Originally posted August 2009
Seconds Out - Interview with Antony Genn of The Hours
Written by Sean O'Neill
Antony Genn previously played keyboards with bands Elastica and Pulp, and also worked as a producer, including producing sessions for UNKLE. He also co-wrote with Joe Strummer and formed The Mescaleros in 1999. Now part of the exciting indie rock band The Hours, Sean O'Neill talked to the enigmatic front man about the band's new album and supporting Kasabian and U2.
You released a great second album ‘See The Light’ in April of this year. How do you feel about the record?
I think not long after a record has come out; most artists I know just wanna crack on with the next one! We have been writing loads of new stuff and can't wait to get back in the studio and start recording a new record. We are loving playing the new songs live though, I think we are getting closer to what we sound like inside our head! Records are like children...they grow up fast.
Can you outline some of the themes or subjects you have covered on the album?
There are some pretty serious themes and subjects on this album. Mental illness, alcoholism, doomed love, suicide! Pretty cheery stuff eh! Ha ha ha! Then there's more up lifting stuff about reciprocated love, living for the moment, and pure, true friendship. There's also a song about Phil Spector and a song about western cultures obsession with celebrity meltdown.
Flood produced the album. What made you want to work with him?
Flood has made some amazing records over the years, and is a producer who helps a band find their sound rather than dictate to you what he thinks your sounds should be. He was the perfect choice for us, and he's also a very funny fella.
How did you find working with him?
We had an amazing time and a right laugh every day. Making a record shouldn't be painful, it should be an enjoyable, fulfilling experience and with Flood it was that every day. He knows his shit and allowed us to do what we were good at and helped us achieve what we wanted to, which was playing altogether live in the same room like they used to!
Recent single 'Come on' is a beautiful song. What inspired the idea for the video?
The kid in the video is called George and he is the son of friends of mine. We've always been close since he was a wee baby and I figured it would be a cool video, just me and him arsing around, shot in super 8. It's something to look back on when we're old and grey and remember having a nice day out. That's about it really, no major ethos other than shoot two people hanging out in the sun. It wasn't that sunny though unfortunately...
How have live audiences responded to the new material?
We love playing live and I think that we are finally getting to be a seriously good live band. People have been really getting into the new stuff, particularly songs like Come On, These Days and Love Is An Action. We have been playing to some pretty big audiences, and when we walk off stage at the end of our set we usually get a rousing round of applause with everyone hands in the air. It's a good feeling to know your music is connecting.
The Skull artwork for See The Light is part of the Damien Hirst ‘For The Love of God’ collection. You also used his work for your first album ‘Narcissus Road’. How do you know Damien Hirst and what interested you in using his work for your album covers?
I met Damien at Glastonbury festival about 15 years ago and we have become great friends. He just happens to be an amazing artist and loves doing our album covers. We're very lucky to have him cos I suppose he'd be pretty expensive if we had to pay!!
How was the experience of being on tour with Kasabian?
Kasabian are just an amazing band and the loveliest people you could wish to meet. It was an honour to be asked to support them and an education watching them play every night. Tom is a mesmerizing frontman, Serge is a musical maestro with an amazing mind, Dibbs is a funky mofo and Ian is the best drummer in the business. They are one of the few bands around that can go on to become truly great. They can go on for as long as they like cos they are all about music and not caught up in a scene or a movement. They are their own movement.
Any interesting stories from the tour?
One night we had an orgy with midgets and dragons and Jimmy Tarbuck was dressed up as the back half of a pantomime horse smoking crack whilst singing Fire in Japanese juggling monkeys testicles. It was pretty damn crazy I can tell you. Another night my mate Ronnie O'Sullivan came to see us in Cambridge and we drank hot chocolate and listened to Womack and Womack after the gig on the way home. One of those stories is true, one isn't.
You have also joined U2 on their stadium tour. How has it felt being out in front of such massive audiences?
The first night in Zagreb when we walked out I was a little bit nervous I must confess and I had to change my pants as soon as I came off stage. The second night I was much more relaxed and the audience were mad for it. Ever since the first night we've felt pretty much at home up there. The U2 crowds are very appreciative, they listen to your songs and if they like you they tell you! We've been getting a great response.
How does / did it compare to the Eden Project gigs?
The Eden project was a pretty good warm up actually. Lots of people, looking right at you in broad daylight! They were very nice to us there too, it’s an amazing place and we had a great gig.
U2 are probably the biggest band in the world. Have you learned anything from the experience of touring with them?
U2 are a total phenomenon. 31 years and still going and still growing. The biggest thing anyone can learn from them is to look after each other. Sounds cheesy, but that is how they have stayed together so long as far as I can see. They understand what's important, and have such a family atmosphere around the place, which is incredibly humbling. They understand that while it's nice to be important, it’s more important to be nice. They also don't give a fuck what the world thinks of them, they aspire to succeed on their own terms and they are constantly pushing the boundaries. What have I learned from U2? Work your fucking bollocks off and have a great time doing it. Love and respect the people around you cos you're nothing without them. Pretty fundamental shit.
Former fellow band member from Pulp Jarvis Cocker reportedly once said of The Hours ‘"They understand what music is for – it's for human beings to communicate with other human beings. It's that simple, it's that important. Let them into your life. You won't regret it". How do you feel about that statement?
It's an amazing thing when people you respect are into what you are doing. I've known Jarvis for 25 years and he's like my brother but he's not exactly free with the compliments let me tell you! So when he wrote that about us it was very nice to hear. I agree with him 100 percent, let us into your life, you will definitely not regret it!!
What does the future hold for The Hours?
We are about to go back in the studio and start recording our new record. I think it's taken us two albums to work out what we are, but we've got a pretty good idea now. We've been writing loads of new stuff and I'm loving the stuff we've been coming up with, can’t wait to get in the studio. We're also gonna play some more gigs in the autumn so we can work some of the new songs live, see how they sound. We've also got other ideas about how we're gonna take over the world but I can't talk about those right now, if I did I'd have to kill you. Or maybe just lock you away for the rest of your life...