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Radio 1 Alternative feature: Elastica
(BBC Radio 1)

Justine Frischmann from Elastica

'The Menace' marks the return of Elastica. It's the second album from Justine Frischmann and her band - original members Annie Holland (bass) and Justin Welch (drums), plus newcomers Dave Bush (keyboards), Paul Jones (guitar) and Mew (keyboards/vocals). Five years in the making, the record contains 13 tracks and was recorded just after their appearance at last year's Reading Festival.

We caught up with Justine to talk about the making of the record, the new band, and their forthcoming tour.

Can you tell us a bit about 'Human' (from the album)?
It comes from a period of time when Annie wasn't in the band. Donna wrote it when we were thinking about trying to make music that was quite different to what we'd done on the first album. I think there was kind of a sense of isolation going on within the band and I think that comes across in the song. The song was actually re-recorded with the new band lineup for the album.

How did that change the recording from the original?
It's quite a sort of bass-heavy version now, because Annie's playing on it, and I thought it worked better like that.

As you said, the song brings over a sense of isolation; it's a heavy song, seemingly about a relationship that's gone cold. Would be this be an accurate description of it?
Well, Donna wrote the lyrics, so it's difficult for me to sort of comment on her lyrics, but for me it's about falling in love with a drug rather than a human, with the space that a drug can take up almost being like a lover.

Do you reckon this has got anything to do with your and Donna's relationship?
I think in a way Donna accused me of not being totally human before, when we weren't getting on, so yeah, maybe.

Can you agree with her in any way about that?
No, I was extremely misunderstood by her. I don't think that's true at all, I think she saw me trying to just get through the whole situation, keeping the band on tour. I think with all the touring on the first record, I was just focusing on trying to keep on keeping on. While other people were cracking up around me, I was presenting a together face, despite what was going on inside, and I think that was what Donna was reacting to.

You toured loads during and after the first record. Has your approach to this record changed because of your initial experiences the first time around?
The music industry's quite a different place for guitar bands than it was the first time around. I think we always saw ourselves as a more underground band than other people saw us, and I don't think we were ever that comfortable in the mainstream. I was certainly never that comfortable with the notion of celebrity and certainly extremely uncomfortable with being in the tabloids. I think that this time around it's weird trying to get the balance, because I certainly haven't missed being out of the spotlight, but we've made a good album and I'm proud of it, and I want to give it the best possible chance for people to hear it. But on the other hand I'm slightly dreading the press coming out, and being in the press again.

The last time around, there was a big focus on you, and there were a lot of photo shoots in which you were prominent. Have you made any conscious efforts to present the band all together on this one?
I think that's always a problem. People always focus on the front person. I think in a way with Donna gone, it's actually worse than it was. No one wants to speak to a drummer, and Annie wasn't involved for a whole period of time, she left and then rejoined, and I don't think people are that interested in speaking to the new people, in terms of hearing the story, so in a way it's actually worse for people focusing on me, but there's not really a lot I can do about that.

Are the new guys interested in talking to the press, to get their experiences over?
I think they're fine about doing it, but there's a limit to how much they can actually say. Paul's only been in the band since last year, and the same with Mew, so it's probably a bit tricky for them.

How's it been with the new members? How have the dynamics within the band changed?
It's been really, really good. We're all a bit older, which is really nice. Mew's an old friend. She was a friend before she joined the band, so it's great to have her around. I think in terms of the chemistry, it's been really good. It just works as a group of people, and I feel like the band are my mates more than anything, which is how it should be, and how it started off being in Elastica Mark 1. In many ways we sort of feel like it's a new band. We've got a lot to prove and absolutely nothing to lose, which is kind of a good feeling.



You played at the Astoria in January, which was like your big London comeback gig. How was that?
It was actually a really fun gig. Normally London gigs are quite difficult, and I think we've always felt that London's quite hard to play. People are standing with their arms crossed going, "Come on, impress us!" This time round, it actually felt like the audience were willing us to be okay, and to do it, and for it to work out. It was great, and it was true of all the gigs we did around the country, not just the London one. The audience reaction's been very encouraging.

Did you feel nervous being on tour again?
Well for me, the biggest hurdle was Reading last year, because that felt like a comeback gig more than the Astoria. The band's sort of in place now. The Reading gig was quite nerve-racking. Obviously the first date we did on that little tour was the first date we did for three years, and I had absolutely no idea how I was going to feel. If anything, I felt more relaxed that I ever have, and I felt more like I could be me and I didn't have to put up a front really, which was a good feeling.

Did you anticipate having that feeling?
I had no idea. I couldn't imagine what I was going to feel like, and I was also just sh***ing myself that I wouldn't be able to do it any more. It was weird, it felt so exciting and such fun again, and I think part of the problem with all the touring with the first record is that I found myself just doing it parrot fashion, almost like a robot, day after day after day. Having such a long gap made it feel really fresh again.

