onsdag 17 januari 2018

Bloc Party - från Fozzie 10, 2005

Slutet av november 2004: Bloc Party ska spela förband till Interpol på Mondo i Stockholm. Spelningen är utsåld, gästlistan överfull, jag vill gå. Chansar och ringer Hampus på skivbolaget V2 och frågar om jag kan få göra en intervju med Bloc Party så att jag åtminstone kan få träffa dem, och det funkar, de har en tid över! Eftersom det är första advent har jag bakat pepparkakor och gjort knäck och chokladkola, så jag tar med mig en liten burk med smakprover.
 Jag får träffa basisten och körsångaren Gordon Moakes, och trummisen Matt Tong ska ansluta senare.
     Vi sätter oss på en bänk i en gång på Mondo, och medan jag rotar fram godisburken ur väskan berättar jag vilka andra band jag intervjuat för tidningen, och Gordon säger att de spelat med Snow Patrol på några konserter i Frankrike. Jag får fram burken:
I brought some Swedish Christmas candy.
- Oh woow! That's amazing, I'm going to share that out, that's brilliant, thank you!
Med tanke på vad vi just pratat om är det kanske inte så konstigt, men inte desto mindre pinsamt, när jag säger fel i första frågan:
I'm going to start with an obvious question, that you've probably been asked hundreds of times: Why are you called Bloc Patrol? ...Party!
Gordon skrattar: - Bloc Patrol! Well, we're called Bloc Patrol because... Maybe I should answer the question why are Snow Patrol called Snow Patrol. 'Cause they weren't always called Snow Patrol.
Yeah, I've heard that story, Polar Bear.
Gordon fortsätter, med sin otroligt vackra brittiska dialekt: - We weren't always called Bloc Party, when we started we were called The Angel Range. And then we were called Union, but there was another band called Union, so we thought it was probably about time we change our name. It was quite a critical time, because we had already recorded the demo and the demo was out there. I think if you go on eBay you can find Union demos.
Expensive now, I guess?
- Probably. I just wanted something new for the band that kind of summed up this idea, that kind of ambiguity sort of thing, and it's great just to have a pun like that. It sounds like it could be so many things, but it's not anything really (laugh). It could be about fun or it could be anything you say. When I came up with it I thought "That just sounds perfect, I hope they like it" and they did.
In a Swedish newspaper today it said something like "Don't worry, they don't play hip hop".
Gordon laughs: - Yeah, I know, that could easily be the case, couldn't it? But I think it works.
     Gordon berättar att Bloc Party är det första seriösa bandet han spelat i. Tidigare brukade han skriva låtar med en kompis, men de tog sig aldrig för att göra någonting med dem. När han var 23 kände han att det var dags att ta tag i sina musikaliska drömmar, och så svarade han på en annons och träffade det blivande Bloc Party.
- We rehearsed once a week and I stuck with it and it just worked (laughs).

Bloc Party är:
Kele Okereke: sång, gitarr
Russell Lissack: gitarr
Gordon Moakes: bas, körsång
Matt Tong: trummor

      Debutalbumet "Silent Alarm" är inspelat i studion Delta Lab i Danmark, som ägs av superheroes-sångaren Thomas Troelsen. Det var Bloc Partys producent Paul Epworth som hittade studion på internet när bandet kände att de inte ville spela in hemma i London.

