Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Richard Archer [Hard-Fi]

I interviewed Richard Archer the singer/songwriter of HARD-FI by telephone from Japan on 30 June, 2006. He was in a café at London's Heathrow airport, having breakfast.

CBL: Hello...

Archer: Colin?

CBL: Yeh, hi Rich.

Archer: Hi mate. How ya doing?

CBL: Good. I hear you're at the airport.
Archer: Yeh, we're sat in a cafe trying to get some breakfast down before they call the flight on us in about 5 minutes. It’s a little bit tight.

CBL: Where you headed?

Archer [aside]: You've got to eat, haven't you. We're going to Berlin actually for the Argentina Germany game.

CBL: That's on in a few hours.

Archer: Yeh, so that should be quite exciting. We're in Belgium for the England game. So, there you go. You can't complain.

CBL: Well, wish them luck. Anyway, I'd like to say I was really impressed by the album and I consider myself a fan now.

Archer: Thank you. Thank you very much.

CBL: Right, so, it stood out a lot from a lot of the other records I've been listening to and it sounded quite different at first.

Archer: There are some great British bands out at the moment but there isn't much of a sound. It's like a guitar band. Sometimes you can hear a real comparison to Libertines to Arctic Monkeys, there is a common thing. Whereas we were always more dance music, reggae, so we would never try to be part of a scene or anything like that. So we sort of stuck out because of the music and that's been the continuing of the result.

CBL: I get the impression that a lot of the other bands are very historically aware of the music, like Franz Ferdinand, there seem very. clear references to 1980s bands like Magazine and so on. You're music when I heard it - at first - it was very hard to pin down, then, of course, I started to figure out the reggae, dub, ska thing, but its not so obvious.

Archer: We sort of sat there - thanks very much - we sort of sat there and didn't want to kind of like this, "Let's do a ska number." It was more like the spirit that influenced it rather than... Why try to recreate something like that because you're never going to be able to better it. It's kind of like a moment in we kind of listened to a track and said, “Woah, that'll work...but just because we might use a reggae-type bass line, it doesn't mean that we have to have a reggae drumbeat. Why can't we play it over a drum and bass feel or something like this. At the time our plan was to release a record on our own very small label - Necessary Records and we weren't really thinking…

[untranscribed segment]

We weren't sat there thinking “What's hot at the moment there in London, and what's going on?” Rather we were doing what we liked, trying things out. We try out a lot of things. A lot of them are rubbish. A lot of things don't work. But occasionally you come up with something that sounds really cool.

CBL: I also got the impression that a lot of the quality of the music comes from the lyrics I mean…you alright there?

Archer: I think we were just then writing songs about what our own lives, and what we saw around us, what we saw in our friends lives. What we saw on the TV. “Middle Eastern Holiday” was written back in the day when the Iraqi war had officially finished and six military policemen were murdered by a mob in Basra. People say, “You know that could be me. That could be my mate.” And it starts making you think in a different way. You stop seeing it in black and white, and start thinking, “What if I was out there? I would be scared shitless.” Both sides should be at home doing what you are doing going out, washing your car.

CBL: Especially the circumstances in that particular case. I remember reading about that. It was a real cock up by the British army as usual.

Archer: Yeh, yeh. That was where we were at. We were trying to take it from thinking about people just like us. We've never seen ourselves like… You do get certain people, especially in the music industry thinking like they've got a superiority thing, where they think they're better than other people, to say “You don't read the right books, you don't wear the right clothes, you don't hang out at the right places, you don't know the right people, you ain't got the right haircut.” We've never been like that. My thing is you're cool because you follow your own path and you do what you want to do and you don't let other people influence you in doing what they think you should do. We've always tried to reach out for the ordinary people, the people who are just like us. Most people are just ignored. They are just sort of force fed what people want them to have, and they have to take it, and that's wrong. If people are not like the front page of the latest style mag or whatever, they're still the same to us....We've sold a million records and we've done five nights at the Brixton Academy, which no other band has done except for The Clash, Bob Dylan, Massive Attack and the Prodigy, and we've done all those things and yet we've never had an NME front cover, and like the NME's always cool with us but we were never one of those charming [around] with the press, so it always surprised people that we have been as successful as we are. We've bypassed those people and reached the real people out there.

CBL: I think the way it works is because you don't follow the crowd…and so you’re different. If you're different, you stand out and people notice you more. That seems to be working in your favour. Most bands are a bit arty farty aren't they?

Archer: Yeh, yeh. Always amazes me. What's so arty, what's so cutting edge? All these sort of art school bands that ever appear, they're so cutting edge: “Check this out - we've got drums, guitar, a bass, and a singer and we're going to play music that sounds like it was written 25 years ago.” Why is that so much more new and groundbreaking and cool, because you know it isn't. It's just like rehashing something.

CBL: I kind of see that in class terms, because that kind of attitude that you're describing there is a kind of a middle class thing and your music's much more of a working class thing. It's gritty and natural and saying what it means.

