1Which recent Netflix show features Groove Armada’s ‘At the River’ soundtracking a scene where a pet dog gets high off cocaine?
“Just asking me to name a show on Netflix would be a challenge! Peaky Blinders?”
WRONG. It’s the Ibiza-set thriller White Lines.
“Sounds like my kind of program! I first went to Ibiza in 1988 because my cousin was Digs from DIY – one of the original free party organisers – and I’ve been every year since. For me and Tom [Findlay, Groove Armada bandmate], it began in ’96 when we went there to be residents at Manumision. All the DJs, strippers etc lived there 24/7 and there was a permanent party in the basement. That’s where this woman used to arrive in her strange nightie to host the evenings. That was Gram’ma Funk, who one night down there muttered the immortal words ‘I See You Baby’.”
2Which two megastars once argued in an airport over who discovered Groove Armada first?
CORRECT. Allegedly it started when Elton John said to Madonna: ‘You have to hear this new album [Groove Armada’s ‘Vertigo’] – to which she replied she already had, pulling it out of her handbag.
“You revel in the absurdity of scenes like that! Shortly after, Madonna asked us to do a remix [of ‘Music’]. We were doing it at my flat in Brick Lane, and her crew phoned to say Madonna’s coming round, so we ran around to the neighbours to borrow a hoover and try to clean the kitchen – then she never showed up.”
“Elton invited us to play a gig in New York alongside Lil’ Kim for Interview magazine’s birthday. All the paparazzi were there and no-one took any pictures of us, so a panicky publicist from the label made us go round the back and come back in, having tipped them off who we were – there were still no pictures! (Laughs) Elton came to our dressing room with a minute knowledge of all the tunes on ‘Vertigo’. He had a total lack of bullshit – a contrast to Lil’ Kim with her 40 or so security guards blocking the hallways.”
Elton wanted to work with you. Why didn’t it happen?
“That’s definitely a regret. We just went a bit mad. We’d gone to the countryside to make the album ‘Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub’). From the beginning, it was mayhem because we’d bought a mixing desk from the Cocteau Twins’ old studio and the people who delivered it were the people who lost out to us in the auction – who left it on the drive outside in 3000 pieces. Just before it started to rain! (Laughs)
“It didn’t get better – we had hip-hop artists from the States complaining about wading across muddy fields, photographers chasing geese around the garden. Our only link to the outside world was a payphone. By the time his assistant phoned to say, ‘Elton wants to work with you on some music’, we’d gone so bonkers that we were going out at night-times to find old church walls to bounce sounds off to get the perfect reverb. So we said we’re busy, which in retrospect was a bad reply.”
3In 2008, ‘Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control)’ was nominated for the Popjustice Twenty Quid Prize, the website’s pop single alternative to the Mercury Prize. Who beat you?
“No idea! Daft Punk?”
“Was it? (Laughs) One out of three? I’m not doing very well! The hardest bit of that tune was getting Mutya in the studio because she had a habit of going missing in action. We was definitely cutting loose! Once there, she was fun to work with – cool, no attitude, and a great voice. But she was enjoying herself in the evenings and was a hard person to track down. We tried to revive the collaboration for our latest album, ‘Edge of the Horizon’, but we couldn’t get hold of her again – same old story!”
4At 2010’s V Festival, which band did Tom almost get into a punch-up with?
CORRECT. Over you and other artists trying to break into their backstage shower area.
“Pulled it out of the bag! We thought they were ridiculous – they didn’t. (Laughs) What’s astonishing is the lengths of bullshit artists can put people working backstage through. It was hilarious because people couldn’t have showers because half of them had been commandeered by Kings Of Leon in a fenced-off security-guarded compound – which were never used because they arrived two minutes before in tinted-windowed Range Rovers and left two minutes after. To do this, all the roads had to be closed off and we had to wait in the bushes until the cavalcade went past.”
Apparently Tom gave the worldwide one-fingered sign of dislike as the cars went past. The last one stopped. The drummer [Nathan Followill] got out, making ‘Come on then’-type gestures. ‘Come on, then’ Tom gestured back. Instead, the drummer went behind his bodyguards and pointing towards Tom, Paul Weller and the various other musicians, said: ‘I want them removed’.
“It was funny – but also tragic. We had to deal with similar behaviour when we ran the festival Lovebox. One artist had a tantrum, saying: ‘I’m not going onstage until my daughter’s taken to Harrods’. Harrods was shut. She went: ‘Well, open it then!’”
5You co-wrote/co-produced Róisín Murphy’s 2007 single ‘Let Me Know’. On the record cover, what is the little boy dressed as?
“Christ! You’re pulling out some tricky ones! I’m tempted to Google it, but I’m going to be honest and say I don’t know.”
WRONG. He’s dressed as a knight.
“Should have Googled it! (Laughs) Róisín’s brilliant. We had such a laugh. She’s a typhoon of creative energy – larger than life, brilliant with words, every aspect of a true entertainment star. We sat in a windowless room in my studio in Barcelona drinking Red Stripe while she played she all these D Train disco classics to inspire us. It’d be fun to work together again.”
