Biffy Clyro Interview Pt.II

“People say we’ve sold out but I don’t really know what they mean by that. I just think they generally mean that we’ve had more success because I can’t think how we have sold out. We haven’t changed our music to suit anyone else, we’ve changed our music a little to suit ourselves, and if people think that’s selling out then they’ve got a strange idea of what that is and it’s a lot different from mine.”
James Johnston tells it like it is

This is it! Part two of the James Johnston interview with Heather Parry. If you missed part one, you'd better read that first: link

GW: Have you purposely gone towards a more commercial sound with this album?

We felt that Infinity Land was a great record, and the two before that were both great records, but we didn’t want to try to make the same one again – we’d already done a really great complex pop record and so we just thought we’d have a go at making a real big rock record that will hopefully stand up for many years to come. So we definitely concentrated a little bit more on the songwriting process and tried to perhaps strip away some of the intricacies to make it a little more direct, but then you look at Living is a Problem… or 9/15ths or even The Conversation Is and there’s still quite complex moments. We haven’t lost our love of things that are weird, we just thought we’d try to do things a little bit more simply. We haven’t changed that much. People are like “you’ve totally sold out, you’ve changed” but people can say what they like, we’re happy with what we’re doing.

GW: Where did you influences come from with this album in particular?

Previously we were listening to things like Lightning Bolt for Infinity Land, this time we were listening to things like Peter Gabriel and U2, not perhaps when we were writing the album but when we were recording it. I guess you look at it like a U2 album – they were just four guys in a room making music, they didn’t know at the time that it was going to be a worldwide smash or that they were onto something really good. It gave us real hope to realise that it is just about what you do, its not about what other people do, so it made us confident enough to have conviction in our actions and do things the way we wanted to do them, cos ultimately if it didn’t work we’d only have ourselves to blame.

GW: How did you find the recording process this time?

It was great, it was quite different from before, we always worked with Chris Sheldon on the first three albums but this time we were away in Canada with Garth Richardson, who’s somewhat of a bigshot producer and we mixed with Andy Wallace. The first couple of weeks were tough, trying to get our thoughts in line with his and trying to make sure we were all reading off the same sheet, but again we just took strength in the fact that we’ve done three albums, we knew what we were doing, and we just had to fight hard to make sure we got we wanted from the album. Working with Garth and Andy was a real pleasure, we’ve got such a great sounding album. We’d definitely consider working with them again. We felt quite at home in Vancouver, it’s a beautiful city and we’d love to go back.

GW: It seems to be your most personal album yet, was it an emotionally draining experience?

When you’re singing about something so personal and quite a difficult subject it is taxing and emotional. I think conversely that makes it quite a good record, and of course Simon had to go through a hard time to bear his soul in that way but I think that’s what makes it work – the fact that it is very personal and honest, and we’re singing from the heart. Making sure that you’re conveying your feelings in a way that doesn’t betray how you feel is what made it work, so it was a very brave thing to do and we’re all happy with the way it turned out.

GW: Was it a difficult decision to release ‘Folding Stars’ as a single?

It wasn’t entirely our decision, that’s what made it easier. We’ve been releasing records for a few years and you realise that you’re part of a business, whether you like it or not, and you can either shy away from that or get heavily involved. What we kind of did was to shy away from it and leave the decision to the record company this time, and just think maybe we’ll have another single and it’ll introduce people to the intricacies of the album. Those sort of decisions can wear you down if you think about them too much, generally we’ve just let other people make them for us.

GW: Is that why you’ve decided not to perform it live anymore?

Yeah, just cos it’s a hard thing for Simon to do which is understandable, I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet that wouldn’t understand that. It’s fair enough, we enjoyed playing it when we did, it was always a real moment. We played it at T in the Park which is always a big part of our summer and it has been for 7 years so we thought that was quite an apt place to do it. I don’t think we’ll be playing it any time soon, that’s for sure.

GW: Your fans are known to be fiercely loyal – has this changed at all since you hit the ‘big time’?

I think you build up a loyal fanbase over a long period of time, it doesn’t happen overnight and we had to tour hard to get it, and I think now those people are with us hopefully they’ll stick with us. Obviously we’ve reached a wider audience as we’ve sold more records, so there must be people out there who’re just discovering the band for the first time but that’s exciting for us. It’s a chance to go out and play to new people and not just do the same show every night to the same people who’ve been coming for 4 or 5 years. That was one of the great things about being in America this summer, that no one had a clue who we were, and people were like “Yeah, fuck you!” and it made it really refreshing because there’s no expectation. We just go up there and do our thing.

