Paul Thomson, (seen here second from the left), drummer with Franz Ferdinand, chats with Kevin Cooper about forming FFS with Sparks, playing Rock City and being given just twelve cans of lager, their latest album Always Ascending and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Paul Thomson is the drummer for the Glasgow-based band, Franz Ferdinand. Having always been interested in music, he is able to play the guitar, keyboards, bass guitar and the drums.

During the late 1990s he was drummer in The Yummy Fur which is when he met Alex Kapranos. In 2001 Thomson joined Franz Ferdinand as a guitarist, but later switched to drums.

Franz Ferdinand are a Scottish indie rock band, formed in 2002. The band’s original line up was Alex Kapranos (lead vocals and guitar, keyboard), Nick McCarthy (rhythm guitar, keyboards and backing vocals), Bob Hardy (bass guitar), and Paul Thomson (drums, percussion and backing vocals). Dino Bardot (guitar and backing vocals) and Julian Corrie (keyboards, synthesiser, guitar and backing vocals) joined the band in 2017 after McCarthy left during the previous year. The band has been notable for being one of the more popular post-punk revival bands, garnering multiple UK top 20 hits. They have been nominated for several Grammy Awards and have received two Brit Awards, winning one for Best British Group, as well as one NME Award.

In October 2016, the band released Demagogue, a song protesting and poking fun at the candidacy of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election of 2016. In May 2017 Franz Ferdinand announced their new five-piece line-up, with former 1990s member Dino Bardot on guitar and Julian Corrie on keyboards, synth and guitar. They will be releasing their latest album, Always Ascending on 9th February 2018, and will be touring in support of it.

Whilst busy preparing for the release of their latest album, Paul Thomson took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Paul how are you?

I’m very well thank you Kevin, how are you today?

I’m pleased to say that all is good thank you and let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not a problem, you are very welcome.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Life at the moment is good thank you. We have recently been over to New York doing some promo work for the new album. We actually got to perform on The Tonight Show which as you know is hosted by Jimmy Fallon. Then we are off to Tokyo, Japan to play a gig at the Shinkiba Studio and then we will be back here in the UK ready to start the tour at The Hippodrome in London with two shows on Thursday February 8th. Everything will be kicking off then as the album is released on Friday February 9th. So I have to say that everything at the moment is good.

You have briefly mentioned the new album, Always Ascending, are you all happy with it?

Yes we are, we really are. It has been a funny period for the band because with this album we have spent a long time making it. We have spent ages listening to the album, approving mixes and lots of stuff like that. It seems like it was a long time ago now because we actually signed off on the album some five months ago, so we have all stopped listening to it (laughter). However, when it is finally released I guess that is the time that the album becomes the property of whoever wants it to be theirs; it’s no longer ours anymore. It is a kind of a hand-over period where we hand it over to the rest of the world at that point.

The good point is that only having finished recording the album five months ago, I would assume that means that you won’t have to spend too much time rehearsing the songs ready for the tour?

(Laughter) that is perfectly correct. We tracked everything live in the studio over a period of five days so we basically rehearsed a lot which meant that when we finally went into the studio to record the album we knew exactly how the songs were meant to go and sound. We also knew by then how to play them (laughter). So all that is required for us in rehearsals is to refresh our muscle memory.

Well I have been playing the album for a couple of weeks now and I have to say that I love it.

Thank you, that is so nice to hear and very kind of you to say.

My favourite track at the moment is Lazy Boy. What is the story behind that particular track?

Lazy Boy was one of the very first tracks that was written with the new album in mind. Alex (Kapranos) tells us that he wrote that song when he was lazing about in his girlfriend’s bed (laughter). He said that he came up with a hook and that is basically what it is about, being lazy and taking no shame in it as well. In this country it is seen to be shameful if you are lazy. However, I feel that a lot of our better ideas come to us when we are just sitting around doing nothing. I find that it is during those lazy moments that inspiration can strike. I personally don’t think that there is any shame in being lazy particularly.

That could be an anthem for student’s worldwide (laughter).

(Laughter) yes it very well could be.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

In rehearsals the two tracks that I really did enjoy playing were The Academy Award and Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow. Those two tracks really do stand out as the freshest in my mind as I am speaking to you now, so I would have to say that those are most probably my favourites.

Would you say that it is your best work to date?

Yes, I would say so. I wouldn’t be in the business of making records if I didn’t think that. I feel that this album is consistent over all ten tracks. I love it and I feel that this is a nice period to be excited about releasing a new record that we are all very enthusiastic about. We are all very much looking forward to playing all of the ten songs out there live.

I see that you are releasing the album on cassette. Can you get your head around the fact that the kids all want their music on cassette?

Yes I can and I believe that it is an underground thing. There is not much to be gained from releasing 7” singles at the moment, if you are an underground band. So in general most bands are putting out cassettes which I can totally get behind. Cassette was the first format that I really engaged with as a child. I used to tape the radio onto a cassette and following on from that I would make mix tapes for my friends. I love the way that cassettes sound and the way that they compress the music. I honestly believe that people have missed that kind of sound after years of listening to digitally processed music; such as MP3, FLAC and WAV files for the past decade or so. I think that we are all now missing that warm tape compression.

I just don’t know what they are playing them on. Are they all heading off to car boot sales on a damp Sunday morning in an attempt to buy an old cassette player (laughter).

(Laughter) maybe a lot of them are using their parent’s cassette decks (laughter). I have Bob’s (Hardy) cassette deck now as he told me that he had no use for it anymore and so he gave it to me (laughter). I also have a high end Sony Walkman which you can record on which I have to say really does sound amazing. I have recorded some of our live gigs straight from the sound desk straight into the Walkman and they sound so much better on cassette than they do digitally.

