If you went on a sea voyage and discovered an uninhabited island, what would you call it?
Everyone should have an answer to that.
Just in case.
I think I might call it America.
(chortle chortle) Very modest.
Yeah I know. I’m not from the states so… Well maybe I’d call it something new.
There’s New York, New Orleans, there’s a bunch of Birmingham’s and stuff…
I’d call it New Norwich. Just because of this question.
Alright, we’ll honour you to that, if you ever find one.
If I do. Well I have to say I’ve been surfing quite a bit recently.
What animals would you integrate into the island, or what would you like to be on there already?
Like what kind of eco system would I prefer?
Umm, I think I’d like it to be northern. Like, Northern BC. Maybe some grizzly bears. Maybe a Kodiak. (Sounds enthused). Yeah, maybe a Kodiak.
So kind of like Canada then?
Yeah it would probably be like the Tundra. (laughs)
With the boots, and the big coats…
We’d all wear Uggs. (dissolves into laughter) That’s awesome. We’d be kind of out of style but we’d be happy.
That’s the most important thing.
We’d be happy because that’s originally what they’re meant to be for, right?
The boots? Yeah.
Or maybe for like, after you surf?
You could buy them cheap off eBay. Then it wouldn’t fuel the consumerism quite so much because they’d be recycled.
We’d buy used ones, yeah.
P: They’re really expensive to buy new.
Are people still like…I saw loads of them in the mall today. People love them. I like boots.
P: I’ve never tried them but they’re meant to be really comfy.
A: They don’t look that comfy.
Your boots are very cool (to Polly)
Really? I should buy some. I think we’d have a different fan base if we did that though. These are kind of Inuit? (Ali’s boots. We are taking boot turns.)
A: They’re from Peru.
Oh Peruvian, ok. That makes a lot more sense.
A: My mum’s friend thought they were good and wanted some. I had to tell him they were quite distinctly woman’s boots. (chortle)
I don’t know, maybe he’s got an odd style.
He wears a bit of leather, and big rock belts.
A: They might not really match.
I think they’d look good on him. On a lovely guy.
(Lady pops head round door. “Hello” says lady. “Hello”. The lady leaves.)
We just say hello to each other every so often.
Just to check we’re not killing you. We’re going to have to put pictures of our shoes in now to explain all of that. And yours. Except they’re not boots…
What are they? A pair of vans I think…
(Polly is struck by sudden inspiration.)
P: You should get a silver metallic pen and draw on them.
I should do that.
You could draw on some polar bears.
Polar bears are vicious though.
But they do look nice.
Yeah, well…In the coke commercials they all look really nice (chuckles) But they will destroy you.
They’re Father Christmas’ friends
P: No they’re not, Reindeers are.
Both of them are. Surely he can have a wide social group.
Santa Claus is friends with all the animals in the North.
Right. What would you build on your island?
Hmm. This is all going back to the island hey?
Well, I’ve already decided I’m in the Tundra, so freeze-thaw issues mean that it’s really hard to build on solid foundations. So all the housing would have to be above the ground, on stilts. It’s sort of limiting in that way…I probably couldn’t built much of a city or anything.
What about tree houses?
I think I’d probably make myself a really large log cabin. Something really environmentally unfriendly.
You could make one of those cities in the trees. (I continue to push the tree idea. It’s a dream.)
That’s true, like Robinson Crusoe.
Yeah, all connected by little bridges.
Maybe I’ve changed my mind. I think I might rather be in The Jungle Book. Friends with the Amazon.
You could befriend all the panthers and monkeys. But what about the wolves!
They’re in the Tundra.
I think you should do half and half.
P: But Mowgli was raised by wolves.
I feel like we’re doing a really really un-educating National Geographic…
Changing the tangent slightly, what music would you play on the Island?
(this comes out as sounding like a flemmy gag)
(hearty laughs) What what!?
Ahahaa. Klezmer music. K.L.E.Z.M.E.R.
Is that like the Jewish dance music?
It’s a Jewish folk music.
Yeah I know what you mean. Do you know the band Klezka!?
They do a cover of the James Bond theme.
