.::THE COOPER TEMPLE CLAUSE::.
sad and jealous on a sunny day.
The Cooper Temple Clause Interview
In 2003 it looked as if the Cooper Temple Clause were about to become the next big thing. In fact if their bosses at Sony BMG could have had their way they might have done. However as Ben Gautrey tells Room Thirteen, this would have meant going against everything the band was about so it was time to move on. Although the split from their previous record company wasn't the sole reason for their vanishing from the face of the earth, or at least the UK bit of it, it can't have helped.
Now the band are back, with a headline gig on the V Festival fourth stage already under their belts and with a video that has seen them grab the headlines, they're clearly not wasting any time in picking up where they left off, all be it minus a member from when we last saw them.
Ahead of the release of their new single and album, Jo Vallance and I joined the orderly media queue at the offices of new home Sanctuary records for our twenty-minute window of opportunity. Aside from all the usual gubbins about label splits, loosing a band member, the new record and that video, we learnt about a Karaoke night in Japan with Dirty Pretty Things, what Ben likes to play when DJing, and why he loves England striker Peter Crouch.
R13 (SW): So how was V?
B: V Festival was an interesting one. It was the only festival we played in the UK this summer so obviously it was really good for us because we love festivals. It's the only chance you get to see other bands as when you play your own tours you're busy. Unfortunately when we played the Stafford day someone had the bright idea of pulling out the power for the right hand side of the stage so for about ten fifteen minutes half our equipment wasn't working.
R13 (SW): That's a good way to come back. B: That was quite interesting yeah...then on the second day the water from the previous day got into our electronics. We didn't really notice until 'Panic Attack' started and we ended up with some kind of Aphex Twin meets Square Pusher beats going on.
R13 (SW): I imagine some people will have liked that though.
B: The crowd were amazing. It was great to have such phenomenal support while we were having these little technical faults.
R13 (SW): The interesting thing with V was, talking to people at the Chelmsford site people's reaction to you was "Oh yeah...forgot all about them!" Did you get a sense of that?
B: We didn't feel it as we weren't playing the main stage; we were playing a little tent so there wasn't much pressure on us for how many people were coming to see us. It was just a show for people who wanted to come and see what the band sounded like minus a member playing new songs. We didn't really feel people not knowing us or remembering who we were as the tent was full; it wasn't like this huge arena.
R13 (SW): And how has loosing Didz changed the band?
B: Um...when Didz left it was a shock, we'd all known each other from school and grown up together. The Cooper Temple Clause was just an extension of our friendship. Obviously as people grow older things happen in their lives, Didz had a little young family and moved to London while the rest of us were still based around our studio in Reading. A lot of the sessions for this album were moved to Bath and Bristol which meant Didz was having to do six hour round trips and with a baby girl he couldn't always get to the studio when he wanted to as obviously she came first. So he found it really hard, a strain not being able to contribute as much as he wanted to and we found it hard not wanting to upset him but wanting to plough on with songs and getting frustrated waiting for him to arrive at the studio. So when he said he was going to leave the band and join Dirty Pretty Things the immediate feeling was one of sadness and regret as we were going to be loosing a very dear friend who wasn't going to be as much a part of our lives anymore. But his departure gave the band a whole new lease of life, gave us a new focus as we knew we now didn't have to wait for him and we could carry on, anyone who writes songs will say the best stuff is done spontaneously and if you're waiting for someone to come and you've got all these exciting ideas it can be really frustrating and you loose momentum. We're just happy that he's happy with Dirty Pretty Things and ultimately it's worked out better for us as a five piece, and live as well as we're sounding more focused and better than we did when we were a six piece.
R13 (JV): Now that you're signed to Sanctuary, do you feel more comfortable and that you're not being pushed to be more commercial?
B: Definitely. There were a number of reasons why things started to go sour with Sony BMG. We signed to a completely different bunch of people, they all left and new people came in. Initially it was OK but then we started getting pressure from them to get stylists and change how we were as a band, what we stood for, the kind of songs we wrote. It was very clear in the last few months that what Sony BMG wanted from Cooper Temple Clause and what we were as a band were miles apart. It was an arduous and on going process to get us off the label. Eventually, luckily they let us go and take our recordings with us and not just release a single with out any care and dump us which to my mind was what happened to Hope of the States and why they broke up, through a lot of bitterness with their label and the way they were treated. Luckily we managed to get off that, there were some people there we liked but the majority we had no idea about them and they had no idea about us. Definitely coming to Sanctuary has reinvigorated us because it's people who care and know what we're about and know what the songs are about. It's been a while since we've been able to work with people like that.
R13 (SW): Is that why there was such a big gap then between your last album and this one?
B: There's many reasons. We went to America for a few tours and to promote our album and that's obviously out of the public profile. Then we started doing demos with one producer and then we went and worked with another producer Chris Hughes. Then Didz left and we did a few tours to see if we could function as a five piece or if we had to re-evaluate and get another member in. Then the mixes we had done for the album weren't sounding quite right and so we were looking for the right mixes and we had to wait a bit of time. Then there was a lot of head scratching on both sides with Sony BMG and us, yeah part of the reason we took so long was Sony BMG but it wasn't the sole contributing factor or even the main contributing factor. It's just that we've spent a lot of time trying to make this album right, right for us and not make the same album again and really try and push ourselves and try and make people who are aware of Cooper Temple Clause surprised by what direction we've gone in.