There must have been a point where you didn't care about what anyone felt anyway, as long as you enjoyed it?
There was quite a lot of that; I think that's a lot to do with getting older, and the thing of feeling like it's been so long, there isn't really a lot to lose. I think generally I feel I give a sh*t less about what people say about me than I did. It used to matter to me a lot, and it used to be something that I found quite difficult to deal with. One of the good things about stepping back and not doing anything for a while is that I now realise there will always be people who will have a go at you, and there'll always be people who are sympathetic, and that's just life really.

With that kind of attitude, some people might say that this record is way less commercial than the first album. Do you agree with this?
I think the album is a lot more commercial that the EP. The EP was basically demos. This album, although it was recorded quite quickly - in the end we recorded it in about six weeks, after Reading - I think it's well recorded and fairly well produced and accessible. I was quite determined to not be worrying about singles and the pressure of that, because it's something that drove me a bit mad in the end. It was one of the reasons why we found it so difficult to write when we got back from the end of the first world tour. I just felt like we had to get on and do whatever we wanted, and just get it done, get it out and move on. Since the album's been finished, I feel creatively and personally like a huge weight's been lifted, and in a way it's almost weird to be doing interviews about this album. It was finished before Christmas, and I really feel like we've moved on a long way. We've been recording, and we're hoping to put out completely new stuff.

You've been recording since Christmas?
Yeah, since we've finished the album, we've been writing and recording, so I suspect that the new single's going to be something completely new, that we're not going to put out a single from the album.

So this talk of putting 'Mad Dog' out is not going to happen?
I'm not really sure. We're kind of talking about it at the moment, but I think it'd be really good for us psychologically to put out something completely new. It's been really exciting again writing and recording, and it's the only way we're going to get over talking about the five year gap.

You've talked about being a bit more experimental with this album, with programming and in the studio? Have you tried any different approaches to writing and recording?
Yeah, putting songs like 'My Sex' and 'Miami' on this album. I'd have never dreamed that they would be songs for Elastica. I do feel like my attitude's more open at the moment. I'm happy to work in whatever way does work, and it doesn't have to be necessarily a band set-up, a band playing a song. I've been writing with Loz (Hardy, ex-Kingmaker and Justine's flatmate), and I've been writing with Paul and Dave. I'm just happy to do whatever works really, I don't feel like I've got such a set idea about what we have to do anymore.

Going back to 'My Sex', it seems that that's the most emotionally exposed song on the record. Did you feel comfortable putting it on there?
It was written during the period of time when I didn't think Elastica would continue, to be honest. It wasn't written for Elastica, it was kind of written in my basement, with Loz Hardy, who's my flatmate. It was like therapy doing that track. I didn't want to play it to anybody, and then a few people heard it and gradually more and more people heard it, and I was really encouraged, because they loved it. There were a lot of people saying to me that it should go on the record. I do think it's like an important part of the process. The Menace is a pretty accurate description of the whole passage of time and all the different headspaces, and I think 'My Sex' is an important part of that. For a while I found it really hard to listen to it in front of anybody else. I'm not really used to bearing my soul in songs, it's not something I do, it's not really where my music usually comes from, so it was kind of a new experience for me. When I first played it to Mark Waterman, who helped us record the album, he just totally took the piss out of me about it. It's a weird one. It got played on Radio 1 during that documentary, and there were a load of people at my house listening to it. I had to leave the room while the song was on.

What did you think about the documentary?
I thought it was really good. I thought it was quite Spinal Tap, but I guess we are quite Spinal Tap really!

Do you reckon there's one particular song on the record with sums up its whole ethos?
No, I really don't think there is, and I think that's part of the difficulty in choosing a single. I really don't think there's one song that's representative of the whole thing, because there were so many different phases of writing the album, and that's probably why I'm tempted to not put a single out from the record, because I don't want people to hear one thing and think that's what the record's like, because it's so varied.

You worked with Mark E. Smith on the record - do you have any plans to work with him again?
That wasn't actually a pre-arranged thing. Dave Bush bumped into him in a pub and asked him to come down. Working with Mark E. Smith's always going to be a pretty spontaneous thing, to be honest.

Did you enjoy working with him?
Yeah, it was great. He was totally charming, absolutely brilliant, and very inspiring to have around, like a kind of whirlwind of ideas in the studio. I really enjoyed it. It's very hard to meet your heroes, and I'm a huge Fall fan, but he totally lived up to what I'd hoped he'd be like.

Did you find him intimidating?
No, he was very friendly. I was intimidated by his reputation more than anything else.

Did you learn anything from him about writing or recording?
Mark Smith's whole thing is to just get things done quickly, and I think that's something that I kind of knew anyway, but I'd forgotten.

Do you admire the way he's handled his career, and is it something you'd like to apply to Elastica?
Yeah, I love the way that he just carried on doing his thing, whatever the weather, whatever's fashionable or popular, he just carries on doing his thing. I think he's got a lot of musical integrity, and in that sense, that's something I'd like to bring to Elastica.

ADDED BY PROJECT ELASTICATED: Not complete unfortunately – the last page of the interview is lost.