IDLES – Interview

Foto © Tom Ham

“That’s the sound of the sword going in”. So beginnt War, der erste Song des neuen IDLES Albums, welches vor kurzem bei Partisan Records erschienen ist – ein Einstieg voller Angriffslust und ungehemmter Leidenschaft. Doch je tiefer man in Ultra Mono einsteigt, tritt mehr und mehr zutage, wie das Werk vor allem eine Einladung zu mehr Selbstakzeptanz und festerem Glauben an die eigenen inneren Kräfte ist.

Explosiv und stürmisch in bester IDLES-Manier, dabei immer ungehemmt ehrlich und direkt, zögern die zwölf Songs der Platte nicht damit, gesellschaftliche Missstände zu attackieren, ziehen sich dabei immer auch auf die eigene Rolle, die wir in dieser spielen, zurück. Entstanden ist dabei, allem Rausch zum Trotz, eine sensible Innenschau, der es sich nachzugehen lohnt. Wir haben zur Veröffentlichung des Albums mit dem Gitarristen Mark Bowen über die Entstehung von Ultra Mono gesprochen, welche Kräfte die Songs antreiben und warum er glaubt, dass er nach wie vor in der besten Band der Welt spielt.

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Mark, thanks a lot for your taking your time – your new record is just about to be released, congratulations! How do you feel about it all right now?
I’m very happy with it, it’s certainly the most successful we’ve been from the songwriting process to recording and mixing. It is a really important album for us and I’m very delighted with it.

How did you experience the period since your last record Joy As An Act Of Resistance? 
Well, almost immediately after writing Joy As An Act Of Resistance, once we got to the mastering process with that, we realised we hadn’t quite hit the sonic marker that we really were comfy as a band, so we kind of long discussed what those were and how we would achieve that. And we came up with the idea of Ultra Mono, which represents the most IDLES form. That’s how Ultra Mono came about. It’s a lot of simple songs, very straighforward lyrics, very simple base and drum beats…It’s trying to say as much as it possibly can, but with as few gestures as possible. In order to do that, it required a lot of self-confidence. In order to give us that self-confidence, it kind of became a theme on the album. 

How do you feel about the constant growth of your fanbase and your status as a band?
We certainly didn’t expect to have Brutalism, our first record, to have the success that it did. And then we didn’t expect Joy As An Act Of Resistance to have the success that it did. We believe in ourselves ourselves and I firmly believe I am in the best band of the planet, and when we are playing live, we are striving to be the best band on the planet, the same when we record an album, that’s our goal, it’s always what we want. So yeah, growing as a band presents a great challenge, but in the end it is always very rewarding.

Now that you cannot perform on any bigger live events, what do your current plans look like?
We are planning tours for next year, we are going to get ready for those and they are going to be the best live shows we have ever put on. But right now we are concentrating on writing new music, recording new music, live streams and things like that, releasing new videos, releasing more music. That’s the key thing. 

The album is coming on like a thunderous outcry, incredibly passionate and combative – are you more angry at the world than you were at the beginning when making music as IDLES?
I wouldn’t describe it as anger, we are certainly not an angry band. The emotion about IDLES is not anger. It’s energy, it’s enthusiasm, it’s compassion, it’s love, these are the things we are promoting. The main drive behind this album was, that there was so much noise going on, there was too much pulling in different directions, and that was happening socially and politically. What we wanted to do on this album was to have less noise and just be as concise as possible in the message. That’s why it’s so deliberate and forceful, because it is as concise as it possibly can be.

For you personally: What stands at the core of Ultra Mono?
Acceptance of the self, being true to yourself, understanding what the real you is, accepting that and believing in it. That’s Ultra Mono.

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In my impression, as much as the record confronts political and social grievances, it mirrors a very affective side, especially regarding issues of self-confrontation and self-acceptance. How do you feel about that?
Dealing with the self, these are the kind of things that we believe and what we feel we need to act upon. That is what we are trying to portray with the music. There are beliefs, there are core values, like the important aspects of IDLES are honesty, self-belief and open-mindedness and openness, that’s what IDLES is about. We still strive for that every day.

That title Ultra Mono, does it also root in these reflections of self-acceptance?
It’s about a singularity, it’s about breaking every thing down to its most true form. The person, the band, the music, the drums. Unnuanced black and white, the essence of everything. That’s what Ultra Mono means. There is a dichotomy in that, there is space, there is ones and zeros, that’s it.

Would you say this record is more about holding up a mirror to society or to reflect your own role in it? 
It is really both, it is about the context of ourselves as members of the society. A big, important aspect of IDLES is through individualism, through acceptance of each other’s individual qualities, flaws and strengths, through one’s own identity and the sense of identity, we can form a collective identity, and that’s what we are striving for. So yeah, it is through holding up a mirror to ourselves that we are able to shed a light on the world at large.

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A line that really stuck with me throughout the record was the phrase „I am I“, which appears on Grounds, Mr. Motivator and Danke and feels like a thread for these songs. What kind of sentiment do you feel you want to express there?
It’s about the self. It’s a mantra for self-belief. Yes I am me. For all my flaws, for all my strengths. I am myself. That’s what it is. I am everything that goes into making me.

Approaching your writing process, what kind of influences would you determine as crucial impact on your music in general?
The bigger influences on this album were hip-hop and electronic music, the production of that and the writing of those songs. I think we managed quite well to becoming our influences, rather than showing them. Grounds for instance, is a hip-hop song, and Reigns is an electro song, so I think we were quite successful regarding that. There is no one characteristical driving force on this album, but rather many. We are not trying to write an album of a specific direction. We try to let it be its own thing. 

Speaking of the sound of Ultra Mono, how would you describe the atmosphere you created?
I think the idea is that of a single force, that the song is the instrument. Everyone is that one united brute force, that’s what I think it is.

Is there a specific song that best reflects what you want to stand for as a band?
I think that Grounds is the archetypal Ultra Mono song. Everything that we have been trying to achieve lyrically, sonically, within the writing, within the claim, is there exactly as we intended it to be. It’s very, very Ultra Mono. 

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Andreas Peters

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