It seems a little unfair to start an interview with Andy Falkous by bringing up his old band , but one of the main reasons The Future Of Left is such a hotly-tipped act for 2007 is due the fact that it sprung from such high pedigree. While Falco maintains that Mclusky was an "unfocussed affair", they left a sizable gap in the underground radar and a lot of rabid fans feeling more than a tad bereft. And while the Jon Chappel-led outfit Shooting At Unarmed Men rattled out of the gate in a timely fashion, fans have had to wait almost two years for some new music from Falco and Mclusky's stickman, Jack Egglestone.
This was down to injury - Egglestone suffered a breakage - and then finding the right person to complete the band. This dubious honour eventually fell to Kelson Louis Tregurtha Mathias (formerly of Jarcrew), who came in on bass. The trio toured fairly extensively in the latter half of 2006, showcasing an ever-growing set-list of jagged punk-rock songs, filled to brimming with witticisms and non-sequiturs courtesy of Falco. DiS caught up with him just before Christmas. In Cardiff. On his way to buy cat-litter at Tesco.
When last we spoke you were about to head into the studio to record your first double A-side.
Ah, no – that’s now all been done. We’ve been in the studio twice, done two weekends, in which time we recorded all the other ten songs – five of which are mixed – and the double-A-side, which is 'Fingers Become Thumbs' and 'The Lord Hates A Coward' (listen to these on the FOTL MySpace). It’s already been released digitally and it’ll be made available as a seven-inch sometime towards the end of January (it’s out on January 29 – read the review here). The second single and the third single have both been recorded as well. Since we’re not in the habit of writing mediocre songs, we don’t actually have any B-sides. The second single will be 'Small Bones, Small Bodies' and if it proves to be a big flag-waving, knees-up and down the country stylee Chumbawumba hit, I’m sure that’ll be it, because it sounds just perfect. The third single will be 'A Dead Enemy Always Smells Good', which probably has less commercial appeal, but fuck it, it rocks.
So it sounds like you’ve basically recorded your debut album.
Well, all of the songs are at least pencilled in for the record. But I think the whole idea is that, you have these songs, and I think the mark of a good band is that you treat them like starting points. But if you develop them as you should, then new songs emerge like highly evolved siblings that kick the crap out of the first batch.
So this is songwriting along the lines of Darwin’s Theory?
Yeah! Absolutely! That’s the idea at least. I can see a clear development between the new stuff and an early song as I become familiar with it. There’s a clear line of development between, for example, 'The Fiber Provider', and the song that became 'A Dead Enemy Always Smells Good'. It’s weird to step back from your body of music that you’ve developed over time and look at it as an evolving thing. It's not like you think about it in those terms at the time. You don’t say, "Oh, here’s a riff here, and here’s a time signature and a certain key. Let’s see how we can exploit this!" We pick up our instruments and we play and then we wait for Kelson's top lip to start quivering in some bizarre Fonz-style rock guy manner and Jack starts grinning and that’s when the rock starts happening. There’s not too much analysing when we play – it’s pretty much from the head and from the groin.
You shied away from saying "and from the heart"…
Yeah, well, heart comes into it later, you know? That’s when you have to string some vowel sounds together and make some sense out of it. The words are usually the last things that come. As far as I’m concerned it’s all about the rock and it’s all about the tunes. I’m not going to stand there and let mediocre words dominate the proceedings – that’s my own personal pride coming into play. There’s no point in writing great lyrics for some farce of a song. I mean, I’m going have to sing that damn thing over and over again, and if it’s some meaningless, ninth-rate, Razorlight-style twaddle, my cock'll shriek every time I open my mouth on stage!
Not a fan of Razorlight, then?
Well, I’m not a fan of anything, really, so don’t worry about it.
How much of the debut album is down on tape and how much is still rattling around in your head?
I don’t know about in my head – that’s a strange, insidious constituency – but on tape it’s basically it’s about two-thirds there. Maybe a bit more. Five of the songs need re-mixing, perhaps because we’re a bit bass heavy, and there isn’t enough bass coming through yet. And by bass I mean bass-frequency, because believe me, there’s plenty of bass guitar. So it’s just a case of going back and tweaking it a bit with Rich (Jackson) who recorded it.
What's he like to work with?
