Followers

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Stagecoach Festival '18 news: Nikki Lane













Spring is one of my favorite times of year because it's when Stagecoach returns to Indio, Calif. I've reviewed all but a couple of them in the past.

Back in 2015, I covered Nikki Lane, the subject of today's update, at the event:
http://www.musicnewsnashville.com/stagecoach-festival-2015-review/

New to Stagecoach - California's Country Music Festival this year is The Bazaar featuring Nikki Lane’s Stage Stop Marketplace which will be open all weekend long, April 27 through April 29. 

Having performed in 2015 and again in 2017, Nikki Lane now brings her Nashville style and vintage flare to the festival to curate a marketplace of merchandise and highlight vintage goods ranging from art, clothing and accessories.

“Curating the Stage Stop Marketplace is the perfect way for me to blend my love for country music with my love for vintage western wear and American made products,” says Nikki Lane. “All of the vendors are hardworking small business owners working to maintain integrity and authenticity with regard to how they dress and live.”

Together alongside like-minded merchants, Nikki’s Stage Stop Marketplace will allow fans access to deep dive their eclectic styles and country-inspired fashion. Additionally, Nikki and friends will be surprising attendees throughout the weekend with pop-up, acoustic performances right inside the Marketplace.

The Stage Stop Marketplace will include Nikki’s curated vendors, such as High Class Hillbilly, Lone Hawk Hats, Honeywood Vintage, and Bandit Brand.

“Attendees can expect to see unique items of all kinds,” continues Nikki, “such as perfectly distressed blue jeans, cowboy boots, and rock and roll t-shirts layered with enough old turquoise to sink a ship; all curated by vintage dealers from all over the US.”

Beyond Nikki’s Stage Stop Marketplace, and into the surrounding Bazaar, there will be over 35 vendor booths including returning favorites and Stagecoach newbies showcasing their wares. Vendors such as Bycila, Cake and Punch, Calico Hats, Naytures Empire, Trails Clothing, Wallet Buckle and more to be announced will be featuring country clothing, western hats, cowboy boots, belt buckles, boot straps, leather utility belts, handmade fresh flower crowns and more.

This year’s Stagecoach will feature headliners – multi-platinum duo Florida Georgia Line, four-time Grammy Award winning Keith Urban, and a rare festival appearance by Garth Brooks – and performances by Lee Brice, Jake Owen, Kacey Musgraves, Kelsea Ballerini and others.


New to the festival this year, Stagecoach will introduce SiriusXM Spotlight Stage which will showcase country music’s freshest finds with up close performances starting at noon each day. Also, returning to the festival is the air-conditioned Honky Tonk Dance Hall and the kid-friendly Half-Pint Hootenanny.

Passes are on sale now at stagecoachfestival.com and the last week to grab passes at the current price is Wednesday, March 7, before the prices go up.

ABOUT STAGECOACH

Stagecoach: California's Country Music Festival is a celebrated outdoor music festival presented by Goldenvoice. It was founded in 2007 by Paul Tollett, the creator of Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. While it is primarily a country festival, artists from folk, bluegrass, roots rock and alternative country also perform and attend. Country stars like Luke Bryan, George Strait, Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, The Eagles, Eric Church, Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift, Shania Twain, and Ray Price, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard have been past performers.


Complete festival information at StagecoachFestival.com

Monday, February 26, 2018

Jim Henson's 'Labyrinth,' co-starring David Bowie, returns to theaters

This spring, Jim Henson's 1986 fantasy-adventure "Labyrinth" returns to the big screen for three days only as a nationwide fan celebration from Fathom Events, The Jim Henson Company and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Audiences are encouraged to attend the screenings in costume (in accordance with theater costume policies) to celebrate the nostalgia and legacy of this beloved film.

Starring David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King, and Jennifer Connelly as Sarah, who must rescue her baby brother by finding her way through the massive maze of the title, "Labyrinth" will play in movie theaters nationwide at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 29; and at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 1, and Wednesday, May 2 (all local times).

