EDITORS////CHRIS URBANOWICZ ////SEPTEMBER 2009
The story of ‘Editors’ is one which should really offer belief to modern day musicians trying to succeed in the industry. Fours guys, four friends, who had such a passion and belief in their trade, they simultaneously dropped out of music college to concentrate on their band. I mean don’t get me wrong kids, erm stay in school and all that, Editors were just savvy enough to realise that they had a good enough understanding of how the business end of things worked not to mention a string of hit singles up their sleeve. Their two previous albums ‘The Back Room’ and ‘An End Has A Start’ have cemented them in musical history as one of the most underrated success stories the UK has ever produced. On the eve of their third full release guitarist Chris Urbanowicz speaks to Outline to tell us about a new direction the band have explored with this collection of tracks…
The latest album ‘In this Light & on this Evening’ has a very intriguing title?
Yeah, it’s the name of the first track as well. I think it sets the mood of the record and it introduces us to a new direction. But it’s essentially about seeing something you see everyday in a different light, for whatever reason, whether it be the way you are feeling, or the way the sun shines on something differently – something happens in that light of day which makes you see it in a different way. It represents that really.
London has played a big part in influencing both it’s sound and lyrics. Can you tell us what’s been so captivating to you about our capital?
Well the lyrics are London based I think because Tom has been living there. We’ve always been City type people. I live in New York and that’s definitely had an effect. It is a City or Urban record, it does have that feel. We’ve always glamorised the night time City scapes and going through them at high speed, and that’s the sort of imagery we want to put music towards. That’s always been something that’s interested us, putting music to images…
There’s certainly a big electronic sound present. Can I ask why this direction?
Erm, boredom I guess, for me especially. It’s just something that came about when we were still on tour. I’d been playing the guitar for the last three or four years and had become very bored of doing gigs at that time. The demos were coming through while we were still on the road, because we were all gagging to be creative again and I’d just bought a new keyboard, and erm, I wanted to use it, basically. So I sat down and start writing as I would to some of these demos Tom had done, but played on a keyboard instead of a guitar, and it just kind of went from there. I was also playing around with some industrial beats on it as well. I sent them back to Tom and the first thing he said was, ‘that kind of sounds like the Terminator, it’s really cool, so keep going in that direction’. So that was it really. The other thing was about not being too complacent. Bands can find a formula for great songs and then become complacent and start thinking that that’s the way to make a great song, but there is no formula to writing a great song, and if you keep doing the same shit, then your music is going to become stale. I think that’s were you can start drifting off as musicians. We didn’t want that, we wanted to try and keep ourselves as fresh as possible.
You choose the renowned Mark ‘Flood’ Ellis (N.I.N, Depeche Mode, U2) as your producer. How did you get him on board?
After we’d finished the last leg of our tour, we essentially went straight into the rehearsal rooms and started working on the songs. We wanted to be creative, so we didn’t get any time off. By then we had six or seven songs that we were playing with. We demo’d them and it kind of had this electronic, very dark, very aggressive sound. We hadn’t really thought about producers at that stage, but we started throwing some names around randomly and he was one of them. He was the first one to come back to us and say I really want to do this. It seemed obvious from then really. When we met he just kind of came in and started throwing his input around and it all started making sense. So it was like…help us along the road.
He’s produced for the finest, and he is highly recommended throughout the industry. I wondered if he talks about some of other sessions he’s been involved with, regarding ideas and techniques?
A bit of both really. It was mainly anecdotes. We try and reference other bands as little as we can, I mean the past is the past. Sometimes something would come up and our intrigue would get the better of us and we’d ask some intrusive questions about the other bands he’s worked with. But other than that…I mean the thing is with Flood, is like he’s the most discerning looking guy…he doesn’t look like the guy who makes this ridiculously powerful electronic music…he looks like your uncle (laughs), He’s such a normal guy. You just forget immediately who he is and what he’s done. Up until the moment I met him I was expecting him to be in a black cape and have sun glasses on and stuff, but he was dressed in brown I think, and had a T-Shirt on that said ‘The Beatles were Shit!’ I thought, I like you.
How does studio time work for Editors? Is it a case of short sharp sessions, or do you all move in and stay there until its done?
Usually we work Monday to Friday, midday to midnight, and we’ll do that for as long as it takes. I think we did this one in six weeks, in two three week sections. I know a lot of bands who work through the night, but that’s not productive for us. When we get tired, we switch off and want to do other things. Also, we like not working at weekends. It gives you a chance for the music to settle. Usually on a Sunday night I’ll have a listen to the demos and essentially critique it, which helps working out what needs to be changed.
Tom (Smith, lead singer) said you will alienate some fans with this release, does this concern you?
No, we don’t want to alienate people, I mean we want everyone in the world to like us, but at the same time we don’t want people to think we are narrow minded as musicians, we want to push ourselves, we want to do something different or else we are just going to churn out something which is really boring and bland. As long as people understand what we’re doing then they are free to like it or dislike it. Ok, it’s a new direction, but we could have gone in a completely different direction. It’s still the same four people doing the same melodies, coming from the same brains, they are just doing it on different instruments.
Speaking of the change in direction, have you considered other areas you’d be interested in exploring on future albums?
It’s a bit early to kind of think about that at the moment, but I’ve considered making something that sounds really heavy in the way Queens of the Stone Age kind of pushes you against the wall. I like the idea of doing something that has that kind of effect, heavy but not metal, if you know what I mean – using synths and guitars together to make something really hard and powerful. To be honest, there’s already quite a lot of that in this new record. We’ll see, I’m sure by the time we are already half way around the world touring this one we’ll get an idea and then combine the three records to make a forth.
