We're late developers

In the midst of their sell-out tour, Tom English talks to Ross McGibbon

How did you find that NME Tour?
It was good in a way. It was a good exercise in self-belief because we had to prove ourselves every day. Obviously a lot had happened between booking the tour and going on it. We’ve talked about it a lot since and at the time it was fuel to our fire. The amount of hype they were getting and the decreased amount of anticipation there was for us just increased our venom.
It’s funny because they’re a young band and they’re quite susceptible. They didn’t really know how to be…. completely tactful about it. We had some great gigs on that tour, some of our best.

Are you happy with the new album?
Very. It took a lot to make it. The songs have been around a long time but deciding how to record them took quite a while. We’re concentrating on getting them across on stage now. Some of it is quite different to the old album, there’s a different type of performance required.

Was it hard to pick stuff that was going to be on the album?
About three quarters were sure-fire, always going to be on the album. The others, there was more competition. We sort of whittled the twelve tracks down from about twenty before we started recording the album and there were some fairly, erm, contentious moments.

I ask about the decision making process. A lot of people look at the lead singer as the decision maker of a band but it’s different for you, you were together before Paul joined. He’s the new boy…..
Well he was, er, three and a half years ago (laughs). He’s certainly not shy and retiring now! We’re good friends – that’s the main thing. We’re just about old enough and wise enough to not get above our space. I admire the creative integrity that Artic Monkeys seem to stick to as twenty-one year olds. They stick to their guns and seem to have a solid idea of what they want to do in a way that we do now. We’re late developers but I think we benefit from the experience of working our way through various ideas and various bands before we arrived at Maximo Park.

How much of the ‘new direction’ is your doing and how much is the result of bringing Gil Norton in?
It was a very deliberate decision because we have so much experience of playing live – we like to work up a crowd, take it down and work them up again. We wanted a record that respected that newfound ability and obviously Gil Norton is A-1 in that department.

Lyrically it seems softer and more romantic. How do you perceive it?
I think it is romantic but not more romantic than the first record. He has his various muses. There are softer moments, for sure, you get a bit more of a sense of Paul’s character. He’s a bit more open about his experiences so it’s more romantic in that it’s more honest. I think a lot of the lyrics written down could pass as poetry. It’s slightly less playful.

How does the collaborative process work for you?
He comes up with his lyrics independently of the music and most of the music is produced independently of his words (except the ones he writes). In much the same way, I think, Morrissey and Marr used to combine their ideas. Except in Maximo Park there isn’t just one music writer, we all contribute. Dom, the guitarist, is the most prolific. Paul can whack his words on most of the stuff we do. He finds it quite easy, I think.
On the last album a lot of the songs were already written before Paul joined the band and a lot of what he sings is based on how the songs sounded before he sung them. Whereas with this album the songs are exclusively his, his message, from him to you, with the lyrics.