Biffy Clyro: 'For Us It's About The Thrill Of Making Music'

artist: Biffy Clyro date: 07/05/2010 category: interviews
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Biffy Clyro: 'For Us It's About The Thrill Of Making Music'
Only Revolutions [2009] is a further step-up for Scottish rock trio Biffy Clyro coming after the mammoth success of Puzzle [2007]. An album filled with joy, grit & absolute determination, Only Revolutions has already garnered the group chart hits in the form of That Golden Rule, Mountains & The Captain. As the group's most recent outing - and fifth album to date - it was recorded in L.A with producer Garth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers) at the helm, and mixed by Andy Wallace (Coldplay, Nirvana). Multiple Grammy-winning composer David Campbell who has worked with an array of legendary talents including Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Metallica and Radiohead, and who one an Oscar for the score to Brokeback Mountain - contributes lush orchestration throughout. The album also highlights a special guest collaboration with Queens Of The Stone Age front man Josh Homme on the epic stand-out anthem Bubbles. Since the album's release late last year, the group has been on the road touring the record across the globe. They have recently been supporting Muse on their European dates, playing to packed houses, and will soon be performing at many upcoming summer festivals such as Isle Of Wight, T in The Park and Reading & Leeds. During the group's recent tour of Australia, Joe Matera sat down with Biffy Clyro singer and guitarist Simon Neil to discuss the group's new record, touring and the group's plans for the future. UG: Since we last spoke back in early 2009, you have since released the acclaimed album Only Revolutions, which made it onto many of the critics Best of 2009 album lists at the end of last year. You must be happy with the result? Simon Neil: Yes I am and it is funny because when you're making a record, you don't think of what other people are going to think of it. But as soon as it is finished, you go into a panic state where you hope that people will appreciate the record you have just made. Not that it really matters, but it does make you feel better and gives you more confidence in yourself. So we're very proud of it and fortunately we don't regret anything we've done on any of our records and that's a satisfying feeling. I'm Probably In Your Pocket was a track recorded during the album sessions that was set to be included on Only Revolutions but was cut from the finished album. Why did you decide to hold it back and will it eventually surface on a future album? That song was one of the simplest songs we've ever written. And it was almost too straight forward and almost doesn't sound like us so it wouldn't have fitted on the record. We've had the song for a couple years now and it has been in different varying forms but it's still really a straight up four chord song and at the moment, it doesn't feel right to put it on a record. But it might make it onto the next one, though it depends on what kind of record we're going to make.

"I think this record is a subconscious reaction to what we were going through when we made Puzzle."

