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GA Blog 26: Andy - London / Tokyo311 weeks ago
Hi Andy, how are you?
Fine thanks. I'm at Tom's house today. We're waiting for someone from the Observer newspaper, followed by Alan from The Rakes.

What's the Observer thing?
I believe it's an interview about Lovebox.

Were you as happy with Lovebox as Tom was?
Definitely. It was an amazing achievement really. If you include Dublin we got 50,000 people out and about that weekend. It's just incredible when you think of it in those terms. Especially when it's all come from a bunch of friends who've just tried to nail down that true Glastonbury-style festival spirit in the heart of London. We've got that spot on now. Lovebox isn't just about the music, it's about everything that goes on around it. I feel pretty proud of it.

Presumably the festival is here to stay now.
I think so. It is a real battle to establish an independent festival in a market where everyone's got far more money than you have, especially when you want to do something that's genuinely different and exciting. The first few years were really tough. But we've turned a real corner this year, both in terms of selling the London one out on that scale and also getting to the point where agents are phoning us up saying they want their bands to play. I think this is the point all the hard work and all the money we've lost over the years feels worthwhile.

That's great.
Yeah. Although we still managed to lose money again. But at least we lost less this time.

You really can't make money off something like that?
Well the site looked amazing, we had bits of New York streets going down one side of it and crazy camps in the trees. Plus we were charging �35 a ticket and you'd pay that to see one of the bands that were on the main stage, never mind all 16 of them. But we want to keep the price down, because it's about keeping it vibey and allowing people who live locally to come. We don't want it to be some sort of �90 picnic hamper extravaganza. So we will probably have to start looking for a bit of sponsorship to make the sums add up.

And why is Alan from The Rakes coming over today?
He's going to be doing the vocals for this cover of Madonna's 'Crazy For You' we're doing for Radio One. On the Thursday before Lovebox weekend we had one of our infamous all-nighters in the studio. The track went in a different direction, so we started to imagine more of a male vocal, like that old Cure tune, 'Close To Me'. If you take the lyrics in that way, they can actually be quite melancholy. So Alan's coming over today to sing it.

The Armada were in Japan last week, how was that?
It was a bit of a whirlwind to be honest. We'd already had a couple of madcap days with Lovebox and trying to finish a million things at Tom's studio and then it was straight off to Japan. We did a night flight and arrived in the daytime, so we tried to stay up and hang on in there to reset the body clock. That inevitably led to a few drinks which led to a big night out that went on slightly longer than was probably wise.

Had you been to Tokyo before?
Only once, for a day. Culturally it is like landing on Mars, which is brilliant cos there's very few places left in the world that are like that. So, yeah, the next day we had this long coach ride up into the mountains for the Fuji Rock festival which happens in a ski resort during the summer time. It was about a four hour journey up there - and it was great to see some of the amazing Japanese countryside. So then we arrived and it's an incredible site. It looks as big as Glastonbury. There must have been 100,000 people there.

How was the gig?
I'm pleased to say it was another triumph for the band. Because of the label problems we've had over the years, we've been pretty invisible in Japan throughout our career, but we were headlining this thing called the White Stage which was this amazing tree-lined amphitheatre. The thing was, the first half of our set corresponded with Muse being on the other stage and the second half corresponded with The Cure. So given that it was a rock festival and our stage was hidden away at the far end of the site, I couldn't believe it when we walked out and there were about 45,000 people there. Especially when they all went absolutely mental.

What did you do after the show?
We finished the gig about midnight and then left the site about 1.30am, taking most of the dressing room rider with us on the coach. Then we had a four hour coach journey back, but for the first three hours the drummer, Martin, and the guitar player, George, hosted a kind of Alan Partridge-style chat show and karaoke session on the coach microphone. It was very funny. And then just as people were flaking out, we got onto the Tokyo ring road and suddenly you could see why it's called Land of the Rising Sun. This huge, red ball came out of nowhere and hung over the skyline. That was quite a sight.

How many days were you out there for?
Just a couple.

Is it weird going to these amazing places and having to leave without getting to see them properly?
Yeah, but that's what it's been like for the last ten years!

Where did you go after Japan?
Well, four of us had to go straight to the airport from that coach and fly to Singapore. You'd think it's nearby, but it was a six and a half hour flight. And that night I DJed at this place called Zouk. It's this amazing club which was set up by a guy who spent a lot of time in Ibiza and fell in love with it. So he went back to Singapore and re-created Pacha.

How was it?
Mental. Apparently they had the busiest night they'd had for years. It was chaos, all culminating in a fried egg at about seven the next morning!

Have people heard of Groove Armada out there?
Oh, definitely. They sold the tickets out a month beforehand. It was one of those ones where as soon as you put your headphones on, before you've even started a record, there's this huge roar.

Must be an odd feeling going to a country you've never been to and getting that kind of reception.
Yeah, and long may it continue! Of course the other side is that you've not slept for two or three days and that roar goes off and then you've got to concentrate and deliver. You don't want to let those people down. But I'm pleased to say it really went off. I was on the turntables, Mike was MCing and Patrick was on percussion. It was great.

So then back to London?
Yeah, a thirteen and a half hour flight followed by a lovely two hour queue at passport control. Then there was time for a quick cat nap and it was back to the studio again. There's lots of things to finish at the moment. It's definitely a no-rest situation.

You haven't stopped for months.
Well there were definitely a couple of moments during the Japan and Singapore trip where the old legs start to go a bit. I'm pretty good at taking the no sleep thing, but I suppose there is only so far you can go. But when the music is crossing this many boundaries and appealing to people who are so different and so far apart, you've just got to seize the opportunities.

And, of course, 'Song 4 Mutya' gave you your highest ever UK chart position on Sunday.
Yeah. After it topped the airplay charts, it would've maybe been nice to get into the Top 5, but number 8 was still great. And ultimately it's all about getting the album out there. You can see from the label's sales reports that several thousand people took the decision to buy the album instead of the single, so that's good.

What's coming up in the next couple of weeks?
Well, we'll finish this Madonna tune with Alan today. Then, as far as I'm aware, tomorrow is free, so it could be an extended sleep day. And then it's off to Portugal to play at a festival in Lisbon. Then to Denmark. Then a couple of things I can't quite remember, culminating at Space in Ibiza for the Radio One weekend.

How far ahead is your life mapped out?
Until the start of October, really. That's the moment to sling the hammock and lie down.

When were you last at home in Barcelona?
Ooh, quite a few weeks ago. I definitely need to buy some more boxer shorts. The weekly loop of washing is starting to break down a bit.

And there's a UK tour due to be announced soon?
Yeah, I think we're just finalising the venues. We want to do this tour in places the size of Manchester Apollo and Brixton Academy so that we can do the full visual thing and bring in some more guests. You need to be a bit creative to find those kind of venues outside of the obvious places. I think they're just sorting all that out and then we'll go to press with it.

Finally, any news on the track you're making with Kylie?
I don't think we should say anything about Kylie any more. People keep putting words in our mouths and creating a lot of problems. So I think we're just gonna shut up about it now!
 posted by Groove Armada 

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