ANDREW: Are you annoyed that a lot of people might have written off a second record by Keane because it’s “a second record by Keane”?
TIM: Again, that’s inevitable. That partisan approach to being a music fan is not something I have much time for – it’s idiotic really, but it’s always been the way. I’ll be talking to someone after a gig and they’ll be slagging off some band or genre and thinking that’s something that we’ll really agree on, like “hip-hop is shit” or “Muse are shit” or whatever it is. I just find that bizarre. One of my favourite little thrills of being in a band is when people turn up to our gigs wearing t-shirts that say “Nine Inch Nails” or whoever, or something that seems like you wouldn’t necessarily like both of those bands/acts. I find that attitude very refreshing.
CHRIS: Was that something you had in mind when you started to work with Gwen Stefani and Nicole Scherzinger. No-one can accuse you of being an indie snob now, can they?
TIM: Well, no. I think what really drew me to that was working in a different context completely. The Gwen thing was just one of those crazy ideas. I guess I was flattered that she liked our music, and I do think she’s great and I loved her first record. As it turned out, it was fascinating to work with her in a big studio in LA, writing specifically with someone and seeing how the whole process of making a very, very ‘pop’ record worked. Just having the chance to talk to people like that is a very rare thing ordinarily.
Certainly for me, as a music fan, it’s just great to be able to work with those people. When I was working with Nicole, it was even more like that, because we were working at the Record Plant in LA, which is exciting because it’s a really famous studio and we normally don’t go in for that kind of swanky nonsense with Keane. It’s such a different experience. And Kanye was in the room next door, so he came walking in…
CHRIS: You’re on first name terms with Kanye West…?
TIM: It’s only because I don’t know any other Kanyes, or he’d be ‘Kanye W’! He was producing Common’s album at the time. He was playing some of the tracks at a deafening volume and all these massively hard beats were pumping out, and he’s rapping along, and Common’s sitting at the back playing on his Walkman. That situation is absolutely a different sphere to what we would normally move in. That was a great thrill for me.
ANDREW: Did you feel like you fitted in?
TIM: Well, sort of! It’s very fast talking… All the things people say about Hollywood are very true. I found Kanye to be very amiable, very nice and very musical, and he was extremely enthusiastic about our music. Richard had met him before and he’d said a lot of good things about us and the second record in the press, so I had a bit of a heads up at least that he didn’t think we were shit. I do still find it intimidating meeting people that I really idolise, definitely. The worst one was when I met the Pet Shop Boys for the first time. I was so nervous, and I just dribbled on at them – it was just awful. I met them again recently and they were very nice.
ANDREW: Did they remember the first time?
TIM: It was bizarre actually – I went to their gig at Hammersmith a few weeks ago and went backstage, and the first thing Neil said was “Oh hello, it’s nice to see you!. Have you met Kylie Minogue?”, which I thought was great! If you’d asked me in 1989 if I ever thought I’d be being introduced to Kylie by Neil Tennant, that would have seemed like the stuff of... um... weird dreams. (pause) We won’t go there!