Beta Band

Silent Uproar: The thing you are the most well-known for over here has to be the inclusion of "Dry the Rain” in High Fidelity. That is such a great scene and we were wondering how it came about?

John: It came about I think basically because John Cusack is a fan of the band. At least he’s cited us in interviews as a particular favorite. Because he was so heavily involved in that film, it was like an advertisement for his whole music tastes wasn’t it? It’s as simple as that. Originally there was talk of maybe us being involved in the score or something like that. He didn’t tell us, so we thought it was going to be some incidental music in the background or something, so we went to the premier and just about fell over when that happened. Good advertising!

SU: Are the goals the same as far as US and UK success, or do the two different countries have to be approached differently?

John: We’d like to be successful everywhere obviously, but I think we’re doing better in the US I would say. It’s just general better level of enthusiasm and support for our music.

SU: Is success in one more rewarding than the other?

John: Yeah, I think. It’s a good place to come and tour, in the US. Whereas compared to Britain it seems it’s more difficult to get into character perhaps. Well, for me anyway.

SU: It seems like with most bands we talk to, US success is often harder to obtain.

John: I’m not sure why that is, but you’re absolutely right. Well, two things. You’ve got to tour in the US. A lot of bands come over because they’ve been so hyped by the press in Britain, and they imagine that they’re just the saviors of whatever happens to be most fashionable thing that week. They come across the pond and expect to get the same treatment, but nobody’s bothered. You’ve got to tour; you’ve got to go out and play. It’s the only way to establish yourself in the minds of the US. That’s something we’ve done from the start. We’ve come over and toured and toured and toured. And now we’re sort of strong. And the music we make is a quality thing. And the quality always speaks for itself. And so, you know, we’re not hiding or trying to trick anyone into something that they don’t need.

SU: How did touring huge venues with Radiohead for the "Hot shots II" album affect the band's sound or perspective on music/performance??

John: It had absolutely no effect on the sound, but again, that was a good way of getting exposure. A way of not having all the pressure, you know, it was really laid back. It’s just mental. It was the first time you feel like laughing onstage because it’s so laid back being a support band, and so ridiculous to play to the sort of crowds that they were getting. But yeah, again, it probably saved us about 5 years of touring to get to play to audiences of that size. It was great exposure. Of course, we only got to play about 5 minutes, and it was in broad daylight.

SU: There's always been a hip-hop/sampling influence present in the music; what current rap albums/producers is the band feeling?

John: Well, the rest of the band are more up on what exactly is going on than me, so I can’t attempt to represent them, but I suppose Outkast. Everyone is very excited about them. Me as well, but I don’t have my finger on the pulse. But Outkast just seems to be exciting and there is innovative energy there and creativity. They’re most exciting. There are a lot of people, I don’t know if it’s the same over here (in the US), but just slagging them off. People in the hip hop community who are like, so snobbish that they’re like, “What are they doing? This isn’t Hip Hop.” But that’s bullshit. They’re just really imaginative. Really creative, which is refreshing.

SU: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with on some music?

John: Um, Oukast (laughs). Well it would have to be some Hip Hop producer. I imagine that would be the only thing that would make any sense for us to do.

SU: Were there any main differences in the recording process of the new album compared to how past albums were done?

John: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a very modern album. It’s only in this time that we could have worked in that way. Let me bore you for about 10 minutes and explain the process we used…

But basically, we relied heavily on computers, which we couldn’t really have achieved it without that. Steve had written the majority of the songs on the album and made a demo with guitar and maybe vocals or a sample. He would issue that to the other 3 of us. And we have so many months, and we’d take his version and go home and sit in our little dungeons at home, hunched over our computers, each do our own version of that using protools. So then we’ve got 4 versions, and we all get together and go through each song and listen to each person’s version. And it’s pretty obvious what parts are strong. It might be a beat or a chorus, so we take that, then because it’s all in protools we can take that verse and take that bassline. Then we do a demo of that together and try to play it live and then demo that again. And then finally when we’ve really worked through it and really understand how it works, then we go and record it. But even the way we’ve recorded it, we’re still bolting in parts of original demos. It’s just a really refined process. It’s distilled all the way along. You could never have done that in the days of recording to tape because there’s probably not a room big enough to hold the amount of tape that you would need, and then scissors everywhere and bits of tape having to stick it together (laughs). It was really liberating process for us because every member of the band feels like they’ve had every opportunity in the process to work through their ideas. There’s not the pressure of sitting in the studio with three people going “Do something! Do something now, really good!!” you know and you’re like, “Uh!” and try to play your piano part. Luckily we’ve had the time to work in that way.

SU: Do you think that you would approach it that way the next time?

John: Yeah, yeah, I’m really pleased.

SU: Well, changing gears a little bit, we have a board game over where they ask you all these weird ass questions like “would you rather have a fully functioning penis on your forehead or have no penis at all?” Just really random stuff, but anyway…

John: A penis on the forehead? Oh yeah, that would be great!

<b>SU:</b> So that’s your answer then? 

John: Oh definitely, yeah.

SU: Well we were gonna try to take a little more relaxed approach to it and ask you a couple of “would you rather” questions. The first of which is would you rather have an insanely successful record that makes you millions or have a long career that makes you moderate success?

John: Well, what I think is that we’ve got a long career of moderate success at the moment.

SU: Is that the way you’d like it though?

