We Are Scientists
Georgie O'Toole 06/11/2006
On the 3rd of November, 2006 Georgie O'Toole met We Are Scientists at the Birmingham Academy and discussed killing for pleasure, torn oral sphincters, if all Germans are liars, and how everybody gets beaten up sometimes.
“It's a bit of a celeb-fest up here, I'm afraid - we've got an Editor and a Kaiser Chief in the dressing room…” We Are Scientists' tour manager tells GIITTV as we head into the (surprisingly dreary, considering the calibre of musicians the Birmingham Academy attracts) backstage rooms of the venue. That should give you an indication of the power of We Are Scientists. Not only is there a substantial number of people queuing up outside in the freezing cold at 4pm in anticipation of tonight's gig, We Are Scientists' musical peers have made the trip to chat to them. With their characteristic onstage witty banter being almost as revered as their music, GIITTV was eager to see if We Are Scientists were as entertaining in person. Talking to Keith Murray (lead vocals and guitar) and Michael Tapper (backing vocals and drums), we weren't disappointed.
(On entering the dressing room, Keith sees there is a shower in the corner, which he views with considerable delight. Michael heads over and turns it on.)
K: Is it cool if we turn on the shower like super hot so that the whole room gets really steamy and like a sauna?
Well I think that would set the tone nicely….
M: It's on super hot already…
K: You see I want when people open that door for steam to come out.
So are we ready to go?
K: Ok wait. Give us a second.
Both of them pause for a moment and tell us they're psyching themselves up.
M: Ok we're ready.
Ok, so obviously you're called We Are Scientists…
K: Actually, if I can take a step back, it's NOT that obvious to everybody. A lot of places list our band name as 'We Are ScientisT'
M: Yeah and that doesn't make any sense.
I saw an interview on the internet where you were called 'THE We are Scientists' - how does that make you feel?
K: It makes me feel…well I mean, to have that sort of title, for a band to be known as 'The' is like being knighted. See The Strokes weren't initially called The Strokes, they were just Strokes, but they blew up really fast, so they got the 'The'.
So are you hoping that in a few years you'll progress to the stage where you get 'The' on your name?
K: We'll get to 'The We Are Scientists' one of these days.
And will you officially lose the 's' on the end of 'The We Are Scientists'
K: No that's just ignorance.
M: That would be worse. Though if they added a 'z' to the end of 'We Are Scientists' that would be even worse.
K: Oh yeah…
M: I'd quit music.
Ok so band names aside, you've been on tour. It's quite a long tour I understand, how are you dealing with the exhaustion? (At this point, Michael checks the shower; frustrated that the room is not filling up with steam He turns the hot tap on in the sink in the hopes that this water will actually produce some steam.)
K: Now by all evidence that water should get, like, scolding hot. Once it warms up, once you put your fingers under that, it should just shear the meat right off the bone. You should just pull away perfectly raw bone…
M: Now back to dealing with exhaustion…
K: Oh yeah. Dealing with exhaustion, well that's still up in the air. After years of trying, we still don't really know how to deal with it. Last night I tried going to bed at a reasonable hour, like two am or something, HE tried drinking free drinks at a bar.
And who would you say came off better?
K: I don't know I mean, look, he looks pretty good…we both look pretty terrible, right?
M: I feel like my face is all swollen.
K: That's because you got punched a couple of times by kids.
By kids? Was it those emo kids? I hear they're quite dangerous…
M: Emo kids? I could CRUSH emo kids.
K: Yeah emo kids can't throw a punch. I love 'em, but they can't throw a punch.
M: I love 'em but I could crush them. They don't hurt me.
So you don't rate them on the toughness scales then?
K: On the fight-o-meter? No, no. They're good kids, but...no.
M: They get beaten up.
K: By people like us. They should learn to throw a punch.
Do you think new ravers would win in a fight against emos then, since these two forces are supposedly the centre of the music world at the minute?
K: Well, new ravers…I mean, I don't think new rave exists. I think it's a construct. I think we all really wish new rave existed.
M: We want it to!
K: That's not what I'm arguing.
M: I want it to. I just don't think it does.
K: It doesn't.
Are you going to try and bring some new rave to your live shows then, you know, to get into the spirit of…
K: No. Because it doesn't exist. That's like saying 'are you going to try and bring galloping chocolate horses to your live show'. I'd love to, but you can't do it.
(At this point, We Are Scientists launch GIITTV into a discussion about whether galloping chocolate horses really do exist. I tell them I'll look into it and let them know if I decide to write a feature on it). So, moving on, how are you enjoying England? You've been here a couple of times I understand…
K: A couple?
M: I think the technical word for that is a 'bunch of' times.
K: A 'buncha'.
M: Well here you would call it a 'loada' times.
K: 'Cause we're in the Midlands. Down South it's gonna be a 'buncha'.
So you've been picking up the slang across the UK then?
K: We know all about it. Landfills. Big 'uns. We know all of it. Give us something else and we'll tell you.
M: Fucking KILL chavs.
K: Now now, that'll go on record my friend, remember, because a chav can throw a punch.
M: We know a chav. And we know that in Scotland they're called Neds. And in Ireland they're called…
And scallies in Liverpool?
M: Oh yeah. We killed a couple of scallies.
Are they stronger than the emo kids then?
