Andy ‘Falco’ Falkous has, for a number of years now, been something of a cult hero to many music lovers. Famous for his witty lyrics and on-stage put-downs, Falco is a rare figure who has been in two bands much beloved of DiS’s strange portion of the music world: Mclusky and Future of the Left. His newer “one ‘man’ band”, Christian Fitness, looks firmly set to become the third of Falco’s projects to achieve the sort of quasi-legendary status that leads to lyrics being repurposed as inappropriate brand slogans on the DiS forum. This year Future of the Left released their fifth album, The Peace And Truce Of Future Of Yhe Left, shortly followed by This Taco Is Not Correct, the third Christian Fitness record. In the aftermath of watching a morning’s test cricket on the subcontinent, it seemed high time for DiS to catch up with Falco to discuss his recent activities.
DiS: The third Christian Fitness album in as many years has recently come out. Were you always planning to make it such a prolific project?
Falco: Well, from the time that I actually got the time to write some songs at home, yes. It’s a setup I’d been attempting to get going for years, but what with the demands of everyday life – jobs and Future of the Left – there just weren’t enough hours in the day. So, when I lost my job a couple of years ago, I just decided to record an album and it was really easy. Even though, by virtue of having the same voice and the same taste in music in whatever I do, there are certain forgivable similarities between Christian Fitness and the band stuff, there is a different atmosphere to it I think. That’s partly down to working on the stuff at home, so tricky time signatures may be on more. There’s maybe a little bit more colour, a little bit more layering of instruments because I can do that.
It was just loads of fun. I think I wrote something like 175 songs in the first year… most of them shit, but that’s the secret of songwriting. If you want to write an album of ten songs you write 150 songs, that’s the magical recipe: work hard and do something lots. I enjoyed the process anyway, and I made a little bit of money from it – maybe as much as I would have done working a regular temp job for a few months, which is more money than I’d ever made from any musical enterprise before. So I just thought: “Well, I enjoyed that… I’m going to do it again”…and I plan to keep doing it and keep enjoying it until it stops. I have this cursory idea that I’d like to do seven albums in seven years, but there’s no real deep significance to that. I’m not into numerology or anything. I don’t believe that will help bring a new age of reason or longer hashtags to the people of planet earth. It’s just for the simple reason that it’s loads of fun to make music, and it’s one of the most frustrating aspects of my life that I haven’t got to make more music and spend more time in proper studios making proper music with my friends.
But yeah, in summary, Christian Fitness has been a load of fun. It’s also been loads of fun getting lots of emails from Christian fitness groups, who are either excited to welcome me to their burgeoning community of the physically fit and the mentally ill, or – on the other hand – to condemn me to a fiery grave. I got one email from the first camp that reminded that yoga is not a Christian activity… so remember that. If you do yoga, you’re not a proper Christian.
DiS: So it’s a heathen activity...
Yeah, I mean, to be honest with you I don’t do yoga, but that if anything makes it more exciting to me.
DiS: When you say you write hundreds of songs for a Christian Fitness record, do any of them come out of ideas you’ve had floating around for a while or is it very much about new ideas constantly?
That happens with Future of the Left more. One thing you learn when you’ve been songwriting for a long time is that, when things are going well, you’ve got to take advantage of the good times and write as many songs as possible… and when things aren’t going well you’ve got to not get too down about it and just fuck off home and have a sandwich. It’s as simple as that. It’s all about judging the mood of a day. Sometimes things just don’t go your way, which obviously you can’t do with a gig – you can’t just get to the fourth song and go: “You know what, fuck this” and walk off.
With the Christian Fitness stuff I do have a routine. I generally write all day, by which I mean writing writing. Then I maybe go for a run, have some exercise, have a bath, and then I come downstairs and write two or three songs, much to the annoyance of the neighbours and the cats. And that’s it really… some nights it doesn’t happen and it’s time to spend half an hour reading below the line comments on Guardian articles, just to remind myself that we no longer live in one world but two worlds that are bent on destroying each other.
DiS: It’s a sort of weird parallel universe isn’t it, where people are commenting in such a way that it doesn’t have any real relation to anything at all.
