Experimental Music Love

March 4, 2008

When I met the Young Knives

Filed under: Features — by Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 10:32 pm

I met them in a tour bus in Glasgow.  We spoke .  This is what happened.

The Young Knives are Henry Dartnall (vocals/guitar), Thomas ‘House of Lords’ Dartnall (bass/vocals) and Oliver Askew (bearded drummer).  They are a moderately popular indie rock band from somewhere in England who are far better than a lot of people give them credit for.  So well done them.  They are also incredibly funny people.  Enjoy the following conversation between me and them.  It starts with them discussing my recording device in case you are confused.

Thomas (House of Lords) Dartnall – It’s amazing how all the students who interview us have these amazingly expensive MP3 player recording devices and the professional ones like the BBC and XFM always have problems with the battery or the tape wasn’t running.

Henry Dartnall – Do you ever do that thing where you go the lecture and leave on the desk and just fuck off?  “I’ll be back in an hour; I’m going down the pub.”

Experimental Music Love – That is a great idea. 

Oliver – You don’t even have to be here.

EML – I could just leave this on the table and you guys can just talk about yourselves.  I’ll ask away anyway.   

T – You have terrible handwriting.

EML – I do have awful handwriting which has been commented on many a time. 

T – It’s almost as bad as mine.

EML – Let’s see it then.   

T – (Proceeds to write “My handwriting is really bad” on my notebook – it is)

O – You could have been a GP.

EML – Apart from all the years of medical training. 

H – I like how you’ve made an attempt to make it worse than it actually is.

EML – Back to questions.  Are you looking forward to tonight? 

T – No!  Yeah, actually.  Should be good.  When was the last time we played Glasgow?

H – Was it King Tut’s?  We’ve done QMU, which was good.

O – We’ve done… what’s the other called.  The one on the hill, where you play downstairs?

EML – Oran Mor? 

O – Sorry, I’m being thick.

H – It’s the one I said earlier – King Tut’s.

O – Sorry I’m not really listening.

EML – That’s just drummers for you.  Do you like playing the live shows? 

T – Yeah.

EML – You seem to sweat a lot. 

T – That’s because we’re chunky.  It’s what happens.

EML – And this is for the NME Brats tour.  Are you fans of the magazine? 

H – Yeah, and I like Shockwaves as well.  I like the NME as much as I like Shockwaves, put it that way.

T – I think it’s one of those things that if you’re in a rock band, you have to pander a bit to the NME to really get anywhere.  It’s the only thing kids buy every week to hear about music.

O – We got a shocking review for the single though.

T – And apparently out album review is really bad as well.  And here we are working for them, making them money.  It’s sad.  They’re dead when I get at them.  Not that we’ll ever get invited.  I’ll smash his face in. 

EML – Conor McNicholas? 

T – No he’s alright, cos he doesn’t write any of it.  But Alex Miller is going to get a smack in the cock. 

H – He’s going to get his cock bitten off.

EML – So what do you read then? 

T – Mojo.  That’s about it really.  I don’t like Q.  Uncut’s boring, Word’s boring.  Q can have stuff about bands like Antony Hopkins.  It’s just a bit more interesting, if a bit wanky.

H – Music journalism’s all a bit wanky.

EML – I’m sorry. 

H – You’re not a journalist, you’re a student.  Don’t get above your station.

O – Wire is the publication I read every month.  That’s well wanky.  It’s a bit wordy.

EML – Planet Sound on teletext gives you good reviews. 

T – Oh, that’s good.  I always think that teletext is written by cube-like Pac Man people.

H – The guy from teletext was at the Mercurys.  He was a really sweaty, balding man. 

T – Not a little artificial blob?

H – He looks like a computer geek.  It was good.

EML – Are you getting along with Vampire Weekend?

T – No, Vampire Weekend have pulled out.  They seem to be too big to be supporting us now.

EML – That’s always sad. 

H – It’s shit isn’t it?  People have bought tickets to see them.  Apparently they’re ill.  But I just think, just do it.  It’s only a couple of shows.  Alright, you’re quite big now, but it’s not going to do you any harm supporting us.

T – It would make them look silly.  Everyone would just realise they make silly, silly crap songs.


H – It’s not about who’s headlining – people have bought tickets anyway to see them.

