FRANZ FERDINAND: “BREXIT IS AN ARTIFICIAL PROBLEM”

New rarities album, Trump, The Beatles and indie labels, an in-depth interview with frontman Alex Kapranos.

After rescheduling twice (what would end up being a blessing), Franz Ferdinand’s lead singer gave us the phone call of our lives from the dressing rooms of Veltra Music Festival in Peru. Politics, left-out versions, the voice of their fans and more controversial opinions.

SPE: There is a fairly popular song on YouTube where all the comments are enthusiastic, regretting only that you don’t play it on your shows. I’m talking about ‘Wine In The Afternoon’. How do you feel about that song? Was it a mistake not to include it in any LP?

Alex Kapranos: That song! Oh yeah, it was a B-side. I remember writing it, it was about the experience of my friends in the 1990’s, before I was in Franz Ferdinand, when we were unemployed. I should listen to that song again… It’s almost like it is a very celebratory song about a rather depressive alcoholic behaviour [laughs]. “Drinking wine in the afternoon”? I mean, what the fuck? Are you an alcoholic? But you know, it happened to the best of us. [He makes a pause so I start the following question, but he interrupts me]. There are many songs that never got to be on the records and it is not necessary because they weren’t as good as the ones that did, sometimes they are even better. I often think that we should do a compilation album for these songs.

SPE: That was actually my last question, but since you mentioned it… Last year when you came to Argentina I interviewed Paul (Thomson, the drummer) and, when asked about this song, he said you should release a B-sides album “probably sometime next year”. But a year has passed and I guess you aren’t any closer to doing so, right?

AK: Weeell… We might be closer than you think. It’s funny because when we do albums sometimes I don’t like the recorded versions of certain songs, therefore we don’t include them. But then we do play them live, like ‘Scarlet & Blue’, so there are live versions on YouTube, and now I feel I want to mix these songs properly and release them. 

While doing the last album there was a song called ‘Black Tuesday’ that we do play live even though it didn’t make it to the record. Also we have some quite different versions of ‘Turn It On’ and ‘Can’t Stop Feeling’, they are really good but for some reason we didn’t include them. I don’t know, I know there are so many real fans that love these songs and versions. It also happens to me with bands like The Beatles with so many rarities that don’t make it to the light of day so… Yeah, this album is overdue!

It seems that the idea stuck around Alex’s mind, since a few weeks after he tweeted:

 

SPE: The 2019 tour didn’t arrive in Argentina, where you have given amazing shows. What happened? Is it due to the country’s difficult economic moment?

AK: Oh well you know, I would go back to Argentina tomorrow if I could, I just love playing there, fans are so loyal and so passionate too. Everytime I go to social media I see Argentinian fans asking us to come back and I appreciate that. We went to Argentina during 2018, it was already difficult but we really wanted to, so we made it happen. I know promoters in Argentina are having a hard time. It’s not only there, it happens in other countries. I just wish politicians would stop fucking around so I can play gigs wherever I want to. 

After this, Alex asked me more about the economic issues in the country and was interested in knowing if we were having less concerts. One could tell that he was truly concerned. He also explained that, since this was the last Always Ascending tour, they had to focus on taking it to the countries that were left out in 2018, but not coming to Argentina was not something they intentionally chose.

 

“OK, YOU WANT AN ANSWER? BECAUSE IT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL FUCKING GOOD”

 

SPE: This one comes a little out of the blue, but who’s your favorite Beatle and why?

AK: Oh God! That’s so difficult. Well, John Lennon was a total cunt, but fuck, he wrote some amazing songs… He was obviously mean but he was cool. And then George Harrison is definitively the most likable one: if you were to have one of The Beatles as your friends, you would want it to be George. And if you were to go to a pub you might want to go with Ringo and have a laugh. So Harrison would be a very loyal friend, Ringo would be great to have some beers with, Paul McCartney is the charm of the band, the most complex musician… I think the best of The Beatles is that you could have all these personalities together: someone who can come up with a song like ‘Something’, somebody else coming up with ‘Strawberry Fields’, it’s just amazing. But to answer your question, my favorite is Paul McCartney because I have to be loyal to my mother. My mum was obsessed with Paul and that’s why my full name is Alex Paul Kapranos.

