Britain’s upcoming indie “it” lads of Black Wire have been placed on a pedestal and have shamelessly been aiming to tease with their “disorted pop songs” to make you “either love or hate” them. They are Dan Wilson (vocals), Si McCabe (guitars, drums, piano) and Tom Greatorex (bass), who hail from Leeds and who are set to make an impact in '06 with the wide release of their self-titled debut through Chicago’s Giant Pecker Records. The new album showcases a hot tote of lyrics best left blazon and unabashed among singles such as “Attack Attack Attack”, “Smoke and Mirrors” and “Hard to Love Easy to Lay”, the latter of which got a great deal of support from specialty show hosts in late '05.
I caught up with Dan over the phone to discuss the band’s debut, Oasis and graphic design.
T: How did the song, “Attack Attack Attack” come about?
DW: That was one of the first songs we wrote. The actual title came first before anything. Have you seen that documentary about The Sex Pistols – The Filth and the Fury?
T: Of course.
DW: There’s a bit on that where Johnny Rotten’s just talking about Britain in the seventies. He just says “Attack Attack Attack” like three times and I thought it sounded like a good song title, and basically that is what started it, and then the song itself is kind of about how youth and sex are both self-evident in pop culture. And that was basically what that song was about.
T: Could you tell me a little bit about your inspirations and the influences you may be attribute your music to?
DW: Personally the first band that I really really got into was Oasis because up until that point I was sort of into West Coast gangster rap when I was a kid. I was into like Snoop Doggy Dogg and things like that. And then Oasis came out and I just fell in love with them completely. I felt like there was a lot more that I could identify with – me not being from America and not being black. I kind of just got into Oasis and through them discovered bands like Small Faces and The Who and things like that, so basically when I bought a guitar that was the sort of band I wanted to be. And then from there discovered a whole ‘nother world of music. When we started the band we were all listening to sort of The Cramps and things like that.
T: At what age did you start listening to Oasis?
DW: That was when I was about 13. That’s when it all started. Because me and Si grew up [together], we were into the same sort of music. The only time it sort of deviated a bit he was into kind of he got into a lot of '60s stuff like The Doors. . .
And at that point I was listening to Beck and things like that. And so we always argued for the merits of all these bands.
It was kind of when The Strokes came out I suppose we realized that we were into the same kind of music again.
T: What’s your favorite Oasis song?
DW: Favorite Oasis song…probably something like “Rock & Roll Star” or something like that from the first album.
T: You’ve performed with the likes of The Cribs, Ladytron, Arctic Monkeys and even the The Rapture. Any favorites?
DW: I think as people my favorite bands to play with are The Cribs and Kaiser Chiefs because they’re friends of ours…so it’s cool. But I think just for the experience, playing with The Libertines was a big deal for me at the time because we were all big fans of The Libertines. The first time we played with them it was when the lead singer, Pete Doherty, had just gotten released from prison. So it was kind of a really sort of energetic performance and it was at the Bath Light in London. And the capacity was maybe like 300 and there were like 600 people in there. It was just insane.
T: That must have been amazing.
DW: Yeah, yeah, it was absolutely incredible.
T: What were the Libertines like as people?
DW: They’re cool. They’re genuinely nice guys really, just troubled.
T: What is your upcoming project? Is there anything you can tell me ahead of time?
DW: I’m actually in a rehearsal room today. We’re just kind of working on new stuff and just trying to get all of our ideas and stuff. We’ve just been in the recording studio as well so we’ve downloaded a few tracks. We’ve got one song that’s called “Hung Up” at the moment that we’re going to hopefully release maybe end of January/end of February time and we’re just going to release it as a download only because we’ve never had a download single before and so we’re going to pump it out so people’ve got some new stuff to listen to while we’re touring. Because we’re going to be out of the UK for like 2 1/2-3 months next year so we just kind of want to give people the opportunity. It’s cool. I’m really happy with the way it sounds. The recording of it is cool.
T: How do you work on your music? Are songs born out of instant bursts of inspiration or do they come more gradually for you?
DW: I think it takes time. When we recorded the album we learned a lot more about the arrangement of songs and how to sort of get the most out of a song with just the way you can sort of change the sounds and sort of build tension and sort of create an atmosphere with a song. I think because we’ve basically played live for the past year sort of quite intensively. I mean, we’ve learned a lot about what crowds react to and things like that. It’s kind of basically you just got to filter all the things you learn as you go along into your song-writing really. The songs that we are writing at the minute I think captures that quite well. There’s a lot more dynamics involved than the initial songs we used to write which were quite aggressive, and I think there’s more to our new stuff.
