One of the best bands from Scotland, The Delgados, have been together for over ten years now. Their five albums are some of the most interesting music to come from Scotland in recent times. Most of the band met in college. They are Stewart Henderson (bass guitar), Emma Pollack (vocals/guitar), Paul Savage (drums), and Alun Woodward (vocals/guitar). They are dedicated songwriters. Their songs feature a mix of female and male vocals. In 1996, they started their own record label, Chemikal Underground, thus having a hand in the Scottish Underground music scene, and discovering bands like Bis, Arab Strap, Mogwai, and Sluts of Trust.
The Delgados' first album Domestiques (1996) immediately caught the attention of the late John Peel. He soon introduced The Delgados to the world by featuring their music regularly on his radio show. The band toured with Elastica and The Wedding Present, who were at the height of their popularity at the time. They soon worked on their second album, Peloton (1998). They even played a show at John Peel's house for his 50th birthday party. Still they were a very underground band.
Things soon changed when they released their third album, The Great Eastern (1999). This album had a more expansive sound. The Delgados worked with classical musicians and even Dave Fridmann who had previously done great albums with Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. The Great Eastern met rave reviews.
Their fourth album, Hate (2001), was a continuation of the new-found sound. Most of the fourth album was darker. Songs like "Child Killer" and "The Drowning Years" were some of the darkest music they had ever done. A few years passed and now we have the fifth album, Universal Audio (2004). The Delgados toured the United States in November 2004. I spoke to leader Alun Woodward during the recent tour about the new album and the new direction of the band.
AL: When did you record the new album, Universal Audio?
Alun: We started recording it earlier this year. I think that we started in January and February and finished it up by May. We worked with a different producer. The previous two records were done pretty much the same way. This time we worked with a guy called Tony Dugan. So first of all when you work with a different producer that is going to make it different. Secondly, we decided that we weren't going to use that much orchestration. That brought about a different approach.
AL: Why did you decided to not use an orchestra?
Alun: We felt that if we used an orchestra again that it would have a feel that was similar to the previous one. We wanted to take a different approach. Sometimes you want to explore different things. We worked a lot before on harmonies, guitars, and piano parts. It gives the songs a different feel when you have a different emphasis.
AL: How are the songs written in the band?
Alun: Emma and me write all the songs. We bring them in the studio and then we all rewrite them together. It takes ages to be honest with you. It would be easier if you had one or two people who do everything. It doesn't work like that with us. Even though Emma and me write all the songs we are not the best arrangers. Stewart and Paul are better at coming up with parts and arrangements. It's a slow process but it works.
AL: So the songs that you sing are your songs and the ones with Emma's voice are written by her?
Alun: Yeah. We tried to swap around sometimes but it has never worked. It's a strange thing. It has something to do with the familiarity with a song and the phrasing. You write with your own touch.
AL: What are your songs about on the new album?
Alun: A lot of it is about "not giving up." It's funny. You get to a point in life where you realize that life is really short. There are a lot of grey areas. A lot of this record is about trying to be optimistic. Trying to be positive.
AL: Since you have formed a record label, Chemikal Underground, you spend a lot of time listening to and dealing with other bands?
Alun: Yeah. We get fifty or a hundred demos a week. A lot of it is not particularly good. But once in a while you will get something that is fantastic.
AL: Are these all bands from Scotland?
Alun: No, we get stuff from all over the world. We get things from Europe and North America. In the past year we have got a ton of demos from Japan. I think that the label's profile in Japan has gone up. We have many Japanese bands sending us music.
AL: How did you find the band Sluts of Trust?
Alun: We saw them play live actually in a place called Nice and Sleazy, in Glasgow. We were blown away. It was only their sixth concert but it was fantastic.
AL: What other bands are on Chemikal Underground now?
Alun: A band called Mother and The Addicts. Another band called Arab Strap. A band from the States called Radar Brothers. There is Aerogramme. We have a bunch of singles that we do of various electronica people.
AL: You were instrumental in discovering the band Interpol when they were first starting up?
Alun: Yeah. We met Daniel Kessler in 1997 or 1998. He gave us a demo. We ended up releasing it a few years later on Chemikal Underground. Matador picked them up and took them from there. They are a good band. The record we had done with Interpol goes for a lot on Ebay. We had an agreement with the band that we would release a certain amount. I would love to re-release it. It's a great record. You could tell back then that they were a great band.
AL: What other bands have you played with that you liked?
Alun: On this tour we have played with Crooked Fingers. I really like them. I like Sons and Daughters too. They are from Glasgow. Those are really the only two bands that I can think of because this year we have been mostly in the studio. I don't think we have played with that many bands this year.
AL: Were you just doing something today? I called you before and they said you were in the studio?
Alun: We were doing something for Fearless Music. It's a TV thing in New York City. We recorded just three songs.
AL: How did that go?
Alun: One song took up a while, but it was fine.
AL: You have just been touring in America for a few weeks. What are you going to do the rest of the year and early next year?