Yep. It’s pretty good.
It’s like the rage in all the Bar mitzvah’s this year. All the kids, when they turn thirteen, go nuts to the James Bond Klesmer. (chortle) I’ll check that out.
Right. Back to the island. What would you do on it to stop the detrimental effects of human life on it, if there were any?
OH um. Well how many people are living there?
That’s your choice.
This is an island, right? It’s an island that is a tundra? An Arctic Tundra… (laughy)
Well, given that no one lives in some of the Arctic Tundra, I think I’d probably be alone. I think I’d probably be trying to convince people to come to my area. That saying, my island is unaffected by anything except my own self, right?
Yeah. Once you were there and had built all your stuff.
Well, I’d make sure that I only ate two polar bears a month. Only two.
And bred them.
The population’s about 400 right now.
P:You can’t eat polar bear’s livers.
P:It will kill you.
Ok. So we’ll also remember not to do that. And then whoever’s committed a crime on the island will have to eat a polar bear’s liver.
P: It’s the same with dog livers.
Well if you think about it, liver is one of the worst…
Does it contain all the toxins?
Liver is great for iron.
P: It’s ok in vegetarian animals, because they don’t eat…
Ok well if you’re going to eat liver…
P: I’m a vegetarian.
I’ve never eaten liver before either. It looks really gross.
It tastes like a toilet.
It is a toilet. The body’s way of flushing out.
P: It’s filled with toxins and horrible stuff. Especially in polar bears because they eat lots of other animals so get all their toxins too.
Yeah they eat tons of seals.
They’re all oily.
That’s good oil, probably.
We’d also use every part of the animal. We’d learn a lot about animals, so that’s the main point of my tundra…”let’s learn about it”.
You could illustrate a book, write some songs…
Yeah, and we’d have cameras.
All of these things. Maybe some sculptures? Could you happily live away from society, in your own tundra?
No. I would hate it. I wouldn’t be able to stand it actually.
Creatively…musically wise, do you think you’d find it hard to find things to respond to? Or do you think you’d quickly adapt to your surroundings?
I think I’d probably start making music like Bjork or Sigur Ros.
P:I think it would be crazier than that.
Especially if you were in a half tundra half jungle.
I think I’d make really washy musical landscapes. Because nothing would happen for days and then a polar bear would try and attack you and then there’d be a crazy bit.
Hell break maybe.
P: It’s kind of what we do.
You guys make music like that?
P: We just get bored, dress up and sing songs about Freud and bus drivers.
Freud? Nice. Incest. It’s the natural thing.
Does your interest in reggae have anything to do with the principles behind its origins?
I think that our interest in that music is purely from a sound point of view; we just listened to it and thought it really connected to us. I don’t particularly respond to Rastafarianism, or whatever that was in the 70s. I think that it’s like the blues, you can still understand what they’re talking about whether or not…blues and jazz still affects musicians today, and kids today, even though the form of it is more or less dead- unless you do something new with it. Reggae is so international as a musical format. I wouldn’t say I understood it in the way that say, black youth did in the late 70s and early 80s with the whole two tone thing in England. But then again I don’t think that the Beatles really understood Chubby Checkker, I think they really killed twist and shout. You know? So it’s a catch 22. Experience and emotion go hand in hand, but also, at the same time how could a bunch of kids in England respond to rock and roll without being American? I think it’s exciting that they did. That’s what always makes music exciting- the exchange of ideas that way. Going a bit outside of what you know, and because you’re excited about something that maybe you don’t know. That way of being really engaged and doing something always seems to have been the driving force in the past 50 years with all musical forms, whether it was punk rock or…
Sometimes you get just weird mixes of all the influences from everything.
Yeah yeah, I’d say that we’re a band that came together as a result of our interests in a lot of different types of music; mainly reggae, I mean that was how we started, but we don’t really come from a scene of disenfranchised youth that were into reggae. (chortles)
You said before that you like to tell a lyrical story- do you think that compared to older music, modern music succeeds that in how it’s developed?
Do you mean in pop songs?
Well, across the board lyrics are often more of a social commentary like…“I went and bought some chips”, rather than relaying almost timeless experiences of different emotions.
