By shane

Based in New York City but born in Leeds, pseudo-glam-rock cadets Spacehog are at it again with their second full-length, "The Chinese Album."  With current single "Mungo City" storming the US charts and a support slot for the spring/summer Aerosmith tour recently confirmed, the band could become officially massive any day now.   On Tuesday, April 7, lead guitarist Ant Langdon took time off from holiday in Florida for an EXCLUSIVE interview.

EXCELLENT ONLINE:  Your official artist bio from Sire is a little vague when it comes to the origins of the band.  Could you indulge us with a brief bio?

ANT LANGDON:  It's a cheezy question, aye.  But just for you, I'll give it a go.  It was actually a coffeeshop that founded Spacehog.  I was living in New York City at the time, and bumped into Jonny [Cragg, drummer, ex- of the Hollow Men] in a coffeeshop.  Once we discovered we were both from Leeds, we had a good talk about life and music.  Eventually, we decided to get some mates round and jam together.  It just happened that my brother [Royston] was in town for a visit, and he took on singing.  It was kinda fun, so we decided to play a gig.  That was a lot of fun, so we did more. My brother never went home and we just kept on gigging.  It was a promoter friend who christened us Spacehog, for reasons still unknown.  I fucking hated the name and thought, "Christ, I'm in Spacehog, we're destined to be a ridiculous band."  And here we are, a ridiculous band.

EO:  What or who do you cite as your primary influences?  I mean, the average listener could get anything from Queen to Bowie to Mott the Hoople...

AL:  Yeah, yeah.  I love them all.  I'm not very educated in music, never was.  So I was just listening to whatever was around... the Beatles into the 70's era into some of the cheekier 80's.  But I suppose it was the 70's music that stayed in my soul, which explains a bit of how the first album sounded.  Of late, I confess that I truly love the new Radiohead album. And I've been listening to a lot of "techno-y" sounding records.  I quite like that French band Air and their album "Moon Safari."  But just because I like an album doesnt mean that I'm influenced by it.  I'm actually more influenced by things like sex, waking up, and going to sleep...

EO:  Do you mind it when journalists tend to use the word "glam" around you? Not that I'm one to pigeonhole or anything, but what do YOU describe yourselves as?

AL:  It's a wonderful thing for an artist to have a clear vision of what you are and where you want to go.  And from that vision, you can devise a new sound, have new values, wear new clothes.  But that's a very difficult thing to accomplish these days.  We're not quite sure exactly what we want to be.  When the first album came out, we knew exactly what we wanted to be.  We wanted to be over the top, we worshipped Spinal Tap and wanted to be just like them, and we wanted to ride in the Concord.  And then we went and did all that, so we're back to Square One.   The new album has a sense of lethargy about it.  We went into that album already being a success.

And success is like a drug.  It boosts you up, but then it makes you less hungry.  We took ourselves quite tongue in cheek for a while there.  We had a hit single ["In the Meantime," from the first album, "Resident Alien"] and then we got to hang out with movie stars and rock stars.  We lived our dream, and then it was like, "Well, what the hell do we want now?"  So to sum it up, I've honestly been quite confused lately.  It's a nice coincidence that the new record's called "The Chinese Album" -- you can't understand us, you probably can't understand Chinese, either.  [laughs]  I don't mean to sidestep the question, but that's the closest answer I can give.  I realize that journalists have to find words to describe -- that's your job.  So if you want to use "glam," I'm not horribly offended.  But it's not entirely accurate at the same time.  We're a work in progress...

EO:  Do the record companies tend to milk the "glam" image whether you want them to or not?  I found a publicity bio on you guys from Sire that said you were a band chock full of "apocalypic bravado and flaming theatricality."  Is that statement a little over the top, or is it accurate?

AL:  Let me put it to you this way.  Right now, I'm in the middle of Florida.  I'm sitting on some wooden steps that lead into an open field. And I'm wearing a green surgical gown that says "Support Your Local Commune" and has pictures of naked flower children on it.  So I don't think I'm living the glam life at the moment.  It's like life, it's all a work in progress.  When we started the band, we were encouraged to sell out.  It was our perfect response to Americana.  We did it.  We grunged, we sold out.  And we spent way too much money, and it was great.  On our first big tour, we were'nt even headlining, and we show up in this huge, elegant tour bus and the headlining band pulled up in a crap van.  It was great, but unless you're Hanson, you can't live like that forever.  It's a confusing time for us right now.  I don't know right now whether we're relevant or not.  We're a work in progress, and that work right now is as important to me and shitting and breathing.

