The Futureheads vs The Maccabees, part two
Back, are you? The first half of this feature ran this time last week. If you missed it, find chapters I – V here, honourable sorts. You’ll find us waiting here again presently.
Wossat? No time? Boss on your back? Can't leave her waiting in the rain? The story so far, then – DrownedinSound’s sat in the Social in London, sitting back while two of the best British acts of recent times go back and forth on iPod thieving scumbags, Les Savy Fav, the wonderful times spent plugged into Walkmen as a youth, one-man musical versions of Ben Hur and Saving Private Ryan, defiance in the face of major label rejection and, most pointedly, the importance of shooting white noise up Bugs Bunny’s arse every once in a while.
N.B. We dropped in chapter links to help you navigate around this article. It's pretty long.
vi) Band practice
vii) A light interlude or "they hated my life"
The Futureheads: BH = Barry Hyde; RM = Ross Millard; J = Jaff
The Maccabees: OW = Orlando Weeks; FW = Felix White
An amiable, reverent Orlando Weeks and Felix White are nursing drinks to my right, while across the table Futureheads bassist David ‘Jaff’ Craig reels off sprawling, hilarious anecdotes in the third person. It’s bandmates Ross Millard and Barry Hyde who hold court though, really, the former waxing lyrical on the value of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, the latter speaking intelligently, purposefully, deliberately; both thrillingly fighting with their talk.
We rejoin as pints stand half-high and the bands are rolling into confession mode.
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BH: I’ve got a question for you – when youse rehearse is it a jolly thing? Is there booze?
FW: In the good old days it used to be like that – you’d go in in the evening and you knew that every Friday you were gonna rehearse and have a drink. But now every day it’s quite an intense thing…
BH: I would almost say I dread it.
FW: Yeah, yeah, honestly…
OW: Unless we’ve got a new song that I’m excited about and we’re all gonna learn it, I just don’t wanna be anywhere near it…
J: I’ll be honest I can sometimes dread rehearsal – not that I don’t wanna go, but I can be apprehensive about them. More like kind of pressure – we wrote the song yesterday that means it’s gonna be bassline time today… 20 minutes, haven’t got one…[exasperated]
FW: You’ve gotta argue and battle it out, ‘cause everyone cares and wants it done their way. It’d be shit if everyone got their way, but when it works and at the end of every month we’ve got it all down it’s amazing.
BH: Can you record in the studio like?
OW: We thought we could be we can’t do that. I don’t think we’re kinda competent enough to just like…
BH: It’s more of a confidence thing.
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A light interlude or “they hated my life”
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J: When youse last played in Newcastle, you went off on your own to some trance nightclub, or techno nightclub or something…
OW: We came offstage and we DJ’d ‘Man in the Mirror’ (7)
OW: It’s er, it’s one of them… so we played that and these two girls came up and went (disappointed) “we thought you were gonna be good”. And they were just like “it’s shit. What you’re…? Oh, that’s it, you’ve ruined our night.”
FW: And naturally he sulked…
OW: So, I got really upset about it and just walked home, but I didn’t know where I was going…
FW: Oh I think they’re talking about that other night - when we did the university and then you went to do that MC battle... (turns to Ross) he got booed off, on his own, MCing in a club.
RM: Ah mate.
J: If I’d’ve been there I would’ve been hyping ya. I’d’ve been your hype man.
RM: Where did you find it?
OW: It was just down some little alley, down a steep-staired alley, there’s a little door in the side…then I met these guys back at the hotel and they were like “where’ve you been”?
FW: When I saw him about three hours later he looked like he’d seen things that you’d never want to see, like all the blood was drained out of his face.
OW: That’s ‘cause I sent a bouncer to hospital by dropping a mic stand on his head, and he went down.
RM: You’re going down!
OW: I wrote letters to the hospital.
RM: That’s… nice one!
OW: At another gig a girl’s rape alarm went off in the front row.
J: Pretty ravey. I like it.
BH: The last time Jaff DJed - it was at a night club - and Jaff played The Proclaimers.
J: Excuse me, that went down well. I played ‘Set You Free’ by N-Trance and someone came over and told me that they “hated my life”.
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J: We did this thing on the last record with Youth (8) where he’d show us records and basically say ‘well try and steal the idea of that drumbeat or that riff’…
FW: Oh really?
BH: We wrote nine songs while we were there and we were only there for 16 days of recording. This was out in Andalucía where we did the last album, in Spain, south of Spain, on a mountain.
FW: That’d take all of you being in the right frame of mind though, to get that much done in that short space of time…
BH: It’s the producer’s role to make sure the band are in the right frame of mind. Youth’s brilliance as a producer is mind manipulation – he didn’t touch the desk once, he didn’t touch the computer once, he produced some of the album lying down.
BH: He did comic strips of the band – Jaff was a drag queen who was constantly depressed, I’d be there ugly and nasty, our Dave, chilling out and Rossy would be like geek-freak… dressed as wookie, something like that.
BH: I think there are various different types of producer – recording should be a spontaneous, exhilarating experience. It shouldn’t be like making a risotto where you’ve gotta spend ages stirring away to get what you want – you want to flick something in the pan and just eat it. Forget about it, go to sleep and wake up and do something else. We’ve worked with a couple of producers – working with Youth is kind’ve like the absolute opposite of who we’ve worked with on every other album. When we recorded the second album, Benny’s (9) gifts weren’t so much his people skills – he was a nice guy, but he didn’t inspire us. With Benny his microphones are fantastic – the communist microphones he’s got are awesome.
