Paul: A rock star. I think the bits of our job that you do, that look like you’re a film star are my least favourite bits.
Alex: Right, like what?
Paul: Being filmed or... celebrity I guess. I think that you give more of your personality and your soul in a film more than you do...
Bob: Yeah, totally, because if you’re on stage it’s the music that’s doing the work.
Paul: Yeah, it’s something to do with... with music, you’re sort of removed from what it is your creating, when you’re acting you are it, you know.
Bob: I think it’s different if you’re singing though and when you’ve written the words and it’s a little bit of you.
Alex: Cool, thanks for clearing that up.
Sarah: I wanted to chat with you about the photographs that you’re doing. Are you doing Weegee style stuff wherever you travel?
Alex: Yeah, we’ve done a few so far and the album cover we shot with a Danish photographer called Soren Starbird who we’ve done a few shots with before. I think to do that first shot, we had to do it with a photographer we felt very comfortable with, you know? Who you’re quite relaxed with. It’s a fairly unconventional band photograph and to try and broach that with somebody, you have to feel quite at ease with them. Then we worked with other photographers we like as well; so far we’ve done some stuff with Joe Dilworth as well in Warsaw. Joe worked on a lot of shots on the first album and Guy Eppel and Youri Lenquette. Youri is a French photographer and Guy is a fellow that I met out in New York, it was Guy who shot the Ulysses cover and that was super improvised. There was an ambulance at the end of the street, so it was like, ‘Quick, grab your camera, let’s go and use this.’ Here we have the live elements of a crime scene, let’s bring them into it.
Sarah: Oh wow, brilliant.
Alex: I think that’s what’s appealing about those photographs for us, is that there is a bit of space for improvisation and also that you’re not presenting yourself in the standard, four guys in a band, scowling at the camera, sucking their cheekbones in. Also, there’s movement in the photographs as well, so hopefully they don’t look too repetitive.
Sarah: I wanted to chat with you about time and energy, you know sometimes you put loads and loads of time into something and it’s instinctive that it’s going to go right and at some point it might not go right. You then, have to kind of figure out what you got from it and mostly you end up being relieved it went that way.
Paul: I think [when I’m] making dough for bread or pizza. You make a huge mess aswell – which is a pain in the arse to tidy up – and when you don’t get the right elasticity, [laughing] it fucks me off!
[Everyone really creases up]
Alex: [Laughing] Has this happened recently by any chance?
Paul: Yeah, no. It’s happened quite a few times. My wife always says, ‘Why don’t you make pizza? It’s really nice when you make pizza.’ and I’m like, ‘It might go wrong.’ I can’t be arsed to even be in a bad mood for that long.
Alex: With the stress...
Bob: Hating yourself.
Paul: Being in a really bad mood and then you’ve just got to tidy up the mess afterwards.
Alex: But do you not learn from that...
Paul: I feel like killing myself when I’m tidying up the mess.
Paul: The blood and the brains and all that.
Alex: Do you not find that you learnt, I don’t know, what the dough consistency is?
Paul: I’ve never really learnt, because I never really...
Alex: [Laughs] Pay attention?
Paul: ...go with the measurements.
Alex: Maybe you’ll learn just now.
Paul: [Laughing] I’ve learnt that I need to buy a measuring jug.
Alex [Laughing] So, it was worthwhile after all?
Paul: Yeah, but the thing is, with the demise of Woolworth’s, everybody always says...
Bob:...‘Where do you buy a measuring jug?’ If you go to John Lewis it would be expensive.
Sarah: Which leads me nicely to... I wanted to chat with you about the whole recession. Basically with the issue, we’re not pushing things at people and saying, this is how you should dress, this is what you should buy. We’re just putting ideas out there. We’re reading things and you probably see it as well, about how the mood’s changing.
Sarah: I was just wondering what we might be able to do to make things change and how people can be more positive again?
Alex: I find it amazing that you’re not pushing brands and telling people what they should be buying. I found it shocking that the opposite of that is what the Government’s attitude is when they were first faced with the recession.
