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Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:15 PM ( 945 views )

Q: What happened with the show with Radio 4 last time you were here?

Thomas: Well, no one showed up. That usually does it. I mean, people were there. We always have a good time no matter what. Weíll always put on a show and weíll always have a good time. Sometimes when youíre on tour and youíre putting in so much time and you look so much forward to the way things are going to happen every night and you kind of have those duds once in a while. The other 20 hours of your day were in preparation for rocking and then you show up Ė I hate the duds. I canít stand the duds.

Q: Was Radio 4 fun to tour with?

Thomas: Yeah, they were great. Weíre nice guys. Maybe itís a Canadian thing, but in our opinion there are no mean bands.

Q: I read you were born on the Isle of Guernsey. Do you visit there?

Thomas: No, I donít even know why that made it into the bio. Itís kind of weird.

Q: Is it the one with the cows? Wait I am thinking of Jersey.

Thomas: Jersey is our rival. Jersey is like ten times as big. Thereís the Jersey cow and the Guernsey cow, but have you ever heard of the Guernsey cow?

Me: Iíve heard of the Jersey cow. Iíve seen the Jersey caramel.

Thomas: Their cows are so sweet.

Q: On tour you have a hand clapper Ė he claps and plays keyboards, too?

Thomas: He doesnít know how to play keyboards. He has a keyboard in front of him. I have all these laser sounds that Iíve created Ė I just program these different laser sounds into the sampler and he can press any button he wants and something is going to come out. Thatís his keyboard ability. And he claps. But today, tomorrow and the next day will be the first shows weíve ever not played with the clapper. Heís not here Ė he went to L.A. I donít know how weíre going to do it Ė weíre supposed to be a five piece band. Itís totally weird. Luckily the stage is pretty small here.

Q: How was San Francisco? A madhouse?

Thomas: I guess when you tour with a band like Scissor Sisters and things are a little bit wacky already Ė SF shows were totally out of control. They were like shows I have never played before in my life. Pretty much the nicest crowd in the world, mostly gay. Tons of very large men dressed as women all over the place. At certain points audience members mouthing the words I love you with little tongue gestures. We had menís shirts thrown at us while playing.

Q: Was that the first time that had happened to you?

Thomas: That is the first time. Scissor Sisters have this hula hooper guy in a tiny little thong Ė it was different than any show. Ever. And the after show party was even crazier.

Q: Are you having a party too?

Thomas: In Seattle? I donít know. They never tell me. They tell me at the last second, like as theyíre leaving. And then we (Small Sins) go and weíre like your dad. Weíre at the gayest place of all time, trying to fit in.

Q: Dancing?

Thomas: Weíre like, I can dance. All these sweaty dudes. Iím all about wearing my gay hat. Trying to fit in.

Q: Have you gotten a vest?

Thomas: You just have to take your shirt off altogether. Itís crazy, so much fun. They (Scissor Sisters) are the funnest band in the world.

Q: I read in RS they read a lot on tour?

Thomas: I havenít seen them read. Iím sure they probably read, on their bus. Iíve never seen them reading while on the dance floor.

Q: Do you like dancing?

Thomas: I love dancing. Iíve been reading, more than ever.

Q: What have you been reading?

Thomas: Iíve just about finished DBC Pierreís Ludmillaís Broken English. Itís pretty good.

Q: Is it a heavy book?

Thomas: No, not really. I really like Chuck Foster. He writes for Spin. He has three books, theyíre all really great. Short chapters Ė you can put it down for a week and then pick it up again and read it all day.

Q: Who made the decision to wear all white on stage?

Thomas: A friend of mine was wearing all white one day and she looked super hot and I was just starting rehearsals with the band for the first time. I was trying to think of things we could do Ė I just wanted to be unified somehow. Itís not like it means anything. I just wanted to look like one unit. That was just a cheap and easy way to do it.

Q: You must use a lot of bleach.

Thomas: The bleach pen is the best Ė the Tide bleach pen. You dab it on every spot thatís like really bad and then wash it in the Tide with bleach.
They come out spotless.

Cool Ė thatís a good tip for my white clothing. I hardly ever buy anything white.

Thomas: It is after labor day.

Q: The bass is my favorite instrument Ė though you play all the instruments on the cd why did you choose to play it?

Thomas: I guess itís the one instrument thatís constant. Everybody else has to make certain changes while they play. I can concentrate on singing Ė in my old band I used to play bass as well so I am used to it. Most of the music is very melody based and if the vocalís not right then nothing else really matters.

