‘Everybody in our game has a huge ego' Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos on greatest hits collection
It’s been just over 18 years since Franz Ferdinand released their debut single Darts of Pleasure, prompting the influential radio DJ John Peel to declare them “the saviours of rock and roll”.
In that time, the Glasgow-formed band have won two Brit Awards, an Ivor Novello and the Mercury Prize, not to mention the number ones.
While the line-up has changed, frontman Alex Kapranos has successfully steered the ship through the end of the indie era and into new pastures.
“Gosh, I don’t like feeling proud generally,” he reflects. “I think pride is a dangerous thing.”
The band are releasing a greatest hits album – Hits To The Head – and it’s a chance for the singer and guitarist to look back.
“I’m pleased that as a band and collectively we’re still eager to find the future, eager to move on.
“The writing and performing and recording of new songs, like Curious and Billy Goodbye, is just as exciting as stepping into the studio to record Darts of Pleasure.
“It would have been a different experience had the band broken up and I couldn’t see a future.
“It would have been an unpleasant experience putting an album like this together – or certainly a wistful experience. Whereas this was quite a joyous experience.”
Kapranos, whose family moved about England before settling in Scotland before his 10th birthday, turned 50 in March but retains his angular, youthful good looks.
Success did not come immediately. It was only in his 30s when he hit the big time after striking up a partnership with drummer Paul Thomson, guitarist Nick McCarthy and bass player Bob Hardy – all regulars on the thriving Glasgow scene.
He worked a series of jobs, including chef, barman and welder, before making a name for himself as a music promoter with his night at the The 13th Note venue.
“I’ve been a jammy beggar really,” he says, laughing.
“So many of my contemporaries in Glasgow that I grew up with, the scenes that we came from, how many talented people either didn’t get the opportunity or f*** it up for themselves for one reason or another. No point complaining.
“Also, I’d been playing in bands and gigging for over a decade before our first album came up.
“If I’d ever read an article in the music press where some insanely privileged guy in a band was moaning about his or her lot, I would fling it down in disgust.
“So, I don’t want to be that person moaning. I’ve got nothing to moan about. It’s been great.”
His club night played an important role in launching the careers of other Scottish acts such as Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai and The Delgados.
“I felt right at the centre of it at that point,” he recalls. “But I’m obviously not doing that any more, so I’m not quite as connected as I was.
“What I do see is still intense and exciting. I see some new things emerging. There are bands like Walt Disco that are pushing edges.
“There’s a band called Medicine Cabinet as well who feel very exciting. I think something really cool is going to happen with that band.
“Glasgow still seems to retain what it had when I started out there and even before that as well.
“I even think back to the days of Orange Juice in the Postcard Records scene everything that came afterwards.”
“I think what unifies is an attitude rather than a sound.”
In the long run, the initial buzz surrounding the band and the many accolades have ended up meaning less to Kapranos that other things.
“I’ve never really been able to get my head around the awards, to be honest.
“I’ve always found it a little bit weird, because I was never the kind of kid that got prizes at school prize-giving.
“Whenever we were at one of those things and they called out the name of the band, I would always feel, ‘Did I hear that right? I didn’t write a speech’.
“But, no, it’s lovely. It’s incredible to get recognition, especially from your peers. But to me the greatest rewards are always when you bump into people.
“Sometimes I’ll hear stories sent to me on social media, sometimes chatting to fans after gigs, and they will talk about songs being important for them in their lives.”
However, he can’t help but add with a smirk: “Though the Ivor Novello is a nice little statuette. I do like that one.”
Their new greatest hits record features 20 tracks spanning their five studio albums and seven EPs, and also features two new songs in Billy Goodbye and Curious.
The experience of trawling through the back catalogue prompted mixed feelings.
“The funny thing is I never used to listen to music once I finished recording it. Once it’s been mastered, I never listened to it again.
“There might be some artists that do go back and listen to their own stuff for pleasure. But yeah … not for me.
“Of course, everybody in our game has a huge ego. They’re massively ego-centric nutjobs. But I don’t have quite the amount of ego required to listen to our music for joy.
“And, partly, because I like moving forwards. I like to think of what’s next. But I did enjoy actually going back and listening to these songs as I was putting it together, as we were mastering it.
“To listen to those songs brought back really good memories and quite disparate memories actually.”
Kapranos recalls the impact David Bowie’s greatest hits had on him as a child.
“I grew up with a lot of greatest hits,” he explains. “When I was a kid, my folks didn’t really have the money to spend on a lot of albums. And so a lot of the records in their collection were greatest hits records.
“They were my introduction to other artists. Something like Changes by Bowie was a great example. It’s a smashing album, an amazing record. You just want to put it on and listen to it from start to end.”
More pragmatically, he adds: “It’s weird but our first album came out 18 years ago. So there are now 18 year olds who weren’t born when it was released… It feels about the right time to do it.”
Hits to the Head is out now on Domino.