Alex Kapranos and Bob Hardy on ‘Hits To The Head’
Why did you think it was a good time to make this greatest hits compilation?
ALEX KAPRANOS: It was just fine. It’s something we’ve been talking about for quite a while, but we couldn’t do it for too long, just in terms of how many songs you could fit on two LPs. More and you’d run out of space, so now seemed like a good time to do it. We’ve been talking about it with Domino for a long time, and it’s a good thing to do.
In terms of having enough space to include all these songs, was that a determining factor in trying to determine which songs to include and which songs to exclude?
KAPRANO: It was pretty obvious for the most part, the songs that were going to be there. There were a few that we were like, “Maybe we should put this in,” but, again, there was no space. There were other singles, like “Bullet” and “Fresh Strawberries”. So maybe if we had done that a few years ago they would have been there too.
Bob Hardy: I guess he was informed by songs that we included on the festival sets and still play live. Because we tour so much, it indicates how we perceive our back catalog and which songs are our favorites.
KAPRANO: And you just know which firecrackers are, so stick them!
With “Lucid Dreams”, you opted for the non-album version, the Mike Fraser mix. Why did you decide to go with this?
KAPRANO: That’s how we play it live.
ROBUST: Recently we put it back in the set after several years without playing it. The version we chose was the original version we released before the album This evening.
KAPRANO: I also remember why we put him in the set. When we started spinning Always growing, just before the album came out, we played a gig in Vancouver, and there was a guy up front. Between each song, he would rap on stage saying “LUCID DREAMS!” LUCID DREAMS!” And then when we finished the set, he was still banging on stage.
ROBUST: We were in the locker room, and the room staff was cleaning up, and he was alone with all the plastic cups, doing “LUCID DREAMS!” The next day we learned to play it.
KAPRANO: I was like, “Maybe we should listen to this song again.” It’s funny because you go back and listen to it and you’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s pretty good.”
ROBUST: Over the years, people have said, “How come you don’t play ‘Lucid Dreams’?” I think the version we were playing, the album version, we really didn’t feel it when we played it live for the last nine years. So we were like, “Well, let’s hear it.” When we got back to the basic pop song, we were like, “That’s kinda fun! It’s really fun to play.
What do you think of the potential obsolescence of greatest hits albums in the age of streaming?
KAPRANO: I have a number of reasons why I like the idea of greatest hits albums and why I think they’re still relevant. One of them is that I love them myself. I always loved them when I was a kid. My parents have always had them. They were my introduction to music. The second is the vinyl revival. You can make a playlist of anything you want on Spotify, but I’ve always loved listening to vinyl, I still love listening to vinyl, and I know a lot of our fans who love vinyl too. Moreover, it is in the nature of the choice itself. Anyone can compose a selection of songs that are their favorite, but it will never be as good as the selection we make because our taste is the best. [Laughs] These are our songs; we know which ones are the best!
It’s also the funniest. Now that the tracklist is out, I’ve seen fans say, “How come you didn’t put that one on? Why didn’t you put this one? Why didn’t you put ‘Jeremy Fraser’? But that’s the problem. Another album I would like to do is a rarities album. There are a lot of songs we’ve released that are B-sides on EPs. I’m thinking of songs like “L. Wells” or “Shopping For Blood” or something like that. I really think we should have an album like this at some point. We need to talk to Domino about it first.
Now that you’ve gone through all your records, will you pay more attention to your career trajectory and how your songwriting has evolved over the years?
KAPRANO: At the moment, I don’t think about that at all. We were in the studio a few days ago. This is where my mind is right now; it’s not really in the past. I feel like posting this is a way to focus on the present and the future. Having that out of the way, I can say, “There’s the retrospective for everyone to consider,” as I consider the present and the future. For us as artists, that’s what we do.
When we go to see a retrospective of a living artist or an artist who is still working, what is good is that we see the arc that leads to today, when our retrospective is mounted. That’s really what happens with this album too, and especially because it contains new songs. I think “Billy Goodbye” is a very classic Franz Ferdinand song, but maybe “Curious” is an indication of where things might go in the future. It’s a little different from other things, and that’s what you have to see at the end of a retrospective.
It seems that some albums are more represented than others. There are two Always growing songs, but there are four Good thoughts, good words, good deeds Songs. What was the decision-making process behind the representation of certain albums?
KAPRANO: I didn’t really think about that!
ROBUST: I haven’t really thought about it either. I think it could be partly because Always growing is the most recent version. I always find that when we tour, it’s always the last album we made that is the least represented. Sometimes we go back to the penultimate one that got twisted on the last tour, obviously not when you’re touring the album itself. When you spin a record, you can play all of those songs from that album along with a few extra ones. But it’s the next one, like when you go to festivals. It’s a kind of psychological block.
KAPRANO: But it’s true. It’s like, “Well, that’s what we did last, but now we’re doing something new. But, oh, remember that cool thing we did before?” Like, we had forgotten that.
ROBUST: He feels fresh again.
KAPRANO: I think you hit something there. I think if we had made this compilation after the next album that we are going to make, there would have probably been five songs from Always growing because that’s where our minds would have been.
How do you think each Franz Ferdinand record establishes its own sonic identity?
KAPRANO: It’s interesting because they definitely do. When I listened to the songs of This evening, I hear little things. For example, I remember being obsessed with making a snare drum sound a particular way, and it really sounds like that on this album. Or the energy of the second album was totally frenetic because of the way we were playing during the tour. And you are right. All the albums have very distinct sonic identities, but when you listen to it as a whole as part of the retrospective, I don’t know if you notice it as much. It feels more cohesive.
ROBUST: Also, the characteristics of each album, like the frenetic nature of the second album, when you do them, you have no idea that’s a thing either. I can only see this in retrospect. It’s after you’ve finished it and really had time to breathe that you can identify it and be like, “Oh, that’s why we did this.
KAPRANO: You know when you look at pictures of yourself 15 years ago or pictures of your parents when they were young and the kind of clothes they wore? You say, “Dude, look at this. Everyone was wearing lumberjack shirts at this exact moment. Or, “Look at my parents wearing polyester flares.” At the time, we don’t think about it. It’s just what your life is about and what you do. It’s the same as a musician. You are so caught up in it. Much of it is simply instinctive and not particularly considered. It’s just such a natural evolution of what your identity is. You don’t necessarily notice it. There are a thousand little decisions that make up the whole identity. You can’t really sum it up.
You mentioned that you had considered Head shots like vinyl. What do you think of the backlog and delays associated with vinyl?
KAPRANO: I think if there are any venture capitalists reading this, I would invest heavily in a vinyl pressing plant. I think that’s what we need right now. I don’t know much about economics, but I’ve heard about supply and demand. And there seems to be a huge demand for vinyl right now, so I could supply some if I was a big capitalist. So get out of here.
It’s frustrating. I would love to be able to click my fingers and release a record, but we’ll see how that goes. I like that people are excited about records because I’m excited about records. I like to listen to records. I think this interest can only be a good thing. I’ve seen a few things online about people bitching, like “Adele’s record is a problem” or “People are buying reissues of Rumors by Fleetwood Mac” or otherwise. I don’t want to judge other people’s musical tastes. If that’s what you want to listen to on vinyl, go for it. If there’s more interest in vinyl, then I can only see that as a good thing in the long run. This means that there will be more pressed plants. That’s how I try to see it optimistically.