Scotland Week: Franz Ferdinand | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Scotland Week: Franz Ferdinand

"We're not even a poor country, yet 800,000 people live in poverty and parts of Glasgow have the lowest mortality rate in Europe." - Paul Thomson

Sep 04, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

We have a special theme on Under the Radar’s website this week which we’re simply calling Scotland Week. All throughout the week we will be posting interviews, reviews, lists, and blog posts relating to Scotland and in particular Scottish music. For some of the Scotland Week Q&As we emailed out the same set of Scottish related questions to various different musicians from the country.

For this interview we talk to Franz Ferdinand. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the release of the band’s self-titled debut album, a record that was met with near universal critical acclaim and was also a commercial success in both the U.K. and the U.S., among other countries. Franz Ferdinand also won the coveted Mercury Prize in 2004, given annually to the best album by an artist from the United Kingdom. The Glasgow-based post-punk/indie rock four-piece formed in 2002, its members having played in various other bands prior. Frontman Alex Kapranos and drummer Paul Thomson had previously played in Yummy Fur together. They were then joined by guitarist Nick McCarthy and bassist Bob Hardy to become Franz Ferdinand, named after Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination helped spark WWI (although initially the band were inspired by a racehorse named Archduke Ferdinand). The band has released four full-length albums, the most recent being 2013’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. They have also put together the most recent Late Night Tales compilation, which is due out September 15th.

Read on as Paul Thomson discusses his favorite Scottish albums, bands, authors, and films, as well as his thoughts on the Scottish Independence Referendum, in which in a few weeks the people of Scotland get to vote on whether or not to secede from the United Kingdom and have Scotland become its own country.

What are your thoughts on the Scottish Independence referendum?

I think it’s great that Scottish people are actually being asked if they would like the opportunity. In an age of supposed political apathy people here are engaging with politics and showing they actually care about who governs them.

Are you for or against independence? Could you explain why?

I’m very much for it, a year ago I didn’t see the point but having read more convincing arguments pro-independence I’ve swung to the yes camp. It was kinda sealed by an article I read today which posed the question: if Scotland were already independent, would it hand over its sovereignty in a union with England and Wales, handing over important decision making powers and allowing nuclear weapons to be stored there. Of course not, right? We’re not even a poor country, yet 800,000 people live in poverty and parts of Glasgow have the lowest mortality rate in Europe. If things continue the way they are under the current government which was not elected by a Scottish vote, I see a very bleak future. Overall though, the debate has ignited a spark of idealism and hope, particularly among young people, who want to have a role in how their future is written, it’s really exciting.

How do you think Scottish Independence might affect the arts and the Scottish music scene?

I don’t think it will change too much; good Scottish film, art, and music will continue to be made no matter what happens. The arts in the U.K. as a whole has already suffered under austerity cuts so I can only see it improving.

What is your favorite album by another Scottish artist and why?

If You’re Feeling Sinister by Belle and Sebastian is a proper life defining work of art which was written and released because it had to be.

Which Scottish musician/band most inspired you to start playing music?

Nobody Scottish really, although the ‘90s underground scene definitely inspired me to move there when I was 21, the bands there were putting out their own records, doing split singles, putting on their own shows in non-gig spaces, more so than was happening in Edinburgh.

Who is the most underrated or underappreciated Scottish musician or band?

There was a lot going on in Glasgow when I first moved there in 1998, a really exciting, vibrant underground scene, I met Alex [Kapranos] about that time, he was putting on shows in the basement of the 13th NoteMogwai, The Yummy Fur, Eska, stuff like that. Belle and Sebastian were starting to get going about then. I always loved Trout, who were like a really scrappy version of The 13th Floor Elevators with these really absurd almost nursery rhyme like lyrics but they were pretty untogether so it was always on the edge of unravelling at any moment.

Who is your favorite new Scottish band or solo artist?

Ela Orleans.

What is your favorite film that takes place in Scotland?

That Sinking Feeling, Orphans, Gregory’s Girl.

Who is your favorite Scottish author and what’s your favorite book by them?

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you Lanark by Alasdair Gray, although I am ashamed to admit I’ve never read it. I have a copy, I can see it right now. One day. I like James Kelman who is a writer and political activist who writes very dark “sweary” prose. How Late It Was, How Late is the one to read.

Can you explain the Scottish aesthetic and how the Scottish music scene is different from others around the world?

I can only speak for the Glasgow scene really but it’s really strong. Right now there’s lots of exciting bandsGolden Teacher, Casual Sex, Sacred Pawsand labels, most of whom started out as clubs, like Optimo, LuckyMe, Huntleys & Palmers, and Numbers. It’s not that expensive to live here, so you can work part time and make art or music when you’re not working and have plenty of time left over for partying.

What do you most love about Scotland and being Scottish and what do you most hate about Scotland and being Scottish?

I love it because it’s home much the same as anyone sees the country they were born in. I like the people and the humor and the weather isn’t half as bad as people tell you.

I love rural Scotland, it’s nice to get out of the city and it’s never far, you’re only ever a 40 minute drive away from breathtaking scenery. Apologies if I’m starting to sound like a tourist board film. It’s a great place to live, people work hard and play harder, regardless of how much they earn and in terms of socio-economics, things haven’t always been great for everyone but people just get on with it. That’s not to say they prefer it that way, now there’s a very real opportunity for Scotland to better itself, to not settle for what it’s dealt as a region of the U.K.


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