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Interview: Idles

Posted on Monday 6th March 2017 at 13:00

Jimi Arundell

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Jimi Arundell

On the first day of April the many great independent venues of Derby will unite to form the awesome day festival 2Q which features a plethora of fantastic alternative acts. The ten best clubs and pubs each open their doors to the ecstatic audiences ready to hear the very best of cutting edge music including the hard hitting sound of Idles.

The Bristol based band rages from the harder end of post punk and their songs typically features bone crunching bass riffs and distortion as hard as granite backing a very direct vocal delivery style akin to Jack Nicholson playing the role of an unhinged manic parent on acid delivering insane instructions through a microphone.

We caught up with Joe Talbot in amidst of unpacking as he moves back to Bristol to live with a friend. He spoke candidly to us about their previous experiences of playing Derby and of the raw emotive challenges he and the rest of Idles have faced

Click HERE for your 2Q Festival 2017 tickets.



How are you getting on?

Yeah, amazing man. I’ve just moved in to a friend’s house for a few months. I’ve been living in Newport, I’ve just managed to sell my house so I’m feeling good. I feel Bristonian again. Its quite nice.


Why did you sell the house? Was that to give you a freer hand to concentrate on the band?

I inherited the house. My mum, she died a couple of years ago and I’ve just managed to sell it. Because, obviously, I wanted to move back to Bristol now I don’t have to look after my old dear. So yeah, I’ve moved back and now I’m getting my shit together. Got a mortgage brokers meeting on Saturday and all this f**king terrifying shit that I don’t want to do. But its fine. It’s not a bad situation to be in. It’s a beautiful thing man. I’m happy, very happy.


I’m so sorry to hear of the circumstances, but it sounds good that you are taking control of your life.

Yeah. Its one of those things were there’s no question. It’s just amazing. I just constantly make adult decisions all the time at the moment so I’m a bit… Like, right now I’m just unpacking my stuff because then I have to go to a bank after talking to you!


As soon as the line-up was revealed we were thrilled to see you had been included. Do you know which venue you are playing yet?

No. I never look at anything beyond the city. I don’t look at times. I don’t look at how long we’re playing. I don’t do any of that. I’m not interested. I just go there and the boys tell me what song to play next and I do it. I don’t like to think about the gig at all. I just want to be focused on the songs.

And plus, it means the other f**kers in the band actually do something. They organise the gigs and get all that done because I do every f**king thing else. Actually, that’s a lie. Me and Lee (Lee Kiernan: Guitarist) do the videos, me and the manager (Mark Bent: Bent Music Ltd) do a lot of stuff. So, I let them get on with the f**king gigs. You know what I mean?


I was about to ask how you guys got involved with 2Q but I’m guessing it had absolutely nothing to do with you then!

(Laughs) No. it will just be our manager. Obviously, we wanted to do it. We’ve heard about it because someone mentioned it when we played there last. So, it’s not like something we don’t care about.

At this point in time we’re focusing on writing our second album and getting ready for the tour, and getting ready for the (debut) album release. Our manger and our booking agent are doing all the gigs. But we’re very f**king pleased to play it.


Which Derby venue has you played before?

In December, we played at The Hairy Dog. The guy running the place, I’d been talking to him for ages, he’s was a really enthusiastic lovely guy, he seemed really nice and explained the ethos of the place. I liked the space.

It was a very quiet gig but we like those because it was a challenge, do you know what I mean?


It is a great space and it has a nice big stage that you can do a lot on.

Yeah! Its f**king amazingly run - the sound and everything was great. Great venue. Enjoyed it. And the pub was delightfully scummy in parts. Its fun.

We had a night off in Derby. That was our night off in the whole tour because we weren’t playing the next day. Yeah, we enjoyed Derby a lot!

My Dad’s from Derby so I’ve got some sort of affinity with it. It was just good fun. It reminded me a bit of Bristol really, it’s kind of rough around the edges. A lot of people out for a good time. Too much of a good time one might say!


I don’t know if you’ve spotted but 2Q actually falls slap bang on April Fools’ Day. Maybe this could be the perfect time to play a prank on the rest of the band. Is that the sort of band you guys are?           

Yeah! I love being horrible to them and they love being horrible to me. Can’t imagine what I’ll do though. Probably something over the top. I can’t imagine what I’ll do though. Probably something over the top. I might just glass Dev (Dev Devonshire: Bassist) or something. Does that work?


The band draws together members from Bristol, London and Newport. How did you guys all meet and get started?

