the montgolfier brothers
chickfactor: the production on seventeen stars is really fabulous. what’s your secret?
mark tranmer: don’t go in a studio.
roger quigley: would we agree with that?
mark: that the production’s fabulous? no.
roger: I don’t think we would. it’s unusual.
cf: I’m a lousy rock critic, what do I know?
roger: you should pitch that question to richard, vespertine man. he was the main man in the studio, wasn’t he?
mark: yeah. we were in the background having arm wrestles but he was at the front.
roger: the four words he said aloud were “turn up the vocals.” that was it really.
cf: typical record label guy.
roger: mark always describes it as karaoke basically. he was off in his flat in southampton. recorded and finished the album, stereo mix, sent it to me, I went down two floors down in the highrise I live in, to dave’s, and recorded vocals right over the top. there was very little to actually to play with dynamically. whereas on this one [their yet unreleased second lp] because we’ve had an advance and everything, we’ve got identical setups. we’ve got a lot more we can play around with. it will end up sounding, hopefully, better. it will sound more produced.
cf: poptones making all their artists having a uniform sleeve takes some personality away from the bands. I prefer the vespertine cover. then again, it makes things easier for the label. did they consult you on that?
roger: they gave us a version, and they said “how about that?” and we said “that’s fine. and they gave us another one and we said we prefer the other one. I know what you mean. obviously it’s easier for them. it makes things cheaper. we’re both big fans of the bloke who actually does it, mike alway.
cf: I think it implies something about your music that it isn’t.
roger: I quite liked it cause it reminded me of jacques tati films.
cf: do you have a record coming out in the u.s.?
mark: at the moment we’ve got darla distributing it on the west coast and parasol distributing it on the east coast. and they’re just taking large quantities of the record, dealing with it like that. we haven’t actually licensed it. when we were talking to alan mcgee to start with, he was saying someone might want to license it but no one’s actually asked us.
cf: that’s shocking!
mark: darla offered us a deal to something. they’ve shown an interest in gnac [mark’s solo project] records as well. that’s the only one really. I know lots of other labels like merge… I can’t think of what they are.
cf: how many records does gnac have?
mark: three albums.
cf: roger, do you have other projects?
roger: yeah, but not of late. the quigley album was released on the acetone french label. it’s shockingly produced. pitch that against mark’s recordings of the same time. mark’s the master of the midi and the recording side of things, mine was slapdash. get it down, send it off. recently I play drums for another band. they were called speedway, but then we found out that cosmic rough riders’ best friends have a band called speedway. there’s also a boys band called speedway. so now they’re called lovewood. I’ve got a few other little projects. me and my friend dave have a project called dry riser. I’ve got another one called death quigley, he’s going to be killed off in a bizarre gardening accident. that’s going to be very shoegazey.
cf: I was googling you, and all your press is foreign, from spain or france. have you been touring abroad?
mark: yeah. we get asked to play in spain and france more than we do here. and japan.
cf: where are you most famous?
mark: apparently we are poptones’ biggest greek sellers.
cf: how wonderful.
mark: we’ve never actually been to greece. I like greek food and I like some bazouki music. I do algebra, so that’s quite greek.
roger: it’s nice getting invited to play festivals across the world.
cf: you’re playing the benno festival in sweden.
mark: oh I didn’t know it was benno. I’m happy about that.
roger: we’re going to play in italy because this single mum with two kids got in contact with us cause she really liked the album. she works in the arts. she’s got a friend who finances gigs, and we’re going to play on a wooden stage surrounded by olive trees on the beach in ravina. it sounds like it’s going to be an audience of about 17 people, but she’s going to fund it.
cf: what’s the best fan gift you’ve gotten?
mark: photos from keiko.
roger: photos from fans we met. we get records. we’re not at that stage. I don’t think we ever will be at that stage.
cf: that’s okay. you can walk around manchester without being mobbed.
cf: your website reveals your love of brazilian and french music. do you like any new artists from those places?
mark: that’s a good question. I got into this brazilian guitarist called baden powell…
cf: I saw him play at the blue note.
mark: oh you’ve seen him! I’m jealous now, envious. he’s amazing, isn’t he? I got into him when I was about 8; my dad was into him. we used to listen to him on the car stereo. I’m aware of people like jobim. I don’t know many contemporary brazilian artists, so if you’ve got any recommendations…
cf: there’s a guy in new york called vinicius cantuária. it would be great if you guys could play with him.
mark: I love bossa nova stuff. sometimes it can get too sugary and horrible like any music. but if you find the right thing it’s just amazing. baden powell got pneumonia and died quite quickly last september. someone was recommending claudine longet to me yesterday. she does a lot of brazilian covers.
cf: I think she does a lot of covers period. are you addicted to anything?
mark: coffee. I thought I was addicted to museli.
cf: what’s your day job?
mark: I’m a lecturer in statistics and maths at the university of manchester. cool, isn’t it? what’s the chickfactor on that? minus 27?
cf: what’s in your fridge?
mark: some lemongrass, but I can’t work out if it’s mine or my flatmate’s — it looks like it’s gone off. a piece of ginger root. can of muji oolong tea. about five pints of milk, semi-skimmed.
roger: milk. cheap bread. red wine. mold. not a lot. nothing with muji written on it, I know that.
