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Music Interview

Hard-Fi

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Hard-Fi
Hard-Fi planted themselves firmly atop the rock 'n' roll tree in 2005 thanks to their ska-rock, underdog anthems of love, despair and being stoney broke. They swiftly went about becoming one of the biggest rock bands in Britain and kicked off 2006 with five sold-out nights at London's Brixton Academy. Singer Richard Archer's gobby bravado, their vitriolic tales of life in the gutter and a plethora of giant choruses and whacking great tunes proved to be a dream combination. In the summer they stole The Killers' thunder by playing a secret Love Music Hate Racism gig at Glastonbury and followed it up by releasing Once Upon A Time In The West, which followed its predecessor in topping the UK album chart.

DS caught up with drummer Steve Kemp to find out if Richard is as gobby as he seems and whether they have plans to conquer America, and got to the bottom of a certain Chuck D collaboration rumour.

You've got your new single 'I Can't Get Along (Without You)' out this week. Can you tell us a bit about the track?
"The inspiration for the song? Well I think the words kind of speak for themselves. It's quite simple in a lot of ways. Me and Rich are big fans of soul music, and songs that have those really bittersweet vocals. Songs that are about splitting up with your bird and all that kind of stuff - a load of heartache. Yet the songs are really uplifting, the tears of a clown kind of thing. The song's got that whole soul vibe to it. Which is a bit of a departure from what Hard-Fi normally get up to. It really works though. If the Ramones can do it with 'Baby I Love You', then we thought, 'Why can't we?'"

Have you deliberately tried to make your new album sound more polished and pop-orientated?
"I think it's more polished because we got better equipment. We made the album by ourselves again. We made it in exactly the same way we made the first one. In our own studio. In a disused cab office - everyone knows the story. We made it in exactly the same way as the first album, it's just that we have better stuff and can play a bit better. The microphones sounded better and the computer was better. It's a bit more polished but we intended for the first album to be polished. We never set out to make a lo-fi album, it was just that all our stuff was sh*t. Second time around the stuff's not so sh*t so it sounds a bit better. To put it quite simply!"

Are you pleased with the reception that One Upon The Time In The West got from fans and critics?
"Yeah, I think all of the fans seem to be really up for it. I think the fans even prefer it to the first album. I didn't actually expect that. On any second album with the press, you'll get the people who reviewed the first album really well but then as it progressed got a little tired of it. So when the second album comes around they'll be ready with the knives. It's always going to be the case with the second album. Always. Generally though, it's gone down really well and I'm pleased."

Do you get annoyed when someone like the NME takes a disliking to you as a band?
"I get annoyed when they say stupid things. Like in an album review they said you can "practically smell the kebab sauce" about one of the tracks. Which is quite funny but it's just daft. I mean, whatever. Journalists are journalists. Some are good, some aren't as good."

Your singer Richard made some comments about wanting to be as big as Eminem at the start of the year. How has the album been going down in America?
"To be honest I don't really know because we haven't been out there this year. Unless you are physically there in America promoting it, doing those mental radio tours where you play a song in every single station and it takes f***ing ages. It's a really long process. I think the album's done alright but we need to go over there and do some f***ing work. We're not the kind of band who are big enough to do really well without being there at all. There's a lot of work to do in America yet. But there's so much going on in Europe and Japan that it's hard to slot it in."

Do you think the Americans will ever take to your music? You sound quite typically British.
"I think what we found with our first album is that we can appeal to America. Songs like 'Cash Machine', I mean, they don't even know what a cash machine is in America, yet they were well up for that song. In the same way that they are well up for it in Finland. All kinds of places. I understand what you mean when you say we sound quite British. We sound quite British because we are British. I don't feel the need to have the whole transatlantic thing going on with the band. I think that's quite lame when bands do that. When they put an American twang into what they are doing. It's never been our vibe. People seem to get it though, even if there's a few words they don't understand. But they probably still love Bon Jovi a lot more. But that's just Americans isn't it?"

You've got a big arena tour coming up before Christmas. What do you prefer, big shows or small gigs?
"I like them both. Intimate gigs are great because everyone's really close and you have that whole club vibe. I really enjoy that. But then we have played some of our best gigs at bigger places. I remember when we played the V Festival and there was 50,000 people singing along with 'Living For The Weekend', which was a really big moment. The good thing with us is that when we tour countries where we are not as big as we are in the UK, we still get to play those small venues anyway. We get a bit of both. It's not like we're getting tired of the whole stadium rock thing because we still play 800 capacity clubs in a lot of places."

