WORDS: Graeme Campbell
Footwork, grime and Baltimore house…they're not genres you'd typically associate with the perfected indie cool of Franz Ferdinand, yet anyone lucky enough to have been in attendance at one of drummer Paul Thomson's DJ sets over the years will know that such eclecticism is only the tip of the iceberg in a selection process that bears no deference to boundary or tradition. For nearly 15 years, Thomson has been confounding preconceptions while proving that there’s much, much more behind the make up of his band than just guitars and sartorial flair. Then again, given his adeptness at guitar, bass, keyboard and…tap dancing, as well as drums, perhaps Thomson’s wide-ranging approach should come as no surprise.
2015 was a huge year for Thomson on the day job front as Franz Ferdinand readied ‘FFS’, their eponymously titled collaborative album with 80's cult obscurists Sparks which went on to widespread critical and commercial success. After finishing up a world tour in the States back in October, Thomson returned to Glasgow where he again swapped his tom-tom’s for turntables and headed up a run of shows including a potential night-of-the-year performance at Subclub’s iAM.
This New Year’s Eve, Thomson takes to the decks again for what is arguably one of his biggest performances to date as he plays alongside the Shoot Your Shot residents at the Hillhead Bookclub’s Hogmany bash. Speaking to SynthGlasgow ahead of the big night, the sticksman shared an exclusive warm up mix and spoke about his highlights from the past year, the present and future.
SynthGlasgow: Let’s go back to the start. Can you remember your early DJ performances and some of your first records?
Paul: I would play records at a place called The Attic I think, in Edinburgh. I was in bands and we'd often play that venue. A bunch of us would hire it out and as it was our night, we could play whatever we wanted between bands, so I started doing that. At the time I was going out most weekends to either Sativa or Pure, but I never thought that what I was doing - playing one record after another - had anything to do with what the DJs at those clubs were doing, where they were creating an atmosphere and taking the crowd with them and just going at it for hours. It didn't occur to me until years on that that it was within my capabilities (just).
One night at Sativa the last track they played was 'Plastophila' by Dopplereffekt and it was the first track all night with vocals and obviously a slower tempo than everything before it. I was blown away. I didn't find out for years what it was though; I would buy everything on Gigolo Records and I got the compilation album and when that track came on I was leaping around going "OH MY GOD IT'S THAT SONG". But aye, Dopplereffekt are the best.
SG: So just how serious is DJ'ing to you these days? Do you still treat it as a hobby or has it come to mean something a lot more?
Paul: It's as much a hobby as going out is a hobby, but I consider that to be more of necessity really. So DJ'ing is an extension of that for me.
SG: What would you say the highlight of your DJ career has been so far?
Paul: Playing I AM at the Subclub. I had recently bought a shit ton of Baltimore club music when I was over there and I'd been mixing it a lot at home; cos it's so functional it kinda works with anything, but I'd never really heard that stuff played out. So I played A LOT of it that night.
SG: You’ve built up a reputation for your eclectic and off the cuff live sets. Just how much planning do you actually put in beforehand?
Paul: If I'm packing for the club, I have an idea of what I'm gonna play depending on how the night feels, so I have records or combinations of tracks that I'll go to. It's a pretty loose approach on the whole though.
SG: What are some of the main changes you’ve noticed in the Glasgow scene over the years?
Paul: When we first started the band, we were putting on gigs in odd places such as warehouses and abandoned jails. There was also The Unit which was an illegal venue I guess, but it's now SWG3 which is obviously a legit space and venue now. I always thought there would be a lot more of those kind of events in odd spaces but there seems to be nothing like that going on anymore. Perhaps it’s the council and the police that are prohibitive. We got all of our gigs shut down by the police eventually and the council aren't that accepting of club culture right now, even though they're happy to reap the financial benefits of having a lively, vibrant night scene.
SG: Nights such as I AM are usually made up of a pretty young crowd, how did you find playing it?
Paul: What are you sayin’ like!? That I'm an old bastard? It was a fun night. I was cocky and throwing things in like footwork and grime instrumentals in a blatant attempt to win over a super young crowd. I think I got away with it too!
SG: 2015 looks like it’s been a bit of a mental year for you. Tell us some of your highlights...
Paul: The whole FFS thing was really fun. The run up to the first show at The Art School was so stressful. We rehearsed solidly for 3 weeks and were worried we'd fuck up on the first ever show, but after 2 minutes into the first song we knew we had it nailed and so the summer was great. Manchester Albert Hall, Bataclan in Paris and Glastonbury being highlights.
SG: What have been some of your favourite releases of 2015?
Paul: RP Boo album (Fingers, Bank Pads and Shoe Prints), 'My Way' by Fetty Wap (even when it drove me half crazy), '1 Sec' by Novelist and Mumdance, 'Obaa Sima' by Ata Kak; pretty much everything that came out on Principe this year, DJ Firmeza and DJ Marfox, whose set at The Old Hairdressers was unbelievable.
SG: Obviously NYE is one of the biggest nights on the calendar, do you have any surprises up your sleeve for Shoot Your Shot?
Paul: I'm buzzing to be asked so I'm planning on not being shit. But that's a surprise.
SG: So finally, do you have any resolutions for 2016?
Paul: Nah. Probably just keep on keepin’ on!