The Glaswegian boys—Alex Kapranos, Nick McCarthy, Paul Thomson and Bob Hardy—released their thrilling third LP, Tonight, in January. We called frontman Kapranos in his hotel room in Seattle to learn what the press release won’t tell us.
Time Out Chicago: The band was cooked up in a kitchen over cheap booze.
Alex Kapranos: “Bob and I worked in a restaurant. I was a pastry chef, and Bob was the KP. We were always the last two in the kitchen. I’d be the guy making dessert for the romantic people staring into each other’s eyes into the small hours of the morning. Bob was waiting to wash up afterwards. We’d pull down the cooking brandy, play records and talk about what we’d want our band to be.”
TOC: There’s a corpse on the band’s latest hit, “No You Girls.”
Alex Kapranos: “Nick and I went down to an auction, looking for old instruments. We got a skeleton for 12 quid. It’s a strange rattling sound on the track. I had a clavicle inside a pelvis. Paul had two shoulders he was knocking together. Nick had hands held together with fishing line. Dan Carey, our producer, had a jar full of teeth.”
TOC: But much of their regular gear is from Chicago.
Alex Kapranos: “There’s a guitar shop called Midwest Buy and Sell (6019 W Irving Park Rd). They sell the most interesting things there. It’s not a fancy shop at all. The Midwest is great for guitars. Gibsons are made in Kalamazoo.”
TOC: Some of it is shoddy.
Alex Kapranos: “I picked up an amazing amp at Midwest. But every time we used it, we got an electric shock. That’s 240 volts in the U.K., mind. Eventually I said, ‘I’m going to take this fucking amp apart.’ A fuse had blown, and there was a chewing-gum wrapper holding two bits together, shorting it out.”
TOC: They didn’t learn much from those electrocutions.
Alex Kapranos: “We’ve a great new technique—attach one end of a car battery to the bridge of an electric guitar and the other end to a wire brush from a drum kit. Play the strings with the brush, and you get the buzzing sound of the current. It’s amazing.”
TOC: They love our miserable weather.
Alex Kapranos: “We went up the east coast of Lake Michigan, to Benton Harbor. It was super, super cold, but beautiful. The wind had blown the waves overnight into huge sculptures. I’d never seen that before.”
TOC: Not everything they wear is so fashionable.
Alex Kapranos: “I have a soft spot for the American Little League baseball jerseys. It’s probably because I’m English, and it all seems rather exotic to me, with local sponsors on the back. It’s always some sort of refuse-disposal company. I’ve got one called Paine Webber. What an amazing word! It sounds like a DC Comics villain.”
TOC: Nick dreams auf Deutsch.
Alex Kapranos: “Nick, although he is English, grew up in Germany. German is his first language. You can tell. If he’s passed out or if he’s woken up with a start, he’ll shout at you in German. I’m pretty certain it’s going to make an appearance on an album.”
TOC: You won’t know about the fourth record until you hear it.
Alex Kapranos: “Nick and I are beginning to write. I’m trying not to talk about it. When we talked about Tonight, before we finished recording, certain facts got exaggerated. One review I read said, ‘We were expecting an African record, but this just sounds like Franz Ferdinand!’ Of course it does, we are Franz Ferdinand. It gets me. The new AC/DC got amazing reviews, more or less saying, ‘It’s really fantastic, it sounds really like their old ones!’ Oh, for fuck’s sake!”
Franz Ferdinand plays a sold-out show at the Riviera Thursday 30.