Frazer King’s charismatic and soulful sounding front man Nathan Miclroy stopped by LTW to talk about the bands journey up to now and what’s gone into their forthcoming debut album; its exciting times right now for the band from Wythenshawe as they take Manchester music to the masses for 2012…
LTW: HI Nathan and thanks for stopping by LTW, all here really loving Frazer King – being one of the bands making Manchester music excitedly talked about again, does it feel like the word is spreading outside of the North West now?
Paul Smith from Blast First got involved as a direct result of that recording and is looking to put out some singles for us. He’s just started managing Public Image Ltd, so it would be great to get some decent support gigs with them too. Marc Riley and John Robb have also helped us out spreading the word as have James who we got to support before the start of the year. I think people realised we weren’t just a bunch of drunks after that recording and Jim Noir’s production on it sweetens the pill that we ram down your throats at some of the more regrettable gigs. We’ve not done as many gigs as we’d have liked to out of Manchester so we’re looking to be getting on it this year.
LTW: Its pretty futile trying to find a label or find a ‘musical tag’ for Frazer King isn’t it… which is one of the groups many charms – but how did it happen, was it something thought out or did it just come naturally?
We just try and not do the same song twice. Everyone in the band has varied tastes so there’s always something different to influence proceedings. Whether it’s from Bernie Cribbins, Frank Zappa, Frederic Rzewski or anything and everything in between it’s always going to be an interesting melting pot of stuff. I think that we’ve noticed a formula has emerged where we always have harmonies, bilious lyrics and a needless time signature change and the only reason we don’t write simple happy tunes is because we can’t. That isn’t to say I don’t appreciate simple tunes because when they’re done well they can’t be bettered. Most of us went to the same school and we’ve played in different bands together since we were teenagers which has in turn given us a greater understanding of each other musically and emotionally which we can use against each other.
LTW: Who were your influences and helped you pull out that wonderful singing voice of yours?
I’m often told that I sound like Cilla Black with a lisp and I usually end up screaming my way through gigs if I’ve had a drink which sounds anything but wonderful. I was in the Manchester Boys Choir when I was younger so I think having a predatory sex offender warming up my larynx has a lot to do with it. I could listen to gospel and doo wop all day but I place as much importance with lyrics as I do with a voice. Although, Nina Simone hasn’t left my record player for a very long time because of her healing properties with her playing, singing and lyrics whether she wrote them or interpreted them. Main influences for me; Shane MacGowan, Sam Cooke, Charles Bukowski, Zappa, I could go on but I’d be naming Manchester City players before long.
LTW: Like many it was ‘Sail a Boat’ and ‘Mother Mary’ that I heard first and was blown away with, how have you found general reactions to the groups music and how you sound?
I think that people are sometimes taken aback when they see us for the first time because they don’t think we look like people who play in bands. I know that fashion has always played a part in popular music but it’s never been something I’ve given any attention to except for when I was a mosher at school wearing a Deftones hoody with purple hair. One time a scout for a very well respected independent record label which prides itself on being free of all the trappings of style came up from London to see us and walked out before we played a note. It still didn’t make me want to dress like Timmy Mallet though it probably would have helped us in the short term. We seem to attract praise from a lot of musicians, manic depressives and avid gig goers so we must be doing something right.
LTW: Going back to a Channel 4 appearance earlier last year where LTW boss John Robb did a short piece on the band with drummer Jack talking about ‘keeping a bit of mystery between the audience and the group’, is that some thing a group can sustain in this internet existence we live in today?
I read about this experiment in the 60’s where music students were played different excerpts of the same composer’s piece of music but told that the first excerpt was written by a long lost genius and the other by a talent less charlatan and when asked their preference they went for the ‘genius’ despite it being the same piece of music. Letting the music speak for itself would be a nice plateau to reach but marketing can have an undeniable impact on your ears and always has done. When I see a band for the first time I try not to watch them so much onstage so I can be as free from bias as possible but I’m still the biggest snob you’ll ever meet so I’m not excluding myself from that. With regards to keeping mystery between audience and group we’ve achieved it as most of our audience are yet to hear us. Good going Jack.
