Scottish rockers looking forward to returning to NZ

By Chris Ormond

Having started out only three and a half years ago, Franz Ferdinand's rise to the top has been a rapid one.

Their first, self-titled album, with its catchy hit single Take Me Out, has sold about 3.5 million copies, while the recently released second album You Could Have It So Much Better is already nearing the 2 million mark.

"We're quite chuffed with that really," guitarist Nick McCarthy says from Vienna, Austria.

"I've never played in a band like this before. I've played this kind of music, but for it to sky-rocket like this is something you really have to get used to.

"We thought we'd sell about 500 copies of our first album and put it out ourselves," he says. Instead, the original, high energy pop tunes ensured al most overnight success.

The Glasgow foursome have been more or less on the road since September, having followed up a US tour with a sold-out European one.

The Vienna show was one of special significance because of the band's name.

Franz Ferdinand was son of the Austro/Hungarian Archduke and inherited the title when his father was killed in 1896.

Ferdinand was not always popular among Vienna's social elite, alienating his peers by marrying below his standing, and appeared to have lacked some of the grace of his predecessors.

"He was a bit mad I think. He would go hunting with machine guns and things like that," McCarthy says. "He was an odd character, definitely."

McCarthy says Ferdinand was nevertheless an intriguing individual who was part of a romantic era, and the band was thrilled to get in touch with the Archduke's family while in their country.

"We met Franz Ferdinand's grandchildren and they invited us to his holiday home ... it was fantastic," he says.

While getting a hot reception around Europe, the band were also well received in the US and pleased to get the opportunity to see a relatively divided country in the flesh.

"They seem to like us so we go over there and play," McCarthy says. "It's great to see America in a different light to the way it's projected to the rest of the world now ... there's actually a really nice part of America as well."

After a short spell during the festive season Franz Ferdinand will join the Big Day Out Australasian tour where they will be one of the headline acts.

McCarthy seems vaguely aware of the tour's reputation and is keen to return to Auckland where a July, 2004 Regent Theatre gig went down a treat.

"We played in this old theatre which was one of the best gigs of last year actually. It was mad, there was absolutely no security there, everyone just stormed the stage and our manager didn't even lift a finger ... it was brilliant."

McCarthy says he's heard people in the music industry refer to the Big Day Out as the Big Day Off, and is happy to know the band will be playing to tens of thousands of people in some extreme temperatures.

"Is it quite warm over there now?" He asks. "It will be a bit of a shock coming from Glasgow where its minus-degrees at the moment.

"I think we're playing when the sun is still out, so it will be quite hot," he says. "But maybe it will go down while we're playing and everyone will be relieved."

While the music mix is likely to include a chunk of the first album, McCarthy says You Could Have It So Much Better has a bit more life to it.

"The first album was very disco orientated somehow, and we thought on this one we'd play a few dance songs as well and get a few more ups and downs in there. It seems a bit more what life is about really."

Fans will get the opportunity to see the band play at more intimate venues too, with gigs lined up in cities between Big Day Out shows, including one at Auckland's Transmission Room on January 19.

Apart from that, McCarthy says all are looking forward to having a look around and mixing with other bands they admire such as Iggy and the Stooges and the White Stripes.

The foursome don't often have time to do much away from music, but doesn't let Franz Ferdinand entirely consume them.

You always see (bassist Bob Hardy) with a book in front of his face. (Singer-guitarist Alex Kapranos) is writing his food column for the Guardian right now which is quite funny.

"He always goes for some weird food on a Monday night because he has to hand it in on Tuesday, it's like he's doing his homework every Monday night.

"(Drummer Paul Thomson) has a label that he's started and I've got a little band on the side -- like a home recording thing.

"It keeps the mind clear from Franz Ferdinand. Now and again, you've got to have another little life as well."

McCarthy says the band are keen to get another album out next year and will try doing some recording while on the road for the Big Day Out.

"I don't know if we're going to manage, it's quite tiresome doing both -- touring and recording -- we'll have to see if it works out.

"We like the idea of putting an album out at least once a year. I can't stand bands that take too long on albums, I think it's really boring."

- NZPA

* Franz Ferdinand play on the main stage at the Big Day Out in Auckland on January 20 with a warm-up show at the Transmission Room the night before.

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