“It's like a very luxurious version of what I did at the beginning.... ” hmv.com talks to Metronomy's Joseph Mount
It has been nearly 15 years since Joseph Mount first began making a name for himself, both as a talented remixer of tracks by the likes of Gorillaz and Lady Gaga, and as the main creative force behind Metronomy, winning widespread critical acclaim for albums such as 2011's Mercury Prize-nominated LP The English Riviera.
He's also worked extensively as a producer for artists including Roots Manuva, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and, most recently, on Robyn's 2018 comeback album Honey.
This week not only sees Mount celebrate his 37th birthday, but also marks the release of Metronomy's sixth album, Metronomy Forever, which makes its arrival in stores today.
Ahead of its release we caught up with Joe for a chat about recording the new album in his new studio, his move from Paris back home to England, and forgetting how old he is...
First things first, a belated 'Happy Birthday' to you...
“Ah, it was only yesterday so it's not really that belated, but thank you very much! I actually had a day off, it was very nice, it was one of the only days off I've had in the last... er.. six years?!”
So album No. 6 is out this week, when did you start working on this one? We saw that you worked on Robyn's album that came out last year, were you working on your new stuff in between?
“I was trying to do them both at the same time, but in the end it just became very clear that I couldn't do that! I was working with Robyn for about three years, something like that, or four years, even. Obviously I was doing gigs and some touring a bit around that, but trying to find the space to form a record, in the same way that I was helping her form hers, was just kind of difficult.”
“It wasn't until last summer. This time last year I had a version of the record, but then I worked on it until January this year, which was when it was sort of finished.”
How did the Robyn thing come about, by the way? She did a guest feature on your last album, was that the first time you'd worked together?
“No, it wasn't. We'd actually already been working together on her record, but that was the first time something was officially 'done', I guess. She got in touch with me about five years ago, we went for dinner and then started we talking about doing music together. It was quite a few years ago that we started doing stuff.”
You've got your own studio now, is that where you recorded everything for the new album?
“We'd done half in Paris and then half in my own studio. This time last year was when I started making the second phase of the record, and all of that stuff was done in my studio. So I guess the most creative, or the most productive part, was all done in my studio.”
What prompted the move back to England?
“I've got a family so it was just finding somewhere we could all have some space, really. It was either the French countryside or the English countryside, and in the end we just moved back here.”
What difference has that made to the way you were able to work?
“It's been like a sort of trip back in time. When I first started making music I was making it at home in my bedroom, that idea of home also being the place where you're making your music is kind of where it all started. So it's like going back to the bedroom, but it's like a very luxurious version of what I did at the beginning.”
It must be nice to have that freedom though, where you're not really under any time pressure...
“Yeah, exactly. I think that's the thing, you get into this habit when you're using a studio, you're kind of scheduling creativity, in a way. It's like, I've got these two weeks and I've got to do as much as I can. So it feels more natural to just have somewhere at my house, really.”
You tend to work alone when recording, don't you?
“Yeah, pretty much exclusively.”
Do you ever find yourself in need of a second pair of ears? Whose would they be?
“By now, I've kind of gotten to a point where I have my opinion, and then I'll play something to Oscar (Cash) in the band, and I also rely a lot on my manager for stuff like that. I mean, to me, now, that's Metronomy, that's how it functions. But when it comes to any other thing that I'm involved in, it's a very different thing.”
“I've got to the point now with Metronomy where the way I operate is almost like a concept, where I almost make it intentionally that isolated, because I think that has a lot to do with how it sounds and what it's about. I guess there's a point at which you're just asking someone: 'Do you like this or don't you?', and then I have to say: 'Don't tell me what to do, just tell me yes or no!' I think the point at which you start working with someone like that, it's a collaboration, and I think that Metronomy is Metronomy because it's so idiosyncratic.”
Do you usually have a specific aim in mind when you're starting a new record?
“It depends. You always start with something, with an idea, but that idea can completely go off on some tangent. It's a bit like if you have a drama workshop and someone says 'OK, let's improvise around this idea', and all it is is something to get you started.”
“I think with this record I started with this idea that I was going to try and make this kind of baggy, very Manchester-influenced thing. And then you kind of realise that when that music was happening, you were listening to something else. So you start re-evaluating lots of stuff and it kind of steers you somewhere else, in the end.”
Was there any particular song that set the direction for the rest of the record?
“I think 'Lately' was the first thing, that was the most important part of the first phase of making the record, but then the second half, the bits I was working on in my studio, it would have been a song called 'Whitsand Bay' and another one called 'Forever is a Long Time', which I think took the record into a more psychedelic place.”
We saw that you'd created a playlist on your Youtube channel with a very similar name to the album title, is that indicative of the kind of thing you were listening to for inspiration?
“Yeah, exactly, and you do pick out these little bits. There's another track, that Len song 'Steal My Sunshine', I was listening to that quite a bit, it's like breakbeat-y guitar music, I guess is how I would describe it. But I was thinking about all that stuff where it's basically bands doing dance music. The Mancunians still have that attitude towards music, I think. People just like music and don't see that you have to decide if you're into one thing or another thing, it's really kind of open and generous. It's cool.”
That whole Madchester thing did seem to represent a turning point in that sense, before then things felt a lot more tribal...
“Yeah. As I remember it, it felt like a Northern thing, where it was like 'we don't really care what it is, it's good'. And I remember being aware, certainly where I grew up in Devon, that it was a bit more like 'are you into bands, or you into crappy chart club music'. I remember I got to a point where I started quite liking some of the dance music that was on the radio and feeling a bit embarrassed! And then I realised that you don't have to decide, you can like it all.”
What kind of album is this from a lyrical point of view?
“I think what I was trying to do is write some lyrics which were kind of relevant to me now, and also trying to avoid pitfalls of cliches in songwriting, which is sort of impossible to do in some ways, but again I feel like if yourself these little starting points you end up with something. But yeah, I guess it's just about being a man in his mid-30s. Or late 30s, as of yesterday.”
“It's hilarious because the whole of this year, up until about two months ago, I thought that I was 37. And then I realised that I was 36, and I was like: 'Oh, f*ck, OK, I've been living a year ahead'. So this birthday has had absolutely no impact on how I feel at all, I've got another year of being 37!”
Why did you decide on the title Metronomy Forever?
“There's this track called 'Forever is a Long Time', and for a while I thought that was quite a good name for the record. But then it got pared down to the point where it was just Metronomy Forever. It's quite a concise title but with loads of implications, in a way, and I quite like the idea that it sounds like a greatest hits record, or a goodbye record.”
“But the reason it ended up being that was that I quite liked the way it sounded sort of naïve, you know? It's quite self-aware, like this medium-sized band taking itself very seriously, like, staking your claim and saying 'Metronomy Forever', and then someone going: 'Who?' So I quite like the idea of this grandiose title.”
We did wonder about whether there was a finality about it, whether it was like 'OK, six albums and I'm out'...
“Well, exactly. As of now, it's not. But we'll see how the tour goes!”
What are your touring plans for the new record?
“We're going out in October, then we're going to South America in December, there's stuff in November too. Yeah, we're just touring everywhere, basically, is the answer.”
Anywhere you're really looking forward to?
“Kind of everywhere, really, because for the last record we didn't tour it, we did festivals a year afterwards, and before the festivals we did a few shows, but we haven't actually toured for ages. I think the first date is in Bordeaux in France and I'm really looking forward to it. So yeah, everywhere, and that sounds really lame but genuinely, this time it's true. Everywhere.”
Metronomy Forever is available in hmv stores now.