This article is from 2006.
Franz Ferdinand head for the Book Festival to share their songwriting secrets. Words: Doug Johnstone.
Writing songs is as easy as falling off a log. But don’t just take our word for it, ask Franz Ferdinand. That’s exactly what you can do if you’re one of the people lucky enough to get a balloted ticket for their event at this year’s Book Festival.
Devised as a family event aimed at teenagers, the band’s Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy will be discussing how they go about writing songs, something they get asked about all the time, apparently.
‘Yeah, we’re planning on giving away all our songwriting secrets,’ grins McCarthy mischievously. ‘Kids come up to us and ask how they can possibly write a song, and hopefully with this event we’ll show people how easy it is. We’re going to take a few of our songs apart, and show how we wrote something like “Take Me Out” or “Michael”.’
That’s not all. The pair will be attempting to write a song there and then, with the willing assistance of the audience, and maybe even recording the results. McCarthy admits he has no idea whether this will work or not, but insists this is in keeping with how the band do things anyway.
‘Each song is always written differently,’ he says. ‘Sometimes someone will come in with a chorus and we’ll jam that for a while; other times we’ll piece bits of songs together. That’s how “Take Me Out” came about. It’s boring to just do the obvious thing - we’re always looking at new ways of writing.’
McCarthy then goes on to enthuse about all sorts of different songwriting styles, from the Beach Boys’ multi-layered pop genius, to the operatic mayhem of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ via some good old two-chord punk rock.
‘The main thing is listening to music,’ he says. ‘Just being a music fan and listening to what other people do gives you ideas.’
The band are prolific songwriters, with only a small fraction of their output ever seeing the light of day. So how do they know a good song when they hear one?
‘It’s pretty simple,’ says McCarthy. ‘When everybody’s got a smile on their face, then it’s a good one.’
Franz Ferdinand, Tue 22 Aug, 4.30pm.