John: That’s the way it is. I’ve got no complaints other than maybe I’d like to have millions of dollars. Then maybe I’d go for the first one. But if you want me to be serious, I’d go for the first one, but I think that the second one pays off in the long run. You have more credibility. But I’d love to be rolling around in a big bed of money right now!

SU: Ok, would you rather kick the Gallagher brothers’ asses for “borrowing” stuff from your songs or forgive and forget and help them out on their next album?

John: (laughs) Help them out on their next album? What do you mean, produce for them? Uh…

SU: the penis question was easier, wasn’t it?

John: Yeah, well, that conjured up and image. The Gallagher brothers, well, I don’t know. It makes me slightly angry to hear them, but um, yeah. I think help them out on their next album would be the only Christian thing to do, wouldn’t it?

SU: I suppose so. Alright, and the last one is would you rather do 3 more days of press or tour with Vanilla Ice as his backup band.

John: (laughs) Oh, I’m a big fan of Vanilla Ice. I’d be out there, wearing the crazy trousers and kicking it real every night. But I’m enjoying being interviewed as well…

SU: Well, we try to make it somewhat interesting. When looking of the new album artwork, I was really surprised by the cover. Could you explain how the idea came about?

John: Firstly, you explain why you were surprised.

SU: The animation caught me off guard.

John: Does it strike you as quite positive and colorful?

SU: Definitely colorful.

John: I don't know, I think Steve originally had the idea. It's bright. I can't remember if the actual name of the album came first and that conjured up an image of these four superheroes. I suppose it's slightly comedy in a way. Well, it seemed like a good idea. Actually, I think probably the album title came first, and then how do you represent that, and that led to this ridiculous image of us as superheroes on the front. Steve really liked cartoons of that era. We actually got a guy who used to draw for Marvel, probably still does. So yeah, he's the real deal. So we got him to do it for us, and there's the result.

SU: What about the video for Assessment, what is the underlying message you wanted to get across or what are you hoping to tell people with that video?

John: We sort of ran with the ball as far as the idea...Alright, I admit it; I've got a fetish for army surplus. And then over the years, you're dressing up and making home videos. Not pornos, but just you reach for daft outfits to go and play a character. We basically wanted to do an army type video cause we love putting on daft gear and running around fields. That was the starting part, and then the idea actually formed. It was like kind of a history of warfare, but when you see it there's this object that's the focus point so that each preceding assailant submits it to the next person. So that the object, you don't know what it is, is sort of a symbol of power, whatever one wants. They take what they want and that's what they get, but it's just a useless, conical cone-like object. So that's the focus point, and you just go through the caveman who finds this thing on the beach. And the caveman gets superceded by the next guy, more cavemen but more advanced cause he's got nets, and you keep going all the way through and it eventually gets to the future.

It's just the suggestion of how in the future it's guys sitting at computers millions of miles apart just tapping away into their computers. So, it's a sophisticated concept, but we've ended up with some kind of Monty Python tribute or something like that. I think we've done something there. I'm not quite sure what, but it's really exciting to have managed to actually get that made because it's quite a powerful suggestion in the video, but I can't quite express to you what that is. It's like the futility of war. It's meant to be one shot as well. That makes it interesting. It's meant to get more and more manic, and the song does as well.

SU: I know you have been working on a couple DVDs (one of the recording of the album, and one of videos, etc) can you tell me more about those?

John: Hopefully, we will do 3 films each and then put out a dvd with 12 videos. Originally it was we'll do a video of every song on the album, but that's already mutated. One song's been done, one of John's, a sort of Scottish Samurai film, but the songs are fairly irrelevant. It's more you're taking snippets of songs, but they aren't really videos as such. They're seeming to be sort of short films. Hopefully, in about 3 months, we'll manage to find the time to make those films. That's in the pipeline.

SU: What’s to become of the 4 or 5 tracks that were recorded that aren’t making the album?

John: They'll no doubt appear as B-sides or depending on how pleased we are with them; we'll maybe continue to work on them until we're more satisfied with them. Eventually they'll appear somewhere.

SU: In the past I know members of the band have mentioned some concerns about how the production of past albums turned out. Did that influence your decision on production for this album?

John: What happened was originally we were looking to work with a producer, and we tried out a few guys, met a few producers. And we actually, almost a year and a half ago, we went in to do five tracks with Tom Rothrock, I don't know if you know who that is. So we tried that, and he's a very nice guy, but his sort of sound was not what we were looking for, so that didn't work. It was a process of elimination. So eventually, we sat in the record company playing, and they just turned around and, "Well, how would you feel about producing it yourself?" And well, that's something we've always wanted to do, but it takes their confidence, and it takes them to suggest it. So it was perfect for us, and now maybe at this time we're more qualified to do that because we've learned so much after doing this for 7 years. We've seen how it works. You know, a producer doesn't really do very much. You know they just need to have good ideas. They don't actually need specifically technical ability; they just need good ideas. And good ideas are something that we have a lot of. That's our strong point.

SU: I think a lot of times, what the producer ends up being is just an outside perspective.

John: Yeah, they're like a teacher or something like that making sure nothing gets out of control. Keeping everything sensible, possibly.

SU: One last question: In a 2001 Pitchfork interview Steve was talking about the use of drugs and said, “I lost part of my mind to drugs and I'm just trying to get it all back again.” So how’s that coming along for him?

John: Did he? It seems to be coming along very well. He can feed himself now on his own. Which is good. The dribbling, well that's stopped now. I think he's really happy!

Mar 17 2004