The Enemy : an interview
A political band in apolitical musical times the Enemy took their fire and anger of the Jam and the Clash and married it with the band of their generation Oasis. In 2007, They were on top of the British music scene. A number one album, 3 top twenty singles, big venues sold out nightly up and down the country. By their own admission, after this point something went off the boil. Somewhere between the never ending soundchecks and the long haul flights, something in the Enemy was lost. Now, in 2012, the Enemy’s Tom Clarke speaks to Louder Than War about how they’ve reclaimed the original spark and have the British Music Charts next in their sights.
So Tom, what your the agenda for the Enemy in 2012?
We intend to release our third album, play UK festivals and tour the UK. For now it’s all about getting the album finished on time. We want to release in March or April but there’s a lot still to be done. We’re also planning a special gig in the midlands too but I can’t say too much about that until it’s all confirmed. We’re working around the clock, harder than ever, to get the album sounding great, and the fans and press enthused.
In many ways your debut was of a very similar vein to ‘Definitely Maybe’ yet your second album jumped straight into ‘Be Here Now’ territory, what kind of sound are we to expect from album number three?
Album three has a sonic presence that is uncompromised. There’s echos of the first and second album in there. The songs are undeniable, catchy and instant, the sound is full on, guitar driven and to the point. It sounds like The Enemy always should of. Pop sense of the first album, sonic weight of the second. We genuinely believe it’s our best work yet and we know the implications of saying so. We wouldn’t dare say that unless we truly believed it.
How has recording with Joby J Ford from The Bronx impacted the record?
Working with Joby has been an eye opener. There are techniques for recording bands over in the states that are common place, that over in the UK producers and engineers simply don’t apply. Watching Joby work is an experience. He has a wall of guitars and we try every one to find the right sound, a plethora of amps, a multitude of different sounding rooms and a lot, and I mean a lot, of experience.
What has been influencing you with the writing of the new album?
Many years ago we wrote an album [We’ll Live & Die In These Towns] which to us made perfect sense. We wrote about the dark cloud hanging above us all. The working class, and particularly the north of England and Scotland knew exactly what we were on about. The middle class and the Hoxton elite in London are only just starting to be affected by what was already tearing the heart out of working class towns all over the rest of the UK. The third album, touches on lots of things, but without being too political. I don’t think Enemy fans really want to get too political. It touches on the Coke culture that is plaguing our youth, it stabs fun a what in Coventry we affectionately refer to as “shit geezers”, “parrot heads” or try hards. It touches on some bleak moments that every class of person will of experienced in these incredibly testing times. It’s got old school Enemy jest in there too, and anger, and spite, and all the things that made The Enemy great.
You’ve been quite vocal lately about the absence of guitar music in the UK and it is clear that there is a distinct lack of guitar music in the charts, particularly when compared to the boom of 2004-2007. What do you think is the cause of this and how do you think it can be helped? Which bands at the moment do you rate and do you find it reassuring that guitar groups such as the Courteeners and the Vaccines can still gain great success?
I think it is superb to see the Courteeners and the Vaccines going strong. Liam Fray was incredibly vocal about slagging me and my band off when he first came out. I assume it’s because by being at the top of the charts and all over the press and TV we were an easy target. Personally, I no longer view bands as targets. I think all real music, whether guitar driven or not has to come together to destroy the monopoly that the manufactured Cowell trowell dumps on our charts. The British Singles Chart belongs to the British Music Fan. NOT to Simon Cowell. It’s high time that all fans of all bands unite and make themselves heard.
With record sales at an all time low yet live music still experiencing something of a boom, how do you feel this will impact the future of the Enemy? For a band that broke Blur’s record of selling out consecutive nights at London Astoria, do you feel confident that the people will be on your side?
The Enemy has always been a live band. However this time I think we might of made a record to match. Everybody that’s seen us live knows the score. People who have heard us on record but not seen us live still have that experience to look forward to. This time though, the third album does the love show justice. It sounds amazing, the songs are sing along catchy anthems and the spirit of the band is captured. We are more excited about 2012 than we have ever been. We just want to spread that excitement and get the public ready for a superb album, and release it, and tour everywhere to say thanks to all The Enemy fans, and all the genuine music fans for their support.
Do you regret taking the length of time out that you did after the second album and his it shown you what could have been done differently between the first and second albums?
I do regret it. But we needed it. We were exhausted. We needed some space from each other and from the circus. It’s going to be tough to get back in. We wont just waltz into radio and be received with open arms. We have to make a special record, and that’s what we’re doing. Then we have to graft our balls off to make sure everybody knows about it.
You were quite young when you had success with your debut album, when did you first get into playing guitar and gigging?
The thing a lot of people forget is we are still one of the youngest bands out there. Everybody else is creeping closer to radio two age, we’re still trying to grow some stubble. I guess we all started around the age of 18, and we’re still learning our trade. You should never stop learning, especially from your own mistakes. The day you think you’re perfect is the day you’ve lost it. That’s my opinion anyway.
Most songwriters are influenced by where they came from, this was often the case in your work with “You’re Not Alone” being written about the closure of Peugoet plant in Coventry. Does Coventry still inspire you to write today and how?
Coventry is always a massive inspiration. I grew up in Birmingham until I was 16. Coventry is much smaller and therefore all the stuff that happens is more focused. I genuinely love Cov. I really adore it.
The Enemy have always endeavoured to be a band with a political conscience and in the time between ‘Music For the People’ and now so much has happened, from the riots to the election of a Conservative led government, what worries you the most about Britain at the moment? And if there was an election tomorrow who would you vote for, and why?
What worries me most about British politics is that we don’t have any politics anymore. There is no choice. No left, no right. They’re all in bed with each other looking out for themselves, nobody cares about the common man in politics anymore. I wouldn’t vote for any of them at the moment.
When your first album shot to Number One and you gained a wider press attention, you could often be quite scathing in the press of people in other bands; what do you think of this now?
As I say, I think it’s a time to stick together. It’s much easier to slag a band off than it is to say something nice about somebody, but when musicians stick together they can achieve greatness. You only have to look at the collaborations in Dub Step and R&B to understand that. I am older and wiser and whilst I still have a fire in my belly I’ve learned to think before I speak. I will never with hold my opinion. If somebody wants to know, I’ll tell em. But there’s an art to getting your point across intelligently. I would hate to come across as unintelligent or arrogant as it is not the case. I take pride in my open mindedness and I care more about other people than anybody realises.
Quickfire Q+A (and where relevant, your reasons for)
Cameron or Clegg? Eton boy or a traitor? Neither give a shit about the common man, they can both rot.
Bitter, lager or cider? Lager. And a kebab. I hate conforming to a stereotype. dammit.
Morrissey or Marr? Tough one. Morrissey was a poet but Marr could make a guitar sing in a way I never will. Marr.
Radio 1 or Radio 2? Radio 1. I have faith that they will see the light.
Fender or Gibson? I’m all about Fender. My snot green tele is my favourite axe ever.
The Clash or the Jam? Very tough one. The Jam speak more to me though. Weller was and is a genius.
Singing or guitar? That’s like saying fish or chips.
Stage or studio? Stage.
Beady Eye or Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds? Love Beady Eye, been to see em loads. Really enjoyed it. Noel is the man when it comes to songs though and I’m a song man at heart. NGHFB album is my favourite album for a long long time.
John, Paul, George or Ringo? John was a legend. Macca drove a merc, I’m more of a Jag man.
Thank you Tom. Thanks to you too. We appreciate everybody who helps the cause. Take care.