Interview with Tim Wheeler - 15th Dec 2006
Tim is called upon at Ash's studio in NYC for the latest update on the lads' new album.
Hello Mr Wheeler. How's it going?
Good thanks. I'm still in the midst of the vocals, but a million other elements seem to have come into play. We've been busy dealing with loads of other things.
Well we did a photoshoot for a couple of days last week, with a photographer called B+. That'll be all our promo and artwork shots.
Will there be a photo of the band on the album's cover?
We're not sure. We'll wait until we see all the photos. It's definitely an option, but there's some other artwork that we're interested in using too, but we don't know if we can track down the person who made it.
Have you decided the title yet?
No, not yet. We're thinking of the artwork first. We've got ideas for the title, but we don't know if any of them are the right one yet. The painting we're interested in is cute but sinister at the same time, which I think sums us up! Mark discovered it. But we don't know if that'll work out yet.
Did the photoshoot go well?
Yeah, really well. We did some right by the water in Brooklyn and then we did another day where we on the roof of our building and then some on this little island called Roosevelt Island, which is on the East River.
So they were mainly outdoors?
Yeah, and it was super-cold!
What were you wearing?
We just got loads of new clothes. We were changing outfits all the time and I think we were looking pretty sharp. We wanted to have loads of different photos so that we can use them for lots of different things. It was basically two days of constantly having our photo taken.
Does that get boring?
Um, not really. I was so worried about keeping warm that I didn't really get to think about being bored!
Did you put on any particular look?
I was just looking serious, cos it's a serious record! Ha ha! But, no, we weren't japing around like The Monkees. The photographer we were working with was really easy going. He just points and shoots and then tells you if he thinks it looks good.
When will you get to see the results?
Sometime this week, hopefully. This guy B+ is mainly a hip hop photographer but we met him a few years ago in LA when he did a cover photoshoot of us for Hot Press magazine. He's actually an Irish guy, but he's been living in LA for a long time. He's great. It's nice when you can pull together as many Irish people as possible!
So have you managed to do any recording in the last few days?
Well, I've been a bit distracted by other things. We've also been planning string arrangements on two songs, which has taken quite a long time. I've been working with this guy called Paul Buckmaster. He started in the late 60s and played cello on Bowie's 'Space Oddity' and then went on to arrange the strings on Elton John's first five albums and stuff for the Stones; he did the strings on 'Moonlight Mile' which is amazing. Plus he did Leonard Cohen's 'Songs Of Love And Hate', Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain' and Harry Nilsson's 'Without You'.
I know! And then he went on to do soundtracks, like 'The Spy Who Loved Me' and '13 Monkeys' and stuff like that. He actually won a Grammy for Best Arranger in 2001 for Train's 'Drops Of Jupiter'. He's this eccentric Engish dude living in LA. We've had loads of great conversations and it's amazing to be working with him.
How big will the string section be?
It'll be a 20-piece orchestra. They're in LA, so I'm flying there for like 8 hours on Saturday. We're recording in Capitol B studios, which is a really historical studio that people like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra used. It's been a lot of effort, but hopefully the word 'majestic' will sum it up when it's done.
So has there been any time to do the vocals?
Yeah a bit! I'll have done eight by today, which leaves six. I'm trying to get them all done before we stop for Christmas. That's perhaps a bit optimistic, but I think I can do it.
Have you started mixing any of them yet?
Actually, we did a mix this week for a song called 'I Started A Fire'. I'm thinking that might be the first song on the album. We did a trial mix with this guy Michael Brauer and it sounded great, so I think he's gonna do the whole record. And we finished off another song called 'You Can't Have It All'. We've got someone in mind for a collaboration on that track, so we had to finish it to send it to them.
A collaboration with a vocalist?
Yeah. I can't say who yet, but it would be bad ass if we could get this person. And then I had a bunch of interviews last week. NME came to the studio and I did an interview for a BBC Northern Ireland documentary about the history of Northern Irish music. So it's been pretty crazy busy.
Were the NME enthusiastic?
Yeah, they were. They seemed to think it's our best record yet.
Are you going to write any more songs?
Well, I've got a drum beat in my head which might make a really cool song. That'd be a weird place to start writing a song, but we'll see how it turns out.
When do the deadlines kick in?
I'll come back from a quick trip to Ireland over new year and do some more overdubs and then we start mixing on January 15th, so the recording has to be done by then. Then we'll get it mastered in February.
So it's full steam ahead from here?
Yeah, all the wheels are in motion. We're currently talking to the record company about what the first single will be - problem is, there are so many contenders that's it's a nightmare trying to decide!
And you're still feeling really positive about the album?
To be honest, the more people hear it, the better I feel about it. It's been great to see everyone reacting so well to it. It has taken longer to make than we expected it to, but every bit of extra time you spend on it makes it much better. So, yeah, I'm feeling pretty darned excited about everything right now.