T: How does the songwriting process work within your band?
DW: The guitarist, Si, he’s kind of the dominant songwriter in terms of like the music and things because basically all the songs start with him. He can take credit for the majority of songs. I don’t know me and Tom sort of stamp our personality on the songs as well. He [Si] does come up with the structure of the song but we’re all heavily involved in the writing and stuff. When we started I was doing graphic design at the time and I liked this idea of fusing like the music and art and things like that all together and I think it’s more of a sort of a diplomatic process than just one person writing a song if that makes sense.
T: What were your bandmate’s majors?
DW: Tom, the base player, was doing the same class as well. And Si was doing a music class.
T: What was it like attending school in England?
DW: It was cool at first but it’s kind of like a lot of the sort of people going to the university at the minute. It’s kind of like people are taking it as a given right now that they’re going to go to the university and just kind of mess around for a few years before they have to get a job. For a lot of people it felt that their heart wasn’t in it, and they were just kind of basically hanging out for a few years. They didn’t really want to do it. I don’t know, everyone was basically the same person and it got really annoying after three years of being [with] a hundred of the same person. It just felt weird.
T: What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician? Since you were a graphic design
major, could you have seen yourself doing that full time?
DW: Yeah, I’d like to think so. But I probably would just spend all my time designing record sleeves for the bands because that’s all I wanted to do. I got into graphic design because I was drawn to band artwork and things like that and music videos and that was kind of the area I wanted to go in just because I never thought I would be in a band. But now I’m in a band so I don’t have to worry about that really.
T: You had designed the cover of your new album, but it was not used. Could you elaborate on why?
DW: Basically, I [had] done the artwork for everything now. I had it all sorted. Do you know of a French band called Daft Punk?
DW: They released their album and it was basically exactly the same artwork that I’d done for our album with like the TV screens and things and it was just complete coincidence. But I mean obviously they’re with such a big marketing company and we’d just look like we copied it really so we had to scrap the idea and I was busy in the studio recording the album so I didn’t have a chance to sort of do anymore artwork so we got this guy from London to do it. I really liked the way it turned out. It’s pretty cool.
T: How much time went into your cover art?
DW: It didn’t take that long really. The only hard thing was it was kind of obviously turned out to be something I liked but the other two in the band have to agree on it as well plus our manager and our label. They have ideas about how they wanted it to look and things like that and it’s kind of finding that common ground. That takes longer than the actual production of the thing. Everyone threw in ideas about what they wanted it to look like. We were listening to Tom Waits a lot at the time and we kind of wanted it to look like one of his album covers but the idea quickly got forgotten about. I don’t know why.
T: What are the personalities like within your band?
DW: Me and Simon... we've known each other since we were like eight years old and we’ve always lived close to each other so we’re similar type people. And Tom’s cool. He was one of the first people going out in Leeds and stuff. And we bonded straight away just through being into the same kind of music and the same sort of humor and things. I mean, we all ended up living together which was quite a fun experience in this flat that was kind of the in the middle of the student area, like the town’s center. So we could get to anywhere we needed to be quite easy and go to parties and stuff. It was a cool time.
T: In your interview with BBC, you mentioned that you had a competition to see who could find the tightest jeans?
DW: Basically we all wear tight jeans anyway but there was a bit of a competition over who could get the tightest at one point. But I think we’ve given up on that now. It’s just hard to find clothes that fit, really.
…I find that a lot of people tend to give you clothes as well when you’re in a band. It’s pretty cool. I got this amazing jacket off a girl for half a can of beer, which was cool.
We got some Japanese fans who made like some huge A3 size.
We were playing live and were surrounded by these hand-drawn roses and it seemed like a gold frame. It was amazing.
T: Anything you’d like to add?
DW: Just to say that I’m really excited about going to America, and I can’t wait to come and play some shows in February.
I’ve been once and Tom’s been once, but we’ve never been over as a band or played a gig or anything.
[New York] has been the only place I’ve been. It was when I was in college. We went on a trip out there and I absolutely loved it. I thought it was amazing.
The group is set to tour the US starting February 14th and includes a performance at Popscene in SF. Be prepared for the unabated pop distortions that make Black Wire sublimely keen and undeniably infectious.
photos by: Emma Blackburn