Scotland - Full Moon 75 - 11/20/02
Jukebox Pop Quiz! With Roddy Woomble
The Remote Part is among the best albums thathave been released in Britain this year.
It's the kind of album that has it all: Power Pop anthems, great Pop songs with strings, and
mean little Punkrock numbers with distorted guitars. The four guys from Scotland - who recently
parted company with long-serving bass player Bob Fairfoull - are currently touring Europe with
Coldplay. Luna Kafé met singer Roddy Woomble in Cologne, Germany, recently to check out
his excellent taste in music. Here's our exclusive Pop Quiz:
Nada Surf: "Inside Of Love"
(from the album Let Go, 2002)
Roddy: "It's interesting! Who's that, I know them! The Flaming Lips? Built To Spill?
LK: Here's a BIG clue: They got one 'popular' song... it's Nada Surf!
Roddy: "Oh yeah! They are much more popular in mainland Europe than they are in the UK.
We played with them once actually. They look very odd. They all should be in different bands,
cause they have this Indierock guy singing and this dreadlocked guy in cycling shorts playing
bass and the drummer looks like a school teacher!"
LK: When you hear a (quite mellow) song like that, do you notice the connection to your
more recent stuff, or are you still more of an indie rocker at heart? Because obviously you've
been getting a lot of R.E.M. or Crowded House comparisons lately.
Roddy: "Comparisons are something that I don't involve myself in. I don't care who we get
compared to. If I had never heard of a band and wanted to know what they sounded like and somebody
said 'oh, they are a bit like that...' - you just have to do that, you need to get a handle on a
band anyway. I'm not bothered if people say [we sound like] R.E.M., Smiths, Crowded House, U2, the
Cure - that's fine! I thought that [Nada Surf] song was okay, I'd have to hear it again..."
The White Stripes: "Fell In
Love With A Girl" (from the album White
Blood Cells, 2001)
Roddy [immediately]: "White Stripes!I think they are great! They are a classic case of
personality in a band. They've got so much personality, it's so amazing to watch, it's a triumph
that they are so popular! I saw them play at the Glastonbury Festival. It was a band called Stasailor,
then the White Stripes and then a band called The Charlatans - and the White Stripes blew them both
away. When the White Stripes came on, they looked like super heroes, with the clothes they were
wearing and all."
LK: Do you find something like that inspiring? Would you guys consider performing in matching
outfits as well?
Roddy: "Nah, you gotta be american to do that! If you're scottish, you would just look
stupid. What would you wear, tartan suits?"
Brendan Benson: "Folk Singer"
(from the EP of the same name, 2002)
Roddy: "What's this? Oh, this is Brendan Benson? We're playing with him in New York, I
wanted to hear him actually! It's hard to tell from the snippets you're playing me, but this
sounds like something I'd listen to! That was cool, I liked that!"
Bob Mould: "180 Rain" (from
the album Modulate, 2002)
Roddy [immediately]: "Autechre! Boards Of Canada? Plaid? Squarepusher? I like it, I listen
to a lot of music like this..."
LK: No, you'e completely wrong, it's the other end of the spectrum, just wait for the
Roddy [after voice kicks in]: "Sounds like Bon Jovi..."
LK: I'm sure he's a big hero of yours!
Roddy: "Is it Death In Vegas?"
LK: It's the new Bob Mould record!
Roddy: "Really? No way! That's his new record? Somebody told me actually that he went
electronic, but I haven't listened to it yet. I kinda lost interest in Bob Mould, well, not as a
person, I still think his legacy with Sugar and Hüsker Dü is amazing, but I thought
his last solo album was a bit disappointing, so I haven't rushed out to get anything he's done
since. Oh well, that's mad... You can tell he's been listening to a lot of that Warp Records
Bob Dylan: "Ballad Of A
Thin Man" (from the album Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)
Roddy [after two seconds]: "This is Bob Dylan!"
LK: Yeah, that's right. And it's basically just on thetape, because I think your version
of "When The Ship Comes In" is one of the best Dylan cover versions I've heard in ages....
Roddy [laughs]: "Do you like that? Well, we did that in about 20 minutes in a studio in
Glasgow and the studio was about the size of this [coffee] table. Rod played the keyboard and I
had a little drum, I was drumming, because it was just the two of us - we did it for a radio
session. I had no idea what it would sound like, but it had a sort of charm to it."
LK: So how do you come up with coverversions?
Roddy: "We never played cover versions to begin with. We immediately started writing songs,
cover versions is something we only started doing in the past few years. And it's fun to play your
favourite songs, lately we play a lot of Gang Of Four songs, we play "I Found That Essence Rare"
live sometimes, we also did "Boys Don't Cry" [by The Cure] and "Everything Flows" by Teenage
LK: Isn't that terrifying sometimes to approach someone else's tune, especially if it's
an iconic song like "Boys Don't Cry"?
Roddy: "Cover versions are never as good as the original, it's just a way of keeping the
music alive. That's the way I see it. The Cure don't play live very often, so we just keep "Boys
Don't Cry" alive in a different way. It's just for fun, for the band, or when you play them
live... I don't think they should be recorded and released really, although we've done a few for
b-sides, but that's different. Playing them live is good. When I saw Patti Smith live last year,
she played "Heart-Shaped Box" by Nirvana and it was great to hear that again. That's the positive
thing of cover versions."
The Cure: "Inbetween Days"
(from the album Head On The Door, 1986)
Roddy: "The Cure! We've just been talking about this! This is my favorite [of their
LK: So why did you chose "Boys Don't Cry" and not this song, then?
Roddy: "It was just too fast on the acoustic guitar!"
The Delgados: "Pull The
Wires From The Well" (from the album Peloton,
Roddy: "I've got this album, that's the Delgados!"
LK: Yeah, it's on there because they're scottish... Do you think coming from Scotland is
still a big deal for you, or does it play a lesser role at this point in your career, now that
you're more popular in England (and probably the rest of the world) as well?
Roddy: "It's definitely important, because the sens of place gives people something to
latch onto. I don't mean that in a flag-waving or patriotic way, I'm against that totally, but I
think bands from Scotland have a sense of place, you know they're from Scotland. Not because they
sing in a scottish accent or they got tartan record sleeves, but bands like Mogwai, Belle &
Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub, The Delgados or us - there's a sensibility about them that's distinctly
scottish, the same way that The Smiths, New Order or Doves have a distinctly northern english,
Manchester kind of feeling about them. And that's just cool."
Copyright © 2002 Carsten Wohlfeld