J: He definitely just leaves the song to the band though, doesn’t he? Like, ‘what do you wanna do’?
“He’s a druid”
- Barry Hyde on producer Martin ‘Youth’ Glover
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BH: Then he’ll have a toy you can play with, a fly case filled with pedals. But that’s more of an engineer’s role, he’s more of an engineer type of guy, he doesn’t think like a producer. He doesn’t think ‘what is a hit record, what are the key elements to making a hit album’… he’s a detail man, he’s great, very scientific in the way he does things and a very bright bloke as I’m sure you know, a proper brainbox. Proper overactive mind type. He was very hands on, whereas Youth was a total space cadet all day and then he’d listen to trance all night…
RM: The way that he’s positive, it motivates ya…
BH: He’s a druid.
RM: He inspires us to a level of positivity we’ve never had.
RM: He’s a bit of a hard-ass, but without being a dickhead and like…
J: He was in control, he was like the leader wasn’t he – without being a tosser about it, he was like ‘if you want to do something it’s gotta come through me’. Or ‘you’ve got an idea for a song, let’s hear it – no, I’m not gonna start mic’ing that one yet ‘cause it hasn’t got a big hook’.
BH: They were awesome 12-, 13-hour days and then he’d bugger off to Greece at the weekend to play a trance festival or play bass with The Orb in front of 30,000 people. And we’d be on the beach eating sandwiches…
J: But you wouldn’t pick what vocals were used would you, he’d pick them. That’s quite important…
BH: He can hear it from a different perspective to me – listening back to your voice it’s not nice. You kind of hate it, all the little habits and inflections you don’t want them to be in there, but actually those are the things that give you the magic.
J: Some of it wasn’t even in tune – you’d go in and he’d be like ‘Jaff do you wanna go in, do us a high one’ and you’d be ‘Youth it’s half past one, you want us to do a high one now?’ and you’d do it and he’d be like ‘oh that’s great’. The rest of us would be like [furtively] ‘Jaff you might want to do that again’ and you’d hear it back and think ‘Youth, how did you think that was OK to go on our album?’
FW: It actually involves putting a lot of trust in someone. How did you know him?
BH: Through management – apparently he saw us playing one of the shows we did for News and Tributes at the Astoria – y’know, people love Youth and the album’s he’s made have sold about 25m copies across the world, he did White Flag for Dido, Crowded House, The Verve… he started off in Killing Joke who like… were about as punk as can be.
J: Do you ever find when you work with new producers or whatever you learn their little phrases? After we’d gone to the studio to do the track, get the right takes down he’d basically every day go [forcefully] “right guys, headlining Reading festival, this is the one.”
J: And we’d wait for that, before we knew the track was done.
RM: We all had to decide to give our trust to him, before we went in there.
Video: The Futureheads – ‘Broke Up the Time’
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FW: It feels like there’s been such a positive response to the situation, in the best possible way, because it could’ve gone either way couldn’t it, could’ve got even more under your skins.
RM: The onus is on us though, isn’t it.
FW: It feels like everyone happens for a reason and that’s what’s needed, even though I love the second record…
BH: It would’ve seemed completely impossible, say two years ago, if we’d decided to go it alone, there would’ve been so much cynicism surrounding this move – to leave a major and go independently. Things are changing so quickly now it actually seems possible and plausible for a band to do that and it’s changing the way the business operates. Bands will do it themselves. They will. Who can’t sell your records to your own fanbase on your own label, you make more money doing that, then selling a million albums on a different label.
BH: Because you have a record label – y’know getting dropped was…
FW: Quite galvanising I reckon…
BH: That’s the test, the test ‘cause If you get dropped and can keep the band together it proves that your intentions are purely artistic. Who cares what record label you’re on? It’s irrelevant, y’know, it’s like, you know you got a cashcard you’re not gonna go ‘oh, I prefer using these cashpoints actually’. They serve a purpose, they’re a means to an end.
J: You think ‘well what do record companies actually do?’ They give you money to make your record and they get your record into the shops – if you can do without the money, because you don’t want that money – ‘cause it’s not about that, you just need enough to live on and then you can go straight to distributing yourself, you just cut out the middle man who just takes from you. We owed Warner Brothers some money when we got dropped, but they didn’t need it after sales – because we have to recoup all of our cheques, and they make a fiver an album.
BH: It is exploitative like…
FW: When we first signed our record deal we didn’t have a fucking clue what we were doing, we just did it as a way of getting in ‘cause we would’ve ended up lost.
BH: I don’t think it’s a case that all record deals are totally unviable or whatever, or aren’t a good idea, ‘cause y’know for example if you’re a new band and you haven’t got a back catalogue, you’ve hardly got a fanbase, you haven’t got any money it’s sort of impossible to put your own music out.
RM: We’ve been dead lucky…
(7): single from Michael Jackson’s Bad album; 1987
(8): Martin ‘Youth’ Glover, producer of new Futureheads album This is Not the World, among many others, former member of Killing Joke, among many others
(9): Ben Hillier, producer of second Futureheads album News and Tributes