The Kaje talks touring to Biffy Clyro

Ayrshire trio Biffy Clyro spent nearly a decade on the live circuit building an unbreakable reputation which finally resulted in their fourth album “Puzzle” exploding into the mainstream. With their current UK Arena tour coming to a close, the Scotsmen are about to head down to Australia for an epic headline tour as well as some dates with some old friends… The Kaje grabbed a few minutes with drummer Ben Johnston to find out a little bit more…

So, we hear you are going ‘Down Under’…

We are going with Muse, supporting them as well as doing a load of our own headliner shows. We are going to try to play as many of our songs that we can fit into one set. We have five albums to choose from. We will just fit in as much as we can and give a spirited performance.

In your time you have supported some amazing bands. Could you pick a favourite?

Queens Of The Stone Age, if I had to pick one, was probably the best support slot we’ve done. They are big heroes of ours. We’ve supported them twice now, both in the States and Europe. The tours we did were great and we’ve become friends. Of course Josh featured on our record and stuff afterwards.

As a headliner, do you get any say as to who supports you?

It depends where we are playing as to how much say we have. On this tour in the UK, we could handpick the bands as long as they were available. But if we go to somewhere like America, you have to do somebody a favour to get the show or bring in extra fans. It is not as clear-cut as people think. In Australia, we get a list of bands and pick out the best ones. There is still a good deal of control there in terms of good music control.

What do you think the secret to a good set is?

Passion, it is the best thing in the world. It always makes an amazing show. It help create a connection with people which you just can’t put into words. It is really quite special. Luckily we’ve always had that. People like to sing our songs, it is one of the best things about the Biffy fans. Also as a performer, it is important for an audience to see that the performer loves singing the songs just as much as they do.

Everything seems to have gone a bit crazy post'”Puzzle”…

It is all pretty mental and pretty weird. There is nothing about our life that is mundane, mediocre or normal. When we look back we can’t believe where we started, it has been 16 years of hard graft. It has been a gradual progression from one stage to the next. It takes a good long time to take it all in and we’ve got strong heads on our shoulders. We’ve tried to take it all in our strides really.

Would you be able to put your finger on what makes you stand-out?

Not really. I guess on this particular arena tour, there is a song on our set list called “There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake”, which is on the third album. It is a catchy song, we are playing it every night right now, sometimes to 11,000 people and I can’t think of any other band that has done that, played a song that is that crazy. When you think about that it completely baffles me, when people that play music like we do, especially over here right now, with the charts are corporate pop acts. We even get called a pop act over here, just because of how popular we are, I is difficult to get our heads around it. We love it though as we are hopefully changing people’s ideas about music. Their only concert will have been N Dubz, then they come to see us. That is just completely bonkers to us. We have always been a cult band so it is totally weird.

How do you feel about your ever-increasing fame?

It has two sides I guess, it is good that more people are listening to our music. Even at that point, we’d done three albums so we had done a shit load of touring all around the place. We had spent time with the first records and the music finally come round to our way of thinking. “Puzzle” came out, qe were suddenly played on day time radio. We were just over the moon when it happened, we will welcome as many fans as possible.

Having put in the hard slog, why did it your destiny suddenly change?

The right band ant the right time, we’d put in the groundwork and it was bubbling away when we;d done Volcano. We had a bunch of amazing songs and sorted them into an album, we recorded them with a good producer and the stars aligned and people were now ready for Biffy to be a big band. It hasn’t really stopped.

Now that the mainstream success has hit, do you feel extra pressure to keep it going?

There is a little bit of a niggle in the back of your head, but it definitely isn’t something that occupies your thoughts much. The tester for our songs is do we like them, do they make the hairs on our neck stand up. If they do then they make the album, or if the not the record then they will be a b-side. It is the same testing process for everything, that hasn’t changed at any point ever. We aren’t going to start putting restrictions on what we do.

“Only Revolutions” has only further cemented your widespread appeal, with the record receiving nominations across the board…

It was because of the success of “Puzzle”, people started having expectations of the new album. It comes out and the songs are good again, so they were just buying it. There are a lot of things that have been released from that album and Britain has just gone a bit crazy for it. It is just really hard to believe, we even won at the teen awards this year. We won best song, we beat Cheryl Cole and some other pop bands, so we can’t believe it is actually happening. People’s ears were pricked up already and then the album came out. It was the right time and a good time.

Thinking back to when it all began, do you recall what it as that you wanted to achieve?

We didn’t really have an aim at all, even if that sounds a bit cliché. To tell you the truth We were just three friends playing In our parents’ garage, making a racket. We doing Nirvana songs, indie songs and everyone’s favourite songs. Eventually we wrote our own stuff. Then suddenly were doing a gig and so our aim changed to doing an album. It just goes on like that. You take it in small steps. We were talking about this the other day, and Simon had scribbled on his art school folder, everyone used to scribble on theirs, he wrote the Reading line-up of the year 200 and apparently we were headlining. That was Simon’s aspirations anyway by 2000, but it wasn’t quite right! Maybe 2012, who knows?

You have toured around the world, are there any boxes still unticked?

Big Day Out. We’d love to come to Big Day Out. We had a chance last year but it didn’t quite work out. Also Coachella in America, would be great. In terms of actually venues, I can’t actually think of anywhere.

Was there a moment on stage when you realised you were onto something?

You are asking me to cast my mind back a good few years here. It was probably the first time we sold out King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, a little venue in Glasgow. The first time we sold it out and the audience were sing out our stuff back to us to the point to where our monitors were indeducable. We couldn’t hear ourselves sing. It was like a proper fucking Beatles moment, you know. Back then, we thought it was about to kick off in Glasgow, there was vibe it was all going off. Then we went to London and it all happened again. It was before we’d even released an album, so probably 2000. So the year Simon wanted to headline Reading, we were actually selling out King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut.

Looking back on your five albums, would you be able to pick a favourite song from the selection?

Ah man, you can’t do that! That’s impossible! Its like having fifty babies and picking your favourite. I can give you a current favourite off the new album. I’ll go for “Whorses”, I like playing it live, it is a great workout and its great fun. I really have to concentrate to go through that one.

If you had to recommend one of your albums to someone who hadn’t heard of you, which would you suggest?

“Only Revolutions”, to be honest. It is everything we are to this point. There is nothing we have lost, we still have the sensibilities of the first album. Our spirit is still there. It is a perfect representation of where we are as a band.

So if “Only Revolutions” epitomises Biffy Clyro to date, what can we expect next?

There is always another album coming up, there is a bunch of songs already, we just haven;t been home much. We are constantly touring, for four years actually, but even more now. We are taking January off and you know, songs will flow without a doubt. Simon writes when he is home, so we will have about 30 or 40 songs to choose from. So we should have an album and if things work out right, some b-sides.



1 Comment

  1. Awww, come on man! Don’t recommend your new album! Blackened sky all the way. I saw these guys in Dundee before they were “cool”. Dissapointed recently. Get it together guys I really want to like you again.

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