All presentations of the film will include introductions by Brian Henson and Jennifer Connelly, captured exclusively for Fathom Events. In addition, audiences will enjoy a special theatrical screening excerpt from the award-winning fantasy series "The Storyteller." Brian Henson will discuss the episode "Soldier and Death," also directed by Jim Henson, and the special effects techniques that were a hallmark of "Labyrinth," "The Storyteller," and Jim Henson's legacy.

Tickets for "Labyrinth" can be purchased online at www.FathomEvents.com or at participating theater box offices. Fans throughout the U.S. will be able to enjoy the event in more than 400 select movie theaters. A complete list of theater locations is available on the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

Directed by Jim Henson, "Labyrinth" was produced by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas and presented by Lucasfilm Ltd. The film's screenplay is by Terry Jones of "Monty Python" fame, from a story by Henson and Dennis Lee. Brian Froudserved as the conceptual designer of the groundbreaking fantasy, with music by Trevor Jones and songs by David Bowie.

John Fogerty, ZZ Top to hit the road together

John Fogerty and ZZ Top will embark on the “Blues and Bayous Tour” this spring. It starts in May and will make stops across the USA. A full tour schedule is below.

Tickets go on sale starting Friday, March 2 at 10 AM local time. Pre-sale tickets become available on Tuesday, February 27th at 10:00am local time. More information can be found by visiting: https://www.johnfogerty.com/ and http://www.zztop.com/

Of the pairing, Fogerty said, “ZZ Top is one of my favorite bands, and Billy F Gibbons is one of my all-time favorite guitarists. Riffs, blues and bayous... bucket list!”

ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons commented, “John Fogerty along with ZZ Top have been followers of blues and rock since the beginning and we’re looking forward to rippin’ it up together this spring. We’ve got a great show lined up for ya’!”

Tour Dates:

5/25/2018 Atlantic City, NJ Borgata Spa & Resort – Event Center
5/26/2018 Holmdel, NJ P.N.C. Bank Arts Center
5/27/2018 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena
5/29/2018 Vienna, VA Wolf Trap
5/30/2018 Vienna, VA Wolf Trap
6/1/2018 Pensacola, FL Pensacola Bay Center
6/2/2018 Clearwater, FL Coachman Park
6/3/2018 West Palm Beach,FL Coral Sky Amphitheater
6/5/2018 St. Augustine, FL St. Augustine Amphitheater
6/6/2018 Atlanta, GA TBA
6/10/2018 Oklahoma City, OK Zoo Amphitheater
6/12/2018 Chicago, IL TBA
6/13/2018 Noblesville, IN Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center
6/14/2018 Cincinnati, OH Riverbend Music Center
6/16/2018 Southaven, MS BankPlus Amphitheater at Snowden Grove
6/17/2018 Maryland Heights, MO Hollywood Casino Amphitheater
6/19/2018 Youngstown, OH Covelli Centre
6/20/2018 Wantagh, NY Northwell Heath at Jones Beach Theater
6/22/2018 Gilford, NH Bank of NH Pavillion
6/23/2018 Canandaigua, NY Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center
6/24/2018 Camden, NJ BB&T Pavilion
6/26/2018 Mt. Pleasant, MI Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort *
6/27/2018 Detroit, MI DTE Energy Music Theatre
6/29/2018 Welch, MN Treasure Island Resort & Casino
*with Willie Nelson

Sunday, February 25, 2018

An interview with Simple Minds


BMG Records
Don’t you - think of Simple Minds as a heritage act.

Unlike other bands that formed in the late ‘70s, this Glasgow alt-rock group doesn’t do nostalgia package tours. It releases new studio albums semi-regularly and still retains the original creative core of singer Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill. 

“I’ve never criticized anyone for taking opportunities. We’ve been offered those [kind of tours] a million times, but we don’t want to be a retro thing,” said Kerr, in a recent phone interview from Paris.  

“We’ll always be known from a certain time and a place,” yet we want to be a great band “that has transcended periods and decades and continued.”

