Friendly takeover: interview with FFS
If the company does not have economic development, this often leads to a merger with a competitor. Is it exactly the same in music? With many so-called supergroups, this is still happening.
Two groups – Sparks and Franz Ferdinand merged under the name FFS. Looking for a reason for such an act, Martin Riemann found nothing but love.
Supergroup. A word that does not automatically inspire enthusiasm. Although everything is usually true with the “super” part, the word “group” is in doubt. How will everything work when the best come together? Who is the leader, who plays the rhythm guitar, who just can sit in the back of the bus during the tour? The fact that the meeting of super-musicians can become an ego-infringing clash is not realized only by those who did not watch The Avengers. Perhaps this is the reason that such high-caliber groups often lack the necessary charm.
And now something happens that gives the concept of “supergroup” a completely different meaning: if earlier it was a question of fusing individual artists, then in the case of FFS two groups merge into a single whole. Nuclear fusion in pop space. FFS = Franz Ferdinand + Sparks? It makes sense, but they say it’s short for For Fucks Sake. Perhaps this is the only logical explanation that you will receive about this abnormal joint venture. At least from the FFS itself. Personally, I was feverishly thinking about all this shortly before the interview. When the hotel room door opened, they were all really sitting there: Ron, Russell and Alex – members of the new FFS “group”.
At first, my eyes inevitably fell on the keyboard player Ron Mail, who was sitting in a perfectly fitting suit like a giant praying mantis on my right. Straight as a stick, he tightened his legs, knees and feet perfectly parallel, palms on his knees. His frozen smile is more mysterious than that of Mona Lisa and she is associated with the gaze of a mad scientist. Beside him sits Russell Mail, the unique voice of Sparks. Compared to his brother, he is dressed very simply, radiates goodwill, talkative and funny. And then there’s Alex Kapranos. In a shirt buttoned to all buttons, he, with graying temples, sits in an armchair and looks very tense. Not surprisingly, he is now part of a supergroup with two of the coolest men – Sparks!
These strange brothers on stage for more than 40 years and more than once in the most successful way invented their careers anew. In the pop world, you need to look for a long time before you find someone for whom they were not an example to follow. Consciously or unconsciously. Even ABBA are their followers. Given such charisma, I want to ask: what other Alex? Oh yes, the vocalist of this Scottish group, which 10 years ago had 2 hit songs. Franz Ferdinand, for sure. Does he sing at Sparks right now? No, it is not. Absolutely. Alex Kapranos is now a member of the new group. And completely randomly, Sparks ended up in the same place. And all the remaining Franz Ferdinand. A group of 6 members with 2 vocalists. In any case, this is how Russell Mail answers me with a question about the history of this outrageous team.
“Your suspicions are true,” he says cheerfully. “But this is true: we are now a real group” …
Whose existence is due to coincidence. Namely, the fact that Alex Kapranos in search of a dentist in 2013 in San Francisco collided with the Mail brothers on the street. During the subsequent dinner, they recalled that they thought about doing something together 11 years ago and Sparks even composed a song for a collaboration with the catchy name “Piss Off”. But Franz Ferdinand at that time was going uphill and they did not dare to tour with Sparks. After the meeting in San Francisco, everything already looked different.
“This time it was all right,” Russell recalls. “Since both groups were just at the stage when they wanted to try something new.”
However, the meeting in San Francisco did not answer the question of what this cooperation should look like.
“We didn’t have a plan or anything like that,” Alex describes the early days of FFS. “It could also happen that we would record only one song together or perform together. Two years ago this question was opened.”
The fact that the merger of the groups is not worth some deliberate plan is very important for Ron:
“There was no meeting of the board of directors that agreed on anything. There wasn’t even a concept.”
There were no plans to found a group. The idea matured only when everyone understood how fruitful the collaboration was. Remembering this amazing process, all three are still delighted. I kept waiting for the phrase: and then we fell in love with each other! This was not read directly, but during the whole conversation I had a feeling that I was sitting in front of a couple of newlyweds: everyone understood each other without words from the very beginning. There has never been a stylistic disagreement. Russell and Alex always immediately agreed who sings what part. All conflicting potential in milk. Crazy harmony.