Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Travis’ Fran Healy

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled 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. This week: Travis frontman Fran Healy

1
On which two songs do members of both Travis and Feeder appear?  

“One of them must be ‘Band Aid 20’. We appeared on a Feeder song, but even on the day, I didn’t know what it was called because they didn’t tell us.”

WRONG. You were indeed on ‘Band Aid 20’, but you and Travis bassist Dougie Payne sang backing vocals on the Feeder track ‘Tumble and Fall’.

“I’ve learned that for the first time! I’ve never heard the song. We’re friends with Feeder and were recording in the same studio at the time, so Grant [Nicholas, Feeder frontman] popped his head round and asked us to do it.”

What was recording ‘Band Aid 20’ like?

“One of the most insane days ever! A story nobody knows is that there was a big debate over who got to sing the famous Bono line ‘Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you!’.  Justin Hawkins from The Darkness was pencilled in to sing that line, and ready to record. Being a U2 fan, I was thinking: ‘There’s absolutely no fucking chance you’re getting to sing that line. Bono has to sing that line’. But on the day, Bono is in Dublin. I said to the producer, Nigel Godrich: ‘We need to get Bono’. So I got Bono’s number from Anton Corbijn, and told him: Listen, you have to get over here. The world’s press are outside and if you don’t sing that line, you’re never going to live it down’. It’s 1pm and he had to be here by 4pm. He replied: ‘My wife’s going to kill me! I’ll be there in two hours’ and got on a private fucking jet to get here. By him appearing on the record, it gave it more purpose.”

Does Justin know you blackballed his chance to sing that iconic line?

“I don’t care. I don’t think so. Honest to God, that was Bono’s line and I’m sure even Justin knows that. He was the connective tissue in that performance between the old one and the new one, and it was all a total thrill.”

2
In a 2003 NME interview, you described Travis as “remarkably…” what?

“Normal? Nice? Boring? I give up!”

WRONG. But close – you said: ‘We’re remarkably unremarkable.”

“(Laughs) I should write speeches for politicians!”

Was that self-deprecation a self-defence reflex because after The Strokes came along, Travis became a media shorthand for ‘dull’?

“No, because we always got shit from the beginning and we’ve always been self-deprecating. It’s a Scottish trait. What I remember about 2003 was the Iraq war was on, we were going on Stop The War marches and we released an anti-war single [‘The Beautiful Occupation’]. We were the only band to put out a record going: ‘Look around at what the fuck is happening’. I remember in 2005, Radiohead’s Ed [O’Brien, guitarist] taking me aside and going, ‘I want to say thanks because you were the only band saying anything’, which meant a lot from the band who did ‘Hail to the Thief’”

3
You performed a version of Oasis’ ‘Half the World Away’ on The Adam and Joe Show for which of their sketches?

“Oh, The Imperial Family.”

CORRECT. It was a Star Wars-themed The Royle Family parody.

“Adam [Buxton] and I were good friends around that time, and he followed Travis around with his video camera for a couple of years. I saw him a few months ago and he mentioned he still had the footage. But I’ve sung at Adam’s wedding and I’m his son’s godfather, so we go back a long way.”

Travis supported Oasis on their 1997 ‘Be Here Now’ tour. Any memorable Gallagher stories?

“They’re the funniest fuckers you’ll ever meet. Noel is the raconteur – the Peter Cook to Liam’s Dudley Moore. It was funny when I made Liam cry [by playing him the travis song ‘Luv’], but I remember once we were all sitting in a bar on a night off. This was when Oasis were at the height of their fame and like iconic religious figures – 100 times bigger than Harry Styles is now. So I’m sitting with Liam, who practically has a halo around his head, dressed in his Mani hat and round shades, looking cool. And Dougie says: ‘Actually, Franny does a really good impression of you!’ (Laughs) I was horror-stricken!”

“So Liam takes his hat and glasses off and puts them on me and says: [adopts a stern tone) ‘Do me’. I’m like ‘Er…’ and an ominous silence descends, but Liam’s insisting, ‘Do me’. It suddenly became like that scene from Goodfellas, where [gangster] Tommy DeVito is saying: ’ I’m funny how? I mean funny, like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? Whattya you mean funny? Funny how?’ It’s like the spotlight is on me and I suddenly launch into this impersonation – and I realise it sounds more like Jimmy Savile.

“Liam’s face is just emotionless as I’m as I’m going: ‘Ere’ fuckin’ ‘avin it!’ It was almost like the light dimmed and my band started receding. There was about a minute of silence and Liam just said, [deadpan] ‘That’s not me’, and took his glasses and hat back.”

 

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4
Which Travis song features in the 2002 Britney Spears movie Crossroads?

“Maybe ‘Sing’?”

WRONG. It’s ‘Follow The Light’. Travis covered Britney’s ‘…Baby One More Time’ in 1999, kicking off the trend for guitar bands tackling pop songs…

“That was a complete accident. We were recording Mark and Lard’s Radio 1 Breakfast show and met them the night before in the local pub. Everyone got drunk and we had our guitars with us, and I started playing ‘…Baby One More Time’ because I’d just learned the chords. I said to the pub: ‘Guess this tune!’, as people were calling out ‘Hotel California [by Eagles]’, etc. By the end, the entire pub was singing it. The show’s producer demanded I do in live on air the next day. I had to learn it quickly that night and my plugger stood holding the lyrics in front of me. It was a funny moment and bore all these novelty covers. But I still see it as an un-ironic cover, because it’s actually a good song.”

