The Automatic, 20.2.07, Cambridge Corn Exchange

"Our ambition got cast aside
Thrown away when the batteries died
And you start to compromise
Just to get to the other side" (Raoul)

Barely 6 months on from the release of Monsters, The Automatic are now firmly in the big time. Rosey and Jordie met with Rob (bass/vocals) who was drying his washing in the very salubrious confines of the Corn Exchange washroom, to see if they're still up for making a stand.

- Here, put the mic on this towel, it'll make for a good sound.
*(R) I can see you're a bit of a sound engineer.
- They had me standing on a towel while I was recording my parts!
* (J) My Mum thought that Frost looked a bit ill so we've brought him so vitamin pills…
- Really? He does let himself go a bit on tour, he'll probably eat these all at once.
* (J) So, how's the tour going?
- The tour's going really well, all the gigs have been really great, though it's been really tiring personally the gigs have been no problem - they've been the easiest thing of the whole thing. There was only one that was a bit rubbish, that was Southampton, we played OK but not amazingly well, and the room was really weird, by coincidence it was the room that my girl friend had had her 6th form leavers ball in, it had really heavy architecture as it's designed for balls and our sound wasn't very good; they didn't have any towels on the wall! Also the monitors were half way back on the stage, so there was an extra bit of stage just jutting out that we couldn't use.

*(J) Have The View been a hard act to follow?
- Yes and no. Fans have been chanting "The View are on fire", and we were kind of expecting that, as they've had a number one album and it's their moment, but in terms of our own actual performance, I think we've done well, it's not as if we've been lacking in comparison with them. I suppose we've got something to prove but it's just a matter of holding our quarter.
[At this point someone comes in to use the washing machines]
* (R) Do you think that there's a danger that you've been flavour of the month, you've had a huge hit and now the press and so on will knock you down, like happened to GLC, and countless others?
- I think bands like GLC and The Darkness, they are just novelty bands whose second album was always likely to sell badly. I'm not too worried, our album's done all it was ever going to do, NME have said all they can say about us and now we're going to America for a bit, we're going to give Britain a break until we make our 'triumphant return from America'! We're going to do half the Warped Tour and then we're doing some more dates on the East Coast of America, but they've not been booked yet. We're going to New York after SxSW, where we're playing the Welsh stage. I've never been to America so I'm really looking forward to it, I'm a bit of an America-phile, I stayed up all last American election night hoping to watch George Bush lose. I was gutted. We have a massive fan in America who's helping to spread the word; I don't think we'll have the same problems as The Arctic Monkeys and The Kaiser Chiefs as we're less regional; Arctic Monkeys weren't even understood in Southern England, but I don't think we'll have that problem in the States. Also we're influenced by American bands, not as blatantly as The Lost Prophets are, but you can hear it in our music, so hopefully we'll be well received.

*(J) Do you get on well with the other bands?
- We don't get on badly, we've not interacted too much though we are more now than we were at the start, but everyone's just doing their own thing. We know Mumm-Ra anyway as they toured with us in October, and they're really nice guys. I know we've said stuff about The Horrors in the NME and Faris said some things back, but I apologised to them in Nottingham and it's fine. The View are just getting out of their heads as they've had a number one album, and we've not seen a lot of them! They may have stolen our beer on some occasions but we've not had a fight with them, as may have been reported.
*(J) Who do you think is harder, Pennie or Spider?
- Spider, cos Pennie gets ill a lot! He'll have to take some of those vitamin pills.
*(J) So is the war between you and The Horrors just a publicity stunt?
- It came about cos we got a cover feature for the NME and in the interview we were asked bout them, as the NME were trying to hype them up and wanted to do anything to get their name in there, and I'd heard a bit of them and didn't think they were that great so I criticised them, but really my criticism was with the NME for promoting bands that don't really deserve it when there's so many bands getting absolutely nowhere who deserve more publicity. But this was sort of twisted by the paper; all the quotes were accurate but they were out of context so it made it look like we were having a massive go at The Horrors for about half an hour. It was definitely us that started it, and that's not something I'm amazingly proud of. We did say everything we were quoted as saying and we shouldn't have slagged them off in such a public forum, but it wasn't exactly unprovoked by the NME.
*(R) It sells papers…
- Yeah, they love it, I'm pretty sure that's why they've put this tour together, to get some volatile chemistry going.

* (J) How have the new songs, 'Steve McQueen' and 'Revolution' been going down?
- [Impressed] You've done your research, haven't you? They've gone down really well actually. We've stopped playing 'Revolution' cos 'Steve McQueen' is likely to be a single so we want to get that out there, and also we're playing a new cover and we thought it was too much new material to have 2 new songs and a new cover. Both songs might get new names, they were just working titles that stuck, but they've been going down well, yes. We were working on recording 'Steve McQueen' just before we begun this tour, one part of it's got 104 vocals! It sounds like the most in tune football crowd you've ever heard; it was just me and Frost singing together recorded 52 times. If it's subtly mixed it will work really well.
* (J) Any news of a new album?
- We've been writing but with the tour to America I don't think it's realistically going to come out before the end of the year.

*(J) Has Frost got any further with Tiger Woods on his PSP?
- I don't know actually. He got really obsessed with it as did our guitar tech Jamie, they'd play til they fell asleep and wake up with the controllers in their hands, I've got one as well but I don't use it that much.

* (J) Do you want to say anything about the Benefit for Burberry?
- Yes I do actually cos it's something that really pisses me off. China has an appalling human rights record anyway, so for a British company to go over there and seemingly endorse and condone it by making their shirts over there, it devalues their product and it destroys the community of the little post industrial town in the South Wales valley where the factory was before. It costs Burberry at the moment £5 to make a shirt at their Welsh factory and they sell for £60 on the High Street, even with transport and mark ups, it's still an extortionate difference, how much more money do they need? It's disgusting! And in China I guess slaves will make them for pence each and loads of people in Britain will lose their jobs, it's just evil all round! It's shameless greed.

*(R) In my Junior School guitar class I've been teaching "Same Jeans" and "Monsters" (which Rhodri can play just as well as you lot, and he's 10!), what was the first song you learnt on bass?
- Probably 'Smoke on the Water' cos it's easy!
*(R) Aaaahh! That's banned in my classes!
- Frost and I begun playing together, I mostly learnt by listening to 'Californiacation' and learning to play every song on there.

* (R) Sitting by a spin dryer waiting for your washing to dry, is that one of the more rock'n'roll moments of the tour?
- One of the least, but I've two bags worth of clothes to wash and if it gets them clean and dry then I don't care.

* (J) So finally, as ever, what's best chips or cream buns?
- Chips, without a doubt.
* (R) The right answer! Jordie, do you want to give Rob your CD?
*(J) Oh yes, here's some tracks I recorded myself…
- Oh wicked! We'll listen to that on the bus tonight, we've a long journey to Exeter so that'll be great!

Thanks to Rob for his time, to Mike the tour manager and to Warren of Chuff Music for sorting things out (again). Live pix by Steve Bateman, see more of his Automatic pix here