T – Ida Maria are replacing them.  Quite good Norwegian stuff. Interesting.  Those Norwegians are crazy.  We had some friends of ours, a Norwegian band called Ungdomskulen, on the last couple of dates, but they’re not here for this one, which is a shame.

H – That’s because Vampire Weekend were going to do it.  We  could have had a fucking amazing rock band doing it, rather than some indie upstarts who weren’t going to show up anyway.

EML – This is all getting rather depressing now.  Let’s talk about something cheery – your new album, Superabundance.  It’s out soon.  Why should people buy it? 

H – Because they love us.

T – Because Q gave it 4 out of 5.

H – I would never tell anybody they should buy it.

EML – Would you buy it? 

H – No.  I’ve got it already.

EML – If you hadn’t been in the process of making it and were just a fan of the Young Knives? 

H – If I was a fan of The Young Knives I would definitely buy it!

EML – Or just a fan of music? 

H – Well yes.

O – I think they’d really annoy me – a band like us.

H – Only because you’d want to be in it.  “They’re just like the band I want to be in!  That’s all those songs I’ve been thinking about and would have written but he’s done them already!”  I’m pleased with it, it’s different.

EML – You do seem to have progressed from the whole Gang of Four influenced jagged guitar of the previous album.  You’ve got your Adam and the Ants cover, and Terra Firma does seem to come from that era – is that where you want to go? 

H – Yeah, there’s a little bit of synth.  But that’s a bit different from the rest of the stuff on the album.  The rest of it is a bit more rocking and melodic…

T – …and slightly psychedelic.  It doesn’t come across so much live.  But there’s a psychedelic element to it.

EML – Are you proud of it? 

T – Yeah, it’s good.  We recorded it here in Glasgow on Elden Street somewhere.  So we were here for ten weeks in the summer.

EML – An enjoyable time?   

H – Yeah it was good, if quite hard work.

T – We didn’t do a lot of going out and getting drunk.

H – We went down The Thirteenth Note (club in Glasgow) and smashed it up.

EML – What’s the most rock and roll thing you’ve ever done?

H – (points at Oliver) Had sex with him.  (laughs)  Whilst sober. 

T – I snogged six groupies in a van.  Actually it was five of the six. 

O – They were only after the t-shirts I think you’ll find.

T – Well we were in Bath and there were these girls and I desperately tried to have sex with them.

EML – The life of a rock and roll star. 

H – That’s horrible.

T – Yeah, but it’s the truth.  And they said if they could have a look at our bus, but it was a van at the time.  So I got the keys off somebody and took six girls in and they were all sitting there and I suggested that they all kiss me because I’m in a rock band.  And then they nicked some t-shirts and left.

EML – Did you rate them or anything? 

T – Rape them!?

EML – Rate! 

H – Yeah, and I actually killed them.

T – No, they weren’t that pretty at all actually.

EML – You were a young band then.  They’ll be prettier tonight.  You could fit maybe twelve on here. 

O – Yeah, there’s loads of space upstairs.

T – That’ll be amazing.

H – Stop talking about rape.

T – It’d be like Jimi Hendrix in Electric Ladyland with all the naked ladies.  We could just fill this bus with naked Scottish girls and all their pale flesh. 

EML – We’ll move on.  What do you think of music today? 

T – Today is better than yesterday.  Not as good as it’s going to be tomorrow.  It’s alright.  It’s always the same isn’t it?  It’s all run by fucking idiots and most of the bands are rubbish.  But most of the bands are always rubbish.  98% of all music is crap.  Well I only like 2%.

O – I only like 1%.

H – It’s a bit fucked yeah in that nobody’s selling any records.  But there’s lots of live music.  And free records you can just get whenever you want.  As long as we don’t have to go back to being in a van all the time.

T – We could all go on bicycles.  A tour on bicycles with guitars on our back.

EML – So there’s no era you’d have preferred to have played in? 

H – Post war dancehall sort of stuff.  Like Glen Miller’s big band.  I’d have loved to have been Glen Miller.

T – We were discussing the other day what band you would like to go back and see live.  And there weren’t many, but the one for me would be The Doors.  I’d like to go back and see them.

H – Or Steely Dan back in the day.

O – You can go see Nearly Dan.  Or the Australian Doors.

H – The Windows.

T – Or maybe the Revolving Doors, or the Swinging Doors.

