Upon ascending the neon-lit stairwell toward The Horrors’ backstage lair at a recent New York show, I might have expected to be confronted with any of the following: kohl-eyed groupie waifs with Robert Smith hair, a scattering fleet of vampire bats or a hunchbacked caretaker with a flaming candelabra shrieking prophetic pleas to turn back into the light of day. Or at least a brooding frontman and a band of sullen, angst-ridden Londoners who wish they could be transported back to the days of the legendary Specimen’s Batcave Club. I found no such camp, I’m afraid, but I did find heaps of black clothing draped about the room, a synthesizer or two and the Mercury Prize nominees themselves. I spoke with lanky frontman Faris Badwan, who shared his thoughts on everything from honey to Suicide.
You guys have had quite a year with Primary Colours. Parts of the record were produced by the music video director Chris Cunningham. I wasn’t aware that he was into making music.
Well, he’s a multi-talented guy. Working with him was very visual, as you can imagine. It was all quite cinematic as that’s where his creativity comes from.
What led you to make the decision to stray from the raw punk sound of your first album to the more layered, electronic sound of Primary Colours?
We didn’t decide it, there was no decision made. We just naturally slipped into it, and there was really no other way it could have gone for us. I think if we had made the conscious choice to go in a certain direction the result would have been much different. I’d imagine people would be able to see through that pretty quickly.
Being in the States, I was unaware that you actually put out a Suicide cover (Shadazz, Blast First Petite Records, October 2008) a few weeks before the album release, which is funny because when I first took a listen to the album I said to a friend, “This is so incredible, it’s like Mark Burgess of the Chameleons performing Suicide covers!”
Yeah, well I love Suicide. We’re performing a Suicide cover tonight actually (Ghost Rider, which would later kick off the band’s encore and send the crowd into a slamdancing uproar). The beautiful thing about their songs is that the production is so simple you can really add on to them and make something new. The best covers are the ones where the band really does something different.
What do you guys like to do when you’re in New York?
Mostly we shop for records. We’ve just come from Montreal, which was freezing. Before that we were caught in a blizzard in North Dakota.
What do you think of Middle America? Get any weird stares?
No, not a single comment! We actually love it, it’s our favorite place to go because it’s about as far away from England as we could possibly be, and the shops are really good. Our favorite city we’ve played has to be Houston, Texas. We’d never played there before so we expected that nobody would show up. But despite the heat, the show was sold out and the crowd’s energy way surpassed our expectations. Next we go to Guadalajara. Mexico has the best audiences in the world, hands down. We’ll ultimately finish touring in February.
Will you be glad to wrap up the tour?
No, I can get into the habit of it and keep going forever. The problem is I can’t keep singing forever so I’ve got to drink a lot of ginger tea with honey. I actually used to quite like honey. Now I can’t stand the sight of it.
The Horrors’ new single, Whole New Way, is out now on 7″