Faris on stage at the Horrors show in Glasgow's QMU, October 19 2017.
Faris Badwan lounges in the tiny desk-chair before me. We’re in a rather innocuous seminar room at Glasgow’s Queen Margaret Union, where tonight’s gig seems at odds with the whiteboard and stark lighting. As it turns out, he’s extremely nice, and despite it being my first interview and the audio recorder’s failure (we used my phone), he’s consistently charming. When I mention the fact it’s my first, fiddling with his giant skull ring, he offers a game: if he guesses my question, I can’t ask it. How can I not accept? The twelve minutes of the interview go by before I even notice, and I find myself apologising for taking his time, and - most bizarrely - wishing him good luck. This too, when the foremost impression I got was just how assured and at home Faris seemed, even in this weird seminar room an hour before performing.
The performance itself is fantastic. Preceded by half an hour of brilliant, twisted, psych-rock from support Baba Naga (from whom I’d have equally loved a full set), The Horrors launch into a heavy, tight and confident set. 'Machine', V''s first single, arrives early and hard, where 'Something to Remember Me By' closes out, rightfully claiming status as an anthem. The same aggression that Faris mentions having missed in the interview is out in full force: favourites such as 'Still Life' still make an appearance, of course, but in a darker and slightly uptempo fashion that whips up the crowd. If you have the opportunity, their show is not one to miss.
The Horrors’ album V is out now on Wolf Tone/Caroline International.
Dominic: Do you wanna guess your first?
Faris: Ok, so.. What were your influences on this record?
D: Yeah, that was was the obvious one!
F: Ah, well we can strike that one out then. Why the change from Luminous to V, why the change in sound? Is that one?
D: I’m gonna ask a similar one though, so.. Is V a return to that more gothic noise, or has it always been there?
F: Well, I always thought that our live shows were a lot more aggressive than our records - even on the first album - because, I mean when you listen to live recordings, of us playing the first record, it’s almost un-listenable. I mean it’s like.. It’s just a f*cking screeching mess. You know, In this.. I mean I f*cking hate musicians so that’s fine, but it’s like.. I don’t like people who can - who’ve learnt to play their instruments in a conventional way - I like people who’ve picked up the instrument, and they’ve kind of been inspired to do something else with it - even if that means making a complete racket. So I’m into that. But yeah I mean I was singing twice as fast as everyone else was playing, it was a mess! But yeah, like I said, I enjoy that. So, on this record, it kind of felt like we’d gone so long without… aggression, that, we wanted a bit of it back.
D: Do you wanna continue the game?
F: What did Paul Epworth bring to your new record, V?
F: No? Jeez, ok, You’re ahead, you’re ahead
D: I’m ahead?
F: 2 to 1
D: Do you have any pre-gig rituals that you guys always go to?
F: Pre gig rituals… I did, well, I do.. I got this inhaler that - Have you seen blue velvet? Ok, well Blue Velvet, Dennis Hopper, makes his return to the big screen, after some, after a period of.. wilderness, and he’s got this mask that he puts over his mouth like this [he mimes] and he kind of.. he sounds really terrifying, so I’ve got a mask that I put over my face to inhale steam, and then that steam warms up my voice, and since then I haven’t lost my voice - that’s the closest thing I have to a ritual. Josh [Guitarist] just sleeps for an hour.
D: Nice, that - that’s really impressive, like I had no idea that that would..
F: No, I thought actually, I dunno why more.. I’m sure singers do it, I’m sure lots of people do it, otherwise it wouldn’t exist, but I thought I want to design one that’s one, that’s made of one piece, ‘cause I thought.. it’s not - the top bit melts, sometimes
D: Yeah - how do you do that, just got a kettle, and you’re like huffing?
F: No, it’s a little beaker, you know those ones you have when you’re a kid that, that right themselves if you knock them over? It’s a bit like that, and it’s got a plastic mouthpiece, but yeah.
D: Nice… Another one?
F: OK… Alright well this will be the end of your interview, if you ask it: What can we expect from the upcoming tour, with The Horrors?
D: Told you I’m bad at this
F: No no, it means you’re good, this is a good thing. I’m supposed to lose, and I’ll be happy, if I lose, I’m happy.
D: If you were dictator, what would your first law be?
F: Brilliant, that’s great, never had that one. First law… ok… well, I mean the thing is, you know, you say something and then probably later on think of something more important. But…
D: It’s only your first, it doesn’t have to be the most important
F: You’re right, I know, but if I was dictator I’d want to make a statement.. Yeah I dunno, I think I’d probably make.. Yeah am I dictator of the world?
D: World is fine.
F: Did you know that in Ireland, certain parts, abortion is not legal? That’s crazy.
F: And you get more time in jail, if you get raped and abort the child, than you do if you’re raping someone. How crazy is that? So…
D: Yeah, that’s - that’s nuts.
F: Yeah. So I’d probably do something to do with women’s rights. Abortion is legal, everyone.
