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The Horrors
© Rob Greig

The Horrors interview: ‘Oh, God – yeah, we looked a bit wacky’

We find out how one basement, lots of synths and 10,000 violent Arctic Monkeys fans have transformed the Southend fivesome from punk poseurs into one of Britain’s best bands


They stormed the indie scene of 2006 with their enormous haircuts, furious organ-bashing punk rock and sweaty, strobelit, paint-spattered live shows. It was all good fun, but they were hardly going to make a career out of it, were they?

Then The Horrors surprised everyone by making two utterly brilliant albums that took in krautrock, shoegaze, synth-pop and expansive post-punk. With their third LP ‘Skying’ in 2011, they sneaked on to the Radio 1 A-List and broke the Top Ten. Their fourth, ‘Luminous’, could make them big enough to book arenas. No one could have predicted this – least of all The Horrors themselves.

Despite their band name, the five-piece are impeccably polite and generally pretty cheerful when we meet on a spring afternoon in Hackney Wick. Maybe it’s the sunshine – after all, they’ve spent big long chunks of the last few years in a room with no windows.

How important has your studio on Shacklewell Lane been to the development of the band?
Tom Cowan, keyboards ‘Absolutely essential. You have a place to work, to concentrate, to develop ideas, try things out, shout at each other. Kraftwerk had their own studio, Throbbing Gristle had their own studio… I actually find it weird when people don’t have their own studios. I can’t quite get how they do it.’

Why pick party-friendly Dalston as your workplace?
Rhys Webb, bass
‘It was cheap! We’ve been there for about four years – when we moved in there weren’t any bars or snazzy restaurants. And once you get in the studio and shut the door, you could be anywhere.’
Faris Badwan, vocals ‘It feels very closed off from that area. There aren’t any windows. It’s its own world.’
RW ‘You can’t even check your emails – you’ve got to go to the top of the stairs to get wi-fi.’

Is it difficult to replicate the sound you make in the studio when you play live?

TC ‘There was a bit of trying to painstakingly recreate the sound, but now I think it will end up being a little bit meatier, a little bit grittier.’

You once said you couldn’t imagine The Horrors headlining arenas. Is that still true?
TC ‘We’ve done arena shows on support tours, and it’s actually not that fun. Arenas are just the ultimate monetisation of the live experience. It’s not that we wouldn’t want the success – it’s that The O2 is a horrible place to go and see a band.’
Joshua Hayward, guitars ‘But you can get pizza.’
TC ‘I went there to see Fleetwood Mac play, 
and the woman next to me had a whole pizza 
and then threw it up 20 minutes later. Then another woman fell on me from a great height. 
It was crazy.’

And you’re playing Lovebox in London this summer too, alongside big dance acts like Chase & Status. That’s a bit odd, isn’t it?
RW ‘That’s one of the reasons we’re doing it.’
FB ‘It’s not as comfortable as it could be. If we look back, a lot of our favourite gigs have been ones where maybe the crowd hasn’t been as safe as you would expect.’

Like supporting the Arctic Monkeys in 2007, when the crowd threw hundreds of coins at you?
FB ‘I really loved those shows because they were just so violent. You want to feel something, positive or negative. Without that, the whole thing is meaningless.’

Does it feel strange now to look at pictures of the band in those days?
FB ‘If you took the New York Dolls and put them in that setting, they’d look exactly as ridiculous. We were a young band.’
RW ‘We were learning the ropes, and we had some really amazing shows. But you do think: Oh, God – yeah, we looked a bit wacky.’

Luminous’ is out on Mon May 5: read our review here.

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