Franz Ferdinand Web Transcript
LH: Lorraine Hahn
LH: Hello and welcome to Talk Asia, I'm Lorraine Hahn.
With me today is one of the biggest names in British music at the moment- Franz Ferdinand.
Named after the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the band has its roots in Glasgow's Indy club and music scene.
The four members, Alex, Bob, Nick and Paul got together in 2002, and became locally infamous for their impromptu gigs at the warehouse they all lived in- dubbed "The Chateau".
Their reputation for producing good, Indy rock music, led to a major deal with Domino Records in June, 2003.
Since then, Franz Ferdinand has released 2 critically acclaimed albums, enjoyed chart success on several continents, and picked up, among others, the Mercury Music, Brit and MTV awards.
Gentlemen, welcome to Talk Asia, it is so good to meet you - thank you very much for joining us. You have come a long way since Glasgow and "The Chateau"- what do you remember about those days?
AK: It was a lot of fun...
BH: Yeah, a lot of parties...
LH: What kind of parties?
BH: Loud parties?
AK: Its like illegal parties as well- we didn't really have any permission to hold parties in those places. We used to take over old warehouses- in fact, there were two places we did the parties: one was in a semi-derelict old warehouse, and one was a semi-derelict old jail, an old eastern prison. And both of them, they still had the electricity working in them, but they had holes in the roof so water would come through and that sort of thing- but we found the dry parts of the building. We would have great parties which would go on, and go on until the police came sort of thing...
LH: Till the police came right? Didn't bother you though, did it?
AK: Nope! It was great, as long as- we used to have a bar in them as well! It was kind of an illegal bar also, there were two staircases in the chateau in the first place, and I remember we heard the police coming up the first one so all the crates of wine would be going down the second one...
LH: I could figure that one out! You're known to be formidable when you play live, I mean you opened for U2, headlined big day out- do you prefer performing live versus, lets say to being stuck in a recording studio?
BH: Well, there's good things about both really- they are both fun in their different ways. You can't really beat playing in a festival with 50,000 people- it's quite a special feeling!
LH: But no preference, Alex? No preference?
AK: I like doing both of them, because- as Bob says- they are both so different. You know, you get an intense buzz, and it's one of the most thrilling and exciting experiences you can ever have when you perform live. The nearest thing I can think of is, I dunno- skydiving, or jumping off the highest board in the swimming pool. That sort of like, that rush of adrenalin that you get. But when you are in the studio, you know that you are putting something down that's going to have, you know, like a bit of impact- people are going to be listening to it in a few years time, hopefully- whereas a gig is just an instant!
15:33:06 LH: When I read about you and your group, you are sometimes described as a rock band, pop band- how would you describe your music?
BH: I would say pop?
AK: Yeah, because I think all bands are pop groups. Rock bands are pop groups as well- even if they pretend not to be! The good ones are anyway, like, if you think about even the most rock' n roll of bands- we are talking about Nirvana, or the Sex Pistols or The Clash- I mean, they had great pop songs as well, so...
LH: Hmm...Art- features very heavily in your backgrounds...(15:33:48) Does it influence much of your music?
BH: I think lots of things influence our music, not just listening to other music. But, conversations we have with people. (AK: The films that you watch, or the books that you read) Exactly.
AK: I think you are right, the people that you talk to and the people that surround you are maybe the greatest influence.
LH: The Mercury Prize- that must have been a huge honor, to be picked up?
AK: It was great, I mean, particularly the Mercury Prize because- you feel; like it's been voted for by your peers. You know, it's been voted for by other musicians, and yeah- it was marvelous to be nominated, never mind to win it! And it felt like a very, very special moment.
LH: What about the money? Where has that gone?
AK: Eh...We gave it to a charity actually!
LH: Which charity?
AK: It was an appeal for people in Darfour.
LH: Social issues seem to be important to Franz Ferdinand, to all of you guys. Do you feel that there is a sort of social responsibility, for a band or a celebrity like yourselves, to do this?
AK: I think social issues are important to us, and they would be important to us whether we were in a band or not. But I think there is something you have to be careful about when you are in a band- and that's not to mistake the fact that people like you, when they come to see your concert, not to mistake that for adulation and not to feel that you suddenly become this great important figure who has to speak and tell people how to live their lives!
