the red penguin

The Others – 2005 interview

I interviewed Dominic from The Others just before their December 2005 gig at Chinnery’s in Southend. There must be some audio somewhere, but for some reason I wrote all the words down too. So enjoy!

How are you, keeping well?

Not too bad, this is the sixth date of the tour, so far on my laminate I’ve got here (reading) we played Glasgow ABC, we brought in a couple of hundred there, Manchester was wild, we played to about three hundred there. Cardiff was a couple of hundred, Leeds was three hundred sell out at the Cockpit, that was possibly the wildest gig of the tour. I crowdsurfed most of the gigs, stagedived most of the gigs, and dived off the speakers from about 8 feet, so that was probably the best gig of the tour. Then last night we did a couple of hundred in Coventry for a club night at the Coliseum. At Southend, we’ve been told that presales here are about a hundred, and expected walk ups are about a hundred too so there will be a couple of hundred people here tonight too. We’re looking forward to it.

Last time we caught up with you was at the Leeds Festival in August, and you were due some time off. How was that?

When we finished Leeds we were all knackered so we had about three weeks off, because everyone was really shattered and we had been going for weeks and weeks. Then, as you know that we’ve talked about in a number of previous interviews, we were having to sell 40,000 records to get a second record deal. The Vice President of Mercury is a guy called Greg Castell. He was a guy who had the heart and soul and everything else to sign us. He really liked us and had a lot of faith in us, and he signed us because Alan McGee, the feeder label at Poptones, they got on together and that was the deal.

So we did the first single, This Is For The Poor, on Poptones, and went over and did the album on Mercury. Well Greg Castell – the guy who signed us, who really trusted us, got sacked – and then Alan McGee and Poptones got released from their contract. They were meant to have a renewal on their contract and have a few more bands from Poptones go over to Mercury and release their albums, but the new person who came in, he chose other directions for the company and didn’t explore Poptones as another avenue.

He decided not to renew their contract. We’ve lost Alan McGee and Poptones, and Greg Castell has gone, so we’re thinking, OK, let’s keep it together, everything’s going to be alright! So we wait, the new geezer has to work out what’s going on, what bands are right for him and what he sees as the new direction for the company, because he’s obviously got his own ideas – he wasn’t the one who signed us. He just decided that when our contract had finished and we’d had the four singles on Poptones/Mercury, we had the one album, toured the UK, toured Europe and Japan – he decided that he wasn’t going to renew the contract. So that was pretty crazy! So you’re probably thinking, well what are the lads going to do now, well luckily .. (guitar noises) .. sorry Jimmy! Jimmy’s alright!

We’re just being interrupted at the moment by other members of the Others. So it all started to go downhill after Leeds?

I wouldn’t say downhill, we started to explore other avenues. Obviously we knew that this situation might arise and we’d planned for it. Remember when you called me at the end of the festival, we were taking in eight grand a festival, we were getting decent money, playing in Japan and Europe. I saved all the wages from all the festivals and put them in the bank! I knew Greg’s position was dodgy at Mercury and I knew McGee was a bit nervous about his contract getting renewed, so we saved us six months wages to keep us going. This tour that we’re doing now, we managed to fund it all ourselves because we had enough money left over from the summer. We’ve no record company commitment at the moment, we’re going on a 15 date tour and we’ve got enough money to keep us going until March because we planned ahead and prepared for this.

I went to Manchester In The City. You might think that’s a bit mad being an unsigned bands festival, but think about it, who goes to unsigned bands? All the record company executives, all the vice presidents, A and R guys, all the people looking for new acts, whatever. We turned up, and shitloads of them turned up, swapped a few numbers, then we went to Newcastle and did a freshers ball, talked to a few record companies up there, then we went out to Italy – we went out to Rimini, Ancona, Bologna and Rome. We did a four day tour and took out Carl Barat’s new band, the Dirty Pretty Things, for two of the dates, even though a certain publication said that it was the other way around and that we were supporting them which wasn’t right. We then did the Amnesty gig and all of the top brass from London record companies turned up for us there and that helped to cement some deals. After Amnesty we planned this tour, because we knew that things were going well with record companies, and it looks like that we’ll sign with a new record company. There’s a couple of bids on the table and I should be able to let you know at the end of December or beginning of January. We’re going to move to an independent.

Been quite a busy time for you then. Hopefully the deals will come out in your favour, I honestly believe you deserve the success because you work hard.

We graft. The only things that will keep us going is the fans. You’ve got bands like Fugazi in the states. They look after their fans, they’re totally in control of everything that they do. We could do a Fugazi, where maybe we might not need a record company, and we might be able to set up our own record company and do it through downloads and have total control. But we’ll work with an independent that gives us more control. The Ramones didn’t have an album deal from 1985 but toured for about 20 years. The Fall have been always chopping and changing between record companies – 17 record companies in 23 years or something ridiculous like that.

