Cambridge Junction, 2.11.05

Hard-fi are, to quote the recent interview with Q, 'the sound of pissed-off kids in Everytown, UK'. From their videos, I can safely say I was expecting some quite scary looking characters, so I was very surprised when I came to meet them early on in the day of their gig at The Junction, and they were, well, really lovely guys. They even took my friend and I onto their tour bus which was filled with.... apples, marmite and bottles of ... water. A couple of days after the birth of his daughter, Edith Rose, bassist Kai Stephens is
one happy chappy and more than happy to answer a few questions for Repeat. 'Interviews are cool, yeah man bring it on...' And so we do.....

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

Where does the name Hard-fi come from?
There was a producer called Lee Scratch Perry, this really famous guy, and when they asked him he described the sound of his studio as Hard-fi, you know, as opposed to hi-fi or lo-fi. And that's where we took it from, 'cos that's our sound- not the normal but this great mix of sounds with a bit of aggression in there too.

Tell us about your involvement with Rock against Racism and the Who Shot The Sheriff video.
We were approached to do it and we think it's a really good idea. We were really proud to do it. Watching it back, it was a really good evening. I mean racism is fucking awful man and it's still there. It still needs addressing....and it's something we really wanted to be a part of. And music's a great way to do it to get the message across to people.

Neville Staples from The Specials and Richard Archer from Hard-Fi at the launch of Who Shot The Sheriff (pic Angela Stapleford www.lmhr.org.uk)

Which bands or records had the biggest influence on you as you were growing up and are you inspired by any of your contemporaries?
Inspired by contemporaries... yeah I think we are a little bit. Me personally, I'm inspired by dance music and mixes. There's so many cool bands that inspire me - Maximo Park, Kaiser Chiefs, Futureheads who we're playing some shows with in France next week. They all inspire us. Growing up, well it's gotta be The Specials and ... yeah loads actually: The Clash, New Order, Happy Mondays, dance music as a whole, reggae music as a
whole, no one thing.

So you wouldn't class yourself as any particular genre of music?
No, we're not any definite style. Well, Richard and are really into soul music. And the others are into different stuff, a big variety. We're not premeditated or consciously thinking this is a ska record or this is a punk record. We just go with however it feels at the time and that's the record we make.

What do you think of the state of music nowadays and the way a lot of bands have a very similar sound?
I can't think of a band that's changed from the formula really, but that doesn't make it or them bad. There's a market out there for that sound so as long as that market's there, more bands are gonna play that style of music. I think we've come up with something that bit different though and that's cool.

Would you do any covers and will you include them in your live shows?
We've actually done two covers now. For the live shows we do Seven Nation's Army White Stripes' ... wait ... no that's not right ... The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army. Yeah there we go! Yeah and The Stranglers' Peaches was the b-side to 'Tied up too tight'. That was a good one. We got round to doin that 'cos the BBC wanted to celebrate the anniversary of punk. So there were quite a few of us all there, yeah the Ordinary Boys were there too and we did some cool covers of punk tunes.

Are there any other artists you'd like to cover?
I haven't really thought about it. I should really. It's a good idea 'cos there's a lot of good stuff around. Actually ... *starts singing, 'I told u once I told u twice'* That'd be a good one. Rolling Stones yeah they'd be cool. Maps has been mentioned within the band too. Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. We'd like to cover that at some point.

What have been some of your personal highlights or defining moments of the tour and the last year?
Just thinking, 'Wow this is actually happening!' It's been amazing. Touring Europe was great, just great! We did continuous gigs for seven days in a row- Germany, Brussels, Amsterdam. It was a proper rock n roll holiday. I had such a good time!

Do you get to see much of the places you visit when you're on tour?
Yeah well I do cos I just wander around and get lost at like 2 or 3 in the morning when the gig's over and everyone's in bed. It's cool spending those precious moments on my own. 'Cos we are all living together, working and socialising all at the same time. So it's cool to just wander about. I write down the street name and that's it- I just get a taxi and I'm off.

What do you think about your Mercury Music Prize nomination?
That was really cool yeah. Initially it was kinda like 'Eh? How'd this happen? When was the cut off? I mean, The Futureheads aren't on there, so many bands aren't, but we were! I think it was really obvious just how much belief we'd put into the record. I really thought we were gonna win it. Once the night came I really really thought we were gonna win. It was literally just one vote between us and Antony and the Johnsons and he got it. It was gutting but just being there, it was a real kinda 'where we've come from to where we've got to moment'. I mean before all this I was in pest control, a real shitty job. Well, some bits of it were good 'cos that's why I did it, but this is just my dream job. It is for all of us and we've put in such a lot of hard work to get here that to be nominated was really cool.

You must have fulfilled many of your goals this year. What are your hopes and ambitions for the next year and from then on?
Yeah we've achieved so much it's hard to believe. We wanna take it into the stratosphere now and get a ten year, maybe more, career out of this. We wanna make the next record even better than the last one. We've got our foot in the door now and we're playing huge venues. I mean this place (The Junction) is actually one of the smallest ones on the tour.

