Bill Cummings 28/06/2007
Eleven years on from their first single "Queen of the Troubled Teens" Scottish rock group Idlewild are set to release a greatest hits and b-sides collection in the Autumn. Having left the EMI imprint in 2005, earlier this year they released their latest album Make Another World on the Sequel imprint.With the release of their latest single “A Ghost In the Arcade”, I caught up with idlewild guitarist Rod Jones, to talk about Idlewild's past, present and future.
Hi how are you, how did your latest tour go?
It went really well, we were playing the gigs we didn't do that were cancelled so it was good. We've been touring on and off, we did Istanbul on Thursday which was interesting then we did Bristol the last two nights.
What's the mix between old and new material in your set lists at the moment?
It's a mix of everything, we want people to hear as much as they can, without becoming slightly sick of it, it's just a mixture from all the records, including stuff from the newer one.
Have you got any planned for later in the year?
Yeah we've definitely got more planned, it seems like there's possibly going to be a Best Of in the autumn so we'll probably tour that around September and October. We'll do a British and European tour.
Are you doing any festivals this year?
Yep, we're doing Truck fest and Connect in Scotland, and one called Outsider.
I also read that you were supporting Iggy Pop at some point this summer…
Yeah we're doing a festival with him in a stately home near where I grew up, it's for Jamie Oliver's charity.
Tell me about the idea behind the Greatest Hits…
Our old label have been talking about it for a while, it was just a case of whether we would be involved.
Will there be any new tracks on that? If it's coming out on your old label, I suppose not?
No, but there will be some from this last record, there'll also be a sort of b-sides compilation containing some of the earlier stuff, so I think it'll be a good full stop on things.
So will you be back in the studio after that?
We'll probably start writing again in the summer, between festivals.
Do you approach songwriting in a different way from when you first started?
We approach it in a different way every record, sometimes because we have different members. I mean it depends how your feeling at the time; with Warnings and Promises it was pretty much written on acoustic guitars and a voice and just building on those songs, and this record it was just written in a room jamming it out. With Warnings and Promises and The Remote Part, it got more and more writing songs acoustically and I think you can tell that with the strength of the records.
How do you think the places where you grew up or where you live, affect your sound and lyrics?
Everything effects that, I think if you're an honest band and write things on a honest level then you just kind of let things happen. I don't think you can sit down intentionally to write a song about sunshine or whatever, I think songwriting is just a reflection of your life or your personality at the time, and everything effects that: if you've just moved, or whether you just got cab or you've got a new girl friend everything effects your state of mind and that's why we've changed so much as a band because we've changed as people.
It's funny because people still expect you to sound like you did when you first started.
I was a really different person then, I was 18 naive and excited to be playing a toilet in Tumbridge Wells. I don't feel like that anymore, of course I still enjoy doing what I do. But we're all thirty years old, it's a different band and we're different people, of course the same core is still there but we've changed.
Do you think the success of "The Remote Part" put more pressure on you as a band?
I think there was to an extent but we tried to keep ourselves away from that. After that record people were expecting us to make a big stadium record or some balls out punk record, but we did neither, we just did what we wanted to do and I think it's a really good record because of it, which I think threw a lot of people. I think had we done what a lot of other bands do when you find a formula that works and just repeat that, had we made another Remote Part or World in Arms, then I'm sure the next record would have been really successful but you can't tell, and none of us really care. We're happier doing what we want to do.
Did you get fed up of getting compared to REM when your last album was released?
I don't really care! They're a band I absolutely love, I don't see what it is personally, the comparisons to me go as far as saying we're a good melodic rock band that write good lyrics, and I think REM do that as well, in terms of anything else I don't see it myself but obviously there is something that people hear or take from it that reminds them of that, that's a good thing to me and I don't mind that at all.
They're not a bad band to be compared with...
I don't think anybody's accused us of ripping them off; people obviously see some kind of affinity between the two and that's great, they are a proper, fantastic band.
There's a lot of talk about your new album Make Another World being an attempt to reconnect with the older 'Idlewild sound', how intentional was this? Or did it just come out organically?
It's how it came out, we'd spent so much time away from the band, well me and Roddy did recording his solo record, we were all just really ready to go. We just set up our gear and went for it live, it was important to make a record like that, spur of the moment, play it and record it. I don't think it was about having to be loud, or intentionally write rock songs, what was different was it had a sense of urgency about it, but it was considered, which I like. Before we were so busy touring or pushed to write stuff there's a real sense of urgency with all our records, certainly something like 100 Broken Windows that came to mind with this, but in a different way it's informed, I guess, by having been in a band for ten years. We're a lot wiser I guess.
You brought back the producer David Enriga for this record, what did he bring to the table?
Well he did 100 Broken Windows and he did parts of The Remote Part as well, we've had a great relationship with him for years. We need to look to ourselves to change, we knew exactly what we wanted and what we wanted to do, we didn't need a producer to tell us that, we just wanted someone we had a good relationship with who could get the best out of us, record it and make it sound good. We knew that David would do that he's a talented producer and an amiable guy. He's good at working in odd situations, we built the studio with him in a rehearsal room temporarily and we recorded permanently live and it was a different experience for us really. We wouldn't have been comfortable with someone in that environment unless it was with someone we really trusted and we really trust David.
Your new single "A Ghost in the Arcade" is coming out as a download. What do you think about the digitisation of music?
I love it and I hate it, I love the fact that you can get stuff released and to the fans instantly and I think some of this MySpace stuff is great. But I also think that it's killing the industry a little bit; everybody seems to be feeling the pinch.
It seems to be more about single tracks to the detriment of albums, don't you think?
It's the death of patience. If you don't want to wait for a record, you can immediately download it from a site before it's even out, you haven't had to wait for it, you haven't had to buy it, once you've listened to it once you're onto the next thing, it's such a sort of throwaway conveyer belt. I think that it's kind of the death of patience, you don't take the time to listen to a record three or four times anymore, people just want to hear that song that they've danced to at a disco and they can just download it and move onto the next band. It's made it really difficult for bands to build up a loyal fan base and to be around for a long time. I think we're kind of a dying breed in that way…
"A Ghost In The Arcade" is out now on Sequel.