LH: Is it important for you though, as a band through your music, to try and make a difference in people's lives, not necessarily to preach Alex.
AK: No, no, I think it is important and I think the best music does make a difference to your life as well. And it's often in a personal way, and it's often more of a social thing that a political thing. And I mean social with a small s as well, I mean the way that you relate to the people around about you and the way see the people around about you and the way that you appreciate them and of course- the best music and the best lyrics make you appreciate that in a different way!
LH: A lot of your success, I've been told, is because of this "MP3 Blogging"- What do you think about that? I mean, there is sort of this grey area right?
BH: Well, I think it's exciting- it's equivalent of when I was a kid at school and you pass around cassette tapes that you made to your friends. Or you know, you buy a record and you make a compilation on a C90- it's no different to swapping MP3's. I think it's a healthy thing for people to be able to discover new music easily, and quickly, it's just...good.
AK: And also the internet is a great medium for gossiping- and it's through gossiping, people chatting to each other that they recommend and find out about music, so yeah it's been great for us.
LH: Is it a good means of promotion, let's say, for the band do you think?
BH: I mean, it would amount to the best kind of promotion anyone could get- that's what the internet is really. A lot of people creating a community based around about music.
AK: Exactly. The best promotion any band can do isn't the promotion that they do for themselves, it's the promotion that other people do for them- because they like it! And sometimes when bands do too much promotion, it kind of spoils it in a way- you should just let- because I know that the music that I go out and find out about is music that my friends recommend to me. So if Bob says 'you know there's this great band, I think you'd really, really like them', or Paul was telling me about this great band -- 'Pony Hokes (?)' so I'm going to go and listen to them now, and see what they are like!
15:38:21 LH: Right, gentlemen we are going to take a very, very short break. When we come back we'll hear more from Franz Ferdinand- stay with us.
LH: Welcome back to Talk Asia, my guests are Franz Ferdinand. Um... Alex, let me ask you- Franz Ferdinand, as far as I know, you got the name from that Austrian-Hungarian archduke- is that really the case?
AK: Well, kind of indirectly. We got the idea for the name when we were watching the horse racing on the television- and there was a horse called the Archduke- and we started talking about Archduke Franz Ferdinand. And we had a concert coming up, and we had to have a name because it was the first concert we were going to play which had posters for it- so we had to have a name to put on the posters. Before that, we had just been the band playing at the party- or whatever. There was something about Franz Ferdinand that we liked, we liked it on different levels. The most immediate level- it sounds good, Franz Ferdinand- it alliterates, it has a good rhythm to it. But also, there's something quite significant about his, not his life- but his death, it was a pivotal point -- the point in which the 20th century really, really began. I think all bands should aspire to be that, like a pivotal point upon which music changes- so things are not quite the same after that particular moment in time.
LH: Now, both of you and the other two gentlemen as well- come from very different backgrounds. Bob, you studied art- mentioned that before, and Alex- theology? I mean, what is the common denominator here amongst all of you?
BH: Just the love of music I think!
AK: Yeah, and we're friends as well, I suppose- that's probably the most obvious common denominator. We always used to do things together, just music was just something we would do as friends- this seemed to be something that other people enjoyed most.
BH: I mean, actually playing music isn't something that- it's more being a fan of music that's most common. We go around each other's houses and just play each other records, and just have a drink, kind of like socializing.
AK: Bob and I used to work in a kitchen together as well, as chefs- and there we used to take in music and we'd play each other cd's and we'd talk about music, and we'd send emails to each other talking about imaginary bands we'd get together and what the band would be like. This was before we had the band together- we had ideas of what a band should be before we actually had a band!
LH: Alex, theology and music. Please...(laughs)
AK: There's not that much of a connection between them! I ended up doing theology, or divinity for a year- when I was 17 I left school and wanted to leave home, and get as far away as possible but stay in Scotland. I went to Aberdeen, and I thought theology would be fun! It was interesting for a year, but I only studied it for a year- and then left...
LH: Have you used any part of that education?
