Interview Date: 01/14/2008
Run Date: 03/12/2009
That which does not kill us…you know the rest, and you can bet that UK superstars Razorlight know it too, after seeing the American brass ring escape their clutches when they released their self-titled 2006 album. Now on a new label (though still part of the same corporate family), Razorlight hopes that the third time will be the charm to cracking the US market, and that third album, Slipway Fires, seems more than capable of doing the job. Bullz-Eye chatted with Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows about working with a “rookie” producer, the downside to opening for U2, and calls his best friend his favorite drummer. Awwwww.
BE: Hello, Andy. How are you?
AB: I’m okay. How are you doing?
BE: I’m doing great, thanks. How are the plans for world domination coming along?
AB: (Laughs) Well, we’re in the right country, I think.
BE: Well first off, I like the new record.
AB: Oh cool, thanks.
BE: I would use the word ‘mature’ to describe a lot of it, but that word makes musicians angry, doesn’t it?
AB: Well, I suppose that…I think that people get worried that that means you’re elderly or you’re appealing to old people. But no, I know what you mean. I think it’s a more mature record than previous records of ours.
BE: I’ve noticed that the piano gets an extra workout this time around.
AB: Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff, I guess Johnny [Borrell, singer and chief songwriter] was doing a lot of writing on the piano, and it just ended up being…there wasn’t a great deal that was preconceived with this record. There was no plan, so I guess it just ended up being a little bit more piano-heavy.
BE: Tell me the difference between working with a veteran producer like Chris Thomas and a relative youngster like Mike Crossey.
AB: You know, the energy and the passion and the creative input is different with somebody who’s at the sort of start of their career. That’s not to say that Chris Thomas didn’t put all of his passion and energy into the record. It’s just that Mike is very hungry for making great records, and he really was sort of sailing the ship with this record. He was very much involved in every single aspect. And I think he’s got a long and fruitful career ahead of him; he’s a very talented man.
BE: Which of his works had made you want to work with him?
AB: We knew he had done a little bit with Arctic Monkeys, and Foals, and stuff like that. But to be honest with you it was more just to do with the way he was when we met him, and then we did a session with Tony Visconti. Initially we did a version of “Hostage of Love” with Tony Visconti, and at the same time we ended up doing initial work with Mike Crossey. It was sort of like a trial; we did two different sessions with two different producers, and obviously we were all under the impression that [the producer we’d end up working with] would definitely be Tony Visconti because he’s a veteran and a pro and we love the work that he has done. And then in the second tryout session, we did this guy Mike Crossey, and he just totally blew us away. I think it was that he worked the desk like I’ve never seen a producer do. He was incredible, really, he just blew us away. It was amazing.
BE: I read the UK newspaper reviews for Slipway Fires, and I have to ask: what on Earth did you guys do to the British press? Some of these reviews are just brutal.
AB: Well, they would say they’re not very much about the music. The few that actually were about the music were very positive.
BE: Q gave you guys a very nice review.
AB: Yeah, well, it was about the music, and I think that helps because it’s a great record that we’re really proud of. Obviously some of them came from a slightly different angle, we will say. But you know, whatever. I guess that’s where we’re at and I’m sure it happens to a lot of bands, you know, where the press decides to have a bit of a pop at them. But that’s fine, that’s all right.
BE: One of my favorite songs on the new album actually feels like it’s almost an answer to some of those critics, and that’s “North London Trash.” Is that what Johnny was going after with that song?
AB: I don’t know. I think on some levels, perhaps, but I think that song is also very tongue-in-cheek, a jab at himself. I think that song covers a variety of subjects, and it’s just a quite humorous song, really.
BE: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I swear I hear a bit of Bob Geldof in this record. Is there a fan of the Boomtown Rats and Sir Bob in the band?
AB: Well, we’re not not fans. I don’t think there’s, like, any kind of hardcore Boomtown Rats fans. I know that myself and Johnny have dabbled in [their music] little bit, but I think that’s probably just a coincidence, yeah.
