Baz Fratelli’s Still Got It

source: Baz Fratelli

To those of us who listen to indie rock or are attuned to music news of that genre, you would be able to make the connection between Baz’s surname and the rock band he plays bass in; The Fratellis. Though the band isn’t making waves as of late, their memorable hits such as ‘Chelsea Dagger’, ‘Henrietta’, and ‘Whistle For The Choir’ are buried somewhere in your subconscious – probably thanks to having spent your early 20s partying at Barsonic, Zouk on Friday nights. While the band has gone through some ups and downs, Baz still plays indie choons from time to time – and lately it’s from a DJ podium. Yes, Baz has chosen the oft-taken route of going from bandmember of a relatively popular band to becoming a solo DJ. Or maybe not, believe it or not Baz had been DJing even before he played with The Fratellis. With the leg of his Asian tour bringing him down to KL for Indiego & Co.’s first anniversary last month, JUICE had the chance to feast on some WAW (night owls, you know what we mean) with the Scotsman and chatted with him minutes before his set.

Being part of The Fratellis and briefly with The Twang, how did you transition to DJing? Or have you previously dabbled with it?
I’ve always been a DJ even before The Fratellis. I used to DJ quite a lot in Glasgow – my hometown – [when I was] 20, 21? It was a long time ago. And obviously after The Fratellis was successful, the DJing was successful as well. Just so you know, I’m not a proper club DJ — I just play indie tunes. You know I can hold a crowd well [though], I can hold a room together, no one has complained yet.

What was the initial reaction of fans to “Baz Fratelli the DJ”? 
It’s weird. Some people don’t know that I do it. If I put something on Twitter today and someone would say, “Oh, I didn’t know you were a DJ,” even though I‘ve been doing it for the past ten years. I don’t know what you can expect, I mean, I do indie nights, I do mod nights and rock n’ roll nights, and sixties nights, punk rock nights, anything really. So if you like guitars, you probably like my DJ sets.

Have you considered converting back to Barry Wallace or maybe use another name for when you DJ?
Nah, I could come up with some fancy name, you know, DJ Vodka… I mean I guess it would be nice to have my own identity as a DJ but really, the DJ work I do comes through The Fratellis and it’s kind of cheating in a way because I can just say “Barry Fratelli” and people would know anyway.

We’ve talked during dinner about you being a DJ and a father, how do you balance it?
(Laughs) Maybe you have to ask my wife on that one. No, but I balance it well and it’s my job, it’s what pays the bills, you know? I could work for a bank, I could work for an oilrig and I’ll be away three weeks at a time. It just so happens that I get paid playing music at clubs or on stage. It’s a nice healthy balance.

When you first met your wife, was she understanding of your career?
Yeah, she knew this when we met. So, obviously it’s hard being away from home; there are good points and bad points. I’m either away for a while or I’m home for a long time rather than I come back at 8pm every night. I probably get to see more of my family this way than a regular job, so I’m very lucky.

On Twitter you described yourself as a soundtrack composer, could you tell us what were some of the projects that you’ve done?
That’s a relatively new thing, I mean that’s always been my dream to compose music for movies and television and stuff. I’ve just started doing it professionally for the past year or so and I guess I’m as a big of a movie fan as I am a music fan, so to actually get to put music to art, to movies and films I like, is an amazing thing, something I’d like to do more of.

What are some of your favourite films?
Oh, that’s a very hard question. It changes all the time but I guess Kill Bill by Quentin Tarantino, both of them together ‘cos I see it as one movie. Lost In Translation is one of my favourite movies…

Did you have that Lost in Translation experience when you were in Tokyo?
Yeah, only because I kinda forced that upon myself because I loved the movie so much – you get yourself into that headspace. You know, I love to travel as well as play, I’m very lucky that I get to travel to amazing places like KL and play songs for a room full of drunk people. It’s an amazing job.

We’ve read that you used to manage a vinyl store and you’re romantic about them. Do you still go crate digging for vinyl?
Always, yeah, yeah… well, not so much now (laughs). If I wanna do it, I like to have five hours to myself, a long time. These days, I don’t have time but I’m always buying new music, always carrying home vinyl and records.

