It was a bit of a hit and miss affair, but Dee Massey finally managed to track down Dave McCabe, frontman of Liverpool’s finest The Zutons for a quick chat about how life is treating the band.
With their first album ‘Who Killed The Zutons?‘ being nominated for a Mercury Music Award, their second album debuting at No 2 in the UK album charts, things are definitely heading in the right direction, and one day into a mammoth UK tour, Dave took some time out to chat about the album, touring, making videos and..er…cheese to Crossfire indie queen Dee Massey.
Firstly, thanks very much for taking the time to do this. So how’s things going, and how’s the tour?
Dave McCabe: It’s going good! I mean it’s only just started hasn’t it, but last night was good. We had our first stage invasion last! Some fella ran on the stage, he just ran past the rest of the band and went straight for me like he was going to hit me, but he never and all this security guards came on- I was fucking shitting myself! It was like ..shit!
You know you’ve arrived when you get your first stage invasion!
I know! It was kind of exciting [laughs]
So I hear the album been doing really well..wasn’t it at number 2?
Well yeah it’s at number 7 now..but it went in at number 2, in the first week ..
Everyone always says the second album’s always the hardest album to do, especially after a great debut. How did it all going for your guys – and what was behind the decision to use Stephen Street, are you guys closet Smiths and Morrissey fans?
No not really, I’m not a fan of The Smiths, it was more to do with Stephen I suppose. He was the last person to come to the rehearsal room to watch us play, and the last person to do that was Iain Broudie [who produced their Mercury nominated debut ‘Who Killed The Zutons?’], and he [Stephen] showed the most interest and he was keen all of the time.
How involved do you guys get in the production and the mixing? Or did you leave that to Stephen?
Well….I mean every song’s so different isn’t it? Sometimes you’ll have a big horrible weird one, and other times you’ll have one that makes you almost cry with happiness, it’s just one of those places the studio, you know. It can be dead emotional, like..you’re putting yourself up for the test you know, so everyone can get a bit insightful about what they’re actually doing, it can get a bit..much.
You’re putting yourself out there for people I guess..
Yeah, it can get emotional.
So how do you think your sounds changed with this album? Do you think you’ve matured?
I just think it’s sounds like The Zutons being on tour for 2 years. We’re played together loads, I mean. In terms of songs, I write the songs, the words, the chords, whatever you think a song is, but it’s just like..the band has to put the music to them..and..er……………….I’ve lost where I was going now..I was on a roll…[laughs]
Waffle is good.. …but anyway…how would you describe the sound of The Zutons now?
I just think this album is really us……it’s us..in our own world…. I think that’s what you do with every album, you just go into your own world a little more, and whatever it is at the time that you’re doing. It’s so hard when you’re in it – it’s just a rock band..but you hear all these other things being said and it’s funny. I try not to pigeon hole it because..well you know..
It’s so easy nowadays to get pigeonholed..but I don’t know how you could label The Zutons..I mean..you can’t sum you guys up so easily..
Yeah, I mean I’ve heard a few words..rock..or pop..but you could just say it was 60’s music or 70’s music. I think it’s got a modern edge it, you know what I mean? [laughs]
Yeah..and maybe you could clear this up..what the hell is Voodoo rock?
[laughs] It’s kind of like them fellas in New Orleans you know? And they sing about swamps and that’s what voodoo rock is. Obviously. I mean I’ve never mentioned the voodoo ..someone else did and it stuck..
It’s haunting you now! And, talking about voodoo and all things dark – ..your first single off the second album ‘ Why Don’t You Give Me You Love’ looking at the lyrics..it’s got a bit of a dark edge to it..I mean..it is about stalking?
It’s funny..[laughs] it’s meant to be funny really, it’s not meant to be dark…
Are you talking from experience? Have you ever been stalked by a crazy fan?
No no..I er…I got sent a picture of a big sausage though the other day .. turns out it’s just some lad messing around but it had me going for a minute, it was just weird..it was horrible…but I think he stalks everyone in Liverpool, he doesn’t just stalk me, he’s about the closest I’ve come to having a stalker. Whatever..I can’t believe I just told you that but there you go!
Hehe…anyway, moving on. Your new video for Valerie is absolutely awesome..
And both of the videos for the new album have been really theatrical and exciting – you get involved in the direction and thinking up the ideas for the videos?
Erm..not really no!
Well that was shit question then!
[laughs] I think being in a band is one thing, and making videos is another. All the videos off the first album, I think we were just panicking you know, whereas now we’ve realised you’ve just got to not panic and we’ll do an alright job of it. Its just one of those things..but it’s fucking thousands of pounds…I mean you’ve got to learn and you’ve got to make mistakes. I think the videos off this album are much stronger than anything we’ve done before.
The thing I like about them is that they’re like mini films, they’re entertaining and you’re watching a story..
Well exactly.. it’s either do that or just stand there with guitars playing..d’you know what I mean?
So what do you enjoy most then? Videos, writing, being in the studio or being out of tour?
Being out on tour, just playing. I mean..half of studio time is good, and half of it’s weird or bad..not really bad..but it’s just a strange environment. It’s like you’ve just been all round the world and you’re suddenly just put in this little room and that’s that.
