James Ford, English producer and musician, has a lot of credits to his name. He is a member of music duo Simian Mobile Disco, and he's the producer behind Klaxons' Myths of the Near Future, Florence and the Machines' Lungs and Ceremonials, and every album by the Arctic Monkeys.
With a new Arctic Monkeys album coming out soon, September 9th to be exact, Ford spoke out about the recording process for AM, and about what we can expect from the hyped up album.
In an interview with NME, Ford talked about when he first met up with them in their studio to work on AM. He met up with the guys in their studio, which was actually their usual practice space, which they decided to record the album in.
"They had been camped up in there for months, even before I'd arrived, and they'd been doing loads of demos on these pretty shitty '70s four-tracks. I know they were getting really into the four-tracks, which played quite a big part of it. We ended up using a fair bit of them on the record – bits that were usable like interesting vocals. We tried to incorporate that as much as we could. I always love that, because the first time you record something, or the first time you have an idea, sometimes there's a magic in it that it's hard to re-create. So I'm all up for using as much of that as possible. I think it really influenced the way that they put the songs together."
When asked if Ford had recieved a briefing on the album beforehand, he told NME that his job was really to bring out the music that the guys already had, and make it the best it could be.
"There was no brief other than to make an interesting album. Obviously I'd seen the songs as they were demos, and I think that around the time of 'R U Mine?' they struck upon this riffy, slow and heavy thing. But then with this slightly strange hip-hop, slightly R&B sense to some of the melodies and structures. There was a bit of that in there. Really, they just wanted to push it on and do something different, and keep moving forward. My job is to really to try and help bring their ideas out and distil and crystallise what they want it to be, and help them achieve that. There's a Sabbath-y thing in there too, but obviously it's all filtered through Alex's songwriting and the band's playing."
The interviewer brought up that the vocals on the album have been said to sound very R&B-esque. To which Ford replied,
"There is quite a different take on the vocals. There's a lot of Alex in falsetto, of Alex singing in a really high register that he hasn’t really done before. Obviously Matt and Nick are both great singers as well, so Nick did a lot of really low Outkast-y, octave down vocals, while Matt did a lot of high, R Kelly-type stuff. We were interested in some of the vocal production ideas and, I think, the way that the good modern R&B records sound. They're often a very simple loop or beat, but a lot of the dynamics and the structure of the songs comes from the vocals and how they interact and build. That was definitely something they were interested in exploring. Often in the past it's been Alex's voice in the front, and obviously it’s still largely that, but we just found it interesting to play around with some of the other voices in the band."
The new album was also largely written on frontman Alex Turner's new Vox 12 string guitar. He purchased the guitar at the end of recording the band's last album, so he had never really had gotten to use it until they started working on the new album.
Originally purchased as a bit of a joke, the guitar ended up being the inspiration for a number of songs on AM. The Monkeys also used a drum machine for the first time on this album, specifically on their song "I Wanna Be Yours." But don't worry, the music hasn't "gone dance."
"It was probably the same one Suicide would have used. It’s not like they've gone electropop on us! It's not an 808 or anything! It's from that kind of era when drum machines were invented as an accompaniment to keyboards. Like the kind of thing old people playing in bars use. They've been used in rock bands for a long time – I think as long as you do it in the right way, it's great."
After collaborating for so long, the Monkeys told NME that they couldn't imagine making an album without Ford. Ford didn't quite know how to feel about that.
"I dunno. It's quite weird, because it's gone past the point of me feeling that I'm working with them. It's like we're friends and we can hang out, and making music is something we do for fun or something. A bit like I do with Jas [Shaw, James' Simian Mobile Disco bandmate]. It's something I would do for a laugh! So, I dunno. I think they probably should work with other people and get other influences in there – I think that's really healthy. I'm always willing and eager for other people to get involved. But if they ever ask me, I'd always do it because they're such amazing people to work with, and I consider them good friends."
You can read the full interview with James Ford here. AM will be out on September 9th. We're pretty excited to hear how it came out.
As Turner described it, it's "like a Dr. Dre beat, but we've given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster. It sound less like four lads playing in a room this time. Essentially, that's what it is, but if you can find a way to manipulate the instruments or the sounds to the point where it sounds a bit like a hip-hop beat that'd be boss in your car, then I think there's something quite cool about that."
We're not sure how the Monkeys can sound like Dr. Dre but we guess, as Ford said, on this album, "all bets are off."