Alun: We are going to play in other parts of Europe until Christmas. Then we go back to Glasgow. We are not doing much in January. Maybe a few shows in Britain. In February, we are going to Japan and Australia. I have visited those places before, but The Delgados have never played in those countries before. This will be the first time.
AL: John Peel was a real champion of the band early on. He just died a few weeks ago. How do you feel about that?
Alun: It's one of those things. John was a great guy. So much of the music that I have heard, I have heard it first on John Peel's show. He is totally irreplaceable. It's sad that he died for so many reasons.
AL: What other things are musical influences for you?
Alun: You are probably influenced by so much stuff that you grow up with. My brother was really into punk when I was growing up. Some of the first records people played me were Stiff Little Fingers and Iggy Pop. My Dad was into Jazz and Country Music. My Mom liked Folk Music. Most of these things rub off on you and you keep coming back to it. Recently I have been getting into films. I am not sure how much that is an influence on the music.
AL: Have the music of the Delgados been in a film or on a soundtrack?
Alun: No. We did this thing with a guy from New York called Joe Coleman. We put music to his paintings. We did that at Barbican Centre in London. It was a one-night thing. One of our songs was used in a Japanese animation. It was a Manga thing called Gun Slinger Girl.
AL: have you read any good books that you care to mention?
Alun: I read Time Out Of Joint by Phillip K. Dick. I have never read anything by him before. My girlfriend gave me this book. I really liked it. It was really inventive. I am really interested in archeology and history.
AL: Did all the members of the band go to a University?
Alun: Yeah, Paul and Emma met at a University. I grew up with Stewart and Paul. I went to University in England.
AL: Have your parents gone to any shows?
Alun: My mum and dad came to a show last year. That was their first time. They loved it. It was a great show. It was a big concert hall in Glasgow. It's one of those things. Your mum could come around to one of these divey little clubs in the country or to a nice theater. It was a good choice to come to a big event at a hall. I supposed they were really proud. It was the first time they had seen it. There was about three thousand people there.
AL: Were they wondering what you were doing for the past ten years?
Alun: They are pretty cool about it. There are always aunts and uncles wondering when you are going to get a proper job. But my parents have always been quite supportive of things. I know a lot of people who play in bands who get hassled by their families.
AL: What do you love about making music?
Alun: I like writing songs. I usually bring a tape recorder around with me because I often have a melody in my head. Other times I sit down with a guitar and a piano and put songs together. I really like it. That is what I love about what we do. I love writing new songs.
AL: The next album will also be really stripped down?
Alun: I don't know. We didn't know what we were going to do with Universal Audio until we sat down and talked about it. We'll see. We'll have a good thinking.
AL: What should new bands be doing if they want to play in a band?
Alun: It's all about commitment. I see so many bands. Some of these bands have big record deals and they are really good bands. They will cancel shows because someone can't make it. You need total commitment. You will know yourself if you have talent and you have got the songs.
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Interview by Alexander Laurence
Radio 4 is one of the originators of the New York scene. The Brooklyn-based quintet Radio 4 began in 1999 as the trio with Anthony Roman (bass/ vocals), Tommy Williams (guitar) and Greg Collins (drums). They all grew up as participants of the Long Island hardcore scene. In the 1990s, they gravitated to the city.
A band that would bring reggae, punk and dance music together, Radio 4 felt trapped by the limitations of indie rock of the early 90's. They were initially inspired by the 1970s punk explosion, and named themselves after a Public Image. They were interested in the rhythms, much like bands like The Clash and Gang of Four. All those elements had left the serious indie rock scene.
Their first album was called The New Song and Dance (2000). This record caught on with a small group of listeners who liked the DJ scene, dub reggae, and post-punk music. Anthony Roman soon opened a record store called "Somethin' Else" in Brooklyn. They released the "Dance To The Underground" EP (2000). The single would be used in a Mitsubishi TV ad.
In 2002, Radio 4 hooked up with the DFA production duo for their second album, Gotham (2002). It was recorded before 9/11, but was all about the changes in the city. The band got noticed and played many shows with other bands in the New York Scene. They added two members P. J. O'Conner (drums) and Gerard Garone ((keyboards). Radio 4 soon toured Europe and the UK and their audience grew. But at the same time, they had to deal with being Americans abroad.
Most of that feeling is dealt with on the new album, Stealing Of A Nation (2004). Songs like "Party Crashers" and "Transmission" are some of their best yet. Radio 4 is a band on the rise. I got to talk to keyboardist Gerard Garone right before their tour with the Libertines had got underway. Radio 4 and The Libertines will be playing New York at Webster hall on October 12th.
AL: How did you all meet each other?
Gerard: The rest of the band knew each other in the punk rock scene in New York. Radio 4 used to play at this club in the East Village called Brownies. I used to work there. I became friend with them and then joined the band.
AL: You worked at Brownies in the heyday?
Gerard: Yes, I was there in the heyday. Brownies was the CBGB's on the late 1990s.
AL: many of these bands that you would associate with the New York Scene got their start at Luna Lounge and Brownies.
Gerard: Yeah. For the most part, those places, and Mercury Lounge and Don Hill's. Everybody has played Brownies at some point in their careers.