     Vi börjar prata om Bloc Partys sound:
- It depends what people think of when you say Bloc Party, or when you hear a Bloc Party song. There is quite a distinct guitar sound, some very fancy drumming, but it's not all like that, there are some really down-beat moments as well. There's a much wider picture of what we do. I think, yeah, there must be things that are really distinct for us, Kele's voice for a start, and Matt's drumming and Russells guitar, so there are some very strong identifying features.
And your bass is not distinctive?
We both laugh: - Aah, well, I don't want to be the one who says! But yeah, you know, I like to think that I've got a distinctive playing style, but it's hard to say. (he laughs, a little embarrassed)
På Bloc Partys hemsida skriver Gordon någon sorts dagbok:
I was looking at your website, and it kind of scared me a bit, you seem very... intellectual or something...
Gordon laughed: - Yeah, that's me. I'm not an intellectual, but...
But you have a "resigned superiorty complex"?
- Aaah, you're not the first person to point that out... It's a bit tongue in cheek that, actually. Ever since we set up the website I've just used it as a platform for rants and... you know, I want to be honest as well, about the experience of being in a band, and part of that is kind of slightly jaded view of what makes a band, what makes a good band. There were so many bands in London when we were starting out and I can look back on that time and really very few that a) were likely to stay the course and b) were distinctive at all. I don't know why, or if we were radically different to those bands, but I think we were strong enough and had enough identity to be confident about us at least. So yeah, I suppose it's easy for me to talk like that, but I'm just trying to be honest. I honestly don't go around thinking I'm in the best band in the world, I really don't. But every now and again you play with a band and just think "Well... they're okay", but still probably they're not as good as us. And that's not arrogant, it's just like... truth.
It wouldn't be much point in playing in a band if you don't think you're good, I guess.
- Yeah, absolutely. You certainly wouldn't want to stick with it. The fact that we're all still doing it, four years on, means that we all believe in it.
You and Kele write lyrics together sometimes, how does that work?
- Kele does most of it. Occasionally there are sections in songs where Kele says to me "We should have you doing a vocal part", and rather than writing that part for me he says "You write what you want". It's a really nice way of working actually, I much prefer singing something I've written than what someone else has written. He's very accomodating, you know. If there's a part that's needed then he trusts me to write that piece. But it's very much on spec, it's rare that I come with anything very free-formed in terms of lyrics, I really do just kind of spark off him. I do write things occasionally, but the way we work tends to come from starting out with a structure and then building up to the words being the very last thing we do. So I just take what I'm given, in a way (laughs), to work with.
How do you write the music? Do you do it together?
- Yeah... I mean, like I say, there's usually a starting point for a song, and it often comes from Kele, he's playing around with his guitar and coming up with a riff or he's got a kind of general feel or he's really looking to Matt to come up with a beat that starts the song - because you can't write the song until there's a beat to work from. So we work very much in... we trust each other to come up with our parts of the work, rather than just saying "I think you should play this here", you know, telling someone else what it should be like, it's quite organic.
I was thinking about the lyrics - I'm Swedish, I do speak English, but it's kind of hard to understand some of the lyrics, because it's not just something you blurt out, it feels like there's a lot of thought put into them.
- Yeah.
And some of them sound quite politic, like "Helicopter" and "The Marshals Are Dead", especially the part in "Helicopter" where he sings "Why are you so American? Why can't you be more European?" Do you know why? Or is it just Kele's words?
- They're mainly Kele's words. It's interesting when you corner Kele on lyrics, because he often doesn't know where they've come from. If you put him on the spot he doesn't realise until a lot later what it was that made him write a lyric like that. There's a lot of just free association, where there's a line that seems to fit the part. And I think that some of those cultural things are less pre-meditated and more accidental as a kind of reaction to what's going on. You know, we've never been avertly trying to address politics at all, and I think actually if you analyse it we're not doing that, we're very much reacting in a much more personal way. But there's an awareness there, definitely.
But do you think it's important to use your status as known people to get a sort of message out?
- Well, I think most of us would shy away from that, actually. We're not activists, we're just musicians. I know once you've been in the industry a while some people find that the platform you have is quite a responsible one, and therefore you can use it to good - take Thom Yorke, he's really been proactive in the things that he believes in. I think that maybe comes through time. If you trace the history of Radiohead back, they were never an activist band - I don't think they are now, and I don't think that particularly was the starting point for being in a band, but it's just you get to a point where... since you know people are listening, why not? I don't know if it will happen - in a way I hope it doesn't, because it can be done so cheaply and... it has to be done intelligently or you really risk alienating people. But on the other hand, the worst music fan I can imaging is the one who's just not analysing what you do at all, who's quite happy to just go on in their own views without letting anything challenge it. So I really want people to just be aware. We're not a political band, but I would hate to have a following of people who don't think for themselves. And so, on very general topics we are kind of pro thought and ideas, about the obvious things, you know, racism and fascism, it's very easy to stand against those things, because they're so wrong and stupid. But on the whole we're not setting out to do that.
Is it more like you wrote on the website somewhere that "Bloc Party oppose through actions, not words - the paid-up sing-song of over-furrowed artifice"? Which I don't really understand...
- Yeah... I think what I'm basically saying there is that there's no point... the sentiment there is just saying that you can sit around talking about how much better you are than every other band in the world ever, but if your music doesn't cut it there's no point. So it's really just saying: listen to the songs and judge what we're doing. What we say about it is immaterial, really, the music has to stand up on its own.
     Matt arrives with Hampus and sits down next to Gordon.
"We can all be popstars, because life is shit"?
Gordon laughs: - Eeehmm... I think that's kind of a little bit of a statement on how easy it is now to be a popstar. And we are not popstars in any way. (Matt hums in agreenment) I just react to what I see around me, writing little features like that. The "Popstars" phenomenon is kind of an easy target, and I wanted to delve into it a little more and actually question the mentality of people who believe that going on telly is the end of their problems (laughs), it's stupid.
"Pop music isn't escapism, it's shared humiliation between audience and performer"? Is it something you just said, or did you really think about all those things that you wrote down?
- You can just look at a band like Girls Aloud to see that even when the music's great, but at what cost to their own humanity? (laughs) You know? We're just aware of how easy it is to be exploited, and we're quite happy-go-lucky, sort of fun-loving guys, we don't sit around getting heavy about whether we're being exploited by the music industry, but I do think that you have to stand up for yourself every now and again.
Now a question that I always ask: Which question would you most of all like to answer?
Gordon: - Somebody asked me this once, but I can't remember what I said... I said: "Ask us how we're doing, what kind of day we're having?" (laughed a little)
Matt: - That's quite nice.
How are you doing? You look a bit tired actually.
Matt: - Not good, I've just run out of money and I'm really hungry, so...
Gordon: - Did you not get a hot dog? We've got some sweets, we've been given some sweets.
Matt: - Really? That's kind. What kind of sweets are they?
Ginger bread and...
Matt: - Oh wow! Thanks!
... and chocolate toffee, and this is called knäck...
Gordon: - Nuts-y toffee.
Matt äter några godisbitar: - This is amazing, did you make those? Thank you! My day has improved immeasurably in the last half a minute, so thank you!

