Arctic Monkeys: Next one to tell us Purple Rain was filmed at First Avenue gets punched

Categories: Interview
Photo courtesy of Arctic Monkeys' Facebook

On the strength of their live energy and polished rock chops, Arctic Monkeys have grown into one of the biggest bands in the world. They're now regular festival headliners on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Sheffield, England, quartet's recent album, AM, was nominated for this past year's Mercury Music Prize. At long last, the lads return to Minneapolis, once again eschewing a larger venue to instead play First Avenue.

Gimme Noise chatted with bassist Nick O'Malley during his band's tour stop in Missouri during the first leg of their current jaunt through the U.S., which includes their long sold-out show at First Avenue tonight. We talked about the recording sessions for AM, what making music with Josh Homme is like, and the inevitable conversation every single time they play First Avenue.

See Also: Arctic Monkeys and the Vaccines at First Avenue, 5/28/2011

Gimme Noise: What were the recording sessions like for AM, and has the band changed their approach to the studio at all over the years?

Nick O'Malley: I don't think it's so much like we've changed our approach in any way. It's always been an ongoing learning experience. When we did the first and second albums, we were all just 18-19 years old, and we didn't really know what we were doing or anything. So, we haven't necessarily changed our approach, but we take it as a learning experience for all of us, and over time we know what we're doing a little bit more. It seems like we're more in control now -- for better or worse, I suppose [laughs].

How important have James Ford's steady production and musical contributions been to the band as you've evolved over the years and your career took off?

He's extremely important, yeah. He's the kind of producer that has got a very good ear for getting the best out of a band. He kind of knows when you're going down a road that is a dead end and things like that. And he plays everything, you know. He's one of them multi-instrumentalist kind of guys that can play everything, and he can just get involved in whatever you're doing and kind of spur you on. He's got a great knowledge of how to make songs the best they can be, and he's just kind of into everything. He's a great guy to have around, kind of like an older brother. I think with our albums, and the way we do things, he's always been very approachable with his input.

Rhythm has always been such an important, distinctive part of Arctic Monkeys sound, especially on AM. How have you and Matt [Helders, the drummer] managed to strengthen and enhance the pulse of the band from one album to the next?

I don't really know, I guess. [laughs] It's never really been a conscious thing. I suppose on this record, we just tried to simplify everything. It just kind of made sense with the songs. But on our last couple of records, Matt has always had this way of playing that isn't necessarily experimental but a little bit out of the ordinary, where he doesn't do the obvious thing, I suppose. And I kind of try and emulate that. But on this record, we just decided to really just simplify things, and it just really made sense with the songs. We tried to contribute more with backing vocals, and just didn't want to make the drum and bass too complicated.

Yeah, it seems like you are called on to sing a lot more on AM than you have in the past. How did that come about initially, and are you pleased with the ultimate results of your vocal contributions?

Yeah, definitely. It just came about naturally at the start. We did the song "R U Mine?" first, before we even started recording the album. We liked how the backing vocals and the melody sounded on that, and we wanted to explore that type of direction a little bit more on the record. So, yeah, there's a lot of me and Matt singing high falsettos and stuff like that, and we tried to exploit that a little bit more this time, as opposed to trying to do these crazy drums and bass. I think live it comes across really well.

Your potent live show has made you regular festival headliners throughout the world. Do you have to adjust your shows or scale things back in any way when you play clubs and theaters again in the U.S.?

Yeah, I suppose. If we play festivals, we might try and make it more accessible for everyone. Because everyone there might not necessarily be there to see you, so we bear that in mind a little bit, and we come up with a set that is a listenable to people that may not have heard our music or even like our music. But when we play our own shows, we can throw a few more rare songs in there, because obviously the people there want to see you, so we can throw some B-sides in there that our fans who bought tickets will appreciate more. As opposed to festivals, where you just have to go in and throw your hits around.

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