AL: When did you join Radio 4?
Gerard: I joined them about three years ago. There are five of us.
AL: Why are you called Radio 4?
Gerard: It comes from a song by Public Image Limited. It's on Metal Box.
AL: Have you had any problems with the name?
Gerard: We have had no problems with the BBC's Radio 4. Nobody has tried to sue us yet.
AL: What do you think about all this attention on New York bands?
Gerard: Yeah. I think that the attention that New York has gotten for a majority of the bands is well deserved. There is a lot of quality music that has come out in the past five years. It's pretty well founded. Some of these bands are getting attention and it is my hometown. I am always glad to see that.
AL: Have you done a lot of American tours?
Gerard: Yeah, we have done a lot of American tours. We have also been in Europe a lot. We have probably spent more time over there than here in America. The tour with The Libertines is one of the bigger ones we have done here.
AL: What other bands have you played with?
Gerard: We have toured a lot. We have played with a lot of bands. We got to open for Joe Strummer six months before he died. He did a lot of shows in New York. It was just huge to open up for someone like him. That was the most memorable show. We have played a lot of festivals. In those situations you end up playing with bands that you love. We played with Primal Scream and PJ Harvey.
AL: How do you write songs on the new album?
Gerard: It works indifferent ways. There are ideas that we put together in the rehearsal space. There was stuff created in the studio. There are songs that are from demos that people created at home. There is no set way we write songs in the band. Whatever way it comes from that is where it comes from. People all come sin with set ideas.
AL: You all write together?
Gerard: Yeah. For the most part. The way it works is pretty democratic. This is the first record where I worked with the band, so it was new for me. They let me bring in ideas.
AL: Are there any other bands that you all like?
Gerard: There are tons. We like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and the list is endless. I am really into Latin Music. Me and Anthony are into dance music. It is vast.
AL: What is the general reaction to your music?
Gerard: People have strong reactions to our music. It's music that people either love or hate. There hasn't been a lot of "it's okay."
AL: On the new record there is a lot of Dub Reggae music. Do you like that music?
Gerard: We are all big Dub Reggae fans. That seeped into the new record a little bit.
AL: You have a song called "Fra Type I & II": what is that about?
Gerard: Tommy Williams wrote that song. He doesn't like to talk about his songs. I can't help you out on that one.
AL: Anthony writes all the lyrics?
Gerard: No, Anthony and Tommy write all the lyrics. Mostly Anthony.
AL: Is their any shared politics in the band?
Gerard: Yeah. We are all pretty left wing politically. There are issues that we differ on. I tend to be the most left-wing member of the group. Politically we are coming from the same place.
AL: No one is voting for George Bush any time soon?
Gerard: I am not a big fan at all.
AL: What do you think about the election coming up?
Gerard: It is probably one of the most important elections the country has ever seen. I think that the voter turnout will be higher than ever. At least I hope that it is. For a lot of people who haven't voted in the past, this is their chance. In New York, being as Democratic as it is, you can just see the hatred for George Bush everyday. You see it on the street. People wear t-shirt and pins. There are banners everywhere. There is a lot of hatred for George Bush. It's very anti-Bush in New York City.
AL: What is your favorite part about doing music.
Gerard: I like writing songs and recording. It's better than touring. I am not a big fan of touring. I love playing shows every night, but there is something more satisfying and exciting about creating something and documenting it.
AL: Who is the most indispensable member of Radio 4?
Gerard: Probably Anthony. He started the band. If he left Radio 4, the band would cease to exist.
AL: Were you in New York during 9/11?
Gerard: I was. It was by far the weirdest thing I have ever seen in my life. I live in Brooklyn and I can see the Towers from my block. It's the only thing I can see from Manhattan. I live in Greenpoint. At the time I lived in Williamsburg. At the time my girlfriend worked next door at the World Financial Building. She used to walk through the lobby of the WTC everyday. So for hours I didn't know where she was. Some of the members of the bands lost some close friends. It was an awful day. It seemed like at that time people would come together. New York had the sympathy of the world. George Bush just took that and threw it in everyone's face. Now we have a general hatred for America.
AL: Since you are playing with another band inspired by The Clash like the Libertines I think it is interesting: The Libertines sound more like The Clash on their first album, and Radio 4 is closer to the spirit of Sandinista or London Calling.
Gerard: Yeah, that's a pretty fair assessment. We'll see.
AL: What is your setlist like on this tour?
Gerard: It's a mixture of stuff from Gotham and the new record. It's half and half. Anthony writes out the setlist. It's fine because it's not something I would want to do.
AL: So you just look at the list and think "Party Crashers is next, let's play it!"
Gerard: Yeah. There are songs like "Party Crashers" that are in the set every night. We always play "Dance To The Underground."
AL: Have you read any good books?
Gerard: Right now I am reading Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. I am also reading The Power of Myth. It is an amazing book. I recommend everyone to read it on the planet.
AL: Do you have any favorite films?