EML – The Automatic Doors, with robots doing everything.  What would a Young Knives tribute band be called? 

O – We have one already actually.  There’s The Human Knives.

T – Yeah, there’s this guy who does electro version of our songs with vocoded vocals.

H – He’s a fucking freak.  You wouldn’t want to be on your own in a room with him with sharp objects.

T – David?  I like David.

H – His breath smells of burning hair. 

EML – The press seem to focus on the geek rock thing when it comes to you guys.  How would you refer to yourselves? 

T – Cool rock.  Very trendy rock.  I don’t think geek rock’s a genre really.  It’s quite good in a way cos it’s saying we’ve got spectacles.

H – The only other real bands in geek rock are Weezer and Eels.  It’s just bands with specs.

T – It doesn’t really say anything about the music so it’s quite good in that respect.  At least it’s not trying to pigeon-hole us, like ‘post-punk revivalists’.

H – …i.e. you’re not doing anything original at all.  “I’m trying, I know it’s hard.  I know everything in music’s been done.  Boo hoo.”

EML – What’s the geekiest thing you’ve ever done?

T – Collected stamps.

H – Counted curtain hooks.  There were loads and I just thought how many there were there.  And it took me two days to count all of them.  That’s not a true story by the way.  I once spent the day, and every time I saw a yellow Citroen Saxo I said the world ‘SAXO!!!’ in that horrible voice.

O – We watched Red Dwarf back to back.

T – We’ve not watched Red Dwarf – you have.

O – You know the storylines.

T – You love Red Dwarf more than you love drumming.

O – You watch Top Gear and Clarkson’s Mean Machines.

H – I’ve got a body warmer.  And I like The Hoosiers.  They’re my favourite band.  (picks up News of the World on table).  That’s why I got it, cos we’re in it.  And it’s got Cerys Matthews in just her bra.  It’s got lots of women in just their bras.

O – Check out Gary Lineker’s girlfriend cos she is fucking hot. (she is, and all scantily clad).

EML – Good lord. 

H – Why is she doing that?

T – I don’t know, but she’s very pretty.  He’s left his wife obviously.  If he hasn’t, she’s going to be furious when she reads this.

EML – Gary Lineker’s a bit of a geek.  He had a book of football stories once that was my favourite book in high school.  All about heroic 11 year old goalkeepers saving the day and all that. 

T – Now that is nerdy.

EML – What’s the worst decision you’ve ever made? 

T – The worst one today was eating some salami out of the dressing room which tasted like chilli and soap. 

O – I liked your Big Mac for breakfast.  That was a good decision.

H – That’s revolting.  It’s like a little school kid who’s just gone for a maccy don dons and spends all day with grease around their chin.

T – He’s worried because of battery beef.  They’re treated really badly – the little beef burgers running around.

H – Like Hugh furry wurry.  He’s a prick.  He’s fucking boring.  He’s the most boring man on telly.

EML – Have you ever felt like giving up? 

O – Life?

T – Not really.  There are times like the NME giving us a really shitty review the other day.  It’s just a bit of a downer.  You just think I’m not going to do anymore music today and I’ll just watch some telly.  Then you realise it was rubbish anyway and the NME’s a wally.

EML – What’s your comfort telly? 

T – QI is really good.

O – Whose Line is it Anyway?  The British one.

T – I like University Challenge and Mastermind.  I like to watch them back to back.  That’s a good evening.  Actually getting those two questions right on University Challenge and going ‘yes, in your face’ to my girlfriend and then punching her and giving her a dead arm going ‘screw you and your PhD, I got two right’.

EML – And lastly, what word of advice would you give young bands out there? 

T – Careful.

The live review shall come tomorrow.  And this week should see reviews of the Kooks, Vincent Vincent and the Villains and Does It Offend You, Yeah?  Wow times.



  1. And The Times is now reporting that the Young Kives’ manager assaulted Alex Miller at the NME Awards after party for giving the band that bad review (don’t know if it involved a smack in the cock). Pre-meditated?


    Thought the album was very dissapointing, by the way.

    Comment by Paul Sharp — March 10, 2008 @ 2:13 pm |Reply

  2. a better review than the NME could have ever done

    Comment by Daniel Mathews — April 6, 2008 @ 7:49 pm |Reply

  3. Thanks.

    Comment by Paul Sharp — June 20, 2008 @ 10:26 am |Reply

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