1In 2009, there was a petition for your other band Glam Chops to represent the UK in which international competition?
“Is it Eurovision?”
“I might try entering for Germany. I’ve lived here long enough! A few years ago, I tried to enter with Helen Love. We had to send a video of us performing it, but we left it quite late. But Helen wrote a Eurovision song and I sung on it and we didn’t get past the first stage. I’d love to do it though – for Germany!”
2What number did you reach on NME’s Cool List in 2007?
“I was once in the 40s and once in the 20s. All the other years, not placed (Laughs). 27?”
“We were on tour with The Hold Steady when that came out, so there was some teasing! We were at a festival together with the Arctic Monkeys once and were really tired. Our guitar player Ian [Catskilkin] was trying to get some kip and the Arctic Monkeys were being lairy and threw a champagne bottle over the wall and it nearly hit someone in the head, so Ian got really angry, broke the bottle, kicked in their dressing room door and said: ‘WHO THREW THIS? YOU’RE NOT FUCKING WITH THE KAISER CHIEFS NOW!’ And terrified the children in the Arctic Monkeys. (Laughs) I’d returning from watching Belle & Sebastian to find Ian being told off by security for threatening Arctic Monkeys with a bottle. The two sides of my band!”
Was the Cool List something you paid attention to?
“It was just funny, and I liked it. The first time I was in it, the other guy in the photo was Dirt, the bassist from The Bravery who was really cool with his tight trousers and eyeliner and I’d just come from work. I never took it seriously – there were a lot of terrible bands that got quite high in that list, which undermined it for me! (Laughs)”
Didn’t you once get into a fight with The Bravery as well?
“With lots of bands! When The Bravery came out, NME tried to make a competition between them and The Killers. I was drunk at Pukkelpop [festival in Belgium] and kept going up to them saying: ‘I really love your band, The Killers’. They went: ‘No, no, we’re The Bravery’. And I replied: ‘Aww, I’m really sorry [launches into The Bravery’s debut single] – IT WAS AN HONNNNEEST MISTAKE!’. And ran away!”
Ever have a laugh about it years later with any of the people you ended up in kerfuffles with?
“Years ago, I used to be quite grumpy, like the indie Witchfinder General. The Guardian ran a feature where bands reviewed other bands at Glastonbury 2005, and I was mean about The Magic Numbers, calling them ‘old-man music’. They got angry and their drummer came at me at Pukkelpop with a whisky bottle trying to tear my head off. But I apologised and I like them as a band and people so whenever we’ve seen each other since, we’ve been friendly.”
3Which NME Godlike Genius did you once kick up the arse?
“I kicked Paul McCartney quite hard in the bum – hard enough for him to turn around and glare at me. It was an accident. At the NME Awards, I was walking backwards and looking in my hand for money for the cigarette machine and my foot connected with something quite hard and it was a beloved Beatle’s bum! Somehow I’d gone around all of his security like a ninja. I think I’m the only guy ever to get a thumbs-down from him! (Laughs)”
Talking of NME icons: what was it like supporting Oasis on tour in 2005?
“A blast. I said to Liam Gallagher: ‘Our supporting you is like Half Man Half Biscuit supporting U2.’. It’s really strange. It turns out Noel used to play Liam Half Man Half Biscuit songs when they shared a bedroom and Noel and Liam sang me a bit of ‘Trumpton Riots’. I thought I was hallucinating!”
4What are you wearing on the cover of NME in 2007?
“I was nude. I was actually wearing a small flesh-coloured thong to hide my modesty, but I got too comfortable in it and was strolling around and nobody could look at me. It was a pastiche of the Gossip’s Beth Ditto’s famous cover. Drunken people tell me: ‘I used to have that naked picture of you on my wall!”
5You’re releasing a full album of Bob Dylan covers under a side project titled Haus Band. But what is the name of your band Everybody Was in the French Resistance…Now!’s 2010 response song to Bob Dylan?
“I wrote that for my ex-girlfriend and haven’t heard it in a decade so am amazed I can remember that! We toured that album around America and played a 700-capacity venue in Memphis, Tennessee – where only one person turned up!”
How did Haus Band come about?
“I like Bob Dylan a lot, but the people who cover him tend to be the Ford Mondeo driving classic rock crew. But he’s more mischievous than that – a funny and rude punk rock motherfucker. During lockdown, I was drinking with the people in my building, Olga and Leo, and was talking about how much I like Bob Dylan and Olga suggested putting a band together and it grew.
“Leo and I are massive Bob Dylan fans, but Olga has no reverence for him whatsoever. She’s the sand that makes the pearl. Apart from a week-long trip to Leo’s studio, we did everything in the house and it saved me from going mad during lockdown when I was just in the bath eating chocolate and watching Community!”
6What is the hidden track on Art Brut’s 2005 album ‘Bang Bang Rock & Roll’ called?