EO:  People seem to talk about your visual and live presence just as much as the music itself -- do you guys consider yourselves to be more of a visual band, or is it simply a tough balance to maintain?

AL:  I come from a rather visual school, whereas Roy comes from more of an aural school, so we balance each other out, I think.  I'm definitely from a visual school -- photos, films, etc.  Other people have their worries -- I spend my time thinking about how they lay out shopping malls.  It fascinates me, shopping malls are a perfect example of the genericness of American life.  A glossy shiny exterior -- it distracts you from the richness and beauty of life -- you don't notice these things because you're too busy being lost in Sears or whatever.  But yeah, I'm very moved by visuals, where Roy is more into the aural aspects of it all.  It all comes down to creating simplistic pastiches, safe spaces.  If you can build a safe space, then you can do things that are interesting.

EO:  Turning towards the new record, the first question has to be the album title -- why "The Chinese Album"?

AL:  When we were in the studio, a friend gave me a photo book from a British photographer, Cecil someone.  The photo book was called "The Chinese Album," and it just fascinated me -- it was a great book, all these simple pictures.  The blaseness of it all really connected with where we were at.  The whole album was created with a really reactionary perspective.  There's no relevance, really -- it just works.

EO:  The record definitely expands the band's musical horizons from the first one.  Was that an intentional objective going into the studio, or did it just sort of... happen?

AL:  We didn't really think about it too much.  We didn't set out to make a conceptual record, and it's not a conceptual record, it just flowed in the studio.  Most of the tracks were written by my brother -- but some of them were written over five years ago, some of them were brand new.  The next record won't be so higgeldy-piggeldy -- there'll be a lot more clarity to the next record.  It'll be fresh.  I mean, imagine if you and I were to go into a studio together to make a record.  And you go, "I want this song to go this way."  And I'll go, "And I want this song to go this way," and what'll happen? We'll fight, and then we'll make up.  We'll hate it, then we'll fall in love with it.  However it works is what happens...

EO:  Was there a lot of pressure on you to spit out a record with 10 new "In the Meantime"'s, and if so, is the new record a bit of a reaction to that?

AL:  Oh yeah, if you mean an album with ten times the airplay, ten times the singles, and ten times the sales -- that's always what the companies want.  They just care about the bottom line -- it's their job.  There are a few people in there who are concerned about integrity, but the album must generate money or the companies become nervous.  There were a lot of people who were really supportive of this record, there were a lot who were'nt. And I don't just mean at the record company -- I mean on the radio, on TV, print journalists.  But on the whole, it's been good, because we're not a band that puts out self-indulgent twaddle.  If we did, we wouldn't have their support.

EO:  How did the Michael Stipe collaboration on the new record come about?

AL:  I know him, I love him, I think he's brilliant.  I don't much care for REM, but I think he's brilliant.  We met long ago. I did a movie [Velvet Goldmine] with him recently, and I just asked him to be on the record.  I asked him, he came down, and Bob's Yer Uncle.  Done.

EO:  What was it like working on "Velvet Goldmine"? 

AL:  I just have a small part.  I'm in a band called the Flaming Creatures. [laughs]  I just spent most of this interview refuting glam, but once you see this movie, it'll put the final nail in my glam coffin.  I might as well go out and buy some eye makeup and shiny pants now.  I play the guitarist, and Brian Molko from Placebo and their drummer are in it, too. The keyboard player is from DexDexter, ever heard of them?  They were popular for about a week a while back...

EO:  Romo -- The Movement That Wasn't, eh?

AL:  Yea, the Romo bands.  Now there's the new glam for you.  When he came in to shoot the movie, he'd go into makeup and walk out looking exactly the same as when he walked in.  That's glam.  I wasn't glam at all until the makeup had its way with me.  But let me just say this:  it was a LOT of fun, and the movie will be amazing.  Everyone needs to see it.

EO:  Speaking of recent Brit movements, what do you think of the current state of British music?