Simple Minds is best known in America for “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” from “The Breakfast Club” soundtrack, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1985 (side note: a new deluxe Criterion Collection of the film was just released on home video and a cover snippet of the tune can currently be heard in a State Farm TV commercial).

The group’s run of more than a dozen U.K. top 20 singles actually began three years prior with “Promised You a Miracle,” “Glittering Prize” and “Waterfront.”

Worldwide best-seller Once Upon a Time was critically maligned in ‘85 for being too slick at the time, but it connected in a large way. The album spawned such top 10 AOR radio hits here as “Alive and Kicking,” “Sanctify Yourself” and “All the Things She Said” and the band performed during the Live Aid broadcast at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium.

“I love that album,” admits Kerr. “What a success! We went to America, worked with Jimmy Iovine and Bob Clearmountain. Before we’d even recorded a note, we were getting criticized for selling out. You know, that was the sound we wanted. The best sounding records were getting made in America. We wanted the chance to go and work there. It all added up.”

While making the stellar new album Walk Between Worlds (out on BMG Records), Kerr was keenly aware the 40th Anniversary of Simple Minds’ first live gig was looming in early 2018. He said the last thing they wanted was for Worlds to come across like a relic from the past.

“It should sound like you’re a bunch of teenagers still having a ball.”

Still, there was a fine balance between being able to “maintain the classic things, but at the same time, you want it to be refreshed and have a feeling of being contemporary.”

Kerr says “the goal is always to make better songs and to be a better singer. When you’ve got a catalog or a legacy, sometimes you’re competing against that.”

A propulsive “Magic,” driven by Burchill’s trademark ringing guitar sound, opens the album. Kerr has described the alluring “Utopia” as a cross between latter-period Roxy Music and his own band’s 1982 LP, New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84).

From the start, the Scottish singer said it had “that ‘Avalon’ thing about it. Even the title. The whole myth of Avalon is otherworldly. The very notion of utopia is also somewhat otherworldly. It’s a mysterious part of music. The song is about praising the effect of music.”

Then there’s the epic “Barrowland Star,” inspired by Glasgow’s music venue The Barrowlands and its star-emblazoned ceiling. As subtle orchestration swells, Kerr and Sarah Brown join for a memorable chorus and Burchill outdoes himself on the ending guitar solo.

“I was pushing and pushing” for that, recalls Kerr. “He thought it was getting a bit overblown. I said, ‘no, we can afford that. This is calling out for the big treatment. That big widescreen cinematic sound...You don’t hear guitar solos like that much these days. You don’t hear Charlie shouting from the rooftops as he’s doing. He’s also emoting. To me, you can hear lots of Mick Ronson and all his heroes there in that solo. I think it’s wonderful.”

The title track also uses orchestration to fine effect. It was done at London’s Abbey Road Studios, a place that the front man compares to a “sacred temple.” Watching classical musicians record it and just “being in that room” brought back memories of Life in a Day. Simple Minds’ 1979 debut LP was partially made there with producer John Leckie (previously a tape operator/engineer for Pink Floyd and various Beatles solo albums).

Back then, the still-teenaged Kerr felt he wasn’t worthy enough for such hallowed halls.
“As a treat, we scrimped and saved so we could have a weekend at Abbey Road. John thought that would be mind-blowing. Indeed, it was. Half the band raised [their playing level] and were really inspired. I went the other way: I was overwhelmed. I shrunk. I thought, ‘that Mellotron over there, they used that on ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.’ What are we doing here? Who needs music from us?’ Suddenly we were in the major league and I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t enjoy it the first-time round. I certainly enjoyed it this time round.”

Another highlight of the new album is the dreamy “Sense of Discovery,” where Kerr and Sarah Brown’s singing in the chorus is a close counterpart to what he did with the inimitable Robin Clark on “Alive & Kicking.”

Since the 2010s, Simple Minds has steadily expanded. Now a sextet, the current lineup is making its all-electric debut this month during a foray across the U.K. and Europe (some stripped-down live dates there for Acoustic took place in 2016-17). An American tour hasn’t happened in nearly five years. Kerr says they’ve been holding out for the right double bill because they want to play all around the country.

