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Lucksmiths - Interview Part 2

  by Mark Rowland

published: 27 / 12 / 2003

Lucksmiths - Interview Part 2


In the second part of our interview with Brighton punk rockers Cat on Form, Mark Rowland chats to frontman Steve Ansell about politics, songwriting and cellos

PB : You make no secret that you’re a political band, at least on a socio-political level, but the lyrics seem kind of abstract… SA :Yeah they are. At the moment three of us write words, Jamie doesn’t sing anything, and he doesn’t tend to write any words, but we’re working on it. The rest of us all write words, and we all write words for each other as well, so there’s kind of three different perspectives of what we’re writing about, so sometimes a song’s a combination of meshed up bits, which makes it a bit more, yeah abstract, but also we’re not just writing like it’s supposed to be read like some kind of political essay. We just write about things that occur to us, just stuff we think about, or stuff we talk about to each other, what we feel like. Some of the songs are kind of about struggling with the fact that you have all these beliefs, and it’s really hard to live your life according to them because you’re just kind of forced into a corner, and so it’s that kind of feeling of frustration the song’s about. It does deal with politics, but at the same time it’s a very personal thing. A lot of it occupies that space between what it’s like as a person trying to deal with things, and make sense of stuff, and some of the stuff is just outright, you know, ‘The More We Can Create the More We Can Control’, for example, it’s pretty direct, but a lot of it isn’t. We’re not certain about things, we’re confused about things, just like everyone else is. Also, it’s lyrics. It’s not an essay, and sometimes things are a bit abstract because it’s nice that way. It’s nice to play around with words and use imagery, and use a feel rather than a direct communication. It’s more of an artistic thing. The point isn’t to write an essay. If I wanted to write an essay I’d write an essay. PB : Oh yeah. Fair enough. SA : It’s important to us that we put the lyrics on everything, so people have got that, because obviously, live, a lot of the time, it’s a big load of screamy noise and you can’t hear it. We’re talking about shit that we strongly feel about, so we want people to at least know what that is. PB : This makes me think of bands like Rage Against the Machine, who said ‘we’re anti-capitalist’ then signed to a major. SA : Yeah. I mean things like that. They bug me. Even if they’re like ‘It gets our message out to a wider audience’ and stuff, I don’t know about that. That’d be interesting to see, because I’m not sure with that, I think partly they’ve had some effect, I’m sure there are people out there who’ve read a few books that they wouldn’t have otherwise read because they saw Rage Against the Machine on MTV. On the other hand, there’s a million people walking around in Che Guevara T-shirts who know fuck all about Che Guevara. It’s an image, and it’s totally vacuous, and that’s a shame. PB : I stick with my beliefs with McDonalds, I won’t set foot in there. SA : Yeah none of us do McDonalds. None of us do most things like that, but sometimes you do have to shop in Sainsbury’s. I bought erm, oh, you’ve got Converse shoes as well. They’re made in sweatshops now. Until about three years ago they were made in America and they were made by people on pretty shit wages, but at least it was minimum wage. Now the company’s outsourced to Honduras or some shit. PB : Oh bollocks. SA : Yeah. Maybe you’ve got one that say ‘Made in USA’ on the back. I was so used to buying Converse, because they were made in kind of acceptable conditions, but now they ain’t. I think Vans are, but they’re very expensive. PB : It’s a shame, because they’re cheap and they look pretty good. I always thought they were made in America. I didn’t know that. SA : Well they were until recently, and it’s all very hush-hush. No-one’s ever made a big thing about it. If you look on the label it’ll say ‘Honduras’ instead of USA on it. It’s hard, man, it’s hard to avoid all this crap all the time, because you’re in a position where you can’t just get up and make your own shoes one day, unfortunately. PB : You said before you started working on your album that you were going to do it in a week. Did that work out that way? SA : Well, it was done in a week. It was pretty stressful, I mean every band ever hates recording. Usually most bands hate recording their first few albums, then after a while the penny drops, and they figure out how to do it. When we hated it, Southern (records) said ‘Yeah, everyone hates their first album’s recording.’ It was really stressful, but it was fun. We got all like ‘ahh!’ about things. Because it’s just, especially for bands like us, our thing is to like get in a room and go nuts, to like get in a room and… it’s just a different art. It’s a different thing. It’s like painting and sculpture. Making a record is different to playing live. You’re never going to get what you do live on a record. You’re never, ever gonna get it. You can get pretty close, but you’re never going to get it, so to a certain degree there’s no point trying. You can do different things on a record that you can play with. I mean we haven’t really been able to do that. It’s our first record. We just had these songs we were meant to put on, so we just went in there, and did it all live apart from a few bits of vocals, and then we just mixed it. We had a day off in the middle to be stupid, just to de-stress. I got a load of my friends in and we stood round in a circle and put some room mikes up, and we were all clapping along to the songs. It was great. I love hand-claps. We had a big stupid jam> We got loads of friends in and got loads of stupid instruments, like we got a cello out and we got like violins and shit and just messed around, costing Southern money! PB : Sounds great- punk rock with cellos and hand-claps. SA : I actually wrote some cello parts for a couple of songs, but we didn’t get to record them. I don’t play cello, I was just like ‘urrr (miming cello playing) that sounds good! Let’s do that! Urrrwurrr.’ There’s one specific song that should have cello on it. It’s a shame we didn’t have time to put it in. PB : You can use the bow on a cello? SA : Hmm? PB : You can get a good sound using the bow on a cello? SA : Yeah. PB : Bloody hell. SA : It was probably quite a good cello though, probably made it easier, I dunno. Dan’s mum plays cello. PB : I did GCSE music, and I had a go on a cello, and I sucked. SA : I really wanna learn it. It’s great. I’ve been borrowing it off Dan’s mum. PB : Using the bows- that’s a hard thing to do. SA : Maybe it was a good bow then, because it seemed to work fairly well. PB : Fair enough. Perhaps I was just using a piece of shit one, I mean it was a school one. SA : Yes, school stuff’s never the best funded, unless you’re at Eton or something. PB- Right, question: You’ve got quite a live sound on record anyway. Do you think that’s because you record as a band? SA : Probably yeah. PB : Do you tend to do it all in one take? SA : Some songs we did several takes until we got a good one, but we don’t over-dub or anything. On the album, the only bits that were over-dubs were a few bits of vocals, because sometimes I can just sing better if I do the singing separately to the guitar, so I’m not doing two things at once, so I don’t get confused. Dan mostly does his stuff live, we just play songs, and after we’ve done it three or four times, one of them’s usually the best one. There’s one song on the album that we had a lot of difficulty with. It’s quite complicated, so we ended up having to do that in two halves, and tape splicing, because we did it on an analogue tape, actually splicing the tape together, which we really didn’t want to do, but we just kept fucking it up. We wrote a song that was more complicated than we could actually play basically. None of us are particularly good musicians, so we were really struggling, like ‘C’mon! let’s get it right this time!’ and would just get it wrong again, so we just cut it in half. It worked out that way. That was kind of our first venture into the world of production, I guess. Mostly we just stick some mikes up, play live, then sort of mix it. PB : So that’s basically answered my next one. Do you find it easy to record your songs?- ‘No.’ SA : No, you’re right. It’s just a weird thing to do. It’s an odd kind of environment, because we’re so used to the live environment. Being aware of the fact that you can’t run around everywhere because you’ll knock all the mikes out. We need to work on that. I’m sure we will. I’m sure after making enough stuff you’ll get better at it. I know when we were doing it, Southern were all like ‘Fugazi hated making their first four albums, then after that they realised and now they have a great time making their albums.’ I was like, ‘We have to make four albums before we can enjoy this? Shit!’ I think it’s come out good. PB : Last question: Whose idea was it to delay the album in the end? Yours, or Southern’s? SA- It was Southern’s, mostly. I mean they didn’t just go ‘we’re doing this,’ because that’s not how Southern works. We all actually just sit around and go ‘Look, why should we do this, why should we do that, and we sort it all out, and we sat down and Eva’s back was fucked, so we couldn’t do a tour, and they were like ‘Well look, if we put the album out without a tour, it would be difficult for people to find out about it,’ so if there’s no tour behind it, yeah so maybe we’ve got a few more reviews than I thought we had, but we’re never gonna be the sort of band that are going to be on the front page of a bunch of magazines and have got that kind of thing behind us, and we wouldn’t want to either, because it’s quite disturbing. The whole hype-y industry thing is a bit weird. So they were like ‘Look if you’re not touring it, people aren’t gonna know that it exists, so if you put it back until you can tour, at least there’ll be something behind it.’ Because the last thing you want to do is put out a record. No-one buys it, you’re in debt, so you have to start your next album and the first one hasn’t broken even, because you haven’t sold many copies or whatever. I guess we don’t have to sell that many copies, because we did it in a week, and we didn’t go to some posh studio. It’s not like we took some million pound advance. We don’t have to sell that much to actually break even, but they were just like ‘For your own good, you should try and do it when you’re touring, because you’ll sell a lot of copies on tour, and then you’ll break even and then we’ll know that you’re cool, and you’ve got nothing to worry about,’ but it hasn’t worked, because we put the album back, but we still can’t tour. Eva’s back hasn’t healed, it’s got worse, so we said ‘Shall we put it back again?’ and this time we were like ‘There’s no point putting it back because then it would be so old, they’d just started sending out copies to the press, so we were like, ‘It’ll be in the press, so at least some people will know about it,’ We’re just going to have to try and play as soon as we can, and bring it back to life a bit. It’s far, far from an ideal situation. PB : Good luck with sorting it out, and thank you.

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Lucksmiths - Interview Part 2

Lucksmiths - Interview Part 2

Lucksmiths - Interview Part 2

Lucksmiths - Interview Part 2

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