Interview: Miles Kane (The Rascals, The Last Shadow Puppets)
You’re in an interesting position right now, because your side project album [as the Last Shadow Puppets] has topped the album charts before your debut album [with The Rascals] has even come out. When you and Alex Turner [Arctic Monkeys] sat down last year to plan the Last Shadow Puppets project, did you have any idea that it would be this successful?
No, not at all. We wanted to make it because we were enjoying writing tunes together. We didn’t know how it would turn out, and we didn’t even know whether it would get put out. Obviously we’re made up with the success that it’s had. I suppose that I’m lucky to be able to put two records out in the space of a couple of months, which I feel passionate about.
It’s great when artists get the chance to bang some records out in quick succession. We don’t get enough of that.
Yeah, definitely. The Rascals album is darker and rawer. It’s not dead polished, but that’s exactly what we wanted. We needed to get that out of our systems, from being frustrated in our previous band The Little Flames. It’s an album of ideas and experimentation, and I think of it as an album of release.
I’m glad that it’s captured us at those early stages – which no one does, because everything’s so safe, and everyone these days has that one single which gets wanked all over the radio. We wanted to make a cooler album, that people will look back on and think: wow, they were mad bastards then. I think it’s better in the long run.
Something you have in common with Alex is that you’re very much wordsmiths. Where do you get your lyrical inspiration from?
On this album, I suppose it’s all about things that have happened to me, and taking a dark twist on them. There’s a song on there called People Watching, and I do like that. I like to go to the café, get my little notepad out, gaze out of the window, have a coffee and write down stuff.
A lot of the songs are about girls. Stockings To Suit is about a girl who’s going round a couple of the clubs in Liverpool. She’s a bit of slag and that, but she’s dead fit, and she’s ripping through lads. It’s what a lad would usually be like, shagging loads of birds – but it’s like the other way round. And then she comes down to you, and then you’re like: oh no, I can’t do that! But then she just gets you, and you’re just like: fuck it, I’ll do it – but you get had off by her, sort of thing.
I like the song title Does Your Husband Know That You’re On The Run. There’s a whole drama suggested just in that title, but how could anyone’s husband not know that his wife was on the run?
(Laughs) I was in London, and again I was in a bar/café, just sitting there having some lunch. There were two women chatting next to me, and one was saying (adopts high pitched voice and London accent) “I’ve left my husband, but he doesn’t know. He can’t find me, and he’s been trying to phone all my friends.” I wrote down the title in my book, and took it from there.
The new single Freakbeat Phantom strikes me as another observational song. Who is this character, that’s “psychotic” and “bionic”?
I went to this party once in Liverpool, after a night out, which was going on until five in the morning. It was a bit out of town and I hadn’t been there before; it was a stranger’s house. Everyone was getting off their heads, and I was just watching.
This fella just wandered into the house. He was on crutches, he had a backpack on, and he was just weird. There was obviously something wrong with him. Nobody knew who he was. There was all these people sitting on the table, and he sat down and started telling all these weird tales, trying to freak everyone out.
I was sat at the back, and on my phone I wrote “the freakbeat phantom”, as the name for this character. When I sing “I’m holding on”, it’s because he was doing my head in and I couldn’t get home, but I wanted to be home.
So I wrote that about this character “resting himself on his crutches”, telling “suspicious stories which are fake”. And everyone was laughing at him, so “laughter was going around in a stranger’s house”. It was the story of that night, really.
There’s a song called Fear Invicted Into The Perfect Stranger, where you seem to have invented a new word. I can’t find “invicted” in the dictionary, so what does it mean?
(Laughs) I did make that up! I suppose it should be “inflicted”, but I didn’t want to say “inflicted”. I like “invicted”, as in “put on you”, if you know what I mean.
How do you mean?
Like, the fear’s put on you. Or like, someone’s put the fear on you. Or putting it on you.
Well, when it gets into the Oxford English Dictionary in two years’ time, they’ll cite that as the first usage.
(Laughs) I’m glad you picked up on that!
Musically speaking, there’s a use of echo and tremolo throughout which reminds me of early Sixties guitar pop, just after rock and roll and just before The Beatles. I’m thinking of people like The Shadows, The Ventures, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. Have you taken inspiration from these people, or am I just giving away my age?
As a guitarist, that’s what I’ve always been into. A few years ago, I was shown this fellow called Link Wray. Instead of like doing leads like noodling, his style all kind of slides up, and his sound is all reverb. Once I heard that, I knew that was what I wanted to sound like. I use a lot of whammy bar on my guitar, and I do love that reverb sound. It’s something that I want to do more of.
There’s also something of a cinematic feel, and even a track called Bond Girl. Do you see your songs as miniature movie soundtracks?
I think Freakbeat’s got a bit of a Bond-like chord progression. I love that sound, and I’d love to do a Bond tune one day. I love all the early Bond films, and even the early Steve McQueen films: the look of them, the way they dressed, and the music.
You’ve combined lightness and darkness on the album, I think. There’s humour, and the same time there’s menace. Was that the idea?
Yeah, I think the humour comes out because even though the music is quite dark, we’re so not dark. We’re like three best mates that laugh every day, all day.
I think that a big inspiration, and this is a mad one, was watching a DVD about the making of John Lennon’s Imagine album. It shows him doing a live take of the song Gimme Some Truth, and the way it’s sung is really spat out and venomous.
There’s a song on our album called I’ll Give You Sympathy, which will be our next single. It’s about going out and having bladdered Scouse fellas spitting in your ear and giving you their opinions: Listen lad, what are you doing, being in a band? So the lyrics are “When you spit in my face, you’re wearing yourself out as well as me. All you want is more!” That was definitely inspired by that Lennon tune.
Whereas the Last Shadow Puppets used orchestral overdubs, with The Rascals it’s much more of a live sound. How long did it take to nail the performances?
With some of the newest tunes, like People Watching and The Glorified Collector, we sort of worked them out in the studio. We messed about with the rhythms, and how fast or slow we’d want them to be. So they took longer. People Watching was about twenty-five takes. By the end of it, I was like (makes exhausted heavy breathing noises), and then I had to do all the overdubs and vocals. That was a long day.
Rehearsing that intensely in the studio must really help you develop your chops as a live act.
Yeah, lately I feel like we’ve improved so much. I feel like we’re a proper amazing live band now, in terms of not just bashing out tune after tune. We’ve worked out a set which is dead atmospheric. In certain tunes we jam them out, and then drop them right down to dead quiet playing. It’s a bit like Queens of the Stone Age, if you’ve ever seen them live.
We end on this tune called Is It Too Late, which was on our first EP. At the end, we bring it down to dead silence, and then just the vocal on its own, and then it all comes back in on the last ending. Stuff like that live works so well, and no one does that these days.