Intervju med Francis Rossi i Status Quo!
Många skulle nog säga att Status Quo inte är hårdrock men personligen kan jag tycka att de är mer metal än mycket av den fullkomligt värdelösa skit som kommer ur hårdrocksvärlden dessa dagar.
Francis visade sig vara en oerhört trevlig brittisk rocker med mycket humor. Samtalet kom bl a att handla om nya plattan, the Frantic Four, en kommande dokumentär och hans uppskattning av Muse. Dock var det inte alltid helt lätt att hänga med i Francis tankegångar.
Hi, this is Niclas from Stockholm!
Francis: Hello Niclas from Stockholm! You´re the first person who didn´t put the phone down when I went “Helloooooooo!”. It´s funny, I was just talking to one of my daughters about one of my sons who´s called Nicholas and somebody I was talking to in Austria, his name was Claus, and I call my son Nicholas Claus! Niclaus! Sorry about that, I talk too much.
That´s cool! What´s the plan for the weekend besides doing interviews?
Francis: This weekend we´ve got a corporate gig somewhere near… eehh… Gothenburg, I think. I think we fly there tomorrow evening and on these corporate, private shows you kind of have to hide so it´s a surprise. You have to hide at the hotel all day long and then you just turn up and go “Laaaaaaaaaaa!” and you play and go home the same day. We´re not taking the bus, which is a bit of a problem to me. I´d rather go on a bus than fly. I don´t want to fly. You know what it´s like, everybody´s on an airport these days is a suspect. You walk in there going “Oh oh fuck me, I don´t wanna be here!”. Don´t you get that sense yourself?
Francis: “Can I have a look at your shoes?”, “No, their mine. Fuck off!” (laughs) It is a crazy, crazy world man!
Do you do a lot of corporate gigs?
Francis: As many as one can get, because they´re very well paid to be really honest. They´re very well paid and when they come in, we all go “Yes!” and when we come to do them, we go “Oh no!”. If we go to play in a town and X thousand people buy a ticket that want to see you, so there´s an expectation, there´s an atmosphere and there´s an air. When you´re bought by somebody for a party, a wedding, a birthday or for the company bash… One guy we played for owned a bank in Berlin and we played inside the bank, just near the gates in Berlin and we´re thinking “What the fuck?”, but there´s a different atmosphere. They kind of… “Well, I bought you didn´t I?”. We did one in Singapore once which was wonderful, but all the women (laughs)… I don´t think you can print this… Once you´ve been bought, the ladies get very drunk and they come down front to the band and they start playing with the band´s things. They just sort of touch you and then they say “Stop a minute, I wanna photograph you!” and I´m like “Fuck off!”, so as I said, when they come in these corporate gigs we go “Yes!” and then when you have to do them it´s all “Noooo!”. It´s very edgy when you do these things. It´s all different, all wrong and out of our comfort zone.
Francis: Yeah, it is fucking weird when all the women start touching you and their husbands watching them and there´s something about, particularly the richer people if you like and obviously people who buy a band are quite rich and they´re all dressed up and then they get very drunk and women try and look as though… and there´s this strange myth about people in bands… it´s almost like when I was 16 and girls would come down front and look at you and now there´s these middle aged women with their husbands and they try looking sexy and they think it´s sexy, whereas most people when they´re passed a certain point on drink, it looks far from sexy. Sometimes it´s very difficult when you´re doing your stuff and somebody´s pouting their lips in front of you and they´re drunk and then they fall over. It´s just funny! (laughs)
Oh man! I was kind of wondering about the title? It´s a pretty cool title and it´s kind of funny that you haven´t used it before. Have you thought of it before?
Francis: I think the idea has come up before. All the Latin phrases have come up before and I think for a while… you know how things are cool and then not cool. It´s like if we´d done “Quid pro quo” 20 years ago, people would´ve gone “Oh no!”, but suddenly you go to the new century and it´s good. First I thought “I´m not sure, you know!”, but “Quid pro quo” in the Latin translation is that I give you something for something and in English we always talk quid, like 20 quid, 50 quid. So, I give you a record and you give me…
As I gather this is your 29th album…
Francis: You´ve been in America for a while, huh?
Well, yeah. I´ve studied there and travelled there quite a lot.
Francis: Ok, well go on!
This being your 29th album, how hard or easy was it coming up with new songs this time around?
Francis: I´ll be honest. We were asked to think about it towards the middle and the end of last year. I was thinking about the latest AC/DC album and people talk about how Status Quo haven´t changed and AC/DC really haven´t and it´s not a knock. I think they´re fantastic and we came up to start and I tried this and I tried that and I couldn´t seem to get… it was like I kept bumping into things and as I said to our manager, I had great difficulty. I seem to have been everywhere you can go within the parameters we have. “Surely the fans would like you to write another Down, down? Not the same, but you know!”. So he said “Try and do more of what you´ve done!”, so I thought that was gonna be a negative, but what seems to have done… I mean, this is quite good!
