Did the person who wrote the lyrics generally take care of the lead vocals?
No. Dino wrote “Sparks” but it was decided that I was going to sing it. It’s about me and my ex-girlfriend, who’s my best friend. Everybody used to talk about me and her and we got a really bad reputation and were known for being trouble. I still think Dino could sing it better actually but for some reason everybody wanted me to do it. I don’t know why exactly, politics maybe. I think with Dino singing it sounded great but really different from 1990s.
Was Dino being a vocalist at the back of your mind when you offered him a place in 1990s?
No it wasn’t. Dino joined really quickly, he joined a day or so after Jamie left the band, just because I knew he was great guitar player and assumed he’d be able to play bass. As it turned out he was great bass player as well. It was only half way through the tour we discovered he could sing back up on all these songs.
You mentioned in our previous interview that the band after The Yummy Fur (The Girls) was one you didn’t want to sing in you could just play guitar. Could the same thing happen with 1990s now it contains two other talented vocalists?
That’s a good question but no. I love playing guitar and that’s my main fun on stage and in the studio. But if I’m on stage I really like being connected to singing. Most things I can’t sing but the few that I can sing, that I’m good at, I usually have to do it myself as there’s a certain kind of song you trust yourself to do more. I really like singing it’s good fun. I like guitar playing more but I don’t see myself giving up singing and just play guitar.
The first song on the album “Vondelpark” (a park in Amsterdam) has a pretty distinct narrative, is it autobiographic?
Yes it’s extremely autobiographic. That’s the saddest song on the album. And it’s the one that’s the most heartfelt. It’s about having such fun then such massive regret.
That song and “The Box” were in your live set for quite a while before you recorded them. Did they go through many changes from live to studio?
“Vondelpark” did. It started as a kind of jam, that sounded like a really slow Can track then there was a real stoner version and Michael came up with the “uh-uh-oh, ah uh uh uh oh”, and then we speed it up and tried to make it sound like The Modern Lovers’ “She Cracked”. In the studio version we thought it would be nice to make a Krautrock pop song so we taped some of the strings on the Jaguar guitar I play with gaffer tape. It made a weird ringing/chiming noise.
How did the Baader-Meinhof references in “Kickstrasse” come about? [Strasse is German for “street” — Ed]
I met my girlfriend one crazy night in a Spanish city where we were both playing gigs. It was really mad, but we only saw each other for one night so after a month we agreed to meet up in Berlin. When I got off the train in Berlin and got to the centre, in Mitte, I realised that the bag I brought with me had an imprint of the RAF/Baader-Meinhof logo. It’s a bit like being in Belfast with an IRA bag. But I didn’t want to turn it around so I just went “fuck it” and met up with my girlfriend and we fell in love and everything was amazing.
We were feeling each other up in the streets of East and West Berlin with this RAF bag. According to Mikey from Art Brut if you display that logo in Germany the police can come up and tell you to stop wearing it, it’s almost an offence.
But it’s mainly about being excited about a girlfriend and a new love and the feeling that everything seems explosive.
Did you ever think the line “Come crash your plane into my building” might be controversial?
I didn’t think of it until we were recording it. We were discussing it and I realised it might be controversial but it wasn’t intended to be. Plus my girlfriend’s star sign is Sagittarius (9th month) and mine is Aquarius (11th) — 9/11.
Former Long Blonde Kate Jackson contributes backing vocals on that track. It’s rumoured that she’s recording a solo album with Bernard Butler, will you return the favour?
I would love to. I have spoken to Kate a few times about this; we were supposed to write a song together years ago. I would love to play guitar with her but I don’t know if Bernard would let me.
Finally any plans to soak up the rays in Australia any time soon?
We’re trying to get somebody to sort it out just now. It’s a priority. We had so much fun in Australia and really, really liked it. I didn’t think I was going to like it but it was amazing. So yeah.