Interview : Franz Ferdinand

Glasgow indie dance rock giants, Franz Ferdinand needs no introduction. Their recently released 3rd studio album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand has been subjected to many debatable reviews. To get the lowdown and more,  JUICE gets out the old long distance dialer and chats with bassist Bob Hardy – a man whose many talents include graphic novels, cooking and the ability to see smells. This one’s a learning experience needed!

Hi Bob. How are things going? Where are you at right now?
I’m good, thanks. I’m in Copenhagen.

Enjoying a bit of Danish weather?
Yeah, it’s good! It’s Spring here.

We heard that you’ll be playing at Coachella this year. Are there any bands in particular that you want to catch at the festival?
I haven’t seen the full line-up yet, but I think Paul McCartney’s playing, which should be quite fun. I haven’t properly investigated the bill though.

The last time we caught you guys live was at the Bangkok 101 Rock Fest in 2006. We remember that at one point during your set, you, Alex and Nick were all banging on the drums with Paul, climbing all over the drumkit. Is that something you do often at your shows?
Yeah, there’s one song particularly called ‘Outsiders’ which has an improvised drum bit. Every night we sort of plump around the drums for that song. It’s kind of fun you know. It comes near the end, sort of like building to the climax.

What other activities do you all do together apart from band related stuff?
Well, it’s pretty much the things that friends do, you know? We go to the pub, we go for food and cook meals, just pretty standard stuff that people do.

So you cook meals for each other?
Well, we used to. We’re on the road all the time now, but when we live at home, then yeah, we cook a lot. I live very close to Nick now so he does pop by for dinner.

So who’s the best cook in the band?
Oh, it’s me of course!

Alex wrote a book about food a couple of years ago. What are some of the more interesting food you had on tour? Since you’re the best cook…
Being in a band you get to go to a lot of different countries and try different things. Some of the Sushi you get in Japan is quite amazing. Things you wouldn’t necessarily know how to order yourself when you’re abroad. We have people from the record companies take us out to the best kind of places that you wouldn’t really be able find as a tourist. Some of the Sushi, I’ve never really seen anywhere outside of Japan. It’s quite amazing. I don’t even know what they’re called!

Ever tried anything that was still alive?
Well, oysters I guess. Yeah, that’s all. They’re practically alive when you get them on ice.

You guys recently covered ‘All My Friends’ by LCD Soundsystem. If LCD Soundsystem wanted to cover one of your songs, which would you recommend?
Oh, good one! I think that he’d do a good version of ‘Ulysses’ or ‘Lucid Dreams’. Actually I think a lot of songs on the new album will be quite good for LCD Soundsystem to cover. But ‘Ulysses’ would be quite cool.

So what’s your favorite dance song?
I think probably ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order. It’s one of those songs where you can never get tired of hearing, well, I don’t anyway. And usually when it goes on at a club it’s quite a euphoric moment. Love it, absolutely love it.

What was your reaction the first time you saw people dancing to your songs in a night club?
It’s kind of weird when you’re in somewhere and they can’t stop playing your music. It’s a pretty big rush to be honest; it’s quite amazing the idea of something you’ve made or been a part of making, was coming out from the PA system of a club or a pub. Because you grew up all your life listening to music, and now you’re hearing your own! It seems so personal. Blasting it out to the crowd and you being in that crowd, it’s amazing, a brilliant feeling!

When you see kids dancing to indie songs, do you find that the dancing looks a bit peculiar?
Haha, well it depends on who the kids are? I don’t know. It often depends on the music. There’s lots and lots of music. Some indie music, I guess, is difficult to dance to. I think our new record requires a different kind of dancing than our 2nd album. It all depends on the music and the individual dancers as well.

What’s your favourite place to unwind in Glasgow?
Unwind… hmm, well apart from my flat, there’s like a lot of great pubs and bars that I like to go to. ‘Nice and Sleazy’ is a fun place to go. It’s a famous kind of music pub, where a lot of musicians hang out. It’s got a great jukebox and there’s also a venue downstairs where a lot of bands play in a small room. We used to play there when we first started.

