Published on August 6th, 2010 | Jonny Abrams
It’s been over three years of hot, bubbling anticipation since Klaxons released their Mercury Prize-winning debut album Myths of the Near Future – and now they’re back with their hot and bubbling sophomore effort Surfing the Void, which sees the light of day on August 23rd. To celebrate this impending aural treat, Rocksucker caught up with the enormously pleasant and accommodating James Righton, the band’s co-vocalist and keyboardist, to interrupt his cab journey and discuss his teenage years on the books of Leicester City FC, his team talk with Martin O’Neill, the new Klaxons album and what music floats his own personal boat…
How old were you when you were on the books at Leicester City? And which position did you play?
I was there from the age of twelve or thirteen until I was fifteen or sixteen. I played attacking midfield, centrally and on the right. I was a Modric type player. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t stop wearing my Spurs shirt, so they got rid of me. Also, I wasn’t good enough. It’s a really tough environment, because so many kids don’t make it – even some who are very talented. I always enjoyed playing music as well as football and, fortunately, that worked out for me in the end. Those were good times at Leicester, but very stressful.
Did you ever have any contact with Martin O’Neill or any of the first team while you were there?
He once came in to give us a half-time team talk, which was one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life. He told us that we were the future of football and that, even if we didn’t all make it at Leicester, that things could still work out for us – that kind of thing. I think he’s an amazing manager who’s done a great job everywhere he’s been. We also used to get to take it in turns to be ball boys. My turn was in a game against Chelsea and I got to meet players like Zola, Vialli and Heskey. Leicester won the game, and then I went up to Ruud Gullit at the end to get his autograph. The closing credits of that night’s Match of the Day ended with a shot of me approaching a dejected looking Gullit with a big grin on my face! My dad always used to pause it on that frame.
How did you celebrate winning the Mercury Music Prize?
I’m not sure if I should say! Basically, we had a massive party for about three months afterwards. We’re still celebrating now.
Where do you keep the gong?
It’s on top of my piano. We’re a democratic band and we’ve been lucky to win a few awards before and since, so we take it in turns to keep the trophies. I think it might even be my turn again next.
Is there any truth in the rumours that there were a few differences between you guys and your label as to what direction Surfing the Void should take?
No, not at all. That’s the biggest piece of misinformation that seems to be out there. Our label leaves us to it – we have complete creative control over everything we do, even our videos. Basically, we recorded loads of songs with James [Ford, producer and member of Simian Mobile Disco], played it to the label and they loved it so we just continued making more music. We were making some quite slow, considered and indulgent music and it got to the point where we decided that we weren’t really doing what we do best, although we were learning to write in different ways and pushing ourselves in ways that really helped when we actually got down to writing the record, when we were all in the mental headspace to actually write the record. Our label has always been nothing but supportive in all that we’ve ever done so we just made loads of music [that doesn’t feature on Surfing the Void], and we’ll put that out next year on an EP of five tracks that all make sense together. It’s not pop music – it’s indulgent, heady, psych-y music. I think it’s great, but it’s not what the band is.
There will have been a three year gap between your first and second albums. Is that just down to a hectic schedule?
We were touring for a long period of time. Years. We went everywhere, from Australia to South America -you name it and we’ve been there, pretty much. Also, we needed to experience things and live a bit. We’ve not really been under anyone’s watch – [the attitude was] when it’s ready, it’s ready and if it had been ready a year after the first record then we’d have put it out, but all four of us have to be completely happy with it. It’s pointless putting a record out that you’re not all happy with because, as soon as you start touring it, you’ll break up. The cracks will appear. You’ve got to get it right – it’s no good putting out half-finished records or records that not all of you like. You’ve all got to love it.
At the risk of making you reel off an answer you’ve covered many times already, how does the ‘Nu Rave’ label sit with you?
We don’t have a problem with it at all. I think it added colour to the musical landscape a couple of years ago when music in general was quite grey and in a post-Libertines period of jangly guitar music. I think we brought in a lot of colour and opened the way for a lot of other bands in the wake of it to make more progressive, psych-y, weird, exciting music.
Aside from your own, of course, what’s the best new album you’ve heard this year?
I really like the Tame Impala record. I think that’s my favourite of the year so far. They’re an Australian fuzzy psych band from Perth and we actually played with them about three years ago when they were still probably in their teens. They were great then, and they’ve made a really outstanding debut record. It’s not really made up of singles or anything like that – it’s just a great record.
Finally, could you name your top three albums of all time? Accepting that the answer could change from day to day, of course…
Jesus Christ! Right now…um…Eldorado by ELO. (Pause) Let me just look at my iPod. I don’t want to rush this. Ok…Relationship of Command by At the Drive-In. And one more…(longer pause)…After the Gold Rush by Neil Young.
Three fine choices, sir.
Thanks. It could have been many others, but that’s a good three.