CHRIS: How do you feel about 'Under The Iron Sea' now?
TOM: I think it’s a great record. Anyone who listened to 'Under The Iron Sea' just before it came out would have probably said that it’s not going to have the same kind of impact that 'Hopes and Fears' had, because it’s not the same kind of record. I don’t think it’s anything like as accessible. But I think that, once you get into it, it’s a much better record. 'Hopes and Fears' was a very personal album of love songs and about things that people experience, whatever age they are, living in Britain. From any kind of demographic, I think you can relate to that record. Whereas 'Under The Iron Sea' is much darker and more difficult. So it was received in a different way. But I’m glad we made it. I feel proud to have been a part of that record, even if the memories are mixed!
ANDREW: Are you happier talking to crowds now than you used to be?
TOM: It depends really. I have my good days and my bad days. I find it terrifying and exciting in equal measure!
ANDREW: Do you find you fall back on certain stock phrases?
TOM: Yeah, I think you can do. But the notion that every night I should say something completely different is basically unrealistic if you’re doing 200 shows in an album cycle. Also, to be fair, most people only come to one show so, in that sense, I don’t really have any qualms about saying the same thing. What’s true, though, is that the best nights for me are when I feel a connection with the crowd. Some nights you don’t feel that same connection, or something inside you isn’t quite right, or you don’t feel that communicative, or you don’t feel that spontaneous – whatever it is. There are some nights where I feel like I’ve… not gone on automatic pilot, but I’ve had to draw on my reserves. But then are lots of nights - and they are the best nights - where I just feel like there’s a spark there, and the crowd’s really with us and I’m really with them, and it becomes much more conversational.
ANDREW: Do you like this big venue feel that your shows have now?
TOM: Yeah, I love the ego ramp – it’s certainly got me fit! I think we just wanted to do something ambitious. There are so many bands that you go and see, and you think ‘Why couldn’t you have a bit more imagination?’ I think we, and other people, often forget that we’ve only got two records of material to draw on. It’s not like being U2 or someone like that, but we can still be ambitious. We’ve been inspired by those bands that we’ve seen who’ve really been ambitious, as opposed to the ones who’ve just gone up there and trundled through a few songs and after about 45 minutes you get a bit bored. We wanted to make the production bigger and better. Because there are only three of us, and because we’re limited by Richard and Tim being quite static, we wanted to find ways we could make that more interesting for the crowd, so out came the ego ramp. We thought of lots of different ideas to make the show look more exciting. When it goes well, I think it’s as an exciting a show as you could see, personally.
ANDREW: Do you enjoy getting down close to the front row?
TOM: Yeah, I do actually. When I go down into the crowd or when I see people’s faces, I get excited. I see the experience of them really loving what they’re seeing. I’ve said this many times before on stage, but I think there’s something special about our music and about our fans - about the emotional power of it. I do think that that is something that is quite unique about us. There’s not many bands with that kind of ability to make people really go through an emotional experience. That may sound immodest, but that’s really how I feel. When I go down there and see people’s faces and see it coming back at me – that’s a life affirming experience. It actually makes me feel alive. When you’re hanging around in an airport, or when you’re waiting to do your 58th interview in a row in a country far from home, you can sometimes think, “I don’t know what I’m doing here – this does not make me feel alive”. But I know that when I’m down in people’s faces, and I feel that energy - it is a genuine life affirming experience. So I absolutely love that ramp, and I love being able to get out there amongst people and really feel that energy. People bang on about spirituality and spiritual experiences, but that’s as close it gets for me to really experiencing something other-worldly or even giving me some kind of understanding of why we’re all here and what we’re doing. It probably sounds like bollocks to you but I really genuinely feel that.
ANDREW: Finally, should Matt Prior still be England’s wicket keeper after leaving sweets on the pitch during the India game this summer?
TOM: He should, yeah! What I love about the way English cricket has been going over the last few years is that there have been a few players who have come into the England cricket team who have this sense of competitiveness and steely aggression. I don’t think it should be discouraged. All the old farts and old fogies who are responsible for making cricket look like it’s stuck in the past, those who commentate on it and who run the game in England, look down their nose at that kind of competitiveness. Personally, I think ‘bring it on’. That’s why when I’m watching football I love seeing people get sent off, Cantona’s kung-fu kick in the crowd – I loved all that, because it’s all the drama and the theatre of the game. And it’s a game. If Matt Prior wants to sprinkle jelly babies all over the pitch before someone comes on, who gives a shit? I think it’s great! It’s part of the spirit of competitiveness - the Aussies wouldn’t think twice about doing it. There wouldn’t be an outcry if one of their players did it. Within bounds of course, you wouldn’t want people to start resorting to anything that was immoral…
CHRIS: So no kung-fu on the cricket pitch then?
TOM: Maybe kung-fu kicks are pushing it a bit, but you know what I mean. There have been elements of racism in cricket and you’d never encourage that. But anything that people can do to create competitiveness is for me in sport the best thing. I love the drama, I love the intrigue when things go a bit doolally and a bit wrong - those are some of my favourite parts of the game. So there we go – he should be keeping, he’s definitely the best man for the job.
ANDREW: Are you still playing?
TOM: I do try and play a bit. I didn't play much this summer, partly due to the weather and also because we thought we were gonna stop touring a while ago, and we decided in the end to just carry on. But yeah, I’m still good enough for village cricket!