“On the setlist, it used to be called ‘Subliminal Desire for Adventure’.”
“That was the instrumental we used to open with. Whenever I hear that piece of music, my heart stops: ‘Shit! I’m supposed to be onstage!’ It’s a hidden track at the beginning of the album, and was an instrumental because I could never think of any words for it.”
7Who was the headlining guest when Art Brut appeared on Late Night With Conan O’Brien in 2007?
“He came to our dressing room and said we were his favourite band and took a photo of us with him. I was like: Can I have a copy of that picture please?! (Laughs) He was super-cool. I’m sure his favourite band is probably Sleaford Mods, Idles or Shame now, but if he’s out there and wants to be friends, give me a shout!”
Who’s been the moist unexpected person that’s turned out to be an Art Brut fan?
“A make-up artist once said [New York Doll] David Johansen had told her Art Brut was the only new band he liked, which could be apocryphal! I got an email from a member of the Presidents of the United States of America telling me he got back into making music because he saw Art Brut and it made him miss being in a band. That’s what I always wanted: for people to watch us and think: ‘That looks like fun. I want to do that too!’”
That ethos ultimately manifested itself in the Art Brut ‘franchises’ system numbering Art Brut cover bands…
“I said half-jokingly about how we had the last good band name so should franchise it, and it became a thing. We had quite a lot of Art Brut franchise, from as far as Russia and Australia, and that included We Are Scientists at one point, who were Art Brut 47. We’d play concerts and people would turn up in T-shirts emblazoned with ‘Art Brut 37’, etc. There was even a Battle of the Art Bruts in 2007, where they chose the best. I think Art Brut 7 won because they sung ‘Formed a Band’ over ‘Modern Art’, which we couldn’t do. (Laughs) We’d have lost!”
8Which three songs have Art Brut 47 – aka We Are Scientists – covered of yours?
“We toured with them around America in 2006 and we were going to do a split seven-inch so they covered ‘Bang Bang Rock & Roll’ and we covered ‘The Great Escape’. We thought it would be funny to go into a note-for-note rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird’ but we couldn’t get the publishing clearance for a decade.”
9Who did Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen once mistake you for?
“He thought I was Archduke Franz Ferdinand. (Laughs) He thought I was a man called Franz Ferdinand and my biggest song was called ‘Take It Out’ and was about taking my penis out.”
“He was confused and quite drunk. So he thought I was either the band Franz Ferdinand or the actual man Franz Ferdinand and I’d been shot and started a war. Presumably it was the latter!”
10Art Brut are closely associated with Top of the Pops. Who were the last act to perform on the weekly Top of the Pops?
“I love Top of the Pops and should know that. Kaiser Chiefs? Franz Ferdinand – aka me?”
WRONG. It was Snow Patrol performing ‘Chasing Cars’.
“I used to live in Camden and there was once a load of noise in my living room and I went down to tell them to be quiet as I was trying to sleep – and it was JJ2 and Snow Patrol. I’m glad they got to be the final act on Top of the Pops.”
How’s the solo album going?
“I’m writing it at the moment. The Haus Band Bob Dylan album is being mixed and then later this year, there will be an Eddie Argos solo album.”
What’s it being influenced by?
“I’ve been doing a project for years now where people tell me their favourite record and I listen to it while painting the cover and I write a review on the back of the painting. I’ve done over 300 of them now. Trying to find something I like about them has changed my personality a bit – I’ve got a broader taste in music, so I wanted to make a record I couldn’t make with Art Brut. I’ve been listening to a lot of ‘70s stuff like John Cale, but there’s still going to be bangers! We’re going to work on new Art Brut stuff when we start rehearsing for our tour with The Subways, but I’m just doing this in the interim.”
Do people ever troll you with their album choices for you to paint?
“My band The Art Goblins have a song called ‘Fuck The M.S.P.’ about the Manic Street Preachers and three different people have asked for a Manic Street Preachers album. I’m always nice about the record, but I never know if they want me to be mean or something! Someone once asked for Bloc Party – I wondered if it was their favourite record or if they wanted me to be rude about it because I had a fight with [Bloc Party frontman] Kele [Okereke in 2005].”
How do you look back on that fabled altercation?
“It’s just a funny story. I kicked Paul McCartney in the bum; Kele from Bloc Party punched me in the head! We were in the tabloids after that! I always thought if I saw him we could have a laugh about it. I thought it was all over, but a few years ago, I saw him. He was winning an award for his solo album and I was giving out an award – for Wellington Boots! I was waving and smiling and being friendly, but he wasn’t into it. It just did not happen. He did not want to be friends – that’s not on the cards. But there’s no grudge from me.”
The verdict: 8/10
“I’m recording the audiobook of my memoir at the moment, so I feel I had an advantage!”
– Haus Band’s cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘She Belongs to Me’ is available now. Art Brut are touring the UK as special guests of The Subways in September and October