Do you still get excited by touring?

Yes I do, however, it has been a while since we have toured here in the UK. We did tour the USA for six weeks last year which was a fantastic opportunity for the new line-up of the band to properly gel. The first show that we played together with the current incarnation of the band was in Alabama at a music festival (laughter). It was an interesting one but throughout the course of that tour the band really started to gel, tighten up and gain the sound that we have right now. As tours go on we tend to give the sound check a miss and just show up for the actual show (laughter). That way it gives us the opportunity to kick around town. We have been doing this long enough now that we have got lots of friends in each city so we get to hang out with people, visit museums, record shops and grab a liquid lunch (laughter). It’s good; well it’s a living anyway (laughter).

You are playing here in Nottingham at Rock City on Valentine’s Day of all days. Is Rock City a must play venue for you?

Yes it is and it is well established on the circuit. I believe that this will actually be our seventh time playing Rock City. The first time that we played there we were opening for Hot Hot Heat who were a Canadian indie rock band from Victoria, British Columbia. That was in actual fact the first tour that we had ever done as a group. So I personally have lots of fond memories of Rock City. It is one of the best gigs anywhere in the UK. However, giving a band twelve cans of Carling and expecting them to be happy with that is finally wearing a little thin (laughter). Whenever we play over in Europe it really does show you just how an artist should be treated.

In The Netherlands and Germany they actually feed you (laughter). It’s like ‘just what on earth have we done to deserve sustenance. That’s not the way that musicians and artists are treated back home in the UK’ (laughter). They give you twelve cans of fucking larger and expect you to be happy with that. The big thing that is wrong with Rock City is that the stage isn’t really big enough if you want to put on a large production. But we simply adapt what we have and put on the bigger production when we play over in Europe where they tend to be larger venues.

You have now been a member of Franz Ferdinand for sixteen years, since their formation. Have you enjoyed the ride?

Yes I have, well I am still here so I guess so (laughter). I think that now, the three core members of the band; me, Alex (Kapranos) and Bob (Hardy) are enjoying it more than we have ever done. And as I said earlier I am really looking forward to the forthcoming tour.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

I don’t think that I have experienced the highlight of my career yet otherwise I would have packed it all in if I had already peaked. If I felt that the band had already peaked then I would have most probably have thought ‘let’s leave it at that and bow out gracefully’ but I honestly think that it is yet to happen. We are all pretty pumped, all pretty excited about the new album coming out together with what the year has in store for us.

And what about low points?

Yes there have been a few low points but there has never been anything that bad particularly. There has been the odd squabble but as you know that’s life. I have had worse squabbles with family members. It’s not a big deal really.

In 2015, you joined forces with Sparks and formed the super group FFS. Whose idea was that?

Initially we were going to write them a song and they were going to write us a song but then the whole project kind of snowballed and before we knew it we had written eighteen songs for them. The two bands were emailing ideas back and forth. Someone came up with the idea of us writing a song for them, and that idea you wouldn’t believe was way back in 2004. However, with the limited band width and internet speeds available at that time it simply didn’t work. When we decided to do it then it happened really quickly. We decided that the songs that we had written were neither Franz Ferdinand nor Sparks songs so we decided to form FFS. We toured for a while and it was both fun and a nice little diversion. It was also the nucleus which kick started this new era for Franz Ferdinand; the new era that is just beginning.

The whole experience also bought Sparks back to a lot of people’s attention.

Yes it did. In fact their album actually went to number seven in the charts. Whilst I am not claiming the absolute responsibility for their chart position, I think that we certainly helped (laughter). Me and Bob manged to get to see them performing on the last tour in Edinburgh. They had picked up a young band from Los Angeles and together they revived a lot of the old songs that they hadn’t played for years. I have to say that they totally blew both of us away.

On the subject of collaborations, is it something that you would do again and if so, who with?

I honestly don’t know simply because the Sparks thing was totally unexpected and that is generally how we roll. We simply let fate take its course and see just where it leads us but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. But if you ask me who with, then off the top of my head… (laughter).

Who has musically inspired you?

That would have to be the people who continue to do what they do. I don’t want to give them any more praise than they deserve but I would have to say characters like the late Mark E Smith of The Fall. Right up until the end he was still doing what he did best.

There are currently a lot of good young bands out there; who should we be looking out for?

There are a lot of bands in Glasgow at the minute, and there is a pretty healthy underground scene going on at the moment. It’s much like the scene where Franz Ferdinand came from almost twenty years ago now. There are lots of good bands currently under the radar like Happy Meals, Kaput, and a band called Hairband who are probably my favourite band from Glasgow at the moment. Those three are definitely worth checking out.

What was the first record that you bought?

That was Stand And Deliver by Adam Ant. There was that fine line between pop music and the films that I was into at the time. My favourite film was Flash Gordon and then I saw this character called Adam Ant who I thought was not that far removed from Flash Gordon (laughter).

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

It was Iron Maiden back in 1990 at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

To be honest with you I have actually got quite an extensive playlist of songs that make me cry. Anything off the album Songs Of Pain by Daniel Johnson tend to make me shed a tear or two. I don’t particularly know why but I tend to find that Passionfruit by Drake moves me to tears. I put it down to the movement of the chords together with his delivery. I actually think that it is a beautiful song.

Paul on that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great. I look forward to seeing you here in Nottingham.

Thanks Kevin and I will look out for you and give you the eye up there at Rock City. Bye for now.