10 Questions For Tom Smith, Editors
Editors have been at it since 2002 and with the release of best-of compilation Black Gold, now is the time to take stock. Gary Walker talks to their frontman about the band’s longevity, their back catalogue and hanging out with R.E.M. …
15 years separate your debut album and the release of Black Gold, a period in which the music industry has changed hugely. What do you put your longevity down to?
“Good looks, good songs and thick skins! I think being a band who have mixed it up stylistically over the years has helped a lot, we’ve taken our audience on a journey and kept ourselves creatively engaged at the same time. If we’d stuck to making records like our first two we’d have got bored a long time ago.”
Your debut album The Back Room went on to sell a million copies worldwide and the follow-up An End Has A Start went on to No. 1 in the UK album chart. What do those two records mean to you now?
“I’m immensely proud of all our records but yeah, that first chapter was obviously a very exciting time, we were doing everything for the first time, seeing the world, playing festivals, at the Brits! It was pretty cool to get our brand of miserabalist indie to such a mainstream audience.”
A ‘greatest hits’ always offers time for reflection. How do you feel about the evolution your music has made over that period?
“It’s been very natural for us, to try to mix it up, to feel like in our musical world we’re achieving new things when we’re in the studio each time. I remember Papillon confused the hell out of people at the time, I’m sure it turned some of our fans off the band forever! But over time, it’s become one of our defining songs. You can’t please everyone all of the time, longevity is achieved by pleasing yourself, being selfish and believing in your art.”
How difficult was it to hone down the final tracklisting? Did you get together as a band to do it?
“We talked a lot, via email mostly. Limiting the collection to one CD helped streamline it, then there’s the three new songs to go on. We wanted to represent every album, which doesn’t give you much time to play with! Then we have to consider that some of our records are bigger in other territories than others, an Editors ‘best of’ for Belgium would be different to the UK for example, Italy different again… so yeah, it took some thought, but we got there in the end. After being so selfish for 15 years, in some ways it’s the most considerate record yet.”
What’s the best song you’ve ever written?
What was Flood like to work with? How instrumental was he in the direction you took with In This Light And On This Evening?
“That album was the biggest step, and although it marks a step away from mainstream popularity in many ways, without it we wouldn’t still be making music now. Flood was great, a total legend, it gives you belief to have him there with you. He made sure those songs were still played, that we still operated as a band, despite not playing guitars anymore.”
Your career as a band has coincided with the lowest ebb for vinyl sales, followed by the subsequent resurgence. What does it mean to you as a format?
“It means your artwork still has a chance to look mint.”
Which five records by other artists could you not live without?
“R.E.M., Murmur; Radiohead, OK Computer; The Blue Nile, Hats; Spiritualized, Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space; Peter Gabriel, So.”
Copies of Bullets, your early single that was limited to 1,000 copies, are much sought-after, selling for £65 on Discogs. Did you hold on to any?
“I’ve got a couple, yeah. Well, my parents do.”
What are your memories of touring with R.E.M.?
“It was an absolute joy. Hot summer nights, mostly in Italy. Peter coming into our dressing room every day chatting about obscure bands and records, until if I’m honest we were all a bit bored. Ha. Mike and his bass tech sharing shots of vodka with us side of stage while they played. Being invited on stage with them to play Orange Crush together in Helsinki. Michael Stipe being super sweet and welcoming after their shows… either out at dinner, by which point we were all too drunk to communicate, or in their dressing room. He was fucking cool.”