Francis: There´s a lot of energy on the album. It´s not like we sat down and… like when you read promo and people go “Well, we decided to go back to our roots.”. I can´t say that I´m gonna write a song that goes back to our roots, it´s not possible! You´d have to be pretending. I´m 60 and I don´t think like I did when I was 19. It´s just not possible! So I just sort of blanked it and just wrote and I think the same with the album. We just did it and then you go “Oh, it seems to have a lot of energy! How did we do that?”. The main thing people have asked me is “How did you get the energy on the album?”. There´s no energy button or like we all said “Let´s do energy guys!”. We just played. The one person perhaps… I said to the drummer, Matthew, we were doing some stuff and he´s a very controlled and very trained blah blah blah, he´s like a very modern day drummer and they´re very well trained to do basically anything, perhaps a little bit too controlled, if you like, and I said “Look, we don´t need Steely Dan meets Status Quo, it don´t fucking work!”, so he laughed and he said “Yeah, I see what you mean, ok!”. I said “I need you to go in there and go Yeahhh in the background!” and that´s what he seems to have done. The track´s going along and you think this bloke at the back… and it´s what I always remember when I was listening to records and especially The Who records, the drummer seemed to go fucking bananas back there and it creates a wonderful atmosphere to me in a record. You picture these guys and they´re going fucking crazy and that seems to have come out on this album. I assure you we weren´t going crazy in the studio. (laughs) It´s a learning curve for me too. I´d probably go back to the studio and go “How did we do that?” and you will try and do it again, whether you can or not I don´t know.
I´ve been listening to it for the last couple of days and there are two tracks that really stand out for me and that´s “Dust to gold” and “Let´s rock”.
Yeah, and especially “Dust to gold”. That is such a killer song!
Francis: It is a great track! I write with John Edwards like that, the first track on the album and this one. Usually when I´m practicing guitar, if I find something I like, I just stick it down on my IPhone. And he might have something for me and it seems like me and him we write like that, it´s kind of attached and it comes back like quite bitchin´ tracks. This time he´d done the lyrics on “Dust to gold” and it was more like a “Do you wanna be a rock´n roll starisch” kind of thing and we´d all go “Oh God, that smells pooh!”. So we said to Andrew “Can you come up with something!” and Andrew came up with lyrics, so as I said to you, people are under the impression that you sit down in a room and work out what you are gonna do and most of the time you´re flying by the seat of your pants and then “Fuck, what just happened there?”. When we had “Rocking all over the world” out all those years ago, the main thing people said to me was that it was beautiful timing and I was thinking “What the fuck are you talking about? Do you mean the timing on the record, because it´s badly out of time?”, but what they meant was that it was great timing when it came out. If Status Quo had had its own way, we´d had that whole project six months earlier. We went to record it, the drummer broke his foot so we couldn´t do it for six months and lo and behold, everyone says it´s a fucking great move. This is I suppose one of the things that I hate about show business. I was talking to a guy just now and going on about the things that Quo has done for charity and I said “Yeah, we do things for charity, but we have to remember there is very little negative in anybody in show business, be it movies, tv or music, that does something for charity that comes as a negative. It´s always seen as a positive. So when we get these great… doing bits for charity, let´s beware that we all do and it´s not a negative, I´ll say no more than that.
Alright. In the song “Let´s rock” there´s a line from “Rocking all over the world. Did that come instantly?
Francis: No, that´s Ricky. There are some other things that we took out that we thought again, lyrically, was a bit funny. When Bob and I wrote “Caroline” in 1971 and we were in a car finishing the lyrics “Take my hand…” and I said “No, fuck it! You can´t say that in 1971!” and here we are in 2011 and it´s “Let´s rock”. I don´t like that kind of thing, but that´s one of the joys of fucking music. I don´t know that was gonna be like that, but it worked out well and it really suits Rick.
Well, that´s two killer songs! The artwork then? Was that the first thing that came to mind?
Francis: For many years now… or many years I say, for 10 or 15 years now, you´re fed up with seeing pictures of A: the band or B: me and Rick! There are those fucking two blokes again and they put the two guitars… aahhhh. And on the last album, “In search of the fourth chord” they drew us. That´s good, but it still looks like those two blokes and I´m fed up seeing me. I don´t have this desire to see me, but some people do. Our manager had this whole thing about that Picasso effect and it was “Yeah, I like that!”, because I don´t have to see my fucking face. That´s kind of how ideas snowball, with people in a room brainstorming and it comes together as a project and all bits of influence and it gets quite exciting doing it and it´s like somebody said to me if I need to make albums anymore? Well, I need to try and write song to think I´ve got something. It´s like that kid on the pot who won´t shit. If you´re on the pot, you might as well take a shit! (laughs) Really! So every now and then I need to do that. Most times over the last X years, you realize the over all volume of markets have just dropped and so on, but still it´s that thing if you get a single in the chart for 10 minutes, we all go “Yes!”. It means nothing financially, but for insecure little fellows, like I think most bands are, it´s an affirmation of some form of success and that, to be honest, when you´re insecure, that´s fair enough for me.
