The marquee of a theatre before a show.
It's music of the night: to fling yourself around your room to as you psyche yourself for an evening of hedonism, for the dance-floor, flirtation, for your desolate heart-stop, for losing it and loving losing it, for the chemical surge in your bloodstream. It's for that lonely hour gently rocking yourself, waiting for dawn and it all to be even again.
By the end of 2006 we were exhausted - physically, emotionally and creatively. We'd been in the studio or on the road for three years without a break and we needed one. Alex went to Vancouver with the Cribs, Paul raised a family, Bob made a film and Nick disappeared in South America. We met up again in Glasgow a few months later, happy to be in each other's company and excited about creating something new.
Nick found a building for our HQ. He has a knack for it. It was a crumbling Victorian town hall, recently vacated by the drug rehabilitation unit that was the last tenant. The flock wallpaper was peeling a little and the psychedelic municipal carpet was browned with fifty years of council nicotine, but the vibe was great and the monthly rent was half the daily rate of a London studio. There was a noise complaint from the nearby home for the deaf after our first session, but after we blocked the windows with fibreglass and rockwall nobody knew we were there. Daylight disappeared and night became permanent. We didn't notice it, but the mood of the record began to form.
We started writing, but there wasn't a plan. There has never been a plan. As we wrote songs, we played them out at gigs - not huge gigs, but sweaty pub basements and social clubs, keeping it word of mouth and chaotic, giving the new music room to live or die. You don't realise what's good about a song until you play it to people. You also don't know if a song's crap until you play it to people. "Anyone In Love" died in the Captain's Rest, but "Turn It On" turned us on. "English Goodbye" died in the British Aluminium Club, Fort William, but Ulysses became something more than it was when we left Glasgow.
We spent a few days with Brian Higgins and his Xenomania team in Kent. We enjoyed the time and it was inspiring, but it became clear to both of us that we shouldn't make a record together. Our worlds are too different.
The HQ evolved into a studio with the help of Paul Savage. Paul was drummer of the Delgadoes and the engineer at Chem 19, the Chemikal Underground studio in Glasgow. We brought over an old Flickinger console that Bill Skibbe found for us in Michigan and Allen Johnston wired the rooms.
Then we met Dan Carey. He was perfect as a producer - a mad mixer, a chaotic experimenter. Recording with him is like breaking into a science lab with a mischievous brainbox who wants to see what we can blow up. We had a laugh.
Nick climbed into the rafters of the hall to hang a mic from a thirty foot cable which Dan swung across an amp kicked over and feeding back from Alex's guitar, so we could warp the sound with the Doppler effect of a passing racing car or a diving spitfire on "What She Came For". A gaggle of obscure and long forgotten 70's synths were mobilised for the likes of Can't Stop Feeling & Lucid Dreams. Superslinkies hung from the ceiling as primitive spring reverb. Sometimes, on the likes of "Live Alone," we'd go super hi-fi and tight in the dead room, then, on tracks like "Send Him Away" we'd rock out in the cellar under the stage, playing to one mic, so it sounded like it was just you and the band in the room when you played the tape back. We rattled human bones for percussion on "No You Girls" and sang into the darkness, nothing for company apart from the tingle on your spine and the ghosts of the Saturday night dancing.
Anyway, here it is. Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. You can listen to it quiet, but it's better loud. You can listen to it during the day, but it's better at night.
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