Ever meet Britney?

“No, but we were in the same hotel as her when she had her meltdown, running up and down the corridors with a shaved head. That was when she hit rock bottom.”

5
Which Las Vegas band covered Travis’ ‘Side’ at their first ever gig?

“That’s The Killers.”

CORRECT. You co-wrote The Killers ‘Here With Me’ with Brandon Flowers. What’s your relationship like?

“It’s like if I was in the fourth year at school, but Brandon was in the second, we’d still like each other. We run into each other and rang out or maybe play a few games of football down the pub – that’s the relationship we have. We’re not going down the pub and having 20 pints.

“One of the first times I met him, we played Las Vegas and had a couple of nights off before the show, so we met up and watched the comedian Anthony Jeselnik. Afterwards, Brandon asked, ‘Do you want to drive my car?’ and threw me his keys. He had a box-fresh top-of-the-line Audi, and I accidentally put the car into reverse instead of first gear. When the lights changed to green, I floored it and went backwards. Luckily, the car behind quickly reversed otherwise I would have wrecked Brandon’s beautiful new sports car for sure!”

6
What is the name of the Shirehorses song that spoofs Travis’ ‘Why Does It Always Rain on Me?’

“‘Why Is It Always Dairylea?’”

CORRECT. Under the band name Dave Lee Travisty.

“It was funny. Mark and Lard [aka the Shirehorses] asked us if I was OK if they did it beforehand, and we thought it was fantastic. We parody our songs immediately after we write them in the studio. If you can parody them, it’s usually a good song. There’s a song on the new album, ’10 Songs’, called ‘Waving at the Window’, and I won’t say what we change that to but it begins with a W!”

7
Name any of celebrities who presented Travis with the three Brit Awards they won over the years.

Vinnie Jones? Lou Reed?”

CORRECT. Vinnie Jones presented the band with the British Album award in 2000. That same year, Lou Reed gave you the Best British Group accolade. You only missed model Heidi Klum, who presented you with the Best British Group gong in 2002.

“I don’t remember that! She drew the short-straw that night, eh? (Laughs) I remember after winning an Ivor Novello award in 2000, I got a lovely hand-written letter faxed from Elton. I should put it in a frame, but I’ve always steered clear of awards-on-the-wall syndrome. We gave all our Brits away.”

Talking of famous fans, David Bowie loved Travis…

“He was cheeky, funny and goofy and childlike and not at all serious around other artists. It was so disarming. As a pioneer, he’d earned his right to be at ease. When Bowie was taken from us, it was a shock to the system. He lived two minutes up the road from me in New York, and I always wanted to ring his doorbell and say: ‘Can I come up for a cup of tea?’. And he would have said yes. But I just always bottled it, and that’s one of my regrets.”

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8
Travis covered The Beatles’ ‘Lovely Rita’ on Radio 2’s Sgt. Pepper’s Fortieth Anniversary show and album in 2007. Name two other acts who appeared.

Stereophonics? I can’t remember any others.”

WRONG. Apart from Stereophonics, you could have had: Bryan Adams, Razorlight, Athlete, Kaiser Chiefs, The Fray, The Magic Numbers, Jamie Cullum, Oasis, Russell Brand or The Zutons.

“I only knew Stereophonics because [famed producer] Geoff Emerick mentioned them when we were there. Geoff was very sweet about us. He was perturbed that none of the bands were able to do it in one take apart from us. Because the point of the show was to record the same The Beatles – live, one take, all in one go.”

You’ve collaborated with Paul McCartney on numerous occasions. What’s your favourite Macca memory?

“We were both on a fancy holiday on Turks and Caicos, which was star central. You’d walk through the hotel bar and see Keith Richards holding court with some random guy in flip-flops. One of the funniest moments was when I went walking on a deserted beach, and in the distance, there was a wee dot shimmering in the heat. As it got closer, I realised it was Paul. We both, without consultation, began the fake slow motion romantic run towards each other, mimicking romantic music in the background. When we reached each other, we embraced and gave each other a big hug. If I’m having a bad day, that’s a memory I pluck out to make myself smile and remind me life isn’t so serious.”

9
Which two acts did Travis perform between at Live8 in 2005?

“Was The Killers one? Bob Geldof? Razorlight?”

WRONG. You were sandwiched between Keane and Annie Lennox.

“That was a funny old time! I just have this image in my head of driving into the Live8 concert very slowly past [former UN General Secretary] Kofi Annan, all chanting, ‘Kofi! Kofi!’ at him.”

10
You sang ‘Why Does It Always Rain on Me?’. Statistically, what is the wettest place in the UK?

“(Laughs) It has to be Glasgow?”

WRONG. It’s Seathwaite in Cumbria – which receives around 3,552 millimetres of rain per year. Those are some Wet-Ass Peaks. 

“Wow! Well, I’m sad for them. I’m happy for the trees but I’m sad for the people.”

 The verdict: 4/10 

“I’m slightly crestfallen by that score but I think I can handle it!”

– Travis’ latest album ’10 Songs’ is out now

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