Gerard: Yeah. I like Down By Law by Jim Jarmusch. That is my all time favorite film. I like the gang movie The Warriors.
AL: Will Radio 4 ever do a musical version of The Warriors?
Gerard: I don't think that will ever happen. The Warriors was done already. Nobody should touch it. Definitely not. West Side Story has already been done.
AL: Do you still have regular jobs?
Gerard: I just quit my job. I was a bartender. Anthony owns a record store. It's called Somethin' Else and it's in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
AL: If people want to come down to Park Slope and buy the new Radio 4 record they can go to that store?
AL: How many shows have you played with Radio 4?
Gerard: In the past three years close to six hundred. We took off some time to do the new record.
AL: What are you doing the rest of the year?
Gerard: We are touring the whole rest of the year. We are going over to Europe again at the end of October. We'll see what happens after that. New records and new tours.
AL: What should young people be doing if they want to start a band?
Gerard: Going back to school. That is what you should be doing. Before I joined a band it is nothing I thought it would be. It is not the glamorous lifestyle I thought it was when I was younger. It's a lot of hard work involved. You have to be really dedicated to want to do this. It's not hard labor, but it's physically taxing. It's hard to be not at home and constantly on the road. I love it. I have a love/hate relationship with music.
AL: Touring is very hard.
Gerard: Yeah. I am not a young kid anymore. I am 29 years old and I am getting older. I like the comfort of my own bed and shower.
AL: You don't sleep a lot on the road?
Gerard: You do but it's never good sleep. You never get a good night's sleep ever.
AL: You end up passing out because you haven't slept for three days.
Gerard: Exactly. You wind up passing out rather than going to sleep. We drink a lot on the road. There is not much else to do.
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By alexander laurence
The Hiss formed in 2001 with Adrian Barrera (guitar/Vocals) and Todd Galpin (drums). They were in a previous band, Centipede, from Gainesville, Florida. Florida was a dead end then for music, as it is now and shall always be. There was no future for this band that needed to back out and break all the rules. Inspired by garage rock and Surrealism, the duo moved to Atlanta and hooked up with Ian Franco (guitar) and Mahjula Bah-Kamara (bass). Her name was too exotic for the band so they replaced her with Johnny Kral. The Hiss is dedicated to hard work and sweat.
Recently, the band was picked by Noel Gallagher to support Oasis on their German tour. The Hiss also supported The White Stripes at 99X's Big Rock Festival in June 2003. Their debut, Panic Movement was released in the US in March 2004. I got to talk with Johnny Kral and friends before they took the stage at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles. Anton Newcombe from Brian Jonestown Massacre and Jason from The Warlocks were hanging out backstage.
AL: When did you record the album, Panic Movement?
Johnny: We recorded it in February of last year. It is just about us in a room. Someone starts playing and then someone else starts playing and we work out everything right there. Once the music is all together, and then Adrian puts lyrics to it. He listens to what we have done on tape.
AL: Where are you all from?
Johnny: We are all from different places. Adrian and Todd are from Florida originally. Ian is from Fall River, Massachusetts. I am from Philadelphia. I met Adrian and Todd when I lived in Gainesville. They moved to Atlanta and that's where they met Ian. I had moved to New York City for a few years. They called me down from New York and asked me to play.
AL: How long did it take to create songs and start playing?
Johnny: Everything happened right away. They had played in a band before called Centipede. We knew what they had been doing. Ian and I were familiar with their material. We were friends with them already. When they finished that band, they started the new band immediately. We were ready to play already.
AL: What is Gainesville like?
Johnny: I lived there for a while. Gainesville is weird. It's a small college town with probably half a million people. But it's really tiny. Everyone is mushed together in this tiny place. It had a really good music scene for a few years. It dwindled down and was mediocre after a while. It's depressing. Everyone left.
AL: The good clubs closed down?
Johnny: There were only two good clubs there the whole time. One of them closed down. They started passing laws like you had to pay one hundred and fifty dollars every year for an entertainment license. Clubs had to close early. That killed the scene.
AL: How did you end up playing in the UK a year later and releasing Panic Movement there first last fall? I thought you were an English band at first because I saw you on MTV in the UK.
Johnny: Yeah. It happened because of James Oldham who used to work for the NME. We sent a demo tape to a friend of a friend who knew James. He passed it on to him. James heard it and said he wanted to do an article on us for the NME. We started talking to him. He was going to help us put out the record in England on a label. Then James got a chance to start his own label. He called us right away.
AL: You had all the songs written at that point?
Johnny: For the most part. Most of them were done. We had other ideas that we worked on while we were there.
AL: Did you tour a lot by that point?
Johnny: Not really. We had played some shows.
AL: How do you know when a song is finished?
Johnny: The way we know a song is going to be good is that we can remember it the next day. If we can't remember how to play it the next day we know it's not good enough to be a Hiss song.
AL: What bands have you played with? I guess that you have played more in the UK than here. What was that like?