You played a small secret gig at Glastonbury this year. Why did you decide to do that?
"Nobody actually knew we were coming. We were asked really late by the Love Music Hate Racism people, and we've done stuff with them before and have a good relationship with them [so] we decided to go down. Previously we had decided we weren't going to play any festivals in 2007. We didn't get paid, we just turned up and played. But looking back I think we kept it a bit too secret. Luckily though, there was a few sound problems with The Killers and everyone was up to their necks in mud and it was pissing down with rain, so when they found out we were playing in a tent around the corner, they popped in. So by about halfway through the set the tent was pretty much full. Then we tried to make it an old-school festival party atmosphere. It was really cool though to do something with the Love Music Hate Racism people though. We've worked with them since 2005. It's something we believe in and when they ask us to do something, we generally do it."

Do you have plans to go back and play a bigger stage at Glastonbury next year?
"I don't know what we're doing next year regarding festivals. I've no idea. That's all I can say. I'd love to play Glastonbury on a big stage because we've never done it. But I don't know where our movements will take us."

There's been loads of band reunions this year. Do you think they are a good thing?
"I think we should split up in November, just to get back together in December. See if it makes us more famous. Maybe we could have November off and get back together in December and call it the reunion tour. The few remaining tickets will sell out in no time. It will be a winner. It will be perfect."

So you don't think you'll still be touring with your band when you're in your 60s, like the Stones?
"I don't know if I'll be playing in Hard-Fi or not, but music is what I've done since I was a really little kid. I definitely want to be playing gigs when I'm that old. But we'll wait and see. I can sit here now and say, 'Oh yeah they are a load of old w******s', but then in 15 years' time, I'll be like, 'Come on lads, let's get back on the road!' But Jesus Christ, there's been Take That, The Spice Girls, everyone's given it a go."

Boyzone have just done it as well.
"Boyzone have done it as well. F****ing hell, really?! East 17 have done it. I watched a TV programme with them in it. But it didn't really work out for them, ha, ha, ha. It's just the thing to do at the minute isn't it? There's Led Zeppelin, The Police. I don't like it when their tickets are like a grand or something like that. Or £500 for a ticket. I think that's just f***ing preposterous. Led Zeppelin don't need the money. I don't understand what they are going to do onstage that will make it so expensive. It just seems ludicrous that, stupidly expensive tickets. But then again I'd love to see The Verve. I'd go and see them play. I don't know, it's just the thing at the moment. It's the rock 'n' roll dinosaurs. They are the ones who can sell tickets and will headline all the festivals. That's just the way it's going at the moment."

Is Richard as gobby as he is made out be in the press?
"It might be a false image but he is quite gobby. It depends who is talking to him and what he is talking about. Richard is one of the most polite, affable men I have ever met in my life. But if you say something that he doesn't like he won't shut up for half an hour. He can be...he is gobby and he isn't gobby at the same time. Depends what mood he is in."

There was a story in a tabloid about you working with Chuck D from Public Ememy. We're sure that's 99% untrue, but wanted to check. Is it going to happen?
"I would say that was actually 99% actually true! You should trust the Daily Star more. Everything you read in the papers must be true. Surely."

How has that come about then?
"It was weird because someone asked me a question in Ibiza about who we wanted to work with. And we've done stuff with Paul Weller and Mick Jones, who are people that had social lyrics and were around when punk was a new thing. That music didn't happen again for a while then, until Chuck D came around with Public Enemy. When It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back came out in '87 or '88, it was wicked and he was a big influence on me and the band. So I said Chuck D, if there's nobody else left to work with. And then I think somebody phoned him and asked him, and he said 'yes', which is really cool. So we'll see."

What would you like to do with Chuck?
"Maybe we'll do a 'Bring The Noise'-type thing, and we'll be the metal band. You know the metal band that he did it with? We'll play the metal band. It will be wicked!"

Hard-Fi's new single 'I Can't Get Along (Without You)' is out to buy now. The band start their arena tour at Glasgow Barrowlands on December 4.

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