Freak Out! Interview from French tour, 2010

Here is the transcript we did for a French magazine last year. The magazine printed the interview in French, so here is the original. Questions put by Julien.

Do you play british music?

James: By default, I guess.
James2: We don't do it consciously, we don't try to be british sounding.
Alex: I'm not british.
Christian: Also, Russell doesn't sing in american...
A: I think that the way Russell sings & the lyrics are full of english references...
J2: But it's incidental, it's not like we're trying to celebrate englishness.
J: I think it's more that the other bands deny the englishness that should come naturally in their music...
J2: There's a tendency for english bands to want to sound american;
A: Well forever, really, rock'n'roll is an amercian idiom, isn't it?

With the UK having such a big musical legacy, I was wondering if you felt like heirs to that, especially the whole UKDIY sound?

J2: More so the UKDIY of the early 8Os, I definitely listen to a lot of it.A: But then again there's a lot of shit that comes out of England as well, I mean obviously there's quite a legacy of music that is kind of concealed underneath a lot of crap, so it's not like we're proud of british music, 'cause it's shit (laughs)...

Some of your recordings came out on CDRs & tapes, some of them are live stuff, practice stuff, it this a way to capture the band ideas as broadly as possible, even in their most experimental moments?

J2: Yes, because we don't have much money, we don't use studios, we have a practice space. With The Pheromoans, we record all our stuff, as it happens, without rehearsing it. A lot of the songs that we recorded for the records are just second takes of an idea. I'm kind of anti-studio, we prefer to do it and have our own sound rather than a regular studio sound.
C: Our creatice process is to do it that way, i think if we tried to change it it wouldn't work...A: We always carry a tape player...
J: So there's always something recording what we're doing;
C: Yeah, I bring a tape player to every session, we rarely ever use it, we usually end up using James recordings 'cause he's a lot more careful in setting up the microphones. But if it sounds lo-fi or anything like that, it's not like it's an aesthetic that we go for, it's more of a side-product of the process;
J2: It's just a sound by which we're capable to record.

You don't like to be lumped in the whole lo-fi trend?

C: It's not deliberate, I love a lot of music that could be called lo-fi, but not necessarly because it's lo-fi, I mean I love that sound, but if you try to generate that sound, I don't think that that's what it's about. It's like if you paint: initially, people painted to represent reality, and then because you're using paint it become to a certain extent about the paint, but that's not the initial reason for doing it. Does that make sense?(general hm-hm)So, similarly, you can celebrate the beauty of paint, which is great, but if it becomes just about paint it stops being about the attempt to representation.
J2: In terms of production, there's quite a conservative mindset which people aren't always aware of, like studio recording is taken for granted you know? To listen to something, people have to hear a recording as it is from a studio, to validate it. I don't agree with that. A: I think if we deliberately tried to be lo-fi or anything else for that matter, we'd be really rubbish...C: Sometimes we are (laughs)...

You're touring across France by train right now, do you have equipment at home? Because I was reading an interview with this hardcore band Mob Rules from the UK, and they were saying that a lot of bands in the UK don't have equipment of their own...

A: They think it shows a lack of commitment or something...We have a full drum kit for example, it's just that we don't have any fucking space to put it...The key thing about equipment is a matter of transport, James & I have a full backline between us, but none of us can drive.
J2: But saying that to be a proper band, you have to have a proper backline...
A: It sounds a bit bratty...

But still, the UK being at a much more advanced stage of capitalism than here for example, and poor people actually being poorer, I was wondering how the economic situation influences how you work as a band?

C: We're not at a more advanced stage than France...
I think you are...
C: Really? I'm not (laughs)...
I mean the UK as a whole, as an economic system, it dates back to the eighties and the whole Thatcher/ Reagan thing, I think what's happening in France right now, with the public sector being totally dismantled and everything being privatised, it happened in the US & UK way earlier...
C: I'm not sure if that affects our band...
J2: In the late seventies, with the recession, it's when punk was happening and it definitely affected music, with young people being dissafected...but now, I don't know.
A: To make a broad statement, every musician I've met is quite middle-class. I don't know any working class hero.
C: I'm a working class hero! (laughs) Hardcore especially is very middle-class... but basically, you're in a band and either you don't work and just get by or you got a job but it's not very well paid...
A:...but just for equipment, you need a bit of money, it has to come from somewhere.
C: But how does that compare to french bands then? I mean, do most french bands have a backline?
Yeah, I would say so...
C: Yeah, so you're the yuppies (laughs)...And also, for better or worse, there's still public money that goes into funding venues and ressources for bands, which I think tend to create bad music and making bands lazy...
J: we don't have anything like that...
C: There's very little government support. But yeah, I agree that if there was, it would be shit. In the nineties especially, we had government sponsoring art and it was all like « community art », which is just fucking shit, you know? You can't have government sponsoring art, it doesn't add up, does it?

