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Franz Ferdinand Live In Paris & Alex Kapranos Interview
Jeremy Allen , October 26th, 2017 08:56

Our man in Paris Jeremy Allen goes to hear Franz Ferdinand's new album Always Ascending played live in front of a small audience and hangs out with Alex Kapranos after the show

Franz Ferdinand live shot by Pierre Veillet

The Point Éphémère will only ever be a temporary bolthole for a group like Franz Ferdinand, as its name implies. This is a seasoned band after all, who headlined the 30,000 capacity Rock en Seine festival twelve kilometres across the city less than two months ago. The intimate and likeable riverside arts centre in the 10th arrondissement, with a space for around 300 Spotify winners tonight, caught singer Alex Kapranos’ eye when he took a break from mixing new album Always Ascending in Montmartre to attend a Moonlandingz show in April. There may be spooky and unconscious forces at work in the choice of the venue though, a mere stone’s throw away from the Avenue Jean Jaurès which connects the 10th arrondissement to the 19th. In case you’re wondering, the alliteratively monikered public figure who the avenue is named after was shot dead by a nationalist fanatic in 1914 as the First World War got under way. Sound familiar?

“And that is why we chose the venue for this evening,” says Kapranos without missing a beat (when I catch up with him at the venue pre-show.) “And it has nothing at all to do with the fact we were filming a new video here last night”.

Coincidence or not, there are many good reasons why Franz Ferdinand would choose Paris to start their new campaign. The album was recorded at their HQ in the south west of Scotland and finished off in the City of Light, with Cassius’s Philippe Zdar - of Phoenix, Pharrell, Cat Power and Beastie Boys production fame - at the helm. The new record is more oriented towards electronic dance music, although getting people to dance was always part of their agenda. If the first phase lasted a decade then we are in a new phase, bifurcated by a collaboration with Sparks, who - lest we forget - enjoyed a fruitful period across la Manche when they teamed up with seminal dance legend Giorgio Moroder for their highly regarded second phase. Zdar “moved out of his world where everything is on the grid with everything programmed”, according Kapranos, “bringing a sonic template of now, of 2018, with a raw band at the heart of it.” Zdar is no doubt happy with his handiwork, because he’s not only present tonight, but he comes out ahead of the show to introduce the band.

Franz Ferdinand 2018 (for they launch properly next year) arrive on stage and they’re a hairier proposition. They’ve multiplied too. If they’re not as sartorially sharp and Kraftwerkian as they once were, then musically it’s hard to think of a time they cut such a dash. The addition of Dino Bardot on guitar and perhaps more significantly Julian Corrie as some kind of auxiliary musical polymath, adds a depth to the sound that wasn’t there before. Corrie, who works under the moniker Miaoux Miaoux when he’s not in Franz Ferdinand, plinks his way through ridiculously catchy new numbers like ‘Paper Cages’ one minute, and joins the ensemble up front on harder-edged songs like the concluding ‘This Fire’, as the four axemen of the apocalypse lead us towards oblivion.

Before all that they open with another new song 'Lazy Boy’, which might be their most accomplished song in years. It’s totally infectious and yet disorientating at the same time, structured around a 5/4 beat with sporadic spurts of surf guitar and tight vocal harmonies. Moving your body to the song is all but inevitable, but it’s like trying to dance on a boat. “We’re literally wrong footing you,” joked Kapranos in anticipation of the set. ‘Paper Cages’, with a more laidback funk vibe, is also instantly accessible, as is ‘Lois Lane’, which features distinctive keyboard lines that sound like OMD, and salutary lines about how “journalism could change the world” - significantly it never mentions you know who. So far so good, and the new material actually knocks spots off ‘No You Girls’ and ‘Love Illumination’ (the latter of which I’ve always felt sounded like Motörhead in third gear).

‘Walk Away’ - a song that seems to have more parts than the Big O’s ‘In Dreams’ - is textured to perfection, while ‘Take Me Out’ has the desired effect one has come to expect from it. ‘Matinée’ reminds us of the passing of time and takes on extra resonance with its reference to Terry Wogan (although many of the crowd may ask themselves “ooh iz ziz Wogan?”) But it’s the new material that really catches the ear tonight, a good omen for the immediate future. ‘Finally’, at least for tonight, is all kitsch cabaret, while ‘Glimpse of Love’ is driven by an Italian house groove and on a first listen live sounds like a psychedelic ‘Devil Woman’ (though that description doesn’t quite convey how amazing it is). The recorded article may prove to be a different beast entirely. ‘Feel The Love Go’ has plenty of the aforementioned Moroder at its heart, and not just because two of the words in the title correspond to a famous hit by Donna Summer.

The encore features an impromptu version of ‘Jacqueline’ after an unusually polite punter passes Kapranos a note requesting it, but the big news is the new single and title track from the forthcoming album, an epic undertaking in two parts that builds and builds throughout its five and a half minutes, hence the title. It’s a brave and experimental single with enough tricks up its sleeve to captivate the listener, although it’s ironic that this is a Spotify promoted show given that the streaming company is accused of killing off the long intro.

“Oh we’re fucked then,” jokes Kapranos, when I meet him and Julian Corrie ahead the show.

Given the company and the location, we turn our thoughts to the assassination of public figures, and it leads seamlessly to a discussion about ‘Demagogue’, their 2016 standalone single recorded before the shock election of Donald Trump. Corrie had just joined the band, and while it was written with the first batch of material, it seemed so contemporary and urgent that they turned it around and released it within three days.

“We’d never done anything like that before,” says Kapranos. “There’s something very satisfying about that, but it’s weird talking about it now because it feels like a completely different world - the time we wrote that in and the time we recorded that in - compared to the world we’re in now. Even then you’d sort of joke saying, ‘He’s not going to get in, nobody’s going to vote for this moron’, and yet here we are and he’s wreaking havoc on the world as I speak into your iPhone.”

‘Demagogue’ experimented with an unusual rebetiko beat, and in that sense it’s a bit like ‘Lazy Boy’, though Corrie describes the latter as “designed to be fluid where ‘Demagogue’ is brash”.

“We wanted ‘Demagogue’ to be clunky, ugly and boorish sounding like the subject matter of the song itself,” says Kapranos. “You know, this big clunking, ugly monster. Whereas Lazy Boy, instead of four to the floor is five. It’s a real dancefloor stomper but you don’t realise you’re counting in fives.”

In 2018, a world tour beckons at a time when the world seems to be going mad.

“I know, it’s funny though; I remember we went to the States and we expected the country to be totally fucked, and it feels kind of exactly the same,” says Alex. “We were in Charlottesville and it felt completely ordinary, and then literally three weeks later all that shit kicked off.”

“Day to day, people still get on with their lives and want to go out and see a show and enjoy themselves,” adds his new bandmate.

So as long as there isn’t all-out nuclear war then we should be able to get through the next four years?

Both seem to agree that that would be the litmus test.