I think that’s only in England. I find that amazing when I come here. Mundane lyrics seem to be really popular at certain times, like talking about spaghetti Bolognese somehow gives a hit song… (Laughs) No one would know what you were talking about in the States. There seems to be an obsession in the UK amongst indie bands with coming from some really bland 9-5 situation, or like, you have to be poor…or something like that. Not all bands, I think Bloc Party are a great band and they don’t talk about that.
(Phone rings out led zeppelin’s d’yer mak’er)
I was just telling Steve from…you know the band Hot Hot Heat?
You’ve just been on tour with them haven’t you?
Yeah. We were saying that D’yer Mak’er has one of the best snare sounds. And that was well before The Clash started.
Did you know it started as a parody of reggae, because Bonzo used to get teased about not being able to play in reggae time, then it ended up as more of a fifties parody. There’s also a parody of James Brown on that album.
It’s funny that Led Zeppelin should be parodying a black artist, because their whole career’s been based on ripping blues guitarists off. (Laughs) I don’t know if that’s a bit mad. But it seems a pretty ballsy thing to do.
On your side project, Pirate’s Blend, I heard that you’re going to do a collaboration with Bad Brains?
Oh yeah, we already have done. But we’re not sure when it’s going to get released, because Darryl is a lazy man.
You could record it on mix tapes and hand them out.
I will do whatever it takes. I’ve sent him bottles of tequila…
That’s not going to help! He’s just going to get wasted. (chortle)
I’m just trying to get him going, get him motivated. Hopefully it will be out soon.
P: You could give him some speed.
(Looks enthused) Speed would be good. (Laughs to self) I don’t know what it will sound like though if he was on speed. It could end up sounding like some happy hardcore or something, that would be cool.
Or 15 songs all squashed into a minute of sound. That seemed to be quite an interesting collaboration…who else would you like to work with in the future?
It just depends on how people know us; I mean we’re only interested in working with people if they want to work with us. We’re not going to be like ‘hey let’s go and do a track with Kanye West’.
P: That would be interesting though…
Yeah, he’s a crazy fucking guy. We’ve talked about doing a lot of stuff. We were with Andy Summers from The Police one night and talked about doing a track with him…
I can see that working, probably because your influences are quite similar.
Yeah. And Buchi Bansin is another person we’ve been speaking with about a track. A lot of the artists that I love I think are over the hill now and wouldn’t be good to work with. I think going in the studio with Lee Scratch Perry would have been really cool. He’s fucking nuts.
Do you read many books?
I wouldn’t consider myself as a reader, but I have read a book in my time.
I read a book once.
Was it the book you wrote about the animals in the tundra?
I wrote it myself and then I read it. (hearty guffaws all round)
I’ve been reading A Passage to India, and there’s a quote from it that kind of states the obvious but it reiterates the point I was trying to make at some point…
“The world, he believed, is a globe of men who are trying to reach one another and can best do so by the help of good will plus cultural intelligence”.
Do you think that that’s all it takes to reach other people?
I think you need understanding. You also need bombs. You can really make a serious point with bombs.
Well it depends if you really have them or not.
It’s more effective if the other people don’t have them, you can get YOUR point across a lot better. So, with weapons, I think that everyone would start listening to me. But if you’re talking about something more harmonious, like true understanding, I think you need a lot of compassion, patience, those are key. I think music’s a great example of that because it does bring out the humanity in people. You can listen to things from around the world…and even if people hate the Russians, I mean when you listen to TATU, you think ‘my god. These people are beautiful’. (chortles) I just love love songs.
What would you say the best love song off their latest album was?
From TATU’s album?
Do you have it?
I think ‘You’re Not Gonna Get it’…we were on CDUK when they were on. I feel sorry for them. They’ve been pimped. They have some massive dude behind them being like ‘get the fuck on stage and act like a lesbian’. It’s a shame. But at the same time they do create beautiful love music.
Ps. Did you know you can cut away two thirds of your liver and it will grow back? It’s a remarkable organ.
Interview- Ali Hewson & Polly O'Shea; Words Ali Hewson