Prior to his gig at the Openair St. Gallen, Ed Lay, drummer and founding member of the British indie-rock band Editors, took some time to sit down and talk about sweaty venues, touring in America and his favorite Editors record.
Indiespect: Welcome back to St. Gallen. It’s been quite a while since you were here. Do you remember the last time you played at Openair St. Gallen?
Ed Lay: We were trying to work it out which year it was. Did we play in 2012?
Indiespect: It was 2009.
Lay: 2009. Wow, really. So, nearly ten years.
Indiespect: It was the last time. Before you played in 2006.
Lay: Yes, I remember the one in 2006.
Indiespect: 2009 was a bit special. Your synthesizers got plugged out during the performance of «Papillon» which was not released yet by then. You left the stage in a rush and nobody knew what happened exactly.
Lay: Oh, shit. Was it bad?
Indiespect: I have caught it on video back then…
Lay: Oh, if it was bad I don’t want to see it. Well, hopefully it will be good today. The line-up of this festival is always interesting. It’s great to have Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode or The Killers. Quite dark bands on the bill. This is a bit of an exception to the rule. There’s quite a lot of dark wave bands on this one. It’s a good festival to be involved in from our perspective.
Editors couldn’t end their set at Openair St. Gallen back in 2009.
Indiespect: Will you have the chance to watch some of the other bands or do you leave straight away?
Lay: Unfortunately not. We’ve got a show in Denmark tomorrow night. Not in Copenhagen. Somewhere called Odense which is a few hours drive from Copenhagen. So, we’ve got to fly out early tomorrow morning to get to the show. That’s the way with festival seasons. You just have to be moving around all the time and getting as many good festivals as you possibly can. You don’t tend to touch ground too much, unfortunately.
Indiespect: I was a bit surprised when you said that you play your next concert in Denmark tomorrow. On your website the next gig announced is the British Summer Time in London. There you play with bands like «The Cure» or «Interpol» in Hyde Park. All of them match quite well with you…
Lay: It’s amazing to be asked by The Cure to play on one of their shows. It’s something you would never turn down. And we’ve always had some parallels in our career with Interpol. And they are playing as well. So, when we were asked there was something in the back of our mind going: is it the best look for us playing two slots below Interpol? But the whole day is just fantastic. You’ve got Goldfrapp, Interpol, Slowdive, Ride or The Twilight Sad. It’s bands that we totally respect. I think every member of that posse is thrilled to be on the bill. And I’ve never seen The Cure, terrible. I’ve never had the opportunity. Whether we’ve been on tour the time they actually come and do their shows or for other reasons. And this is their only European show of the year. I think it’s 40 years since their debut album. It’s gonna be a good one. I can’t beg of any more, really.
Editors during their show at Openair St. Gallen 2018.
Indiespect: Will you be able to stay and watch the show, there?
Lay: Yes. We’re allowed to stay on that one. Thank goodness.
Indiespect: Why did you decide to include «No Sound But The Wind» to your record «Violence»? Didn’t you want to leave it up to the Twilight fans?
Lay: That was partly the reason. As you say, the song has been in our repertoire for some time. But it has never had the stamp of the band on it. It’s always just been Tom as an individual, essentially. I know, there’s not much band on it. It still has that loose, etherial quality to it. But there’s an element of us all on it. And that is important. That we all play our part in making it into an Editors song. The album needed a moment of quiet reflection. You got songs like Violence or Nothingness, something with a big dance beat in it. When we made the album it was very late on when we decided to put it in there. And we worked on it for like half a day. But it was great. Everybody concentrated more than on any other point of the record probably.
Indiespect: I saw that Tom played an acoustic version of it as an encore on most of the shows. But when you were in Zurich by the end of April you didn’t play it. It was really hot in that room, did that affect your choice?
Lay: Yes, it was unbelivably hot. I don’t know what was going on that night.
«No Sound But The Wind» was in the repertoire of Editors for many years. But it appeared in a different version for the first time on an Editors record this year.
Indiespect: I think the ventilation of the venue didn’t work.
Lay: It was mental hot.
Indiespect: How hard is it for you to play a show like that?
Lay: I like it. I don’t like air-conditioned venues. I know for a concert it’s got to be quite difficult. But I don’t feel I get into a show as much when I don’t feel the sweat running down my back while I’m playing. I don’t have to go out to a bar or to hang out with friends on the tube or the train on the way back home. So, as I said, I feel quite sorry for the fans that come to a sweaty show but for my perspective it feels like a more communal thing. A bit more back to our animal state. It’s a bit more primal, I suppose, to go to a sweaty show where everybody is going nuts.
Indiespect: I think some people were afraid that you didn’t like it, because you didn’t play the song there.
Lay: Oh no, not at all. Sometimes it’s necessary to change the set depending on how it feels in the room. But maybe we just don’t wanted to play it that night. We vary our sets very little. Sometimes if we think it’s like a party set and everybody would be bothered about hearing an acoustic song, I don’t know. We go of our instincts on that sort of thing.
The Artwork of «Violence» was made by artist Rahi Rezvani like the one for the previous record «In Dream».
