‘I don’t believe in half-conviction’: Andrew Falkous on the return of Mclusky | Music

TOndrew Falkous never wanted to be in the biggest band on Earth, because big bands are almost invariably lame. He wanted to be in the best one. Notable, then, that Falkous’s first band was called Best, apparently named after early Beatles drummer Pete. That evolved into Mclusky, whose cult rock classic, Mclusky Do Dallas, turns 20 this April. Recorded by alternative music great Steve Albini (Nirvana, PJ Harvey), it was packed with crunching riffs, menacing feedback, shrieked hooks and sardonic wordplay, and won the band a small but fervent set of fans.

The wider universe, however, often seemed hostile towards Mclusky. At best, it had a vendetta against their vehicles. Falkous recalls an accident on the German autobahn, in 2002, which could easily have decapitated the trio. “You could tell it was a lucky escape when the emergency services arrived,” he remembers. “The first thing they did, when they saw the state of the van, was to burst out laughing because we were still alive.”

Mclusky’s Andy Falkous: ‘It’s uncharitable to suggest people invent personal problems to sell records, but it happens’ Photograph: Jonathan Pirro

Two years later, Mclusky lost £ 20,000-worth of equipment. “We were staying at a motel in Phoenix, Arizona. I woke up in the morning and went outside for a cigarette. I looked down at the parking lot and saw a van but no trailer. I walked back into the room I was sharing with our tour manager, who was driving us around, and asked if he’d taken the trailer elsewhere during the night for safekeeping, or hidden it as a prank. He went even whiter than he was already, which was quite an achievement, ”says Falkous. “We ended up paying so many debts, consecutively, that you just get weird debt confusion after a while and pay off anybody who asks for money.”

Other sabotage was self-induced. When the press did go near them, Mclusky mocked lesser (if more popular) musicians and music magazines. In concert, Falkous would warn audiences when a slower song was coming up, directing people to the bar. At Leeds festival, bassist Jon Chapple destroyed his own instrument by him. This wasn’t like Paul Simonon on the cover of London Calling. It was backstage: less iconic; equally expensive. “We’re talking about somebody who genuinely did live in the moment,” laughs Falkous. “There is something subversive about doing that. But it was absolutely pointless as well. “

One cannot overstate how menacing Mclusky looked back then. That’s real-life scary rather than, say, goth-metal scary, as in you’d have been cautious to join them at the bus stop. Falkous was overweight (by his own admission), with a shaved head. An irate frown seemed his default expression of him. “I’ve never started a fight in my life,” he insists. “I know how to get punched in the face …”

Mclusky sounded vaguely like Pixies, though heavier and distinctly British. Lyrics were peppered with in-jokes and expletives. (“All of your friends are cunts,” begins fan-favorite Gareth Brown Says, “Your mother is a ballpoint pen thief …”) They sang of compulsive liars, child murderers, lesser bands (naturally), stains of various origin, and misguided business branding. (“KK Kitchens, what were you thinking? “) One of their catchiest refrains contained the words” sex criminal “. Such tactics never fast-tracked anyone to Top of the Pops.

Falkous subsisted on £ 4,000 a year. “Even in this modern epoch, I go to the pub and three pints costs 15 quid. That’s anxiety-inducing enough for me. ” If they’d lived in London, rather than Cardiff (where Newcastle-born Falkous attended uni), would Mclusky have made greater headway? He is doubtful. “So much rock music is based on the fiction that those who make it are outsiders. I genuinely think we were very odd and awkward people. The only time any of the people in the band were cool was when they were playing instruments. The rest of the time, they were desperately lonely geeks. “

Perhaps Mclusky’s loyal fanbase could relate. They appreciate, as Falkous does, that “the things that fuck it up are the things that make it special”. Mclusky’s legend grew in their absence of him. They disbanded after promoting 2004’s The Difference Between Me and You Is That I’m Not On Fire. The trailer theft didn’t cause the split, believes Falkous, “but it definitely didn’t help”.

Falkous then formed Future of the Left with Mclusky’s second drummer, Jack Egglestone. They also feature ex-Million Dead bassist Julia Ruzicka, to whom Falkous is married. As with Falkous’s solo (ish) project Christian Fitness, FOTL operates in a similar, irreverently shouty vein to Mclusky, with greater complexity. “Mclusky has more of a strut to it,” he suggests. “FOTL is wonkier and nastier, I suppose.”

Mclusky on stage at Gorilla in Manchester, 2019. Photograph: Jonathan Pirro

Falkous resists pushing the juicy, media-worthy hooks that help certain acts win column inches. He insists that a recent debilitating bout of sciatica was contracted “ironically” in a futile attempt to force a narrative. “No one died. Everyone’s limbs are currently intact. Julia and I considered faking a divorce. In fact, we argued about faking that divorce so much, we actually got divorced, ”he deadpans. “It’s uncharitable to suggest people invent personal problems to sell records, although it happens. Underlined. Exclamation mark. “

Laser surgery undertaken, Falkous and Egglestone are embarking on a “victory lap” to celebrate the Do Dallas anniversary. Damien Sayell of the St Pierre Snake Invasion replaces Chapple, who emigrated in 2006. And Falkous looks elated on stage. Fitter. Happier. More contented. He still warns audiences about slower songs though, and the competitiveness remains.

“I don’t believe in half-conviction. If you’re not going on stage to be the best band of the night, one that renders all the other acts irrelevant, then don’t even get up there. Wanting to be in the best rock band in the world is still part of it. But it has also become about having a nice time with my friends. Sometimes I see people in big bands, and there are songs they have to play, which everybody likes, but they have grown to despise. We don’t play often enough for that to happen. So it always feels special. “

Mclusky are touring from 1 to 29 April with additional shows in September; tour starts in Bristol.

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