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Biffy Clyro

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Ben Johnston, am: 09.02.2005 ]

Irgendjemand muss in das Wasser in Glasgow etwas getan haben. Anders lässt sich die Fülle an hervorragenden Bands aus dieser Stadt kaum erklären. Biffy Clyro sind auch so eine Band - haben schon einige Platte auf dem Buckel und legen mit jeder neuen noch mal eins oben drauf. Das neue Machwerk "Infinity Land" ist da keinesfalls eine Ausnahme. Von herkömmlichen und durch Konventionen ausgebluteten Songs hat man sich schon seit langem verabschiedet. Vielmehr reihen sich hier unerwartete Breaks an schiefes Timing und einen ausgesprochenen Sinn für feine Popsensibilitäten. Wir sprachen mit Schlagzeuger Ben, der uns per Telefon in sympathisch breitem schottischen Akzent Auskunft über das laut/leise Spiel, die Geburt des Songs und den Tod gab.

 

Musicscan: Ben, where are you right now?

Biffy Clyro: I'm at home right now actually.

Musicscan: Fortunately you don't follow the normal rock format as far as the song structures are concerned. I was wondering how you go about writing the songs?

Biffy Clyro: I guess the same way than most other bands. Because our songs are complex and angular we can't jam as much as other bands with maybe five people in it. Our songs are more fixed from the start rather than jamming out and making cool songs out of that. The songs are more set in stone beforehand. So basically we start with the guitar and vocals and if it doesn't sound good with just that it is not going to sound good later on.

Musicscan: So do you talk a lot about how the songs should be and sort of conceptualize before you actually start playing?

Biffy Clyro: No, not really before we start playing. Just to get it going we talk a little and then Simon comes in with a guitar and he shows us the chords and then I get the chance to listen to it maybe just once and then we try to play it as soon as possible and that is when we start to talk about the arrangement of it, the tempo, the time signatures and that is when it all starts to change. We don't do a lot of talking beforehand, we just talk a lot after we got the basics down.

Musicscan: Tell me something about the recording sessions this time around. I believe you recorded with Chris Sheldon again.

Biffy Clyro: Yes, we did. He is so easygoing and gets such a great sound. We realized for the first couple of albums we just wanted a really powerful and clean sound and Chris was the obvious choice for that. We had the idea of using someone else this time around, but we ended up with Chris again, because we work so well together and he manages to create such a kick-ass sound. We decided to take a little bit longer with this album, because "The Vertigo Of Bliss" we did really fast, we recorded most of the music on the first day. So this time we wanted to take a little more time and experiment a bit more. That is pretty much what we did.

Musicscan: What influence does he have on the record? Is he more of an engineering person or does he really have an impact on the songwriting?

Biffy Clyro: Yes, you got it right. He is basically an engineer. He just makes the sound good. He came up to Glasgow a couple of weeks before we went into the studio and did a little bit of preproduction. We played him some songs at the Beggars Banquet office, but I would say he is not really as involved as other producers are. He is definitely more of an engineer type guy.

Musicscan: What fascinates you about the quiet/loud dynamic that you also frequently use on the new album?

Biffy Clyro: That is hard to put into words why it is fascinating for us, but it just always has been. Ever since back when we were in school and we were watching MTV music awards or something like that and we saw Nirvana for the first time playing "Lithium". Just that dynamic, I had never been aware that they are doing that before then. It just blew me away. I was listening to techno music at the time, but just hearing that dynamic totally changed my life I think. I think that goes for all of us. We are all big fans of bands like Mogwai that use that dynamic as well. It has just always been a feature, but I am afraid I can't really explain why. We just always feel like that is something that we have to do in a song. For me the most interesting part in a song is the dynamics and we try to be as dynamic as possible.

Musicscan: Is that something you think consciously about as in that you have to tackle the extremes in a song? Do a really quiet part and then counteract it.

Biffy Clyro: I don't think it is quite like that. We don't say beforehand that it the song has to have that dynamic, it is just kind of the way it happens. I think when we started out, it was a bit more like that, a bit more planned. But now it happens really naturally, because we have been doing it for so long I think.

Musicscan: In how far do you think you are influenced by the Glasgow music scene?

Biffy Clyro: Maybe subconsciously we are. I would like to think not really at all. We don't sit around and listen to a lot of Glasgow bands. We don't really count ourselves as being part of a scene. I mean we love bands like Mogwai or Aereogramme who are good friends of ours. So just hanging out with these people must rub off a little bit, but we don't think of ourselves as having a Glasgow sound at all.

Musicscan: I personally think there is a great number of bands coming out of Glasgow lately. What do you think the reason for that is? Is there a certain infrastructure that supports this kind of music?

Biffy Clyro: I guess there are a few good venues and stuff like that and that always helps. You can definitely get good gigs in Glasgow. I mean what happens is a band gets really popular and people start searching that particular city and it just so happens that Glasgow has always had a few good bands. It is just that people don't know it. You get a good band and then the journalists flock to that place and discover a lot of good bands, but the fact is that there are a lot of good bands everywhere, but they have to be found.