He’s a fantastic guy to work with, because he knows his stuff – he understands that a great big drum sound is essential to what we do – and he’s full of ideas, but he understands his role in the whole thing. I don’t want to make it sound as though we always know exactly what we’re doing, but we’ve got a pretty good idea of what direction we’re going in and what we want. Some people who call themselves producers have a picture in their head of what they think a band should sound like, and I pity the fool who tries to tell us how we should sound. Ask is one thing, but tell is another – that’s another bloody story altogether. When it comes to the recording process, the last thing a band wants to come up against is someone else’s ego. As much as it sounds like bullshit management-speak, everybody has to be going in the same direction.
It sounds like you’ve had problems with this in the past...
Not particularly, but I’m very conscious of it not happening like that. I mean, I’m very conscious about spelling it out to people like that. Working with Steve (Albini) a lot was great. Steve just basically gets on doing his job. The Albini sound – if I may be so crass – is all to do with the fact that he actually mics up the drums fucking properly unlike most the other cunts out there. The whole idea that he actually gives the band direction is frankly ludicrous. He’s not shy to suggest something that he thinks is appropriate, but as he says time and time again: “it’s your record”. If you come up with an idea that he thinks is a bad idea, he’ll still get on and get it done for you because that’s his job. I mean that’s not a rule – there are some bands out there that need their hands held through the recording process and who need someone directing them. We’re just not one of those bands. But yeah – you know me – I’m angry about stuff that hasn’t even happened to us yet.
Looking forward to your gig at the end of January?
If our gig on the 30th (at London’s 100 Club) is anything like the last time we played in London (at the Luminaire) it’ll be one of the best nights of my life. That probably wasn’t the best we’ve played. We’ve only done four great gigs as a band. The best one we played in a clinical sense, so far, was probably the Zanzibar in Liverpool in front of about seven people. The thing is though – and this is a bit token-like for a band – if people actually dance and sing along it makes everybody in the room take the moment more seriously and it validates what’s happening on stage. To see an audience dancing like that is heart-warming to say the least.
(Laughs) Isn’t that beautiful? Doesn’t it make you sick?
The last time I spoke to you, you sounded fairly cynical about where FOTL was going as a band and what your prospects were – and you said the reaction people were having to your new music was quite shocking. Has the positive reaction at the gigs have put you in a better mood in general.
They have, but, well... er... The second you start going into cruise control, and start expecting everything to go fucking well, is the second it all goes wrong. It’s an amazing thing. If you go on stage full of ideas and inspiration – which is how you should go on stage – and you expect nothing back. If you start from a position of the pessimism, and the crowd actually gives you something back, it can be a very magical gig. It’s a sign of weakness for a band, from a creative point of view, to get on stage and expect that electricity to just happen for them. I mean bands should fucking play just as hard, if not harder, into a vacuum as they do to a receptive audience. We always had this thing in Mclusky, that we should always be trying to win people over – whether you actually are or not. I don’t care if you’re biggest fucking fan of my music there is, I’m still going to try and smash you over the head with it. I’m never just going to run through a set in such a way that’ll mildly satisfy you. I think bands that do that are disgusting.
Has Mclusky’s song catalogue – at least in a live sense – been retired completely?
Of course it has! I mean, if someone wants to give me half-a-million pounds to play them a bunch of Mclusky songs, I could do with the fucking money. But otherwise it doesn’t make any fucking sense to play them. It would be disrespectful for a start with regards to Kelson, who apart from touring with Mclusky and liking a couple of our songs didn’t have anything to do with that band. In a way it’s a shame and I did have a bit of a melancholic moment with my girlfriend a couple of weeks ago. I was playing through a Mclusky song for the first time in ages and I realised: "I’m never going to play this song again". It was a very real sad moment in a way – I’d never had that kind of moment of clarity before. But then it went as quickly as it came. And the new shit’s far more exciting to me than the old shit. The new girl always wears better shoes.
And she doesn’t want to hear about the old girlfriend.
Yeah (laughs). Well, not too much anyway.
The Future Of The Left are playing the 100 Club on the 30th January – win tickets here. Attendees will be encouraged to record images and films of the performance with cameras/phones/general magic machines. Posters will be put up around the venue to let people know this is okay - and moreover so the security don't give them any hassle - and the footage, if submitted to the band, will be used in a video for another future single! What fun!