We talk to Alex Kapranos about losing a member and find a new purpose
Franz Ferdinand have returned with news of their long awaited new album and a UK tour. Hear the title track ‘Always Ascending’, and check out tour dates along with our interview with frontman Alex Kapranos below.
After teasing fans with a snippet of new music earlier this week, now the Mercury-winning indie veterans have unveiled the lead single and announced that new album ‘Always Ascending’ will be released on February 9 2018.
Drawing on the band’s more synth-based electronic sounds, the track is a propulsive and experimental turn for Franz, and an ambitious departure from their more guitar-driven roots.
“In terms of the sound, the song is quite representative of the whole record,” Kapranos told NME. “This one sounds quite different from our previous records – it’s a bit wider and less of a ‘straight up guitar’ album. It’s just a taster. There are many more surprises to come.”
Fans have been eagerly awaiting news of a new album since guitarist Nick McCarthy left the band after 14 years back in July 2016. Franz then confirmed that he wouldn’t be taking part in either the recording or touring of their fifth album album – the follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action‘.
The tracklisting for ‘Always Ascending’ is:
The Academy Award
Huck And Jim
Glimpse Of Love
Feel The Love Go
Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow
You’ve said that the album is both ‘futuristic and naturalistic’. How did you go about finding that balance?
“We wanted to take the sounds that are available to us now and make the sound that you haven’t heard before – the sound of the future. When you’re recording in 2017 you need to be looking ahead to the next thing. What haven’t people even heard in 2018? In terms of ‘naturalistic’, it’s not retrogressive but it’s about trying to make something that feels like it’s being played by humans. It’s very tempting in the studio to digitally tidy everything up – Photoshopping your music. Everything was played and nothing is programmed. It still has to be raw and have that rock n’ roll side to it. “
Lyrically, what would you say you’re dealing with on this album?
“There might be a theme, but I haven’t discovered it yet. I was responding to the things around us. The song ‘Always Ascending’ was inspired by a historic event that happened to some people and they ended up literally ascending and leaving the Earth. I don’t want to say too much about it now.
“We would write and create characters the way that you would if you were a short story writer – you’d have colour and backstory, that would only be hinted at in the song. That was a cool way to do it. We wanted this characters that were convincing and had emotional depth to them. In stories and movies, no one questions that emotional depth, but when you’re writing a rock n’ roll song, there’s always this presumption that they have to always be from personal experience to have veritas. We wanted to buck that and create characters that were even more believable and vivid than real life experience can be.”
After the anti-Trump track ‘Demagogue‘, did you touch again on the current state of politics?
“It’s terrifying, isn’t it? ‘Demagogue’ was written in the very early stages of the album. We decided to release it right there and then, because we knew that whatever the election result in America would be, that song would become completely irrelevant. Looking back at it now, what a different world it was then just a year ago – we thought it would be terrifying ‘if’ they elected Donald Trump. In the back of your mind you’re going ‘come on, there’s no way they’ll elect this moron’. I remember at the time there was a balance between the horror of it and how comical it was.
“What’s been quite interesting and mortifying is how the comical side has been completely overshadowed by the dark horror of the true situation. There’s absurdity and perversity, but it’s not amusing at all. Reality is so absurd, you can’t make it up. It’s so self-serving and cruel. You see it reflected in our own country as well. It’s a truly repulsive time.”
Do you find as a touring artist that you’re constantly having to ‘explain’ Brexit?
“I remember I was in Italy at the time of the vote. I travelled home a few days later and the security guard at the airport just went ‘what have you done?’ I felt kind of embarrassed, but had to say ‘it wasn’t me!’ How can you explain it? How could we have been so stupid?”
Once Nick left the band, how would you say the chemistry shifted?
“What it did was it brought Bob, Paul and I together. We became very close and we would hang out together all the time. That’s when we really started writing. It concentrated our identity and what we wanted to do as a band and what we wanted to make. Nick’s leaving was a real stimulus. When something major like that happens, it’s not as if you’re just going to carry on with the band as things were before. You either go ‘right, we’re finishing here’ or you focus and become stronger. That’s what happened to us. We had more fire and had more stimulation than we had for a decade. I’ve never been more intensely into the band.”
I remember Interpol saying something similar after Carlos D left…
“Funnily enough, after Nick left I was in New York and hanging out with Daniel [Kessler, Interpol guitarist]. We were talking about what it’s like to have more of your friends and founding members leave your band. He helped me understand how your identity and focus becomes stronger. Funnily enough, another experience that summed it up very well was when we were doing a festival in Madrid recently and Liam Gallagher was on the bill as well. He was asking what it was like after Nick left and he said ‘it’s like being a football team – a player leaves but the team keeps on playing’. That was a very succinct way of putting it.”
So were do Franz Ferdinand sit now? How do you feel about the next generation?
“I feel that the last Franz Ferdinand record [‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’] was a good bookend to a period. This feels like the perfect introduction to the decade that’s about to come.”
Do you feel like, as Kasabian put it, ‘survivors‘ the ’00s guitar scene?
“Oh gosh. I’ve never met the guys from Kasabian before. We toured with Interpol years ago and I’m still pally with Daniel and loads of other bands. A lot of these bands just happened to be releasing records at the same time as each other. I don’t see that as any kind of ‘scene’. I see my contemporaries as the bands that came from Glasgow at the same time. I feel more affinity with a band like Sons & Daughters. We didn’t want to be part of a scene when we started. We wanted to do something different. I don’t want to make a record that sounds like one some other c**t made – I want to make a record that everyone wants to copy.”
Franz Ferdinand tour and tickets
The band’s upcoming UK and Ireland tour dates are below. They’ll be joined by special guest Albert Hammond Jr. Tickets will be on sale from 9am on Friday November 3 and available here.
Saturday 10 February Galway, Ireland Leisureland
Sunday 11 February Dublin, Ireland Olympia Theatre
Tuesday 13 February Manchester Albert Hall
Wednesday 14 February Nottingham Rock City
Friday 16 February Newcastle 02 Academy
Saturday 17 February Glasgow 02 Academy
Monday 19 February Leeds 02 Academy
Tuesday 20 February Birmingham 02 Academy
Wednesday 21 February Bristol 02 Academy
Friday 23 February Cambridge Corn Exchange
Saturday 24 February London 02 Brixton Academy