Will you still try and play smaller venues even as you grow in popularity?
I don't know, I guess it all depends on demand. If we can play a big gig, we'll play a big one 'cos that's just amazing to do. I can't wait to be able to make that choice! We actually supported Green Day for two nights and that was so good. Something like that determines how successful you've been.

Is it a very different experience playing massive arenas compared with smaller venues like this?
Course it is, yeah course! With the big arenas, like when we were supporting Green Day, we felt like footballers walking out onto the pitch and looking out at the massive crowds. People heckled us 'cos they didn't know who we were, but we didn't care. We were supporting Green Day!

What can we expect from your performance tonight at The Junction?
I just hope my voice gets better! I'm drinking this soup thing and staying off the fags so with any luck it'll be back to normal. Last night it just completely went near the end and I was croaking but the soup seems to be working so all's good! *suddenly we hear a loud booming voice shouting 'bah bah bah' again and again* 'sorry' says kai, laughing, 'that's our sound guy. he's really cool, checking everything's good for tonight, but he ain't half noisy! where was I? Oh yeah tonight yeah! Expect a lot of energy, aggression and raw rock n roll! I can't wait!

What other bands do you think will have a big impact on the music scene in 2006?
Obviously Arctic Monkeys are going to do really well. There's a lot of hype surrounding them but they've got the music to back it up and they've got the lyrics too so they're cool. There's also a wicked band just starting out at the moment - Claw. Their debut album's an absolute corker!

Do you think the way that bands like Arctic Monkeys are getting so big so quickly and reaching No. 1 is opening up opportunities for lots of new indie bands?
Yeah I think it is. It's a really positive thing that the music's so much more accessible now and bands that were virtually unheard of are getting a chance to make it big. There's a lot of buzz surrounding them and indie music as a whole at the moment. For new music to get airplay is always good so I'm all for it!

What do you think about music downloading and the way its helped a lot of new bands?
I think it's good that it helped them get to such a high chart position. I think it's a good thing, but to be honest I'm not a good one to ask *laughing* I don't even have a computer! I go to the library a couple of times a week to check and send emails but that's about it. I'm not very good with technology!

And finally the main question we have to ask you - Chips or cream buns?
Chips, it's gotta be chips! Chips with mayonnaise.
Yeah the mayonnaise can be instead of the cream, cool!

Interview done, Kai looks over nervously and says, 'Was that okay? Could you tell I was nervous?' Awwwwww, he's so lovely! I was getting more and more excited for the gig tonight, and what a treat it was.

by Francesca Frazer

Read Francesca's review of the gig here

Pix from Bristol gig by Steve Bateman, pix below from Cambridge by Mike Warburton, see more from this gig and other bands too at

Massive thanks to Jo at Press Counsel for sorting all of this out

Get Tied Up Too Tight about this interview on our R*E*P*E*A*T message board here

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looking forward to it. (Laughs). It's difficult to say because the last few months have felt strange, it's felt like going down a plughole. I've got a real sense of vertigo at the moment. So I can't tell you that I'm looking forward to it. I will get through it and find where I land after that. That's what will happen.

Lucy: 'Taxidermy' and 'Drink Me' are quite drastically different in their musical styles, so what kind of sound can we expect from the 3rd album?
KJG: We don't know yet. We're playing a lot of new material tonight so you'll be able to judge that for yourself. When I'm this close up to it, it's really difficult to tell. I'm on a bit of a negative slant today, but usually with our music I can only hear the bits that have gone wrong rather
than anything that went right. When you reflect back on something it's very difficult to give an objective opinion, and I don't believe in objectivity anyway, I think everything's subjective. I just throw a deck of cards and
wherever they land, that's where she finds herself. I'm not really the one to explain my part in it, you must do that as the observer really, and of course that will reflect your part in the grand scheme of things.

Lucy: Do you enjoy playing live more than the creative process in the studio?
KJG: (Laughs) I don't enjoy any of it. It comes and it goes, ok? There's nothing like when you're writing and you manage to catch something by its
tail; when you're looking for those things underground that are skittering out of sight just when you're about to catch them. And when you catch them it is worth it, but it's a momentary pleasure. I've got so much noise upstairs, and I can hear things in my head that to me are absolutely devastatingly beautiful. I'm always trying to download them and get them
here, but they never get here in the right state, they're always very disabled and they don't even begin to imitate what I can hear in my head.
It's a frustrating process in the main.