Alex: They were cutting VAT and trying to encourage more spending. Not realising, the obvious state – which was the reason the economy was fucked up [because] people were spending more than they were capable of. And to cure that, they were going to get people to spend more? It seems mad. But yeah, you can definitely feel it in the mood, even walking around town today; we were just looking at all of the businesses that had closed down. Even walking through Soho on the way here, just clocking a restaurant that’s boarded up and you think, ‘so why did that one go bust?’ Ok, they were selling noodle wraps, that kind of makes sense. Like, who the fuck wants to eat a noodle wrap?
Sarah: That would be pretty horrible to make as well.
All: [Laughing] Yeah.
Alex: But I don’t know, maybe... of course there’ll be positives things coming out of it as well – it’ll be the end of an era of presumed excess. I mean the presumption has been there recently that excess is fine and that it’s acceptable and that people will pray on that attitude as well.
Sarah: Maybe it’s going to be the commercial sort of companies that suffer more, I think. I mean in terms of how things are advertised to us and what we see, I don’t think we’re going to see as many multiple chains. I feel even Covent Garden is becoming more independent.
Alex: Is that right? You think the major chains will suffer as well?
Sarah: Yes. They’ve gone with the excess thing haven’t they?
Sarah: You can get three Gaps on one street.
Alex: Yes, you’re totally right, there’s far too many. Even the obvious Starbucks example as well, do we need that many coffee shops?
Bob: Yeah, their takings have been down, but McDonalds is going up, it’s cheap food.
Sarah: Mmm, that’s true. I suppose we don’t know what’s going to happen, do we?
Alex: There’s one thing I thought as well – that was fascinating about the recession – it’s going to free up a lot more commercial property. Which is probably good for artists, musicians and creative people, because, even Glasgow in recent years, every space was occupied by some form of business, great for the economy – or so it seemed at the time, but very bad for people who want derelict space to use for something else and now it’s reminding me a lot more of say, the early ‘90’s.
Alex: When there are a lot of places that are unused and so... I think it’ll probably be easier to find studio space in the next couple of years than it was two years ago.
Sarah: I wanted to talk with you a bit about touring and travel. This is just kind of fun, you know when you travel and you pack, what do you always take that you never end up needing?
Alex: I’m trying to eradicate all those things. I’ve been really brutal with my packing recently, but I’ve been slipping again. For a while, I was just travelling with hand luggage only. I’d only ever travel with hand luggage, I’d have like a maximum of two shirts and a couple of changes of underwear and just wash everything in the sink in my hotel room.
Paul: When you have say, seven days at home and you change your clothes like four times in a day or something like that, [laughing] because you’ve been torn away from your wardrobe! I mean, I bring lots of clothes that I never actually end up wearing, because I prefer to wear what I’m comfortable in.
Bob: I always bring a suit with me and I rarely ever wear it, I just have one just in case.
Alex: Yeah, that’s it.
Bob: I can’t remember the last time I wore a suit.
Alex: When I first started touring, I made the mistake of, instead of taking one book that I wanted to read, I would take six books...
Bob: Oh I do that. I can’t stop that though.
Alex: I’ve managed to stop that though, because I’ve said, right I’m going to take...
Bob: You buy six more when you’re on tour anyway.
Alex: Oh yeah, I know, I do that too. Especially when you go to San Francisco and go to City Lights.
Paul: One thing I bring and usually never use is deodorant!
Paul: At the end it’s like, ‘Oh there it is, hello there!’
Paul: [Laughs] Hello Conrad!
Bob: I haven’t seen you for a while.
Sarah: Can you tell us a story from your travels that is still really up there and unbeaten?
Nick: Meeting David Bowie for the first time was incredible and weird at the same time. He’d come in disguise in a brown shell suit. We all exchanged greetings and then he started impersonating someone with a low voice and asked who we thought he was. It went on for a while, but no one got it because it was just a low voice really. Then he solved the riddle himself and told us: “I’m Courtney from the Dandy Warhols!” And we started laughing nervously. Who was Courtney from the Dandy Warhols? We found out a few months later when we played with them at a festival in Greece, but it still didn’t really make sense. At last Bowie seemed a little more human than the semi-God I had him down as. He’s back to semi-God in my head now though.
