Monday, August 02, 2004

Franz Ferdinand interview

Franz Ferdinand Interview
Vancouver, Canada - April 2004 – COLOR MAGAZINE

Popularity has a way of sucking the passion out of some bands; turning them into jaded artists with nothing to prove, and everything to lose. Walking onto Franz Ferdinand’s tour bus with Nick Mccarthy and Alex Kapranos, I couldn’t help but wonder what to expect. Here was a band that, over the last six months, had gone from playing gigs in an abandoned warehouse in Glasgow, to releasing a single (Take Me Out), which peaked in the UK Top 5. When Nick offered me a piece of carrot cake and it became apparent just how relaxed and likeable the guys were, I knew popularity had not phased them. They seem to have succeeded in a way in which few bands do: by producing music they love, and letting the fans come to them. With their infectious blend of dance rhythms, angular post-punk guitar attack, and hook-oriented song writing, it’s no surprise they have the following they do.

The Chateau

When Franz Ferdinand first came together in Glasgow. Part of what pushed them to perform and do something different was the attitude they saw in the common club scene. “Established venues could be a bit of a drag,” says Alex. “Gigs were really male dominated. The guys would come down and stroke their chins and it would be a bit boring.” What Franz Ferdinand wanted was an atmosphere more like that in the early acid house days; dark warehouses filled with people interested in a good time; less of a standoffish attitude and more of a party. There wasn’t much live music being played in a warehouse environment in Glasgow so the band created something that was their own: The Chateau.

The reaction to The Chateau was amazing. Not only was it about bands playing music, but also focused on art and a sense of community. With nothing but word of mouth to guide people to the space they managed to bring 400 people together for their first party. As advertising goes, the concept of word of mouth isn’t a new one, but it’s working well to promote underground movements. The guys were recently in LA, dj-ing a similar style of party along with Blood Arm, a live band. We have the same thing here in Vancouver and one can only suspect that it exists elsewhere. It brings together people who are interested in the music and want to experience something different from the typical club environment.


From playing to a few of their friends at The Chateau to festivals with thousands of fans, Franz Ferdinand enjoy it all. They are against “the elitism that comes along with many of the bands that come from the left field.” Alex is absolutely against keeping what you do as a musician to yourself. Once you’ve created your music and put it out there it doesn’t belong to you anymore and if music really moves you, you want to call all your friends up and tell them about it. Of course, this doesn’t mean they are willing to bend to the pressure of popular culture. “The best form of subversion takes ideas that are unconventional and brings them into the mainstream,” says Alex. He follows it by pointing out that, “everyone listens to music in their own way.” This is the kind of attitude which sets Franz Ferdinand apart from many of their contemporaries.

Dance Music To Dance To

Also unusual is their take on what makes their music so danceable. “We like the dynamic and techniques of dance music [ … ] the breakdowns and basing things around the kick drum [ … ] pulling back and making sure the rhythm is prominent.” When the band started, they said to themselves, “the weirdest thing that could happen at a gig is that the girls come down and start dancing.” People have been programmed to not dance when they listen to live music -- the guys at Franz Ferdinand’s LA show were amazed that all the hipsters came down and actually moved. Part of this comes from the energy the band have on stage. Of other artists who seem preoccupied with staring solemnly into space, Alex joked: “if you’re so fucking bored, get off the bloody stage.” “We’re into music that is full of energy and so full of passion it makes you feel alive; we’re not afraid to dance on stage.”

They love playing with The Rapture and bands who push their audience to move. Recently, they’ve been setting up gigs in London with a band called Park Attack (they have a split single with Liquid Liquid out shortly on ___) a band based more around rhythm than melody. To Franz Ferdinand it’s about the personality of the band and having that personality apparent when they’re on stage. They try to find the eyes of the audience. “We find as many sets of eyes as possible and don’t look away.” This creates a connection between the band and the audience which can help overcome the physical barriers of a stage performance.

When creating an album the band try to capture the same sort of energy that goes into their live shows. They don’t sequence and layer their tracks or play to click-tracks. This is evident in the raw feel of their debut CD, which conveys the tension and excitement in their music, and which you can’t help listening to at stupid loud volumes. It’s pop music based on a hook that you can’t get out of your head, combined with the unemotional basis of traditional dance music. Sitting over top there is also a focus on lyric and melody -- melodies which often border on being melancholy; lyrics based on both the ups and downs of life. All of this makes for music with a broad appeal.

So given this appeal who would the guys most like to see dancing to their music? For Nick it’s Debbie Harry (Blondie). A great choice, overshadowed only by the sexually charged moves of Margaret Thatcher, the woman Alex would most like to see dancing to Franz Ferdinand. When the band’s tour manager walked onto the bus, he couldn’t help but give us his own take on the question: “who would you rather [do]? Margaret Thatcher, or the Queen?”

As the guys’ put it, “at the end of the day it’s the music we love.”

Nick and Alex’s favorite records to DJ: Anti-NY, Pet Shop Boys, Gomma Recordings, Georgio Moroder, Kraftwerk, The Smiths, etc.

Color - - available internationally.