R13 (SW): And so for that reason what would you say is the most exciting aspect of the new record?
B: I think the range of depth that we've managed to achieve. In terms of when we started this album we just wanted to get a better sense of melody evident in the whole album. After a lot of songwriting, homing our songwriting craft with Chris Hughes when we just stripped it down to just an acoustic guitar and the vocals which we'd never done before, we'd always built layers upon layers of sonic sound and then put lyrics and melodies on top, this album gives people a clearer indication of what we are as a band, Tom and Dan do some of the singing it's not just me, and all five of us write collectively, lyrics and the music. I think that's what we're all immensely proud of.
R13 (SW): You talk about stripping it all down yet you've come back with arguably your heaviest song.
B: Yeah...the process of choosing a single is always really hard because you make an album and then someone's asking you to pick something that represents the whole thing. There isn't one song that represents the whole sound of it. We asked lots of different people, friends, family, people we work with at Sanctuary what they thought...
R13 (SW): And they all said different things.
B: Yeah we all picked different ones. It was our radio plugger who took the initiative and said we should come back with 'Homo Sapiens', which we'd never even considered could be a single from the album. I guess he perhaps thought it was the best bridge from where we were, to where we are now and would serve the purpose of not maybe setting the world alight but reintroducing people to the fact that Cooper Temple Clause are still a band and have a new album coming out. I think it's the closest sounding thing to where we were, but on this album there's the most delicate acoustic numbers we've ever done. There's a song called 'Take Comfort' which was recorded in half a day.
R13 (JV): The uncensored video for 'Homo Sapiens' is pretty extreme, where did that misanthropy come from?
B: We always loathed the idea of just being a band in a dark and dingy room and being filmed and it's raining. We always think that shouldn't happen and the video should have a link to the song. 'Homo Sapiens' is basically a comment on the world leaders of today, or certainly western world leaders and what they place as important and I guess their arrogance in assuming that the human is so much elevated above every other species, when the most fundamental things in the world are water, the planet...not to sound like some kind of ecowarrior...most important things are water, the environment yet we're going to war with people over oil, basicly the arrogance of man really, just a comment on that. We were given lots of different scripts for a video and the one we went with we thought tied in well with the song as it's about abuse of power. We wanted to be seen to be shooting politicians we thought were abusing power, perhaps people in the military, lawyers, factory owners, we wanted people to rally behind us and say "yeah come on come on we're with you". The ending is where we get killed ourselves because we're no better than the people we're shooting. It's quite hard to get all that into a three and a half minute video so people might be quite confused about the message but basically we're just trying to comment on people we think abuse power. Obviously not every politician abuses their power and not every member of the military abuses power but there is examples of where people do.
R13 (JV): Is there still a personal aspect or aspect of yourself in your songs because it seems a lot of them are commenting on situations or painting scenarios?
B: I guess 'Homo Sapiens' is a personal comment on where we come from as there's a lot of anger towards the people who are meant to be in control of all of our lives. I guess that's the most overtly political song on the album. The rest of the album is the common themes...I guess loss really. Tom and Dan both broke up from long-term girlfriends and so it's about relationships and starting again really.
R13 (JV): You released 'Damage' as a legal download, what do you think of illegal downloading as a possible breach of trust?
B: I don't know. You kind of speak for yourself as a music fan, there's downloads that I've heard and acquired and if it's a download I like then I'll always go out and buy it as I'm a sucker for the packaging and being able to hold it in your hands. We're not like Lars Ulrich and say it's wrong because it happens and we did it ourselves when we were kids. I think a lot of people if they download something they like they wanna go and buy it and show their support for a band. Also we've been found out about in places like Lithuania, we've had emails from this guy who's downloaded our stuff illegally and it means it's getting your music to places it wouldn't otherwise do. For that reason we're behind it and people are gonna come to your gigs if they like your songs.
R13 (SW): It might inspire somebody to pick you over somebody else at a festival. B: Exactly, we're not against it at all.
R13 (SW): Your band mates are off in another part of the UK DJing, how much of that do you do?
B: I do it sometimes. Tom and John are really good. I remember about five years ago when we were in the process of getting signed we went to Trash a few times. It just so happened the times we were there we always saw Solewax and got friendly with them and were just blown away by how good they were as DJs. Then as the years progressed we'd be in New York or somewhere and we'd find we were not people who'd make a lot of money but be very much in demand as DJs.
R13 (SW): What kind of stuff do you play? I've seen you live a couple of times but never as DJs.
B: Me and (Dan) Fisher when we DJ we're pretty selfish, we don't really play stuff we know will get people on the dancefloor, we just play songs we'd like to hear really loud: Weezer, Radiohead, Bowie, Kraftwerk. Tom and John they play remixes by all different sorts of people, a lot of LCD Soundsystem, that song 'Yeah' always goes down well towards the end of a set. They've got an unbelievable thirst for new music, it's not at all indie, there's no guitars, it's all beats and electronic. Maybe I should start to get them to post their sets on our website.
R13 (SW): Some of your band are off doing a gig for Oxjam, how did that come about?