Although longtime drummer Mel Gaynor – whose on and off membership dates back to 1982 - contributed to songs on Walk Between Worlds, his latest departure was a result of the guys getting “a wee bit distant over the last couple years” and wanting to work more on his own solo material.

“When we did the acoustic [album and tour], I don’t think Mel would mind me saying that it just wasn’t his thing.”

Yet Kerr acknowledged “the door’s never closed, people are never ostracized or anything. Mel’s incredible. From the early days, once a couple of the initial guys started to drift off, we thought, ‘let’s not get tied down. Let’s always try to work with great people, but when it gets tired, let’s up and change,’” recalls Kerr.

With new drummer Cherisse Osei, keyboardist Catherine Anne Davies and backing vocalist Brown all in the group now, there’s a strong feminine influence in Simple Minds like never before.

“It was more coincidence that they were women, to be honest,” admitted Kerr. “When we grew up, all bands were a bunch of males. It was all very testosterone. Later on, I actually married a woman, Chrissie Hynde, who rocks. I should’ve known from Day One that women can do it better than anyone.”

Thinking specifically about Osei, he added, “I’m pretty sure if Prince was still around, he’d want to steal her in a second.”

The first-ever Acoustic album (released in the U.S. via Eagle Rock) and accompanying tour stemmed from a Swiss ski resort owner that had been bugging the band to play there unplugged and offering loads of money. Finally, the musicians relented and found some songs “revealed themselves to be much better than we ever thought they were. With a lot of them, it was the time, the production, the place, the style. Breaking them down to the chords and sentiments, there was a profundity that we didn’t expect.”

A bonus live track on the deluxe version of Worlds serves as an example of that tour: it’s an enchanting cover of Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town.”

As for the 40 years since that first Simple Minds show, back then, Kerr felt many of their idols like David Bowie and Roxy Music hadn’t been recording that long, yet already seemed to have been around forever.

“The idea that things could stretch into decades and all that, no one did it apart from the old American blues guys. They were the ones you looked at and said, ‘they’ve done it through good and bad. It’s a lifetime vocation. I have to assume somewhat similarly that’s been the case with us now.”

Kerr’s confidence as a front man didn’t come straight away. Instead, his fellow musicians “gave me courage from the early days that no other person in my life did. I didn’t walk down the street with that kind of swagger. I loved Charlie’s guitar from the first time he plugged it in.

“Even at those early gigs – this is where it is mysterious and why I feel blessed – people went wild.”

So, the band knew something was going right.

“We were making a connection. We didn’t have our chops together and we didn’t have the craft. We had to learn all of that. I remember when we got our record deal about a year later, being so excited about that, but then thinking, ‘what are these things called songs?’ We knew we were making a great noise, but there was nothing [to compare us to]. You couldn’t go on YouTube and see how it’s done…you had to invent something that was intrinsically yours.”

The longstanding musical partnership between Kerr and Burchill can be tied to fact that they met as children and later shared similar music interests.

“That’s been [our] huge bond ever since then. We met playing in the street. We were eight. Music wasn’t in our life yet. By the age of 13 at school, in those days, you started to work out which tribe you’re a member of. It was obvious that Charlie and I would be in the same tribe because we walked around with the same albums under our sleeves. It was like having a billboard. The kids you gravitated toward were the people that liked Lou Reed and Roxy Music and David Bowie. One day, Charlie said, ‘I got a guitar. Come on up.’ I went over and that was the beginning.”

VIDEOS:
Current single: “Magic” (official video):
“Promised You a Miracle” (‘Acoustic’ Live DVD via BBC, 2016):
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” (official video):
“Alive and Kicking” (official video):

My article originally appeared in the February issue of Rock Cellar Magazine.

An interview with Franz Ferdinand



photo: Cara Robbins
Franz Ferdinand came on like gangbusters in 2004 with its excellent, acclaimed self-titled debut album, which went platinum in America and spawned two Top 20 singles at alternative radio (the gold-certified “Take Me Out,” “This Fire”). 