Some people think that public money should go into culture, which is a nice idea but...
C:...it's not conducive to good art. Not that good art can't come out of it, but it's not the best situation for good art to come out.
A: Also, coming back to the economy affecting music, I'd say that the main thing is that venues are closing down, there's less venues to play at, especially in Brighton, which is very music heavy.
C: The Tories are back in power. Three places have closed down in London...
J: But that's not because of the Tories...
C: No, but I prefer to blame the Tories (laughs)...

Coming back to UKDIY, do you think that this music being more widely available now because of the internet enriches the influences of bands these days, instead of the same old Circle Jerks/ Discharge influences?
J2: I've talked to a lot of people who just started to get into Messthetics stuff, which document the UKDIY sound, so people's exposure to it is a lot greater, but I haven't seen a lot of bands being directly influenced by these bands yet.
J: Because of fear, I definitely think that people who have a younger brother will get the impression that these kids much younger are more savvy and knowledgeable than I ever was. They know their stuff, you meet them at festivals and they can talk for hours about it...
C: The other side of that is that it's just so much information that it's difficult to navigate through it...
J2: I don't think it's produced a lot of bands because a lot of people start these bands with the intention of sounding like some sort of punk bands and end up sounding like The Bombay Bicycle Club or Good Shoes or...
I don't know who these bands are (laughs)...
C: Good for you (laughs)...I think that over the past ten years has developped a kind of more completist mentality, like the whole regional thing on the Messthetics compilations, it has basically put modern music in a historical, local context, rather than a very London-centric, very generic historical view, that is really positive.
A: I think that this London centricity...Is that a word?
C: It is now.
A:...that's less or so, these days, there's much more bands from northern England getting as much press as the London bands.
J2: We're talking about a very specific bunch of bands, excluding mainstream music...
A: But 15 years ago, if you looked at a decade in music like say the seventies, it would be Dinosaur rock, T Rex, David Bowie, Punk, and that would be the seventies covered, it was a very shallow view, whereas now there's a broader knowledge...

I feel like the UK has a very diverse & prolific underground scene right now, who are the bands that you feel a bond with and thet you would recommend to foreign people?

J2: My girlfriend is in a band, La La Vasquez, same with James (laughs)...But it's not really incestuous, we're not really trying to pick up our own scene, everyone is doing their thing and they're very independent.
J: If you want a list, my list would be: Divorce, good band from Glasgow, Human Race who are kind of close friend, Plug...
J2: Electricity In Our Names...
A: Wet Dog...J: Prize Pets from Nottingham is fantastic...Former Bullies from Manchester, Mazes, The Waiters...
C: Terence Trent D'Arby (laughs)...

With the music industry & the music press having always been very powerful in the UK, how difficult do you find it to do things on your own terms, when you're not interested in being noticed by those people?

C: The big music press would be the NME I guess, but they operate on such a different scale...it's weird because although we play gigs in London, I live in London now, I've never been to a NME gig, by and large it is completely separate.
J: There is ok music press that's very independent, alternative music press, couple of free papers...and they tend to want to mention your band just to show that they're aware of your existence, like « Yeah, we know about that band, we'll mention them so we don't have to ever talk about it again ».
C: They're not rubbish...there's Stool Pigeon, these are like free music papers and you get them in Rough Trade and stuff. For example, La La Vasquez have been reviewed in that, The Sticks have been reviewed...
J2: I think in the UK we need a Maximum Rock'n'Roll or something like that...
J: We have Niche Homo which is a very good zine, it's the closest we got...
A: There's so much music that no matter the number of journalists, they're only gonna touch the tip of it, they can only cover so much. They can only scratch the surface of what's going on.C: I just think they're lazy. A lof of stuff looks like it's written by fashion students or graphic design students, you know? It's all aesthetics. Very hipster.

How did you end up releasing a tape on the Night People label, who's more reknown for its noise output?

J: We were just approached by the label, I guess... I kinda though that it was a noise label but when we got our tapes, he sent some other tapes from the label and it is really varied, there's folky stuff...I don't remember recording it so I can quite enjoy it...
C: Well you weren't invited to the session (laughs)...the first time I played it I was really haungover and it was a lovely feeling...does that sound bad? I was really wasted and it's got a really great sonic quality to it...
J2: We recorded it in a kitchen, on a tape player, just like that...

That's cool...well, I'm done! The last question was: what are your future projects?C: World domination...

J: Hopefully go to America...Me and Russell from The Pheromoans do a record label called Savoury Days records and there's a few new releases. Also, I met this guy in Belgium who used to be in a post punk band in Edimburgh and they did a demo that hasn't seen the light of day, has never been released so I'm gonna do a vinyl of it...
C: What's the name of the band?
J: the name is Trotsky something...
C: It might be worth finding out what their name was (laughs)..
J2: I think the States is something that's been talked about for too long...
J: It's expensive...

You have an album coming out, right?

C: Yeah, that's on Convulsive.
A: And a 7inch on Sweet Rot.

Well, Thank you!

A: Thank you for having us.