Johnny: We have toured with The Sights a little bit. That was okay. We toured with BRMC. We toured with Jet for a little while. That was amazing. They are our best friends. They are super great guys. We had the most fun we ever had in a long time with those guys. We did a few tours on our own with local London bands. There was a band called Razorlight. There was another called Eastern Lane. It was fun. It is always fun touring England.
AL: What do you think of the audience reaction in England compared to America?
Johnny: I hate to go against the hometown team, but England is a lot better for music than the States are. It's not that they have a better ear. They just care a little more. People are not afraid to go out to a show and admit that they like something. When there is a show in England, English people will read the paper about what is going on that week, and if they read something that they like, they will go out to the show irregardless of whether their friends are going, or whether they are not going to seem cool. They don't care. They just like good music. Here in America, they could read something that grabs their attention, but if none of their friends are going, or they show up and there are ten people there, they will leave. They don't give new music a chance.
AL: What bands inspire you?
Johnny: I don't know why I started playing music. I didn't start listening to music till I was in Middle School. The first album I got was Megadeath. I used to listen to that stuff.
AL: Do you like to read books or watch films?
Johnny: Yeah, we all read. I read Band of Brothers the other day. We all like George P. Pelicanos. We love them. The last film I saw was The Pianist. That was good, but you don't want to be stuck on a plane with someone you don't know watching that.
AL: What other hobbies does the band have?
Johnny: I don't know if I can talk about it. We are all into weird stuff. I can't talk about it.
AL: The band has this whole dark side. It's mysterious. What is up with that?
Johnny: Anything I say will make us look bad. Ian is into gardening.
AL: A lot of models and girls show up to see The Hiss. Do you have comments about that?
Johnny: If you have really long hair like I do and you are shy, your hair goes directly in front of your face and you can't see anything. I rely on what Ian and Todd see because they are aware of what is going on. What they tell me may be lies. They told me that it was a bunch of old guys with canes out there.
AL: You are coming back on tour with Electric Six?
Johnny: Yeah. We are playing three weeks, which is a perfect amount of time. The record just came out here so we are trying to do whatever it takes.
AL: What is your set like?
Johnny: We are playing most of the album. Not everything. We have one new song that we play. We have an older song that didn't make it on the record.
AL: Any advice for young people who want to form a band?
Johnny: Don't learn how to play anyone else's songs. Don't ever learn a cover.
(Background noise in the room. Members of BJM, The Warlocks, and Starlite Desperation enter the room.)
AL: We have Anton Newcombe here talking really loud. I guess that means the interview is over. When did The Hiss start as a band?
Anton: I am not actually in The Hiss. I am a fan. I am a fan of really good music. That is why I am here. The show in San Diego last night was really great.
AL: You are following the whole tour then?
Anton: I have my own shit I have to do.
AL: You should be making your next record.
Anton: I am. My records are doing so well that I can come and see other bands and feel inspired. I can bring that back to the studio.
AL: You have this new single "We Are The Radio." Let's talk about that.
Anton: There is another song now. We have shit going off.
Jason: Everyone seems to know about that song.
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The Libertines are the most notorious band since the Sex Pistols. Their founders, Pete Doherty and Carl Barat, have had one of the best love and hate rock and roll relationships in a while. There has been a lot of pain and pleasure and friction in this band. This has led to Doherty's addiction to crack and heroin, and his two-month prison term for burglary. Doherty's actions have prevented him from playing on most the American tours. He has formed his own band The Babyshambles in the meantime. Doherty has also been known to ramble on the Internet saying odd things. This is all the tip of the iceberg in the topsy-turvy world of The Libertines.
They began as a band about six years ago. The band had a number of members before they settled on Pete Doherty (vocals/guitar), Carl Barat (vocals/guitar), Gary Powell (drums), and John Hassall (bass). This is the original lineup. Anthony Rossomando has since joined them as a replacement for Pete the past year. A libertine is "someone who is unrestrained by convention or morality." The band actually sacked their manager for being too strict. Alan McGee (of Oasis fame) has since become the new manager. The Libertines have upstaged headlining acts The Strokes and The Vines early in 2002. Their first single "What A Waster" went into the top forty without any radio play. Mick Jones produced their first album. Their first album Up The Bracket (2002) was released in October. It was a romantic dream of Albion and East London. The Libertines were compared to The Jam and The Clash.
After touring the world in 2002 and part of 2003, they released the great single "Don't Look Back Into The Sun." They are awarded best new band by NME in 2003. I was supposed to interview them several times in early 2003, but they cancelled several shows and even at Coachella, they only got to play ten minutes. Somehow they have stayed together, with and without Pete. Their first new single "Can't Stand Me Now" went to number two on the single's chart in the UK. The song has both Carl and Pete singing about their unhealthy relationship. The second album The Libertines (2004) comes out on August 31st. Their live show is explosive and energetic. If you want to see Pete you are going to have to make a trip to England. I spoke to Carl Barat right before their sold-out show at the Troubadour and TV performance on Jimmy Kimmel.
* * * * * * *
AL: When did you record the new album?
Carl Barat: April, I think. I am not quite sure. It was kind of a blackout. Around then. It took about two months altogether. It was ten days of live recording. We spent a lot of time playing pool and worrying.
