Editors are an extremely hardworking live band when they are not slowed down by a pandemic. In the meantime, they have grown to six members and, with the new addition Benjamin John Power aka Blanck Mass, have released their most electronic album to date called «EBM». Why there is nevertheless a rock soul behind it and what life in the band feels like, Editors veterans Ed Lay and Russell Leetch told in the interview before their show at Volkshaus Zürich.
Tom Smith (vocals, guitar, keys)
Russell Leetch (bass)
Ed Lay (drums)
Justin Lockey (guitar)
Elliott Williams (synths, guitar)
Benjamin John Power (synths)
Indiespect: Since you started as a band you had significant changes in your line-up. Others replace musicians that leave on the way, you add more and more. What would you say is the best thing you get out of that?
Ed Lay: Ideas. There's better bonding in between the group when you've got new people coming in, with new personalities. It's multifaceted, really. It broadens your world. There's a lot of places which are making your world smaller and that doesn't feel like a progressive thing. It has allowed us to just be a bit more forward thinking.
Indiespect: And maybe you're finally not Russell's little pet anymore.
– Both laugh hard –
Russell Leetch: Elliott's my pet now. Yeah, I go for the small ones, you know. Ed has made the grade – now he's in the band. (laughs)
© Rahi Rezvani
Editors in 2022: Elliott Williams, Justin Lockey, Tom Smith, Ed Lay, Benjamin John Power (aka Blanck Mass), Russell Leetch (from left to right)
Indiespect: Your musical journey is quite fascinating. With your third record «In This Light and on this Evening» you dived into the electronic world for the first time. After that it went a bit back and forth. I was wondering if all of you were into the idea of this electronic shift right from the start or were discussions in the beginning?
Russell: I think, we've all been into that. And we just react to what we've done. With «Violence», it was a little bit more pieced together and as a record it had electronic elements in it, but more in a Roxy Music type vibe, rather than what we've gone for with this. «EBM» is more direct and pummeling. The tempo is faster rather than a bit more spacious. It's very claustrophobic and cold rather than a bit warmer like we were on «In Dream», which was a little bit more conceptual – like «In This Light and on this Evening» as well.
Quite a lot of people weirdly said to me: Well Ed, what are you going to do on this record?
Indiespect: Because of COVID you weren't able to see each other and you could only talk virtually. Basically just when you met again in person for the first time again, Benjamin joined the band. How did it feel for you that there suddenly was one more band member?
Russell: We'd met quite a lot of times and had a fair few conversations on the phone. There was the intention of working with him for shows and then obviously COVID struck. That's when the working way of the band was going to be different. It was just prepping ideas beforehand and then going into a studio afterwards.
Indiespect: But how did the process work? Did you write all together or did his part come later?
Ed: All the writing was done virtually, mostly between Tom and Ben, initially. Then, Justin and Elliott got into the bones of it and started to create more dynamic across the whole thing. After that we tied it all together, when we all got in the studio together. Russell and I put down the rhythm parts on acoustic instruments. Quite a lot of people weirdly said to me: Well Ed, what are you going to do on this record? But in fact the whole record has got live drums and bass on it. It does feel like an electronic record, but it has got the power from what we've provided. It added to the sort of intricacies of what was written. So yeah, it is very electronic, but it's got the soul of a rock record, actually.
The beating heart of Editors: Ed Lay on drums.
Indiespect: Your older songs also changed in the new live line-up. Do they still feel like they used to or do they feel completely fresh to you?
Russell: They're not completely fresh. They're just enhanced in a nice way that they feel expanded and have nice little lifts in them. We've done this twice now with new members. Justin and Elliott coming in – they changed the older ones a little bit. The guitar styles are different and they contain more synths and piano for Elliott. Now with Ben again, there are more electronics added onto older songs, but in a tasteful manner.
Indiespect: After playing some live shows with «EBM», can you already name a fan favorite?
Russell: Well, there's all this reinventions like «All the Kings» in the setlist. But from the new songs «Strange intimacy» seems to be going down very well with the fans. And also «Karma Climb».
That's a really good indication if nobody's ever heard it before
and you can really see that the reaction is very positive.
Indiespect: When I first listened to the album and I heard «Karma Climb», I thought: this is going to be an epic live track. I don't know exactly why but I suddenly had that feeling.