The indie rockers’ initial success was magnified at home in the U.K., where they snagged Brit, Mercury Music Prize and Ivor Novello Awards. In ‘05, the Glasgow-based band followed up with a moderately successful You Could Have it So Much Better and another U.S. hit, “Do You Want To?”

A decade later, Franz Ferdinand teamed up with Sparks for the solid FFS album/tour. Last year, front man Alex Kapranos also contributed to his second modern rock supergroup BNQT, alongside Band of Horses, Travis, Grandaddy and Midlake members.

After founding guitarist/singer Nick McCarthy decided to exit Franz Ferdinand in 2016 to spend more time with family, Julian Corrie was recruited on keyboards/synth/guitar/backing vocals. Then Dino Bardot was added on guitar/backing vocals.

Now they're back with Always Ascending on Domino Records. 

Kapranos checked in from New York City to discuss the group’s recent changes, portraying a preacher in a music video and the wonders of drinking Whiskey Sours with a French producer.  

Question: The first two music videos you’re released from Always Ascending are intriguing in their own way. How was experience making them, particularly “Feel the Love Go,” with director Diane Martel, who previously helmed your “Do You Want To?” and “Evil Eye” clips?
Answer: They’re quite different from each other. ‘Always Ascending’ is really cool and has this beautiful aesthetic to it. The one with Diane is totally crazy. She’s such a good laugh to make videos with. I love doing stuff with her.

Q: And you get to portray a preacher in her video.
A: Yeah. My God, it’s the part I was born to play! [laughs]

Q: For the new album, you worked with Frenchman Philippe Zdar of Cassius, whose production/mixing credits include Phoenix, The Rapture and the final Beastie Boys album. How did you come to that decision?
A: I first met him when he was doing the Beastie Boys record and we were making the last Franz record. Laurence [Bell] from Domino [Records] put us in touch with each other because he thought we’d get on. It was supposed to be like a five-minute chat just to say ‘hi.’ We ended up on the phone for about an hour and a half.
You know when you connect with somebody straight off and you realize you share a lot of the same tastes? He was an inspiring guy. When we were making this record, we knew that it was heading toward the dancefloor but in a way that we hadn’t done before. We didn’t want to go to somebody who was used to working primarily with electronic music because we still wanted to keep the identity of a raw rock ‘n’ roll band at the heart of it. So, it had to be somebody that appreciated a live performance but embraced the sonics of tomorrow. Phillippe was the obvious choice. I can’t think of anybody that would’ve done a better job. It was a real joy to make the record with him. He’s a very large, positive personality and a generous, warm guy.

Q: In a behind-the-scenes video from the new album’s sessions, you are seen laying down a vocal, while Phillippe is jumping up and down. Was he that excitable all the time?
A: Totally. He’s an irrepressible personality. If you’re a performer, [you] like an audience. If you’re performing in the studio and you get no feedback about what you’re doing, it can really screw it up and kill the vibe something rotten. To have somebody like Phillippe in the room with you and get a response off this person, you feed off it.
Also, you know it’s honest because if he didn’t like it, he’d make it just as clear. I believe that’s one of the greatest roles of a producer. There’s understanding the sonics. How to craft the sound is essential too, but you’re as much of a director and a performer as a producer too. He’s also an amazing mixer on another level.
Every year, I don’t drink between Jan. 1 and my birthday, March 20. We were in the studio at RAK [in London last March]. Phillippe is really into whiskey sours. He makes the most incredible ones. That was the first drink I had last year. My God, it was mind-blowing! 

Q: In that same clip, I saw a lava lamp and other decorations around the studio. Did you try and create a distinct vibe there?
A: You want it to feel like you’re at a good party - like you’ve had a really great night out, come back and it’s the coolest place to hang out. When we were writing this record, we did it in my studio in a quite rural part of Scotland, which was a great way to detach ourselves from the world. One thing we agreed on straight away with Phillippe was to go to an urban environment and change the atmosphere. That’s why we went to London and Paris to mix it afterwards. Your environment has an impact on the way you perform. All of it does.