AL: How do you go about recording a song? Is it all live takes?
Carl Barat: Yeah, it's all live. We usually record a song three of four times, and keep the best one.
AL: How many songs did you record?
Carl Barat: I think that we must have done about thirty-five songs in the session. Only sixteen stayed.
AL: When did you write the songs?
Carl Barat: A couple of the songs are really old. We wrote them when we first started about six years ago. We wrote some songs right before doing the album and some during the album.
AL: How was it different from making the first album? Most bands have a group of songs and that becomes the first album. They usually take some time off to write another album. You seem to have a lot of material written.
Carl Barat: Yeah. We had a bunch of songs that were never recorded properly. We thought it would be nice to do them. They were all right.
AL: What was it like to work with Mick Jones (of The Clash) as a producer?
Carl Barat: He's great. He's like one of the boys. He has done a bit of backing vocals with us. He has played the piano on our songs.
AL: You have also worked with Bernard Butler (of Suede). How did you meet him?
Carl Barat: I think that he is a friend with the record company. I think that they might manage him. He heard us and liked it and wanted in.
AL: How is Bernard different as a producer than Mick Jones?
Carl Barat: They are quite different. They have different philosophies. Mick is into recording sound. He is into capturing a band live. Bernard is more into the science of making a recording. It's a more layered process. Mick does everything live.
AL: Did you get sued about the song "Horrorshow?"
Carl Barat: No, not really. That was an NME blowup. There was a question about who came up with the idea for the song. You might have heard about that.
AL: Yeah. But I heard that some ex-girlfriend thought it was about her.
Carl Barat: Something like that.
AL: Do close friend take songs personally?
Carl Barat: Sometimes, yeah. But they seemed to actually like the first line of that song. That was what the argument was about.
AL: In "The Good Old Days" you have the line: "If you've lost your faith in love and music the end won't be long." What was that about?
Carl Barat: Exactly that really. No hidden meaning there.
AL: What was it like playing with Morrissey?
Carl Barat: It was all right really. It was his show with his fans and devotees. It was really quiet nice being chosen by old Mozza. It was quite a while ago. It was quite hard because we weren't announced playing the gig. No one had heard of us. It was quite a hard bunch to please. We did all right. Since we received his blessing, I think they accept us now.
AL: Morrissey shows up at your gigs too.
Carl Barat: I have seen him a couple times. Yeah.
AL: You do a lot of secret shows. The Libertines are known for doing a gig unannounced. It could happen any day.
Carl Barat: It's just last minute really. People get a buzz off it going to a secret show. We just like playing. It can be good doing proper tours as well.
AL: What is the band Babyshambles like?
Carl Barat: Bit of a shambles....
AL: Does Pete plays Libertines songs?
Carl Barat: Sometimes I think. I don't watch the Babyshambles much.
AL: How do you write songs in the Libertines?
Carl Barat: We both do it. Someone has an idea. We sit down and stick our ideas together really. Through that cohesion we find a common ground.
AL: Every song is a collaboration?
Carl Barat: More of less. There are a few songs that I have wrote, and there are a few of Pete's. There are a few individual songs on the new album.
AL: Pete played on the new album?
Carl Barat: Yeah.
AL: Will Pete ever play with the band again?
Carl Barat: I hope so. He has to stop taking crack and heroin first. It's not really conducive to being in a band.
AL: He hasn't played very many shows in America.
Carl Barat: No. It's quite hard to get a visa especially if you have any criminal record.
AL: You tried to visit Pete when he was in Wandsworth prison. What happened?
Carl Barat: I tried. I went to Wandsworth prison and they had moved him that day. I saw him when he came out. It was a bit hard to see him. It was good to see the old boy again. It is all water under the bridge.
AL: How did you meet Marilyn Manson? Is he a fan?
Carl Barat: We played the David Letterman show together. There's not much of a story.
AL: What other bands do you like?
Carl Barat: I like Hope of The States. The Coral is good. It's quite hard to have time to listen to other bands. I have been busy. I haven't seen my record collection in a while.
AL: Do you have other hobbies?
Carl Barat: I watch films. I like writing.
AL: What would you do if you didn't make music?
Carl Barat: I don't know. Maybe I would be a gardener? Actually that is not true. Actually I would like to be an actor.
AL: Barat doesn't really seem like an English name.
Carl Barat: It's French. I am English. But in the past there is some French relatives.
AL: Do you like to write songs, play live, or record songs?
Carl Barat: Playing live is my favorite part. That is why I got into it in the first place. At some point in the future I guess that I could get into recording. I might not have the patience. We have played hundreds and hundreds of shows. It's always great.
AL: On the American tour, who is Pete's replacement?
Carl Barat: That is our American cousin, Anthony Rossomando. He's keeping Pete's seat warm in the meantime. We met him in New York City. He plays with this band The Damn Personals. We had the chance to see them live. They were pretty good. He seemed like the right man for the job.
AL: You are playing a few shows this week, but the real American tour starts around the end of September 2004 and go on for three weeks. What songs are you going to play?