B: When we were at V we did an NME signing tent and some guy approached us on the way up there and spoke to Kieron about it, about what they were doing and what they were hoping to do with it and asked if we'd be willing to lend our support. We're only doing a little amount but they seem very happy with it, we'd like to do more if we had time. It's small things like doing this Oxjam DJ set tonight and charging people on our guest list so they're not getting in free and the money goes to Oxfam.
R13 (JV): You started your own label Morning Records, are there any young bands you'd be interested in?
B: We've been asked a few times, at the moment it's not really viable for us to sign anyone to Morning because we're just so busy ourselves and we wouldn't be able to offer these people anything or give them any time. That's what you really need in a band, you need people around you that are gonna be there for you and offer support when you need it. We're not looking to sign anyone.
R13 (JV): If you had the time is there anyone you'd be interested in? B: Personally I can't think of any unsigned bands that I've heard...
R13 (SW): Sign Dirty Pretty Things then you can be Didz' boss.
B: (laughs) Er...I don't think Didz deals very well with authority. We saw him at Fuji and it was really good. When you're in a band you have very little time to see your friends and when your friends with someone who's also in a band the only time you get to see them is at a festival. It just so happened we played the Fuji Festival, I think the only time I've seen Didz since he left the band was in this bar in Tokyo, it's a long way across the world to see one of your friends. We had a great time with them, spent several hours just us and them in the karaoke booth.
R13 (SW): What do you do on the karaoke?
B: Well what was discovered that night was that Fisher from Cooper Temple Clause is probably the best Elvis impersonator in the world, Gary from Dirty Pretty Things can do a mean Jefferson Airplane 'White Rabbit' and Didz doesn't need the words scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen to sing Elastica.
R13 (SW): Final thing I wanted to ask, I was reading on your online journal about your gig in Sheffield, that night will be remembered for watching Peter Crouch score an amazing goal in the European Cup, does that mean you're a red?
B: No, why you're a blue are you?
R13 (SW): No red.
B: Liverpool fan...I like Peter Crouch, think he's fantastic. I just like the way he's come back from everyone booing him and hating him and now he seems indispensable to the England team.
R13 (SW): Who do you support then?
B: Oh well...if you've got time...I used to support Wimbledon and they became a franchise and moved to Milton Keynes. I don't support Milton Keynes Dons or AFC Wimbledon so I'm clubless unfortunately.
R13 (SW): You'll just have to pin you're allegencies to Reading now.
B: Na I'm not a glory hunter so I can't do that...
And with the girls in the room (Jo and the press officer) starting to get bored with the football talk that was the interview brought to it's close.
drowned in sound
It's odd writing about a band you've grown up with. In my early years of music geekdom, moving out of the Manic Street Preachers obsession was never going to be easy, but I always craved something a little more... current? No, I'm not sure current was the correct description; I just think that I resented the fact that This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours was, on the whole, a pile of toss.
Happily, I did the whole 'support the local scene' thing and caught late 90s/early 00s underground nearly-grunge 'heroes' Thirst at Southampton's dirty gem, the Joiners. That particular night, however, didn't end in eventual regret at attempts to get served, or even being stuck at the wrong end of Solent with no way of returning to Portsmouth. I left with a new band to love and collect, to stalk and savour.
Fast-forward nearly six years and we're both older and most-certainly wiser, we've both suffered periods of disillusionment, success, unhappiness and confusion, but we're both sitting here today with a renewed sense of positivity, ready to take on the world. Whilst my personal positivity and drive will affect few, the magnificent return of The Cooper Temple Clause has the potential to touch many.
"We had to reinvent the wheel," begins guitarist Dan Fisher, "spend more time on the songwriting. The experimentation comes naturally to us - it's the sort of band we are. More about getting the best from the tracks we'd written, than letting everything end in a wig-out. It's definitely more immediate."
For a band that has an array of effects and samplers to make the staff at your local Korg dealer cry with lust, the decision to let this album run off guitars and pianos may come as a surprise. "It's still eclectic," Fisher continues, "but there's a lot of connotations that come with labeling it as 'mature', but I'd have to say that yes, it probably is. It definitely reflects the past couple of years and everything we've been through to get this made. We're proud of this baby."
They've every right to be. Make This Your Own speaks for itself: the songs feel more like songs and have, for the first time in the band's career (with the exception of early song 'Sister Soul'), the power to affect you emotionally from the outset.
As we speak, drummer Jon Harper is next to me, cutting stencils for the spray-painted sleeves of new single 'Damage', being sold on the tour the band embark upon in a week's time.
"We're looking forward to it," says Harper. "We did a couple of shows in Switzerland, Austria and Italy. Switzerland is one of the most rock n' roll countries we've ever been to. Seriously. We tried some of the new stuff on those dates and it went down really well, which means we're looking forward to these UK dates even more. We've got a bit of a back-catalogue now, so we've got a nice diverse set to choose from."
He laughs: "It almost feels like we're a proper band!"
Following the departure of bassist Didz Hammond many speculated upon the implosion of the band, but it seems to have pumped a new life into the Coopers - there's a renewed sense of why they're doing what they're doing.
"We feel a tighter unit. Five people can gel better than six. That's not to say it's been easy though; everyone has had to raise their game, take on new challenges. Kieran [keyboardist] is now playing bass on a few tracks live as well. He's been sat behind a keyboard for five years, so as you can imagine, we've stepped up the instrument-swapping acrobatics as well."