We all met in Bristol. We are a Bristol band. But at the moment, as I was saying before, I’m just about to be moving back to Bristol. It will be the first time I’ve been living there in six or seven years. Bowen (Mark Bowen: Lead Guitarist) lives in London, yeah he’s a dentist in London. The other boys live in Bristol. Jon (Jon Beavis: Drummer) and Lee are born in Bristol.

Dev is from Devon. We met at college in Exeter. So, me and Dev have known each other for a long time and then we came to Uni and lived together in the second year. We decided to start banging out some music. We were DJ’ing and had a club night called Batcave. We were just doing kinda indie and post-punk, 80’s pop, all sorts of shit. Then we thought we should do it ourselves which is a lot more fun than standing behind a desk watching people get pissed. So, we started.

I met Bowen DJ’ing as well, and he was a minimal techno DJ but also into other stuff. We got talking about the band and he loved the idea because he’d been in bands in the past and is very much an exhibitionist so he wanted to get involved and the rest is history.


What can we expect from upcoming album Brutalism?

I describe the sound of it as ‘A block of relentless noise’. You get a bit of breathing space in the middle but its very much relentless and necessary for us. It was just how we wanted to write this album. There was no slowing down in it. We just go hard.

That’s how we wanted to do it; a block of noise. The idea of Brutalism, as well thought out as it was, it just happens at the end it was just this big f**k off car park.


How was it recorded?

We recorded it studio Wandsworth, London, at Raezor Studios with our producer Paul Frazer or Space as he’s known. He knew the guy running it, he thought we’d love the room as its not too big and the desk is amazing so it gave him a lot to work with.

Meat was the first record that we recorded live, before then we had recorded everything separately. Welcome; all the layers were recorded separately. Our producer persuaded us, because we’re such a formidable live band that we give it a go. Because that’s how we enjoy music – playing live. It’s what we’re about as a band. So, it made sense to do it in the studio live and then nothing was the same. It was f**king amazing. It just felt right.

We recorded Meat live but then with the album he was even stricter. He just gave us three takes and that’s it no matter what and it worked. I think you can hear it. I think you can feel it. There is a definite urgency in the recording of Brutalism. And at the time we needed urgency as a band and I needed urgency as a son. Its great. Its really good. Really happy how it turns out.

Raezor is an amazing studio for us. Nice place to work. It was nice being out of town because it’s a more insular feeling when you’re recording out of your hometown. If you’re doing it at home you go home (at the end of the day) but when you’re camped outside of your hometown and you’re recording you’re just thinking about the album. A wombic effect it gives you.


Had all the songs already been written before hitting Raezor?

Yes. Apart from Well Done. We worked that out on the day, some of it. The chorus was very different. Slow Savage, the last song was written in the studio. I had the crux of it and worked it out on a single note on piano and Bowen transposed it into chords and beast it out a bit.

We’re not good enough as musicians to just f**king wing it out all the time. We would never just smoke a couple of jazz cigarettes and have a six-hour jam. ‘I’ve got this guitar part, let’s write on top of it’ you know what I mean? We need to practice. We’re not happy unless we’re tight. We would never be a studio band. We’re a live band for sure.


You don’t like leaving anything to chance with the music then?

I’m a control freak. Anyone who knows me will tell you that. I can’t be little spoon when I’m spooned, I need to be the big spoon. I can’t be held, I need to be the one holding. Everything in my life, I need to know what’s going on. I need to know the end of the film before I’ve seen a film. I’ve never gambled in my life. I went Las Vegas, I placed one bet and lost. Then I was really f**king angry about it because I’d wasted $5.00. I’m not used to gambling.

You know what; we’re pissing against the wind as a band. We’re not f**king beautiful clothes horses like some of these bands are and we’ve been doing this for a long time and our sound doesn’t appeal to the masses so we’ve got to work harder than the other f**kers. And we’re not spring chickens so I don’t want to waste I want to make sure everything is spot on and then we can let loose on the crowd.

Put it this way, we have an ethos if someone is going to pay money to see us we need to work hard for them. You get paid for this by working hard for people, remembering their names, being early not being late, not thinking you’re f**king better than the sound engineer or the barman or anyone. You’re all in the same venue working together. And if someone is going to buy an album I want it to be f**king good for them. It’s not like a lot of rich people are buying our albums and they’re working hard so I’ll work hard for them.


Where do you derive your creative influences from?

Lyrically, I think the first album came from a lot of books I was reading. I think it would be too two dimensional if you were just inspired by music all the time. Especially as a writer, I find suddenly found my voice when I started reading more. I learnt a lot from narratives and just different perspective and how to tell a story. I don’t like telling stories. I’m not very good at it. I’m a lot more blunt.

