Gordon Moakes of Bloc Party – Interview – 06.01.05

At this point, people are familiar with the Bloc Party. The past year has forced their career into overdrive with a rigorous touring schedule and the release of their debut album Silent Alarm (Vice Records). Musically, they nestle themselves inside the current ‘it’ genre of dance punk, a relentlessly upbeat relapse into the 80’s finer moments. Bloc Party jumbles in a wild mix of influences from the proceeding and following decades and fashion something particularly tuneful and infectious.

As my first interview for Loose, I was excited to chat with a band whose work I genuinely adored. After a handful of missed attempts due to poor cell phone reception and scheduling snafus, I finally got a chance to talk with bassist Gordon Moakes while Bloc Party was on the West Coast.

Loose Record: So, I was curious, where are you now?

Previously published on Loose Record

Gordon: San Francisco.

LR: What leg of the tour are you in, how much longer do you guys have?

G: Oh, it’s a good two weeks, three weeks maybe.

LR: So far, what’s been your favorite gig, which one have you been most proud of?

G: On this tour?

LR: Yeah.

G: We had two good ones; we had a great one in Portland, though it was kind of neck and neck with this one we played in Vancouver as well.

LR: What made them so good?

G: The first one was just the crowd, they were really into it, they were very accessible, there was quite a long wide stage; you could kind of reach everyone almost from wherever you were. The Vancouver show was just as good really, packed, a great night, loads of fun.

LR: I was looking at your website and was seeing that the tour was going to keep going on, and I was thinking that when you’re on the road for so long, how do you keep your center, your head screwed on right?

G: It’s not easy, I think like *laughs* for me, it’s been a well-timed cigarette now and again. And time on my own and being able to keep in contact with loved ones who are on different sides of the world or the country. Just don’t think of yourself constantly as just “being in a band”, you know, actually do things that remind you that you’re human *laughs*.

LR: I guess that can be kind of hard when you’re away from home for so long.

G: I mean if your entire schedule and routine was geared up to the fact that you’re playing, you just forget you’re a person *laughs*. I think that’s the downfall of bands, the just forget who they are and live this world of a band too much.

LR: When do you have the next long break from touring?

G: Well we have a few days off this tour before Glastonbury, and then I think right at the end of July we have two weeks off, so then we’ll be having some holiday time.

LR: What’s the first thing you’re going to do, are you going to go home during that time?

G: My girlfriend lives in New York, so I’ll go there and then we’re going on holiday for a week somewhere.

LR: Are you looking forward to doing Glastonbury?

G: Yeah, I am actually. It’s a great little…well, it’s a great big festival *laughs*. I think it’ll be amazing if we’re this good…it’ll be a really nice way to spend a weekend.

LR: Is there anyone there that you’re excited to see?

G: Um, I haven’t really checked. There’s a band called Your Code Name is Milo, who are a sort of young British rock band, I’ve really been enjoying their record, but I haven’t seen them play yet. That’s a possibility for me, because they’re playing Glastonbury…hopefully on the same day.

LR: Something I wanted to ask you that I’ve been thinking about…it seems like people can have good press before anything’s been put to print because of the internet. That the route to fame has been made so much shorter, with bands like The Arcade Fire, you guys…What do you think about that, your general perspective and also being a part of that quick take off.

G: I don’t know, we don’t really have anything else to judge it by. I think if we had another life as another band another time we’d be able to judge it against what it’s like to work, you know we did work quite hard for quite a while. There were a couple of years where we were just gigging with different drummers, trying to get somewhere and it was hard, so it’s not like we’ve just instantly arrived. On the other hand, this year has been just a great turn for us and we’re in a point where it feels like there’s momentum going through.

LR: I think the best way to look at it is, it’s not necessarily that the path is quicker but the moment between obscurity and fame is allot shorter. You get bands like The Arcade Fire that get one good write-up and are selling out shows on their first tour…

G: Well, I think you still have to follow through with it and maybe it does mean that you can get a chance earlier on to prove what they do, rather than like waiting for someone to spot them, but still I think if you can’t cut it, then you’re forgotten and that’s probably the way it should be.

LR: That’s very true. I read somewhere that you guys, to a degree, were involved with your website blocparty.com, for a while there was a tour journal…is that true?

G: Yeah, oh yeah, not anymore, but for a period I designed and built the whole thing myself and I used to post stuff, but I haven’t had the time anymore. Things got busy.

LR: The banners that popped up on the site recently, makepovertyhistory.org, what’s that and how did you get involved with them?

G: Its kind of a campaign that a lot of charities, websites, and different people are getting involved in, it’s quite plain really, its just about addressing the wrongs of third world countries. It’s not something that can be achieved by individuals; it’s all about corporations really. Just saying you’re involved can highlight the cause of things. It’s been quite good in getting a good profile for the campaign.

LR: Songs on the album like “Helicopter” and “Price of Gas” touch on world issues. Do you think that overtly political music is effective?

G: Depends on what you’re trying to do, really. I mean, we never claimed we were going to change the world or anything, you know?

LR: That’s what I’m saying, it’s not overt, you just touch on it.

G: I think for us, it’s just having an awareness of what’s going on and it’s communicating rather than trying to preach. So, I guess if people pick up on it, there’s some effectiveness there. We’re not trying to change people’s ideas or anything, we’re just communicating really.

LR: Just relating what you see around you.

G: Yeah.

LR: I’ve been a fan of Vice magazine for a while, what made you sign with Vice Records?

G: They’re the best. *laughs* I just meet so many record, well we didn’t meet that many record executives, but there’s this culture in American record labels of facelessness, it’s a huge machine, you never know who you’re dealing with, and everyone’s really pally with you when they don’t know who you are, and yet on my first night in New York with the people from Vice, it felt like I could get on with them. We were there with the guy who founded Vice. He’s not some big shot executive, he’s got his desk in the room there with everyone else, he’s involved day in day out with the record label, he’s just a really nice guy… that for me was it. Relating to people who knew what they were doing, they had a kind of independence to their way of working, who you could pick up the phone and talk to if you wanted to and they’ll know what’s going on. They’re not a part of some chain. They’ve got a great sense of humor. There just so few record labels like that in America, it’s just great to be able to work with them.

LR: They’ve got allot of good people signed to them as a consequence of that business model.

G: Definitely and they’re not afraid of selling records. We’ve just sold, I think we just gone over the 100,000 mark here and they’ve never been weary of getting that done.

LR: What was the last full time job you held down before music became everything you did?

G: I had a full time job for a long time, I was a graphic designer and I did that for five years.

LR: Have you ever had any interesting promo/comp/freebie items tossed your way?

G: Freebie? Nothing that exciting. We get allot of trainers, t-shirts, and hats.

LR: Nothing ridiculous then?

G: Nothing ridiculous, not really. The ridiculous thing is t-shirts that are all too big for us because we’re all really skinny. We get these huge t-shirts and we don’t know what to do with them.

LR: Who’s your favorite contemporary act right now?

G: Hmm, that’s a good one. *pause* I really like Broken Social Scene, I’m really curious to see what they do with their next record. There are allot of bands in Canada right now that are doing really interesting stuff. We’ve got one with us on the road at the moment called Kiss Me Deadly and I definitely think they’re worth investigating.

LR: Is there anyone you’re dying to do a tour with or are you sick of touring?

G: *laugh* *pause* Um, yeah…I’m sick of touring. No, there’s a really great Scottish band that we’re going out with called Sluts of Trust. Looking forward to playing with them. A two piece guitar and drum act.

LR: Well, that exhausts my questions. Thank you very much for your time.

G: Thank you.

Previously published on Loose Record

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