SPE: If I were someone who doesn’t listen to Franz Ferdinand and you wanted me to, what would you say to convince me?

AK: Oh, I don’t know… I would just play it to somebody. I think explaining music ruins it. If I want my friends to recommend me music I will expect them just to send me something to listen to. You feel it right away. If I had to explain, however… [he grumbles gently]. I’m not a journalist, I’m not good with this stuff! [he laughs]. That’s my easy answer.

 

“THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE WHEN YOU TAKE A RISK”

 

SPE: That line is the number one excuse a musician will say to avoid answering…

AK: Yeah, but it’s true! Ok, you want an answer? Because it will make you feel fucking good like the best music should. I always feel like the best music should be able to work on both levels: it should be really fuckin’ brainy and really fuckin’ stupid at the same time. I love the idea that the lyric and the music can be really complex, but you don’t have to listen to them if you don’t want to, you can just listen to the dumb beat and the catchy melody and that’s great. And if you want to experience the other stuff is there as well. To me, the best music is like that, whether it’s Nirvana, The Stooges, or The Beatles as well. Think of the complexity within The Beatles, but you can just listen to them simply as a good melody and a good tune. The music that I make has to be like that, both as dumb as it can be and as smart as it can be.

PE: You’ve always been with Domino Records. Is it important for you to be part of an independent label? Why? What’s different from signing with a major label?

AK: What make things come together is the human relationship. The relationship with Domino is not just a professional one, is a human one. Back in the day, when we were starting as a band and we signed with Domino, we took a risk with each other. The best things in life are when you take a risk, like when you fall in love with someone. To specifically answer your question, the difference between working with an indie label and a major label is that with the independent label you stay with the people, they become family. With a major label, you might sign with people who you like and respect, but a major label is kinda like every other corporation: the personnel on a corporation will change on the wind of market pressures, accounting department and stuff like that. You might love the guy you work with, but in six months they might be giving him the sack, or move to another department or another industry. Of course, a major label has more power and can distribute your music in a way an indie label could never do, but fuck it. And also, all these indie labels that we have created an identity. When I listen to a band I really like, I can feel their identity and I can totally get why they sign with this or that label.

SPE: Could you define how do you feel about Brexit in one sentence?

AK: [Sights] I wish Brexit would get the fuck out of my life. No, wait, I wish Brexit had never appeared in my life. Brexit is an artificial problem. Before the referendum in 2016, nobody talked about this shit. Of course, there were a few people that had problems, but I’m talking about the general population, nobody gave a flying fuck about breaking relationships within the European Union. And now it has completely consumed every wicked minute of conversation in the UK. Not the UK, the whole fucking world! Like here, you and I talking about this shit, it’s so boring, so destructive, I wish it could just fuck off. And it is the same with Trump in the US: why is this madman in my fucking life?! Why do I have to listen to this cunt on the fucking news every day?! I am looking forward to being in ten years time when all of this will be just history.

Another voice appears on the phone. It’s Daniela, the press agent.  The interview needs to finish because the band is about to play. We were supposed to speak for 10 minutes and we have been speaking for 28. Good thing we had to reschedule twice and I was left in the last place.

SPE: Last one, very quickly: can you recall a «fan coming on stage» moment? Was it cool, was it scary?

AK: Yeah, there are people coming on stage all the time. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s not. I remember one time it was funny, we were playing at a festival in France [he can’t continue because he starts laughing]. So Carl Barât from The Libertines came to the stage, he’s a friend, but our security guys didn’t know it was him so they completely squashed him. It was kinda funny, I mean, not for Carl, but for the rest of us. Sometimes security guys can be a little… enthusiastic.

It is easy to tell when a musician is giving an interview because their management tells them to do so, and is extremely valuable when they actually love to take the time to speak their minds and spread the word to the fans. Before hanging up, Alex thanked us, claiming he’d had fun and wishing this indie magazine good luck. He’s the type of «rockstar» we need to see more often.

 

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