Q: Two standouts on the album are slower tempo tracks like “The Academy Award” that could be on some old film noir soundtrack and “Slow, Don’t Kill Me Slow,” which reminded me a bit of Jarvis Cocker and Pulp.
A: I think those two songs are possibly my favorite songs on the record as well. Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved the comedown at the end of a night out. Maybe even more than the night out itself. Those songs fulfill that purpose on the record. Each one is at the end of either side [of the LP format]. The atmosphere of those songs - I get a chill right up my back as I imagine recording ‘Slow, Don’t Kill Me Slow.’ I’ve never known the band to perform as [we did] on that. Everybody played beautifully. It’s funny you mentioned Pulp. There wasn’t a desire to emulate [them, but] I do love late-period Pulp, that sort of dark stuff on ‘This is Hardcore.’

Q: Is that a Theremin sound I hear on “Slow, Don’t Kill Me Slow?”
A: No. I’m playing this bizarre old relic of a guitar synthesizer that was made by Roland in the ‘70s [Note: it’s likely the GR-500 model]. You can switch between the octaves and oscillator by using your foot. As I’m playing, I switch it and that’s what gives you that rising sort of feel. It’s a very odd instrument. You play it like a guitar, but it doesn’t sound anything like a guitar. You don’t play it like a normal synthesizer. It’s good for forcing you into things you normally wouldn’t do. Very atmospheric.

Q: There’s a jaunty sax solo by Terry Edwards at the end of “Feel the Love Go.” I’ve enjoyed his work with Robyn Hitchcock, Billy Bragg, Madness and others over the years. How did he end up on the album?
A: He’s such a great musician. He played with us before when we did ‘Love Illumination’ on Later…with Jools Holland. I’ve played with him a couple times over the last couple years, doing part of a live show with music from Jim Jarmusch films. Terry had been part of that. He’s incredible. The best sax player I know. The stuff he does with PJ Harvey - that’s amazing.

Q: Since the last Franz Ferdinand album came out, you also completed the FFS and BNQT side projects. Did they have any effect on how you approached Always Ascending?
A: Singing with Russell [Mael] on the ‘FFS’ record sort of opened me up to exploring the lower range of my voice. He’s singing so high that I felt like I didn’t have to cover those notes. I definitely explored some of the deep part of my range, which comes through on this record a lot more.
Julian really covers that high end – some of those sweet high notes you hear on this record - that’s Julian singing. And BNQT? With both those records, the idea of stepping outside an established creative dynamic of people and realize you could do something with other people probably was a good preparation for this record. It made me feel more confident collaborating with people I hadn’t worked with before. I loved making the BNQT record. I was fortunate to play live with most of the guys earlier this year. What great musicians they are. Incredible.

photo: David Edwards
Q: What has the addition of Julian and Dino brought to the Franz Ferdinand sound? Is there a renewed sense of excitement now?
A: Yeah! Julian was an integral part of this record’s sound. He plays [unlike anybody] I’ve played with before. When we started writing the songs on this record, we were aiming for something we could only execute with Julian. This idea of making dance music that you could play live without programming it. He’s like a human arpeggiator. The kind of stuff you’d normally put to a sequencer to play, he’ll play on the synthesizer live. That was quite a revolutionary experience. I love what he does.
Also, his voice and his perspective is different. As for Dino: he’s the greatest rock star to ever come out of Glasgow. He’s got that vibe about him. I’m so happy to have both of them in the band…it’s freed me up as a front man. I feel so comfortable being onstage with them. They’ve just got everything covered. I know they’ve got it locked in. It allows me space to perform in a way I haven’t before. I really appreciate that.

