Interview: The Kooks
Published on September 13th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Yesterday saw the official release of Junk of the Heart, the effervescent third album by Brighton’s foremost purveyors of indie-pop The Kooks.
Quite apart from affirming the band’s longevity after years of underhanded media attempts to drum up ill-feeling between them and their peers, the album also marks the return to the fold of drummer Paul Garred after recovering from nerve damage in his arm.
As such, Rocksucker caught up with Paul for a thoroughly delightful chat about the new record, his happily unrealised fears that he might never return and the surprising extent of The Kooks’ Polish fan base…
How would you describe your new album to those who haven’t heard it yet?
It’s been three years since the last record and we’ve moved on. Many things have happened with us – I wasn’t there for a while but I came back just in time for the record. Our producer Tony Hoffer has been brilliant. What happened was that he and Luke really looked at the tracks that were there and talked about what would work for those tracks. Tony has brought in this idea of using electronics as well. He’s very much from that world – he’s best mates with Beck and did lots of stuff with him. So that’s his world and he brought that world to us without losing our sound.
That was exactly the same time as us! We’d leave the studio and he’d be back when we weren’t around for a month, then we’d cross back over again. I must download his album, I’d love to hear it.
Weren’t you going to work with Jim Abbiss originally?
Yeah. I wasn’t around at that point but I think the guys did some sessions with Jim. I think what happened was that they listened back to the recordings and said, “We’re not ready yet.” For whatever reason, the sessions stopped and then, two, three, four months later, they came back but, by that time, I was here and Tony was here. We went very old school – you know, we became a band again.
Were there times during your absence that you thought you wouldn’t make it back?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I had my doubts, spoke to hundreds of professional doctors and whatnot, and at that point I just accepted my fate. But I have to admit, I’ve done TV and radio shows recently and I really enjoyed it – we all enjoyed it, which is really great. I now take everything with a pinch of salt, not worrying about things but just enjoying them. It’s an amazing place to be.
I read an interview with Luke in which he described the new album as sounding “more global”, and to our ears your drumming is integral to that. Did you relish the chance to try out new rhythms and such?
I just love experimenting, to be honest. On this particular album, I came in later so I wasn’t particularly on the writing side of things this time. On the previous two albums, I was writing a song or contributing to whatever here and there but, this time, I came into a place where there were already songs. It was a very natural thing, I played something and it seemed to stay. I’ve been told that I don’t ‘attack’ songs like a lot of other people do, that I do something a bit different. I don’t know what that means exactly but maybe it means that I hit where other people wouldn’t hit, or something. I don’t know. I just really enjoyed it. I don’t know if my drumming means ‘global’ – I don’t know what that means exactly! – but I’ve got heavy influences in funk and reggae, with a bit of punk, so I guess there must be some kind of crossover there which might help along. The ethos of the band has always been about the song and, bar a few arrangements here and there, I already had a song to work with. It was ready.
How did you create that kind of pitchshifting/phase effect at the beginning of “Junk of the Heart (Happy)”?
We got a loop together. We basically melded a toy drum kit, which had toms going into the chorus, and then I’d play a real drum kit for the chorus leading out to the rest of the song. So we had the loop always going, which we’d never done before – we’d never worked with loops and electronics and stuff – but this was a great song to do it with as it’s a very breezy song. The loop keeps it breezy but the live drums keep it sounding like The Kooks. This toy drum kit, it’s bizarre – it cost a hundred dollars and, to be honest, we all thought that it looked like a piece of shit. Then we mic’d it up and it sounded incredible!
Who wrote the sort of bossa nova chord progression of the verse? It’s very sexy.
(Laughs) Sounds like Hugh to me. He’s good at that!
My favourite song on the album is “How D’You Like That?” – it’s just so ridiculously sunny. Can you see it being a single?
It’s my first choice, definitely. I think it’s a good little pop song. There are a few options but I definitely think “How D’You Like That?” will be a single somewhere along the line.
I was looking at the band’s Facebook wall and it just seems to be full of people asking if you’ll play a show on their particular corner of the globe. Do you keep abreast of, perhaps even catalogue, these requests?
(Laughs) Again, it’s not a bad place to be nine or ten years down the line! I think we should definitely do that.
Have you seen the Kooks message board that’s all in Polish?
I haven’t, no. I don’t go on Kooks message boards! What does it say?
I don’t know. It’s all in Polish.
Wow. That’s amazing. First I’ve heard of it!
Are there any up-and-coming artists you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
I’ve just been listening to that James Blake album – I really like it, it’s very ethereal. I love Metronomy – they’re the kings of the anti-chorus! I’m all about the chorus but I listened to them and thought, “They’re really, really good.” I’m also really digging Chase & Status at the moment.
Finally, if I asked you right now to name your top three albums of all time, off the top of your head, which would you pick?
Crikey, what are you doing to me?? Okay – The Lexicon of Love by ABC. It’s so easy to say a Beatles album…so I will – Abbey Road.
Abbey Road is probably the single most common answer we’ve had to this question on these pages.
In that case I’ll be controversial and say Magical Mystery Tour. And then…Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits.
Paul, thank you.
New album ‘Junk Of The Heart’ is released on September 12th. Check out the website for more details: thekooks.com