D: Nice. If you weren’t doing this, i.e. being [lead singer of] The Horrors, I mean, what would you be doing, do you think? Still down south?
F: I definitely wouldn’t be where I grew up.. I think.. I was studying to be an architect, and I didn’t ever really think about it, so I kind of.. I dunno, it’s weird how you sort of find your level, eventually, maybe you don’t, I dunno… But yeah, so I was studying illustration, and then I just ended up being away more and more, so I guess maybe a painter or something? I don’t know, I mean I paint a lot and I do exhibitions, maybe I’d do that. If it ended I’d do that. If it ended and I wasn’t allowed to make music, then I’d do that.
D: Nice, have you got a favourite writing spot?
F: I’m impressed, I like your questions ‘cause they’re really, they’re not boring… and honestly… the amount of boring questions… [laughs]
D: I can imagine..
F: Usually I start playing games to amuse myself, otherwise… Because I think it’s just a... a band is just a way to avoid boredom, more than anything else… It’s like, you wanna find a way in your life of having fun, and that’s what it is… But yeah, writing spot, I dunno, I mean I have gone different places, we went, on this record, recently I went to iceland, because I’d spent two weeks trying to write one line of the lyrics, and I was going a bit mad - and it wasn’t even an important line - and I was just staring at a computer screen trying to do it, and it wasn’t happening, so we went to Iceland, and... we saw no-one the whole time, and we saw the northern lights... and yeah, we got the lyrics finished. So, I’d go back there. Sometimes I go to Manchester, which is a little different.
D: If you walked into a record store now, and you were gonna pick up a record, old or new, what record would it be?
F: Well I guess it would be one that I didn’t have, so… I feel like I have all the old bands, that you’d find in a record shop. I mean obviously not, but, you know, the more famous ones... So I’d probably, I feel like there’s a lot of new bands that I don’t know but I might like, ‘cause, we went to The Q Awards yesterday, and they had a ‘Best New Band’ category, and I realised I only knew half of them. And then... I was thinking that maybe... Because there are a lot of good new bands. There’s a band that I work with that’s called Happy Meal Ltd., I produced their first single, they’re really good. A bit like The Horrors when we started, but a lot more colourful. There’s this band that I’m working with called ‘Let’s Eat Grandma’, these two girls from Norwich, both... don’t think they’re 18 yet... but they’re on their second album.
D: Damn, already?
F: Yeah yeah, and they’re really good. ‘SOPHIE’? do you know the electronic music producer ‘SOPHIE’? Kind of started off with PC music, do you know those people?
D: Afraid not, something to check out!
F: Yeah well, there’s lots of stuff that I don’t know, so I’d go to a record store and pick up a sleeve that I liked, that I didn’t know. That’s what I’d do. I think it’s rare to find a record sleeve that you really love, and completely hate the music, because it kind of goes with the aesthetic, yeah.
F: Sort of, it’s not always true, but yeah I’d do that.
D: Nice. The video for Something to Remember me by, that’s nuts, I’ve not seen a video like that in a long time...
F: Well, you nearly saw two within the space of three weeks, because the band that I mentioned, Happy Meal Ltd., three days after our video came out, they got sent a treatment by a different director, that was almost word for word exactly the same as our video. They called me up and said they weren’t sure if it was coincidence (or if he just ripped it off), but yeah- so you could have seen two completely identical videos. But yeah I think the guy did a good job, Max Weiland. I’ve hated... I’ve had a problem with videos, for a long time, because I feel like we haven’t always had good ones. It’s hard being in a band of five people, because it ends up quite diplomatic, to the point where no-one gets what they want, so we’ve tried to be a little bit more… sort of... focused on different people’s opinions at different points.
D: Sure, nice… The body horror aspects, I guess, of the video, and like the imagery for the new album, is that a new thing? Like is that something that’s suddenly popped up?
F: Yeah, because I thought, I kinda felt like we got to a point where you would know what kind of sleeve to expect from The Horrors, and I was - we were all getting really bored of it, it just became this like… I dunno, I never even thought we were particularly a ‘psych band’ or whatever, in the traditional sense anyway, but we got that label. And all the psych bands have similar artwork, so, you know.. I felt it was a bit too comfortable. That was kind of the point with this new record, we felt like everything about the process had become too comfortable… so having something grotesque, and using CGI, which [we] haven’t done before... I just thought it was fun, you know, it’s kind of...
D: Yeah, it’s new… Yeah I really liked all of the artwork and the videos, they’re really good.
F: We’re trying to do an anime, for the next video, but.. Have you seen Ghost in the Shell? The guy who produced it got in touch and wanted to do a video, but then he said one minute of Ghost in the Shell cost £100,000 [laughs]
D: No... Damn.
F: Yeah, imagine how much the whole film cost, it’s crazy. So actually.. you know. That’s not going to happen. But we’re trying to find another way of doing it...
D: Maybe collaboration... Anyway, thanks man, it’s really kind of you to give me the time.
F: That’s alright, likewise, don’t mind at all.