We read that you have Synesthesia – where you can see smells. Do you avoid sweaty or smoky areas backstage before a show?
Yeah, I try to but sometimes it’s quite difficult because some venues have very small backstages. But it isn’t really a problem in my everyday life – I can suppress that.

What do you see when you play in front of a huge crowd that’s moshing and all sweaty with mud? Someplace like Glastonbury?
I see a light blue shade.

Maybe that’s the aura of people having fun. Anyway, you studied art before the band. Will we ever get to see some of your sketching and do you design your own sleeves?
Oh we did do our own sleeves. All four of us are involved in that. For my own personal artwork, I’m pretty busy with the band but one day it’s something that I hope to return to. I need a good few years to get out anything worthwhile, so not at the moment.

You’re also the author of several graphic novels. What’s your favourite graphic novel?
It’s a book or a collection of comics by a guy named Joe Matt and it’s called Spent. It’s very good. It’s on Drawn and Quarterly – the publisher. He writes a comic called Peepshow and it’s sort of like a compendium of editions and issues of that. It’s great.

I think we’ve seen that one. Spent is the one with the guy jacking off on the cover, right? About a porn addict?
Yeah, that’s right! It’s brilliant.

What do you think of Watchmen the movie?
I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t have time to go to the cinema now that we’re on tour. It’s quite a long film as well. And when we’re in a foreign country, the movie will be in a foreign language. Like it’s probably in Danish here so I won’t understand it. Have you seen it?

Yeah, we have! It’s pretty good actually. Anyway, Mogwai was down in Malaysia recently. Have you ever met them since they live in Glasgow as well?
Yeah yeah! We’ve known them a long time. Glasgow’s quite a small place and you’ll find that the bands generally tend to know each other.

Have you ever challenged Mogwai to a drinking contest?
No, I’d never be foolish enough to do that. Haha!

Yeah, we heard that they’re quite hardcore.
Yeah, they like to drink, don’t they?

Will you be switching off your lights for Earth Hour?
Yeah yeah, definitely! I mean, I’ll be working at the time but I’ll try to make sure that everything gets switched off.

Who are you listening to at the moment? Any bands that have caught your attention?
When I’m tour, I always tend to listen to things that I’ve always listened to, you know, like very familiar music. But actually there’s a band called Jay Reatard, I’m really into them at the moment. And a band called Mystery Jets that I really like.

Mystery Jets did a DJ set in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Oh they did?

Yeah, it was great. Does Franz Ferdinand have any plans to do any DJ sets in the future?
Well we have had them before. Paul does a lot of DJ-ing and we have DJ-ed before at after shows. It’s something we do, but it’s not something we do regularly, to be honest. But yeah, we have been there.

Your latest album has had mixed reviews. Do you feel that’s because they’re less instant-hit, catchy dance songs like on the first two albums? And did you guys realise that while you were recording?
Yeah, I think this album is more of a grower to be honest. The more time you spend with it, the more you’ll get out of it. It’s a positive thing. There are various reasons why people give bad reviews for records and it’s not always to do with the music. We tend not to dwell on that because it’s kind of pointless thinking too much about what reviewers say.

The album has been described by Alex as a sort of “music of the night”. Are you a night-owl? And do you have any rituals before you go to bed?
Well yeah, I brush my teeth! Haha… Not particularly, but when I’m on the tour bus, it can be quite noisy so I do like to sleep with earplugs and eye-masks. I use them quite a lot.

We saw your Video for Ulysses recently. It’s got a chaotic feel that’s quite Franz Ferdinand. What’s the motive behind that?
The song’s kind of about going on a night out and I guess, getting a little bit lost (metaphorically). A crazy night out partying and the aftermath of it. That’s pretty much the premise of the video.

Kind of like a cause and effect?
Yeah, l guess so. Kind of like the results of a decadent night out.

What’s the cause and effect of listening to Franz Ferdinand too much?
Just having too much fun!

Will you be coming to Malaysia soon? We have spicy food here that will definitely make you see red.
I hope so! Yeah! We could play there. We’d like to go to as many places as possible. But we’ll try our best to get there.

Image Sony Music