Interview: Robbie Furze Of The Big Pink
“All that sh*t they talk about us, at the end of the day, we’re just a band and we write music.” Rivmixx is chatting to Robbie Furze guitarist and singer with London-based noise-rock/pop duo The Big Pink. Having been warned that Furze can be a “difficult” interviewee, as well as spending about three days trying to track the man down as he moved Fugitive-like from town to town, Rivmixx, fortunately, is finding him to be a very amiable guy.
As Furze correctly states, there has indeed been some sh*t talked about them. The problem for the industry, with a band like The Big Pink, is that they’re good, they’re really good, and by the same token that makes them hard to pin down and hard to break-in. Major label bosses, sat around lustfully unbuttoning their flies in anticipation of a return to the “glory days” when bands would do anything for their attention, have been caught dick in zip. The Big Pink have kept their integrity intact, signing to 4AD and releasing a debut album, ‘A Brief History Of Love’, that Rivmixx suspects will sit comfortably next to all-time “great” British bands.
According to Furze, honesty and friendship has played a big role in this success,
“We’re very close me and Milo [Cordell, the other 50% of The Big Pink]. We’ve got nothing to prove to each other – I don’t want to say no egos, because me and Milo have big egos, the both of us – but we’re not competing with each other.” The Big Pink it seems, don’t bother with pretension, “We don’t have to give a sh*t, it’s not like a “battle”. We’re very un-precious about what we do at the early stages, so if there’s something we don’t like we just throw it out.”
It helps that both Furze and Cordell have been friends for nigh on nine years now. Having apparently hit it off at a Millenium party, they discovered a shared love of music, but it took a while – seven years to be precise – before the duo decided to form a band. Fortunately, they saw eye to eye creatively, “We like walls of guitars and we like beats,” says Furze. “That will always be a constant and we just love good songs and we love soul music and I think that will be a massive influence on us.”
This mutual love of music got the twosome signed the old-fashioned way (4AD came to an early gig) before the the pair crossed the Atlantic to Electric Lady Studios – that would be the one built by Jimi Hendrix – in New York to lay down their debut album. Strangely for a band with such a fierce independent streak, The Big Pink opted for a real studio, shunning their bedroom roots,
“To be honest, it was actually kind of cheap really,” states Furze, sounding a little embarrassed. “It was like, ‘You can spend three weeks recording in a basement somewhere in Shoreditch or you can go to New York and do it in Electric Lady studios where Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie have recorded’.”
Apparently location – for example a legendary studio, as opposed to a mic precariously balanced on top of a pile of dirty socks – makes a difference to an album, “Studio A where we were recording was just the most beautiful room I’ve ever been in. It was incredible,” says the still awed songwriter.
The experience seems to have left a lasting impression on Furze, “It’s such a f**king wild kind of vibe in there – you’re singing through the same mic that Bowie sang through, you know what I mean? You’re recording guitar with the same f**king mic that Hendrix used. The piano was, I think it was, Steve Wonder‘s Rhodes in there. It’s really heavy stuff.”
“Heavy stuff”, it indeed is, but then again the duo are no strangers to the heavy. Ever since they emerged, elements of the press and other factions have waged a self-induced war to bring The Big Pink back down to size (pun intended). Not content to believe a good band can still make it off the strength of their music, the press want reasons, but there’s no nepotism or “X Factor back-story” here.
“What I didn’t like about the hype,” states a battle-worn Furze matter-of-factly. “Was that I always knew it would come back and bite us on the arse a bit – and you can’t control that, you can’t say, ‘Please don’t talk about us, or please don’t put us on your list’, but actually the backlash hasn’t been as bad as I thought it was going to be.”
“There’s a jealousy thing there,” theorises the singer. “Like Milo’s record label [Merok] – he makes no money – in fact, he loses money – he’s not connected at all and suddenly [to the press] he’s f**king Puff Daddy and because of that, because of Merok, we got signed to 4AD?! Those things are just nothing to do with each other.”
Accusations of nepotism are not the only pious finger-pointing that the group have been subjected to. The band’s lead single ‘Dominoes’, with its chorus line “These girls fall like dominoes”, has created a misguided stir in some circles for its perceived misogynistic content. Accusations which are way off the mark. Whilst the record is not misogynistic, it is – as with all of Furze’s outpourings, spoken or sung – remarkably sincere.
“It’s honest, we’re admitting how pathetic we are, or men are…” says the suddenly introspective singer. “It’s pretty sad, when I think about it, when I sing, it is a kind of sad story – that “girls fall like dominoes”, it would be nice to keep one and be happy with her, you know?”
Unfortunately for Furze, that’s going to be difficult – the tune (and its ludicrously catchy chorus) are currently in high demand. The guitarist is cautious, though, about it becoming their one-hit-wonder tune, “It’s getting a bit much – because of this f**king ad on TV and everything, it is the one that everyone is going crazy for – and I am getting a bit tired of singing “dominoes” to be honest.”
Currently The Big Pink‘s live incarnation are enjoying a quick jaunt around Europe, they then head out on the road with Muse in November, before crossing the Atlantic to the US until early December. Despite having “played a few shows” with Alec Empire before, the gruelling schedule of a band du-jour has come as a bit of a shock to Furze, “I had no idea it would be this f**king… hardcore, you know?” he tells Rivmixx. “I think we’ve got two weeks off over Christmas and then I think we don’t stop again until this time next year.”
“It’s a bit depressing, like I just said, I am in a hotel room, on my own, in Liverpool. It’s my day off, I miss my dog and my home, you know what I mean?” Rivmixx is never one to indulge the egos of rockstars, especially when they believe they’re having a hard time, but it’s hard not to with Furze, mainly because, as with his recordings and live performances, you believe every word he says.
It’s all too rare to find such a candid interviewee, one who believes there’s more honour in an honest response than your standard “the tour’s going great”. This incorruptible approach is one that’s going to have an even bigger impact on their next recording – a new EP, which will be written on the road and recorded “the second” the band comes off tour,
“In America we’re gonna write this four-track kind of thing,” Furze reveals. “Just like guitar, drums, bass and like a basic Juno synth and maybe hardwire it a bit with a distortion pedal, so it’s just one sound on this synth… We’re gonna record it straight to disc and we’ll have all of the artwork already done and it’ll be in the shops the next morning.”
The group got the idea from ’70s punk act, Warsaw Pakt. “It just sounded like a f**king cool idea,”enthuses the songwriter. It seems the more exposure the group get, the more frustratingly mis-represented The Big Pink become. With this new EP the duo have a chance to cut out the middle-man hype and connect straight to fans. As Furze himself rationally states, “F**k all this internet bullsh*t about ‘you’re stealing stuff’ and crying about downloads.”
Fans can probably expect the new EP around early December (their American tour ends December 6). But there’s also been occasional suggestions that the group could wind up doing something else along “different tangents” in the near future. Despite that, and the occasional lapse, it seems Furze still believes he’s living the dream,
“We make jokes about becoming DJs and stuff or becoming like Daft Punk and sending someone else out wearing robot helmets… We won’t, we love touring, we love being on the road, it’s like one big massive party with your best mate.”
Written for Rivmixx