It really is, well... not a Pandora’s box. That gives it too much glamour. It’s just so much shittier than that. Just because you have an opinion on something, doesn’t mean you need to share it on every single topic. What’s more, it’s ok not to know things I think. It’s ok not to know things about a particular subject. The most revealing thing on social media is people reposting articles about complex social subjects with the introduction: “Nailed it”. It’s so rare that people “nail it”… life is a complex thing and to reduce it to simple good and evil… at best “nailed it” could be rephrased as: “Added to the discussion… and then in brackets, confirms my pre-existing thoughts”. “Nailed it” really is down there with “butthurt” for me. People who say those things regularly… well, let’s just say I’m probably never going to make that person pasta.
DiS: Is the process the same for the lyrics between Christian Fitness and Future of the Left?
I love it when people go: “How do you come up with the lyrics?” I just write them down, and then I sing them… it’s as simple as that. So, in Future of the Left, I just do it in the studio when somebody says: “Falco, we really need to do the vocals now”, which elicits an “Oh shit” response from me, so I write them down and then I sing them.
DiS: Do you ever listen back to the lyrics and pick things out that you particularly like that you maybe didn’t notice at first, or are you ever disappointed with them in hindsight?
Bits of both really. It being rock music, the main thing to me is that it just sounds right to be honest. I don’t really break it down and analyse it as it’s happening. There are occasionally bits that are too silly or that comes across as too po-faced, not when you’re really trying to say something but maybe say something in a way that it perhaps too direct, or more direct than you intended. Sometimes people totally get them wrong as well, which can be strange. I’ve seen so many comments about the song ‘Robocop 4’. People ask me what my problem with action films is, as if that’s what the song’s about, or they say it’s passé… as if it’s part of a long tradition of protest songs against action films.
DiS: Future of the Left are a three-piece again now, at least in the studio (Jimmy Watkins departed the band after How To Stop Your Brain In an Accident). How has that changed things for you?
It makes it a bit more minimal...well, not minimal, but it does change things. Jimmy’s a really good guitar player, and he comes from a more bluesy – or even poppy – tradition, whereas myself, Julia, and Jack come at it from a heavier angle. I mean, I grew up listening to metal, even if I don’t listen to it anymore. It strips things down. Unfortunately, it does mean that there are some songs that don’t really work as a four live...‘Back When I Was Brilliant’ from the new album being a good example.
DiS: There were several mellower songs on How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident, but they were distinctly absent from The Peace & Truce…. Is that on the basis that you can save mellower songs for Christian Fitness from now on?
No, there’s no plan there other than that – with one exception that I can think of, which I won’t name because I don’t like to do that – the songs I write in the house go to Christian Fitness and songs written with the band a room very loudly go to Future of the Left. I don’t see that changing, largely because Future of the Left stuff is always written on the understanding that it’s going to be played live. That wouldn’t work with Christian Fitness, especially because the vocals are in a slightly lower and less shouty register – which doesn’t have the same projection or power live.
DiS: How have you felt about the Mclusky shows, which you have been doing occasionally for the last couple of years?
It’s fun to do, but by nature of how fondly that band’s regarded and people are so into anything nostalgic at the moment, it will always overshadow everything we do with Future of the Left. I’m partly comfortable with it, but by virtue of being in both bands I think it feels better on stage without the filters of “things we liked when we were young” or just nostalgia in general. As long as it’s just done occasionally, and it’s fun to do, then I don’t see any kind of problem with it. We do get asked to do it a lot, but we only say yes if it’s for a very good cause that makes a lot of money for that very good cause or, secondly, something that makes a lot of money for us, without wishing to be crass. We’ve only done one Mclusky show that was for us… and we made more money from that show than from the last year of being in that band when it was an actual band. I mean, it was still under four figures, so really this is just a reminder how little money I actually made in that band at the time.
DiS: Do you think Future of the Left are now as well regarded as Mclusky have become in the years since that band split up? You played the Electric Ballroom earlier this year, which is the band’s largest headline show to date I believe.
I think it’s as well regarded amongst what I would politely call “the fanbase”, but not outside of it. Not a lot of it is personal; it’s just the way the industry goes. Probably correctly, the industry does prioritise youth, but the music press here is also so obsessed with novelty and newness, more so than other nations I think. A genuine bugbear is also the label situation. Not being on a traditional label drastically reduces your chances of doing festivals or of getting press, because people love the cache of a label, and people are lazy. We sell more records now as a self-releasing band than we did when we had the ‘resources’ – and that’s in heavy fucking inverted commas – of a label, but we don’t get offered the festivals because people want a band from a certain label. They’re sold it on that basis.
