I catch up with Broadcast at their studio in the Custard Factory in Birmingham (yes, Birds did used to make custard here!)
They've been here for the last few months day in day out working on the first album. They will not rest until it is finished.
Over to the band to tell me what's happening.
"We've been wasting a lot of time with producers. We had one here the other week and he walked out on us. He's worked for
20 years with all sorts of studio tensions but he could not handle us. He said, "look, if you just want someone to come round
and plug things in then you've got the wrong guy." Basically we've always wanted to do things ourselves. Initially we loved the
idea of getting a producer in. We would tell him how we wanted to record something and that's what would happen, and they
would do it in a really good way. We wanted someone who would sort of join the band and offer some really good ideas as
well; they'll experiment and do things that they've never tried before. But with the ones we've had it's as if you're paying for their
sound, and they're no George Martins or Phil Spectors either!
"Rob from Warp has been really supportive. He was actually there and instigated part of the fact that the last guy walked out. I
think taste problems arose and people got touchy. It was just coming out sounding like an indie band. We're working by
ourselves at the moment. It might sound arrogant but we really just don't want to piss anyone else off! It seems that you do that
the more you say you want something done in a certain way."
Broadcast have been gigging for over two years now, "James and Trish started it off, it was like a song and a load of ideas. We
all tried to make the music that we could not buy. I know it's a cliche but that's basically it. Things get really difficult when the
market gets flooded by all sorts of things that might touch on what you are doing. It's not actually specific to one particular band
it's more of a climate change. You seem to hear elements cropping up in all sorts of things like production techniques or using
Moogs. At the moment it all hangs on the fact that we got bored with what we used to be like. We are redefining things, a lot of
reworking going on. Sometimes that does not give you the same amount of thrill as when you first had that song. I'm sure we'll
crack it though.
"I think it's a move away from the live thing, always bearing in mind that we still want to write songs. We never want to have
those long, drifting soundscapes but we want to incorporate those ideas into songs. We've recorded a few but we are not going
to use them. They sound shit! It was the symptoms of working with people who do not get what you are trying to do.
"With the singles we've always been concerned about putting out pop music. They will always get judged the same as any other
single and retailed in the same way. Hopefully we'll do something in the album that will shift away from that. They'll still be pop
"These days we are a lot less nervous on stage and probably able to play a bit better. The idea was always to have a set that
played from beginning to end and worked as a whole piece. We do use samples a lot more live now. Basically because we've
been able to afford a sampler! That's given us another dimension. The sound will always come from things being triggered live;
we would not like to rely on computers to activate things on stage.
"You don't really know what the public think. When you are on stage you only see the first ten lines of people. When they're not
clapping it's like you can only hear a little patter in the background. It does not feel like anyone notices. Sometimes the response
is really good. We try to play with as many different types of bands though playing with the Aphex Twin was a bad idea. It was
a dance gig. I suppose it could have been worse - the audience could have actually assaulted us! The Reading Festival was
good. Playing the Brats at the Astoria last year was terrible. We had a really bad problem with the sound on stage, we just wish
we could have done something better for the audience. We played a festival in Germany, that's the best we've ever done with an
audience there was over a thousand people there. They really got into it at the end waving lighters at the back!
"We had some ridiculous chances early on like touring with Stereolab. We've had bad press at times. They were never really
that bad, they were kind of telling us what we already knew like exposing songs that are not quite ready. We've not suffered
from the personal attacks where they single people out; it's kind of blanket "this band are...." kind of thing. We were on the
NMEC96 CD but I feel we were a bit of a token gesture. We've just been in Select and they say we're one of the bands for
98. It's nice to be mentioned.
"The connection with Warp records came about when we were looking for a label. We sent them a demo and they came to see
us. Now that they've signed Plone Rob says he ought to have an office in Birmingham because he comes down here so much.
We feel that they can take us all the way, they think the same way we do. We signed to Sire records in America. At the
moment our compilation album is out on Drag City. We've never played over there; we've only met record company people in
nice parts of New York. It would be interesting to know who those people are in America who are buying our records and
writing about us in fanzines.
"We use all sorts of instruments, analogue, digital, some quite old. We did look for a load of things specifically, driving up to
Glasgow for one keyboard. You can get a nostalgic 60s sound that's audible with all this gear. We don't spend enough time
going round car boot sales, we just tend to see the advert and drive to Scotland the following day! Bentley Rhythm Ace picked
up on all that culture of second-hand, I think we had part of that sort of scene because we could not afford anything new.
Everything we had was second-hand and I think that does make a certain sound.
"The atmosphere around Birmingham is brilliant, it's really classic. There does seem to be an appetite for new things. People are
willing to suffer the consequences of anything that's experimental just to see something that's different from the normal guitar
bands. The audience has come from the same place that we did except we actually formed a band trying to do something about
it. It was not just to do with being brave - it's just that playing our instruments is all that we can do! The good thing about all the
bands around here is although we're all quite friendly it's quite competitive as well. Plone lent us a minidisc of their songs plus a
load of Morricone and Les Baxter stuff. The Morricone stuff was first on the minidisc and I did not click and thought it was
Plone. I thought it was incredible and could not believe how much they had changed. I told Mark from Plone this and a couple
of days later the same thing happened to them. I lent them a minidisc with our stuff on it and at the end was this Morricone
track. They listened to it and were really worried that we could do Morricone better than they could! That made me realise that
these bands are competitive even though we know each other.
"Rocket Science (now Magnetophone) are lovely people, Plone lovely, Pram, what can you say, we're all friends. We would
like to arrange something where you have all the bands in the same room and at the same time, the audience would be in the
middle. That would kind of sum up the way things are. No one sees themselves as the best."
A couple of months after this interview I call the band again to arrange to take some pictures. Someone who calls himself their
engineer answers the phone. And he was still there the following week when I revisited a much more content and productive
WE BROUGHT OUR FRIENDS
19-26 February 1997
magazine available from