M: They're strong. Not stronger than us.
K: They're strong like oxes. But we took 'em down.
So you see scientists at the top of the social food chain then?
K: Well I think to describe us as predators who kill for food is being a bit generous with the ethics. We kill for pleasure.
K: Hey (indicating the sink tap and the shower, which are both on), maybe we're wasting water at this point.
M: (checking the water temperature) it's not hot! This shit doesn't work. (turns them off) GOD DAMMIT!
K: Don't be so angry. Was there hot water when you took a shower?
M: Yeah but there's not any more…
How are you planning to cope with the lack of hot water then?
K: Heads are gonna roll.
M: We'll kill someone who works here tonight.
K: What I'm going to do is, I'm gonna grab the promoter, pull him in here, turn the water on, I'm just going to have him by, you know, the collar, push him in [to the shower], push him in and be like “That's the hot water! Is that hot? IS THAT HOT?!” and then what I'm gonna do is, I'm going to put a little fire over here [by the door] and I'm gonna put his face in that and be like “There's heat! THAT'S WHAT HEAT FEELS LIKE!” and he'll be like “Oh Jesus no!” and then I'll put him back in there [the shower] and he'll be like “Ah thank you!” and then I'll put him back in the fire.
M: Cause THAT'S hot.
So is that how you relax before a show then?
M: That's how we educate.
K: We have problems.
So how DO you relax then before a show?
M: We lie down. Break a couple of legs.
Therefore what we've discovered today is that you scientists are actually quite vicious….
K: Well that sounds quite subjective to me. I mean, I hat to be pedantic about journalism but…I mean, if this is an editorial piece, go ahead and call us vicious. But if this is just a story about We Are Scientists it seems…
M: We're not vicious compared with the people we hang around with.
So you don't want to be known as vicious?
K: Oh we WANT to be known as vicious. We're just not sure if we are.
You wouldn't want to project a false image of yourselves then?
K: No, we hate liars. We'll slash their throats. Drink their blood. Drinking the blood of a liar gives you great power.
K: I drink the blood of liars all the time. Tastes…coppery.
M: Yeah, that's because it's living in Germany. The water.
Wait, so all liars live in Germany?
M: Yes because they drink the water there and it's coppery.
K: In our experience, one hundred per cent of Germans are liars. BUT I feel like the set that we've examined has been very small. Only one thousand, maybe two thousand, Germans. Doesn't mean they're all liars.
So if Germany is full of liars, what did you make of the rest of Europe when you toured there, and what did they think of you? Were you well received?
K: Well let me put it this way, when we played in Europe after the shows most of the kids left with blood dripping down the sides of their mouths, because they were smiling so hard they actually went beyond the capacity…
M: Their face muscles fell apart. They tore their oral sphincters.
K: In some cases other sphincters were also ruptured.
It seems everywhere you go you wreak carnage…
K: Yeah but they were thrilled! THRILLED!
M: Yeah that's just nature. Their face muscles tore their oral sphincters apart!
So you could say that your music has the sheer power to grievously injure people?
K: It also has the power to heal.
K: Well I suspect. I mean, I've seen no evidence of that but…I think it does.
M: Yeah. Because...they're injured…but…they're happy…
K: Because, by utilitarian measurement, how can you REALLY pit physical health against happiness? No. Happiness wins. If you're very sick and you're happy would you think 'let's put him out of his misery'? No! He's thrilled! He's happy!
M: Yeah there shouldn't be this association that pain is bad.
K: Yeah! You can be perfectly healthy and miserable and in that case I will gun you down. For your own good! It's like, have you seen the 'Saw' Series?
The first one…
K: Now that guy has the right idea. My feeling is, if you were even slightly unhappy with your life…[much laughter from everyone]et cetera, et cetera. I'm not even gonna expand on that subject.
(At this point we are interrupted by numerous other band members confused over where their band mates are, and the tour manager who asks us to round things up)
K: What is it today? OPPOSITES DAY?! She asked if you were nearly done and you said yes and then she said no. WHAT IS HAPPENING? My world is turned upside down. I just don't get it.
It's a Birmingham convention. We talk in opposites.
K: Now I get it. So like if I go onstage and say 'YOU GUYS SUCK!'?
Everyone will understand.
K: 'You're the worst fucking crowd in the world!' they'll be like 'yay!'?
M: Except for the chavs and the emos.
Yeah, you might get beaten up.
K: Yeah but they won't be allowed in, we check for those.
M: And anyway, everyone gets beat up sometimes.
K: and THERE is your headline.
And with those words of wisdom, GIITTV leaves We Are Scientists with a great big smile on our face - not quite at the oral sphincter tearing standard, but very nearly. Besides, we're saving that for after the show tonight.
We Are Scientists release 'Crap Attack' on the 6th of November a collection of rarities, videos, b-sides and remixes.
The CD features new tracks, b-sides and remixes plus all their famous cover versions - Sigur Ros' 'Hoppipolla', 50s classic 'Be My Baby' and Art Brut's 'Bang Bang Rock & Roll'.
The DVD features videos for all twelve tracks from 'With Love And Squalor', plus the full version of their sold out Shepherds Bush Empire gig earlier this year, and a commentary from the band.
- Interview by Georgie O'Toole with assistance from Vicky Savage.