Lucy: Your lyrics are simultaneously emotionally expressive and cryptic. Are you looking to be understood by your audience?
KJG: I'm always trying to understand myself, but it's like there's a point in the centre of the room, and there's a hundred windows to look at the same point from. All I can do is give you different angles on the same thing. God, you know, if I could find one conclusive thing in anything I would probably have something to put an anchor down on. But I cant, and I haven't met anyone that can. You can pick out anything you like in my lyrics, I don't seek to be cryptic. I love words for the sake of words, for me they're kind of free standing, and they don't really need to be explained. I think every word has its own character and colour and picture and the result you get with lyrics just depends how you put them together. You could just do it in a William Burroughs esque way, or throw the deck of cards, and you'd probably still find something that our tiny little minds would latch on to in order to gain some kind of emotional understanding. I don't think there's a constant, the only constant that there is for me is that there is no constant. I use myself as my canvas, I gut myself and fillet myself the whole fucking time, I'm always hooking myself out of the water, I'm always cutting my own head off and disembowelling myself, and as you can probably tell I'm quite angry about it at the moment. I'm very tired of it all, of my
process and how I find life, because it always seems to be about living and dying all in one breath. I'm getting pretty fucking tired of that.

Lucy: Do you think drugs stimulate or hinder creativity?
KJG: Well that depends on the drug, because I think most things arrive in the form of a drug really. I know in myself that if anything I am, much to my greater expense, an adrenalin junkie. My synapses don't work well enough to put pills in my mouth, I can't do that, despite popular opinion. I don't need any help breaking down, put it that way. There's not much holding it
together. If there was a drug that could put aline between two polar opposites and make them in to one thing I'm sure I would have it
intravenous, but I haven't found it. I think drugscan be a bit of a lazy way for creativity anyway, you're better off in the cold light of day in the mirror.

Lucy: As a band, you are distinguished by the extreme physicality of your live performances. Do you consciously make an effort to put on a show or do your performances just naturally come to you, and whatever happens, happens?
KJG: It's a bit of both, because you see, I think taking the stage is one of the most unnatural things anyone can do. In a way, just walking on stage actually creates an altered state - its not right, no one's meant to do that, unless you're a priest or a magician, or something like that. To put somebody who's very incapable in many ways in to that position creates a combustion reaction inside me. I know that, and I take the stage knowing that. Obviously there's all the usual things that affect my performance; if I'm on my 45th day of a tour I'm probably gonna be pretty fucking tired, so I'll be dictated by that. If I'm doing new material like tonight I don't
know what's going to happen, because we haven't built the train tracks yet. The beauty of playing live is when my drummer goes in to 5th gear or in to 10th gear, and for some reason there's something that hits me in the base of the spine and I'm gone, and that's Halleluiah for me. During the last few months a lot of strange things have been happening onstage, I think the process is changing. I don't know what's going to happen tonight, I've been having quite a tough time on stage, I feel like something's pulling me under, as if something's got me.

Lucy: So does the crowd influence your performances on stage?
KJG: Yes they do. I'm unkind enough to be pretty impersonal about how I do it, so I use them for me to kick against in effect, or to surf on, (I don't
mean physically surf). If you're in an empty roomand there's a couple of people at the back, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a bad show -
they might get the show of their lives. And then again when something's really heaving and going off, I get quite a distorted view of it, because I
can feel quite overwhelmed lose my sense of place in the situation. I lose control of myself. I don't know, I probably wasn't meant to do this, I
wasn't built for this. It wasn't a career option, I didn't start there and go there, I didn't pick up the things on the way. I've sort of gone round
and round.

Lucy: As the lead singer of the band, most media interest is focused on you. Do you feel pressurised by your position or do you enjoy being the centre of attention?
KJG: I've been here on this wheel long enough,(and I say this with a little bit of trepidation because I think you have to be really careful with this kind of thing, because the motivation to do it in itself I think is usually pretty corrupt) I'm not doing it for anyone else, I need a cheque through the door like anybody else does, you have to keep eating, you have to keep living. I'm looking for some sense of going home on my own terms, and people's critique of me is not relevant, whether it's positive of negative.
I do need a cheque through the door though, otherwise I'll have to go and be a butcher or something.

Lucy: What is the religious meaning behind the song "For I am the way"?
KJG: If you use the word religion in its truest sense, all it means is communion, it hasn't got any of the attachments to any written word. My
understanding of the word communion is loss of the sense. Another way of looking at it is you've got to get in to get out, and the only thing that I
know to be true is me, is this tiny little dot in the centre of the universe. It's the only thing that I know feels pain; I can see other people's pain and I can feel it in an emotional way, but not in a physical way. I find myself in the unfortunate position of feeling like I am the
centre of the universe and that everything is a projection, made by me - i.e. you two don't exist, you're something that I created. I don't wish that
sense upon anybody because it's not a good one. Through 'For I am the way' I'm saying that you've got to get in, because the only thing one knows to be true is oneself. And on a good day, if you stand on top of a mountain or go to the desert or stand in the ocean, and become completely inconsequential, linear time stops and you become everything and nothing. That for me is
communion, that's how I define religion. I thinkthere's a line in there which goes "Today the only bridge I have I burn" which sums it up really, because it is about cutting all lines of communication in order to really truly commune.

Lucy: Do you think that in the future your creativity will move from the sphere of music in to literature for example?
KJG: It's real hard to say. In a way, that sounds like a much easier life. But for all I know I'm deluding myself. I'm looking for someone to help me frame something at the moment, and someone is actually, someone's being really good to me. I would love to write, but I don't know if I'm good
enough to do it.