Fresh from a UK and European headlining tour the band is in better shape than ever with 2013 set to be another landmark year for the Ulster trio.
RUSHONROCK‘s Adam Keys caught up with Neil Cooper, Michael McKeegan and Andy Cairns to bring you yet another exclusive interview.
rushonrock: How was the UK tour before Christmas? Are you still enjoying being on the road as much as ever?
NC: It was great. We don’t go out and play the same every night, we do juggle things around, because it can become just a job if we go out and play the same set night after night after night. So we try to vary it a bit, as much for ourselves as for the people coming and paying to watch the show.
MM: It is good, at least we’re not one of those bands that only have one song that people want to hear – we’ve got too much choice. In some of our sets there are a lot of top 40 hits that we don’t play just because we’re playing the new album stuff, so it’s a nice position to be in. Ideally we would play for three hours, but physically that would be too draining and with a three band bill it would be impossible. We’d be sending La Faro on at five o’clock to nobody.
NC: Yep it would be ‘doors are at six but you’re on at five’!
rushonrock: How have audiences responded to the new album A Brief Crack Of Light, which had great reviews after it’s release?
MM: The reviews were great, right across the board and the songs are going down really, really well. We normally do six or seven songs. Most bands will only play the single off the new album but the audiences are really into them. Even The Buzzing, which is probably one of the more challenging songs on the record, goes down well.
AC: Also it depends what you put where in the set. There’s a song on the album Ghost Trio which is about six minutes long and it’s very repetitive. We had it at the start of the set but we’ve discovered it works better later on when audiences have warmed up a bit.
NC: It’s interesting as well when you put out a new record to see how people take to certain songs. There are certain tracks which people pick up on because you do 10/12 tracks or however many songs for an album and kind of just put them out there. But it’s always a good thing when you do a tour and you think ‘Ah right, that’s going down far better than we’d have perhaps thought’.
rushonrock: There have been a lot of excellent reviews but after 13 albums do you still read reviews? Or did you ever read reviews?
AC: I always read them because the music press when I was a kid – I religiously bought NME, Melody Maker, Kerrang! – meant a lot and and now I still get Wire magazine and I still occasionally get the NME, Kerrang! and Rocksound. I think what it is is this – I’m only a human being so if we’re on tour with a new album and a PR guy turns round and says ‘look NME have given the album a real slagging’, there is no point reading it before you go onstage because the people in that venue don’t want some grumpy cunt going ‘and I’ll tell you another thing!’ But yeah, of course I read them. I just think you have to learn a coping mechanism. I think the best piece of advice I’ve heard recently was when I was listening to Radio 1 and Jamie XX was on and he was asked what the best advice he would give to anyone in a band and he said: ‘don’t Google yourself’. And that is so true. That is one thing I don’t do. So don’t Google yourself, and don’t read a review before you go onstage.
rushonrock: Now that you have become more practiced song writers has it become easier to put out a good song?
AC: I think it depends what work you put into it beforehand. This album was quite difficult because it came together piece by piece, because we lived in Derby, Larne and Cambridge. So we’d all have to get together and we’d only get together for a week and then we’d go away for a while and get together for another week. In between we’d be sending each other MP3s of ideas so basically when we got together we’d be piecing everything together, which is quite a time consuming project. Before with Crooked Timber, we wrote the whole thing in Derby, so when we got to the studio we just needed to get a really good recording. I’m a big fan of getting the record done in advance and then just recording it in the studio. But sometimes with geographical constraints, time constraints and financial constraints you have to work with what you’re given.
rushonrock: With your geographical constraints taken into consideration how do you go about your writing process?
AC: It works different ways. I mean, one of us will maybe have an idea or a riff, sometimes one of us will have a whole song. Something like Stark Raving Sane off the new record was written in one afternoon in Derby, where we were rehearsing with the songs we already had and we just went in and wrote it there and then. It is hard but I write all the lyrics so I can sit and write lyrics and melodies at home. But the way I play and the music I listen to is different from the lads. For example, take The Buzzing – I had written The Buzzing at home with a sort of swingy jazz riff and I put a vocal over it and I sent it to Mike and there was no drums on it so he put it on his computer and he put a drum machine on it. And then by the time Neil had it, he had a completely different take on it. In the end what I had seen as this black flag, swinging, head banger, ended up being a completely different track.
rushonrock: The name of the album come from a quote from Vladimir Nabakov, ‘A brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness’. What was the reason behind this?
AC: Well at the time a lot of the lyrics on the album, before we had the album title, were dealing with some of the absurdities of life. Lyrically I always try to pick a concept. With Crooked Timber it was about identity, and with this it was about absurdity, so I was reading a lot of Vladimir Nabakov and Samuel Beckett and the things they’ve dealt with, just like what it’s like to be human, like how some of the things we do get us bent so out of shape. And when I was researching absurdity, I came across this quote from Nabakov basically saying we are on this planet for a very short period of time and we have to do something with it and really help other people.
rushonrock: You put a free download out in America of Living In The Shadow of a Terrible Thing, is this Therapy? Moving with the times?
AC: What are we going to do? We haven’t been to America for 10 years, where as before we wouldn’t have had to do that because we would have been over there touring four or five times a year so people would have known who we were. The people from Rolling Stone offered to give a free download which overnight would reach more people than anything we would do, which meant that the people that had forgotten about us could say, ‘great, they’re back’ and get back into our music.
rushonrock: You were touring with La Faro last month – is giving Northern Irish bands a chance something you would like to do?
AC: Well if they’re good and we like them, yeah. But we have to be honest – we will try and promote bands from the North if we really, really like them and can get them to come over here. But if they’re not a good band or they’re dicks then they can fuck right off!