“I am not drinking a lot of brandy and going crazy anymore” – Eddie Argos from Art Brut
Eddie Argos and his band Art Brut delivered the most exciting slogans of the noughties. An act that is as ironic as it is authentic. Most recently, the former journalist Eddie, who now lives in Berlin, has revived Art Brut. Marc Wilde met him on the last day of Art Brut‘s anniversary Tour. Coverphoto: Adriano Redoglia
Eddie, today is the final day of your anniversary tour celebrating the debut of “Bang Bang Rock & Roll”. You play it track by track. The opener “Formed a Band” is one of the first songs that Art Brut came up with. When you are entering the stage nowadays starting with this song, do you reconnect to the time when it was written? Any nostalgic feelings popping up?
Eddie Argos: It’s still exciting to play more than reminiscent. But this time it’s also weird. Because this tour I have a totally different band. And it’s the most accurate version of “Formed a Band” we have ever played. Our guitar player had an emergency and had to go home on the day of the tour. So, our soundman joined the band and learned his guitar parts, in about three hours. We literally just formed a band. It feels great to be playing that song in such a raw way again.
The tour, initially planned for 2020, was not under a lucky start from the beginning and had to be postponed. Who is currently member of the band?
There is Olga on bass …
… who is member of your Haus Band and your neighbour, right?
Yes, like Leo. He is the guy that stepped in and is on guitar now. And Jascha the guitarist of Odd Couple. And there is also Steve on drums.
Are you still in contact with your old band mates?
Of course, yes. Ian was supposed to be on the tour. He is the one who had to go home. I still message a lot with Jasper Future. We are all still friends.
Let’s talk about family. How is your brother doing? Is he still in Rock ‘n’ Roll?
No. He is a teacher, he is forty years old now. A different life. He is in control of classes full of students. He is not “out of control”. He is still very cool and hilarious though, I wish he would start his own band.
Another signature song of Art Brut is “Emily Kane” in which you have set up a memorial for your old flame from school days. Did she ever respond?
Yes, she even came to the shows. When we played the horn section shows in London years ago Emily Kane and my little brother came. They were on the guest list and on the set list. She is doing really well. She is married with kids.
Was it any surprise to her that she appeared in that song?
We had to tell her because her name is in it. It’s her real name. So, I’ve sent her a text, that was like: “Hey Emily, I have written a song about you. Is that okay?” And she asked: “Is it a nice song?”. “A bit too nice maybe…” We then very quickly had a phone call and luckily it was all fine. She likes the song.
I know that I have asked more questions but according to my notes now comes number four. Any idea what it will be about?
No which question ….?
Well, there is a certain order in it …
Aaah, okay, you are going through. “Rusted Guns in Milan”. Let’s go.
Okay, can you tell us more about it? Obviously, it’s about…
… being like young and scared of sex. But it must have been somebody else. It’s quite a different man. All of the backgrounds are true apart from that one.
Let’s better move on to art. As we all know, you have a great weakness for modern art. What‘s the latest exhibition that made you rock out?
Actually, I wanted to go today but we arrived too late. Some time ago, five or six years ago, I had an exhibition with Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth. That was kind of amazing. It really made me rock out. I like his art a lot. Ah, and I tell you what: I saw Billy Childish. He had an exhibition in Berlin last summer. I love him. Beautiful art.
A couple of years ago you’ve started getting engaged in an art project yourself. You are painting the covers of your clients’ favourite albums – for money, a fair price by the way. What were the most impressive discoveries?
Well, I started this project because I was sick of reading journalists saying their favourite album was Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. It was the top of every poll. And I said to myself, that’s interesting but I wonder what real people like not just journalists. If I paint peoples favourite albums I’ll find out. And ironically after all of that, it has turned out, my favourite album now is “Wild Honey” by the Beach Boys. That is what I have learnt. I will not do it anymore. I got like three left and then I am stopping the project. But I am going to write a book about it.
Talking from own experience, it’s really a nice project. Especially because the painting comes with a personal review that you write about the album.
Yes, I listen to the songs the whole time when I am painting.
What I was asking myself: What happens if you really dislike the music? How do you deal with writing that review?
Well, my original plan was to be brutally honest: “This is shit, I hate.” But people went like: Eddie, this is the album where me and my wife fell in love with each other. So, I always try to find something positive. And in the end the project became me finding a nice thing to say about every album. I’ve done like more than 400, I think that has changed my personality.
“Good Weekend”. I would assume that 20 years ago you had a different view on time well spent than today. You have been living in Berlin since quite a while now. And you are father of a young boy as far as I know. What makes a good weekend for you nowadays?