Of course, to begin with, Didz leaving the band was far from expected. "It was gutting," says Fisher. "We didn't see it coming, but that's perhaps part of the problem. We were doing a lot writing and recording from the album, either in Reading or the Westcountry. It got really tough for Didz, with his family. To come to the studio was a six-hour round trip, whereas London was half-an-hour each way - that's another five hours to spend with your family. In our struggle to get the album done, we maybe weren't there for him as much as we should have been."
Fisher is keen to stress the amicable nature of the split, adding that they still talk and are friends: "The biggest thing was whether or not we got a new band member. We spent some time with Dan Austin [producer] playing bass in America. We wanted Dan to do it, but he's got a really exciting career as a producer ahead of him and we wouldn't want him to be taken away from that. It would have been strange to welcome someone else into the family. We wanted to give it a shot."
Regardless of your opinion on The Cooper Temple Clause, their resolve to complete their album, their renewed positivity and the widespread anticipation of the new album, despite their lengthy absence, has to be admired.
I'll nod to my past and smile fondly, but it's the future where things are always much more exciting...
'Kieran got really excited about holding an AK-47, not that he’s a violent person,' explains vocalist Ben Gautrey talking about his bandmate’s experience on The Cooper Temple Clause’s latest promo shoot. The infamous, bullet-fuelled video for kick-ass single 'Homo Sapiens’ has unsurprisingly been censored but not compromised: 'We just didn’t want it to be a band in a dingy, dark room playing their instruments. It doesn’t make sense to us.'
The experimental rock group are back to follow up 2003’s 'Kick Up The Fire, And Let The Flames Break Loose’ but this time there’s only five of them since Didz Hammond took up bass duties with Carl Barat’s Dirty Pretty Things.
While his colleagues took to the decks in aid of Oxjam, Ben gave Music News the low down. MN: Your debut album was out in 2002. A year later came your second. So why has it taken until 2007 for your third?
Ben: We went on a couple of tours of America, one with The Cure, which was fantastic and when it came to start demoing songs for this album it was quite soon after 'Kick Up The Fire’ and we didn’t want to make the same album. We wanted to take time and progress because bands that we admire - The Beatles, Bowie, Radiohead, Blur - the last couple of albums they did, they really tried to push themselves as artists. One thing that kept coming back to us was perhaps a sense of melody got lost on the first two albums. The first album was definitely a lot of spontaneity and where we were at the time - teenagers. And the second album was extremely dark and paranoid - that’s where we were at that time. We just wanted to try something new and different and part of that would be changing the way we wrote our songs and starting almost from scratch, building it up organically from a piano or acoustic guitar with a vocal and just finishing the song like that. And then finding the right mixes for the songs took a long time. We feel very justified in taking this long because we made the correct decisions.
MN: Have you noticed a significant change in the industry since 2003?
Ben: I think it was 2002 / 2003, there was a big garage rock explosion and White Stripes came into prominence. People listened to guitar bands and not to pop bands anymore. And that’s just expanded over these years. I think music’s a lot healthier than it was when we released our last album.
MN: How about the work involved in promoting your product - the advent of digital etc?
Ben: Yeah we like that. I think we enjoy the fact that through your internet site you can communicate with people, who want to support the band, very easily and it doesn’t get distorted by the media. There’s just a lot more information about bands, a lot of websites dedicated to writing about music and bands opposed to turning into Heat magazine about bands.
MN: You’re known for experimenting with your music. Have you elevated that any further with this album?
Ben: Well we’re never short of ideas when it comes to music and instrument-playing. It was very different this album obviously having the songs finished and then putting music on top of it. We were a lot more brutal and precise and if we thought something wasn’t working we’d say it to each other’s faces which can be quite harsh when you’ve known each other for a long time. There’s perhaps our most electronic moments on this album. 'Homo Sapiens’ is probably our heaviest song to date and we’ve got an acoustic song called 'Take Comfort’. Although it’s maybe our most concise album, it is without a doubt our most eclectic. If you heard each song separately you wouldn’t know that it was by the same band and that’s what a lot of people have told us.
MN: Why did you decide not to replace Didz and share bass duties?
Ben: We started this band from school. It was done very organically. If we got someone in to replace Didz the chemistry would’ve changed and it would’ve felt more like a business than actually something that we enjoyed doing. We knew it would be tough because obviously it would mean we’d have to learn new parts on the different instrument to play it live. So we went on a tour of Europe in February to see whether we could function as a five-piece and although we were far from amazing it did give us hope. It also gave us a little glimpse that maybe we could actually be stronger and better live as a five-piece than a six-piece.
MN: Is there a sense of rivalry when someone leaves to join another band?
Ben: Not really because it was getting to the case where Didz was getting frustrated that he wasn’t able to be involved as much in the writing process and we were getting frustrated that he wasn’t pulling his weight. He had a young baby girl and she took precedence so he just couldn’t be at the studio when we needed him. So the offer that Carl made to Didz because he was based in London (meant) he could be a doting dad and a bass player. There wasn’t any jealousy because it was actually best for all parties. The only sadness was that we were going to be losing a close friend from our daily lives. It was a new lease of life him leaving because it meant we could carry on and be a lot more refined and focused.
MN: You were back on the road earlier in the year and are gigging at the moment in places like Shrewsbury.