Ed: It probably feels like the most traditional Editors song on the record. Maybe you could imagine of how it will feel live, imagine it just working. And it does, it really gets people dancing, though. We've been playing it in the summer as well, before the record came out. That's a really good indication if nobody's ever heard it before and you can really see that the reaction is very positive.
Editors in their new line-up in Zurich.
Indiespect: Since you're talking about summer, I really love the way you communicated about Justin not touring with you in the summer because of his anxieties. Now he's back again for the fall tour. How is he doing right now?
Ed: He's been really good. I mean, he actually missed a couple of days on the tour, but it had nothing to do with those issues. It was a bit like a crazy couple of weeks to start with this tour. There was quite a lot illness going around and things not working out, but the shows have been absolutely amazing. Justin needed to get back on stage and he needed to rediscover what it was all about. Because we've been playing all summer, so we've understood emotionally as well as physically what it's been all about. And for Justin, it's been almost two and a half years since he last played on stage. That's quite a massive period of time in someone's career not to do that. So, he's really enjoying it. He's loving being back up. Obviously, there's issues of traveling and anxiety. It's always going to be there and he's got to manage it.
Justin needed to get back on stage and he needed to rediscover what it was all about.
Indiespect: I read, that before COVID you had a period where you were not sure in which direction you want to go. Did this break also help you to continue as a band?
Ed: It definitely gave a sort of enforced opportunity for these songs to be written – and they were written really quickly, actually. We had the record done by this time last year, so it's been quite a while. We've had to sit on it. Because nobody knew what was happening, the increased lockdowns and things like that. So, we had to sit on it a little bit and we could work out what we were doing in terms of coming out and playing the shows to everyone. It's been slightly elongated, but I'm not sick of the album, yet. Sometimes you just think: When is this coming out? Because it just feels old now. I haven't had that feeling at all.
Release date: 23.09.2022
- Heart Attack
- Karma Climb
- Strawberry Lemonade
- Strange Intimacy
Indiespect: The music scene still has to recover from from all that happened during the last two years. How is it for you as a band? Do you just keep on working or are you also afraid?
Ed: No, I don't think you can let that get into you. You have to be sensible. I mean, everything's changing around this. Costs are spiraling massively, not just for going to shows, costs of putting on a show. It's crazy at the moment. Everything, hotels...
Russell: It's a bit of a mess, because obviously everybody's coming back, band wise. You've got all the big acts coming out. And the acts that are our size have really suffered across the board because the tickets have been taken from the big, big guys. And then, venues like this are going to suffer as well, which is a shame. But we just try and do our best to put it on the road. But yeah, you worry about these things because we see that you were used to it, you've had a two year break and then things change. You try and move your band/business to try and fit it all together. It's an odd time for a lot of musicians because change of habits as well. A lot of people still aren't coming to shows, you know, for whatever reason that is. COVID just let them stay at home. And some people might just not want to be surrounded by people.
«Karma Climb» – one of the new fan favorites
© Eva Pentel
Indiespect: When you start a band, you are aware that you have to fight to reach your audience – and you already built that up for many years. You were always on the way up, it seemed.
Russell: We've always had to fight for our career anyway – throughout the whole time. No record has been that easy for us. We came out and we had to work hard on every record. So, that's never really changed. We've never been a press band, say, like Arctic Monkeys have. They've just been a generational band. We haven't been a band like that. We just worked and played way more shows and played everywhere. That's all that we can do.
We've always had to fight for our career anyway – throughout the whole time. No record has been that easy for us.
Indiespect: I did an interview with Justin and Elliott when you were in Zurich for your «Black Gold» tour. I asked them, what they think that they've brought to the band, that hasn’t been there before. And they said that I would have to ask the other members. Now I have the chance to do so. What did they add to your band when they first joined?
Russel: They got out of that question, you think? Yeah, yeah. When they came in, it was a new energy. And Chris was a very talented musician but sometimes he was pretty hard to communicate and work with. It was his way or the highway and he wasn't the politest sometimes about and out. So, getting people in, that are enthusiastic, that want to work, would listen and change their ideas to accommodate, is good. And that's what they did when they came in. It makes working a lot easier when you can express things.
Indiespect: That's also something that they told me – that there's more like a family feeling within the band now. Where you talk about stuff.
