Biffy Clyro frontman Simon Neil tells us about the scorched-earth approach to their upcoming seventh album
Hi Simon, how’s the new album coming along?
“We’re doing it in El Dorado studios in Los Angeles with Rich Costey. We needed a change after three records with Garth [Richardson]. Garth is very rock, he makes things sound classic, he makes guitars sound very beautiful. Rich wants to make things sound as fucked up as possible, and that was a good switch mentally for us. We wanted to force ourselves to take a left turn and keep ourselves guessing, as much as anything else. That’s why we’re really unsure if it’s any good yet!”
You said earlier this year that it would be more of an aggressive, grab-you-by-the-nuts kind of record. Is that how it’s turning out?
“For the first time ever we’ve been messing around properly with programming, so rather than making the heavy parts heavy with guitars and distortion, we’re trying to find different ways to make things intense. It’ll be leaner and meaner than the last – no orchestras. This album is going to be the opposite of cinematic. If the last records were kind of Ridley Scott, then this one is more John Waters. It’s quite dirty! We’ve taken a lot of influence from recent hip-hop records, like the latest A$AP Rocky – they’re so fucking good because they’ve got really grimy, dirty, horrible sounds with beautifully recorded vocals, or vice versa. We’re trying to get that balance of things teetering on the edge of chaos the entire time. It’s going to sound like Biffy, but it’s about ‘rocking’ instead of ‘rock’.”
Where will it fit into the Biffy oeuvre?
“It’s meant to be the start of the next chapter. For me, the first three albums we made were lo-fi, angular prog-metal, and the last three were big-boy records, big important music. This one is just embracing the chaos. On other records I’ve been very sure of what I wanted them to sound like, this is the first one where we’ve been feeling our way in the dark a little. I think that’s quite exciting. So I guess these next three albums will be the chaotic ones. We’re back to the naïve stage. This is probably the pre-teen album! The reboot.”
Are there any running themes emerging?
“It’s the first album where I’ve tried to come out fighting, give the people who’ve upset me a bit of what-for. I feel like this one is me saying that I know who I am, here are my strengths, here are my flaws, it is what it is. For the first time, I’m saying fuck it, you’ve pissed me off so I’m going to fucking give you what-for.”
It sounds like it’s going to be revenge rock?
“Yeah, something like that! It’s fight rock, pint-in-the-face rock. There’s a song called ‘Friends And Enemies’ which has this weird swagger – we’ve taken it into this weird, funky Bill Withers territory, but with Black Sabbath heaviness. It’s a wonky pop song that should probably be a single, a bit of a glam-rock stomp. There’s also a five-and-a-half-minute black metal reggae song called ‘Herex’, which is something that I believe only our band could do. But there’s also one of the best songs I think I’ve written, an acoustic song called ‘Medicine’, one of those songs that just landed in my lap. I genuinely believe this to be the best record we’ve made, but it changes day-to-day. I think we’re either making the greatest record we’ve ever made, or the worst by a mile. I’d rather be sh*t scared than phone it in, though. That’s not what music’s about. If I wanted to do that, I’d have chosen a different occupation.”
What are your live plans for 2016?
“We’re looking for the album to come out in April or May and we’ll start out on the festival circuit. You’ll see us at a handful of festivals in the UK, then it’ll be our own shows in October or November.”