Sure! Talking about AC/DC earlier, have you ever considered working with a guy like Brendan O´Brien or Rick Rubin?
Francis: I´m not a person who believes in producers per se. I´m not gonna say they are bad, but they are just guys like me or guys like you! I find it very odd that people think that a certain producer is trendy at the moment and he´s trendy for four or five years and then he fades away and nobody wants him. My thing is always “Was it the producer or did the band´s songs have anything to do with it?”. Once you have those collaborations it´s very difficult to find out, but I always maintain that if the song is no fucking good… it´s like for arguments sake, if I say to you that one of those songs on the new Quo album that you really don´t like and I say “Hang on, I´m going to get Rick Rubin to produce it!”. You can say “Do what you fucking like, I don´t like it!”. The melody´s the same and the lyric is the same, so that I find very difficult when this miraculous producer comes along and everything´s wonderful in the garden. It´s not true! Either the material was there or it wasn´t! For me, anyhow.
Makes sense. You´ve got a gig in Sweden later on, in Örnsköldsvik. How come you´re not playing Stockholm or any of the other major cities?
Francis: I dare say they are trying to save those places for the winter or the fact that we might do it the following year. We did something in Sweden last year with a circus tent and lots of people thought it was funny. We really enjoyed it! It was different. We were gonna do it again this year, but then the recession hit and stuff and people said “We don´t think we can do that!”. But it was a really enjoyable tour and everything travelled with us, so the stage got built every day and they were stage hopping from gig to gig, so we had two stages and it was fascinating. I was hoping to do that again, but people saw difficulties or you´ve lost a certain… hmmmm… status. (laughs) All we´re doing… 3000 people came to a tent and what´s the fucking problem? And in territories you go up for a bit and then you go down and then back up. We´re very, very big in Deutschland again, for some reason and we´re thinking “Where did that come from? What the fuck happened?”, but it´s lovely. But I said to you about insecure little show offs, he needs success and he needs mommy to tell him he´s a good little boy.
You´re playing with Slade here, I think?
Francis: We are?
Yeah, I think so. Have you ever shared a stage before?
Francis: Yeah, many times in the seventies all over the world. We were really big friends. I´m not sure that it´s real Slade. If Noddy´s not there, then I´m afraid it´s not Slade.
No, it´s just Jim Lea.
Francis: Yeah, we like the guys, but sorry! I shouldn´t say that, should I?
Well, I feel the same. It´s more of a tribute band.
Francis: Yeah! I´m lucky I haven´t had to go that way, I suppose. I know Noddy very well and Jimmy came to see me in England on my solo shows I did last year and he was very taken with… it was very strange because he seemed to think “No, no I´m doing chamber music now!” and a bit of snobbery came into it, that I thought he wouldn´t do, but I heard that Noddy´s gonna go out with everybody. Whether that happens or not, I don´t know. I´ve known Noddy a long time and I only realized recently that he´s very shy. Isn´t that odd? With a man that can belt like that. He´s very shy.
There´s been rumors about your 50th anniversary and you opening up the Olympics with Rocking all over the world” with the Frantic Four? Any plans of that? True or just rumors?
Francis: Well, the Frantic Four, we are talking. I mean, I have many conversations with Alan Lancaster now. It´s a shame really that some English lawyer was winding on Lancaster for years and years, but we have a very good relationship now. In fact he called me yesterday. It´s difficult because he´s in Sydney so I try and call him in the morning and I´m gonna talk to him tomorrow. We are talking about something, but I´m not sure on how, why. Rather than me saying it´s gonna be this. I don´t know what it´s going to be, but there´s talk. We´re looking at a documentary that we´re doing next year which will feature John Coghlan and Alan Lancaster.
Francis: Yeah, I´m looking forward to that. I said to Alan when I saw him in Sydney last year, that I had just been through rehearsals and I went through a place where I used to be with him when I first met him, a part of south London and I hadn´t been there for a long time and I said “You´ve got to come!” and I was very excited. I knew him when I was eleven and think about it! Eleven fucking years old and I realized how much I loved him because of the way we grew up together. I saw his mother who is now 91 and still alive. I miss his father who died. Fuck it! I miss his uncle who was very good to me and his cousins and I realized they were very, very close to me. It was really emotional and I didn´t expect that and I didn´t realize I was that close a friend of Alan Lancaster, if you see what I mean. Because of business and shit that goes on. So I´m very much looking forward to when he comes over and we´re gonna go around together and as I said, I think they´re looking at it as a documentary.