6Groove Armada founded Lovebox and played every festival until 2010. Who headlined in 2010?
“From the moment we got the offer of a licence on Clapham Common in 2002 and sold 20,000 tickets in an hour, to going on to host 70,000 people in Victoria Park in 2005, I’m proud of Lovebox – before that, the idea of a major festival in central London didn’t exist.
We worked with [Roxy Music frontman] Bryan Ferry on the track ‘Shameless’ for the ‘Black Light’ album. It was a long courtship – a few dinners over the years, because he’d never collaborated with anyone before that. After getting his vocals, we did this mad throw of the dice and effectively rewrote the music underneath the vocals. With our heart in our mouth, we sent it back to him – it was the day the album was going to be mastered. Fortunately, we got a message back saying Bryan loves it – that was a moment where the pint went down well!”
7Groove Armada’s debut ‘Northern Star’ was released in 1998, but who put out an album of the same name a year later?
“Aggggh! Hang on! I’ve suddenly got a memory of someone rushing into the studio saying exactly that. (Thinks) Mel C?”
“There were some cross words about that – which I’d totally erased from my memory until now!”
For a bonus half-point, name either of the bonus tracks on the 2007 iTunes reissue of it.
“There was an absolute comedy terrible tune called ‘Stitch And Tap’. I don’t know if that made it because it was truly awful? Was ‘Ooh Baby’ one?”
WRONG. They were ‘Black Sheep’ and ‘Wholemeal’. Talking of sheep and bread, you now run a farm in France and grow heritage grains, eschewing mass production methods. You’ve even been knighted there for your services to agriculture…
“When I went to the ceremony in the Ministry of Agriculture in Paris, I was told that no other Englishman had been awarded it so there was a deal of gritted-teeth when the minister put the gong over my neck. (Laughs) But he did it in good spirits. It was one of those situations when I remembered back to 1988 in Ibiza, thinking who could have foreseen me being there? It’s insane.”
Any of those French ministers fans of Groove Armada then?
“We were pretty invisible in France – I’d have better luck with the UK cabinet!”
Ah yeah – you used to DJ to future-politicians when you were at Oxford Uni. How riotous did it get? Would your autobiography end up with a super-injunction?
“(Laughs) All the things I could write about people could imagine. But I wouldn’t name names because it isn’t worth the grief. I’d come down from Barnsley, and the people with cash were putting up marquis with big PA systems and I was DJ-ing. There wasn’t much interaction between me and then because I was the hired hand, but there were totally lawless evenings or weekends or days or weeks – depending on what they were on. (Laughs) When you’ve got a field with no rules, there’s no limit to how bad the behaviour can be.”
8Who did Groove Armada perform between on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2004?
“I can picture every moment of the gig but I can’t remember who went on before or after!”
“Elbow! Of course! We stuck around afterwards. I should have done better there. It’s like Ibiza has been one artery for us and Glastonbury is the other. Headlining the John Peel Stage in 2010 was one of our defining moments we’ll take to the grave, and our best gig ever.”
9You performed Groove Armada’s ‘History’ collaboration with Will Young on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in 2010. Name any of the other guests on the show.
“The chef – Heston Blumenthal!”
CORRECT. You could have also had Tina Fey or Aaron Taylor Johnson.
“That album, ‘Black Light’, was the best music we’d ever made, but also the world’s best kept secret. It was at the height of EDM – it was difficult to play at festivals that were just confetti guns and hammering white noise. For the dance music we love, things changed: it was bombastic and celebrity and champagne-driven rather than inclusive. It couldn’t have been further from the free parties on the South Downs in the late ’80s/early ’90s. So we went back underground, playing to smaller audiences and only releasing good house music on decent labels.
“It kept is going until the dance landscape changed again. After playing the Warehouse Project in 2018, we went back to Tom’s and started digging through the ‘Black Light’ offcuts thinking, ‘That was a good tune’. Before we knew it, we went, ‘Let’s make one last album’, and were having a few beers, doing 24-hour sessions in the basement, and enjoying the intensity of focus.”
“‘Edge of The Horizon’, our first new album in 10 years, is our version of the yacht-rock soundtrack that was our go-to through all those years of touring. There’s a Hall & Oates feel. If ‘Black Light’ was the studio version of that big onstage guitar and electronic sound, this is what would happen when we got on the bus afterwards.”
10Which mathematician said she’d happily “wiggle away” in one of your videos?
CORRECT. You revealed she’d been one of the few celebrities to turn down a request to appear in your ‘Get Out On The Dancefloor’ lockdown video (which features the likes of Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Rose McGowan dancing). She responded on Twitter: “I didn’t get an invitation sadly or I’d have been wiggling away for you very happily.”
The verdict: 6/10
“It’s a running joke that I don’t know the answer to anything about film, music or TV – so I’ll happily take that score!”
Groove Armada’s new album ‘Edge of The Horizon’ is released October 2
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