cf: I love muji.
mark: I recommend their tea. my flatmate is really into cooking things that stink.
cf: I noticed you’ve done some tv music. are there any programs you’d like to see your music used for?
mark: documentaries are good.
roger: the world at war. if jacques tati was still alive…
mark: buñuel if he was still alive. some murder mystery with diana rigg in it. I see her as the detective having a dinner party, someone getting bumped off.
roger: there’s going to be an instrumental on the album, it’s probably going to be the title track, which would work beautifully in a chase scene.
mark: if they’re on horses. not sure about motorbikes.
roger: quite a comic chase.
cf: you guys do instrumentals very well. you both write them too.
mark: yeah. our guitarist think that roger’s written the same one three times.
roger: five times. he thinks it’s the same one.
mark: we’ve got six songs on the album that are the obvious collaboration between the music and the vocals. then of the other four, we just took two each and that’s the per-sonal thing, doing your own instrumental.
cf: where do you write?
mark: just in my bedroom. it always seems to be not on the ground floor.
cf: then you’re an appropriately named band, unlike most bands.
mark: what? full of hot air? absolutely.
cf: what’s alan mcgee like?
roger: what we know of him, which is not a lot. we have not spent many hours with him, extremely intense, apparently genuine but again very difficult to say, and genuinely, well, he just wants you to feel wanted. I didn’t expect that. he seems to be positive about everything he says. even if we get negative press, he sort of diverts it away from us and takes it on himself. so far, so good.
cf: did he wine and dine you?
mark: no, he did have lunch with us, but it was just like sitting here talking to you. it really was. when we first met him, my ankles were going a bit. but once it got past that initial bit, it was fine. I like spending time with him. you kind of feel like you’ve got to get your five minutes in while you’re talking to him, then he’ll be off somewhere else. to his enormous credit, I don’t know how many different projects he must have…
roger: we don’t know if he sleeps.
mark: …he seems able to remember what was going on quite well. he used to ring us up a lot, but now he does email. I like him. he’ll tell you what he thinks, he’s not a yes man in any way. he’s not going to say you’re going to be the biggest band in the world; he’s going to say “you’re not going to be the biggest band in the world.”
roger: he has said that, quite literally.
mark: which might surprise you, gail.
cf: you seem okay with that. are there any good smiths-related folktales around manchester?
roger: not really. I was just reading that interview david was doing with vini reilly about morrissey. morrissey was a bit of a loner till they hit it big.
mark: you saw johnny marr buying a sandwich.
roger: I did. couldn’t tell you what sort of sandwich it was but it was definitely him. he looked like the bastard son of liam and noel. very strange.
cf: what kind of musical backgrounds do you guys have?
roger: I had violin lessons for about three weeks.
mark: I had three guitar lessons and two piano lessons. self-taught.
cf: were your families musical?
mark: a little bit. my mom and dad both read music and play the piano and my dad did a bit of classical guitar. they can do it all theoretically, I do it all by ear. I do it from memory. I kind of like the classical styling. I’ve got the old fingernail.
cf: those are good for spanish guitar.
mark: it’s a real bugger to keep clean.
cf: what men’s fashion accessory would you like to see revived?
roger: a cravat. when we went to japan, I was amazed at how many ties and cravats we saw. and hats. sock suspenders.
mark: a cravat and a hat.
cf: what was your first concert?
mark: everything but the girl, sheffield university. 1983? ’84?
roger: either altered images or the stranglers. both with my sister. there was a competition on local tv to design the costume for clare grogan from altered images and [my sister] won. the prize was, they were going to make the outfit, she was going to wear it on the night, and you’d get front-row seats. it transpired that we got seats right at the back, and no costume was made, and it was a crap gig. so I’ll put the stranglers.
cf: what do you read?
mark: I’ve just read haruki murakami’s new book, sputnik sweetheart, fantastic. I recommend it. I love his stuff.
roger: I don’t read that much but when I do it’s strange fiction, a bit of agatha christie. listings magazines.
cf: what’s the worst job you’ve had?
mark: I was scared of dogs when I was little so as a version of therapy I got a job in a kennel and I had to take four dogs for a walk. I swear it’s contributed to the length of my arms. I had to walk them around this field while they went for a crap. then clean out the kennels. and put food in the bowls. I think that was my least favorite job.
roger: I was a glass collector at hacienda. but the boss there gave me a bin bag of about 60 agatha christie books — that’s where I got them all.
cf: was it kind of fun working there?
roger: no. not on that end of it. I think it was during that period when it was still quite a happy-happy place to be. to go to as a club, not to actually work there. on really hot nights, they’d make me and my friend go up to the glass roof and slide panes of glass off so the heat would go through. we would clamber across this glass roof, while the other one held your arm. if there were no glasses to be collected, they’d make us go outside and sweep around the building. one new year’s eve party, a huge night, it was like 30 quid to get in. about half eleven, they took all the till takings and put them in the back, safe ground, it must have been 20 grand. fireworks went off at midnight, and a spark lit and burned all the takings of the night.
cf: have you heard about that film, 24 hour party people?
cf: are you going to be extras in the film?
cf: who would you want to play in the film? ian curtis?
mark: we don’t really look like anyone.
roger: I’ll be the hacienda glass collector. CF