Interview The Duke Spirit

”We’re like sort of conduits to debauchery, our friends can misbehave and we get the blame!”

After releasing debut album ‘Cuts Across The Land’ in October 2005, we’ve not heard much from The Duke Spirit. Well, save for their appearance on the UNKLE album ‘War Stories’ with track ‘Mayday’. The band are back with a new label and new EP (‘Ex Voto’, out 22nd October), so we spoke to guitarist Dan Higgins.

You’ve spent quite a long time away from the UK (consciousness at least), was the long break between releases planned?
No, it wasn’t. We’ve split with our old label and found a new one, recorded an ace LP and been touring all over the shop. I feel quite knackered and it isn’t even out yet! Its an unfortunate gap but its really been worth it. I don’t think we’ve ever done anything the typical way anyway, so it feels ok to be where we are. Its been quite an adventure in fact.

What can we expect from ‘Neptune’?
The songs are just classic, really great songs, much more high-contrast than the previous LP. We’ve got some bigger, much more bombastic rock ‘n roll sounds and beautifully tender lullabies. We’ve worked with some great additional musicians too, horns from some of our favourite bands, string players, piano players. I daresay it sounds a little like a band becoming flabby on their second LP but its categorically NOT. It’s definitely got a soul similar to The Saints, punk rock with horns, outsider tendencies.

What was it like working on the UNKLE track?
That was quite an odd one. After discussing it with the UNKLE guys and the inimitable Chris Goss, we turned up at Rancho de la Luna studio up in the high desert in California, listened to a basic track, each of us disappeared into rooms and started conjuring up sounds on guitars, keyboards and percussion, which we then assembled and then took out bits of the original, kept bits in and we came up with that song. We were a bit tentative working on someone else’s music, but its fun, it worked out great. It was like being in a dream for a day doing that session, out in a studio in the middle of the desert. It cemented going back to that studio to do the LP. We did it on May 1st so the title ‘Mayday’ seemed fortuitous.

Why the split from Polydor?
It would be easy to bitch and slag off a label imprint you are signed to that is ultimately answerable to a major ie; Loog and Polydor, for not supporting you / financing you / keeping you but realistically, we never wanted to be on one of the big arsehole majors so we shouldn’t moan about it now. If, as a musician, you want to be mucked about by the majors then knock yourself out, but you’d probably feel better being on an independent label or putting out your own records.

You’re about to head out on tour in the UK, are you looking forward to it?
We’re really looking forward to it! We haven’t had a chance to play up north, Manchester, Leeds or in Glasgow for ages, it’s going to be great. Touring the UK we can take a lot of the extra musicians we play with too, so the songs sound amazing, with all the instruments we used on the recordings. The hilarious thing is, in the UK, lots of your friends miraculously appear having driven up to see you and invade your hotel room and generally pretend they’re in Motley Crue for a couple of nights. We’re like sort of conduits to debauchery, our friends can misbehave and we get the blame!

Which current bands are you fans of?
I saw that band !!! in Reykjavik the other day, they were really great, very intense. They had two really great drummers too.

How do you hope to end 2008?
I want this record to be big, it’s really good.

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