Interview with DAN HAGGIS and TORD KNUDSEN of THE WOMBATS
You guys are working on album No. 4. How’s the recording going? Are you happy with how it’s sounding so far?
Dan: It’s pretty early days to be honest, we’ve only really done a couple of songs probably which has more just been us trying out a couple of producers. One who we’ve already worked with and one who we haven’t so it’s just been like a trial to see how it goes basically. But we haven’t actually heard the final result, so it’s too early to say really. There are so good songs coming along though. We’ve got more writing trips in June and July, and then hopefully were going to record in August and September.
So where will these writing trips be exactly?
Dan: To Olso
Tord: Yeah, well I’m sort of dictating it in a way, as I’ve had a baby so I can’t really be there (the UK). I like to spend time with my her of course as much as possible. The guys have been so kind that they’ve made the trip over and I’ve got a study there as well, so it’s a cool little set up and so you know we get to eat some nice meals as well.
Dan: I get to see his child as well which is really nice. To be honest, we knew loads of Norwegians from when we were studying together in Liverpool and quite a few of them live in Oslo, so it’s actually really nice.
What did you guys study?
Tord: Murph and I studied in the same class, we studied music.
Dan: Yeah I did music for a year, which is when i met Murph and he carried on and did a full three course. I did this weird Spanish and French joint degree with music and then I dropped out. I don’t have a degree. I’m f*#cked. Basically we got our first play on radio at like midnight and that probably five people heard and for me it was like right that’s it.
It’s the 10th anniversary of A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation. Do you all still like the album just as much? What are you favourite songs off the album?
Tord: I mean I hadn’t really listened to it until we started rehearsing suddenly, all the songs. When we were rehearsing in Adelaide a few weeks ago, I couldn’t believe how intense it was sounding, it was so full on and high in energy, and I mean it was almost a bit knackering listening to it. But it was exciting you know.
Dan: Yeah you could feel the energy coming out of it (A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation) as when we made it (the album), we pretty much recorded it live, I mean we did some over-dubbs and messed around with it, but in general it was no click track it was just put up some mics and just press go.
Tord: And you don’t hear many records like that, I mean I haven’t heard anything that intense for a very long time.
Dan: I think also from having not listened to it for a while and wanting to work on loads of other types of music, and obviously the last couple of albums have changed and been different, it puts you in the mind-set of your 20-year-old self. So it’s more like looking at a photo book like “Oh do you remember when we did that” so it’s been fun.
Something that kids of today wouldn’t understand, but, are you intending on releasing your fourth album with the lyrics sheet as you usually do?
Dan: Well that’s kind of not really our decision in a way, I mean it is basically, like if we demanded that we wanted a CD. But I would think there’s still enough places in the world with still enough people who would buy a CD. I mean it’s obviously with Spotify it’s all moving towards streaming.
Tord: Physical copies are still kind of quite a big thing over here (Australia) still right? So I think living in Oslo, vinyl is really getting really popular again like it’s gone up 5 or 6 times to what’s been in the past, like it’s just going through the roof.
Dan: Yeah like every year CD sales are just going down and down. If you go into cars from 7-10 years ago people have CD Players but since from now on it’s just bluetooth and not even AUX cords anymore. That’s the way the worlds going to go, like I still think there’s place for lyric sheets and artwork.
Tord: I think less people have CD players in their houses anyway. It’s more (car) stereos that have a CD player. But you get that (lyric sheets and artwork) in vinyl anyway which is great.
We heard that you guys had giant wombats dancing on stage at your Sydney Opera House show. How was it and would you do it again?
Yeah that was the first time we’d done it. And we are doing it again. We got them custom made for the show so we’re actually taking them with us to the UK because we’re doing a similar idea for here, for our 10 year anniversary with four weeks in the UK. We’re going to have friends and family dressed in costumes.
Tord: Actually one of them stood on my lead in the first verse of Let’s Dance to Joy Division and the base didn’t even work.
Dan: To be honest it was was surreal looking out into the whole crowd and you could just see everyone was so excited.
You guys have been around now for 14 years. How do you guys maintain your friendships while being in such close quarters? How do you deal with any conflicts?
Dan: I mean, we all enjoy going out for meals and doing yoga sometimes and trying to hang out when we want to but then also knowing when to not hang out. I don’t know really, we just enjoy making music.
Tord: I mean it’s like any relationship, or like siblings. That’s the kind of dynamic, I mean it’s kind of like a marriage, mixed with siblings at the same time.
Dan: It’s weird sometimes because you end up having conversations, where you’ve got serious conversations to have, but at the same time you’ve go to try and separate from your friendship because otherwise you’re going to end up being pissed off with each other. It doesn’t happen very often but it’s good, you’ve got to just try and keep it like that’s one side of our partnership or relationship, but then most of it’s like all families are friends with eachother.
Tord: It’s about the bigger picture. When we’re in the studio there’s a lot of things that come with it.
Dan: You don’t have many relationships like this in life I don’t think, because so many bands don’t stay in a band for this long because egos get in the way and you know, obviously life takes us in different directions. And people have less time to really dedicate to a band because the first few albums and especially the first couple, you just have to dedicate all of your time to doing that you know. You’ve got to have an understanding partner and family, and you know there’s loads of friends you don’t see for ages and when you get back you’ve got to adjust to that and it’s kind of strange.
Have you got any horror tour stories that you can share with us? What are some of the funnier moments?