AL:  It's a strange time in music.  My youngest brother just got signed to Polydor Records in England.  He plays on our album and made us put in an "appears courtesy of Polydor Records" just so he'd sound important.  It's a strange time for music, it's a cheap time for music.  Music is the most inexpensive it's ever been right now.  But my favorites?  I really like Radiohead, I like the new Verve record, but not as much as Radiohead.  I don't know, you listen to British music, right?  What are you listening to right now?

EO:  I like the new Bernard Butler a great deal.  The new Pulp's alright. And there's always Spiritualized.

AL:  See, you've got it lucky.  Spiritualized and Radiohead are touring over here.  The Brits would kill for that tour.

EO:  Yeah, that's for those of us that GOT tickets.  *sigh* 

AL:  You're not going?

EO:  Chicago sold out in 4 minutes flat.  I got screwed.

AL:  Aye, it's a strange time in music.  I like what I like, but generally I stay away from British music or it influences me.  Like I said, I need a safe space.

EO:  Overseas, the Brit monthlies ran articles on the new album last month that usually contained a phrase like, "Already massive in the States." What's it like being bigger over here than in the UK, and what's it like being canonized as a success story in the press over there?

AL:  You have to realize that all their press about us is inaccurate. British pens don't know what happens in America, and American journalists don't know about England.  To the British press, usually "Big in US" = "We Hate You."  But there's one thing I like about it:  the fans in England are great.  The people who come to see us are really into it.  Their appreciation is more sincere, it's not just based on the love for one song like it is over here.  It's all about simply turning people on, that's what you have to do.  If you're good, if you're cool, if you don't pander to everyone, it WILL pay off for you.  You just can't get your knickers in a twist about it all.  In New York City, every musician I know is in like three different bands, waiting to see which one will break through.  When you do that, you're spreading yourself thin.  In England, you're always just in ONE band, and you can concentrate on that one band, and usually never become big, but it's your thing and that's cool.  Plus there's a demand in the UK to produce more records.  You put out album after album, cause that's what they want.  We did it wrong.  We should have put out one single, and then backed it up with another one right away.  But in America, we put out "In the Meantime" and then we did fuck-all for two years.  We should have followed it up right away, but in America, they don't want that.  The US milks that one song for all it's worth.

EO:  How did the Aerosmith tour come about?

AL:  Dunno.  I kinda know 'em.  I think they're a right kind of band.  But the only thing that scares me is that a lot of Aerosmith fans are REAL Aerosmith fans, and might not accept us.

EO:  Especially in the midwest, it seems that the average Aerosmithian Rawk En Roller might not be so open-minded.

AL:  Well, if they're not, then we'll be fucked then, right?  It'll either be a struggle or it'll be a breeze, we'll see.  Stay tuned.

EO:  Do you guys prefer arena tours like this, or would you rather be on a smaller stage?

AL:  When you play small clubs, you can headline.  But when you go on commercial tours like this, in a lot of ways it's better.  The record company feels a lot better.  Plus, you make a fortune on t-shirt sales at the big shows, and that way you're not asking the record companies for more and more money.

EO:  Since this interview is for a website,  I have to ask:  What's your take on the Internet -- future of communications?  Evil corporate tool?  Both?

AL:  Oh, I think the Internet's a really good thing.  I was just on it the other day checking out our fans.  I mean, it's not a way of life, and it shouldn't be, but yeah, it's a great communications tool.  It will be the Awe of the 21st Century -- the central nervous system of modern life.  It's exciting, but I suppose a bit sad, too.  I both fear and embrace change. Sometimes I think I'd be better off in a commune. [laughs]

EO:  Well, my last question is a specific one from a member of our mailing list based in Singapore.  She's a big fan, and wanted me to ask you if you have any plans to tour Singapore on this album.

AL:  What you have to understand is that it's very hard to go down there unless you're cleaning up financially.  It's extremely expensive.  But we'll see.  If you can convince the company to promote an Australian tour, then you'll usually get to tour Japan as well.  If we tour Japan, I have friends in Hong Kong, and would definitely try to play there.  And if we play Hong Kong, we'd definitely try to play Singapore.  So tell her, "hopefully."  And that I said thanks for the support.

EO:  And to make her Australian friends go buy the album, right?

AL:  Bloody right! 

EO:  Thanks for the time, Ant.

AL:  No problem.  It was great.  See yer at the show.