One of the tracks on Only Revolutions is God & Satan, which is more of an acoustic guitar driven number. It seems to work really well and provides a nice contrast to the album's more bombastic, electrified songs. Are there any plans to do an acoustic album in future possibly? We have talked about it and have toyed with the idea and we might even do it before the next record properly, like maybe a mini album of acoustic songs. We like to make eclectic records and it's something we'd like to do just to step away from the bombastic rock. Maybe we could do some shows with some string players and even do consider some sit down shows? Something really special like that, as it is a different type of intensity when you play acoustically. I really love the idea of making a record that is much more, low key, just with acoustic guitar and maybe with some piano and some percussion as well. Hopefully we will do this. So have you started the writing process for the next album? Yeah we have about six or seven song ideas. We have music but not a lot of vocals as yet but that is my favorite aspect to being in a band. It is about moving forward and making new songs and trying to come up with new ideas. Unfortunately we don't really write songs on the road, we just can't write that way, it is usually when we have some time off the road. Once I'm home I feel really active and I just want to write new songs as it is important for us to never feel static as we should always be looking forward. When can we expect to see the next album to surface? It will definitely be next year as at the moment our diary is completely filled until the end of this year [2010] so we're going to be busy all year. It is important to get some time at home as touring is not conductive to making new music. It's almost like the less successful the record, the more songs we will write (laughs). It is one of those catch 22s where it is nice that people want you to come and play shows and go to new places, but it does affect the making of the next album. We love to be working on the new album right now but unfortunately-fortunately our diary is filled for now. Only Revolutions is an uplifting record on the surface but underneath, it is very Jungian in its depth where it deals with some serious dark subjects. The musicality of the record is more uplifting compared to the previous record Puzzle. I think this record is a subconscious reaction to what we were going through when we made Puzzle. Puzzle was very representative of a low in our lives that I felt we were never going to get out of. But of course you do as life moves on for everyone. But you still hold on a cynical view of the world and of people. Yet the people you love like family and friends, you suddenly realize how important having that loving connection with people really is. So the album is like you say, its more upbeat on the surface but underneath there is a questioning of humanity and what people are capable of. And primarily I'm talking of it all from my own perspective. You have a deep interest in the occult and in the works of Aleister Crowley. How have your studies into this area of your life been going? Not so much as I would want to though I've been reading an awful lot. I'm still madly interested but I'm not in it as deep as I would like but that is because it's from being on the road all the time, that I haven't had much time to even go into a book store. I definitely think it's a great thing to study, especially all types of religion as they're great and really interesting. And I think Crowley made as many good points as anybody else. Let's move to the topic of gear, what are you using on this current tour? I am using a Fender Relic Strat and a Marshall 65 head, a Peavey Delta Blues and an amplifier called a Hayden MoFo. I run both the Marshall and the Peavey through a Boss Metal Zone pedal that I've always had. But I'm now started using the natural distortion from the amps so I had this pedal made up with two switches on it that basically triggers all my amplifiers through this one pedal. And it really has tightened up the sound because the Metal Zone pedal is quite a fuzzy pedal so I wanted something just to tighten up the sound. How many guitars do you take on the road in total? I normally take about six Strats, a Gretsch for when I play God & Satan and a beautiful Taylor acoustic for Machines. So I carry about eight guitars with me which seems an awful lot but we do have a lot of different tunings we use such. We tend to tune to C sharp a lot, to E, to drop D and to drop C as well. So we genuinely need those guitars with me, it's not about showing off. Fender recently released signature Biffy Clyro models of a Fender Squier guitar and bass? Yeah we were blown away by that. They approached us about a year ago and told us they wanted to make guitars for us. So we tried making the guitars as amazing for as cheap as it could be. We had brand new pickups made specifically for it, which are now our signature pickups and we tried to get as close to the Biffy sound as possible. And I have to say Fender really did an amazing job. They really went to town. They basically made what is a 300 guitar sound as good as a 2000 guitar. We have used them live and everyone that has bought has been really pleased with it all.

"The one lesson we learned the most was to just believe in yourself."

What have been some of the most important lessons you have learned from being in this business? The one lesson we learned the most was to just believe in yourself. Just because someone thinks you're crap doesn't mean you are crap. And like wise, just because some one thinks you're amazing doesn't mean you're amazing. It's really about the belief in yourself. We've always had a focus and a drive. We were lucky that we had a start where people didn't like our band for years and we made small records on indie records. And if we didn't have the belief in ourselves, we still wouldn't be doing it. If we were doing this to make money or to meet tons of girls we would have given up after about a year. For us it's really about the thrill of making music. Have you considered possibly releasing a DVD of sorts in future? We're talking at the moment of maybe releasing a DVD of a live show along with a documentary on it but it is very early stages at the moment. But it is something that we definitely feel we have enough behind us to really make a documentary about us from day one. But we'll see what happens. But it is something we'd do if only it can be perfect representation of the band especially when it comes to capturing the band in a live performance. What have been some of the most memorable experiences in the band's career thus far? There have been quite a few. I guess on a basic level when we got to meet The Rolling Stones that was a real pinch yourself moment. And that was because they are a band that really shaped rock and roll from day one. I probably prefer The Beatles slightly more musically than The Stones, but they have done a lot. That was a moment we'll never forget, and also having Josh Homme play guitar on the record. He is such an amazing songwriter and guitarist. You have a passion for collecting religious memorabilia of all things? Yeah I have tons of Virgin Marys and things like a Last Supper clock, and a nodding head Jesus doll. It is all this fantastic stuff that cracks me up because people can take it so serious especially when you have a nodding head doll! To me it's just about the exciting characters. It is something I'm really interested in. And if anyone wants to send me some wonderful religious stuff, that'll be great Interview by Joe Matera Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2010
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