Interview The Japanese Popstars: ‘Working Under Pressure Has Its Benefits’

DIY’s Gareth O’Malley gets in touch with Declan McLaughlin (aka Decky Hedrock) for some grilling.

As misleading names go, ‘The Japanese Popstars’ takes the cake. The three men that make up the band are not Japanese; they’re from Derry. Neither are they popstars; their brand of hard-hitting electro has won plenty of praise over the years. Ahead of their of their long-awaited comeback, ‘Controlling Your Allegiance’, DIY’s Gareth O’Malley gets in touch with Declan McLaughlin (aka Decky Hedrock) for some grilling. Topics on offer included hectic schedules, guests, and of course, the actually-not-so-difficult second album itself.

Hello guys. How have things been recently? Exciting? Nerve-wracking? A little of both?
Things have been a bit hectic with us finishing off our album for the summer release and also trying to rework our live show for the festival season. Everything has been full on with us polishing off new ideas, adding to old ideas, doing promo and fitting in live shows around the world in between. Although in this time we have actually started ideas for album number three! Working under pressure has its benefits.

‘Controlling Your Allegiance’ features a number of guest appearances. What made you decide to go down that route?
On our first album we basically stuck to doing the vocals by ourselves; and we can’t exactly sing too well. We were all basically working our normal nine to five day jobs and did not really consider asking anyone else to try to guest with us. Music was like a very nice and exciting hobby that was rapidly taking over our lives! We would work Monday to Friday, gig at the weekends and try to write tracks in between. Once we left our full time day jobs we decided why not ask some other people to sing on our music. We first approached Morgan Kibby from M83. We are massive fans of the band and loved her voice. Once she sent back her initial idea for ‘Fight The Night’ we all thought that this was next level and it was how we should look at piecing together our new album to make it different from our last. We decided to ask some other people to do guest vocals. We never imagined we would have the guests we have on it now though!

Is there any chance of some of these guests showing up on stage at any future live gigs? Might, say, [Editors frontman] Tom Smith, turn up somewhere?
Yes, definitely. We have already had Tom Smith and Lisa Hannigan sing live with us as testers to this. Hopefully over the summer months we will be able to incorporate the other vocalists into our shows at some festivals, if everyone’s schedules work out. We are even hoping to have Robert Smith sing with us at Bestival! It’s just a matter of trying to arrange some practise with the vocalists and making sure our touring schedules leave us in similar places at the same time.

A new version of ‘We Just Are (Finaliser)’ was recorded in 2009. Could you see yourselves reworking any of the songs from the new record for possible future singles?
I’m a firm believer of letting things lie and moving on to write new material. Although, there are three people in the band and we do act democratically. So if the idea was liked then who knows.

Which of the new songs are you most proud of?
I am really proud of all of them, to be honest. My favourite is ‘Take Forever’ – it has a moment for me when everything is swelling up during the breakdown.

What’s it like being signed to a major label? What sort of creative freedom were you given when recording ‘Controlling Your Allegiance’?
I think the fact that when we were on Gung-Ho we were very limited to being a UK based act. Our releases did not really go worldwide unless other labels licensed these and did a good job of marketing them in their territories, which was hard to follow. Now we have a global corporation of EMI which have departments in every country. They are organising interviews for us all over the world, we are doing full days of promo in different countries. It’s insane to think of the level which things have jumped. Although, we still treat it all the same, after all its just music.

Finally, what are The Japanese Popstars planning for the rest of the year?
Get this album out, play a load of shows and release some remixes. We will be releasing our singles from the album as they come and we also might even have some new surprises in between!

The Japanese Popstars’ new album ‘Controlling Your Allegiance’ will be released on 20th June via Virgin.

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