Ben: For the first time in our lives we’re going to Shrewsbury! We just wanted to go to places that we hadn’t necessarily been to seen as we’re doing quite small venues, just getting back to what we did on the first album. Like you say we’ve been away for a long time and we didn’t want to ram our band down people through the media and take the easy route. I think people get tired of being fed all these different angles of stories by all the various magazines so we just want people to judge us for themselves. We’re playing Carlisle for the first time. We did Barnsley which was a weird one.
MN: Where did the cat fight happen as documented in your online diary?
Ben: That was Newcastle in this really small place that apparently Dirty Pretty Things were at the week before. The crowd were amazing and it was almost like you were playing a proper punk gig, just the amount of energy and everyone crammed together. And on the front row I just saw this girl push another girl and before I knew it they were punching each other senseless in the face, which you don’t often see! Luckily as the gig was so small the security guard was close. He did his job and he did it well.
MN: What’s happening with your own label Morning Records?
Ben: We’re still the only band on Morning! We would like to sign some bands but you need to give time and support to a band. At the moment it’s just not viable.
MN: Does critical acclaim fair against commercial success?
Ben: Commercial success - great if it happens on your own rules but not if you have to conform. That’s not us and that’s partly why we left Sony BMG because we weren’t willing to play by their little rules and it obviously caused friction. Critical acclaim - if someone writes something nice about you, that’s great, but it’s not the purpose of why we’re in a band. Ultimately being in a band you’ve got to turn yourself on. And if other people can relate to it, that’s an overwhelming feeling but you have to do it for yourself.
MN: Is it a disappointment that the video for 'Homo Sapiens’ has been censored?
Ben: Well I think we knew it wasn’t going to have much chance of being played. The whole premise of the video is abuse of power and us shooting people who abuse their positions of power be it politicians, people within the military, lawyers, people who wear fur, people who gain out of other people’s misfortune or exploit them. That’s not to say all politicians are evil. The song is about the arrogance of man and especially the arrogance of the American foreign policy. At the end we get killed ourselves because trying to shoot people who are wrong, that’s no way of combating something.
MN: You started the band because of the lack of talent on the late 90’s rock scene. Excluding your good selves, have things improved?
Ben: Now it’s great people listen to guitar bands and hopefully in a few years they’ll go back and find out about Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk. But I think it was Jarvis Cocker who said the other week about career bands. I think there’s about 90% of bands in the charts who are in that mould
When you see Ben Gautrey, front man of Berkshire’s TCTC throwing himself into one of their songs as though he was singing for his supper and has utter belief in the lyrics, it would surprise the uninitiated to discover that he does not write the majority of them. The inevitable question is from where the poignancy, angst, irreverence and refreshing nature of the lyrics emanates? The answer is Daniel Fisher, the guy who stands to Ben’s right at gigs totally lost in the experience. Bassist Didz Hammond and Ben have been rigorously interviewed by many quarters (NME & Gonzo, to name but few) and the mystery and intrigue that surrounds TCTC still lingers like a Boardroom crisis at Old Trafford, even after two full length albums. It was time to try and crack the case from a different angle; this meant grilling Daniel Fisher before their gig in support of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the University Of Liverpool.
The inevitable starting point was his version of where it all began;
“We all went to school together, Tom and Ben played in a band together, Didz was in a band of his own. We were borne out of the frustration of living in a small town”
What of the two albums? The debut offering ‘See This Through & Leave’ is less subtle and more angst ridden, demonstrated by titles such as ‘Murder Song’ and ‘Let’s Kill Music’, than the follow up ‘Kick Up The Fire & Let The Flames Break Loose’;
“The two albums are from a completely different headspace. The first album was drawn from 3-4 years of material”
Oh right, and was it a commentary on their upbringing;
“Yeah, it was a backlash against town mentality. The second album took about a year to write. We are not a band who can write on the road”.
Dan smiles wryly, admitting that part of the cause of this is because;
“Being on tour is the biggest surge of activity we have and we also get drunk a lot”
He glances at the floor and emits a sly chortle like that of a kid making his first confession; “It’s our own fault, really” he shrugs his shoulders. Shame on them! It was time to turn the heat up; is the second album more mainstream?
“Not really, I see it as a natural progression. It is nice to get more attention and play the bigger venues. There is no point in having anything to say if you don’t want to say it to as many people as possible”.
That is a good point well made young Daniel. Sensing that the amiable guy was warming to the situation I decided to press harder to try and uncover TCTC’s motivation and song writing process. What song triggered the second album?
“I went through a period of writer’s block. I had seen a film on writer’s block called ‘Barton Fink’ and decided to write a song a bout it. It got us jamming again”.
And that song was;
“The Same Mistakes.”
Having gotten over the above infliction that plagues everyone at some point, it intrigued me as to what song summed up his current feelings?
“New Toys, this is basically about being on tour. We have agood live angle and we tend to tour a lot. Some bands disappear after being hyped up and live off that hype while they do another album. You can’t guarantee guarantee hype so we play as many gigs as possible….. We’ve played Reading for the last three years, so we will probably give that a miss this year. Although we will never turn anything down, we will try and get the V festival in this year”.
It was no good; it was time for the ‘dark horse’ statement. A deep breath was drawn; it is possible to draw comparisons of your lyrical style to that of Ritchey Edwards from the Manics;
“He was a big influence I was really into their music especially ‘The Holy Bible’. He was one of those lyricists who immediately got to me, as well Thom Yorke, whose use of imagery just made sense.”