Musicscan: Do you think because of bands like Franz Ferdinand, Glasgow has been getting maybe even too much media attention lately?

Biffy Clyro: Yes, I think that is what it is. That is what always happens. If a band does really well from somewhere you get follow-up bands. You just need a big band out of your town to get noticed. But I don't think it is getting too much attention. Franz Ferdinand's success definitely has not done any difference for us.

Musicscan: Is there a certain lyrical theme on the album that you could identify that stands out?

Biffy Clyro: I don't write the lyrics, so I can't comment directly on that, but I can comment from my point of view. He is talking a lot about death on the album, because we had people close to us die within the last couple of years. So I think he is dealing with that a lot. Of course, he is always talking about love, which is a feature in most songs. And some songs are just really about random situations and feelings that Simon has in that point in time. I don't think there is a particular theme running through the entire album. It is definitely not a conceptual album about one particular thing. It is more cohesive as an album. However, death features more prominently on this album than the rest.

Musicscan: Do you consider the lyrics and the music two different entities or do they mutually relate to each other?

Biffy Clyro: I would say that they are two different entities as you said. The music always comes first and we get the songs out as good as possible and the lyrics and things like that come much later. For us it is definitely two different things. If you listen to our album you can hear the music and you may think "oh this is really happy stuff", but when you get into the lyrics you realize that it is quite dark. Simon likes to use that contrast. When we have some rather happy piece of music, he likes to contrast that with some dark lyrics.

Musicscan: Biffy Clyro being a three piece, have you ever considered adding another guitar player or another person in general? Where do you see the advantages of being a three-piece?

Biffy Clyro: We have thought about it, but always turned it down for the simple reason that the three of us work so well together. Creating and learning songs happens really fast for us and we have done three albums in three years. It is perfect that we become faster like this. It is basically about the vibe of it. Maybe in the future we will think about somebody else and take some of the pressure off Simon. But at the moment we are really happy, just the three of us. We don't need anyone extra to make this band good.

Musicscan: What's it like to play in a band with your brother? Was it weird at first? Is there a lot of fighting?

Biffy Clyro: (laughs) I am afraid to say no. It is the exact opposite. We are just friends and get along with each other really well and practically never fall out. People always see it as a weird thing, but I have never known anything else. I have never played in a band except with James and Simon.

Musicscan: I believe you both went to audio engineering school.

Biffy Clyro: Yes, we left school and obviously the band had started by then and we took the band really seriously, but it we hadn't yet been signed and it was just to take the pressure off from your parents and also from yourself. It was just to do something, we couldn't just be bums. So it was to pass some time until the band really kicked off, so we went to college and music school, which was great, because it gave James and I a lot of background information on the audio state of things. We got sort of a head start in the studio. Some people talk to the producer, but they can't really explain what they are trying to say because they don't have the knowledge. But that gave us some head start on how things were called and how things went. It is really handy to have that in a recording situation and also a live situation.

Musicscan: Could you imagine doing that after the band?

Biffy Clyro: Yes, absolutely. We are all really interested in that to be honest. At the moment we are happy to let someone else record our stuff so that we can concentrate on the music, but we are definitely looking to record other bands in the future.

Musicscan: What other things are you interested in besides music and art?

Biffy Clyro: Simon and I are really big movie fans. We watch a lot of movies. I guess that inspires us, but it is hard to say because some of the best inspiration is always subconscious. If you consciously take something from someone than you can copy an idea almost instead of letting it flow naturally. So we rent a lot of movies, but we also listen to very different kinds of music like jazz, classical, hip hop.

Musicscan: Would you say your music also has a cinematic quality to it?

Biffy Clyro: I would hope so. Again it is something from the subconscious, it is not something we think about. But I like to think it happens sometimes. Some of our earlier songs from the first album, they take you on a journey and through various feelings. And also as far as the story unfolds I think we have cinematic qualities. It is just something that we hope happens, every time we write a song.

Musicscan: What makes for a good live show in your opinion?

Biffy Clyro: A good live show is a band being honest, not doing the same thing every night like a job and letting the music take them and the audience. Just giving it their all, that is the most important thing for us. When you go see a band, even if you have an off night, I really want to see that they are putting everything they have into it. When you see that they are not interested, it makes me not interested. I can't be bothered watching a band that are not putting their all into it. Giving 100% is the most important thing for us and try to enjoy it, of course.

Musicscan: Do you think you are received differently in England or Scotland than in Germany for example?

Biffy Clyro: I can' really read the German articles, so I don't really know how we are received over there, but the one thing I have noticed from the shows we did recently in Hamburg is that the German people seem to get it quicker and better than the rest of the people. Over here we were ill perceived for such a long time. People called us a grunge, pop-rock or a punk band or something like that. In Germany when we did interviews everybody got it right away. Now you must think you guys are really smart (laughs).

 
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