Despite fourth album Yeah Ghost being due in only a few days, when State caught up with Zero 7‘s Sam Hardaker, he was once again on his way to his London studio. Down a crackling phone line, we quizzed Sam about the album, his cohort Henry Binns’ newfound role as a some-time lead vocalist, and just why Zero 7 love retired French footballer Zinedine Zidane’¦
Let’s start with a little plug for the new album. Tell us about it’¦
I’m not very good at this stuff! Well when we finish a Zero 7 album, we’re never really sure if there’s going to be another one, it relies on us getting the right combo together, and Sia had decided it was time to go and do her own thing, so Yeah Ghost was all about finding a balance. It took a little time, but we’re pretty happy with the results.
Where does album title come from?
The tracks sounded slightly like a ghost at first. We didn’t quite know how to get them to move on, you know, somehow we had to live with that for a while. Throwing those two random words together kind of got that across for me. It was like giving a shout out to the ghosts who’ve been living with us in the studio for a couple of years. It felt like a haunted studio for a while.
We’ve seen a few reviews saying the album is a bit more poppy than previous ones; Basement Jaxx is one comparison that seems to keep cropping up. Is that a conscious thing?
No. Actually, our record company has gone to great lengths to tell us how lacking in singles the album is. I think it’s a lot to do with the relationship between Eska and Henry, though, who both have quite an appreciation for some types of -pop’ music, and can write a song with that kind of feel. We were really enjoying each other’s company in the studio, and this is what came out. As far as Basement Jaxx goes, I don’t hear it myself, but, you know’¦
Yeah Ghost is the first Zero 7 record without Sia. Do you feel not having her on the album has changed the dynamic?
Yeah, it took us quite a while to find somebody to build a good working relationship with. But Eska has taken things beyond what we imagined. She seems to get a great buzz from us, which is really what we’re looking for. We like to give someone a track and have them come back with something that’s transformed it, and she’s the one that did that. It’s quite a magical thing. You’re never sure it’s going to work, a relationship like that, but what she’s brought to the music is really amazing. We were struggling to keep up.
We read somewhere that Eksa turned some of the tracks around in less than 24 hours, is that right?
They usually took a couple of weeks, but sometimes she would come down during the day having totally transformed something. She’s just one of those people whose got a talent for hearing things that other people can’t. A lot of the time she’d say ‘just give me more tracks’, and just come back with loads more ideas.
How does Henry feel about his new role as a vocalist?
He’s not a very confident lead vocalist at all. I don’t think he had a burning desire to do it, but we had everything there and we just needed to get on with it, rather than go out and search for someone else. It’s just about having a bit of self-belief. He’d already sung the guide vocals, it was just a case of singing some words that you believe in. We had a laugh doing it in the end, though we did need to show a bit of imagination.
The Zinedine Zidane track (‘Everything Up’), what bought that on?
(Laughs) Yeah, Henry and I were just trying to have a bit of belief in ourselves. He seemed to personify what we were trying to achieve. It’s that turn he was known for, like Cruyff, that’s what we imagined ourselves doing, in the heart of a crowded penalty area.
You mentioned earlier that you’re never sure if Zero 7 is going to make another album. Could this be the last one?
No, I don’t think so at all, because albums are really good for the confidence, going on tour and that. And I think we’ve still got it, you know? We love what we’re doing, and I think we will do it again.
Kling and Ingrid Eto, your side projects, are they on hold for now?
I’m sure they’ll carry on. That stuff’s about making music that’s not all geared up to making an album, or made for the record company or anything like that. I think it’s really important as a creative outlet, and we’ll carry on doing that stuff whenever we can.
As published on State.ie, September 2009.