That wasn’t too bad, as I tried to repress my sigh of relief that he didn’t take offence and infer that by asking him the question, I expected him to disappear after the third TCTC album. Dan keenly unveils the reasoning behind their last single ‘Blind Pilots’ and believe it or not, it reveals a tender side to the group;
“It is about being on tour and maintaining a relationship. I use the plane crash metaphor to do so. It’s not over yet we can still steer this thing”.
I decided to wrap things up with a final question about the nature of their support slot for BRMC tonight; are there songs that they would not dream of playing tonight?
“We always try and change the set because it keeps yourself interested, but there are tracks from the first album, like ‘Who Needs Enemies’ that won’t be played tonight. We would play B-sides at our own gigs and won’t tonight. The whole art of putting a gig on is being able to grab people’s attention and keep them out of the bar”.
In appreciation of Dan’s honesty and openness, I confess that read the lyrics contained within the inside cover to the first album on their own, not only because of the powerful nature of them, but also to make sure I get them right. I told him about my friend and mine’s faux paus over the words to ‘Who Needs Enemies’. It was not until six months after owning the album before we realised that the words are “Killer key change” and not “Killer Peaches”. He laughed enthusiastically before putting my mind at ease;
“I have a friend in the band Oceansize, who told me he thought the line in ‘Panzer Attack’ was ‘here comes the Buzzard’s Eye’ despite it saying ‘Panzer Attack’ in the title!”.
Thanks Dan, I made my way to the fancy dress shop to return my scowling peach costume and plastic machete with a tad less embarrassment.
ox fanzine (this is translated from german on here so it might not be 100% accurate)
People have many bad qualities and, above all, many prejudices for which they cannot make good arguments. It's no different in music. Most bands are first put into a category based on their external appearance, compared with others, although no judgment was made either from the record or from a show. Unfortunately, THE COOPER TEMPLE CLAUSE is no different, although their music is quite experimental compared to other hyped bands. There are six young British musicians at work, who with their mixture of rock, indie and electronic influences clearly stand out from the crowd and have created their own style. During the tour in September I talked to bassist and master electrician Tom Belamy in Cologne's Prime Club.
I am currently reading a book about the rock revolution, and there is talk of the ROLLING STONES free gig in Hyde Park at the end of the 1960s. "Satisfaction" rang out, a very political song at the time, with which Mick conveyed his message that people should rebel against society and do something good for themselves. What do you think about today's society and how would you accomplish something like that on stage today? Sounds good. I heard about the concert but never thought about it from that point of view. Well, we all come from Reading, where society is very backward. On the first album we dealt with this topic, with all the superficiality and the intolerance of the people, which is also widespread in this business. In Reading we got hit on a lot, probably because of the hairstyles, but also simply because we just made loud music. That seemed bad enough. When we went on tour for the first time, we had only positive experiences in this regard. As soon as you got to a bigger city, you were simply seen and accepted as a musician. On stage? So I'm more in the background ... Everyone has a political point of view, of course, but back then people were just waiting for a new hit to go by, especially during the Vietnam War. I think that the desire for such extreme statements, such as those brought across by Jimi Hendrix, is no longer there. And it would also be difficult to focus on one topic because a lot is going wrong in the world right now.
Most of them would probably not understand some profound texts either, because they deal with a thousand other things. Would you have preferred to have lived as a hippie back in the 60s?
Maybe in the 70s the music was better, but I would still prefer the 60s. My father still raves about this seemingly harmonious time, but I'm sure that everything wasn't always great back then, so I prefer to concentrate on the present - there is a lot to do. The music of the past generations always accompanies you somehow, especially with their music on the tour bus.
Back to the present, tell us about your beginnings.
Me and Ben saw each other for the first time when I was eleven years old and went to school. We met more and more often and played guitar together. After we finished school, we gradually got to know the other four. We played together for two years and devoted most of the time to music until we came to our label Morning. We recorded the album and went on a tour. It all happened very quickly - the Reading scene wasn't that big either, so it was easy to get to know people interested in music.
When you met Ben back then, would you have thought that you would get this far?
It was everyone's dream, no question about it, but once you're here, it's hard to believe. Touring from one country to another is a great thing. Not to be compared with the time when I was still standing in front of the mirror with the guitar ... We didn't do much else besides music. Jon, our drummer, used to play a children's entertainer, I worked in a fish shop or in supermarkets to finance my music equipment - music was always the most important thing for us.
Wasn't it difficult to choose a style? After all, there are six of you and everyone has different musical ideas.
We thought that too at the beginning, but everything can be combined well. Everyone does their part, the more members there were in the band, the more rock it got. But due to the different preferences, there is also a lot of electronics included, for example. We always try to try new things and somehow everything fits together. The challenge lies precisely in not letting any monotony arise in the songs.
Because of your diverse music, you can't even come close to being on a par with the bands that people like to compare you to. Why do you make these comparisons to other British bands and how do you deal with them?
As you know, it is getting harder and harder to defend yourself against categorizations. Of course we're extremely hyped in England, but that's the way it is. We went on tour and people imagined something completely different. People should just go to concerts and see for themselves. The press forces you to either love or hate a band. Once you're in there, it's not easy to get out of there. A lot of people are just too open-minded and think that only punk, only rock, only grunge or even just country are great. In all musical areas there are good and bad things, but you have to listen carefully before you form an opinion.