Do you have any unfortunate DJing experience that you can share with us, e.g. people heckling you to play EDM? 
(Laughs) Yeah, but I just tell them to fuck off – if you’re allowed to say that (laughs). People are always… they always want to heckle a band or a DJ, it just depends on how you handle it, you know. I guess if you’re gonna stand up there, you have to be prepared for people shouting at you. But yeah, generally, I just tell them to fuck off.

source: Baz Fratelli

How do you feel when people heckle you to play The Fratellis? Or do you already usually play some songs from your own band?
I do now. I go through stages like I’ve played them before but I thought it was a bit sad to play your own music. But really, I mean everyone here probably wants to hear that tonight and when you play a song and it gets an amazing reaction, so why don’t you wanna do that, you know? Sometimes you feel a bit silly up there playing your own songs, but the trick is to play it in between two very good songs, maybe you put it after ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, then you play ‘Chelsea Dagger’, and then you play something huge, that’s my technique.

What are your thoughts on EDM? 
EDM being?

Um… electronic dance music.
I’ve always loved electronic music, but more so like ‘70s German electronic bands like Kraftwerk. I’m not the biggest dance music aficionado but what I like, I hear and what I hear, I generally like. So yeah, I’m more for it as long as it doesn’t take over from guitars and we’ll be okay (laughs). But I mean, there’s always gonna be a kid in a bedroom playing a guitar and there’s always gonna be a guy who comes along and write ‘Wonderwall’ or whatever.

How are The Fratellis? Are you guys making new music? Taking another break?
No. Well, I guess we’ve been on a break but we recorded a new album last year and that’s gonna be out August this year. So we’re gonna play warm up festivals in the UK and Europe this summer. Come August, it’ll be one world tour again, maybe next time I come to Malaysia [with the band].

If we’re not mistaken, We Need Medicine was conceived because fans were still excited for The Fratellis after the band had split up…
Yeah, we came back together for a charity gig and really just to bury the past and be friends again because we weren’t friends anymore. It was just to do that and we decided to do small shows to see what people would think and luckily everyone loved it and of course, the next step was to release an album. I don’t think it was rushed or anything, we wanted to get out and play again as soon as possible and to do that, you need a new album.

Hypothetically, if the fans’ reception were less enthusiastic, would there still be an album? 
Maybe not. We’ve done a charity show and we’ve five kinda small shows and they were all sold out (laughs), but you can imagine a half empty show with a bad vibe to it. It’s important because if the band is having a good time and the crowd is having a good time, so if nobody will be interested then possibly we wouldn’t have done another album or started to play again. But thankfully, everyone loved it, which is a lovely thing to see.

We’ve seen the Munchies Guide to Scotland docu-series and they talked about the infamous Buckfast, do you drink a few gulps of it before a gig?
(Laughs) Buckfast? No… Buckfast is the type of drink that you drink when you’re a teenager if you wanna get drunk very fast, so maybe when you’re fifteen, sixteen. If someone were to pass it to me, I’ll drink it for old time’s sake but I prefer vodka and whiskey these days.

So it’s like a rite of passage to have Buckfast when you’re a teen? We heard that it’s also associated with NEDs (non-educated delinquents)…
(Laughs) Yeah, it is. The thing is, you drink it as a teenager because it’s cheap alcohol, you know? So NEDs, which is very good analogy, that’s what NEDs drink and when you’re sixteen, you drink half a bottle and you fall asleep. But yeah, it’s a very white trash drink. It’s funny because I’ve been to some posh wine bars and they’ll have all the posh drinks and they’ll have one bottle of Buckfast, almost like they don’t know what it is and they try to charge £9 for a glass of Buckfast.

Do you see DJing as a way of educating people about classic rock and the music that you usually play?
Oh yeah, it depends on the night. On a night like tonight (Indiego & Co. First Year Anniversary), people just want to hear popular songs they know they can dance to ‘cos sometimes I like to DJ in smaller bars where there isn’t a dancefloor and people are just appreciating the music and that’s the time when I can sorta put in something I like and maybe something they’ve never heard before and it’s fun to do sometimes.

Baz Fratelli was the guest DJ for Indiego & Co.’s first anniversary at Frangipani on Saturday 11 April ’15.