I just found a clip on YouTube from Finnish tv in 1974 where the interviewer says that “Status Quo is a relatively old band!” and then you have Alan talking about the audience´s role in the shows and he sounds like Nigel Tufnel in Spinal Tap.
Francis: I think I´ve seen that! He does, doesn´t he? Hang on a minute! Molly!!! (shouts at his dog) It´s funny because I was just talking to one of my daughters, the younger one, because she said “You´ve got to see this!” a few months ago and I looked at it and she said to her mother “Oh, dad was obviously the best looking male in the band!” and I said “Of course you think that!” and I tried to explain to her that you see yourself, like your relatives, brothers or sisters and everybody looked at that and his daughter said “Dad, you were the best looking one!”. But I did see that and exactly what I thought is what you said “It´s so Spinal Tap!” and he was very, very nervous and he´s trying to speak and you can see me going “Oh no, shut up!”. (laughs)
He gives a really good explanation of the name Status Quo and what it means in Latin.
Francis: I think he had a joint, don´t you?
Francis: I really do! (laughs)
When was the last time you attended a real crazy rock and roll party? Was that like in the 80´s?
Francis: Keep going! (laughs) The last time I remember and I´m not very good with it. I´m not a drinker and I started drinking when I did coke for a while. I never liked drinking. The last party that I remember was in Melbourne. We were talking about this with somebody recently, how the world has changed. It was after a gig or something and I went and people were smoking dope, which then was a different thing. We went into this house and there were different rooms and such and in this one room, which again is of the time, people were sat on the floor and one or two joints were being passed around and everybody was listening to an album. Everybody sat there and were listening to that album and then they turned it over and listened to the other side. Whatever the album was I don´t remember. That wouldn´t happen now, you know what I mean? I´m not with alcohol, so unless you´re having a drink, a party is kind of “What the fuck is going on here?”, so I´m bit of a party pooper and boring. It´s true.
What bands are you listening to today? Are you listening to a lot of new music?
Francis: Unless a band´s been around for a little while, five, six or maybe ten years, they´re new to me. I still see U2 as pretty much new, but they are pretty much an establishment now and one of the older bands and probably one of the last bands that are going to last. But… Coldplay… maybe.
What was the question?
If you´re keeping up with new music?
Francis: My favorite band is probably Muse. They are fantastic! Making noise like that and control it! That boy´s listening to movies, to opera, classical music and he doesn´t give a fuck and it´s brilliant and beautiful!
And the singer´s got a beautiful girlfriend as well in Kate Hudson.
Francis: Does he have Kate Hudson? That´s it! I´m not buying their records anymore!
And she´s pregnant.
Francis: Is she? Well, we know what he´s been doing. (laughs)
Finally, is there anyone you´d like to…
Francis: Jeff Lynne!
... work with?
Francis: Jeff Lynne! I knew you were gonna say that. I can´t help it. I do things like that. Jeff is about the only person… I got a message from him the other day, talking about something, and he´s one person I could… I really don´t have that with people at all, but Jeff… I don´t know, I just likes what he does. It´s probably that I´d like to get him pregnant or something. (laughs) We were doing this show in Deutschland and there was this famous German fellow and they said “Oh, you´re gonna have a jam together!” and I was like “Oh no! I hate that shit!”, but to do something in a studio or write or something with Jeff Lynne, I would probably adore, but I´d have to be careful about too many orgasms in one day. At my age it wouldn´t be good. (laughs)
I´d love to hear that! You and Jeff Lynne would be a good match.
Francis: Oh, I would love that!
You were supposed to play I Malmö last year but you cancelled. Why?
Francis: Was that me or Status?
It was you!
Francis: I don´t know what happened there. It was down to other people. I was ready to go. Probably, and I shouldn´t be this honest, but it was probably a lack of tickets. I find it odd that I get to 61 and put an album out called “One step at a time”, which is kind of silly and then start touring in the worst recession the world´s ever known. And people won´t buy Quo tickets. What made me think they were gonna buy Francis Rossi tickets? (laughs) You see, I told you all the idiots are in rock and roll! The sensible people are some place else.
Well, I hope you get to play Stockholm.
Francis: Yeah, that would be great! That is if this album is as good as people say.
It is! I´ve been checking out message boards and forums and people really like it.
Francis: Excellent news! Even if nothing else happens that makes insecure people like me feel real good. That´s what it´s about I suppose. Sad but true! Thank you very much and in particular for having that strong English. Very good! It´s easy for schmucks like me. (laughs)
Thank you Francis!