- 09 Feb 24
20 years ago today, Franz Ferdinand released their acclaimed, Mercury Prize-winning debut album, via Domino Recording Company. Featuring singles like 'Take Me Out' and 'The Dark of the Matinée', the self-titled LP scored the Scottish band a Grammy nomination, and sold millions of copies worldwide. To mark the occasion, we're revisiting an early Hot Press interview with Franz Ferdinand – published in the run-up to the album's release...
Originally published in Hot Press in 2004:
It’s 6pm on Friday, January 16, and the members of Franz Ferdinand are squeezing in a final interview before returning to their respective Glasgow homes for an early night. Tomorrow finds “Britain’s hottest new band” – © every newspaper, magazine and radio station with a passing interest in music – embarking on their maiden voyage to America and management wants to make sure they’re ready for the fresh media scrum that awaits. While they’re away, their sophomore single, ‘Take Me Out’, will debut at number three in the UK charts. Not the indie one, mind, but the grown up version that gets you onto things like CD:UK and Top Of The Pops. It would be a rags to riches story except that Franz Ferdinand have always looked like they belong in a Dazed & Confused photo shoot.
If the alarm bells are beginning to ring, fear not, the band despise the aren’t we fucking cool! brigade as much as you do.
“One of the things that brought this group together is a shared hatred of elitism,” proffers singer and guitarist Alex Kapranos. “I detest elitism in music, it’s one of the ugliest things. We did four interviews the other day which were Front Row on BBC Radio Four, The Sun, Attitude and 19, which is brilliant because it means we’re not confined to the indie ghetto. As some quite famous person whose name escapes me said, ‘13-year-old girls deserve to hear decent music too!’
“I love subversion and I love pop music,” he expands. “Put them together and you get magic moments like The Sex Pistols getting to number one and them not being able to print the name at the top of the charts. That’s fantastic! Then you had bands like The Specials and The Jam appearing on Saturday morning kids TV with songs that sounded all nice and poppy but were as subversive as fuck.”
They mightn’t do spiky hair or leather jackets, but Franz Ferdinand are far more punk than any of the crazycolor Americans currently pledging allegiance to the Sex Pistols. Yes, Good Charlotte, we mean you!
“I suppose Bob, our bassist, not being able to play when we formed was a bit Sid Vicious!” drummer Paul Thomson laughs. “We thought, ‘Why bother looking for somebody else when we can teach our mate?’ The other Pistols-like thing we did, I guess, was to not go the traditional gig route at first. We found our own places to play which made for a real sense of occasion.”
These include working men’s clubs, a derelict courtroom with no roof and The Chateau, a Victorian-era warehouse in a dodgy part of town that’s been converted into an art space.
“It doesn’t take much effort to find these places… and then break and enter!” Thomson chuckles again. “There are lots of techno nights – like the ones run by The Radar Collective – taking place in railway arches and unoccupied buildings that with a bit of electrical know-how can be reconnected to the mains. It’s just more interesting than going to a corporate club or a bar.”
Breaking and entering as an art form is something that might be appreciated by The South Bank Show, but unfortunately it’s not Melvyn Bragg who’s in charge of the Glasgow Police Department.
“Both the gigs we did in The Chateau got shut down,” Thomson resumes. “Second time round they were fairly understanding, but they did their nut the first night trying to work out what 500 people were doing in a more or less derelict building. They were going, ‘It’s an illegal rave… there must be guns and drugs here!’”
In a scene reminiscent of the Sex Pistols’ Jubilee boat-ride down the Thames – I’m determined to push the comparison – Alex Kapranos had his collar felt but was later released without charge. The rock ‘n’ roll Houdini he is, he also managed to escape being done for assault after a vodka-fuelled fracas with fellow FF-er Nick McCarthy.
“He was trying to steal my bottle of vodka at a party so I gave him a slap,” Kapranos pleads by way of mitigation. “Unfortunately, he slapped me back resulting in a bloody lip and broken tooth. This was pre-Franz Ferdinand and rather bizarrely is what lead to us becoming friends.”
While reviewers have tended to compare them to the über-cred likes of Interpol, Hot Hot Heat and The Rapture, Kapranos reckons they’ve got just as much in common with that other partially-Glaswegian quartet, The Darkness.
“The Darkness are four blokes into music and having a laugh, the same as us. You know what I say when bands go, ‘We’ve been working so hard blah blah blah’? ‘Fuck off and try doing a real job!’ When the Glasgow musicians I know get holidays, they go off gigging with other groups.
“You do it because you love it, which is The Darkness to a tee. Say what you like about the image, but they write damned good pop songs and know how to put on a show.”
And so say all of us! Bona fide pop stars that they are, Franz Ferdinand have got up close – but not yet personal – with some of the least indie people imaginable.
“It’s funny reading in The Sun that us and Michelle from Pop Idol are ‘rivals’ for number one,” Paul Thomson interjects. “The obvious thing is for us to slag her off, but we were on CD:UK with her last Saturday and she seemed perfectly nice.
“The most surreal TV moment we’ve had, though, was doing Later With Jools Holland and having Annie Lennox bop away to us on the other side of studio. That was an amazing buzz!”
More gobsmacking still was the telephone call that followed Alex doing a ‘My Record Collection’ piece in a British inky.
“Having been gushing in my praise for Sparks,” he purrs, “I got a call from their management saying, ‘Ron and Russ are equally big fans of yours and would you like to do something together?’”
The answer being?
“The same as we’re saying to everything at the moment: ‘Bring it on!’”
Revisit Franz Ferdinand below: