This article originally appeared in issue 99 of The Waiting Room fanzine, and is reproduced here with their kind permission.
Interviews conducted by Alan Hewitt and Katherine Stratton on Tuesday 21st February 2017. Photographs by Katherine Stratton, Alan Hewitt and Stuart Barnes.
KS: Obviously we have not heard the new album yet, what can you tell us about it?
It’s fabulous [laughs]. It’s kind of like the first two Mechanics albums, I think. There was a nice start to this thing. Brian Rawling who runs Metrophonic, the production studio, he’s got these sort of good ears, you know what I mean? He’s a songwriter, he’s mad about music and songwriting, and he said: look, let’s go back to how you started, where you start with your sort of quirky demos, and I’d do these weird little loop things, and sound effects, an atmospheric style, and then get another co-writer. He recommended Clark Datchler, who was Johnny Hates Jazz. He was a songwriter before he ever started doing the band thing, and we got together and it kind of clicked again, really. A bit like B.A., in a sense. He brought something very different to the table, and then Roachford obviously. Roachford’s involved in the songs and Tim [Howar], and so rather than go in to record a dozen songs like we used to, I didn’t record anything until I had actually written four or five songs. Then I wrote them a lot more. I rewrote them, threw some out, I changed some choruses and some verses, you know, all that sort of stuff. Until we were happy with the songs, we didn’t go near a studio. And then when we got happy with the songs, we didn’t really get them through like we used to. I did my demo at home with Harry, engineering, and then I sent that to Brian with a good guide vocal. They work on the track, send it back. I liked some things, threw some things out, we sort of just back and forwards, slowly building the song up. After we did four, we did another three, bit by bit, but it was the songwriting that we spent more time on this time.
KS: There was one song I remember reading about, “When the World Stops Loving You”, what happened to that one? Did it become something else?
I couldn’t make it work. Funnily enough, I think the lyric actually might be re – I don’t normally reuse things – I don’t really reuse music, the next time around I won’t reuse the same songs. Lyrically it was quite interesting and quite strong, but the music didn’t quite work. I think the level of quality of songwriting [on this album] is a lot, lot better than we’ve done for a long time. Bringing Clark in was very good, he’s a sort of bona fide songwriter and it made a big difference, I think.
KS: Which ones are your favourite tracks?
Probably “Let Me Fly” is the favourite track. It’s about four and a half, five minutes long, and they asked recently to do a radio and TV edit to three minutes, three and a half and I thought “F**k knows, I’ll let Brian do that” and we’ve got this big choir that comes in in the end, gospel choir, and we brought it in in the first and second chorus, and actually it’s rather good! So it works, sure, but I mean, yeah, that’s my song. “Don’t Know What Came Over Me” is a song I really like. It’s got a same sort of feel as “Coffee”. It’s a nice idea about this chap, you know, he’s got a perfect life, he’s married or with somebody, and life is good. He goes out one night and it ends up being a huge, large night out, he doesn’t know what happens, and he misbehaves and he wakes in the morning and is a bit like “what came over me?” That sort of feeling of “why?”, it’s such an unimportant thing, but he did it. So that was not autobiographical… [laughs]. Then I wrote “High Life”, which is a little acoustic song, with a guy called Ed Drewett who Brian recommended. He’s actually done some One Direction hits, but he’s a very nice, quirky guy too. And Fraser T Smith, who is a bit on a roll these days, but he’s a friend more than anything. Actually we were going to do some more, but he got locked away with Gorillaz and Stormzy, so we didn’t have enough time. But I definitely think that the standard is pretty good.