LTW: How’s your new album coming on, the whole recording process as well as new ideas and influences on you and the band for the album?
We’re finishing up our album with Larry Gott from James. We’ve recorded 14 tunes of which 10 or 11 will make the album and the others will be B sides for a couple of singles. It’s very nearly ready to mix and master and it’s sounding really good. He’s basically built a studio at his place and has put in loads of hours all for free and we still can’t work out why. His charity has stopped us from approaching loan sharks to pay for extensive studio time and his expertise and enthusiasm have given the recording something very special. We can’t praise him enough.
We actually did the rhythm tracks at Kraak Gallery and a studio in Mossley called Analogue Catalogue which I’d definitely recommend to any bands who are after an affordable place with unbelievable gear. They have a Trident desk which was the same type ‘Hunky Dory’ was recorded on. I went in there stroking it like it was Our Lady of Lourdes but it turned out the biggest album recorded on that particular one was ‘Fantastic’ by Wham! They’ve done Jeffrey Lewis and The Vaseline’s recently and get a lot of Rough Trade bands and it will be nice to head back there. Dom from Kraak has also captured some of the best drum sounds we’ve ever managed to get.
In terms of new stuff, there’s always loads of ideas knocking about that just need a thread to bind them which never happens when it’s forced. I plan to do a solo album of spoken word and tabla called ‘Secret Asian Man’ if it all goes tits up anyway.
LTW: Touring plans this year? I actually first caught you at Friends of Mine last year so any more festival appearances for 2012 maybe?
Our manager Graham has been on tour with Devotchka in the past so we’ve got a load of names and numbers which we’re going through mapping out a few months in Europe over summer just as the double dip recession kills off any music scene over there. I think we’re getting on at 2 or 3 in England beforehand as well, Strummercamp and Beautiful Days are confirmed and Kendal Calling and Wychwood if they’ll have us back although I’ve a feeling we’d be relegated to the car park stages if we are.
Friends of Mine was a great weekend with some great performances, Dirty North and Jun Tzu being the highlights for me although I heard Kong were class as well. There was a rumour spread from someone very close to the band that we were playing with Johnny Marr for reasons I can only attribute to a lapse of sanity and before we could stop it spreading we’d had over 100 messages from people about it. It certainly helped in getting people to watch us but that definitely won’t be happening again. We were going to alleviate the situation by introducing Johnny Gregory’s mum with a drum roll and welcoming onstage ‘Johnny’s Ma!’ but we bottled it in the end. There were some very confused and disappointed faces.
LTW: Notice plenty of humour in Frazer King, the fact you look like you could easily be stood at the bar when up on stage, its very inviting and all very relaxed.. Is it that how it is in the band, is it a laugh being in Frazer King?
LTW: And what are you most looking forward to this year Nathan, what would you see as progression as far as the band is concerned, for 2012?
Around 18 months ago we were asked to support a Stone Roses tribute act so instead of politely refusing we wrote a musical called ‘Spiked Island’ to perform to the sell out crowd. It’s about people who get spiked with acid at the Spike Island gig and are forever suspended in 1989. It stars an evil tout, L. Ron Hubbard as the wind, Mary the Market Girl, Joseph the Joiner, the Old Man from London and the Saviour of Modern Music and we even crucified the Saviour, expertly played by Tony, onstage with a full size crucifix borrowed from a school. It is still the most memorable gig we’ve ever done. I’d love for a production company to take the gamble and pick the script up or even the Roses themselves if they’re not too skint. If there are any director’s out there who enjoyed Zappa’s ‘200 Motels’ and there can’t be many, they should get in touch with us. I’d like to get a few ideas for videos to accompany the singles done and it would be great for people to hear the album enough to maybe fund another one but other than I’m happy performing my patriotic duty and avoiding Poundland.