Ed: Communication is key.
Communication is important within Editors.
Indiespect: With adding Blanck Mess to your line-up, do you have the feeling that this forces you into a even more electronic direction?
Russell: We've got a scope to move into different areas. Ben's into soundtracks and that's what he does. He is composer for films as well. We can definitely make a sonic template that isn't so electronic. It could be more ambient. It will be exciting to see where it goes.
This record actually hits the nail on the head quite well for a lot of us.
Indiespect: The band WhoMadeWho from Denmark once told me in an interview that they wouldn’t buy their own record because each member comes from a different musical background, one from Rock, one from Techno and one from Jazz. Even if they love the music they make together it’s not completely one’s perfect taste. Can you in any way relate to that feeling?
Ed: I think it's pretty individual. All of us have always liked rock music, probably least of all Tom, initially. But he's coming round to that now. He's kind of getting into metal and rock a little bit more. We all like the energy of techno music.
Russell: The repetitiveness.
Ed: Yeah. And then play it live in a kind of rock way. This record actually hits the nail on the head quite well for a lot of us. In terms of taste, I'd say.
Tom Smith was the least into rock in the beginning.
Indiespect: Do you have a favorite kind of venue style to play your music?
Ed: These club shows have been great.
Russell: I love a theatre like this, when people are there with you on top and then they get a show as well. Sometimes you play a venue and the stage is a bit too small. When you get a nice stage it's good. So yeah, as long as we can do that we're quite happy, we always played those kind of shows and that's where I think our audience likes to see us as well.
it's so easy just to go to a dressing room, sit there for the whole day and not check out where you are.
Indiespect: I just mentioned it because I saw that you post the day's empty venue on almost each show day on your Instagram account.
Ed: They all look cool. I've always done that, but it's been been a while. Venues are beautiful and interesting places. I always like just wandering around and seeing what it's like from the different perspectives, whether it's on a balcony or down from the steps in front of the venue. You've got to check it out and see what people are experiencing. Because it's so easy just to go to a dressing room, sit there for the whole day and not check out where you are. Does this room we're in tell you anything about what's beyond that? It definitely doesn't. It feels like a clinicians room, isn't it?
Editors are a live force.
Indiespect: Are you still sometimes on the other side? Do you go to gigs?
Ed: Yeah, definitely. We really enjoy it.
Russell: Yeah. I don't know what I've seen recently because we were doing festival. We'd go to see things there. We saw Phoenix and Moderat and it's nice to see some more faces. I didn't see so much new things. We were on a a bit late on a lot of festivals and a lot of the new stuff was on early. We still love to go to small gigs as well. When you go into a room that's a 300 capacity or whatever. If you see an upcoming band, it can be total magic and I love that.
He has darts and he throws them at a map behind his head.
Indiespect: Your routing was quite interesting in the last few days. You played in Lausanne, went to Vienna and now came back to Zurich.
Russell: Yeah, he's an idiot, our booker (laughs). Steve's, that's his name – he's here somewhere. He has darts and he throws them at a map behind his head.
Ed: It was a pain in the ass, yeah. But here we are. Where are we off to, tomorrow?
Russell: Milan, that's not too far.
Ed: That's not too bad.
Editors are around for 20 years now.
Indiespect: I think you answered all of my questions now. I just have a note down here. The beginning of «Strange Intimacy» reminds me of the electronic part of Rammstein's song «Deutschland». Do you know this one?
Russell: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Ed: I mean, that wasn't intentional, but we are all pretty keen on Rammstein. Not necessarily the music, I don't think we to just sit there and listen to Rammstein but that kind of shows, that theatricalness and their ability to get crowds excited. They're a massive band for a reason and obviously they've got tricks up their sleeve. They've got imagination, they've got a bit of humor about them. We're keen on that.
They're a massive band for a reason and obviously they've got tricks up their sleeve.
Indiespect: How is it for you to listen to music in a foreign language. For us, we understand some of the English lyrics if we focus but sometimes we also just listen to the music.
Russell: Yeah, exactly. Similar. I mean, we have no idea what he's talking about. But it's dramatic and they've got some big riffs, but it's the same as you, I guess. You just go with music. They're pretty fun to go and watch. They're humongous.
Indiespect: Thank you for your time!
Russel & Ed: Thanks! Good to see you.