Me: Iím not trying to sound like I am sucking up but your voice is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard Ė itís like another instrument.

Thomas: Really? I hate to disappoint you but live I sing everything an octave up. Doesnít that blow the whole cover? I just like it to be more energetic.

Q: You recorded part of the cd in your parentsí basement?

Thomas: A little bit. I moved around a lot. I didnít have much equipment at the time. I hadnít gotten as nerdy about recording as I would become this year. When my parents went on vacation I totally converted their house in to a studio. But that was really only two or three weeks of the process of a year. Later I moved to various rehearsal spaces. These days I am a little bit more secure. I have my own space and a lot more junk. At the time though it was like wherever would have me.

Q: Was it a cleansing cd to make?

Thomas: It was definitely the first music I ever made that was completely just for me. When I first started recording and I had quit my other bands and I was kind of considering not being in a band again and not really trying to put out records. Iím a little older, maybe I should try to find a real job one day. I just started recording music purely for fun and not to play for any body. Like reading a book or playing video games. I really like the process of recording music on my own, itís my hobby. It totally changed the music as soon as I started doing it for myself. I played it for a couple of friends and it got out really fast. People wanted to give me money. That job thing was all just a dream. It made me look at music in a whole new way and learn a lot of different things about myself.

Q: Such as?

Thomas: What I like in music. Not trying to impress any body, except yourself. I could do really silly things, and I like them. Like the keyboard solo on Itís Easy is pretty much the silliest piece of music ever, but I really love stuff like that. In bands before I would never take chances like that. Somebody might think thatís lame or whatever even thoug I really liked that and your tastes become really streamlined. You donít have to worry about anybody saying no, whereas sometimes when youíre in a band with other dudes and you have a musical choice thatís a little bit risky it can kind of go either way. Someoneís gonna veto it every time. I know thereís obviously a lot of great music thatís collaborative but for me it never really worked out for some reason.

Q: Stay? Is it a farewell song?

Thomas: No. Itís about wanting to have a relationship with somebody without wanting to have sex with them. I guess I just havenít had that many female friends that I didnít want to have sex with. Sometimes friends who are beautiful people, who happen to be women and I love the relationship that I have with them, but . . . Iím not the right guy for you, weíre cool. Find a real boyfriend, cause Iím going to be on the road all the time anyway so why would you want me? I want you here all the time but I donít want to have sex with you.

Q: Devo was mentioned in your bio. Youíre a big fan?

Thomas: I love the Devo. I actually only own one Devo record, which is phenomenal, which is Are We Not Men, We Are Devo.

Q: Have you seen them?

Thomas: No.

Me: I saw them a couple weeks ago.

Thomas: Was it the new Devo?

No: Devo.

Thomas: I hear they sent out some kids. Devo 2K or whatever.

Q: Whatís next for you?

Thomas: Weíre co-headlining with a band called the Little Ones. I think they do well in California so I think theyíll headline there and then weíll headline the rest of the country.

Q: And youíll headline here.

Thomas: I think so. I like Seattle.

Q: What about how you fit in with Canadian music. Do you feel separate?

Thomas: Yeah. When other people are doing really well around you, you tend to step it up. When thereís a lot of success happening in your circle, it just feels more possible. Thereís a certain confidence to get it done in the first place. It makes you feel good to see these other bands doing well and you feel like you can do well.

Me: And compete with them.

Thomas: And compete with them.

Q: What bands would you like to tour with?

I really love Spoon. This band called Starlight Mints Ė theyíre from here? Theyíre great.

Sunday, February 4, 2007, 05:07 PM ( 1340 views )
The Futureheads is one of my top ten bands ever, hands down. Combining melody, harmony - how do you describe something that you just have to listen to and let it take over your world? For the Futureheads create worlds in each song in the way film plays before your eyes. It jars, it snaps, then it caresses. Their second album, News and Tributes, released on June 13th in the States, seals the deal.

Ross Millard, singer/guitarist/writer and one quarter of the Futureheads, spoke with me just before a show he was set to do in the U.K. There are many things I want to know about the Futureheads, and so narrowed my questions down to a few for Millard, whose voice is perfection spoken and sung.

How did Return of the Berserker come about?

Millard: That was more or less fully improvised. We were very conscious with the new album that it was a little bit more controlled, well, a little bit less crazy in a way. So we made an effort to have certain songs or certain moments on the album that were completely the opposite of that, very much a hark back to the earlier days maybe. We had a couple of rules: Barry would keep a riff going and the rest of us would count in and out at random intervals and he wouldnít have any idea when we were going to join in again. It was just like a little project at first and then it became a really nice piece of music to have in the middle of the record because it was so contrasting with the songs on either side of it.