BE: You spoke with us in 2006, and we asked you about the prospect of breaking through in America, and Johnny, in particular, was not at all amused by the question. So I’d like to ask you now, two and a half years later, how your attitude towards the American market has changed, if at all.
AB: What was the question earlier?
BE: Our editor Will Harris talked to you and your bassist Carl and Johnny, and he was asking, ‘what are your realistic expectations for making it in the States,’ because a lot of the British bands unfortunately just don’t crack the US market.
AB: No, absolutely.
BE: Johnny said, “I see absolutely no reason why the songs on this record shouldn’t be loved by people in this country.”
AB: Well you know, he’s just like an incredibly determined front man, and battles for his band. I think with everything that we do, we have absolute faith in. So that’s the way it was really meant, I suppose, and obviously that didn’t happen for us, but that doesn’t mean that you have to sort of curl up and walk off with your tail between your legs. It’s sort of like, we’ll go back and try again, then.
BE: Right, but it’s got to be a little daunting, isn’t it? The Feeling couldn’t even get their second album released here. The Kaiser Chiefs didn’t even bother doing press with their last record.
AB: Well we just, you know, it’s under a new record label, so I think…perhaps we’re a little bit older and wiser, yes, but at the same time I think we’re feeling really quite excited.. I think our expectations are perhaps slightly different than they were a few years ago. I think what we’ve figured out here is, just to really exist in this country, at all, that’s what we would like. We spent the last week with our new label, hanging out with them and doing interviews and going around playing a few sessions and stuff. It’s honestly the first time that we’ve really felt like we’ve got a proper home and team here with Mercury. So I guess we’ve got reason to be excited again, and not forgetting that we’re really into our record.
BE: Will they be leading with the same single that the UK label lead with? Is it going to be “Wire to Wire”?
AB: It is, yeah, we quite like the idea of going with that, because we felt it’s a little bit different and it just felt like the sound we wanted to go for. It’s not necessarily a fair representation of the whole album, but it’s certainly doing something a little bit braver than just coming out with a straightforward pop song.
BE: All right, who’s the best band in England that those of us on the other side of the pond haven’t heard of yet?
AB: Um…in my opinion?
BE: Yes, in your opinion.
AB: And not in the band’s? Obviously I wouldn’t want to speak for everyone. I really like a band called the Guillemots.
BE: I’ve heard of those guys, actually.
AB: I love that band; it’s my favorite UK band. That’s probably about it, really.
BE: No, that’s fine. Of all the bands currently on the scene, you guys came in with this huge wave of British bands, but which ones do you think people will still be talking about 20 years from now?
AB: Bands of our generation?
BE: Yeah, like the last three or four years.
AB: Well, quite clearly the Killers; I’m a huge fan of that band so I like to think that they will still be very much around in ten years’ time because I think they are going to be making great music as long as they can. You know, I’ve got a feeling we might, but I don’t know. And who else? How many do you want me to list? How many did you want? It’s tough isn’t it, because people…you know, things happen, things change. I like the idea of the unpredictability of things, aside from the fact that I think the Killers will be around.
BE: I always imagined that that scene of British bands is like participating in those “7 Up” movies. Have you seen any of those? Where they get this group of kids together every seven years to see where they have been?
AB: Oh yeah, it’s called “7 Up” isn’t it? I think that’s what it’s called.
BE: I think “42 Up” at this point, right?
AB: Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s right, I think.
BE: That’s how I picture Razorlight and Keane and Editors and Hard-Fi, Kaiser Chiefs and Muse. I would love to see…
AB: I think Muse will definitely be around, making records for a long time. I think Muse has certainly got longevity. So the other bands, you know, it’s a lot to play for. Who knows? I always remember reading that Echo & the Bunnymen were always hotly tipped for world domination back in the day, and not U2. You know, it’s interesting.
