Nick O’Malley [Arctic Monkeys]: Music Interviews
When the Arctic Monkeys burst onto the scene in 2004, they represented a change in the way people listened to music. The public were already familiar with file sharing and listening to bands that were already famous, but these four lads from Sheffield in their rise to fame brought with them a change in the way bands not only had their music heard, but were discovered in the first place.
After handing out demos at their local shows, the band members themselves were reportedly unaware of the extent to which these songs were shared online, admitting that it was their growing legion of fans who were responsible for establishing their successful Myspace page.
Fast forward 2012, Arctic Monkeys have not taken a backward step since their record-breaking debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
Now on tour in Australia for 2011′s Suck It And See, I had quick chat with bassist Nick O’Malley about the current tour and how the lads are fairing after the worldwide success of this career-defining album.
I think it’s gone really well. It probably got received better than Humbug did I think because I suppose it was a bit more pop than maybe no. 3 [Humbug] was. Everyone seems to be enjoying the new songs when we play them live and singing along and everything. So yeah, like really sort of positive response to it.
You’ve said before that you’re quite a fan of Humbug. Has that changed at all after Suck It and See?
I think we’re all quite a fan of that one because it was just interesting for us to sort of do something a little bit different and sort of step out of what we normally do – our normal sort of format of just doing sort of guitar pop songs and sort of be a bit more musical…and a bit more experimental. But then, you know it’s obviously nice to come back to do pop songs again, and you know it’s great when people love that.
But yeah I still love Humbug and still love playing the songs off that. I mean, Crying Lightening and, um, what’s it – I’m terrible with names of songs…Pretty Visitors…that’s it. I like them two still play in a set and they’re two of the sort of best songs that we play live and go down really well. Still keeping Humbug alive. [Laughs]
How’s Miles Kane going? I mean, a lot of the audience members would have been very familiar with him already so I’m curious to know how he’s been received?
He’s on fire at the minute [laughs]. He’s got a great sort of showmanship ability – like a stage presence. And he’s like – obviously like he’s a good mate…so it’s great to have him down here with us.
While on the topic of all things Miles Kane and collaborations, I thought it would be horribly remiss of me not to bring up the prospect of a new Last Shadow Puppetsrecord, or perhaps even a AM-MK collaboration. And delving deeper into the musical psyche of this side-of-stage dweller, a pervasive sense of a strong and unassuming character was reflected in O’Malleys casual, but thoughtful discussion on what music means to him. His laconic, yet detailed responses reveal amongst other things, the creatively fertile landscape from which the Arctic Monkeys seem to be creating arguably their most reputable work.
Yeah, I think Al and Miles will definitely do another Shadow Puppets album. But at the moment I think Miles is sort of concentrating on his solo stuff I think – he’s recording another record soon.
So yeah, he’s pretty busy at the minute but I mean, yeah, that’ll definitely happen in the future.
Outside of the Arctic Monkeys, are you involved with anything else? Are you creating music on the side? Or even just for fun, are you sort of just making up songs or putting music together in any form?
Yeah, but not under any outfit or anything like that. When I’m at home I’ve got few friends – we’ll sort of go in and just play stuff together. But I’m not, like, musically involved in other sort of bands or anything, really.
What kind of music do you listen to? What kind of music really inspires you when you sit down and put on an album or grab your i-pod? What’s really grabbing your attention at the moment?
I don’t know – it’s weird. I’ve had like a bit of an Outkast revisit. I started listening to loads of it again, which I haven’t listened to for years. And like, you sort of forget how good it is.
The Speakerboxxx double album?
Oh no, like the Stankonia– I’ve been listening to that one a lot. And then, I’m trying to think of what else I’ve been listening to Umm…I’ve been listening to Tame Impalaa bit as well, recently. And then I really like Nick Cave and stuff like that. I’ve been reading that Led Zeppelin, ‘Hammer Of the Gods’ book, so I’ve been re-listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin stuff again. [Laughs]
I think that happens to most people every couple of years. I can’t explain the timing though.
Yeah, it just happens, doesn’t it? You think, ‘Why have I not listened to this for so long?’ [Laughs]
The AM sound has been constantly progressing, and you’ve gone one further on Suck It and See with a more conventional and at times, heavier rock sound. What brought this about do you think?
It just sort of happens naturally. It’s never been like a band that sort of plans things out or plans how we want to sound. It just sort of comes from us hanging around together and listening to music together. And then sort of chatting, saying “Oh, I’ve got this idea - I’vegot this drum beat and a riff”. The narrative seems to come sort of halfway through recording the record.
But yeah, this time we just went for a really stripped back sound. We played nearly everything live apart from vocals and a few sort of guitar additions. Mostly its all recorded live…with just the amps that we use when we play live. So it’s sort of good in a way because then when we do play live, you know people are like, ‘Wow, that sounds exactly like the record.
The Arctic Monkeys seem to have a wicked sense of humour with a few of your videos and lyrics. Is that a reflection of how you are behind closed doors?
Yeah, we sort of spend a lot of time together so you know, that gives you the sort of opportunity to develop a bit of an in-joke sort of thing I suppose. And then just sort of where we’re from is quite – the humour in Yorkshire is like, pessimistic. [Laughs]
Among other things, you dressed up on Jonathan Ross in the clown outfits for Fluorescent Adolescent. Who’s call was that one?
Yeah, that was quite a few years ago now. Well for the video for Fluorescent Adolescent, there as a big riot between some burglars and some clowns. So we thought, ‘let’s all just dress up like clowns when we play this’.
Weirdly, I don’t regret it. [Laughs]
I think it was one of those situations where I didn’t know whether to laugh or fear for my life!
[Laughs] I remember Paul Weller was on that show too. He thought we were quite funny I think. He gave us that sort of look that was like “what the fuck are you doing?”
So you enjoy that then – that little bit of tomfoolery? Because you seem to take your music very seriously, but you don’t take yourselves too seriously. Do you think that’s really important?
Yeah I mean, there’s a lot of people – bands out there that think they’re better than everyone else, aren’t there? Just because they’re famous and all that. Whereas – I don’t know – most people in bands are just knobs, aren’t they when you actually meet them. I think, you know, if you can’t laugh at yourself then you’ve got a bit of a fundamental problem. [Laughs]
You’ve stated that you’ve got no plans after the tour. Has anything developed recently in terms of more Arctic Monkeys material or touring?
I think we’re going to try and record – we’ve got a friend who has a studio in Sheffield – we’ve got a couple of songs floating around. I don’t know whether they’ll be released or just like demoing – I don’t know.
And then after that we’ve got a few gigs around Europe. And then after that we go to America and support The Black Keys. Yeah so that should be good because we’re all big Black Keys fans so it should be a good time.
Have you had much to do with them before?
We’ve met them once before – no, maybe a couple of times. But they seem like nice guys. And then we played in Nashville a few months ago and Dan came and took us out to this bar and we had a good old drink and that. And then yeah, got offered this support.
What’s one song in history you wish you’d written?
Maybe Garth Brooks’ ‘Friends In Low Places’. It’s nothing like – he doesn’t speak to me personally. I just really like it and it’s really fun to sing, especially when you’re a little bit drunk. Yeah either that or Bowie’s ‘Man Who Sold The World’