Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos

Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos
Has it really been three years since we last heard a new Franz Ferdinand album? Apparently so, but thankfully there's a new one just around the corner. The flashy Scots who broke through in 2004 with their massive radio-friendly hit "Take Me Out" and their multi-platinum self-titled debut album, are set to release their third album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand on January 27, 2009. The album, which comes three years after their second album, 2005's You Could Have It So Much Better..., returns to their original M.O. of giving something to the girls to dance to, but as front-man Alex Kapranos says, "this one is in a different kind of way." Kapranos was gracious enough to chat with Exclaim! from his label Domino's HQ in NYC about the forthcoming album, why they didn't end up taking the Euro dance pop route and how much he enjoyed living in Vancouver, among other things.

So, first things first - are you excited about the Orange Juice reunion?
Yeah, I just heard about that. It's pretty cool, isn't it? I saw Edwyn [Collins] play at Glastonbury, and he did a couple of the older tunes. They're one of my favourite bands of all-time, so yeah, of course I'm excited.

So, it's been three years since your last album. What made you take your time with this one when the first two came out so close together?
When it came to do the second album we were desperate to get into the studio, that's all we wanted to do. This time, when we finished touring at the end of 2006, by that time we'd either been in the studio or on the road literally inches away from each other for three and a half years, so we decided that we needed a little break ourselves. I went off to Vancouver and spent a few months working with the Cribs on their album, and then after that we met up in Glasgow at the beginning of 2007 and the only thing we said to each other was that we'll see how long it takes and not put any deadlines on it. It just happened to take a year and a half, but it didn't seem that long while we were doing it. A year and a half is pretty much what our first album took to do. Because it isn't just a case of going into a studio and recording a record; you write them, and take them out to play live, and we did smaller venues, to a 100 to 200 people, and that gradual evolution really builds strong character not just for the songs but also for the band as well. It seemed like a natural process for us to go through.

I found a lot of You Could Have It So Much Better to be a departure from your debut. How would you compare the new one to the first two?
I'd say the new one is definitely a departure from the last record. The last record we'd been playing bigger and bigger rock shows and the sound had been evolving into more of a rock sound, whereas this one is much more of a dance floor record. The drums and the bass guitar, they really lead on a lot of songs; I think the bass is the lead instrument on most of this record. I mean our first one was supposed to be a dance record but this one is in a different kind of way. The tempos are a little slower, which makes things heavier, and things swing a bit more. And there are a few different sounds as well, more electronic noises than on the last record.

Is it true there is an African influence on the album?
I'd say there is a very slight African influence. It's not like we're trying to remake Paul Simon's Graceland or anything like that. I think it was more for Paul, he had been listening to guys like Fela Kuti and a bunch of Ethiopian bands, who had a big influence on his drumming more than anything else. It's minimal I'd say though.

Being a big fan of Rachel Stevens, Girls Aloud, Sugababes and Annie, I was excited to hear that you were going to work with Xenomania. What led you to wanna work with them and what happened with that?
We're big fans of those artists as well, and I think Xenomania are one of the most exciting things to happen to British pop music in the last 20 years.

We hung out with Brian [Higgins] and the other guys, and sat around talking about the music, but what realized was that Xenomania kind of works like a band in its own right. They have guys who write and perform the music and what they have with Xenomania is kind of like what we have as Franz Ferdinand: a group of people that develop musical ideas. Brian Higgins isn't just a producer, he works in a collaboration with a group of people. It would almost be like taking a band and asking another band to produce another band, like going to the Arcade Fire and asking them to produce our record - it just didn't feel right. Basically though we got on really well with those guys and there's a mutual respect there, it was an enjoyable experience but we decided to look elsewhere for a producer.

You did work with Annie on her new album. Was that through Xenomania?
I played guitar on a couple of her songs, yeah. Brian brought me some songs and I thought they were cool. I've always been a fan of Annie, I think her stuff is great. And so he asked if I fancied playing guitar, so I said yeah and put down a couple of tracks.

You lived in Vancouver for a time while you were producing the Cribs album. How did you find living in Canada?
I was in Canada for quite a while, well, Vancouver, and I made a lot of friends there. Mint Records, I went to their party two years ago and hung out with those guys. I think they're a fantastic label, they remind me of something like great British labels like Domino or Rough Trade, they have the same kind of attitude with a real community amongst the bands.

I loved living there. Vancouver is such an amazing town. We went to a bunch of parties, and the vibe is just great. It seems like such a music city and I love the drama of the landscape, y'know, as you're walking down the hill you can see the mountains suddenly appear out of the clouds.

Is production something you're looking to do more of?
We worked on a lot of the production on this record and collaborated with a guy named Dan Carey, who's worked with Sly & Robbie, the Mad Professor and Lee Perry, so he comes from quite a Jamaican background really. So we experimented a lot with the production on this record. But yeah, I'd really like to work with other bands in the future, and because we've built a bit of a place where you can record - it doesn't really feel like a studio because it's pretty eccentric and doesn't operate like a real studio - but I'd like to take some bands back to our HQ.

There's a Chilean band called Panico-

Yeah, I have their record, Subliminal Kill.
Have you?! We met with them recently, what they do, everything about them but rhythmically in particular they have such a great thing going on. I've been talking about bringing them over to Glasgow and working with them on a record. I'd really like to see that happen.

And with that production stuff, I don't want to be a career producer, I just want to work with music that turns me on, which is why I worked on the Cribs record and ours as well.

You also played an Obama benefit recently. Seeing as you're a non-voter, why is it important for you to try and convince Americans to vote?
I think it's important for anybody in any country to vote. When you live in a democratic country sometimes we take our rights for granted, be it in the UK or Canada or wherever, so we have to remember to take that privilege and use it whenever we can.

It's a difficult situation for us being non-American citizens. I can't tell Americans how to vote, just like how I can't tell Canadians or the British how to vote. But at the same time, the American regime has a great impact on the rest of the world and I feel comfortable about voicing my opinions on where I'd like to see change, because it will have an impact on my own life and the life of the people I love and the lives of the rest of the planet.

It's funny because we recently held an election here in Canada and at times it felt like the U.S. election was getting more attention than our own in the Canadian press...
Is that right? Well, we have a similar situation in the UK, where British politics are dominated by London and Westminster. At least you're completely separate from the U.S. Hopefully Scotland will be one day as well. I have a Greek father and an English mother, but I grew up in Scotland and can see that it is a distinct country in its own right.