Carl Barat: We will play a few more songs than the album. The set changes every gig. We do what we feel at the time. We see how we feel before a gig. There is no science to it.
AL: Some bands play the same show and the same songs every night.
Carl Barat: That would be a pain in the ass. That would be quite a drag. You have to keep it interesting or it becomes quite mechanical. We start and finish with a lively one. That's it.
AL: Are you going to play a secret show on an off night during the next American tour?
Carl Barat: Yeah, if there is a capacity for that to happen. If we are not too busy and we are stranded somewhere.
AL: Do you read any of these Libertines messageboards or communities?
Carl Barat: No. I don't really know how to use the Internet.
AL: There are people on the Internet who say: "Carl and Pete are always kissing and hugging each other. They are a gay couple." What do you think of that?
Carl Barat: (laughs) Oh, nothing. People are really into conjecture.
AL: That is all bullshit?
Carl Barat: We are all normal. My girlfriend may beg to differ.
AL: The NME seems to have written a lot about the Libertines. What do you think about that?
Carl Barat: They have been really good to us, all things considering. We took a gamble with them. They can damn you straight away.
AL: Sometimes they drop a band because they want to move on to the next flavor of the month.
Carl Barat: They do that a lot. It's fun to keep them busy and keep them guessing. We can't control where they want to focus things. They can't tear you down if you keep doing stuff.
AL: You seem like you still have a lot of unreleased material. Do you think that the third album will happen very fast?
Carl Barat: Right now I have been so busy. I would like to chill out and have some downtime. I reckon it will be a while until the third one. We just came out with the second one. We have to deal with that first.
AL: Does your families follow the band?
Carl Barat: Yeah, they are pretty good like that. They get excited. They come to shows sometimes. Not all the time.
The Libertines Interview By Alexander Laurence
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By Alexander Laurence
The Killers debut album, Hot Fuss, is the hottest American record of the year so far. We no longer have to leave it up to the English to satisfy our musical palette because we now have the Killers. They combine a love for British music, with showmanship and killer hooks. The Killers are Brandon Flowers (voice/keyboard), David Keuning (guitar), Mark Stermer (bass), and Ronnie Vannucci (drums). This bunch met in Las Vegas two years ago, after Brandon left his previous band. They recreate the feeling and emotion of New Wave, while saying something absolutely new.They are well dressed and the bass player looks like Jesus Christ. These guys are what the doctor ordered. I spoke to Ronnie Vannucci the day their record was released. The Killers will be playing in New York City soon.
AL: I just saw you guys play at Weenie Roast 2004 just a few days ago. That was good. You went on at about 5pm.
Ronnie: Oh yeah. That was hotter than hell. We loved it. The sun really shone on us that day. We are still cutting our teeth with things. It's good that we can get a good spot on the main stage. We do what we do with every show. It may sound cheesy but we give it our all. We hope people enjoy it. It is a battle being in direct sunlight.
AL: Brandon's face was projected on the screen quite often. He looked like he was sweating a lot.
Ronnie: Yeah. It's pretty hot up there.
AL: You grew up in the suburbs of Las Vegas? How has that influenced the band?
Ronnie: Yeah, if you can call it that. It's a strip in the middle and houses that surrounds it. I don't know if growing up there has influenced us in any specific way. Las Vegas has established itself with any music scene. You have to rely on what is happening in neighboring cities like Los Angeles. That is where people used to think they needed to go to prove themselves or make themselves known. I think that it comes down to having good songs. It doesn't matter where you live.
AL: When did you meet each other?
Ronnie: About two years ago. David and Brandon met through an ad. I met them at a gig. They had been The Killers a few months before I joined. They didn't have a solid lineup. I joined and then we found Mark. We decided that we had to get really serious. We knew we had to practice every day and write songs.
AL: How many shows have you played back then?
Ronnie: We played a few local shows. We have played a shitload of shows in La Vegas. But our first connection with the outside world was when we went to England in September 2003. It is all still pretty new to us.
AL: You went over to England first before playing any big tours in the United States?
Ronnie: Yeah. Our first tour was in England. We had played New York City and Chicago when we were still unsigned. We did a few things here and there, but England is where things started for us.
AL: What sort of shows did you play there?
Ronnie: At first we were playing shitty support acts at no name clubs. Then we got better supporting gigs. People saw us play and thought we were a good band. Things started to happen very fast.
AL: When did you record the album?
Ronnie: The record is half demos. We made a demo first. That led to a single for an indie label in England. That led to an EP and an album. We had a lot of songs recorded already. When we thought about putting the album together we kept a lot of the original demos because they all had certain spontaneity to them. Half of the songs we recorded before we ever went to England.
AL: You made a self-released EP when you played that first tour?
Ronnie: Yeah. It was a four song EP of the demos. It was released through Lizard King who was our label in the UK. When we did the album we remixed the songs. It was a limited edition. It created enough static to make some waves.
AL: When you worked on the final album, did you work with a producer?
