Ok Go first came to our attention in 2002 with their self titled debut album, and their ballsy, power pop single ‘Get Over It‘.
Fast forward almost five years and the Chicago four piece are in their second year of touring their follow up album ‘Oh No‘, produced by Tore Johannson, and recorded over four months in Malmö, Sweden.
There are few bands out there that can boast using treadmills in their videos, but OK Go will forever be known for ‘Here It Goes Again‘ and their choreographed dance routines.
Bassist Tim Nordwind took from time out from his lunch to have a chat with Dee Massey about the new record, Fabreeze and how he keeps sane on the road, before heading off to soundcheck for their sold out Koko show.
So Tim – welcome to the UK! How long have you guys been over here?
We just got in yesterday!
And you’re looking forward to the show tonight?
Yes, definitely – it’s all sold out and we’re playing with a band called Quit Your Day Job from Sweden who we took on tour in the states, they’re fantastic, so I’m looking forward to watching them.
Talking of Sweden..you guys chose to record your album ‘Oh No‘ in Malmö, Sweden, with Tore Johannson. What was behind your decision to go with Tore, we know him from his work with The Cardigans and Franz Ferdinand – what made you choose him to produce?
Those are actually two big reasons why we decided to go with him. We’re big fans of the way those records sound, and we like the fact that both those records actually sound like those bands. In America a lot of producers have their formula and they run you right through the machine, and it doesn’t matter what you sound like, you just end up sounding like you got produced by that certain person.
Do you think that the use of protools and over use of auto tuning is a bad thing in the studio then?
It really depends on how you use it I guess. It’s becomes such an industry standard as far as I’m concerned, we use it like tape now, and it’s obviously a lot cheaper than tape. And we have used protools, when we used it early on I think it actually did not help because we were so obsessed with fixing everything, and one good thing about Tore was that he really encouraged us to make good mistakes and keep those mistakes on the recording.
If the song sped up a little bit he told us that was ok, when there are a lot of people who make you play to click and if you’re off even a little bit they make you do it again. Tore basically just threw us in a room and said get on with it.
Do you think that recording away from America gave you more artistic control then? Being away from the label and everything?
Definitely – we wanted to get away from all meddling hands [laughs] because unfortunately on our first album there were a lot of people coming in and giving their two cents and I think it kind of hurt the record in the end, so it was important to us to go somewhere where it was just us and people that we trusted, and I think we made a considerably better record second time round.
Who were your main influences when you recorded the album, what bands were you listening to?
Mainly The Pixies, T Rex, The Buzzcocks, The Clash, The Cure [laughs].
And now you’re touring for the album – which was actually released over a year ago. How does it feel to have an album that’s suddenly kicked off a year after it’s initial release?
It’s feels crazy! We’ve been touring on this record for almost two years now, we started touring on it seven months before it came out in the states, and it came out over a year ago over there, and it really has only just picked up steam in the last four or five months – mostly due to the success of the videos.
No no, it’s fine! ‘A Million Ways‘ was a collaborative effort between the band and Damien’s sister Trish, and the treadmill video idea was actually Trish’s, she’s got a pretty brilliant mind.
You recreated ‘Here It Goes Again‘ for the VMA’s – you must’ve been so nervous!
It was pretty scarey! [laughs] It was scarey and exciting all at the same time obviously. We had a week’s worth of rehearsals and basically we did militaristic type training. Once we remembered the moves we could do them, it became more about things that could possibly distract us.
So come on…just how many times did you fall off the treadmills?
Oh man…too many times to count![laughs]
And how come you’re always the one lip synching along? Everyone thinks you’re Damien!
I guess I have that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ when it comes to lip synching [laughs]
Now you guys have got a long tour coming up, are you happy to be back on the road again, or would you like to be in the studio?
Right now I’d prefer to be in the studio. I think it’s a little bit of the grass is always greener syndrome. But also we’ve been touring for so long on one record …….I love performing, we love performing and all that but it’s really making things that makes me happiest and we haven’t’ really been able to make too much lately. Although we did just make a new video for ‘Do What You Want.’.
I’ll look forward to checking that out . So since you’re out on the road so much, how do you keep yourself sane on the tour bus?
[laughs]Listen to a lot of music, try to write music when we can although it’s very hard for us to write on the road, our cells phones – talking to friends, trying to feel connected to some sort of life.[laughs]
What three things would you never leave for tour without?
I would never leave my ipod, I would never leave my cell phone, I would never leave my Febreeze! It gets pretty rank [on the bus] pretty quick.
So as well as smelling good, you guys always dress very smartly on stage now – what’s the idea behind that?
It’s a bit more theatrical and showman like I think? On top of it all, it’s just more fun to dress like that rather that jeans and a t shirt.
If you could tour with any bands, which band would it be?
What’s been your most memorable experience with the band so far?
That’s a good question…not this past New Year’s Eve, but the one before that, we performed on top of a building in Time Square, New York, for about a million and a half people. Our heads were on these huge screens and stuff. Pretty crazy..you know when your head spans 45 storeys of one building, then you know you’ve arrived! [laughs]
And apart from being able to lip synch and perform on a treadmill at the same time, what’s your most unusual talent?
I can sleep through almost anything.
You’re very lucky.
Yeah, it’s a talent!
What’s your best hangover cure?
Oooh man…a hamburger. Something greasy!
What’s your most random item that you request on your rider?
Socks. We have socks.
Yeah, like I said…it really does get pretty rank pretty quick [laughs]
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An actor. I guess I came close to that [being in the band]
And if you weren’t on tour right now, what would you be doing back in Chicago?
Maybe going for a hike?
Do you miss home much when you’re on tour?
Yes, I miss it terribly [laughs]
So after the tour you’ll get home, and then when are you back in the studio?
Hard to say, I think we’ll hopefully be back in there by the fall.
What can we expect for the next album?
I think it’ll be a little bit more soulful, possibly more minimalist and a bit groovier! [laughs]
And finally, any last words of wisdom for our Crossfire readers or aspiring musicians?
Remember not to suck!
I’ll get you get back to your sandwich now – thanks Tim!
Thanks Dee, take care.
For further information on the wonder that is OK Go – check out www.okgo.net