From your recording sessions, apparently there are still another 11 songs which haven’t been used on the album. What’s the plan for these?
We’ll put the record out with nine tracks, then there’ll be a special edition which will have an extra five tracks, it’ll be an E.P, or like a cousin to the album if you will. We did the same thing on the first record and it worked well, so I like the idea of doing that. There are two songs which we are kind of holding back on, whether they are unfinished, or we didn’t get the best of them, or whether they can come out in a different guise, we haven’t really decided yet, so we are going to keep a hold of them. They are there if we want them, which is a nice situation to be in.
The entire machine that is Editors, appears a very effective and slick muscle. Do you have much of an input into other areas concerning the band, such as imagery and how you are marketed?
Yeah, we have an input into everything we do. Erm, the marketing thing is not really our forte, so it’s up to other people to come up with interesting ideas. We’ve always been traditionalists really. You buy a record after seeing a band live, and you listen to it from start to finish, and when it’s over you play it again. There are so many different ways to market yourselves nowadays that we want to have a some insight into that. But at the same time, we still like to try and do things in a classy and elegant sort of way. From the fonts, to the way we dress. We don’t really want to be that trend or hype, we want to do something that’s still going to look and sound good in ten years time. So we like to keep that in mind with the marketing. We are a band first and foremost. We’re not designed to be in showbiz columns of the Sun and don’t we want to be either.
So are you recognised when you’re out?
I was talking to Ed about this. It’s brilliant to have the anominity that we have, no-one really knows what we look like, there’s a certain mystique about us. We have this reputation, I think because of the sound of music we make, for not being very approachable. I find that quite funny really. I’m a very private person and really enjoy my privacy, so it kinda works for me…
Within the history of the band, you’ve gone under different names such as Pilot, The Pride and Snowfield. I wondered where Editors came from and what made you all finally agree on that?
Well it was the only one out of the four names we had that we actually all liked. It was the only one which looked good on paper and coincidentally, it was the last one we thought of before putting out our first record. So you can’t really change your name after you put your single out. More to the point, it just doesn’t mean anything to us anymore, it never really did, it’s just like a stamp for our band.
Tom lives in London, drummer Edward lives in Birmingham, but yourself and bassist Russell live in NY. (Other than it being arguably the most exciting city in the world), what made you re-locate to the other side of the pond?
(Laughs), well yeah that’s kind of the answer. I always wanted to live there since I was a kid. Before I even went, I just kinda liked the idea of it. One day I was having dinner with a friend and I was saying how I’d always wanted to live in NY and she said why don’t you…and I just couldn’t think of a good enough reply not to.
Was it hard to set yourself up and settle there?
No, not really. I have a lot of friends out there who helped me out. I felt at home as soon as the plane landed. I just waltzed in and felt like I was supposed to be there. It all made sense.
How do the Americans take to Editors?
Erm, pretty good. We’ll play in LA or New York for around 3000 people but then we’ll play to forty people in Salt Lake City. The problem with America is like its fifty different countries. You’ve got to hit each area and they are all different, East Coast and West Coast are very good for us, and the rest not so much. The last time we toured there we actually sold more tickets than we had done records in America, so come to your own conclusions on the music business over there.
When you all get back together after a break, surely those initial jam sessions must be pretty awesome?
Yeah, it is exciting actually. I remember at one point not wanting to leave New York, but it’s my favourite part of being in a band, the being musicians bit, the being creative bit, creating things that are going to last forever. It’s always good to see the guys. Everyone looks refreshed, everyone looks better than when I left them (laughs). After we’ve had a little break and we start to play Bullet. That puts a smile on our faces. ‘Cause we all come straight in at the same time, its almost pompous, it sounds like it just doesn’t care, or gives a shit what anyone thinks.
You played our local big staged festival Latitude in the summer? How did you rate your performance and did you manage to check out the rest of the festival?
Yeah ,it’s a little bit cleaner than most. I arrived pretty late, so I didn’t get to see anyone. All of our families were there, Tom’s kid was there, it was kind of a family event and a few of my friends were there, so it was really nice. We managed to have a few drinks afterwards.
I believe you were the very first band to play Birmingham’s O2 arena. Seen as it’s the band’s home town, that must have been pretty special for you, but I wondered what else stands out as high points for you so far?
Gig-wise, we’ve played Glastonbury three times. The second appearance was a real highlight. It was as the sun went down, which is the most magical slot at Glastonbury, it all just kind of clicked on stage and fell into place, which rarely happens. But when you do it there on that stage, it’s pretty amazing. Most of the other stuff, the bench marks if you like, kind of happened very early on for us. There’s been nothing like the feeling of signing you’re first deal and quitting your job or you’re first hit single being in the charts and seeing your video on MTV for the first time, all those things are pretty exciting.
Being stateside, can you tell me what Birmingham is recognised for?
I don’t know really, I’m not from there, I only really lived there for a few years. I think Americans are surprised Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne are from there and also Bournville…that’s from Birmingham (laughs)…I dunno, Ozzy and Chocoate!
Finally, Norwich, you’ve played here a few times before, did you take away any lasting memories with you?
Yeah ,I remember the only time I’ve actually received a direct hit from a pint glass was at the UEA in Norwich. (Laughs) I remember being quite pissed off, ’cause I’m usually really good at dodging them, or they usually aim them at Tom, in fact usually they just don’t throw them at all ‘cause they’re polite for our gigs (laughs). So yeah, it was the first direct hit I got. There was a big old clang on my guitar and they all looked at me like I’d done something wrong…I was looking back like, ‘it wasn’t me, it was that ….hole over there’ (laughs).