Interview with Gordon Moakes
by: David Medsker
Bloc Party are kicking ass and taking names. The
multiracial London quartet has a stunning debut,
Silent Alarm, on the racks, and
theyíre taking both sides of the pond by storm. Bullz-Eye caught up with Bloc
Party bassist Gordon Moakes (pictured far left), who took us to school on the ins and outs of indie
Bullz-Eye: When I was first supposed to talk to you, you were in Denver.
Where are you now?
Gordon Moakes: San Francisco.
BE: Is this your first trip to the States?
GM: No. As a band, itís our fourth, actually. But itís the second proper
tour -- weíve only come in for bits and bobs before.
BE: Are you getting to see more of the country this time around?
GM: The first time we saw a good part of the west coast and the east
coast. This time, weíre sort of tracing a similar route again, hitting Vancouver
and Portland, and then San Francisco and LA.
BE: And Mexico City, right?
GM: Yeah, which weíre kind of excited about. Itís a whole new terrain for
BE: For a while, it seemed like the only UK bands that were making it
across the pond were these sensitive minstrels.
GM: (laughs) What, like Travis and -
BE: Coldplay, and now Aqualung. You guys are definitely not that.
GM: No. Weíre a rejection of all that, and a finishing to that kind of
BE: What was it like starting your band and watching those kinds of bands
GM: We always had a sense of what we didnít want to do. But then again,
thereís always going to be bands like that, you know? Youíve got Keane now, and
Coldplayís still really huge. Theyíre kinda good at what they do, but our
starting point was, letís be a little more visceral.
BE: Were you met with any resistance when you first started gigging?
GM: I think initially, people werenít quite sure what to make of it, and
there was talk of it being a racket and so on. But it seems like the time has
come around for more energetic kinds of bands. I think that, even two and three
years ago, when the Strokes record came out, people were a lot more open minded
towards that sort of thing. So itís just been a cycle, I guess.
BE: Tell me one of the bandís musical influences that people wouldnít
know from listening to the album.
GM: Oh, okay. Les Savy Fav. Theyíre an American band, a bit like the
Liars and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but a bit before them. Um, who else? Mattís a big
Fleetwood Mac fan.
BE: I saw that in the bio!
GM: Iím not sure thatís rubbed off on the record. We all grew up on indie
New York, bands like Sebadoh and Pavement.
BE: I just wasnít sure if there was a band that you all listened to but
werenít trying to emulate.
GM: Mogwai. Theyíre pretty much my favorite band. But we didnít want to
make instrumental post-rock music.
BE: There hasnít been a good feud in rock for a while. Letís start one
right now. Who do you want to start a feud with?
GM: Ha ha! Well, theyíre trying to start a fight with us and Oasis.
BE: Why Oasis?
GM: I donít know, but apparently someone asked Liam (Gallagher, Oasisí
lead singer) what he thought of us, and he said, ďTheyíre like a bunch of
University Challenge students.Ē And we just responded by saying that their
insult was disappointing. (laughs)
BE: Well, Liamís a ponce. Did you hear the story about Tony Hadley almost
kicking his teeth in?
GM: No, I didnít. Was this recent?
BE: No, this was years ago. But I remembered it because I loved the idea
of the Spandau Ballet singer beating the snot out of Liam Gallagher.
GM: (chuckling) You know, in private, we badmouth bands constantly, but
thereís something a bit desperate about badmouthing bands in the press and
interviews. It just smacks of a lack of confidence, almost.
BE: And that would certainly explain Oasisí last few records after they
started the fight with Blur.
GM: Exactly. And even now, theyíre trying to make up for the fact that
their music is just not relevant. (laughs) And we donít have a particular beef
with them, you know, although we were never fans particularly of what they did.
BE: I was wondering if the press would start pitting you against someone
like the Kaiser Chiefs.
GM: Yeah, thatís been attempted, but the truth is weíre really good
friends with them.
BE: Which band would you most like to work with?
GM: Iíd like to work with Bjork, actually. That has always been my
ambition. And Iíd love to work with DJ Shadow, though I donít know if he does
rock collaborations anymore, since he had so much trouble with the U.N.K.L.E.
GM: Well, I know he found it difficult working with rock musicians.
BE: Whatís the one song that Bloc Party wishes they could call their own?
GM: Ooh, um, well, this is an odd one, because weíve never done a cover
of any band, because we could just never agree on how we did it. We have such
massive difference in opinion over stuff and a different range of tastes, but I think
it would be something like ďLoverís SpitĒ by Broken Social Scene. We all love
the Broken Social Scene record.
BE: Tell me about Keleís collaboration with the Chemical Brothers. How
did that come together?
GM: Well, I think they were looking for an interesting, distinctive voice
to work with on the record, but I think, to be honest with you, there is some
disappointment that it wasnít harnessed in a way that best suited his voice. It
was a compromise, I felt.
BE: I agree, they built this house track that didnít really fit him.
GM: Yes, youíre right, and itís a shame, because Kele had a lot of
lyrical ideas for that track, but they didnít really use much of it.
BE: One line made it to the final mix.
GM: Exactly. Itís a bit of a shame, but thatís how collaborations go
BE: Your music is modeled after a lot bands with frighteningly short
careers. Are you planning on going out the same way, or are you in it for the
GM: Tell me who you mean. Give me some examples.
BE: Iím thinking of Gang of Four, Iím thinking ofÖ
GM: Well, Gang of Four made records until 1984, so they had a five-year
career, initially. But theyíre back. But for us, the model of being a band is
Radiohead. Theyíve done it the right kind of way, the way that we would want to
do it. I hope that weíre more along those lines.
BE: If Bloc Party could open for any band at any point in their career,
who would it be and when?
GM: I think we were asked this, and Iím trying to remember what I said. I
donít know, thatís a tough one. You donít want to play with a band thatís too
good, do you? (laughs) Um, well, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs when they were just
starting to break in New York, or Sonic Youth back in 1991, something like that,
playing with Nirvana.
BE: Last question: your drummer (Matt) plays like he has four arms. How
does he do that?
GM: I donít know, actually. Heís just never satisfied, and always wants
to play better. He keeps adding things that nobody else can do. It pushes us all
to be better, you know?
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