Glasvegas

Interview: Glasvegas

Published on February 22nd, 2011 | Jonny Abrams

When the man who discovered Oasis declares you to be “the best Scottish band ever”, you better go out there and be the biggest, bestest, rockingest, most epic-sounding band you can be; and that’s precisely what Glasvegas have done with EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\, the follow-up effort to the eponymous debut album which in 2008 planted the Glaswegian quartet’s flag firmly into the pantheon terrain of modern British rock music.

Having formed and overseen the legendary Creation Records – home to Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Super Furry Animals, The Pastels, Teenage Fanclub, The Boo Radleys, Saint Etienne, Ride, Swervedriver, Fluke and Heavy Stereo and many more besides, not to mention the brothers Gallagher – Alan McGee knows a thing or two about genuinely life-changing rock music, so it came as little surprise to see Glasvegas fulfilling all of his early hype with their euphoric and heartbreaking (aha!) rush of dizzying feedback, universal melodies and bawl-your-eyes-out lyricism.

While support slots with Ian Brown, U2, Oasis, Kings of Leon and Carl Barat make for an impressive enough CV, one can envisage a not-too-distant future in which sharing a bill with Glasvegas will be an equally boast-worthy feather in a young band’s cap. Rocksucker caught up with bassist Paul Donoghue for an in-depth chat ahead of next month’s release of album number two…

What can we expect from EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\?

PD: I think we’ve evolved musically and we’re not afraid to try different things, like keyboards and stuff like that. Before we were kind of penned into the one sound where the guitar was kind of like orchestral but this time we’ve let the reins go a little bit. I saw a review of it that said it sounds ‘epic’ and that’s always a good thing for us.

Alan McGee has been very effusive in his praise of you lately; “genius” and “best Scottish band ever” are just two of the descriptions he’s included on his Facebook status updates…

PD: Yeah, we were talking about that. That’s the reason why people are hunting James in bars in Glasgow: it’s because of what McGee’s saying! He’s like an enthusiastic uncle to us; he inspires you so much. The first day we were in the studio in London, Alan came along and they’d just finished making the Creation film [Upside Down] and he let us see a preview of it. It was just the perfect way to start making the album, getting to sit down with Alan and watch all the madness that happened in his life.It’s always a huge compliment when Alan says stuff because Oasis are the reason we got into music. Even all the other stuff he’s done, like The Boo Radleys and Heavy Stereo and that, is stuff we respect. Even with the way Creation was run, it’s something that people respect and, for someone from Glasgow to do all that, it means a lot to us.

The Boo Radleys were a severely underrated band…

Yeah I know, man. It’s not until Alan showed us that movie that I got into them. I was really surprised by how good they were. I can see why Alan put his neck in and put their records out.

Those huge waves of soaring guitars common to so many of those Creation Records artists is also a primary factor of the Glasvegas sound. Is this down to Alan at all?

PD: A lot of people think Alan manages us but to be honest he’s just our friend. He likes art to be what it is. He knows that we’ve got our own intelligence to shape the way that we do our own band and I think that’s what he loves. He’s never suggested that we try anything or anything like that. He’s given us advice in the past but he just likes to sit back and enjoy himself.

He recently suggested that James [Allan, singer] is struggling to cope with some of the negative aspects of fame. Is this something you’ve noticed yourself?

PD: Yeah, you do notice it. I’m quite lucky; I don’t know most bass players out of bands so I can go to pubs and the only people that come up are big fans of Glasvegas who just want to say well done and all that. James is a little bit different because he’s the front man and the mouth of the band and I think a lot of people in Glasgow are a little bit jealous of him so he has had some trouble.We pretty much now can’t do gigs in Scotland or even go to gigs in Scotland without James having security. So he struggles with that a little bit but obviously he would never change anything because it’s one tiny little bad thing that happens against the multitude of good things that have happened to him.

Was such public attention one of the factors behind last year’s departure from the band of drummer Caroline McKay?

PD: We were in Santa Monica for four months writing the album [when it happened]. Caroline had never been a drummer before and suddenly she went from us saying “hit that drum, hit that drum!” to playing on a stage with U2. I think that came as quite a shock to her and she missed home a lot more than me, Robert and James did.I think that was a big reason, that she missed her family and her friends too much, but she left on good terms. Me and James haven’t spoken to her in a while but Robert still keeps in touch with her and says she’s doing really well. I’ve also met a few mutual friends who say she’s doing amazing as well.”

How has her replacement Jonna Löfgren settled in and how did you find her?

PD: It was Robert that put up the bat light; he said to our management that if we were going to get another girl drummer then he wanted her to be Swedish! We were calling him a pervert for a while but then Jonna turned up and she just fitted in perfectly and has done since. I think she got a little bit homesick on her first tour with us which was understandable – I don’t think she’d been in a band before, although she played drums at college – and she comes from a little town in the far north of Sweden so it came as a bit of a shock to her to come into the circus that we roll through the country.But she’s clicked with it now and the last few months with her have been amazing. She’s a frightening drummer; we were really surprised. We asked her over when we were recording in London and we flew her over to meet us. She thought it was an audition but we’re not too bothered about technical ability; it’s more about the feel and the electricity between us and we knew right away that she was going to be in the band.She went back home without playing any drums so she was thinking, “They don’t want me and that’s that.” So she was quite surprised when we phoned her up and it’s been amazing having her in the band, although she is making fun of us a bit too much these days. She’s accused me of having fake trainers, which I still have a thorn in my side about.

