Kaotican Alphabet

Jonny: “I’m enjoying this tour more than I’ve enjoyed any”

03.Aug.2008 caught up with Jonny before the second Toronto show

Hi Jonny, how are you?
I’m good, thanks.

How’s the tour going?
Really well actually. From it starting at Madison Square Garden – well I suppose that wasn’t really a start so much as a false start – it’s gone really well. The shows have been getting better and better, I think. I hope so, anyway.

Does that tend to happen?

Yeah. But we didn’t start from quite as bad a place as we have done in the past. Normally it takes us about 25 shows to get anywhere near good. But I feel like this time we’ve started a bit better than we usually do.

It sounds like the show has changed quite a lot since you did the live rehearsal for friends and family at Wembley Arena.

That was pretty duff, so I hope so! We’ve changed things around quite a bit since then.

Who do the changes come from? Do the band sit down after a gig?
Yeah, we sit down with Dave and Phil after the first few gigs and say, "Where did it work and where didn’t it work?" And we talk to people who’ve been there. It’s one thing for us to say how it felt, but it’s quite another for somebody who was actually watching.

Are you happy to be back on the road?

Yeah, I’m enjoying this tour more than I think I’ve enjoyed any. The last few tours have been great, but this is even better. I don’t know why. I think we just know how to do it now. It’s not such a mental strain.

And you bring your families out?

Yeah, which makes a huge difference.

Do you sleep on a tour-bus?

No, never. We were reminiscing about that the other day, but the reality of it is that you don’t really sleep on a tour-bus, you get about three hours a night. Not that I’m getting much more than that now.

So you sleep in hotels?
Yeah, we try to stay in one place for a while and fly in and out, so that we have a base for a few days.

What’s been the best gig so far?
It seems to get slightly better each night. So the last two have been the best two.

Montreal and Toronto?
Yeah. I can’t really choose between them.

What makes for a good gig?
It’s 90% how good the audience is and 10% how well you feel you did. If you feel like you played badly and the audience was also not really into it, then you feel bad. But if you feel like you didn’t play very well, but people were still into it, then you think maybe they didn’t notice! Ha ha!

What defines not playing well?
I guess just not feeling that your timing’s very good.

You don’t hit bum notes though, do you?
Occasionally. Matt, my guitar tech, was telling me that Jimi Hendrix said if you hit a bum note the best way to deal with it is to hit it again, so it seems like you meant it. So I do that! It’s easier for me to get away with than Guy, though. If Guy hits a bum note, you really hear it.

Do you watch the crowd during a gig?
Yeah, you look around and see whether people are into it. You can usually pick out the one guy who’s on his Blackberry or got his arms crossed! But the audiences have been amazing. Better than ever. When we played Viva La Vida in Vegas, the crowd just kept singing after it had finished. It was crazy.

So will you continue to tinker with the set?
I think once you find a nice structure you kind of stick to it for a while, until you get bored of it. But then you change around small things within that, while keeping the main structure the same. We sort of build it around various songs, then within that we can change it up a bit. But sometimes even just changing a couple of songs could ruin it.

If one of the band said, "Let’s play Shiver tonight", would you be able to? Would you have to rehearse it?
Well we’re not the best rehearsers of songs, to be honest. We prefer not to bother! Especially old songs, you get a bit bored of rehearsing them. But it’s fun to try things out in front of 15,000 people. We played Don’t Panic the other night. They’re the simplest lyrics in the world, but I still managed to get them wrong! It was funny.

Have you been enjoying singing more at the shows? Because obviously this album has more backing vocals.
Yeah, I have. I still can’t do that bit in Death And All His Friends at the end, though. The other three have worked out how to do it, but I just can’t sing and play it at the same time. My brain can’t cope. The guitar’s in a weird time signature, and the singing’s in a different time signature. Guy, Will and Chris all do it fine now, but I can barely even hear it and play along at the same time, let alone sing it! I have to shut it out of my mind.

How many guitars do you use during a show?
I actually don’t know. Probably five or six.

Why do you need different guitars?
Partly because they go out of tune. So rather than stand there and re-tune between songs, it’s easier to swap over. But they do also sound very different and play very different. Some songs were written on a specific guitar and they don’t sound right if you play them on another one.

So there really is that much of a difference between guitars?
Yeah. Even two of the same type of guitar can sound different. I guess they’re like your children; to everyone else they kind of seem the same, but you can tell the difference! Ha ha!

Is there one you particularly love?
Yeah, there’s a Fender Thinline which I bought in 2001. I’ve bought loads since, but because that was the first one it’s my favourite, although I hardly play it now. But I do love them all.

Do you get to see much of the cities you play in?
It depends where, really. We’ve been staying in Toronto, so we’ve seen a bit of that. I’ve actually been staying with some of my girlfriend’s relatives outside Toronto, which has been really nice. It’s nice not to be in a hotel.

What are the hardest things about being on the road?
Well, none of it is really that hard to be honest, but the hardest thing is probably just getting used to not sleeping that well.

Can you enjoy the gig every night?
You definitely can. You don’t, because sometimes you think you’ve messed up.

So it doesn’t start to feel like a routine?
It certainly hasn’t yet. I think as soon as we get that, we’ll change up the set. I’m sure there comes a point, but at the moment it’s really a lot of fun.

These impromptu extra encores you’ve been doing sound enjoyable.
Yeah, I missed the first one, because me and Guy had left! We didn’t realise it was going to happen.

Were you upset?
More perplexed! We were halfway across… um… was it LA? I think it was, but I’m not sure.

Does it all become a bit of a blur when you’re touring?
Yeah. I have no idea what day it is today. Absolutely none whatsoever. There’s nothing to organise the week in that way. You’re either playing a gig or you’ve got a day off. That’s all you need to know!

But it sounds like spirits are high within Coldplay?
Yeah, I think this is probably as happy as we’ve ever been. It’s a huge relief that the album’s out. And also setting up the tour was hard work and quite stressful – particularly because we had to move some dates. So to feel like we’re finally going and the album’s out and we can play these songs, it’s just the best time to be in a band.