GW: How’s your new stuff been going down in America?

It’s been going really well. It’s certainly slow but that’s not because we’re not trying hard or people don’t like it, its because its such a huge country and we’re just a little band from the UK. The fact that we’ve had relative success over here really carries no weight in America at all so we’re starting all over again but we’re not scared of that, we’re up for the fight. Its quite exciting actually, a new challenge – if we didn’t have that and just kept touring the UK all the time it’d get very boring very quickly. It’s exciting in America definitely, we’re getting the chance to go to Japan and Australia as well, and hopefully that’ll go well. Things are looking good.

GW: Where do you think the most obsessive fans are?

Probably still in Glasgow, just because its described as our hometown. Its not really but it’s the closest we’ve got to a hometown as a band, so in Glasgow they’re still as crazy as anywhere. But then you go to any town, and even in Denver where we played a show to like 15 people there are people who’ve travelled a couple of hundred miles to come and see us and know every word, and they’re as obsessive as anyone you’d meet in Glasgow so there’s small pockets around the place I guess.

GW: What have you missed from the UK since you’ve been away?

Mostly, I should say, girlfriends, and friends otherwise they’ll get pissed off. But little comforts really – a good cup of tea and some regular milk, cos if you have one in America it always comes with half and half which is half milk half cream. So a cup of tea or beans on toast, real bread – the bread over there is like ‘Wonderbread’, its full of sugar so it tastes like a croissant or something, and TV without adverts every 5 minutes, little things like that. But then there are lots of things in America that we don’t have here, so there are some things that you start to really enjoy and you come back and you can’t get them. That’s the funny thing about travelling, you have to adapt to certain situations, sometimes you’re putting up with bad situations, sometimes you’re learning something new so it definitely keeps it interesting.

GW: Do you think moving from Beggar’s Banquet to 14th Floor has affected your music and your own attitudes or just your circumstances?

It’s definitely affected some things, it’s not affected our music in terms of how we write it, but its allowed us to deliver it is a different way and to a different audience. We’re now getting played on daytime Radio 1 which is a new thing for the band. Its maybe given us a bit more reassurance, that someone of the calibre of label is interested in investing time and money in us, which is good cos it makes you thing ‘cool, there’s someone else that thinks we’re alright’ and in that way gives you a bit of a boost. So yeah, apart from the obvious things like giving us money to work with great producers and helping us out with tour support for America it hasn’t changed that much, we’re still the same three guys making music together and hopefully that’ll never change. Changing labels was tough, its tough for any band, any time it happens. In hindsight it actually helped us to craft a better album because we had all that time.

GW: At any point did you consider doing anything other than being in a band?

I think in the first few years we weren’t thinking of making a living out of it, we were just enjoying ourselves and we still are in a sense but when you get a little bit older you have to start thinking about making a living. Simon’s getting married in January and if you can’t afford to be part of a relationship with a partner and pay your way it’s not going to work out. There are other things that come into your life that you have to think about but we’re definitely not the kind of guys that are hell bent on making millions of pounds and if it doesn’t happen we’re going to give up and try something else, because we’d have given up a long time ago if that were the case! A lot of people think we’re loaded and its like, don’t be crazy! Just because there’s a nice big bus round there it doesn’t mean we’ve all got gold shoes and diamond earrings. That’s not a hard luck story, that’s just the way it is, everyone struggles to make money at some point or maybe all their lives so I think we’re very fortunate to be where we’re at, but money’s definitely not what it’s all about.

GW: What do you think of the state of the British music scene at the moment?

I think it’s good, a hate a lot of bands, in fact most of the bands, but bands like Gallows, the Cribs, Nine Black Alps and ¡Forward Russia! – there’s a lot of bands out there doing interesting stuff. Unfortunately not a lot of bands get the recognition they deserve but that’s just the way things go. It’s interesting, you go to America and a lot of our bands are played over there all the time like Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, Kaiser Chiefs – not bands that I’d rush out to buy the albums of but its nice that people are paying attention. It helps out bands like us as well, so I think things are really healthy.

GW: Do you have a favourite song to play live?

I would say at the moment its definitely 9/15ths, just because we haven’t played it that many times live and its got a different vibe to a lot of the other songs. It’s very creepy, intense and dark and it’s a nice way to round of that part of the set. It’s definitely something we’re still enjoying, again because it’s a bit of a challenge, and you’ve got to keep yourself on your toes. That’s one that challenges us all and makes the set all the better for it.

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