Bugger all. As with all the previous albums I wrote the songs at home and made demos which I sent to the rest of the band. This time though there were bits I deliberately left unfinished for the others to fill in. We played quite a few of the songs live before recording them which helped them develop. Otherwise Karen laid down a drum track using the demo as a guide. Everyone piled in with their ideas in the studio but I recorded all the keyboard and vocals at home, including with a few people who pledged to sing on the album. That was fun.
As a band who’ve been together for a while now, there seems to be great chemistry. Do you bounce ideas off them and are they willing participants?
They do everything I say (Believe that and I have a used Mitsubishi I’d like to sell you). We do get on incredibly well and enjoy each others company. Makes it a lot more fun.
Until now, no. But in this lockdown I made a video about writing a song (see it Here) Part of that was showing how I start with doodles I sing into a dictaphone. Nick stole one of them from the video, finished the song and I’ve added lyrics. It’s seriously great and I’d like to do more like that. Less work for me going forward. There are other people I’d like to write with as well. I subconsciously stole the idea for Motherfucker from Simon Love. I’d like to write more with him. Sophie is very secretive about her song ideas. I’m going to prise them off her.
Intentional. When I recorded Little Big Head I wanted to (a). do as much as I could myself to see if I could, and (b). Get away from that classic Les Paul through a Marshall sound. It’s a very charming album, I think, with a deliberately Power Pop sound. The albums since have become more and more band albums and we’ve strived for a harder and harder sound. There are 14 tracks on this one with the usual sprinkle of softer, dreamily arranged songs with strings and synths. But there are also about 8 rockers that are designed to be hard.
Sophie suggested it. She suggested Bombs Away for the last one and Don’t Blame Yourself for this one because it’s her favourite Track. I don’t argue with her because I value my life quite highly.
I’ve done it on every album and it’s very popular. I also write blogs on our website going into greater detail about certain songs. I do it because I enjoy it and I’m very proud of my lyrics which make me think I’m very clever 😉 Most of the songs are about my life, things that have happened to me or stories I’ve come across that I find interesting. I think that by giving people more insight into what’s underneath the lyrics, they also will appreciate just how clever I am.
I am always looking for song ideas. Sometimes a cute phrase will come into my head which I’ll write down to store up for later. Looking at my notes now an example is “A sad salad in Dundalk” which comes from the time we played at the Stags Head in that overly hospitable Irish town and had a lock-in after the gig. We arrived back at the hotel in the early hours having had no dinner and gatecrashed a wedding to get something to eat. The leftover salads were very sad. What a great story for a song. It’ll turn up one day along the lines of “Saved by a sad salad in Dundalk”. I often go long periods where nothing occurs to me then I’ll see something to spark it off. Like, on the new album, the stranger in a pub who told me I might as well buy him a drink because we could all be dead next week and you can’t take it with you. Cost me a pint but I got a song!
So much. Listen as an example to “Welcome to My World” or “Future Ex-Wife”. Listen to those intricate pop-punk type guitar bits that Sophie and Nick weave around each other that I would never think of. Listen to the drums on “Tea & Sympathy” which has been transformed into a “Police” like track. And Karen’s backing vocals. She sounds like an innocent cherub which is very amusing given what I could blackmail her about. Only trouble is she can blackmail me back!
Yes. They will be the death of me! I guess being an extremely old git playing on borrowed time creeps into the writing. The couplet in the “Grim Reaper” sums it up really: “Hear me playing these old fashioned songs. All designed to make him sing-along” I.e. I keep playing to keep the Reaper at bay. And having a bunch of naughty puppies around does that for this old dog. BTW I think my vocal on the last line of that song is the best I’ve ever recorded and Karen’s harmony on it is perfect.
Oh boy. As I say on the cover, reading the tweets of an Essex lad idolising an aristocratic prick who, if he met him, would think the lad with his tattoos was just a common oik made my skin crawl. I didn’t hold back in the song did I? My wife is waiting for the politician in question to sue me. Better hope we don’t get loads of attention I guess!
Exactly the same opinions are there as before. I saw a post from a government supporter depicting Boris Johnson as a Bodacea type defending the NHS from a foreign virus. I doubt the individual will have considered that the NHS is largely staffed by low paid immigrants and that, if they die helping to save our lives, their families have no protection under the law from deportation. So, we are all united behind the NHS and carers but all in our own individual ways which still reinforce our individual prejudices. That’s not surprising. I’m a bit of a stuck record in trying to get people to watch “The Great Hack” on Netflix. It’s really important people appreciate the level of sophistication with which we are bombarded on social media to influence us and reinforce the views lurking under the surface. And that political parties in all countries, as well as Russia and China, are doing it on a massive scale. Because we are bombarded with our own tailor-made messages divisions will increase. Sounds like the ramblings of a nutter doesn’t it but watch the program. “Don’t Blame Yourself” is about those divisions and the way the internet is just one big bar fight.
I’ve always been a great front man. Casino Steel called me that in The Boys. It was just my job, as I wasn’t a songwriter then, to be the guy at the front, jumping around, getting the crowd going. I’ve always been able to feel an audience and affect them by looking them in the eye. It’s hard to describe but when it’s at it’s most intense it’s the best feeling in the world. And, yes, I think I’m better now than I’ve ever been for a couple of reasons. More and more I become this other person on stage and that person seems to get funnier and more in tune with the audience. The other reason I’m better is that I’m in the best live band I’ve ever been in surrounded by people who are also great at showing off. Because that takes the pressure off I seem to grow with it.
Before a record is released there is a period where you think “Is this record up to scratch?” You’ve heard it so much you just don’t know. Now a few people have heard it and they are raving about it and saying it’s our best. So I must be a better songwriter, producer, musician and singer (although I think I’ve always been brilliant!) 😉
Every cloud I suppose. It’s been frustrating releasing a record and seeing a great run of tours and festivals collapse around our ears but I have been writing so that’s good.
In a word ……no. No plans along those lines. But I know Bellend and I have a song up my sleeve called “Knob” for him.
Right now, as we are so proud of this album, it’s all about promoting it in whatever way is possible especially given we can’t do the thing we are so good at which is play live. And yes on top of Lockdown we had the whole Pledge thing going belly up the day after we started. But actually we were really lucky. No one lost any money and we learned how to do it without paying what would have been over £1,000 to Pledge Music for them to waste on their expenses. That £1,000 was a great help in getting the album made. There isn’t one thing above all else I’m proud of about the album. The songs, playing, sound …you name it, it’s all great. The variety though. I don’t know of other bands in our area who have as much variety. Some of the more “77” fans who follow us say “I wish you’d stop writing those slow songs”. I just reply: “You are a cloth-eared dunderhead”. I think that’s reasonable.
No one has ever approached me. Probably a fear of me saying no since people apparently find me a bit frightening. I’d like to do it.
We’d love to get back to everywhere we’ve played up till now, especially the US. I’d even amend my opinion of Boris Johnson if he could get the Americans to change their visa process for musicians so that you could get one without bankrupting yourself. Now we have 3 hours of catalogue over 4 albums to chose from I’d also love to make a double live album. One album unplugged, which we are brilliant at, and one the full on live experience with Sophie on Nick’s shoulders.