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Coming up for Eire

As the masses prepare to descend on Punchestown, we dispatch Hannah Hamilton to assess the festival fitness of one of this year's Oxegen buzz bands, Franz Ferdinand.

Hannah Hamilton, 05 Jul 2006

"I always wanted a cockatoo,” says Franz Ferdinand drummer Paul Thomson. He’s responding to my warning that our phone conversation may be permeated by the high pitched squawk of my housemate’s pet, Percy, who tends to become particularly vocal just when you don’t want him to.

“But if did get one, I think my cats would turn it into mincemeat. They’d probably enjoy it, but then I wouldn’t get to enjoy the cockatoo. I’d just have to dispose of the body. There are enough bird carcasses in the kitchen already most mornings – not exactly what you want to see when you sit down to breakfast!”

Paul has just spent a rare night in his own bed, and is in fine form despite being unapologetically dragged out of it by Hot Press. We had been due to intellectually probe his bandmate Alex Kapranos this morning, but a bout of tonsillitis hindered proceedings, forcing Paul to step into the hot seat so Alex can save what’s left of his ailing voice for the band’s appearance at Madrid’s Metrorock festival tomorrow.

Franz are well into festival mode at this stage, having played a string of dates across Europe and in the US, including Coachella and Rock AM, and should be well limbered up by the time they hit Irish shores for Oxegen. So do they have any tales of debauchery from the tour bus so far?

“Not really,” ponders Paul, surprising himself somewhat. “There’s nothing to report back! It all seems so ordinary for us now. What’s actually amazing is when you get back home and you have to lead a normal life. It’s a total novelty. Even doing stuff like gardening, which I’ve never done in my life, is really exciting.”

So much for a rock ‘n roll lifestyle, then. Still, Hot Press finds it very hard to believe that tending one's herbaceous border can be more enjoyable than getting invited to go bowling with Jack White.

”Ah yes!” he remembers. “That was a great laugh. We did the Big Day Out in Australia – it’s a great festival with a fantastic line-up and you all get to travel with the bands across Australia and New Zealand. It’s more like a touring circus. The White Stripes and The Stooges all played. One night when we were in Melbourne, Jack invited us and a few other folks out bowling. He’s quite into it, so much so that he’s even got his own bowling ball. We had a lane and The Mars Volta had a lane beside us. The Greenhornes were there as well, and they played a small set. It was like The Raconteurs but without Brendan Benson – Jack was jamming along with the rhythm section of the Greenhornes and he had this almost telepathic communication going with them. I didn’t realise that they were actually in a band until afterwards!”

One of the Franz’s biggest festival appearances this year will be at the Carling Weekender alongside labelmates the Arctic Monkeys.

“They’re a great band,” he enthuses. “Their music and the observations in their lyrics really belie their age. I like the way they do things too. Because they’re on Domino, it’s the same people that work for them as work for us. They don’t communicate to the label in the same way we do, it’s like they’re kids in this little gang. They were supposed to turn up for this day of promo in Paris and they were like, ‘Fuck that, it sounds rubbish’, so they ran away, leaving all the promo people completely distraught! They’re doing it on their own terms. Sometimes I’m a bit jealous. We do everything on our own terms as well, but we’re also very polite. As for Andy Nicholson quitting, I guess it just wasn’t for him. If I can relate it to my experience, especially with the first record, it’s difficult to know when to say 'no'. It’s good to have the confidence to do that because otherwise you just work yourself into the ground. Everyone’s exhausted and you end up having a blow up, like our big fight in Paris. You’re travelling with these four people and you lose the last of your privacy. It can be very stressful. So whatever he feels like doing, good on him.”

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