Interview: Ed Harcourt
Published on May 16th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
“Where’s all the weird stuff with samples of guns?”: that’s what Ed Harcourt tells Rocksucker of the reaction to his elegantly sparse recent sixth album Back Into the Woods. He’s surely being a wee bit disingenuous because it’s a sublime song cycle, feverishly conceived over a long weekend and laid down in a matter of hours within the gold-dust-coated confines of Abbey Road studios.
In terms of productivity, Harcourt is decidedly hardcore: he’s been writing songs for Josephine, Ren Harvieu, Jamie N Commons, Sam Smith, Paloma Faith and Liam Frost, is preparing to give a songwriting/recording workshop at Hackney’s Premises Studios in July and is even set to launch his own ale. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of his forthcoming UK tour dates. We asked him about all of this as part of one of those interview things we like to do…
Do you think the magic/ghosts of Abbey Road bled over into the recordings/songs in any way?
I’m such a Beatles fan so it was quite strange. It’s just an amazing place.
You’re a White Album man, aren’t you?
Yeah, although lately I’ve been getting more into Abbey Road. I think the White Album could have been even better if they’d condensed it, although I suppose part of the beauty is in its flaws.
There’s such a fragile, ‘spot of sunlight on the wall’ feel about the songs on Back Into the Woods that reminds me of parts of the White Album. Were the songs all written in close proximity?
I wrote the songs by locking myself in my house for a long weekend with a bottle of whiskey. It’s good to force yourself after the initial half day of writer’s block spent banging your head against the wall! I think I work better to a deadline.
Have you got material lined up for your next album, and if so do you intend to perform any of it on your forthcoming tour or festival dates?
The next album is going to be different to anything I’ve done before, stranger and bigger sounding, with quite a bit of dark humour: there are songs titled “Occupational Hazard”, “Immoral”, “The World is on Fire”, “Take it to the Grave” and “Sleep Forever”. I’d like to get my head around them before I try performing them live. I thought I had eleven good songs but Flood, who’s producing them, insisted that only four of them were good and told me to get rid of the others. That’s how he works and I think I need that, to be creatively whipped into shape. Maybe I’ll take the songs that don’t make it and release them as an EP.
What can be expected from the songwriting/recording workshop you’ll be giving at Premises Studios in Hackney on July 26th-29th? How did you get to be involved in this?
I’ll bring in a finished track and we’ll go back through it to show how it was put together. Then we’ll get people to suggest lines and make a song out of it together.
Where and when will we be able to get a pint of Dark Heart?
Ah! I think it’s available from 27th May but you can pre-order it online now from the Signature Brew website. We might do a tasting session sometime in the next few months, maybe play some music there too. The name alludes to my song “Beneath the Heart of Darkness”; I think it sounds good, rolls off the tongue. “I’ll have a Dark Heart, please!”
What music from 2013 have you been enjoying, and/or is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to?
I can only think of the Jim James record, which I really like. I’ve not had a lot of time to listen to new music lately as I’ve been in the studio with Sophie Ellis-Bextor working on her new thing. It’s more like what she did with theaudience She’s got such a great, very English voice, stuff more like she did with theaudience, using classical instruments and so on. I think people will be pleasantly surprised.
Finally, a question pertaining to one of your lyrics: do you think you really could kill a man with your own bare hands?
Yes. My hands are strong!
Ed Harcourt, thank you.
Back Into the Woods is out now on CCCLX.
For more information, please visit the official Ed Harcourt website.