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Interview: Ian Broudie talks music, football and his contribution to ‘Three Lions,’

06/07/2018

I spoke to Ian Broudie, of Lightning Seeds and Three Lions fame, the red hot day of England’s curse-lifting shootout victory against Colombia. The Lightning Seeds play Sunderland’s Sunniside Live on Saturday 7th July, a few hours after England’s quarter final against Sweden. I talked to Ian about making the first Lightning Seeds album in over a decade, his impressive production discography, and his writing process. And the football a bit, obviously…

You’ve been recording a new album, or writing a new album. How’s that coming along?

Yeah, kind of both really, in that I sort of do it as one process, like most people with the writing and recording. It’s coming along slowly, but I’m really, really pleased. I haven’t released an album in earnest for about fifteen, sixteen years really, so it’s great to have some songs that I’m really enjoying, and it’s a really good moment I think for us… The band is really playing well, there’s a good feeling, people are really enjoying it, and the sun is shining, and…it’s quite inspiring to want to do a new record really.

Yeah, that sounds good. You’re saying you record and write at the same time, you go into the studio to write? 

Well when I used to do my first albums, ‘Pure’ and stuff like that, they were all recorded at home really, I didn’t have a record contract. They just sort of started with me just on a tape machine in the attic, and then gradually I got a studio, but mostly… ‘Life of Riley’ and all that  [was] recorded in the front room at home. Originally it was just me… then on the third album I got a band and started playing live, but the recordings have always been a bit of a solitary process. That’s sort of the way I’ve always done it…does that explain it a bit?

So you wouldn’t like writing under pressure? You wouldn’t like to, say, have a studio booked and need to produce an album? 

It’s not really to do with that. I tend to come up with an idea and start doodling around on the tape machine and start recording things and build it up from there… I sort of add things as I go, it’s hard to explain but that’s kind of my process… There’s loads of ways of recording, but…if you’re a great band and you’ve all grown up together at school or something, and you’re all in a rehearsal room, and it sounds great, then you just go in… and that’s your record. But obviously when it’s just you, that’s not really what you do.

What would be your process with producing people? I’m looking at your production discography here and it’s huge. I hadn’t realised you’d produced so many bands. (Ian has produced for The Fall, Echo and the Bunnymen, Miles Kane, The Coral and many more acts).

I haven’t actually produced anyone for about ten years, I did do Miles Kane’s album, because we co-wrote some of the songs, and Miles is a close friend, but I very rarely produce these days, so I don’t have kind of (laughs) method, really.

How would you work with artists in the studio? How much would you be leading them? 

The job of a producer is to take what the artist is doing and is trying to achieve, and clear the way and make it so that they can. Obviously it’s different with everyone you work with… I think when people are in bands or whatever, they have an idea of what they sound like in their head, and they think it sounds like that, but it usually doesn’t, so you try and make it sound like what they think it sounds like already.

That makes sense. Speaking of Miles Kane, what new music have you been listening to and what excites you (if anything)? 

I’ve always liked lots of different things. When I was a kid… I loved Bowie and Bolan and all that, but if it was ACDC, I’d love ACDC’s best bits as well… You get a lot of people saying ‘I’m into rock’ or ‘I’m into EDM’, but I think I’ve always just liked the best bits…I’d be happy listening to Talking Heads when I was sixteen, seventeen, when their first album came out, but then I’d be listening to Donna Summer ‘I Feel Love’. I’ve always just been attracted to great records, I think. That didn’t answer your question at all, did it? (laughs)

Would you say you’re more into great singles? 

Just songs, I suppose…I’ve just never really been someone who goes to a certain section of a record shop and that’s where my stuff is. I could be listening to Dylan, or Drake… I’m just looking at my playlist…The Clash, Françoise Hardy, Angelica Garcia, The National, Bob Dylan, Arctic Monkeys, Candi Staton, Lambchop, Rex Orange County, Lorde…it’s so messed up, really. Glen Campbell, Steve Lacy…I think it’s from all eras as well… I’m a terrible DJ, I’m always attracted to bits in the records. I might play a record, and people say ‘this is really boring’ and I go ‘wait, the way it goes to the middle eight’, which obviously is fine, but not if you’re dancing…

 I thought because of the day it is that I should ask you about England tonight. What do you expect? 

Yeah, sure. I’m going to look pretty stupid because by the time this comes out they’ll have played, won’t they?

Well (laughs). That’s all I’m going to say, really. I have no idea. Well, it just feels that they haven’t really played anyone yet, but it’s obvious that they’re loads better than they have been…now they’ve got Harry Kane, who you just can’t deny, he just scores goals, and he’s scoring goals at the World Cup. And I think if you’ve got a player like that, you’ve always got a chance, haven’t you?… It’ll be a lot easier to know if we’re any good after this game, and I really hope we are.

On a similar note, what did you have in mind when you were making ‘Three Lions,’ and how much of it was you? Did you have that lyrical feeling of not knowing whether to be optimistic or not, or was that Baddiel and Skinner? 

That was all the boys, they wrote it, and they should get great credit for that because it’s a fantastic lyric… There were certain things we obviously wanted to avoid – I don’t really like nationalism, and the England fans were sometimes quite ugly, weren’t they, especially in the past…

And also for me… I’m a Liverpool fan, so a song I love is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, and I’d love that song even if I wasn’t a football fan I think. It’s kind of got this feeling of community and of being together… I suppose it’s like a socialist song. It’s a very empathetic song for me… it’s about a feeling… ‘Three Lions’ in a small way has that. It feels like a fan’s viewpoint, doesn’t it… and when we talked about it beforehand, I certainly wanted to do something from a fan’s point of view. The reason that I asked them to do the record with me was because I’d seen ‘Fantasy Football’, and they had a fan’s point of view… Apart from ‘it’s coming home’, they wrote the rest of the whole lyric.

It’s interesting that you worked together on getting an exact angle on it, because it does feel like a fan’s point of view. It doesn’t feel like it’s just advertising the team or bigging them up. Like you say, it’s a different look at it compare to other world cup songs… 

I think it is. As a fan, you mostly feel worried or disappointed in general, don’t you? You’re not running around going ‘hooray’ all the time as a Newcastle fan, are you? You feel worried, or relieved. I mean, it wasn’t very well received at the time. Obviously, the FA were very dubious when they heard it… the first thing they heard was Alan Hansen going ‘we’ll go on getting bad results’, and they were like ‘what’s this?’, you know? So they weren’t that pleased.

INTERVIEWER: JACK BLENKINSOPP

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