Archer: Yeh, I think so. It's always a kind of weird one when you start talking about class. We want to appeal to everyone. We don't want to appeal to just the working class. But a lot of people can identify us with that. But at the end of the day that's where we come from. We've never sat there ... That's the way it is. [to waitress] OK, thank you.

CBL: So, anyway, have you been to Japan before?

Archer: Yes, we have actually. We were there in November for a flying visit. We were there for a week. Had a great time, actually. One of those things where - we did a show in Tokyo and we did a show in Osaka, and. amazing, it was like another world, but similar in many ways. But a lot of people were saying that the crowds would be very polite, y’know, and they'll clap between the songs, and be aware of that. When we played Tokyo, the moment we hit the first chord the place erupted, it went crazy - quite like [gatrbled]

CBL: Yeh, it's quite different from the UK, anyway. For one thing there's not so many CCTVs hanging around spying on people.

Archer: Yeh, that's one of the things we've kind of found as we've been around lately is that people don't actually know what we're talking about in that respect. It has become a massive part of their lives. I'm sure it will at some stage. [garbled] That's our guitarist jamming in my ear.

CBL: In the wider social content. what do you think the advent of the CCTV camera symbolizes? ...Did you get that?

Archer: I think for me, it's always been about saving money. It's cheaper to get someone to look at 20 screens in a room than it is to actually say, “We're going to get enough policemen. We're going get them out of their fast car, and we're going to get them to actually reintegrate with the community to be…to go out there are talk to people and have a relationship with them. Rather than be like this kind of distant authoritarian force. Maybe you can stop things before they happen, rather than look at things on tape afterwards. But that costs money and takes time and it’s easier to put up new cameras and then deal with it later. The UKs always been about saving money, kind of a cheap fix.

CBL: Yeh, cutting corners. Yeh, one of the reasons they don't need to do that in Japan… Japan has much less crime and a lot less violence for sure. One reason they don't have to do that is because a lot of people share the same values. It's all soft power. In the UK, everybody's a bit different, right, and that creates a lot of aggro, and everybody's got their own agenda, and so society can't use that kind of soft power to keep everybody gently in line like what they do in Japan... did you hear that?

Archer: Sorry, I lost you on that last bit.

CBL: Yeh, I'm just saying that the main difference that I've detected is that in Japan they use a kind of soft social power. People usually share more or less the same values and so on, and in the UK it's much more diverse, and so that creates all these… Nobody really knows what's right and what's wrong anymore. You know what I mean?

Archer: I can see that. We kind of noticed that when we were there. Everyone has a lot more respect for each other, and so a lot of the situations don't arise. It's funny how one of the most technologically advanced nations on the planet doesn't need to rely on technology for keeping the streets safe or whatever.

CBL: So far you've been writing your songs very directly from your experience from where you've lived, and now with the success, you're lifestyle's changed a lot...

Archer: I'm still living in the house I've been living in for a lot of my life actually through various circumstances.

CBL: Yeh?

Archer: The thing is to try and remain in touch with the people who are your audience, your fans. A lot of what we done has always been out and about [garbled] People are so made up. It sort of gives them hope. It shows that it can be done. A lot of the songs were written while we were still trying to get this record out. It took so long to come out We did it ourselves but it was a lot of hard work.

CBL: Yeh.

Archer: I was writing all that time.

CBL: So, you're going to stay in Staines? You're not going to do a Billy Bragg and move out to some mansion in the country, are you?

Archer: Well right now, I'm still Staines. It's handy for the airport.

CBL: Yeh – aha!

Archer: It just takes 10 minutes. You're home in 10 minutes. No plans to move yet.

CBL: It fits in quite well, then.

Archer: Yeh - all my life I'm trying to get out of it. Now, when I'm away, I miss it and realize that it's quite convenient.

CBL: I was reading a piece in the Guardian about you opening pubs with the mayor and giving beer to a horse. Is this a kind of anti-rock star kind of thing?

Archer: Pub near the producer [garbled]… I had to jump on a plane and go and do a TV show in France, but all my mates could get drunk. There you go. Those are the breaks.

CBL: OK right, It's been very nice speaking to you Richard, thank you very much. That should be plenty to work with. Thanks.

Archer: yes thanks mate, I'm sorry it’s been a little bit noisy cafe.

CBL: Yeh, hopefully I'll remember most of it if the tapes a bit dodgy. OK cheers.

Archer: I'll hopefully see you. I think we're in Japan in September.

CBL: I'll be here. I'll be back from my Summer holidays. It's so bloody hot here.

Archer: Wow, I bet.

CBL: It's the wrong kind of hot. It's humid. You're coming at a good season. September , it's a good time to come here.

Archer: [garbled] Yeh, I'll see you then.

CBL: OK. Nice speaking to you. Right, take care. Goodbye.

Archer: Thanks Colin. OK.

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