Okay, the question then is how you are, do you have any other questions? Well how are you doing then, Gordon?
- Well, I'm feeling good. I (laughs a little)... We haven't been home for two weeks, and (chewing) I've a lot of stuff to sort out when I go home, I'm moving. But I really love being in Scandinavia! Copenhagen we know, Oslo is just beautiful, I love it. I wish we could stay here.
Matt: - There is something very organised and peaceful about being in Scandinavia. It's tranquil.
Gordon: - It's pretty.
Matt: - It starts getting darker earlier now.
At 3 o'clock it get dark in the winter time. So it's a bit depressing.
Matt: - It's a physical thing, you react to when the sun goes down.
Gordon: - I think it's something we can relate to actually, coming from Britain, it's not so much a darkness, but there's a greyness. So you know, it's a different shade, but I can definitely relate to it.
     Vi börjar prata om Japan, där jag läst att de varit på turné.
Gordon: - It's so different to... well I suppose there are things that Japan has in common with Scandinavia. There is an efficiency. The way the cities are laid out - not exactly like Tokyo, it's not as crazy.
Matt: - It's a world apart, Scandinavia is not immensely populated, and Tokyo is just ridiculous, at 5 o'clock in the morning there's still crowds of people walking around and stuff.
I have heard that the Japanese and Scandinavian mentalities are a bit the same, apart maybe from the workaholic part.
Detta leder vidare till funderingar kring religiositet i Japan, Sverige respektive England, och jag går tillbaka till texterna:
There was one song that sounded quite religious, which one's that - something "if they want to kill themselves, buy them the gowns"?
Gordon: - Oh yes, "Staying Fat". Yeah. That's amazing, the lyrics in that song.
Matt: - Is that your lyrics? Buy them the what?
Gordon: - No. Buy them the gowns, meaning the death robe or whatever you wear. That's such a strong image.
Matt: - Kele uses quite a lot religious imagery.
It made me think of a sect or a cult or something.
Gordon: - It's one of those songs where we haven't kind of quizzed him in depth. But it's amazing when you come to analyse some of the songs how penetrating some of the things he says are. There's this bit in a song with "spin the fucking dreidl" and I asked him what it was, and it was some Jewish whip thing or something. I couldn't tell you exactly what that bit is about, but I wrote my own chorus and that is about... I'll try to remember it now... it's just about being alone in a world of... morons (laughs), they don't think, they just do.
And now, because the fanzine is called Fozzie: Which is your favourite Muppet?
Matt: - Obviously Animal!
Gordon: - I'm torn, I like the guy who plays piano, is it Rowlf? But also I've got a real soft spot for Waldorf and Statler, and their totally contradictory way of responding to things (he giggled).
Talking about Animal, there was something on the website about your mum didn't think you have the energy enough for your drumming style...?
Matt: - My mum? Who said that?
I think you (Gordon) wrote that, about a gig in 2003, where your mum was at the gig.
Gordon: - Oh yeah. I'm sure she worries.
Matt: - Yeah, she worries about me all the time, my mum's always like "Make sure you take plenty of vitamins". She starts sending me these protein powders in the mail and stuff to take before we play shows. "Make sure you drink plenty of water!" "Look after yourself." And she looks at my hands when we come back from tours and "Look at your blisters"...
Gordon: - You need to moisturize!
Matt: - You know, parents' ways.
Gordon: - So you're basically saying you're lining yourself up for a life of gnarly hands!
Matt: - Yeah, exactly.
Gordon: - That's great, my dad has worked with his hands all his life - your kids will see that you did something with your life, it's written in your hands.
Matt: - Yeah, totally. Your body's been shaped by the work you do.
It's not in coal mines nowadays, it's on stage. (they laugh)
But I have actually thought of that - isn't it really exhausting to play a gig? I mean, just playing air guitar for one song is really tiring.
Gordon: - The adrenaline will get you the extra enegy that you will need.
Matt: - We're always really surprised when we hear live recordings played back to us, because it sounds so much faster than you remember playing. You can't help playing that fast. Back before we were touring it was quite tiring to play a show every couple of weeks, but the more you play the more you can take.
Gordon: - Match fit.
     När jag till slut tackar för intervjun passar jag på att nämna att jag inte fått tag i en biljett till kvällens spelning, och de lovar att ordna det:
Gordon: - You gave us biscuits, we can't let you not come to the show, it's ridiculous!
     Mission accomplished...


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