"My girlfriend says I'm only truly alive when I'm arguing," exclaims Andy "Falco" Falkous, using his famous cool, dry wit. "I think it's good to argue with people face to face, as long as they're not armed." This is of course why arguments, or at least complaining, are the core of the lyrics he's been writing for over 15 years now while serving as the vocalist-guitarist of noisy angst rockers Future of the Left and, previously, the brawny Mclusky. FOTL's latest, The Plot Against Common Sense, comes with no short order of commentary. Whether taking issue with the Olympics ("Failed Olympic Bid"), the commercialization of indie-rock ("Sheena Is a T-Shirt Salesman") or the shamelessness of movie franchises ("Robocop 4 - Fuck Off Robocop"), Falco serves up one side-splitting invective after another, which he stridently and persistently spews over his band's herky-jerky, feedback-saturated post-punk.
Though when SPIN reaches him at his home in Wales, he's got no complaints about his tortellini. "You can take your sex and drugs and your rock and roll and stick 'em up your ass," he says with a laugh. "It's all about the food."
Are you a foodie?
I don't really go out to restaurants because I haven't got the money. And when I'm on tour I have a rule about not eating too close to going onstage, though, because it's not a cool feeling projectile vomiting over the audience.
Has that ever happened?
I did once get food poisoning in Denver from a hotdog in 2004. I don't normally eat random, imprecise meats. But I got food poisoning and it was coming out of both ends for 48 hours, and the next show after that was in Minneapolis, and it was coming out between songs behind the amplifier. There's a lot of things I like to share with the audience but the contents of my stomach isn't one.
We can talk about your music, too, if you want.
Yeah, if you want to get all esoteric about it.
What was it like making the frantic-paced "Sheena Is a T-shirt Salesman" video?
We slowed it down so the song was basically nine minutes long, and there were no cutaways, so we had to mime for nine minutes straight. It's incredible how much you can think about your life in those moments. I really came to some vast, spiritual conclusions as I attempted to convincingly look as if I were singing. But it was not an entirely dark place.
Was the fact the Olympics are in Britain this year the reason you wrote "Failed Olympic Bid"?
Yes, it was. It is essentially the London Olympics, even though it is spread around the country to a degree; we get some of the ladies' football here, and all the cycling. It really only benefits London, though. And that is true of a lot of the experience of living in Great Britain. As much as London is a fantastic city — it's one of the most fascinating and enduring cities and houses, what, 12 out of 60 million of the population — it's not the center of anything, which doesn't fucking suck.
It sounds like you hate London.
No, I like London a lot. The best and worst things about places are usually the same. The best thing about the States, as an outsider, is the unbridled positivity. And the worst thing about the States is also the unbridled positivity. Hope is not the refuge of the stupid in the States. Whereas hope is definitely the refuge of the stupid in Wales, and in Britain in general. For example, if somebody starts their own business in the States, I think people genuinely wish them good luck and say, "I really hope you get to improve your station in life." But in Wales, people would say, "Who the fuck does he think he is? He thinks he's better than us?"
That mentality must have made it hard to start a band.
Yeah, obviously I'm exaggerating. But I think in a way the worst thing that can happen is having too much support or being told that you're great right from the start. Mclusky became good — and I say good entirely in my own terms — by fighting through huge disinterest. When you're younger, you have these idealistic and, let's face it, out-of-focus dreams of what rock stardom might involve. So once you've played for long enough, and aside from having a cursory relationship with your guitar, you begin to fall in love with the entire process of being in a band.
What has been the height of your rock-star excess?
Not women [laughs]. If you're picking up a guitar to get laid, that's a really longwinded way to go about it. Just work out and use some fucking deodorant, my friend. Don't spend three years learning guitar getting together with some equally sex-starved mates, record an album and then go on tour; that's seven years before you get your first nibble. And drugs are not really my scene. It just makes people boring. There's been quite a bit of drinking over the years. There's been a few arguments with other bands that probably shouldn't have happened. It's kind of policy for me though that all the rock-and-roll happens on stage.
So if the rock'n'roll stays onstage, what have been your most rock-star moments? When have you bled for your music?
A flying guitar string cut me just below my eye two nights ago, but that wasn't a lot of blood. I've nearly been decapitated before by a falling bass amp, but again, that was an accident. I once tore off two fingernails with a guitar string accidentally. You get injuries wrestling bears, not playing rock'n'roll.
So how do you feel when people treat you like a rock star?
We actually did a show last night in Brussels, and Belgian crowds aren't known for being particularly forthcoming. They quietly appreciate. And I noticed about halfway through the show this guy yawning. And I've never seen anybody look so mortified and then attempt to deliberately look as though he was enjoying himself so much until after the show. It was pretty impressive to know that you've got such a cartoon-like reputation and to be able to use it just to influence the minds of men just with your eyes.
Does it bother you when people complain about your music?
No. One of the funniest and most revealing moments of the last six months for me is when SPIN streamedPolymers Are Forever in November. It is a 21-minute EP, and the first condemning review turns up 10 minutes after it starts streaming. This person hasn't even gotten halfway through the whole EP before it's been written off. That person is not a fan. They're a song tourist. I think that's quite revealing. When you can see something thrown in such a ridiculous way, it calms you down. Unless that review is on Pitchfork [laughs]
Your songs all seem to have stories and messages behind them. What is the worst experience you've had with someone misinterpreting the meaning of one?
There was a rail crash in Britain in 2006. After a gig I did with Mclusky a guy came up to me and said, "Is that song about my girlfriend who died in the Potter's Bar Rail Crash?" That was the first thing he said to me. There was no preamble. I said, "No. No, it's not." "Are you sure? Don't fuck with me." I said, "I'm not fucking with you. Please get out of my face." He was dead serious.
The song in question was "She Come in Pieces," which is on the first Mclusky record. It's rubbish. It's a terrible song. It's simply saying, this girl, she gives herself to you in pieces of her soul, pieces of her personality. Not that she's been literally posted to you in body parts. I'm not often found to be writing songs about people's dead girlfriends for a fucking laugh. Like, "I'll tell you what would be macabre, if I wrote a song about that dead bitch." Honestly!
Since your music exudes anxiety, what do you listen to when you relax?
I don't really listen to much music. I listen to lots of podcasts. I go for runs and listen to the history of Rome. Occasionally the Misfits if I want a good laugh. And it's difficult not to listen to the Gang of Four on a weekly basis. Like, every Sunday, stick on Entertainment! and put on a cockney accent and go, "Lawcked in Lawng Kesh!" As long as you've got the Gang of Four, everything's all right.