Hello Will, how are you?
I’m good, thanks.
We hear you’re joining us direct from a game of cricket.
That is true. It’s nice to be in a country where you can play cricket without it being frowned upon. Especially ‘cos we’ve toured so much in America where they don’t really care for the sport.
Was it a competitive game?
No, just a knockabout in the car park.
Are you having a good tour?
Yeah, very good. It’s been really nice to play several shows in each city – especially for the crew, not having to pack up after every gig. Some people imagine that Australia is a fairly small place, but it’s the size of America from coast to coast. So, the distances between each gig requires that it’s all a bit more spread out, because the gear’s got to travel so far. But that’s worked out well for us.
After Oz, it’s off to New Zealand then back home via Singapore, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi.
That’s right. I haven’t seen the venue we’re playing at in Abu Dhabi, but my father-in-law lived over there when they were building it. Apparently it’s some kind of palace. That one should be particularly interesting.
So, did you enjoy the Grammy and Brit awards last month?
Yeah, it was a lot of fun. A lot of travelling too, though. We went around the world in the space of about 10 days. And then we came straight out to Australia. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, to be honest. But the Grammys were great. It was fantastic to see performers like Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Jay-Z and Kanye.
And you won some awards.
We did. We won three Grammys, which was amazing.
Did you expect to win any?
Not at all. I don’t think you can ever go to these things with expectations, because, as was shown with the Brits, you can’t win everything! Awards are a bit like icing, it’s not by any means the reason one gets into music or why one tries hard to make an album; you do it for its own sake. But it is nice when you win them. Equally, though, one mustn’t feel like it’s only a successful album if it wins an award. There are billions of amazing records that have never even been nominated for anything.
So, by not giving you any awards, the Brits were just doing their bit to keep your feet on the ground.
Exactly! It was from one extreme to the other. And that’s fine. It’s very easy to get upset if you don’t win them, but one mustn’t put too much stock in them when you win or when you lose. Otherwise it’s like reading reviews – you just can’t hang your feelings about your own music on what other people think.
And Brits night was still a cracker, with the War Child show afterwards.
Yeah, that was brilliant. We had so much fun. I think there was a lot of goodwill between all the bands and also the people in the audience. It was just a really nice, fun time.
The encore with Coldplay, the Killers, Bono and Gary Barlow was quite a moment.
Yeah! I’m not sure that we’ll see that happening again. Especially not now that Chris and Bono are enemies. Ha ha!
Ah yes. It sounds like the Coldplay camp have taken Bono’s recent comments in the spirit they were intended.
Well, the call Chris got from Bono put paid to what the press were trying to turn it into. He was just trying to make a funny joke. But, yeah, the whole War Child show was just wonderful. And it was totally amazing to get a chance to play two of the great songs of the last 15 years in the encore.
Did you rehearse it?
We did, a couple of times. Chris had started playing Back For Good after The Scientist in some of the shows, so we kind of knew the form for that one already. But Gary Barlow was brilliant. He’s such a consummate professional, with an extraordinary voice. He’s also totally level-headed and lovely.
Talking of charity shows, you’ve got the Sound Relief gig in Sydney this weekend.
Yeah. Two gigs in one day – we’re gonna feel like the Beatles in their Hamburg era. But it should be great. It’s obviously an incredibly worthy cause. We’ve just been in Victoria where most of the fires happened, and it was shocking to hear the stories. In many ways, Australia is a very brutal country in terms of the climate. It was 45 degrees in Melbourne two days before we got there. Totally crazy. Actually, do you know who else is playing?
Wolfmother, Architecture In Helsinki, Jet, You Am I…
Oh, I love You Am I! They’re really big in Oz and when I first went to university my friend had just come back from travelling there and he switched me onto them. They’ve got some amazing songs. There’s an album called Hourly, Daily which is just brilliant. They’re a really, really good live band too.
Now, looking at your schedule for the rest of the year, it all seems rather busy. Does it not ever get tiring being a jet-setting rock musician?
Of course, but you get used to it. I don’t think any of us want to look back and think that if we’d worked a little bit harder we could’ve done a bit better or pushed ourselves further. The live experience is a tangible way of connecting with the people that listen to your music and I think that’s really important. I think we feel like this record has gone so well and we need to capitalise on that momentum. We just want to keep going, getting to as many places as possible. Equally, we’re mindful of burning ourselves out. But we’ve got our heads tightly screwed on these days. It’s just about having the right schedule and staying in the right places. It’s taken us 12 years, but I think we know how to do it now.
The South American fans are particularly keen to see you again. Is there a chance of that?
We certainly want to try and get there before the end of the year. But it’s still up in the air, to be honest.
So there’s a possibility?
Yeah, a definite possibility. I really hope we make it.
And what about recording? How did your time in the studio without Chris work out?
Well, it was a Brian [Eno] thing. He said he felt like if you’re always starting a song from the same point, there’s only so much variation you can get. So, I think he wanted the three of us to explore things without really having a song to work to; maybe just a lyric or a fragment of a demo that Chris had done. And even if those experiments were totally useless, some little aspect of it might fit when the time comes to really start recording properly. I think it was just an exercise in trying to push us into doing new things, which we mightn’t do if we had a fully-fledged song on our hands.
Were the results good?
Yeah, it was actually very fruitful. We started off making rules for creating songs, forcing ourselves to think about the process of making music. They made you make decisions that you would never normally make. I don’t think anyone has done more work or research on the process of making music than Brian. Trying to actually impose structure and process on songs yields very interesting and different results.
Is that the first time the band have been in the studio without Chris there?
No, when we were recording the last record I spent a week with Markus on the drums, and we had two weeks where we were just rehearsing the backing tracks, while Chris went off and did some vocals with Rik. So, yeah, we’ve done it before. Sometimes it works and sometimes it needs all four of us there.
And what’s this with a view to? Is there some sort of plan about releasing something?
No, that’s one thing that there isn’t. There’s no imposing of any deadline or anything like that. We don’t even know what it is that we want to make. It’s a very strange time for the way people listen to music. It’s getting more and more fragmented, with people buying single songs rather than albums. In many ways, it’s going back to the way it was originally, where people would release singles and then an album was a collection of singles. We want to do something totally revolutionary, that hasn’t been done before. We’re writing with a view towards that. But what that is, we don’t yet know.
Sounds quite exciting.
Definitely. I think we feel like the normal model of album, tour, album, tour is starting to become more and more irrelevant. But we’re throwing ourselves fully into this tour until the end of the year and then we’ll see what happens after that.
Are there any songs finished?
I wouldn’t say finished, no. But there are certainly lots and lots of ideas going round.
Finally, let’s talk about your beloved Southampton FC. They’re not doing very well, are they?
Well you say that Mr Anchorman, but we won three in a row before we lost to Birmingham this weekend. So, from reading our last rites a few weeks ago, when I thought this was the season we’d finally go down again, we’ve had a mini-resurgence and it’s all looking a bit brighter. I think Charlton are pretty much down. Then it’s two from Norwich, Southampton, Barnsley, Blackpool and Forest. It could be interesting.
Do you think they’ll stay up?
If you’d asked me two weeks ago, I’d have said definitely not. Now, I feel like there’s a chance. For my entire life we’ve been the masters of avoiding relegation. So, fingers crossed, we can avoid it again.