AK: Of course! I think anything that you study has an impact on your life, and the way that you perceive the world. And it was fascinating in many different ways- when you study theology there's a lot of history in there as well. And when you study history, you learn so much about human nature really.
LH: And Art? That's a very different direction, well I guess not so much as theology...
BH: Yeah I think that art and music get together pretty well really- there's a big tradition in the UK of bands coming from art school or art backgrounds. And in Glasgow especially, the art and the music scenes do crossover quite a lot- people socialize together so...
LH: Right, you mentioned earlier that you all hang out as friends- but that wasn't true initially right?
AK: Yeah, when I first met Nick- the guitarist, it was in a party and we had a little fight! But we made friends very quickly afterwards- in fact I did not know who he was, but we had a little fight and in the middle of it I said 'You don't play the drums do you?' And even though he didn't play the drums, he said he did, and we agreed to meet the next day- and yeah, we ended up getting the band together. Well, we'd [Alex and Bob] been looking for a drummer hadn't we? (BH: Hmm) And yeah, we thought...
LH: You've been with a lot of bands before Franz Ferdinand (AK: I have, he hasn't!) Yeah, how much has it changed Alex, for you, as a musician?
AK: It's strange because there is a lot of similarities, even though the differences are kind of glaringly obvious. Like the big differences, is like the fact that we get to travel around the world and play to millions of people- that's one BIG difference. But the similarities are at the heart of it- so, whether it's The Yummy fur or The Blisters- you basically get it together for the same reasons- you want to play music with your friends.
LH: And has your music changed, since you started with Franz Ferdinand, or your concept of music?
BH: Well yeah, now I know what the bass guitar sounds like, on records!
AK: Can you pick it out now, when you hear a record?
BH: Yeah, I can pick it out and everything! Well, Alex, Nick- actually Nick studied the bass at music school (AH: He's a classical bassist really). Yeah, him and Alex are good teachers.
15:46:02 LH: Why bass?
15:46:03 BH: It's the easiest one, it's only got 4 strings! (laughs)
LH: I figured that one out! The song writing process that you go through, how personal is that?
AK: Sometimes when you write a song, you write about something that's so intensely personal that you could never even talk to your friends even about it- you couldn't talk to anyone about it because its so personal, yet you can sing about it in a song. It goes the other way for songs as well, you know sometimes there are situations that we go through- emotional situations in particular that are difficult to communicate with people about- and so you listen to music and somehow you feel that somebody is talking to you about the way that you feel at that particular moment, and it's the same for when you write it as well.
15:48:09 LH: Being honest about your music, and I've read numerous articles about how important that is for Franz Ferdinand, what about the commercial issue, do you know what I mean? Sometimes, what is commercially viable may not be what you want?
15:49:13 AK: There's no point in trying to create music that has a commercial appeal, it just doesn't work. I've known bands before that have tried to chase after the current trend, or whatever is particularly fashionable at the moment- and it always comes across as being insincere and slightly distasteful, so no it's not something that we would do! I mean, and also that doesn't mean that you have to be willfully arrogant about your approach to music. We like pop music, I like a good tune, I like a tune that I can dance to! And that's kind of the music that we wanted to play as well, you don't consider that as necessarily a commercial option- you just feel like it's making the music that you want to make.
LH: Can I -- let me put it another way. If you made a wonderful album, which you all thought was wonderful- but nobody bought it. Would that bother you?
BH: When you are writing a record though, you're not thinking about what anyone else thinks- apart from the four of us in a room. If I like it, or if was happy with the record personally- that would be good enough for me.
LH: So that's the most important for you, Bob...
AK: Well, no- I think feedback from fans is very, very important. I think it's false to pretend that if you just created music in a room, and nobody else ever heard it (BH: But people do, do that and they enjoy it fine), yeah- some people do that, but for me, I do like that fact that you have an impact on people's lives and that people do respond to it.
LH: I just wanted to come back to one point when we were talking about the music and how personal it was. Is there a very personal song that you have, well for either of you- that is really important to you?
AK: Gosh, they are all important in different ways (LH: A special one). A special one?
LH: That's a tough one huh?