We’ve managed to quintuple our vinyl sales alone through self-releasing, and mostly sold from home. I mean, sure, maybe it’s partly because younger people won’t have heard of us… but they never will hear of us if we never fucking play at these things! If you shove a band in front of people fifty times then people will have heard of them… it’s that old adage isn’t it: “You might never get to hear your favourite band”. I’m not saying we’re everybody’s favourite band, some people are pricks and won’t like us...half a joke, or 80% of a joke… but it does get frustrating. We just released a record and we played no British festivals, and that wasn’t because we didn’t want to play any. Unfortunately, when it’s sewn up in a particular way there’s not much you can do about it. You can’t let bitterness define you, even if you can allow it to give you perspective. Bitterness is like jealousy, you need to respect it and then – as a human adult – you need to get over it.
DiS: What did you think of the thread on the DiS forums in which people attached your lyrics to various brands?
It’s just really flattering isn’t it? It’s a very lovely thing that people have applied some fun and imagination to something like that, and I’m glad that some of the lyrics, and some of the jokes in them, have prompted a bunch of mad cunts with too much time on their hands to do something like that. No, it’s genuinely really lovely, and it wasn’t just me that noticed – lots of friends also just thought it was great too. It means more than an actual music award or something. I’m not going to say I shed a tear, because I didn’t but, in my career – if I might use that term – I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about ticket sales, worrying about being able to afford things, so to see the work being appreciated – and not in a trite, sentimental way – is fucking magnificent. Everyone should give themselves a pat on the shoulder and then forget all that self-congratulation and crack the fuck on.
DiS: You say you’ve been writing in a non-musical sense a lot. What can you tell us about that?
Well, I’ve been using the last couple of years, when not working on music, to write. People have always said to me: “Write, just write… people will like it, you might even make some money out of it”. Now, the instant money is mentioned I get suspicious because, certainly in the record business, what happens is you make some money and then a load of people come and take it off you – to the extent that sometimes you end up with minus money, which is always a delightful experience of course. It’s very enjoyable, anyway, albeit in a different way. It’s been really good fun, I’ve written a lot – got about 60,000 words into three novels and gone “nah”, but I’ve actually finished a full draft of one now, a couple of months ago. It’s set in Hamburg during World War Two – obviously there’s more than enough literature set in that period, and I desperately tried not to write historical fiction, but the setting was just perfect. I’m re-editing it for about the fourth time now, and I’ll maybe send it out to some agents before the end of the year. If they don’t like it then fuck ‘em, I’ll just put it online myself.
It’s been loads of fun just to write; in a different way to the way music is fun. It’s incredibly frustrating when you’re used to music, now, being able to record and finish the meat and bones of a song and send it to someone else to get their opinion all within about half an hour… you obviously can’t do that with a novel. You only ever get initial thoughts on things three weeks later, so I’ve had to learn the art of patience, but I’m hoping that it could be the start of something that is – if not another chapter – at least another way to help scrape existence in this delightful fucking world. There are always articles about how people can’t specialise in artistic disciplines nowadays… so maybe I’ll go into pottery after this, Johnny Vegas-style, and then maybe into performance art.
Christian Fitness’ This Taco Is Not Correct and Future of the Left’s The Peace And Truce Of Future Of The Left are out now. For more information about Christian Fitness, visit their Bandcamp page. For more information about Future of the Left, visit their official website.
Future of the Left are on tour in the UK from tonight:
23 Nov - Sound Control, MANCHESTER
24 Nov - Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, GLASGOW
25 Nov - Brudenell Social Club, LEEDS
26 Nov - The Flapper, BIRMINGHAM
27 Nov - The Portland Arms, CAMBRIDGE
29 Nov - Joiners, SOUTHAMPTON
30 Nov - The Fleece, BRISTOL
1 Dec - The Garage, LONDON (being filmed)
28 Jan - The Forum, LONDON (w/ The Fall, Hookworms & more)