There are ways of surviving, we could change record companies or do it ourselves. But because we’ve got such a loyal fanbase, this tour was put together a bit last minute dot com, there were two adverts out in NME, two adverts in the Barfly, a bit on the website and that was it, and we’re still pulling in a couple of hundred a night, three hundred at certain big cities like Leeds and Manchester. So I reckon the fan base will keep us going. We sold 30,000 records in the UK, 15,000 in Europe and 15,000 in Japan. We’re no Franz Ferdinand, know what I mean, but 60,000 global is enough to survive.

I think that the way you connect with the fans – we knew about it because we connect through Myspace and there was a bulletin on there, and I was trying to book tickets before the venues even knew that you were playing.

(Laughs) This is the thing, well obviously what we are trying to do, Primary are our agency, and you go through ticket agencies like NME and Ticketmaster and Ticketweb, but sometimes it’s better to actually announce it before you’re not really legally allowed to do it! What you’re meant to do is wait for the ticket agencies to announce it, it’s their right, they have big chunks of tickets that they buy. We think it’s better to just let the fans know first so they can work out how much money they’ve got, whether they can get time off work, whether they can prepare for the gig in advance.

If you know two weeks before the tour when tickets are actually going on sale, sometimes that’s not enough. In my old job sometimes I had to get a month’s advance notice to take a couple of days off, for instance. So it’s better just to put it on the website, because most of our fans are working class kids who’ve got jobs or if they haven’t got jobs, they haven’t got much money so they’ve either got to save for it or we’ve got to try and get them on the guest list quickly. It’s understanding your fan base a lot, I think.

Changing the subject, have you ever played Southend before?

You were with us for the first time we played Essex when we did the TMF Festival. I thought TMF was a bloody good success. It was weird, at the end of the night, everything had built up and we’re looking out from the stage and there must have been about two or three thousand, it was well packed, the crowd really meant something to them, they really moved. All the stages had nu metal and all that kind of stuff but I thought they were really good with us at TMF.

This time round, when we did the tour, because we had enough control of the tour to actually put it out ourselves, we had a look round to places where we thought we might actually have strongholds. Leeds was obviously a big stronghold, we pulled three hundred in there, and Manchester we pulled three hundred in there. Because TMF had gone so well we took a gamble on Southend, it’s as simple as that really. It was either Southend or go to Chelmsford. I’ve been to Chelmsford for V96 and it was very quiet and the crowds were very quiet, so I thought that Southend might be a bit more fun.

You were saying about the nu metallers at TMF, we know the people who put on the stage you played on (The Fat Surfer), to be honest they were slightly dubious about the bands they had on, because they had you and Art Brut, and they’re really all into their thrash/power metal, but they were blown away by you guys, they really were.

I think that there was a heavy presence of nu metallers that day on the other stages, there were strong bills, and we were a bit unsure at first but when we got on stage we could see it was a really big crowd, but if you’re a nu metal promoter and you see us, you’d probably think, fucking hell, is anyone actually going to move or not as we’re just meant to be an indie band. When they saw the crowd surfing and the stage diving and how the crowd responded, that probably caught them. It’s normally the crowd that catch people’s attention more than us.

I also saw you recently at the Amnesty gig, I know you got involved in the last minute. How did that come about?

As you know, we’ve done gigs for Shelter and donated our fee to them, we’ve done gigs for Rock Against Racism as well. We always like to try and find things that we can associate ourselves with that we believe is a good cause. I think with Amnesty, that day it was about Protect The Human, an idea where whether you’re black, white, Asian, Chinese or whatever, essentially we are all human and that there are dictatorships that exist that persecute individuals, and being human we should have more caring instead of just ignoring cases like North Korea and Zimbabwe at the moment.

I was behind it but at the same time we were only invited about three weeks before it was actually meant to go ahead. Starsailor were the main puller, and they obviously backed it. K T Tunstall was meant to play but she withdrew at the last minute because she had a tour coming up. I don’t think it was her against the thing or anything, but we said, yeah we’ll do it, and we kind of killed two birds with one stone and played to a thousand.

It was a really good show. It was quite surreal, standing in the road in London watching you guys.

It was the first time we’d profiled the new songs. We did six new songs that night. (Whispers) I’m just going to get a beer. (Squeaky fridge door opening and closing).

How many new songs have you got written and how many are we going to see tonight?

I’d say altogether we’ve got 21 or 22 new songs. Out of those 21 or 22, we’ve had to argue internally about which songs get put on the next album and which songs we should be playing live. So we’ve spent the last six weeks in rehearsal rooms in Kings Cross trying to strip down the songs we have written to get it to a new song setlist. We’ve decided to do 10 new songs tonight and 4 old songs. So we’d play what we’d say are the “classics”, This Is For The Poor, William, Lackey and Stan Bowles, and then the 10 songs we’re going to do are all going to be new that nobody’s ever heard. You might have heard Probate, it’s been available on download and we played that at Amnesty, and a couple of the new songs at Leeds, but generally for most of the crowd it’s 10 new songs tonight. What we’ve seen from most of the crowd is a reaction from the crowd that we didn’t really expect. If you go out there and play 10 new songs you don’t expect everyone to move so much, but they’re rampant with us, maybe they’re intoxicated, I don’t know! Crowdsurfing and stagediving and in Leeds I was swan-diving off of speakers. I’m quite happy with the new set.

