INTERVIEW WITH ZERO 7
Three years after releasing ‘The Garden’, Brit and Grammy nominated Zero 7 are back with their highly anticipated fourth studio album ‘Yeah Ghost’. Far from the down tempo chillout sound we’re used to, Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker have produced an album which questions all the preconceived notions of Zero 7 and throws their sound into a whole new mix, whilst still delivering the smooth, slick beats we’re used to. With the album released this month, I chatted to Henry Binns about the progression and ultimate independence of the Zero 7 collective.
Where did you get the name ‘Yeah Ghost’ for the new album?
Well, that is interesting. It’s been a spooky old time. He’s sort of a friendly ghost, you know? Never the less, when a band takes it upon itself to ditch everything it ever had and try something fresh it can be deeply harrowing. There is a ghostly thing about the album I think, which might just be my feelings on it. It was Sam who came up with the name and I just like the way the two words are absolutely meaningless together. But you know what? I don’t think we should read too much meaning into the name.
What can we expect from this album?
The buzz word is that it’s more upbeat. It isn’t so chilled out, so the single, Medicine Man, which is about to come out, is a bit poppy in a way, and I think people will be a bit shocked if they are expecting the lapping waves of Ibiza gently rolling over their head. Another obvious thing is that Sia (prolific Zero 7 vocal collaborator) is not with us, which was our biggest challenge. I think we just owed it to ourselves to try something different. It throws you into an arena and takes you out of your comfort zone. So there we were, going through all the things we normally do and then thinking, “actually no, let’s not do that.” We wanted something where we’re not so reliant on other people. I mean, having said that, we love collaborating and we do still do that. But it was a little moral victory for me and Sam to know that we can do something ourselves.
Is your change in direction a way of just trying something new, or do you think the music business at the moment has evolved into a poppier sound?
I think it’s pretty cynical to sit down and think, “What would they like?” I think it just depends on how we’re feeling at the time. You know, we just sat down and did something. We listen to different music and we progress as artists hopefully, and this is just a progression.
You mentioned that Sia’s not on this album, Do you approach the vocalists, or do they come to you?
We’ll approach them through chatting to people and working out if anyone knows anyone, it’s nice to keep that angle.
Do you ever try some vocalists and have to say, “I’m sorry, but this isn’t working”?
Hell yeah, it happened many times on this album. And me and Sam used to look at each other and say, “Shit, we’ve got nothing.” But then Eska (Eska Mtungwazi) came down, who made an enormous difference and pretty much made it all what it is.
Was it hard to get vocalists when you first started?
Yeah, it’s pretty much been the same gruelling task, if I’m honest. We were out there thinking that nothing was quite right until Sia came along and it was only because Sam was playing football with her manager and he told him to check her out. It was literally just a fortuitous event.
And what about the collaboration with Jose Gonzalez on your last album?
Well, that was definitely us saying, “I like this, let’s give him a call.” So that was one of the rare occasions where we actually pursued an artist we wanted to work with.
Are there any collaborations you would like to do in the future?
It just doesn’t work like that for me. I mean, certainly no one famous anyway.
Your music videos are very interesting and arty, do you consciously try to create a recognisable Zero 7 style?
It’s an incredible journey with the music videos. I mean, our record company always want crap videos and we always want something that’s a little bit too arty for them, so somehow we manage to sort of muddle together. That’s how I’d describe our entire career with them, we’re having that problem, well…not problem, but that whole tug of war now. They’re saying “We need a usable video” and I’m like, “Well, what’s that?!” On the last album we had a sort of gunshot video session where we sent money to a few directors we liked to make a video. And pretty much all of them were brilliant and a lot of them are the ones that you’re seeing. But that’s just how it goes with a record company.
You start your UK tour on 28 September in Bristol. How do you find touring?
I really enjoy it. I just think it’s so important to see the music you love. It’s almost impossible to get the artist’s impression of a studio record without seeing it live. I didn’t used to think like that, but I do now. At first the whole idea was absolutely preposterous and we thought there was no way we’d get up on the stage, and it’s taken us a long time to get used to that. But now I think it’s really essential and I’m sort of thinking that the way forward is to set up a record company, give our music away and make money by touring.
Have you enjoyed the last few years away from the spotlight while working on this album?
It always feels like we never quite shake off the feeling of the band. We’ve been pretty much making this album as well as doing lots of other little things and maybe looking into doing some film work. But I haven’t stopped thinking about this bloody band for the last few years, it haunts me!
So there you go, there’s the reason for the ‘Yeah Ghost’ title!
The band’s new single, ‘Medicine Man’ is released on 21 September, and the album, ‘Yeah Ghost’ is released on 28 September, which is also the date you can see them live at Bristol’s Colston Hall. For tickets and more info go to zero7.co.uk
We have a pair of tickets to give away to Zero 7’s gig at Colston Hall. To be in with a chance of winning, answer the following question:
Q: What is the name of the female collaborator who Zero 7 have worked with on many tracks including hit single ‘Destiny’?
Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org, with ZERO 7 in the subject line. Include the following details:
DATE OF BIRTH:
Closing date is 21 September 2009. Please note, this competition is only open to people aged 16 and over.
by 247 Magazine