BE: All right, well, we’ve plowed through my questions. I only have one left and it’s just kind of a throwaway one. Who’s the most underrated drummer of all time?
AB: Who’s the most underrated?
BE: Underrated, yeah. I didn’t ask you who your favorites are; I want to know who you think is the most underrated.
AB: Wow, who’s the most underrated…[talks to himself] come on, Andy. I think about that all the time, and now I’ve gone blank. Who do you think is the most underrated drummer? I would like to get my brain thinking.
BE: Who do I think is the most underrated drummer?
BE: [Stumped] Oh, hell. [Note: My brain kicked in the second the call was over. Ringo Starr, you dumbass.]
AB: Who’s your favorite drummer?
BE: I was a big Rush fan growing up, so Neil [Peart], Stewart Copeland, Carter [Beauford] in Dave Mathews’ band. Mark Brzezicki, I think, is a very underrated drummer.
AB: Yeah, he’s a Brit, isn’t he?
BE: Nobody talks about Dominic Howard from Muse. That guy can wail.
AB: He’s one of my best friends. He’s incredible, but I never thought he was underrated. Maybe he is, but what constitutes being underrated?
BE: Yeah, fair enough. I don’t read the drummer mags.
AB: Yeah, well let’s say Dom Howard then, because he’s my friend. So yeah, he’s an incredible drummer.
BE: Are we going to get a new record from them soon?
AB: They’re working on it. They’re in the early stages.
BE: No, I want it now.
AB: Yeah, no, it will be here. Dom said they’re getting really excited. There’s a lot of great stuff kicking around for them.
BE: So you guys have a pretty big tour planned in the U.S. right? How many dates are you playing?
AB: Well, we’re still putting it together because there’s a few things we might end up doing that we’re quite excited about, so I don’t know right yet. We’re doing a couple of dates [in February] and then we’re coming back in March for a slightly more substantial tour, and then there are a couple of things that we’re looking at. I think in the next six months we’ll be here quite a lot, which is nice.
BE: Are you going to be headlining or are you going to be touring to support someone else?
AB: Who knows? There’s a couple of exciting options, so we’ll see. I mean, if it’s with the right band, if it’s with the perfect band, then we would happily go and support the band. But at the same time, it’s always good to get out there and do it yourself.
BE: Well, U2 has a new record coming out; maybe you could get on that slot, right?
AB: We’ve done some dates with them before in Europe. I just think the gulf between the two bands is too much there, whoever it is. You get 70,000 U2 fans in a stadium and all they want to see is U2. Whereas if you get a slightly younger crowd who’s coming to see a band of today –not to say that U2 is not a band of today but you know what I mean – then the crowds tend to be a little bit more forgiving or a little bit more eager to see another band. Do you know what I mean? But actually, doing those gigs with the Rolling Stones and U2, like we did a few years ago, it was actually just more for the band to be able to say that they had done it.
BE: So the size of the crowd isn’t as important as who’s in the crowd?
AB: Well no, I just think that if you’ve got two bands who are from a similar generation, even better still if they are from the same sort of class like you just said, like we were talking about a minute ago, like the class of 2004 or whatever it was, then that’s perfect. That’s an evening with a generation, you know. I don’t think about the crowd, I just mean the two bands are more of a kind of unified thing, you know.
BE: You know it’s funny. They do all these package tours here in the States with all these bands that made hit records in the ‘80s and I always wondered why don’t they do that with some of the…
AB: Current bands?
BE: Yeah, exactly. Like, why aren’t you guys and the Kaiser Chiefs and Bloc Party all touring together?
AB: Yeah, [Bloc Party drummer] Matt Tong, there’s a great drummer.
BE: Yeah, that guy’s an octopus. Well, I’ll keep you on schedule. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us, Andy. Best of luck with the record and maybe we will see you on the road.AB: Yeah thank you very much, mate. Take care.