15:51:25 AK: Yeah, it is. It's a very, very difficult one. The ones I feel the most personal about? I don't know, maybe it's a song we don't play very often- a song called "Missing You" , in fact we've never played it live. It was only a b-side, but it's probably the most personal song for me. (LH: Why?) Because it's about somebody I really miss.
LH: Ok gentlemen, we are going to take another very, very short break. Stick around, Talk Asia will be right back with Franz Ferdinand.
LH: Hello again, you are watching Talk Asia and my guests are Franz Ferdinand. Gentlemen, the Glasgow music scene has produced some of the best Indy bands in recent years, what is it about Glasgow that breeds such good music?
AK: It is an exciting place for music, definitely. I think it could be a combination of different things- there's lots of theories that have been put forward. Even geographical theories, like the fact that it's so far away from London- yet it's a major city. You've got the certain social elements to it, it's a very working class city, with this great industrial background and yet at the same time it's got three universities and an art school. So you have a mixture of the very rough real people, but with a mixture of intellectual attitudes as well. There's also a history of music, and once you start having a history of music, it passes forward to generations. There's the Celtic tradition as well, it could be any of these different things- it might just be a fluke I don't know, but it's definitely that.
LH: A lot of newcomers make it, some don't, you people have been able to make it both in the US and in Europe- big time. How do you do it, what is it about Franz Ferdinand?
BH: Hopefully it's just that we've got catchy tunes, and people like it, and it kind of doesn't matter where you come from or where you live- you can appreciate a good tune, everyone's the same when it comes to music. We didn't go to America to try and, to treat it like- the world thought we had to go and break America. We just went along and played, and had fun.
AK: Yeah, I think that's a weird expression, it's something that's often used by British bands like 'we're going to go and break America!'- I don't think America wants to be broken! Like Bob said, we have the same attitude towards the concert, no matter where we are playing- whether it's Hong Kong, Washington D.C. or Birmingham- you know, if there people there who want to see us, then yeah we'll perform.
LH: A lot of new young British Bands, like Arctic Monkey and Kaiser (AK: Kaiser Chiefs) Chiefs, yeah- thank you very much. Are they competition to you?
AK: It's not competition is it? (BH: No, not really) I think it's great that there are other bands that excite me. You've got to remember that we are music lovers as well- we're not just performers- we're music fans too. So, I remember the first time we heard 'I predict a riot' by the Kaiser Chiefs- we were sitting there thinking 'this is a great song, I want to go and see this band!' Same with the Arctic Monkeys, we played with them recently as well, they are label mates with us as well in the UK, and we were so chuffed when we were playing a gig with them! I think it's quite an old-fashioned attitude to see other bands as competition, you should appreciate the other bands- and like sort of think its great that they are doing something good as well.
LH: Yes, I would agree with you. But what about surviving in this music industry nowadays? What does it take?
AK: You've got to keep writing good songs, it's simple- I think that's all there is.
BH: Yeah, don't turn into something you despise.
LH: Now, your 3rd album is coming out isn't it? Have you got any material for it yet?
AK: We've been writing some songs- Haven't we? (BH: Hmm, yeah)
LH: What can we expect?
AK: I think again, the 2nd album was different from the 1st, and the 3rd will be different again. But it's obvious that every album still retains its identity, still sound like Franz Ferdinand no matter what we do. So I think, from what we've been playing so far, in the 3rd album- some songs will be a lot more, I don't know- not folk-y, but maybe acoustic-y...like there are some acoustic guitars and things like that. There are sort of songs that you can sing along to, whereas others have a bit more of dance feel- soul kind of way, maybe like Sly-Stone sort of feel, something like that.
LH: Wow, when will we be able to hear this material?
BH: (AK: Well...) If we have it our way, then by the end of this year- but it's difficult with tour equipments to be able to find time in the studio. Hopefully we'll be in the studio by the end of this year though, recording.
LH: Wow, well gentlemen thank you very, very much (BH: Thank you). Enjoy your travels here in Asia, thank you. (BH: Cheers, AK: Thank you, it's been a pleasure). Thank you very much for spending time with us, my guests have been Franz Ferdinand, I'm Lorraine Hahn, lets talk again next week.
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