15 years of music with Franz Ferdinand

Words by Nikki Escalante

Always ascending.

Fifteen years in music has propelled Franz Ferdinand to rock’s upper echelons.

Since the band’s last release, Bob, Alex and Paul have welcomed Julian and Dino to the lineup, with whom they’ve spent the past year on tour.

Ahead of their Australian touchdown, we chat with bassist Bob about the rest of 2018 – which will see a much anticipated slot at Splendour in the Grass and a sideshow co-headlined by MGMT.

Congratulations on Always Ascending. How does it feel to be back after so long?

Yeah, it’s been great. In the past five years, we’ve done quite a lot of touring, because that included touring the last band record, the record we made with Sparks (FFS) and touring with the new lineup. The whole thing’s been really fun, getting back on the road with new people in the band and the album coming out and playing new songs. It’s been really incredible.

What do you love most about the new group dynamic?

On a musical level, what we’re capable of live on stage has increased by having an extra person there.

Also it’s freed Alex up as a performer somewhat, it’s not all essential now that he plays guitar especially with new material. So he’s just singing and that’s something that we had played around with on the FFS project… it’s something that we’ve talked about as early as when we first got the band together in 2002 – this talk of ‘will we become a five-piece?’

Actually our very first gig was as a five-piece. It’s been nice to have the opportunity to do that. The guys in the band are great, Julian and Dino are just really great company, really funny (laughs) and they fit in very well. It almost feels like a new project in many ways having new people along, it’s been very enjoyable.

How did the new lineup come together?

It took a while. Paul, Alex and I spent the first half of 2016 writing. And then we were on the lookout for someone to join.

Several friends in Glasgow all said ‘this guy Julian Corrie is an amazing musician, you should check him out’, so we met up with him for dinner and we got on really well.

He came down to the studio, we started playing music together. It was just immediately like ‘wow, this guy’s incredible.’ He fit in really well and we had a lot of friends in common and he came from the same scene as us.

So we finished working on the record with him and then when we thought, we’re signing a new guy now maybe we can chuck in a guitarist as well. Julian can play but [synth] was more of his background. Dino has been a friend of ours for years, since the early part of the century, he was kind of like an obvious choice because he’s an incredible guitarist.

Talk us through the evolution of your sound?

I think for us, it would be boring to try and just replicate the same thing over and over again, that’s something we didn’t want to do on this record, so we’re pushing certain aspects of the music harder than we have in the past – like the electronic side of it and trying to make it as dancier as possible. We’ve always considered ourselves to be a live band that plays dance music, that’s something we might try to take further this time around.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year?

We’ve got a lot of touring to do this summer, I haven’t been down to Australia since 2010.  

Last time Franz came down, I couldn’t make it, so for me it’s going to be quite special. European festivals are always fun, they start for us in a couple of weeks. We’re going to Russia as well for the first time since 2012. When you have a record out, and you’re doing a world tour, it’s difficult to separate things.

Everything is fun because you get to play a new album in a different part of the world, there’s something special about it constantly. I’m looking forward to it all.

I really want to go and play in Alaska, our agent says we can’t (laughs) I don’t think bands go there very often and I don’t think there are venues or even an audience for us there, maybe I should just go for a holiday.

Would you ever branch out of music?

Yeah, I used to do painting, that was the first thing. We started the band while I was in art school and it kind of took off, so that’s something that I often think about and one day hopefully return to.

I don’t really have time to be honest, well obviously I’m saying that as an excuse because you can find the time to do anything you want. I guess when we’re doing music, it’s all-encompassing and all the focus is on that so I find it difficult to switch between the two. I keep notes and books, so it’s something that I have in the back of my mind generally.


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