Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. D.I.Y. Studio for new album
Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. It’s a typically detailed affair from this habitually detail-stuffed band. Kapranos talks about the “narcotic” elements of the song, a throbbing funk number with razor-sharp guitar riffs; about how the Glasgow-based foursome want to look as if they’ve gone “feral” under the influence of paganism.
“I’m really bored by all the guitar music,” says McCarthy, guitarist with the band who, when they released their debut, singlehandedly revitalised British guitar music almost ten years after the glory days of Britpop.
“Nihil Sin Labore” says the motto engraved on weathered stone above the front door of the old Govan Town Hall. ‘Nothing without work’. Franz Ferdinand know all about that. They have been bunkered in this building – also home to TV production, theatre and fashion companies – for nearly two years. It’s their latest artistic squat. Having met each other through the ever-busy Glasgow music scene, Franz Ferdinand started out in 2002 by occupying an abandoned Glasgow department store. Dubbing it the Chateau and channelling the spirit of Warhol’s Factory, they and artist friends would hold gigs-cum-exhibitions-cum-happenings. After signing a record deal they relocated to an old prison complex in the city.
Here in the town hall they’ve installed a jerrybuilt recording studio. As befits Franz Ferdinand’s status as Britain’s most innovative art-rock band, the group has spent the past 18 months “playing” this environment as if it were an instrument. “We got more sounds here than we would have in studio you’d pay £1,000 a day for,” says Hardy. This set-up even gave the new album its title and de facto theme: after neighbours complained about the noise the band boarded up the windows, shutting out daylight from the recording process. Hence Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, a DIY record bristling with club-friendly and quirky electronic tunes. Saturday night fever, given a postmillennium credit-crunch reboot.
Hardy, 28, who initially came to Scotland from Bradford to study at Glasgow School of Art, gives me a tour. A store cupboard has become a keyboard room stuffed with vintage musical kit with lyrical names (Quartet Arp, Micromoog Synthesizer, Roland Rhythm Composer, King Vocoder). A former bathroom is now the band’s amplifier room, equipment stacked around the toilet bowl. In the Town Hall’s cavernous former debating chamber they set up their instruments in the middle of the floor and jammed. One day McCarthy (34, Blackpool-born, raised in Germany, relocated to Glasgow after graduating from the Munich Conservatory) spent hours crawling in the roof space to dangle and swing a microphone over their heads to create a Doppler effect. It amounts to four seconds of music on Tonight.
Half of the room housing their office is filled with a vintage Flickinger mixing desk, as beloved of Sly Stone, Ike Turner and Funkadelic – found for the band in Chicago. To record the new song What She Came For, Franz Ferdinand also decamped to the town hall’s cluttered basement, jammed in among boxes and flight cases. Hardy, a keen photographer, has images of this set-up on his lap-top. Thomson, 32, the sole Scotsman in the band and only dad (he has two young children), is pictured with his bandmates crowded round his drum kit. “We were playing right in each other’s faces,” recalls Kapranos. Why? “We wanted the end of What She Came For to sound like a nuclear explosion,” the singer beams
The band have performed around a half dozen tracks from the album live. A recent show in Brooklyn found the band on great form, playing new tracks with the titles ‘Bite Hard’, ‘Turn It On’, ‘Katherine, Kiss Me’, ‘Ulysses’ and ‘What She Came For’.
Produced by Dan Carey, the album should see the new Scottish gentry re-affirm their status as a top class musical machine.
Franz Ferdinand release their new album ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ on January 26th.
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