Let's get to your new album. I think your music is much more pronounced compared to your debut in terms of the combination of different styles and leaves a different impression without your sound necessarily being more differentiated.
Of course we haven't completely changed the music. As far as the combination of the various instruments is concerned, we have put a lot of effort into - above all, everything has to be feasible later on on stage. But I also can't say that we sound completely different live than on the record. But as I said: listen to the record and decide for yourself! Our new album is just deeper, it's about life together and how you have to try to get along with yourself without going completely crazy. We'll be putting the next record out on Morning as well. This is our second home. The people make a very good team and production usually runs smoothly.
laut (also translated from german)
In the afternoon the six had played a rather listless gig that lacked the energy and the typical weirdness of the band. The spark didn't quite jump over to the audience. Finding an interview partner turned out to be even more difficult. Two promoters were there. But not a band member. After a while, bassist Didz and singer Ben came along. They were first obliged to do another interview.
After all, there are six guys, so you can run something in parallel. But puff cake. Apparently TCTC wanted to play hide and seek with their promoter or something. They couldn't even be found at the alcohol-for-free stand. Where did they hide? To this day unresolved, but after a while I was assigned Didz. He was a little childish, I was told beforehand. Well, I thought. That's it then. Really. No trace of pre-pubescent behavior.
First, I wanted to know why the band chose "Promises Promises" as the first single on their next album. It's relatively hard in contrast to the rest of the pieces. Didz explains to me that this song was supposed to create a link between the two albums. In general, the audience has reacted well to the new single so far, but also to the other new pieces played live.
The lyrics that I could hear from the new album in advance are much more personal than the ones from the debut. What is the most striking difference between the two albums? The first album was rather angry and frustrated, explains Didz. With the help of the music, the band got upset about prevailing social grievances. The new album is more about more personal feelings, it is more introverted. You can find quieter music and lyrics on "Kick Up The Fire, And Let The Flames Break Loose."
The cover isn't as provocative as the last one either. The new one shows a bright light on a dark background. It is no longer so provocative, the meaning is more subliminally recognizable, says the bassist, light attracts flies, although it plunges them into ruin - "that's just like us, well, at least with me, me too the things that then drag me to ruin. "
The band had already founded their own label for their first album. That gives them the freedom to do what they want, nothing to be dictated by anyone.
When I see you on stage, I sometimes wonder if this is just an image that you are showing. When I saw you guys live for the first time, I thought: this is one of the craziest bands I've ever seen. Is that really you on stage, or are you pretending to be?
Didz: Well, that's just how we play. Nothing is set. It's not like the Hives or The Darkness, where everything seems totally choreographed, as if it were a play or a pantomime. We don't do anything too consciously. It just seems ... how we react when we play this music and see how people react to this music. We react to people as they react to us. That's how we are, and that's how we have always been. We always had this "not really caring" element. We just don't like to stand still. We feel that what we are doing is the right thing at this point in time. I think a lot of people get stuck because of the image. It's weird because we all look pretty much alike. This is not an intention, but a coincidence. I think if we would change that it would be a conscious decision, and it would be much more artificial, to deviate from our path. So we would no longer be what we are.
You also had this "Dress Up-Day" when you were in the studio ...
Yeah, every Thursday. I missed many of them because I was in the hospital (due to an appendectomy with complications, editor's note). Although you almost feel at home in the studio, you get a little claustrophobic. You're in this room with the same people for about five months. There are no windows, you eat shit and you don't really get fresh air, you recycle cigarette smoke. To avoid boredom, Ben had this crazy idea to introduce a "Dress Up-Day". The first was "drag". We all came as women. Another ran under the motto "Animals". Fisher was really good at it. That goes back to his theater days. He won many times.
So did you have a competition?
Yes. I won a few. We had "cops and thieves" and I was the best burglar. We also had a "bible character". I came as Archangel Gabriel. It was a good disguise, it was magic! I had a white sheet and a white curtain fabric for my wings. And then I put a CD on my head. That's it. I think I was even barefoot. I didn't have a harp or anything. Oh shit, I should have had a harp. That would have looked even better.
A golden one!
Tom came as Jesus. He did a funny trick of turning water into wine.
You also had a DJ set with someone from Kraftwerk!
Yeah, that was last week. The organizers think that people want to see what the bands have in their record box. So we got there with a little bit of electro, a little bit of indie, some sixties stuff and a little bit of hip hop. So the organizer said to us: You know that this is primarily supposed to be an electronic set? So we played a lot of warp, but also Serge Gainsbourg, stuff like that. That was strange, but it seemed like it was OK. I also played Madonna and Ladytron. At some point we got to the sixties and that's when they switched us off. And suddenly came ... what's his name ...
Yes, Karl Bartos came and he was really good. It was fantastic. I thought there was a grandpa who played rubbish. But I think that's still very appropriate music. That says a lot about Kraftwerk's influence, that he can come back with a project that still does the same things as it did 30 years ago and still sounds fresh and bold. We were very impressed with Mr. Bartos.
'...for numerous, reasons this album took a long time. when didz left it sort of gave us a new lease of life - and we've definitely been functioning a lot better as a five piece. now, we've got a lot more focus...'
