Rich interview 09 September 2008


In the first of a regular series of Q&As with the band on the new site, we called up Richard yesterday (on his birthday!) to chat about music, politics, curry and Tom the guitar hero…

Hello Richard. Happy birthday!

Thank you very much.

Have you done many birthday-related things today?

Well, I opened some presents.

Anything good?

Yes, lots of things. I got a really bright watch, which I love. And my girlfriend sent over a massive quantity of cake for everybody in our rehearsal room.

Did Tom and Tim give you the bumps?

No, they didn’t. But both of them have promised me gifts at some time in the future. My gift to Tim recently was about two months late. We’re good on gifts, just not good on timing.

How are things going in rehearsals?

Good, actually. We’ve just been playing through Better Than This, which is really, really fun to play. And You Haven’t Told Me Anything which is a bit of a departure and gets me on a drum machine for part of it, which is really cool.

How do you work out how to play a song live once you’ve recorded it?

Well, you listen back and essentially try to pick out the most important bits of the song – the bits you hear the loudest. Whether it’s a riff or a bassline or, obviously, the vocals. The sound in a big gig venue always has a certain amount of echo – it’s not precise as a hi-fi – so you lose some of the more subtle things, but you get a more rock sound.

Do the drum parts largely follow what’s on the record?

Yeah, you essentially play something that equates to it. But with Tim, for example, there might be a sound on the record that’s made up of three or four different keyboards all playing the same thing at the same time. He will then try to recreate that live. in fact, a lot of the computers on stage are running keyboard software that recreates sounds he got in the studio on dodgy old synths.

So the computers are not playing backing tracks?

No, in fact what we’re trying to do with pretty much all of these new tracks is have nothing coming off the computer and just play them live. With Jesse here, we’re able to do that. It’s been great, actually.

Will the live show feature electric guitar?

It will. Tom’s got a couple of really nice Telecasters which he’s been wielding, with some skill. I’m very impressed. He’s played the guitar for many years, but he’s usually just had acoustic guitars and played rhythm guitar while he’s singing. But now he’s playing riffs and some quite stabbing, percussive guitar.

How are his guitar poses?

Well Tom’s basically a skinny indie boy, so he looks naturally great with a guitar. But I would imagine he’s spending many a long evening in front of a mirror working on his poses. Actually, I don’t know that for a fact.

Are you looking forward to the album coming out?

Absolutely. As far as I’m concerned, October 13th can’t come quickly enough, so that people can hear the whole thing. Obviously thanks to the wonders of Steve Lamacq and our Portugese record label, there are already several songs circulating around the internet! But I think we still strongly believe in the concept of an album as a whole. For example, I think the recent Goldfrapp record just works brilliantly as a whole record. And I feel like we can’t wait for people to listen to Perfect Symmetry from start to finish and hear the way it flows.

Before that, you’ve got the Forum show.

Oh yes. That’s going to be a really exciting evening, I think, because we’ll get to play some new songs to people. We’ll probably play some songs they already know as well. All I can remember from playing there on the day that the first record came out was that it was a sweaty rock show. Actually, every gig I’ve been to there has always been quite a hot and joyous affair – I particularly remember seeing an amazing Flaming Lips show there.

What have you been listening to recently?

I’ve been listening to the first Roots Manuva record, weirdly enough, which is really cool. I think it came out about 7 years ago, so that’s about where I’m at with fashion. And I guess I’ve been listening to the Vampire Weekend record, which is really good and Blitzen Trapper which I think is marvellous – although it’s really intense, so you’ve go to be in the right mood. And I’ve been listening to a lot of Democracy Now‘s coverage of the Republican and Democratic conventions in America which is sort of vaguely depressing; listening to lots of people taking lots of money from corporations.

Where do you stand on the presidential race?

Obama said a lot of things that he’s now back-tracking on, which is pretty weird. I would definitely rather that he got in than Mr McCain, but I think he’s not as unbelievably new and radical as perhaps we are led to believe. Basically, he’s said a lot of things that he needs to follow through on. And I think like all people who have hope in politicians, you support them up to the day that they become elected and then you’ve got to really get on their backs to make them follow through with the things they promised. So it’ll be interesting to see how much he actually does. I think he’d be way better than McCain, but people need to remind him why he’s riding on a crest of popularity, because he said some very exciting things and he needs to keep to them.

So, are the band getting on well in the studio?

Yeah, it’s been really fun. There’s a lot going on, though. One of the downsides in having control over everything we do is that things take a lot of time to pay attention to. So inbetween reading through credits on records and checking videos, we’ve been trying to get a bit of rehearsing in. But, yeah, it’s going really well. It’s been a great couple of weeks here. Once you hit the road, you don’t tend to have that much opportunity to just spend whole days sitting around playing songs, so right now it’s one of the really enjoyable times.

Are you pleased with the album artwork?

Yeah, I think it’s very exciting. Obviously you only get glimpses of the sculptures, but we’re hoping that we’ll be able to show people a bit more of them on the inside too. But it just looks like the cover of an exciting record to me. You should never judge a record by it’s cover, but in this case, do.

Do you have a favourite track on it?

I’m really enjoying playing Better Than This at the moment. It’s a great song. Somebody was telling me that the latest series of Big Brother just finished and I kind of think playing through Better Than This and thinking about that is probably quite appropriate really. Actually, someone said that the Big Brother people had played Spiralling during the final show. Maybe they’re just being post-modern and ironic, but I’ve got a feeling they don’t get its message. They just liked the "woo".

Finally, have you got plans for your birthday evening?

Yes, my girlfriend is taking me out to a fancy curry house. I can’t wait. Being vegetarian, curry is an opportunity for me to have a bit more choice. I think they’ve got a veggie curry tasting menu which I might well go for. Actually, I discovered something recently at my local curry house called paratha which is a really nice sort of thin crispy bread. That’s my top tip at the moment.


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