Thereís singing in it also - in the background.

Millard: Thereís like a lead vocal really heavily distorted.

You did a version of Fit But You Know it with the Streetsí Mike Skinner

Millard: Heís on the same label as us and he wanted a live band to do a version of that song for the single. Heís not really the kind of artist who works with live musicians so much. So 679 asked if weíd submit a version and people liked it enough to use it as the version with a band recording. We didnít actually meet him in the flesh until much later - we just got the track sent to us in the studio.

Would you do another one?

Millard: I donít know. Maybe - it would be nice to see if we could work the other way around. Someone like that remix one of our songs rather than us always reinterpreting other peopleís songs because as much as we like doing that with other musicians and stuff, thereís a temptation to want to just write your own music. Weíll have to wait and see.

Millard: What song would he do?

Area would be a good one, I guess - a similar sort of subject matter to the kind of thing that he would sing about - the town he grew up in, the state of play that itís in. It would be interesting to see what someone like that could do with one of our songs but I shouldnít hold my breath for it to happen.

You never know.

The Song Man Ray, is it about the artist?

Millard: It is absolutely [inspired by him] - itís not really about him. I think the premise of the song is - I didnít write that one - to try and woo a girl by getting into Man Ray and Weston and stuff. Discovering art as a way to woo a woman.

Meatyard article was impressive. You are interested in photography? Have you studied it?

Millard: Iíve never studied it or anything. Iím sort of at an amateur level - Iím very much interested in it. I do always have a camera with us - itís more exciting to take pictures when youíre out of the U.K. for some reason. I never seem to be struck with too much inspiration. I guess because all the towns you end up playing in the U.K. youíve been to a million times before. Itís more a way to document what weíre doing rather than anything else. As far as techniqueís concerned Iím not particularly well versed. Itís nice to keep your fingers in the pie so as to speak.

What did you study at university?

Millard: I did English literature.

Favorite writers?

Millard: I really like hard-boiled fiction, noirish stuff. Raymond Chandler. Dashiell Hammet. I also like Saul Bellow, Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man - I love that book). Itís really hard to pin down specific people.

Letís talk about News and Tributes.

Millard: I guess it works in a similar way to what Danger of the Water does in the first record. Itís about the Munich air disaster that involved the Man United Football Team. Itís not at all about that incident because of it specifically being Man United or football but more because thereís elements of a real human tragedy in it. Everyone likes a good tragedy every now and again - itís nice to sink your teeth into something that poignant. Itís a bit of a challenge to write about as well cause you look at the landscape of rock n roll lyrics and itís a bit two dimensional to say the least, isnít it? Iíve always liked bands and artists who write songs about things that you never really would expect to be written about.

Are you a Man U supporter?

Millard:Yeah, I am - thatís kind of where the song started out more as kind of a project to see if I could write a song about that without it necessarily being a Futureheads song in the beginning. When we came to record the other lads liked it enough to want to work out the version for us to do as a group sort of thing. There are a lot of songs like that one of us will have that stylistically would never work in the band so itís always nice to eventually work through that . . . something that doesnít sound like it would work in the band eventually becomes important for the new record.

You said you had a goal to Nasty and abrasive music? Has this changed?

Millard: A little bit in the sense that you donít want to do the same thing too often. Weíre very concerned with being regarded as one of those bands that can be around for a long time, and being known for one thing and one thing only is never very good for that. We love a challenge so there was something nice in trying to prove that we were a band that could be more than just abrasive. Thereís elements in the new record that are still quite s similar to the first album but I think thereís a lot more ambition to the song writing on the second album.

Are the lyrics available?

Millard: Theyíre in the artwork this time. I think weíre a bit more sure of ourselves in terms of what weíre singing about this time. Itís not embarrassing having every one know what youíre singing about - itís quite nice in a way.

What did you get up to last time in Seattle that you might do again?

Millard: There was a vegetarian restaurant that we went to. Last time we had a day off we went to see the baseball. Doing something like that makes you feel like youíre somewhere special. Weíve got a couple of instores lined up, too. Weíre playing Easy Street Records.

What side of your family do your dark looks come from?

My dadís side I think. Thatís an unusual question. The lads sort of slightly take the piss out of us because they think I look a bit Mexican or something. Weíve got this lad for the minute doing merch with us, heís Peruvian, and people say me and him look like brothers.

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