I saw Ant-Man with my son in the cinema recently. That was a good weekend. I mean, it’s insane really. Watching a good film. Cooking at home that is what I like. I am forty-three now. I am not drinking a lot of brandy and going crazy anymore.
I saw via Instagram that recently you painted the album cover of „Loaded“ by the Velvet Underground. In the cover track of “Bang Bang Rock & Roll” there is the phrase: „I can‘t stand the sound of the Velvet Underground“. What‘s wrong with them?
Well it goes like “I can‘t stand the Sound of the Velvet Underground / The second time around.” By The Strokes basically. That is what I had in mind, there was a whole scene at that time that I didn’t like so much.
It also seems that you don’t walk away from a fight. At least verbally. In some of your old interviews you were quite outspoken and not hiding when you disliked the music of other bands, like Radiohead, Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party. With their singer, Kele Okereke, you even had a physical conflict. Any regrets?
I kind of regret, hmm, let me think … no. I was young then, right?
Whom would you like to diss these days?
I was dissing the Sleaford Mods last night. That’s the old me coming out. But people listen that single. Of course, all this is not meant too seriously. And, I mean, Kele from Bloc Party, he punched me. I didn’t really punch him. That was a different guy. I am a nice guy.
As we are talking about regrets. In “Moving To L.A.” you dream yourself on a beach: „I’m drinking Hennessy with Morrissey/ On a beach out of reach/ Somewhere very far away.” The second-best line in the history of rock music from my point of view. But Morrissey has become a problem, right? Can you still sing this without reservations?
Yes, he has changed. Tell you what weird is, I had two kind of heroes in a band. Axl Rose and Morrissey. It was difficult to decide which one to get drunk with. And Axl Rose is left wing now, he is like a socialist. And Morrissey has gone the other way. That’s not how I would have imagined this at all. So may be better have a rosé with Axl Rose instead. Or a Stella with Leo from Errorr.
Ah, still need to tell you what the best line in rock music is. It’s from a German school band of an old friend of mine. It goes like: “We did it on a chair/ We did it on a table/ And even in the church when I was able.“ Good, isn’t it?
Hah, that’s a really good phrase. My favourite lyrics ever is: “I’m in love with Rock ‘n’ Roll / And I’ll be out all night.” They are from “Roadrunner” (The Modern Lovers). Yeah, that’s evident!
From past to present: Do keep yourself updated on popular culture and are you still following what‘s hot in art and music?
In music, sure. I like the Cool Greenhouse. It’s my favourite new band. They are very funny. Kind of Lo-Fi. I love them. But I like the others as well, the classics. I like Wet Leg a bit and I like Gurr, that kind of stuff. But the Cool Greenhouse are the ones that I really like most.
My next question is about the two last songs of “Bang Band Rock & Roll”. I have put them together because they refer to each other as you are introducing Enrique Gatti, an Italian terrorist. Why has he become an important character for you?
I had this plan to make a whole record about him. There is this guy called Luke Haines – who I love. He has a record called “Baader Meinhof”. And he made a whole album about them. And I thought, oh, let’s make a concept album about the Gatti Gang. I knew they didn’t hurt anybody. So, we wrote four of these songs, three are on the album (“Rusted Guns of Milan”, “Stand Down” and “18,000 Lira”) and there is also a secret track before the album starts, that’s called “Enrique Gatti” (recorded 2007, getting released now) although at the last minute we changed the name to “Subliminal Desire for Adventure”. So first, we wanted to make an album about him. And then we got signed, and we needed an album. But in the beginning, these were all of the songs we had.
What was so fascinating about him?
I was interested in him. And as I said, I really liked the album by Luke Haines. I liked the idea calling a record after a group, discussing and thinking about it. It was an interesting gang. They were socialists, terrorists, the red brigades in Italy. But they were so hopeless. I think they got a bomb at one point. And another guy was like “give it back, you’d just hurt yourselves”. And then they gave up, saying that they were not very good at this. And that was quite brave in a way, to say, we did this wrong, we gonna stop. This fascinated me, but it’s a long time ago. Twenty years ago.
Then finally let’s have a look into the future. Can we expect anything new from Art Brut coming up?
Yes, there will be a box set coming out with unreleased things including a show we played with a horn section about 15 years ago. It comes with a book. And we are writing a new album. May be this is the new band, they are all living in Berlin. But first we need to recover. It has been quite stressful to making this tour happen. I think everybody is suffering with mental health and stuff. But this has been really a nice and exciting tour. Let’s see what future holds. I also love things falling apart a little bit.
Thanks, Eddie, for taking your time and all the best for the show tonight. I will carefully listen, especially to “Moving to L.A.” and with whom you’d like to have what kind of drinks with nowadays.
Interview: Marc Wilde