Ronnie: We worked with Jeff Saltzman. We gave him credit. But we constructed all the songs and mostly did everything ourselves. We had a guy recording for us. We gave him producing points for recording us.
AL: Did you do live tracks or how did you go about recording the album?
Ronnie: Yeah. No recording was more than three takes. That is what I meant by the spontaneity of the record. We weren't trying to make a big record. We just tried to write some good songs and play good and try to make it the best we could. We were just recording songs over the course of a year when we had time. The original demos turned out to be so good that we kept them.
AL: Did you do a lot of overdubs and vocal doubling?
Ronnie: No. There wasn't a lot of production involved. It is almost like a live show or rehearsal. We would like to work in the studio for a few months. We could see where that takes us. Maybe we will do that with the second record.
AL: How do you write songs in the band?
Ronnie: Each song is different. Some songs will come from all four of us. Someone will make up a melody or a line. Some songs Brandon brought in. He had the songs and the changes all written already. It was all there. Some songs had maybe two of us working on it. Brandon and I worked on "Believe, Me Natalie" together. Brandon and David had written "Mr. Brightside" before Mark and I were in the band. We are a band most importantly and we work on all the songs together eventually. It makes it fun because the creation of every song is so different.
AL: Brandon writes all the lyrics too?
AL: What does he write about in his songs?
Ronnie: All I know is half of his songs are half-fiction and half-autobiographical. The songs are about different subjects. If you wanted to know about anything specific you would have to ask Brandon.
AL: There is a lot of romantic longings in the songs. It's a make out album?
Ronnie: You think so? There is some romantic stuff in there. That description would belong to us.
AL: I was reading the NME. They compared your band to The Smiths. Are you Smith obsessive like they say?
Ronnie: We are not obsessed with The Smiths. The Smiths were among the bands that all four members grew up with. Those were our generation's bands. Those were some of the first tapes we bought. Those were some of the first things we discovered for ourselves so it's personal. It's very easy for us to be in a room and make music because we have a common background.
AL: Some of these articles also mention U2.
Ronnie: Yeah. U2 is a wonderful band. I still really look up to them.
AL: What are some other bands that are definitely influences but people haven't pointed out before?
Ronnie: We are fans of British music, but we are also fans of American music. We like the Talking Heads, Blondie, and others. We also like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Strokes, and Interpol. We like Tom Petty, Tom Waits, and Lou Reed. We like music in general. We just don't listen to The Cure and The Smiths. That needs to be known.
AL: Does Brandon Flowers have a shrine to Robert Smith or Morrissey on his wall at home?
Ronnie: No! Hell no! Actually we did play some shows with Morrissey. We talked to him and he was positive. That was some good validation of what we were doing.
AL: What other bands have you played with that you liked?
Ronnie: We just recently did three shows with Yeah Yeah Yeahs. We were really stoked to be doing shows with those guys. There are some great bands in England that people should listen to like British Sea Power, The Black Velvets, The Departure, and Surfer Rosa from Norway. We really enjoyed playing with those guys. There is a band in London called The Glitterati. They just finished a tour with David Lee Roth. They are really good.
AL: The song "Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll" is on the UK album but not on the American issue. Why is that?
Ronnie: We decided that England would be more receptive to that song. We wanted to make the albums a little different.
AL: Have you seen any good movies?
Ronnie: We saw Harry Potter when we were in London. Daniel Radcliffe is apparently a fan of The Killers.
AL: He is obsessed with The Killers. I read that interview. I was shocked. He is supposedly the second wealthiest teenager in England. He could buy a bunch of copies of Hot Fuss and keep it in the charts all year.
Ronnie: Wow! Who knows?
AL: What are you up to this summer?
Ronnie: We don't have a day off until the middle of October. We are playing all the festivals except Reading and Leeds. We will be at Glastonbury, T in The Park, V Festival, Fuji Rock, and a few more. I don't know exactly where we will be for the next three months.
AL: When will you do a proper tour of the great American cities?
Ronnie: It starts in July.
AL: What is your favorite part about being a musician?
Ronnie: Playing live shows is probably the best for me. What is good about that is it's true for the most part. It's a true representation of who we are as people and musicians. We are out there naked. We are giving them a show. That is the best thing about music: going from a hot garage with some songs to a hot stage with people who enjoy the music.
AL: You are really a great drummer. It's like the second coming of Keith Moon.
Ronnie: Thanks. I haven't destroyed any drum sets yet.
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by Alexander Laurence
-- Alexander Laurence
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The Portable Infinite is an online music and arts magazine. We are a collective of independent artists supporting and promoting other cutting edge independent artists. Here you will find interviews and reviews of up and coming indie bands as well as some of the classic greats. While the focus is on music, we don’t stop there! Find interviews with important and influential authors and other artists. Feed on our visually stunning photography exclusively shot for The Portable Infinite. We have created over the years original words and photography that are featured on this website. We also focus on art installation, special artists’ collaborative events, DJ experiences, and fashion!
Meet the team
Alexander Laurence: Founder & Editor
Angel Ceballos: Photographer
Contact: AlexLaurence @ aol.com
"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite."
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