Blood Red Shoes interview
After some enthralling live shows and with a new album on the way we were keen to see what was happening in the world of Blood Red Shoes. We sent Adrian to track down vocalist and drummer Steven Ansell.
Hi Steve, thanks for chatting to us. Is everything good with you?
Yeah, pretty decent. We're just working hard as we can in the build up to the new album release really. Feels like a lot of change is in the air actually.
What have you been up to since 2008's 'Box of Secrets'?
We toured pretty solid until the end of 2008. Then in 2009 we played only about 30 sporadic shows through the year and spent most of the time writing new songs then testing them at the shows. Towards the end of the year we went into the studio to record the album properly too. We found it a really strange year because we were so used to being on the road and playing out all the time that it's a shock when you come back down to earth.
We nearly fell apart at one point because we put so much pressure on ourselves to write the best songs in the universe and we were fighting like hell. But somehow we found our way and it was all OK. We realised that everything wasn't a pile of shit and actually we'd come up with some stuff we really liked and was way better than the first album.
I hear that 'Fire Like This' is a slower and heavier album. Have Blood Red Shoes gone doom metal?
Hell Yeah! Where did I leave my cloak? So you've got Mike Crossey on production duties. I assume you were really happy working with him again? How was the experience of recording the second album?
Yeah we were. That was our decision. In fact at one point a lot of no-good label people were telling us not to work with him (those people are no longer around us thankfully) we had to fight our corner about why we were sticking with him. We're really happy that we did because we wouldn't have got as far down the line with the album if it had been a stranger. Mike understands our sound and us as people enough that we could push the sound further and he had similar goals to us with the record.
The recording time was a bit fragmented because we kept playing shows at festivals on the weekends and I wish we hadn't done that - it can help to have a short break but sometimes it really just fucking broke up the energy when you were honing a song or had a vibe going. The Motor Museum studio is a great place and we found it easier to work there than the first album. I think we were more sane on this record than before - the writing process nearly killed us at one point but the recording was pretty decent all in all.
You tested some new material during your live dates. Was this a useful way of finding out what worked outside of the studio?
Fuck yeah. I mean, I don’t even think it's as simple as seeing how the crowd react, you can just feel it in yourself. You can tell if a song isn't gelling or if it's too long, you just feel the pull. It's almost like anything you make, when you stand up and present it in front of an audience you realize certain things about it all in an instant. It's crucial for us.
I've heard you mention Babes In Toyland as an influence several times. To me they were a massively important band but you don't hear them talked about much anymore. Why do you think that is?
Right now everyone is humping the shit out of anything made in the 80s still, which depresses me because it seems to hark back to an era all about shameless ambition, stylized bullshit and superficial pop. The 90s had great pop bands with way more depth to them. Hopefully people will start rediscovering that shit soon and talk about Babes In Toyland instead of trying to sound like the Human League all the time.
We've seen many end of the decade lists in the last few weeks - what was your favorite album and track of the noughties?
I don't really like those things. I mean, they can be fun and maybe they reveal something about the decade you're looking at but it's quite arbitrary to draw a line on the ten year mark really.
But the records I’ve really liked that come to mind are White Denim, Scout Niblett, all three Q And Not U albums, These New Puritans - Beat Pyramid, also I just realised that In Rainbows by Radiohead is in fact really good. Oh, and Hot Snakes. Everything by Hot Snakes is amazing.
So what's been playing on the Blood Red Shoes stereo more recently?
Most of the shit I just mentioned. Lots of Hot Snakes, lots of Queens Of The Stone Age. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sabbath and Led Zeppelin too actually. Laura-Mary's got dead into the "women" album. The Ghost Of A Thousand are regulars on the stereo too. And Destination Tokyo by Nisennenmondai. We listed to a lot of new stuff that we hear about and are constantly looking for something amazing, but often don't find it sadly. I mostly just keep listening back to Funhouse by The Stooges after every time I spend an hour on the internet looking for satisfaction.
Do you argue about what to play or have you got compatible tastes?
We have very compatible tastes. But we still find time to argue, though usually not that badly. Recently we found that we trust each other's instincts more. Some songs I’m not too sure of but Laura-Mary knows they're working and kind of leads the charge and other songs vice-versa. Generally speaking we are very united in things we DON'T want to do even if we don't always have the exact same vision of where to go.
So the two of you still get on well?
Yes. But we've spent so much time together now that we have turned into the Gallagher brothers and are prone to the occasional completely out of proportion fight where we try to kill each other and break up the band. We always fix things though. I guess at least it keeps people on their toes. I’ve read so many things online now about us breaking up I doubt anyone will ever take it seriously again.
You used to be sick during your gigs. Has that all sorted itself out now?
Mostly I manage to hold my shit together now. Goddam it only took four years to figure out how to drum and sing without puking. Not bad really!
Sorry, this is turning into therapy... What about the shoplifting, how's that?
Laura-Mary doesn't really do that any more. I still do because I got quite attached to it. I mean, we started shoplifting on tour out of necessity but then I find it's quite a fun way to amuse yourself on tour trying to steal the hugest possible soft toy from a stupid fucking petrol station.
Whilst you are on the couch are there any new vices we should know about? Starting fires? Hoax calls? Kidnapping?
Starting fires is always fun. Hoax calls are mostly taken care of by our friends in Lovvers although they seem to have calmed down on that now. The only person I’d be tempted to kidnap is David Lynch, just so I could ask him some questions.
If you could send a note back in time to your sixteen year old self what would be written on it?
Carry on with what you're doing but hurry the fuck up! And don't be scared to admit that you're ambitious it doesn't mean you're no longer punk rock or "for real" or anything. I think I spent too long worrying about that shit when I was 16 when I should have just been going for gold. I also should have got on the drums earlier and spent less time on guitar.
The deep stuff now: what's your favourite flavour of crisp?
Pork scratchings. It's all salt and fat. Stick that in yer 5 a day.
What makes you laugh?
Almost everything really. It's either that or cry isn't it, I mean, we're all fucking doomed aren't we?
Also The Thick Of It, that makes me laugh really hard. but that's because it articulates exactly the bleakest shit that I just referred to.
Finally what do you have planned for the rest of 2010?
We're gonna be shoved in everyone's face on the internet, radio and magazines no doubt, so I don't really need to say it. We'll be doing that stuff bands do, releasing singles to help promote our wares (like the new album) and mostly touring like hell. Touring is the best bit for me. It’s a shame there's a recession because it seems to mean less people are buying tickets - which means we don't get to play as much as on our first album. Or at least that's what they tell me.
With such a strong first single we are very excited about the new album. As long as Steven can avoid being arrested for shoplifting it should be out on the first of March.