Johnny Borrell's unwavering confidence is perhaps the one thing that's kept his head level throughout the last 12 months of madness. Those sycophantic pieces early on in Razorlight's career didn't faze him because he knew that the band were strong enough to outlast any press hype, similarly the barrage of criticism from the haters was brushed off for the same reason. Designer Magazine caught up with Johnny to explore the confidence and self-criticism.
Q: Leading up the release of the new single "Vice"
you been running the Vice line where fans can ring up and have a chat.
A: It's always been there you see. The Vice Line was my phone number when I recorded the song and when I started singing, it sort of stuck in the lyric. It was quite cool, because in the early days I had it on my chest on the frontcover of the NME and I had it in the song and I think people had to do a bit of thinking to know to ring it. Now the NME have printed it and i'd imagine the record company have put it on the press release for the single.
I don't know how much of a success it is at the moment. I can only take about 50 messages a day because it only saves 50 messages a day. I check them every evening when I go through it. But I think there's a lot more people than that ringing because if I take out all 50 messages in the morning, if I was to go back in a couple of hours it's full again. There's a guy actually who's been leaving me some songs, I think he's quite young and they're wicked.
People get quite surprised when I ring back because i'm
just like "Alright, what's happening". I don't go into that separation
between stars and fans. People are just people and when you lose sight
of that you're in trouble.
Q: Bands are becoming less concerned with being stars,
they are breaking the barriers down
A: Liars, they're all liars. They all want to be f**king stars. You wouldn't do it otherwise, yer know what I mean. Only very exceptional people don't care about it or maybe they're just the people who think there stars in their head.
Q: From when you started making waves a year ago till
now how has it been overcoming the critics. As well as all the praise that
was heaped on you by the likes of the NME, at the time some people really
truly hated you with a passion.
A: I didn't seem like we were hated at the time. I wasn't aware of it because nobody had the guts to say it to my face. On the Hope Of The States Tour I read reviews - at least 70-80% were positive reviews and the other 20% were just idiotic reviews. You've got to bear in mind when a band is like a year old you're going to have shit gigs, especially when you're doing your first tour.
It's a strange thing with the support tours actually because
we learnt a lot on them. The strange thing is that after every support
tour we did we ended up moving up to the venues that were the same size
of the bands we were supporting, if you see what I mean. It's a strange
trend that's carrying on because it happened with the Bellrays, The Hope
Of The States, The Raveonettes and now it's happening with Suede as well
which is pretty mind-blowing.
Q: You've always had this confidence from the beginning.
Where does that confidence come from?
A: I wouldn't be doing it otherwise. I'd be wasting everyone's time. I'm not really going to turn up and say "I don't think the band are very good, but you might like em". I think the band are really good. It kills me cos I spend every day trying to make the band better and sometimes I look at it and I think we're awful, we're a joke band and we could get better in so many way. But that's like taking a lot for granted, I know we're a good band. I think we're proving that we are continually getting better.
Q: Going back to what you were saying before about
how sometimes you sit down and think about this band and how much you can
make it better. How much time do you actually spend theorizing about last
A: I do it quite a bit, but not all the time. We were just in Belgium and Holland and we did one in Belgium and it was the best gig i've ever done in terms of myself. There were not many people that were at the main stage of the festival, nobody knew who the f**k we were and it was so refreshing to play to people that just didn't know who we were. It was just the f**king best gig I've done. I knew that whatever Johnny Borrell is capable of in 2004 he'd done 100 percent of it that night. But it's a varied life I lead. Sometimes we sit around and say we can do that there or that there cos you just want to keep it evolving. You're always searching to make it better otherwise you're just turning up and putting the hours in.
Q: In interviews you do come across as really confident.
But I guess there are times when you're on your own and you really are
quite self critical?
A: I'm incredibly confident of certain things I know to be true. I'm not making any great claims here. I'm not making any great claims when I say that the album we made is full of great songs. I'm confident that a lot of bands around, their albums are full of average songs. And there's bands out there that have songs that are better than ours. But in terms of being self critical, you've gotta be. That's the reason that people write and work. If you're not self critical you don't push on, you don't evolve, you don't go anywhere. If you don't sit down and say "i'm f**king useless and i've never written a note that's any good at all, this is f**king bollocks" then where is the drive to write the next one. It's not like I sit at home playing "Golden Touch" with a big jug full of money with my royalties going happy days happy days.
We don't do things the easy way. How easy do you think
it would it be Razorlight now? We've done this album now. We could re-release
"Stumble And Fall", 10000 people bought that single and there's 150,000
people who've got the album so far. We could re-release it, sell it to
an advert, cos they offer you f**king loads of money for stuff like that,
and it could be a massive hit. Plenty of bands would do that. Since the
albums come out i've just been sat down trying to write the next song because
I know that every song on the next record has to piss on "Golden Touch"
and piss on "Vice", which are my favourite tracks off that album.
Q: One of the thing that stands out on the album is
the fact that you strip the songs back to the basics. There's a lot of
space on the record and there's nothing in there that doesn't need to be
A: That's me and Bjorn a lot. Bjorn had that idea, not so much in the depth of the record like how many guitars you've got going at once, but in terms of the arrangements of the songs and how long they last. I like music with corners. I like to be able to pick everything out. I couldn't make a record that's otherwise....actually that's shit, I could make a record that's otherwise...but I agree with you on the sound of Razorlight. Music is an art and like any art you have to have light and shade and make the corners and build tension and explode. It's like performing, dancing, painting anything - you can't just shit all over a canvas.
Q: Razorlight is seen very much as your band. How important
are Bjorn and the other members to the band in terms of the sound of Razorlight?
A: Erm. Obviously it wouldn't be Razorlight without the songs, but the songs wouldn't be Razorlight without the rest of the boys. I don't know how to describe it. I write the songs, then I bring them in and basically as a band we work out how to play them. But when we're working out how to play them as a band it comes down to me a lot of the time. The reason the line up was as it was then was I believed in everybody's instinctive thought of what they should play.
Q: What has Andy added to the band? Do you feel it's
a more complete band?
A: Andy is just good. Christian is a wannabe and always will be and he wasn't even that wannabe towards the end.
Q: You were talking about the new songs you're writing.
You're trying to better the last album. How are they taking shape at the
moment? Have you got any new songs ready?
A: I don't really want to talk about it to be honest. It's all in the system production and if you start talking about things before they've happened it's the biggest jinx you can do. I can't allow myself to talk about it.
Q: A lot of people have exhausted the story behind
the screenplay you've wrote called "This Man". I guess when you're on tour
though you do find yourself writing short stories and passages
A: People keep asking me about this script, but i'm making much better progress with writing prose at the moment. I don't know whether i'll put it out. I'm more just writing it for myself. One day i'm going to be forty years old or older and you don't really want to be getting up there on stage. The important thing though is not to preconceive things and do whatever adds some meaning to your time.
Q: Finally you're doing the Make Trade Fair Gig on
September 14th. How important is for you to do these events and give something
A: When you start thinking about our society in any detail and apply any clarity of thought to the actual structure that we like in it's a f**king terrible world and a f**king horrible place. In fact you, me and everyone that reads this thing is to a great degree sanctioning basically a slave culture in the fact that the west only exists by exploiting poor countries. If somebody says to me do you want to do a gig to help out towards something like that in anyway, of course I'll do it.
"Vice" is out September 13th and tour throughout October
Razorlight support the Manic Street Preachers in December
For more info
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