I’m going to talk about the press now. It seems to me that you don’t get much press coverage. You see these bands in certain publications week in week out, do you feel you’ve fallen from favour?

It’s all about product management. If you’ve got a single and it’s coming out then certain publications will back you to the nines. If there’s an album, a tour, a product coming out. The last single we had was William, how long ago was that, April? It’s quite a while back, and after that we went over to Europe, Japan, and the UK doing all of the festivals, so apart from the write ups we’ve had doing festivals, there’s been no product for the magazines to actually focus on. That was our fourth single, remember we were actually nine months ahead of most bands. We broke the Rakes because they were our support band. We broke the Cribs, Thee Unstrung, the Paddingtons, the Cherubs. A lot of these bands are nine months after us so we’ve done our album and our four singles and the press can only concentrate on you if there’s a product out there. If there’s no product they don’t care.

What are your plans for Christmas?

Johnny, what’s your plans for Christmas?

Others guitarist and vegan Johnny Others: I’m going to sit around a big table and carve a roast turkey, me. All the band and the crew, I think that’s what we’re likely to do this Christmas!

There was an element of sarcasm to my bass player’s answer there. I should think Johnny would be realistically spending it with his good lady, Jimmy will probably be with his mum, Martin’s going back up to Manchester, and this is my first year home to Somerset in four years. I’m going home this year because my mum and dad want me back, my grandparents don’t know me any more, and my other half’s off to Sweden. I’ve cooked Christmas dinner for the last four years so maybe I just want to stretch back a little.

You’re going to be sitting in your parents’ house then, watching the Queen’s speech and Only Fools And Horses?

Yeah, well to tell you the truth, I want to go and watch Bristol City v Yeovil on New Year’s Eve, my dad and me will probably go and see Bath City on Boxing Day because Bristol City are away at that time. I just want to go back and see some football and also the countryside, originally I’m a country kid and I’ve been in Whitechapel and the East End for nine years now and it might be nice to go back and see some greenery.

Is there a question that you wish people would not ask you in an interview? Do you ever think, for God’s sake I really wish people wouldn’t ask me that?

No, I don’t really mind. The way I look at it, sometimes you might say to, say, the Japanese press or the European press, and they don’t know bugger all about you. (Adopts strange accent) So tell me about the 853 kamikaze stagediving division? How did it start? So OK, it’s new to them, we’ve been mates for about a year and a half and we’ve done interviews together and we know each other but people in Japan or Europe, they just don’t know us. They have to ask dead obvious questions, I have to count to ten and say (adopts Michael Caine accent) William, what’s it about? Gaw I tell ya!

Is there a question that you wish people would ask you?

A lot of the other ones are like, what are the songs all about? That’s a strange one. I’ve had lots and lots of interviews but it’s rare that you get interviewers that actually ask you what each song means. So tell me, that verse that says “everything they planned for you and everything they’re gonna do and care for you”, what’s that about? It’s probably a lucky thing (laughs) but I always find that people could ask what the lyrics are about. But that’s me, you probably like to have people ask you what the music’s about. To me, I’d like more questions about the lyrics.

My personal favourite from the first album is How I Nearly Lost You. Is it as obvious as it sounds?

It’s kind of a bit jaded on two levels. The thing was that I lived in the East End for 2½ years when I was 18, and then I ran out of money, we didn’t have a flat and my friend Harry let me live at his dad’s office. I’d have to get up every morning at 6.00 before the cleaners got in at 7.00 and then I’d go over to university for 10.00 and I wouldn’t be allowed to go back to the office until 8.00 when all the cleaners had closed up and I could get myself back in.

I spent 3 months there and when I was there I got a bit down and I got absolutely wrecked one night with a friend from Somerset who’d come up and my heart stopped, it literally stopped and I collapsed back onto the desk and I couldn’t breathe very well. My friend came up onto the desk and I don’t know what he did, he made me cough and then made me puke and I could breathe again. For about 10 or 15 seconds I couldn’t breathe at all, he put his hands on my heart and it just wasn’t beating. So that’s where the first part of the song comes from. The second bit goes on to explain a reflectiveness of love and want for a relationship – that love might be a better alternative than intoxication. That way I’d probably gain a heart instead of losing one!

Thanks very much Dom – have a good Christmas, good luck with the deals on the table, I know you will pick the right one.

Yeah well, it’s not just money this time round, is it!

Sunday 4 December 2005, 559 views

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