Sarah: Alex, I know that you did your food diaries, they were really cool. I just wondered if you can give some tips out for people who are starting to travel a lot for work and maybe they don’t eat so well. Especially if it’s a new city for someone.
Alex: One thing that I find, when you’re travelling a lot, you can often end up in places where there’s isn’t anything to get... like a city that shuts down really early. I’ll have a bag of almonds or something in my case, just incase I’m starving, if I don’t have the energy or the time to go out and find something to eat.
Bob: Nuts and berries.
Paul: [Laughing] Time and energy.
Alex: Then again, it’s also fun to waste time and energy, just to wander about a city, looking for somewhere. Although not really actively looking for somewhere, just waiting to stumble across somewhere. It’s interesting. That’s the kind of fun and rewarding side.
Paul: I hate towns that shut early. You arrive in the evening and you want something to eat and it’s all shut.
Paul: It’s like, you bunch of bastards! I’m hungry!
Sarah: So, you’ve chosen your cities... I’ve got Melbourne from Bob, Istanbul from Alex and Lerwick from Paul. Can you tell us why you’ve chosen those cities and tell us a little story about them?
Paul: I went for all L’s (Lucid Dreams as before).
Sarah: Ah! I thought there was a little pattern.
Alex: You went for all L’s, alright.
Paul: Lerwick is in the Shetlands. We did the Islands of Islands tour last year and finished off in Lerwick. We’d finish of a tour in like Chicago for instance or Tokyo or somewhere like that and sometimes I think, ‘Oh, I’ll stay for a bit longer’ and [laughing] me and Bob decided to stay in Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands, but it was great. I mean, it’s such a small city. Is it a city?
Paul: It’s more of a town.
Bob: It’s like 20,000 people.
Alex: Surely a city is defined by having a roundabout? [Laughs] Therefore Lerwick is a city.
Paul: So, it’s more of a town then I suppose.
Bob: Talk about places shutting down, at like 5pm. You’d be walking down where the shops are and that’s on one or two streets and on the dot at 5pm, suddenly all the lights would go off. Everyone would come out, it would get busy for about 10 minutes when everyone left.
Paul: Yeah, that’s rush hour! It lasts ten minutes and then they’re gone.
Bob: [Laughs] Yeah, everyone was walking home.
Paul: Geographically, I love where it’s placed though. It’s the same reason I like New Zealand, it’s the complete opposite, like two different corners of the earth, you really get a sense of where you are and how far away you are from everybody else. But, I think it’s a great place. There’s lots of sort of ‘70’s architecture there, it’s pretty ugly, but there are no trees at all in the whole of the Shetlands.
Alex: That’s because of the wind.
Sarah: We used to live up between Inverness and Aberdeen.
Alex: Oh, did you? Oh right!
Paul: Is that when you were kids and at school?
Sarah: Yeah. We moved around and adapted and came to London with a mega mix of an accent, which you can get away with here.
Alex: Yeah. Can you do an Aberdeenshire accent if you want?
Alex: [Laughing] I love the lack of demonstration. That was cool.
Sarah: So, the other two cities were Istanbul and Melbourne.
Alex: I picked Istanbul because over the last couple of years, that’s the city that just really stood out for me. It was so different from anywhere else that I’d been and again, quite surprising. I don’t think I was expecting such an intense and active, exciting, stimulating nightlife as there is in Istanbul. And it’s definitely a city of two halves, there’s the more traditional, I guess Islamic side to the city and then there’s the more Western side to the city.
Paul: It’s great that time of the day when they just start chanting over the tannoys.
Alex: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Paul: It sounds amazing.
Bob: Mornin’ Campers.
Alex: I loved how much music there was in the streets. Like buskers, but also all these cafes with bands in them and people falling out and literally dancing on the street. It’s very exciting.
Bob: Melbourne because last time we were on tour and in Australia we had this crazy schedule and that was the first bit of free time that I had, there and I went for a walk around town and I really liked it!