Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Klaxons’ James Righton

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them

1
Who hosted the 2008 BRIT Awards when Klaxons performed live collaboration with Rihanna?

“I’ve got such a blurry memory of that evening! I only remember being backstage trying to hold it together. Was it someone like James Corden or Noel Fielding? Or Russell Brand?”

WRONG. It was Ozzy, Sharon, Kelly and Jack Osbourne.

“I could have been guessing all night and would never have got that! Aww! [Sex Pistols’] Glen Matlock, who scored 10/10 on this feature, has already beat me! Performing a live mash-up of Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ and Klaxons’ ‘Golden Skans’ with her was bizarre. We all worked in the studio together to come up with a version of the two songs that wasn’t going to be terrible. Then she came over to London for the day to rehearse with us, and was incredibly sweet and lovely. We were at our craziest partying point back then, where inviting us to any awards show was like letting the children play in the adult room! It doesn’t get more insane than performing in a pyramid with lasers at the BRITS, in our ’20s and off-our-faces… with Rhianna. And then afterwards  I ended up in Paul McCartney’s compound backstage, talking to him and Kylie.”

2
Which DJ once tweeted his “Indie Amnesty” [a 2016 Twitter trend where users shared tales from the sleazy ’00s] confession as: ‘Got kung-fu kicked down some stairs by Pete Doherty and Klaxons went to look for him to beat him up for me’?

What?! I have no idea! The only DJ we ever hung out with was Erol Alkan, so it could be him? Or Grimmy?”

CORRECT. It’s Nick Grimshaw.

“I have no idea what he’s talking about. I mean, it could have happened! [Laughs] Wait a minute – I remember there was something at Glastonbury where Pete Doherty threw ourselves and Lily Allen out of his trailer. But apart from that one time, I don’t think I met Pete.”

3
Liam Gallagher once claimed there were only two things in the world he liked. One was Klaxons’ ‘Golden Skans’. What was the other?

“Klaxons and SpongeBob SquarePants.”

CORRECT.

“Now that I remember very distinctly ‘cause he said it to me. We got invited to a film premiere, and I bumped into Liam Gallagher in the lobby who invited us all to the Met Bar. I remember being in the toilet with him and he was completely still in front of the mirror, saying: ‘I’m practicing stillness’. He was stood in the classic Liam Gallagher pose with his arms behind his back, staring straight ahead, nailing it. When he told me the only things he liked at the moment were SpongeBob and Klaxons, the 13-year-old me who went to Knebworth was made up that night!”

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4
Whose award for Best International Alternative/Indie Album did Klaxons steal at the 2008 NME USA Awards?

“I wasn’t there for that one, but I know [former Klaxons bandmates] Jamie [Reynolds] and Steffan [Halperin] went along and they took someone else’s award. I’m going to guess Arctic Monkeys?”

CORRECT.

Whay! I wasn’t even there and I got that one right!”

You later ended up playing on the Monkeys’ 2018 album ‘Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino’…

“Which is an amazing album – I’m not just saying that ‘cause I played on it! For me, I don’t know what else you could want from an album. James Ford, who was producing, called me and invited me to La Frette studio in France to work with them, and then Al [ex Turner] played us the demos and I was blown away by his songwriting: it was inventive, interesting, funny. We recorded live as a band to tape, with around 10 musicians playing at the same time. Arctic Monkeys are old friends now. I’ve known them since the start of Klaxons, when they came to our early shows, and we’ve had fun times together like going to the last night of [legendary London Monday night party] Trash. Al might have been there when we got kicked out of Pete Doherty’s dressing room at Glastonbury!”

5
In 2007, Klaxons won the Mercury Music Prize for your debut album ‘Myths of the Near Future’. What is the name of the NME journalist who stood in for the band on a BBC News 24 interview the morning after the ceremony when you were deemed too wasted to appear?

“Well, I know this was Alex Miller! And it’s televisual gold.”

CORRECT. Then-New Bands Editor Alex Miller ended up bickering with presenter Kate Silverton about haircuts. The night before, Klaxons told the press you’d donate the prize money to a “telepathy charity”.

“All I remember from that evening was watching Amy Winehouse [whose ‘Back to Black’ album was nominated that year] perform at the Mercury prize and being utterly blown away. Like all award shows, we just partied – I couldn’t have dealt with the nervousness of performing then without alcohol. I was pre-medicating the insanity of it all. We played our song, went back to our room, necked a bottle of red wine, went back to our seats and suddenly all the cameras turned to our table when Jools Holland announced the winner and I went: ‘Oh God! Oh no! It’s us!’ I was out of it and you just saw Jools – rightly so! – scared of the car-crash stumbling towards him. But for about a year afterwards, I was bought drinks by people in the street who had enjoyed that clip.”

6
In 2010, what number did Orphee – the Klaxons’ cat who appears on the cover of your album ‘Surfing The Void’ – reach on NME’s ‘If Only They Rocked’ Cool List?

“The cat was in the Cool List?! Amazing! This is why the list matters! He’s gotta be at least Top 20, so 14?”