Dan: Well it’s normally when alcohol gets involved.
Tord: We’ve got this game called Icing
Dan: You know Smirnoff Ice? Well at the start of this trip, he (Murph) was on this golf trip and he started to play this game and they’d try and hide a bottle of Smirnoff Ice in each others golf bags. If you didn’t notice happening, and it could be 9am in the morning, you open it up (your golf bag) and then you see it and you’re like “oh f%#k” and you have to take it out, get down on one knee and neck-it. And so we’ve started doing that. It got a bit ridiculous over the tour and the other night just before going on stage at the Sydney Opera House, I turned around and our tour manager had one staring me right in the face and I did it. It (the drink) set me up for the whole show.
Tord: It has happened at a few airports in Australia as well.
Dan: Pre-breakfast, one of the guitarists had to get down on one knee. Promo (the promoters) got Murph as well. Like in Brisbane after Riverstage we went out until like 3am, and we had to get up to the airport, and he woke up at like 10am, then someone knocked on his door and when he opened it, there was someone with the Smirnoff Ice and he was just like Oh My God. Imagine waking up, not having had any breakfast and you know that’s the first thing you had. It’s shocking.
What are the craziest things that any of you have done – things that you look back at now and think “what the hell was I thinking?”
Tord: Playing the (Sydney) Opera house.
Dan: Most of the things can’t even be talked about really but just rest assured that sometimes when you’re on tour you end up with cabin fever, and everyone goes slightly dollar. But our old sound engineer Dave used to make videos and I’m not going to tell you what’s on any of them but it’s absolutely horrendous. And if any of those videos ever got, it would be the end of our career basically.
Tord: If Murph fell out with this guy (Dave) and something happened their, this band would be over.
Dan: But yeah we have a good laugh on tour. I think memories that stand out for me is like crowd surfing. Like in New York we did it a couple of times and just crowd surfing races. And I mean just things that you don’t expect, stand out for me.
You guys have toured with some big acts now. Was there anyone that you were actually disappointed by?
Tord: We haven’t actually done any really long tours with anyone. We did support Red Hot Chilli Peppers and that was only two shows.
Dan: Yeah that was the only two shows they did in the UK, just huge kind of 50,000 stadium shows.
Tord: But only good memories from that really. We didn’t get to meet them though so I mean I was disappointed because because at a young age I was a big Red Hot Chilli Peppers fan so it would’ve been great to have met them.
Dan: We haven’t met anyone too bad. I mean playing festivals you can’t really describe that as touring with people but we’re in Perth so we should mention it. We played Firefly Music Festival in Delaware in America, and we were on early in the day on the main-stage and then Tame Impala we’re headlining the second main-stage and then we all went and watched them and we were like “f*#king hell that was so inspiring”. They’re absolutely amazing.
Tord: Flawless. And just everyone we were with just had the same feeling. Like no one left and was like “oh I’m not sure about that…” everyone was just like “that was incredible”.
Dan: Obviously all music’s amazing but that show was definitely the best of last year. But seeing things like that done at such a high level with everything just being thought through from like all the crew-men wearing sort of mad scientist coats, and you know if just had this sort of feeling that every detail has been thought about and it was perfect.
When was the moment that you guys realised that you had made it?
Dan: I reckon it was South By South West (SXSW). And when we got signed basically I think that was the moment when we and all the young bands know. I mean it’s changed quite a lot now because you don’t actually need to be signed to get your music out there. But at the time we were quite limited with our options in a way. Like 2006-7 we went to SXSW and we could just feel a sense of momentum. We’d done a little tour in the UK before and kind of started selling between 200-400 tickets in quite a few cities and wide were like wow this is awesome. And then we sold out a show in Liverpool and that was about 1000 people before we were signed and there was definitely a sense of “finally” things are starting to move in the right direction. And getting signed was definitely like “right…this is actually going to happen, we’re going to make an album and tour’.
Tord: I think the V Festival, was the moment of realisation because we had the song that BBC Radio 1 started to played in the UK which was Kill the Director. We didn’t really realise what was going on in the UK. We were out touring Europe and we came back to this festival (V Festival) to a few thousand (punters) and when we played Kill the Director people were singing along like crazy to the song and it was like “…what is going on”? I mean we’d only played for a few hundred people.
Do you guys enjoy touring? What do you miss most when you are out on the road?
Dan: I mean we hadn’t tour for six months before this and I don’t know about you (Tord) or Murph but I felt that I’d got used to not being on the road and which after touring it takes a month or so to adjust back to not touring. But then five months I got to the point where I was like thinking about this tour and was feeling like a bit nervous almost and thinking “how is this going to go”? And the idea of all of these people watching us play, when it’s not your day-to-day anymore I was thinking “hopefully it’s going to be alright”. And it’s amazing how quickly we just snapped back into the whole tour. The first show was really weird but then after that it was great and we’ve had some of the best gigs we’ve ever done over here this time.
Tord: Yeah you no I hadn’t really missed touring at all. I’d kind of just been enjoying (being home) you know because there’s so much new happening like having a child and that’s been more than enough of a change. And also being away (on tour) has been in a way quite challenging to be completely honest. But I think like as soon as we’ve got some new stuff (songs) that’s when touring to me makes perfect sense because you’ve got this excitement of new songs that you want to share. Because now it’s just a continuation of the Gliterbug tour, with some other old songs but I’m really looking forward to go back on the road with some new stuff, that’s what I’m excited about.