The one book that got me into reading again was Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a really hard book to read. Its not stream of consciousness writing but it is similar. It’s almost like one long f**king poem set in the Wild West and there’s a few scalpers who are going around scalping. Its disgusting, its dark, its violent but the way the violence is described is this really poetic language. You’ve really got to read it properly. You can’t just skim it and that made me think about language and how amazingly different someone can perceive words. I love the idea of beautiful violence and wonderful fear. Making putrid things sound wonderful.

Musically influences and stuff, I like that motoric attack of post-punk with the rhythm section. But we listen to a lot of things. I wouldn’t be able to pin point. We’ve certainly never had a discussion on it.


Bristol as a city has a reputation for being a creative hub. Your music often seems to be having a crack at the more smug and self-satisfied elements of bourgeois aspirations and the art world. Is this a swipe at the city that surrounds you?

Definitely not. I’m not having a go at Bristol because it would be stupid for me as a person that inherently despises nationalism to suddenly attack an imagined community such as Bristol. What I do attack the people I’m surrounded by which is in Bristol.

For instance, I love art. I love going to see art and I love seeing people’s work and my friends do beautiful paintings and beautiful sculptures and beautiful club nights and bands and music and f**king T-shirts and all sorts of shit. I see it all the time and it inspires me and I love that. What I f**king hate are the people that latch on to those things and make it something contrived.

The one I always go back to, its almost allegorical of all that shit, I went to a night organised by Howling Owl Records which is an amazing record label in Bristol and they put on a night called New Year/New Noise. It’s a weekend of music at an art gallery called Arnolfini. This year Girl Band headlined, one of the best lives bands I’ve ever seen in my life. There was other great local artist like Agatha, Silver Waves and Lice were f**king amazing. I saw a mate a few days later at the Louisiana where I used to work which has the best live sound on the planet. We were talking about it and he said “Weirdly, I was going to say something to you because some guy was taking the piss out of you for wearing a Joy Division T-shirt” and I was like “What? Was he an adult?”, he said “Yeah” and I was like “Why? What the f**k?! You should have told me, I would have knocked him the f**k out.”

That’s the worst thing about a music scene. Or an art scene. When you get laughed at for wearing something. There is nothing lamer and more damning of a scene when we start laughing at one another for what they look like. That’s time to get the f**k out and that really put me off that scene. I’ll wait till those f**kers get bored and start going to something else.

Everyone is pretentious to a degree but its that malicious bullshit.. The world is shit enough as it is, if you want to be a c**t to someone; go round to Pitcher & Piano. Don’t f**king come to a really good night of music and start being a c**t to me or one of my friends.

But that happens in every town. Its everywhere. So, it’s not Bristol. Bristol’s amazing and I think there is a lot less horrible contrived pricks in Bristol than elsewhere. Especially in the South, I think it’s probably less so up North.


Is that the Tarquin mentioned in your song Well Done?

No. That’s a differing kind of prick. The idea of that song is attacking that privileged view of “Just get a job”. The looking down on people with benefits and looking down on people who haven’t got it at easy as those privileged types. I just hate that ignorance, I hate the ignorant view like that.

Tarquin just seemed like the poshest name I could think of at the time. Subsequently we’ve met a very lovely man called Tarquin.


Tell us about your new single Stendhal Syndrome. It refers to being overwhelmed by an exposure to art doesn’t it?

Yeah. Its happened to me and this happened to Bowen as well. I just felt completely, physically, overwhelmed by a painting I saw at a gallery in Valencia. There was a day, a week or a month when all the galleries were free and I saw this painting, it purposefully got a bench by it because it like the size of a f**king house but it blew me away.

You sit there and you’re overcome with this, I dunno, existential weight from something and that’s basically the painting. Its amazing. It just goes to show that those things do matter in some way or another they do inspire and change people’s lives. Then you flip that on its head and you’ve got these people that are like “Oh, I could do that”.

Tracy Emin’s work to me is amazing. It speaks volumes to me and it made me change my perspective on women’s sexuality at a very young age. Obviously with help from my very educational informed mother, but Tracey Emin also did that. That tent that she did, I’ve forgotten what it’s called now (Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995), other people look at My Bed and think it’s just some f**king chancer.

The point of the song isn’t to attack the ignorant. Its just to take the piss and say “Come on man just get over it. Move on. Just try and understand the person that you’re mocking”. Same thing again really, just don’t be a prick! There’s a lot of c**ts in the world – don’t add to them.





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