WRONG. He was Number Four – beaten by ‘The pigeon that took a shit on [Kings of Leon member] Jared Followill’s face’ (Number One) and  US comedian Jon Stewart (Number Two).

“[Laughs] The world was such a good place then – take me back to 2010!

What were the most surreal moments of that” MDMAzing” New Rave period?

“I honestly don’t remember half of it – as this quiz is proving! [Laughs] At the time, I always knew it was going to end and had pre-dread because I knew it was the peak of the public’s fascination with you: we’d saturated the pop world so much and New Rave fashion was everywhere. You’d be at a show in New York and Joaquin Phoenix would turn up with Albert [Hammond Jr.] from The Strokes, and we turned down so many crazy things like supporting Muse at Wembley. It was like being in an insane bubble.”

7
You soundtracked the 2018 Simon Amstell-written-directed film Benjamin. Name the singer-songwriter character in that movie.

“Noah.”

CORRECT.

“Got that one easily! And the actor who played him is called Phénix Brossard for bonus information! Simon Amstell is like my own personal therapist. We’ve worked together numerous times. We have the best kind of working relationship where I’m not afraid to play him things that might work, might not work or might be surprises.”

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8
Klaxons headlined 2007’s NME Indie Rave Awards Tour (topping a bill that included CSS, The Sunshine Underground and New Young Pony Club). Which city was the opening night in?

“Oh man! Norwich?”

WRONG. It was Dublin.

“My favourite memory was playing the last show on that tour at the London Hammersmith Palais and every band on that tour got onstage to do a song [The Sunshine Underground’s ‘Put You in Your Place’ and Klaxons’ ‘Not Over Yet’] together. We thought we were doing an all-star version of the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’! [Laughs] You know when loads of legendary bands get together and do an iconic song, but we were these tiny little bands from New Cross and in our heads that was our ‘Hey Jude’ moment. Those tours were messy. There was an afterparty in Birmingham that involved one of Shitdisco breaking his arm after trying to surf atop the tour bus.”

9
Which movie character did you dress as when Klaxons played a secret gig at Glastonbury 2009?

“This is in my Top Three Greatest Klaxons Moments. We dressed our entire crew as characters from The Wizard of Oz, but I was dressed as Edward Scissorhands.”

CORRECT. That was around the time you’d challenge bands to perform forward-rolls at festivals…

“That was Jamie [Reynolds], who had a fascination with forward rolls – he got everyone from MGMT to Grace Jones to do one. We played a festival with Grace Jones in Poland. She was on after us, but she was brilliantly late for her set because she’d been watching Wimbledon – they had to drive a car from Wimbledon to Poland to get her there for her set that night. Grace Jones waltzed into our dressing room, eating oysters, and she put a loaf of bread on her head and started banging it – she was playing it with a drumstick. She was brilliant, funny, charming and game – we had the most wonderful evening with her.”

10
You recently shared a new song, ‘Empty Rooms’, with ABBA’s Benny Andersson and put together their band for their ‘Voyage’ hologram residency, Before ABBA, Benny was a member of a band known in his hometown as “The Swedish Beatles”. But what was the actual name of the group?

“The Hep Stars.”

CORRECT.

“C’mon! I know my ABBA trivia! Music just pours out of Benny. He’s effortlessly cool with a dry sense of humour. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to hang out with him, work with him and hear things in the ABBA studio which I thought I’d never get the chance to”

‘Empty Rooms’ is a cut from your forthcoming studio album ‘Jim, I’m Still Here’. Tell us about it…

“I’d always wanted to make an album with the Soulwax guys – David and Stephen Dewaele – and when the world shut down due to the pandemic, suddenly we had time to make the record remotely. Thematically, it’s about me creating an alter-ego called Jim through which I could live out this fantastical life. He’s this hyper-fictionalised version of me, and in general, I think it’s a positive, hopeful record, ‘cause a lot of the songs are about fantasy and looking forward to the moment we can see other people and live the life we did before.”

Bonus question! For an extra half-point: complete the following of your lyrics: ‘Un tourbillon en vol va de l’est à l’ouest en cherchant’…?

“Oh! This is the French version of our song ‘As Above, So Below’. Le cosmos danse tout la haut? I can’t finish it unfortunately!”

WRONG. It is indeed from your French-sung version of Klaxons’ 2007 track ‘As Above, So Below’, but the next lyrics are “Des temps révolus qui brillent comme des lucioles”.

“We’d always been well-received in France, and our French label thought we could cross over more by doing one of our songs in French. One of the guys from the label translated it for us – and stood in the studio telling us what lyrics to sing. None of us speak French and I have no idea if the translation is even correct. [Laughs] We could have been singing anything. We didn’t double-check: this is before Google Translate. I’d completely forgotten about it until you just reminded me we’d recorded it. It didn’t break us in France though!”

Is there any chance of a Klaxons reunion or have you drawn a line under it?

“No, I think that was such a fun, amazing thing we did. I’ve so much love and respect for the other guys and never say never, but I think we did all right. We’ve had big offers for reunions through for years now, but it’s not as easy as that or something I’d go lightly into.”

The verdict: 7/10 

“I’m happy with that score.”

‘Jim, I’m Still Here’ is released July 8 

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