The Cooper Temple ClauseOdd to think of them such in a capacity, but Reading's premier gonzo electro-rock quintet The Cooper Temple Clause could, these days, reasonably be described as Elder Statesmen. Roaring out of Berkshire in the wake of the post-White Stripes/Strokes invasion of summer 2001, they've notched up two well-received studio albums (2002's 'See This Through And Leave' and the following year's 'Kick Up The Fire And Let The Flames Break Loose') in addition to a string of chart-bothering singles before flamboyantly- coiffured bassist Didz Hammond decamped to ex-Libertine Carl Barat's Dirty Pretty Things. It's been all quiet on the CTC front of late, but a new single, 'Homo Sapiens' is out later this month in lieu of a third album, 'Make This Your Own'.
Today, we are in the esteemed company of the nattily dressed, well-spoken frontman Ben Gautrey: a copy of 'The Guardian' under one arm and an umbrella under the other. So Ben- veritable granddaddies of UK rock now, aren't you...?
'Er, that has been bandied about in a few interviews...and then you sort of scratch your head, because you're 26 years old! I suppose we were very lucky that we got signed when we were 20, and whereas other bands maybe have time to hone their songwriting in private before getting noticed, we sort of did it in public.'
So, this new LP of yours- is it a sort of logical progression in a kind of trilogy, or a case of wiping the slate completely clean?
'We wanted to make sure it was another leap forward. The second album I felt was a lot darker, almost paranoid. This album is just as eclectic as the other two in terms of styles: We had this insatiable appetite to try and write different music to everyone else. There's one of our most delicate songs on there called 'Take Comfort', recorded in half a day and was going to be a B-side, but turned out to be one of those songs that was so strong that we thought it had to be on the album. Then we've got songs on the other side of the coin like 'Home Sapiens' which are a lot heavier. So it was important for us to keep progressing. All of our favourite bands- Bowie, The Beatles, Radiohead, Kraftwerk- would always try and get a new niche, and try and push themselves as artists and musicians. They wouldn't settle for something that they'd already done. On this album we've really tried to do that. Both in terms of- like I've mentioned, the songwriting- but also Dan (Fisher, guitar) and Tom (Bellamy, guitar/synths) sing a few songs on this album, so there's three frontmen now I guess, and its' really opened up the band even more. It's a very much a collective now in the truest sense of the word.'
A cursory glance across the top of the UK album charts at the time of writing reveals a distinctly indie hue. Sure, Lemar and The Pussycat Dolls are up there, but the top 20 also includes The Fratellis, Razorlight, Kasabian, The Killers, The Kooks, The Zutons and Muse. Is this a more rock-friendly environment we now find ourselves in than at the time when the Coopers emerged half a decade ago?
'When we first came out there weren't that many bands really- just a lot of...' (Ben spits this next phrase out with quite tangible distaste ) acoustic acts... it was very dire! When we released 'Kick Up The Fire...', guitar music started to get a bit more prominent, I guess. The Strokes and The White Stripes were out, the whole 'garage rock explosion'. We didn't feel any link or any particular...liking of it, but it exposed more and more kids to guitar music which is great and in the three years since we've been away that's escalated even more.'
The band headlined the Virgin Mobile Social Stage at this year's V festival, despite a three year gap from 'Kick Up The Fire's...' unveiling. Did the boys feel any particular pressure, given the lengthy amount of time they'd been out of the public eye?
'There wasn't much pressure as it wasn't that big a stage, perhaps just the right size- it did feel incredibly intimate. We had been doing various clutches of shows before hand, as losing a member and becoming a five piece is almost like starting again. So some of the older material we had to re-learn, play different instruments. We really enjoyed it, it was nice to be playing a festival again. Well, apart from the fact it rained an unbelievable amount in Stafford and we were prisoners on our own bus!'
Throughout October 2006 -weather permitting- the Coopers embark upon a cross-UK slog that incorporates some of Britain's less immediately obvious rock outposts; Lincoln, Carlisle and Shrewsbury among them. Are the lads looking forward to this? An opportunity to get back to basics and recapture old vibe, perchance?
'I think there's definitely a bit of that in it. Some people have said that's a fault of ours, that we don't chase the limelight' he muses. 'And ultimately, that's why we ended up leaving our last label. We didn't want to make all these compromises in terms of meeting stylists, and having a particular 'direction', just being another product off the conveyer belt. Certainly, when we first started out, we wanted to let people go and judge us for themselves, and I think we have gone back to that school of though, playing some places we've never done before, and smaller venues than perhaps we're used to. We're also doing a bigger tour in the new year, but this one felt right to kind of give people who've supported us on our website a chance to hear the new material first, and try and get that affinity back with our supporters.'
And to conclude: what are your hopes for 'Make This Your Own' and the last part of 2006?
'I guess it's taken a long, long time to finally complete this album, so we're all really excited about letting people hear it and getting feedback. In November and December, after this tour, we're going back into the studio- it might seem a bit strange, given that we're just finished an album, but for numerous reasons this album took a long time. When Didz left it sort of gave us a new lease of life- and we've definitely been functioning a lot better as a five piece, now we've got a lot more focus. So we've got a bit of spare time, try and write some new songs.'
A pause- and reflection that it might be time for The Cooper Temple Clause to have a breather. 'And then Christmas!'