Indiespect: When I sit next to you, you seem like a quiet and nice guy. But as soon as you enter the stage you become a beast behind the drums. How does that transformation work?
Lay: I’ve always played drums in a certain manner. I’ve always kind of gone for it. It’s definitely a second character I play. It’s nothing particularly conscious. I’m very reserved in normal life. I have a quiet life at home with my children in a sleepy part of the country. So, my life away from that feels like two separate identities. I like that separation.
Indiespect: In several interviews Tom said that his favorite Editors record is your third one. With «In This Light And On This Evening» you changed your style quite a bit. With that you lost a lot of fans but you gained new ones. Is it yours as well?
Lay: I don’t think it is, actually. I liked working on it. I especially liked to work with Flood, he’s an amazing producer. But I lost my mind slightly making that record. It was the start of the beginning of the end really for our band as that unit – you know with Chris (Urbanowicz) in. There were things that troubled me a little bit. But it definitely got its merits. And we’re actually going to play Bricks and Mortar again tonight. We haven’t played it for ages. It’s nice to play that again. You give a song a couple of years off and it comes back with a new vigor. I think this is an important part of being in a band. Knowing when to drop a song and when to bring it back in. I don’t know what my favorite is. I genuinely love the new one. The way we worked on it together and then the people we used to help us produce it which were Blanck Mass and Leo Abrahams. Especially with Leo I’ve felt a real kinship. And I think I learned an absolute ton with him. The way we actually produced that part of the record feels very important to me. And my development personally… And just the pure musical taste, I think. It really fits in with what I like to listen to.
Indiespect: It’s a bit a combination of both worlds you did on your previous records.
Lay: Yes, it certainly is. The heavy electronics are right up now with the stuff I like. But it also got a bit more soul maybe, in terms of real instruments then In This Light. For me the balance is better.
«Bricks and Mortar» hasn’t been on an Editors set since 2015.
Indiespect: In an earlier interview, back in 2009, you said something funny. You became part of the band before they changed their name to Editors. But Tom and Russel still will let you know that you can be very lucky that you’re in the band. And now, in 2012, you got two new band members. How has the chemistry changed since then?
Lay: (laughs). It’s got a little bit easier on me. A little bit. I’m not necessarily Russel’s little pet anymore. But they still try to take the piss out of it. But it’s fine. Everybody has got their own personality stamp within the band.
Indiespect: Is there a song that leads to different reactions in different countries or cities? Where you might feel a different energy than in other places?
Lay: Oh, do you know what. A Ton of Love really seems to work in Italy. I don’t know why. That seems to be the biggest single there, I suppose. They really go for it. It’s a song we’re not actually playing tonight. It’s not a definite to be in the set if we’re playing a slightly shorter slot than one of our own shows. But we would always play it in Italy.
Indiespect: You seem to play quite a lot of acoustic sets for radio stations. Do you have any plans to do an MTV Unplugged record?
Lay: It’s weird. MTV Unplugged has sort of disappeared. I know a couple of bands have done it fairly recently. But they’re not at all what they used to be, which is a real shame. In the UK you’ve got the Radio 1 Live Lounge which has become massive. So, everybody is very used to hear acoustic versions of songs. Kind of the only reason why we do this, is because it’s cheaper (laughs). I’m not involved, it’s either Tom and Justin on piano or Tom, Justin and Elliot on guitar. That’s kind of it. You don’t have to have any gear with you. You can hand carry everything. In modern music everything is squeezed so tightly and it’s a way of keeping on going and getting on radio or doing sessions for TV. Where there would not be the money to put on a full show. That’s kind of necessary for us to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point we did some sort of this. Whether it’s the MTV thing or some special acoustic show.
Indiespect: But you would have to be involved by then.
Lay: Yes, I hope so. Otherwise I feel a bit marginalized (laughs). We did do a show in Hamburg, I think. Justin was ill. He couldn’t make the show. We actually re-did the show in an acoustic style. We spent a whole afternoon and morning working out a shortened set that we could play. And it worked very well. It wasn’t my most fun moment because there was quite a lot of pressure. But yes, it worked well.
Indiespect: You’ve toured in America this spring. You haven’t been there for a long time. How did it feel to return?
Lay: It was great and a pretty interesting tour. Good venues, good crowds. It’s a shame we haven’t been back there so often. I think we’ve missed out pretty much two entire records. It’s hard to go back to a place. You don’t get any media welcome back with open arms. There are a few people who are really keen to see us because they haven’t seen us for ten years. But, essentially we’re starting again over there. Hopefully we’ve planted a little seed this time.
Indiespect: So smaller venues again? How was it for you to go back in a more intimate environment?
Lay: Oh yeah, they were pretty tiny. It wasn’t the easiest of course. I’m good with smaller shows but it’s difficult when you’re using completely new gear and really boring stuff like that. It was a hard tour in more ways than one. But I loved it. I had a good time and it’s very easy. Easy in one way because there’s no language barriers or anything like that. But touring Europe is the best thing out there. You travel across one border and you can enter into a totally different lifestyle. This feels where we’re most happy.