As they prepare to take their sound to a new dimension the likes of Nylon Pylon, Superstring, Roger and Bynatone show the profound and lasting influence Alpinestars have had on the Manchester Electronica scene. Just a few years ago Manchester was content to spew out Oasis sound-a-likes and now we live in a cosmopolitan city where guitars sit next to synths and dance music doesn't necessarily mean tuneless forgettable instrumentals.
Their recent album "White Noise" demonstrated the shift to full live instrumentation and featured Placebo frontman Brian Molko on guest vocals. In the Autumn they head out on a European tour with a 5 piece band, so we caught up with one half of Alpinestars Richard Woolgar to find out about this exciting journey through sound.
Q: Since the last time we spoke it's all change in
the Alpinestars camp. You're stepping things up a level with the new label
(Ministry Of Sound) and a full live band for the forthcoming tour. What
can we expect?
A: We've had a bass player and a guitarist right from the start, but up until now they've only worked in the studio with us. We've been playing a few shows with Ged Lynch (Black Grape, Electronic etc) and he's outstanding, but unfortunately at the same time he was recording with us he was working with Peter Gabriel and he pays shit loads more than us.
We've got a chance for the band to make a quite a difference
to the music. The tracks on "White Noise" will not be too dis-similar,
but the older stuff as a band will be completely different. It will be
vastly different to what people have seen Alpinestars as before and I think
that will really change a lot of peoples mind as to what were about. And
I do think there's an element of appeal to our music across the board whether
there into techno or slightly heavy rock because we've done a track with
Brian Molko. You've got to listen to "White Noise" a few times to get the
Q: Brian Molko tends to have this public persona of
being very difficult and has this real rock star arrogance. How was it
working with him?
A: We weren't going to have any guest vocalists on the album at all, except that Brian had said a while ago when we did a remix of Placebo "if you ever want a vocalist just let me know". He was staying in the flat above where we were in the studio so we left a CD-R outside his room and at 4 o'clock the day before he was supposed to leave he ran down and was like I've learnt the lyrics, I wanna do it!!!
Every time I've met Brian he's been really cool and he
doesn't miss anything. I think what happenned was that the NME built him
up into being something very special, someone who was their favourite son
in many ways, and all of a sudden they decided they didn't like him any
more. But I think he was only ever doing what he always did and it's sad
because he's only doing what he did right from that first time he walked
on stage and Placebo did their first show.
Q: As you said before, "White Noise" is essentially
a pop album, but at the same time it's very eclectic. Would you agree that
even in a pop formula it's important to be different?
A: We get very bored, very quickly I suppose that the whole idea of doing the album the way we did it, is that we came to a corner and thought that's enough of that. We needed to keep an element of what we did, but at the same time bring a whole new thing to it which was other musicians and live instruments.
I'm sure if we did this album again it would be different and the next album again will be different, but for now it's a good picture of where we were a year ago. I think the best bands in history has always done different thing, although there is a thread between each album they do, by either being extremely cutting edge or going against the grain of what is currently in vogue.
I think next time we will do something that sounds more
futuristic that you can possibly imagine. There's an element of very interesting
sounds in what we do, but I think we could push the boat out and be a little
more adventurous in terms of how we present it and what we sing about.
Almost like being a duo in a Bjork sense, like in the way she looks in
a futuristic way at everything she does.
Q: Before Alpinestars came together as a duo, you were
both playing in bands around the city. Was it a sense of you brought synths
in for "B.A.S.I.C" and then you wanted to get back to your rock & roll
roots with the next album?
A: I think we naturally do what we've done on this album more naturally than what we do on the first record. We did the kind of stuff for Homoelectric very quickly and we never had the chance to think about doing vocals for it. And then we got signed to Faith & Hope on the basis of what we'd done and they weren't expecting us to do any singing at all.
We thought that to make an impact, if we were starting
as new on the record label, one of the main ways to make an impact was
to start writing songs that would get ourselves in a position where we
could get better known. I think there's a lot of LP's come out in the last
6 to 8 months, Royksopps probably the best example, but you've got FC Kahuna
and several others that are very similar in their head space and the way
it's been thought about as the record we did as B.A.S.I.C. I think they're
much more accomplished and they're really good pieces of music, but essentially
they're not coming from any different standpoint. And we didn't want to
be another sampler duo!!!
Q: Now that you're playing with a full band and you
can combine the aesthetics of rock music with the energy of dance music
- do you find that the Alpinestars club set is almost like a pale comparison?
A: It's frustrating, but you know it has a really positive side. We did all the gigs with Faithless and there's no way we could have done the band thing with them...they wouldn't have even asked us to do it. The last four shows we did with them were almost like our own shows - it was like we were part of Faithless or something - and we also got to play Wembley.
Most of the music we played in those live shows are like nothing were going to do next and that's really cool. The club set and the band set are really exciting and it just depends on where you're doing it and who you're doing it with. I think if we could have the same impact as Faithless and Groove Armada in our live shows, in the sense that if you listen to the album it isn't anything like the live shows, it would be great.
The Album "White Noise" is out now
For more info on tour dates / releases
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