The Black Flag is pleased to bring you this classic archive interview with the Chemical Brothers prior to their Headline slot at Rockness in 2007. We caught up with the pioneer producers who made it okay to like dance music as they released their much acclaimed “We Are The Night” album….
Chemical Brothers Transcript Rockness The Black Flag
You met at Univeristy in Manchester, what were your memories of that time and how did it influence you to take up music?
Tom – “Together as a unit, we were both making music before we became the Dust or Chemical Brothers, for example Ed was in Ariel. As for how we got into it, we used to go the Hacienda every Friday evening and then go into Eastern Bloc on Saturday to try and buy the records we’d heard the night before. Eastern Bloc was a massive eye opener for us, we bought amazing records from there from Moonboots and everyone. Then we just became friends with a lot of people when we were doing our degrees and then when Most Excellent came along we felt very much a part of that and we were just hearing good music all the time.
“Manchester is the sort of place where you can feel like you’re part of something. After we finished Uni, we made our first record “Song To The Siren”, and I suppose Manchester imbued us with the spirit that we could get up and do stuff. The most amazing thing was that you’d hear a good record in a club and the person who’d made it was dancing next to you.”
It’s ironic that you’re two Southerners who hooked up in Manchester but you’re very much perceived as a Manchester band……
Ed “In London it was always like the music industry was this thing where you needed a special pass to make a record. You didn’t know anyone who made records, it all went on in studios you didn’t know about but I remember going to Tariff studios and 808 State’s studios when we got to know the people in Eastern Bloc and they’d take you there. Or we’d go down in the basement and you’d meet people and make records together. The whole process suddenly became demystified, that you could do it as well, do it yourself.
You’ve always been known for your prodigious work ethic and output and “We Are The Night” marks your 6th studio album to date.
Ed “We do share a stern work ethic between us but we do enjoy it. It’s a simple as that.
Tom “We do really like doing what we do. It’s not like some terrible burden on our backs, making music and doing gigs. We still like doing it now.
Ed “I think there may come a point where you don’t like doing it or conversely people don’t like what you’re doing and the two are sometimes be related. Luckily enough we’ve found ourselves at a place where we’re still enjoying making music and people are still into the music we’re making.
Tom “You’ve only got a certain time on the planet to live, you may as well get as much as you can out of it. We’ve found something that works between us and the idea of taking a break or holiday never really appeals to us. As soon as we’ve finished on one record or a tour, we’re back in the studio working on new ideas.”
It’s funny that a lot of marriages don’t last as long as you two….
Tom “We are friends and there must be some kind of chemistry between us. It’s not unusual to remain strong friends with people and I’ve known Tom longer than pretty much anyone apart from my immediate family and it had turned out really well.”
“We have changed a bit cos we used to live very close to each other and go on holiday together for years and years and we don’t do that as much as we used to. We have kind of gone in our different directions personally but we are always very tight when we hook up so that hasn’t really changed.”
Noticing that you’ve got food recipes on your website, have you ever thought of spinning yourselves off as Tom ‘N Ed, celebrity chefs….
Ed “Funnily enough in Japan we’ve been offered a deal to have our own brand of noodles because at lunchtime over there, it’s big business to make noodles that people can eat at work and we are famed in Japan for enjoying the Raman, the working class cuisine so maybe that’ll come off, there are moves afoot and we’ll become the new Ben N Jerry’s of Japanese noodles.
Tom “I like that idea. It’s definitely something we should look at.”
How do you think you’ve advanced with the new album, “We Are The Night?
Tom “There’s a core thing about music that we like which is always in pretty much every piece we do. I like with this record the balance of it. I think it’s got a real cohesion. Someone in Japan said it was like our “zen” album. I think when you get to the end of it, there’s nothing that jars, everything seems to be there for a reason. There’s a lot of emotion in it and the feelings that it triggers leaves you in a good balanced place I reckon.”
“It’s a real mixture. There’s dance music on there, still music, hard tunes, soft music but all of it is quite in your face. I think all of the albums have been complete but at times this album is pulling in a lot of different directions and we’re really proud of the fact that it does feel like a really constant work.
Some of the bigger dance acts talk of the pressure off to deliver hit singles as opposed to album tracks, has this affected your work?
Ed “Some people approach making their records by y’know, get the singles and we’ll fill up the rest but we’ve never approached it like that. Certainly when we finish a record we then try and work out what could make a single so we never really bother about it. We’re just about making the music.
Tom “I think when we did our singles collection, that showed a very different strand of our music, the big catchy singles all lined up next to each other and it’s strange to listen to them all in a row because they are all big Chemical Brothers tracks but it’s not how I think about the Chemical Brothers. They’re kind of accidental pop records, we made them as club records like Hey Boy, Hey Girl, Block Rockin’ Beats and now Do It Again. I was excited that Andy Weatherall and Ivan Smagge (Black Strobe) were playing Do It Again, rather than it getting on the radio.
Ed “I do think that the two things can co-exist. You can often make a record with one thing in your mind and then it goes out in the world and becomes something completely different but it’s always been like that. Even back at the start of dance music it was like why couldn’t this record that was so exciting on a Saturday night then be a record that was exciting on a Tuesday lunchtime. We felt those records could always do that and because of the growth of dance music, we were able to do that and that feeling is still very strong with us.”
For a dance act, you’ve got a wide cross over and some would say indie appeal, is this deliberate?
Tom “I do think that’s a little bit of a myth. If you look at the DJ’s who are playing our records, they’re seriously into dance music. Maybe we do have some sort of broader appeal but we were never on some crusade for dance music to bring it to the mainstream. The first people we want to get out records to are the DJ’s still and to gauge what the reaction is.
The album reflects some of your deeper, more electronic gear, like Electronic Battle Weapon series with “Saturate”
Ed “Actually Saturate is on of the Electronic Battle Weapons. Those records always turn up on the albums. Like the first two battle weapons turned up on Dig Your Own Hole. They’ve now become a fundamental part of our band really. For us, they’re a quick way to get a record out without having to do interviews or promotion so it’s good to just make a record and having that immediate thing which can get lost in the sort of label and three months to put a record out, all that sort of stuff.”
You’re well known as a live act, still enjoy touring?
Tom “The travelling can be a drag but when you’re out there playing you forget about that. If we didn’t do it and we don’t actually have to do it, we would miss being out there playing our music. We do it cos we enjoy it.”
So fifteen years on from the 500 copies of “Songs to The Siren” released on Diamond Records….
Ed “His mum’s telephone on it. She called us and said “I’ve just had a man called Andy Weatherall on the phone and he really likes it.”
……How far is your life different then to now?
Ed “We always went and played live pretty much immediately. Even before we had a record deal we went to Florida with keyboards on our knees to go and play mad raves.
Tom “It’s not like that anymore, one man, one bag it was really.”
Ed “When Andy Weatherall asked us to play Sabresonic he asked us to DJ and we were like “Oh we don’t really feel comfortable with DJing when last week we saw Ritchie Hawtin or something there but we’ll play live.” So it was always sort of the other way round. There were DJ’s who were making music but we always regarded ourselves as a band who DJ’d. So we always preferred to go out live so that’s how it developed.”
So would you still class yourselves as Balearic……
Tom “I think that Balearic thing is still deep within us, that Balearic attitude if you can call it that. I think that we’re free….
To do what you want to do?
Laughs All Round
Ed “Lovely ending.”