Is it true that Ian Brown asked you himself to support him?

PD: Yeah. We’re managed by James’ sister Denise and she was on the bus to work when the phone went. She answered it and he said, “Alright, it’s Ian Brown.” She was like, “Yeah right, who is it?” He said, “It’s me, it’s Ian Brown.”He asked us to do five shows with him. I’ve got a lot of respect for Ian for what he’s done in the past. The first time we met, he came up to us and said, “Youse look like a f***in’ band!” I didn’t realise how important your style and the way you look can be to your music and that was kind of the thing that confirmed it for me: it’s not just your music, it’s the whole package. Ian’s the master of that, the king monkey.

What is he like in person?

PD: He’s a beautiful guy. I can understand why people might be intimidated because when he talks to anyone, even James’ mum, he stands nose to nose with them. Even when he’s being really friendly, that’s just the way he talks to people. I think sometimes people read that the wrong way, as if he’s being confrontational, but that’s the last thing on his mind.

Do you know who it was that gave Bono a copy of your debut album, thus leading to Glasvegas supporting U2?

PD: I think it might have been the singer from Interpol! We heard that U2 liked us because the singer from Interpol was at Bono’s house and he told Rich Costey, the producer of our first album, who also does Interpol. I can’t remember where Bono first got it but it’s such a sweet thing for us because we’re huge U2 fans. To hear he was listening to it and then he actually came out in NME and said that ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’ was one of the greatest love songs ever written: that was a huge compliment. To then do shows with them, there were a few squeaky bums!The first show we did with them was in Dublin, their home town. We came in the dressing room after our set and they’d sent us a crate of Guinness and two bottles of champagne with a note to say they were really sorry that they couldn’t spend any time with us, because their families and that were there, which we totally understood.But we met them at Hampden [Park] just before they went onstage and again they were really sweet guys and they’re geniuses at what they do. The show that they give people is so inspiring.

You also supported Oasis. Did they complete the holy trinity of niceness for you?

PD: Yeah, they did. Funnily enough, it’s probably Liam that was the nicest guy. We played maybe eight or nine shows with them and, in Paris on the last show of their tour, Liam came into our dressing room; James’ mum and her husband were there and he was talking away to them for about an hour and a half.Then we went over to Oasis’ dressing room and everyone was so lovely. We knew Andy Bell for a while because he deejayed at one of our gigs years ago and he’s kept his eye on how we’re doing ever since.

Is it true that, in 2009, you had a spell of playing nine festivals in just three weeks?

PD: We were in ten different countries in two weeks. It’s a bit mad but somehow your body adapts to it. We weren’t looking after ourselves the best we’ve ever, a few too many beers after shows and that, but you do adapt to it and it just becomes normal life.The hard thing is when you come home and, at around 9pm, your adrenaline starts pumping because you’re so used to going on a stage. So you’re sitting in your house and you’ve drunk four beers in ten minutes, you’ve been to the toilet five times and you’re thinking, “What’s wrong with me?” Your body gets used to producing adrenaline at a certain time and it’s hard to calm back down when you come back to normal life.At that point we were quite new to it so we went a little bit wild at the time and enjoyed ourselves a little bit too much, I think. But we grew used to it and, even though we’ve only done a little tour of Scotland since then, it was much more chilled out. We don’t want to go nuts because we’ve got to put on the same show every night for two weeks straight and eventually it would be detrimental to the show, which isn’t fair on the people who’ve bought tickets.Money’s tight just now so if they do spend money on a ticket then they deserve the best show we can give them; and that means not turning up with a hangover and having bins on the side of the stage!

Of all the festivals you have played to date, which was your favourite?

PD: Probably T in the Park. We headlined the King Tut’s tent there in 2009. I think the tent holds twelve thousand and there were fifteen thousand people in it so that’s always been really special to us and we were lucky that BBC Scotland filmed the whole show and broadcast it because it was good to watch it back and see so many people digging the music.

You have previously gone on record about your love of practical jokes. Any corkers of late you could tell us about?

PD: We just did a photo shoot in a swimming pool and James had to come out of the water so I was tempted to just keep throwing him back in but he’s a little bit touchy about his hair and it was bad enough. I’ve not actually played a prank in a while; I should start again. I calmed down because the last one I did, one of our crew…you know how bad OCD is for some people? He had to make his bed a certain way; he grew up in a guest house so he had to make twenty beds a day before he went to school, so his bed was always pristine. So one night I came in drunk and messed it all up. I thought he was going to start crying because the OCD had got him so agitated. After that I thought, right, I need to calm down. Our engineer Kev hates cheese so there’s a cheese board in the dressing room that always ends up in his laptop case. I put a big bit of cheese in his pillow case once and it took him about two days to find it.

Finally, could you name – as of this moment, at least – your top three albums of all time?

PD: Violator by Depeche Mode. This probably sounds weird but Stayin’ Alive by Bee Gees; there’s a few moments on our new album that we wanted to sound a bit like the Bee Gees, which our producer just looked totally bemused by! And probably Queen – Live at Wembley.

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About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.