You recorded at Townhouse and then Olympic right? Creepy corridors at Townhouse..
Yeah. [laughs] If you want me to get technical- the first bit was done at Townhouse, a lot of singing and stuff, and all the mixing was done at Olympic.
Right. So..what keeps you sane on the tour bus?
Erm…reading books, playing guitar I suppose?
D’you listen to any bands in particular on the bus..what’re you into at the moment?
I’m trying to think, we don’t really do that so much, we usually get out. We all listen to different music really..
What’s your main influence?
Mine? I dunno, I like Nirvana..you know..Kurt Cobain..that’s pretty obvious but that’s just what it is..I’m like everyone else..i just want to be Kurt Cobain..but with the happy bits only..
And without Courtney Love possibly..
So did you always want to be a rock star?
I’m not a rock star!
But you are Dave..you’re a bona fide rock star now..
Fuck that.! Yeah…[laughs] Whatever..don’t be funny! [laughs] I just wanna play music, it’s like when you start making videos, that’s when you realise ‘oh shit, there’s more to this than just being in a fucking band on stage’, you’ve got to act and shit and just try to sell yourself. I mean luckily for us we bumped into Scott Lion , the director [of The Zutons videos] but we’re not in to making pop videos, and deep down we’re not totally into it, it’s always a bit of a chore, it doesn’t feel natural.
So what’s been the highlight of being in The Zutons so far?
Erm..I don’t know, I mean it’s still going, it’s like one big highlight, I have more good days than bad days. But it’s the bad days that you start writing tunes, so you’ve got to get a balance.
You need to bad days to appreciate the good ones..
Do you think 25’s old? Do you think that’s pretty old?
No! that’s young.. I’m 28..I’m going to be 30 in 2 years time!
You’re nearly 30..
Cheers Dave, yes..I’m closer to 30 thank 20 now.. I’m officially old.
I’ve got a tear in my eye…that was a moment..[laughs]
I’ll treasure it! Anyway..what’re your hopes for the band in the next year, what’re you up to for the summer?
We’re going to go to Europe again. We’re going to Switzerland, we’ve never been there, we might bump into Tina Turner, so..I’m happy about that.[laughs] And we’re going back to Vienna, and Vienna’s one of my favourite places. We went there for a couple of days on tour and it was just like, I could so live there, it’s wicked.
And last but not least..you guys had the honour of being the very last band to go on Popworld to do Simon Anstell’s Big Ones
So we’ve got our own version of Big Ones…probably not as cool as his..but anyway..What are you three essentials to take on tour with you?
Bus would be helpful! Who is going to win the World Cup?
Er..I reckon Germany. ..I don’t know…..that’s a horrible fucking question…..shit…..that’s a shit question! I’m not answering it. I’ve got an England top on now..but I’m not that into it, , I just wear it ‘cos me ma bought me it. [laughs] I’m not answering that question! Next!
Ok..then what’s your favourite cheese?
Cheese..oh….chilli…that one with the chilli bits in it…[Mexicana]..that’s the shit!
Do you use a mac or a PC?
Neither. I haven’t got a computer, I don’t know.
So you’re not a My Space addict like everyone else seems to be?
No..my mates tell me what’s good..then they find out all the bad things, I just listen to them really.
With festival season round the corner, are you a V person or a Reading person?
Well have to say I’m a V person, cos I’ve never been to Reading and I’ve played V like, three times. I’m mean I’d like to go, I just never get the chance.
So would you be a camping it person..or a hotel person then?
I get ..chest problems, I get hay fever dead easily, I had to get off the stage at Glastonbury last time we played because I had this….tongue infection [laughs]..I know it sounds horrible…
Actually I heard you were in hospital recently? What happened?
Yeah, I’ve been in London too long, and I was with Abi ( sax player) and Jo Kenny, our radio plugger, and we were in this house, and I was having this wheatgrass shot for a laugh and about an hour later I had itchy palms and my ears, weird parts of my body were itchy, and then it felt like my sides were going to burst. And I got took to the ward where George Best died, and I had to stay there for the night. It wasn’t that bad to be honest, it was alright. It was like….have you seen Pulp Fiction?
With the adrenaline injection in her heart?
Yeah, they had to give me one of them in the side of me leg. He held it like he was going to stab me, he didn’t hold like, you know, between two fingers, his fist was clenched and it was popping out the top.
I hate injections so much..
Nah it was alright!
Next! What would be your top line up – 3 bands, dead or alive?
Talking Heads, Neil Young and Leadbelly.
What is the most shameful CD you own?
I used to think it was Guns n Roses but I fucking like them – I put it back on lately and they’re good!
And Axl’s back playing at Download on the last Sunday..
Yeah..but I won’t be there. I don’t know…erm…probably Green Day or something..but they’re still going…
And are still quite popular!
Ha..yeah I’m pretty good with CDs..no actually Iron Maiden!
Fair enough…and last by not least Dave…what is your guilty pleasure?
What’s every man’s guilty pleasure? [laughs]
And I think I’ll leave it at that!
The Zutons are currently on tour in the UK. Check out www.thezutons.com for dates.
Their album ‘Tired of Hanging Around’ is out now on Deltasonic.