Exclusive Interview: Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand

Owen Murphy

On their forthcoming fifth full-length Always Ascending, Scottish band Franz Ferdinand reach new heights. The new album introduces two recently-joined members: Dino Bardot, former guitarist for 1990s, and Julian Corrie. Producer Philippe Zdar (himself half of the French synthpop duo Cassius) continues to give the band's post-punk sound a danceable edge. Frontman Alex Kapranos talks to KEXP about the lyrical influences on the new release. 


KEXP: What new things, that you hadn't written about before, did you write about this time?

Alex Kapranos: Well, one thing I was really drawn to on this record -- there is an album I've loved since I was a kid that I always return to. I think we've all got those records that mean a lot to us. For me, it's the first John Lennon solo record, which is kind of a political record in its own right, but more than anything else it's a confessional record. It's just that classic singer-songwriter self-confessional and I was obsessed with it. Still am obsessed with it. Before I started writing anything for this record, I was playing it over and over again, like I have at so many points throughout my life. As I was listening to it, something clicked with me because since that record came out there's been an attitude that's developed amongst fans, critics, songwriters, musicians, that if you were to search for emotional integrity and emotional truths then you have to do it through that route. You have to do it through the personal confession.

While I truly believe that he managed to get to that through that methodology and the work that he did on that record, I don't think it's the exclusive way of searching for that truth. If that was the case then it would apply to other art forms as well. It would apply to cinema. It would apply to fiction. It would apply to literature. It would apply to screenwriting. It would apply to poetry. And of course, that's not true because the greatest fiction is fiction. You create fictional characters. I was thinking about this and thinking: "Okay, I've written so many songs that have been drawn from personal experience. I've written songs that have been drawn from the observed experience of the lives of people I see around about me. But so rarely in my life have I sat down and created fictional characters and created a world, a universe for them to occupy and still search for those universal truths that we search for as artists within that fictional context." On this record, songs like "The Academy Award" and particularly "Lois Lane," they really do search for these fictional characters and fictional settings.

That must have been incredibly freeing and inspiring.

It was because literally there are no boundaries. You can create a character to be whoever you want and you can put them into particular situations. But I guess the only restriction is they have to ring true. They have to be believable. You have to believe their truth that they're telling to you. I worked with Bob, our bass player, on songs and when we started the band off we would work on songs together. It's nice to go back to that with Bob and we sat down with "Lois Lane" and created these two characters: a girl and a guy. She's an optimist. She believes that journalism can change the world. He believes that the motivation of altruism is selfishness. They're completely opposed characters, yet they're both into each other. Then the song explores the disintegration of their relationship. It's cool. You get really involved in these people when you're creating them. You feel really close to them as if you know them yourself. Yeah, it was a very rewarding experience.

Always Ascending is out this Friday, February 9th via Domino Records.

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