Q: You’ve said that some of the new song lyrics use characters similar to that on Franz Ferdinand; “Huck & Jim” and “Lois Lane” being two examples. What was the inspiration for the upbeat latter song with the line “because journalism could change the world”?
A: On the first album, every song is either about people that we knew or is from personal experience. That’s the way [bassist] Bob [Hardy] and I were collaborating. A song like ‘Matinee’ was from our personal experiences. While we were writing this record, we tried something we hadn’t done before, which is to create purely fictional characters in the same way you would if you were writing a short story, a screenplay or novel. You create characters and the situation in which they collide with each other.
For ‘Lois Lane,’ we sat down and imagined these two people: one’s essentially an optimist and one’s a pessimist. The guy believes altruism is selfishness; you’re motivated by the buzz of getting the reward, whereas she is the optimist who believes journalism can change the world. I’ve known characters like that in my life. I’ve never had them both summed up in a song in that particular way. I don’t think I’m either of those particular characters myself. Neither does Bob. It’s great to make characters believable and feel that you are in their world. That was new for us.

Q: American news reporters have sort of been under siege the past few years.
A: Not just in America - everywhere. Good old investigative journalism has brought down a president before, maybe it can do it again.

Q: On the dense, synth-laden “Huck & Jim,” you sing, “we’re going to America and tell them about the NHS.” Britain’s National Health Service has been in the news quite a bit lately.  
A: It gives me the opportunity these days to tell people about the NHS - why I love it and how I’m heartbroken by the government we have at the moment that is trying to dismantle it by the back door. Trying to sell it off surreptitiously without announcing it. That’s heartbreaking to me because it has literally saved my life personally on three or four occasions.
It’s not just how I feel about it, [but] the principle that if you measure a civilization on how it looks after the weak, the sick and the poor and how it educates people, I believe those are universal rights we all have no matter what your financial circumstances are personally. We look after ourselves. Of course, it was particularly pertinent while we were writing that song because it was a time when the introduction of the Affordable Care Act seemed like America was moving toward that direction where you look after everybody and then it was dismantled. It’s under attack.
That kind of small-minded conservatism, the idea that you don’t care for anybody else and you don’t contribute toward anybody else’s well being is so disappointing and depressing. Human beings are better than that; aren’t they? I’d like to think so. Wouldn’t you?

Q: Definitely. Switching gears, now that the band has been together 15+ years, how do you think your music has evolved?
A: The holy grail of what you aim for as an artist or musician is to remain true to your identity. Your integrity. And yet feel that you’re doing something fresh and new each time. That’s the goal. I hope when somebody gets this record, they put the needle on [the vinyl] and within two seconds they know it’s Franz Ferdinand, but think, ‘wow, that sounds like no Franz Ferdinand I’ve heard before.’
Whether we get there, that’s not something for me to judge – that’s for you, the critics, the fans and the casual listeners to judge…I guess we’re fortunate if we can’t be anything but ourselves. I think it comes partly from an early laziness.
When I was first learning to play the guitar, I learned a bunch of chords and tried other people’s songs. Then I realized I didn’t have enough chords to learn how to play The Smiths or Beatles songs. So, I started writing my own songs instead. If I hadn’t been that lazy as a 14-year-old, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I do right now. That’s also a theme I celebrate on ‘Lazy Boy.’ I like to work hard, but my God, I love being lazy when it is time to be lazy as well!

“Always Ascending” (official video):
“Feel the Love Go” (official video):
“Take Me Out” (official video):

Franz Ferdinand – U.S. Tour Dates          

April 10 House of Blues – Boston, MA
April 11 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
April 13 The Fillmore – Philadelphia, PA
April 15-16 Brooklyn Steel – Brooklyn, NY
April 27 First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN
April 28 The Truman – Kansas City, MO
April 30 The Rave – Milwaukee, WI
May 2 The Pageant – St. Louis, MO
May 4 Shaky Knees Festival – Atlanta, GA
May 7 House of Blues – Dallas, TX
May 8 White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX
May 9 Emo’s – Austin, TX
May 11 The Van Buren – Phoenix, AZ
May 12 Observatory – Santa Ana, CA
May 13 North Park @Observatory – San Diego, CA
May 15 The Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA
May 17 Fox Theatre – Oakland, CA

My article originally appeared in the February issue of Rock Cellar Magazine.