A chat with Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble on their forthcoming album 'The Remote Part', his songwriting, his hobbies and favourite websites!
Roddy took a few minutes out of a hectic day of sitting on a sofa, drinking beer and talking to other journo’s to speak to us about his views on the new album, his lack of an intimate relationship with the internet and how ‘At Home with Idlewild’ would be a rollercoaster-ride of a fly-on-the-wall documentary cataloguing the daily artistic creative energy that flows from all the bands members – wherever they are, whatever they’re doing…,
Starting off pretty obviously with the new single, American English – you seem to be going for songs with more of a story behind them nowadays, what’s behind the lyrics on this one?
‘Basically what I’m trying to do with this song is in my own way to deconstruct some of the myths of what songs mean to me and in doing so I’m sort of stating that in my opinion most songs are just written about the person who wrote them. So with that explanation most songs that people sing they’re just singing for themselves.’
[…well that clears that one up then!!!]
What about the process of songwriting – is it cathartic for you or just a search for new commercially viable material?
‘It’s certainly cathartic in a way because it’s a means of somehow trying to explain things to yourself – you know, ideas you’ve had or things you’ve done. But its also a way of communicating a message you know? Because with words you have the power to like direct and communicate – so all of these things interest me. It’s about the whole concept of how seriously songs are taken by people and how they exist subconsciously in the fabric of people’s lives. So it’s really interesting to be part of this and to be making these things.’
So with American English is there a message you’re trying to get across – something you want people to get out of it?
‘Yeah – well, it’s got a chorus which is going to be so relevant to anyone who sings it…it’s a kind of anti-anthem if you know what I mean’
[…no, Roddy – we don’t.]
How about the original seven minute version of the song – any chances you’ll be including that in any of your live show?
‘No! I think the original version is good, but it’s really just for us – you know what I mean? – it would really just bore other people.’
Off the track now – in a tribute to the excellent ‘Tribute’ song by Tenacious D at the moment we want you to tell us what you’d pick as the ‘greatest song in the world’ to sing to the devil and save your soul.
‘Hmmm. I guess it would have to be ‘Inchworm’ from the Hans Christian Anderson musical.’
Interesting! That’s one for the archives.
READ ON FOR MORE WOOMBLING INSIGHTS
Back with the plot then. You spent a lot of time in America – what influence did that have on your approach to music?
‘Well I’ve always liked listening to American bands. I grew up listening to American Indie Rock, and it’s the stuff I’ve always kind of related to. So I think that just touring America and hanging out with these bands something does rub off on you – it’s maybe a bit subconscious, but you do realise that you’ve become slightly different and your attitudes sort of change.’
Okay, well asking a question I guess gets asked quite often of ‘popstars’ like yourself – what do you reckon you’d be doing with your life now if the whole band thing hadn’t happened?
‘Oh, I’ve no idea! Probably just still trying to form a band. I did do photography at Art College, so I guess I’d be doing something with that, but music’s always been my main interest. So I guess I’d be wandering around taking photos and trying to form a group.’
So what about when the music stops? There must come a point when it’s put to one side, so what then do you think?
‘Well I’m not a fan of panic, and what I like about the band is the total uncertainty of it. That’s what I like. I’m not in a band because I like planning my life!’
All right, so back to today. What’s on today’s episode of ‘At Home with Idlewild’?
‘Well I’ve not seen any of the others from the band today. I’ve just been sat on this sofa since about 10 o’clock doing interviews!’
But how about a regular weekend then?
‘It depends on where we are – whether we’re on tour or back in Scotland. I mean we hang around together quite a lot, because we all live relatively close together in Edinburgh. But with all the touring and going out together every night then that’s where we do our real living – back at home it’s quite a sedate affair. Apart from rehearsing and writing songs we just go to the pub and see films or go to each other’s houses and listen to records. It’s so hectic on tour that when we’re home we just like to quieten down.’
So you just switch between serious road trip and the mundane?
‘Well it’s not really mundane! It’s not like we’re just sitting round vegged in front of the TV. We’re all active creative people who want to do stuff – we don’t want to just forget about things. It’s just that there are times when all you want to do is lie on the floor with a few records and a few drinks.’
Do you spend much time on the internet?
‘I don’t have a computer – but I sometimes do if I can.’
Any favourite sites?
‘Pitchfork Media is good.’
[…a quick search through their archives tells us why, when they say of 100 Broken Windows that, ‘…this is the great album R.E.M. could have made after Green.’]
How about Friends Reunited? Have you got anything on that?
‘No – but one of my friends from school has really cruelly put something about me up on the site. I can’t remember what it was, but he made up some drosh!’
[…this turned out to be harmless, “Currently living in a church, favourite saying ‘Don’t come any closer!'” – interestingly it seems that one Scott Reid was at the same school at the same time and is now is the DJ based band X-press2]
If you were going to put up something about yourself what would it be?
‘I wouldn’t put my name on it. I’m in contact with the people from school who I want to stay in touch with.’
Any ideas what the connection is between Idelwild and Doves, Weezer, Cooper temple Clause, Electric Soft Parade and The Hives?
‘I dunno – we all have guitars??’
Actually it’s the Amazon list of related artists – go figure. Anyway, as I haven’t had the chance to listen to the new album (The Remote Part) yet and Amazon’s £50 voucher is still up for grabs for the first review how about we go halves on it if you could give me a few words summing the record up?
‘The album takes the ingredients of the previous releases, Captain, Hope is Important and 100 Broken Windows and adds a new clarity both musically and lyrically. It makes more sense as a whole, not being as selective as the earlier albums in seeking an audience for Idlewild to appeal to. This is a record for everyone and it’s a record that people will find it easy to listen to and think ‘yeah – this means something.’
Okay, that’s great. Just the kind of in-depth analysis that Amazon are interested in. I’ll hopefully be forwarding you £25 in Amazon vouchers via Parlorphone shortly! Out of interest, Amazon are taking pre-shipping orders for a special edition of the new album, any ideas for people about what they’ll get with that?
‘I don’t know. I know that we’re doing a gate-fold vinyl limited release. But a lot of the CD’s are having short films added to them because my friend Alex made lots of little films behind us when we played live…so it could be one of those maybe.’
Talking about playing live, you mention on the Radio One website that your favourite musical memory was Glastonbury 1992 when you were 15. What was so special about that one for you?
‘Well for starters it was only half the size it is now – ten years ago there weren’t as many stages, there was such great weather and I was just so into being in that sort of environment. It just seemed like all of the people I’d been sort of somehow searching for in Scotland had all just congregated in Glastonbury that year. I just totally absorbed all of the bands and the atmosphere and it was just great.’
So will you be out and about seeing other bands when you play Glastonbury this year?
‘Probably not I guess. Having been to loads of festivals as a punter and then having had a bit of a break and now going back to play I guess I find that I enjoy the playing aspect more than the other things. I love watching bands, but I really prefer to see them somewhere other than a festival.’
Okay, so if playing is what you like then do you think you might be up to do some little secret acoustic set tucked away in a shady corner of the Glastonbury fields if you were given the chance?
‘I guess it would depend on how I was feeling and how much I’d drunk.’
Idlewild’s new single ‘American English’ is out now. The album ‘The Remote Part’ is released on 15th July 2002 on Parlaphone.