EXCLUSIVE Q&A WITH TIM
For the latest in our regular chats with the band, we called up Tim to talk about the upcoming tour, Keane’s lost classic and a strange Swedish sleepwalk…
Hello Mr Rice-Oxley. How are you?
I’m fine, thank you.
Did you have a nice Christmas?
Yeah, pretty chilled out. Didn’t do very much really. Watched quite a lot of Entourage and Spooks. It was good.
You’re on record as saying that Christmas is something of a disappointment. Was that the case this year?
Well, Christmas Day was a disappointment because I had some nasty virus and spent most of the day either in bed or being sick. So that was a shame. But other than that, it’s been nice to just inhabit the real world and be at home.
What were you doing at midnight on December 31st?
Probably reading a book. We went for the minimalist approach to festivities this year.
Are you excited about 2009?
Yeah, I think it’s gonna be great. It’s certainly going to be busy and it’s nice to feel that the tour is finally getting going properly. We had that great European tour in November and then just as we were getting into the swing of it, we were back in London doing bits and bobs of promotion. It’ll be good to get the Keane machine properly on the road all over the world.
Does it feel daunting having so much in the diary?
I’m looking forward to it, to be honest. Pretty much everyone in the world has to go out and work every day, so I try not to get too worried about the fact that we have to get out there and play a bit of music! It’s going to be busy, but it’s going to be great. So far the live shows have been really, really fun and I much prefer playing live to doing interviews.
Oh. Would you like to play piano for the rest of this phone call?
No, it’s OK.
So, March 13th is the final gig of the ones that have been announced. Is it safe to say there will be more coming?
Yeah, I think we’ll be busy until the end of the summer at least. And then we’ll see where we stand. I imagine by that point we might be eager to get into writing again and thinking about new songs. But we’ll just see how it goes. Everyone’s very excited about the touring, so we just want to roll with that for the time being.
Do you have big plans for the upcoming UK shows, as they’re in big arenas?
Yeah, I think we’ll be stepping it up from what we were doing in Europe. We’ll be really trying to bring some of the best elements from what we learned touring arenas last time, and combine that with a lot of new songs and a new visual identity. I think we’ve been a lot bolder and more colourful and high energy so far on this tour, and it’ll be really nice to see that in a big venue setting. I also think that we’ve learned a lot about playing songs acoustically, from the European tour and also doing things like that Largo show. And I think we’ll be trying to incorporate some of that spirit into the really big shows. I think the contrast should be really exciting.
The Largo and Union Chapel acoustic shows both went down incredibly well.
Yeah, it’s turned out to be something that we really enjoy. There’s quite a big thrill in just being exposed in that way and feeling like it’s just about the moment and the four of you playing to a few people in the room. In contrast to the big production of a big show, there’s something quite magical about taking it back to the very basic parts of the music.
Will the next single from the album be announced soon?
Yep, I’ve just been working on a radio edit of that.
Some people were a little unsure about the Perfect Symmetry radio edit, because it chopped out big parts of the song. Is it hard for you chopping your own song?
Yeah, I don’t ever like doing radio edits. I hate it really. But it’s a clear choice between your song being played on the radio and your song not being played on the radio. But it just acts as a taster for people. I don’t feel like Keane’s music is ever going to be adequately represented by one song being played on the radio, even if it was a six minute song. So really you’ve just got to do your best to get it on the airwaves then hope people hear it and come and hear the album, which I feel is the medium in which we really excel.
True. Although, saying that, at gigs you’ve been performing the radio edit of Spiralling.
Yeah. But that’s mainly down to being really disorganised. We haven’t got round to learning the full version! But we do quite enjoy playing the radio edit. That is actually the one Keane song I’ve ever felt was genuinely tightened up by the radio edit, rather than just becoming a snapshot of the song.
So, we’ve started posting up the archive of all the old gigs. Do you remember the first ever Keane show?
Yes, the Hope & Anchor on July 13th 1998. I’ve got the setlist here.
Did you play any songs we’d have heard of?
No, nothing. Apart from a cover of Paperback Writer.
So you subsequently dropped every other song?
Are there any on the setlist you wish you’d stuck with?
Yeah, I think there’s some good songs on there.
Which is the real lost classic?
Well there was a song called Gingerbread, which was the last song we played at that show. That was the favourite among our friends. It was a really good song. I still think it would probably be a hit if you released it now.
You never recorded it?
Not properly, no. But every time I see Chris from Coldplay he always says, without fail, "When are you gonna release Gingerbread?" Which can only mean that my songwriting ability has gradually receded over the last ten years!
Could you still play it?
Pretty much, yeah. And I’m sure we’ve got it on a tape somewhere. But most of the songs we played that night were recorded on four-track at some point. So Gingerbread will probably appear on a Keane anthology eventually.
It looks from the gigs list that you didn’t really start playing regularly until 2003.
Yeah, that’s true. But I think there might be a couple missing from your list. I seem to remember we played at the Barfly in Sheffield. And the Night And Day in Manchester. Perhaps the fans can help fill in the gaps.
Of the early gigs, the one on 21 September 2000 leaps out as unusual, because you were supporting Chesney Hawkes! Do you remember it?
I do, vividly. We were offered that gig at the last minute. We were all at work and I remember Adam [Keane’s manager] ringing up saying we’d been offered it. So we borrowed some instruments and just turned up and played a fairly ropey sort of gig. Actually, I seem to remember that our playing was slightly hampered by it being after two or three pints of beer. But we muddled through. And the thing I remember about Chesney is that there were quite a few people there, most of them female, but he didn’t play The One And Only. It was quite bizarre not to play his big hit. But I think he was trying to re-launch himself as a serious musician.
And your last gig with Dom on guitar was on 12 July 2001 in London.
Yeah, I remember that. And then we didn’t play again until the Night And Day, which I think would’ve been about September 2002.
How did you end up in Malmo in March 2003?
That came about because that gig we did at The Garage, in February, The Ark were also on the bill. They really liked our set, so they invited us to come and support them in Malmo. They paid for us to go over. It was great. We flew to Malmo and played this gig with a fantastic Swedish crowd and everyone was really nice to us. We had a really, really fun time. I particularly remember I was sharing a room with Tom and he sleepwalked down to the lobby of the hotel in his underpants in the middle of the night! They were a great band The Ark. A bit like The Darkness, but much better.
When you look at the list of the shows, do you remember them clearly?
There are specific ones I can remember. But then we must’ve played at the Bull And Gate three or four times and I can’t remember all of them.
It seems like a long time ago since those very early shows.
I know, it’s mad!
So, have you been writing any new songs?
A little bit. But I find you have to just absorb life a little bit. And I’ve been listening to a lot of music, which has been nice.
What have you been listening to?
I actually got given several copies of Alex James’ autobiography for Christmas, even though I’ve already read it. But I was leafing through that again and that inspired me to go back and listen to some Blur, which I loved.
My two favourites are Parklife and the self-titled one. Especially the latter. And Modern Life Is Rubbish is brilliant too. And I’ve been listening to that Amadou and Mariam album that came out before Christmas a lot. And, funnily enough, some of that is a collaboration with Damon Albarn. But I suppose I’ve just been trying to get out of the mindset in which I wrote the last album, so that when I start writing new songs, they’ll come from a fresh place.