Yes, we're taking a day off from the YouTube videos to bring you something even more exciting than a man strumming 'Crystal Ball' at the seaside. Tim has very kindly taken a break from working on the third Keane album to respond to the latest batch of questions which you folks sent in via the website. Thanks to everyone for sending in questions and to Tim for answering them.
"My question is this: There're some bands that have a clear objective (like does Bono with U2 for example)...With your music, in general do you have an aim? Why do you do music?"
JiMe from Argentina
Tim replies: That's a big question. I love writing songs because it enables me to express thoughts and ideas and feelings that I seem to be incapable of expressing in any other way. I think the same is true of the band as a whole - when we play together we seem to be able to say something more powerful than any of us could say as individuals. It's a magical thing about being in a band. So that in itself is enough really. However, we've always admired people who consciously use their music to deliver a message of some sort. There are many great examples, from the protest songs of the 60s to the rave music of the 90s. Over the last few years we've become better at deliberately articulating specific ideas in our songs - 'Is It Any Wonder?' for example, or 'A Bad Dream', or even something like 'Atlantic'. That's really exciting for us. You have to be careful not to let the process become too contrived, or you'll lose the soul of the music. But for me probably the best thing about being in a band is hearing that one of our songs has had some kind of profound impact on someone, especially when it's someone on the other side of the world who speaks a different language and has a completely different experience of life. I can't explain how that works, but it's an incredible feeling and I suppose that's why we "do music".
"In your songs, you talk a lot about getting older. Is there a reason for the similar topic among the songs, or does it just happen that this is?"
Tim replies: I constantly have the feeling that I'm trying to catch up, that I'm running late for something very important in my life. I think that's partly because it took us so long to get any recognition as a band. We made a lot of sacrifices in our twenties in order to keep the band together, and so now we have the opportunities we have I constantly feel that I need to do as much as possible to make up for lost time, and that time is always moving too fast for me. I'm sure it's a pretty common sensation. Plus I feel very youthful and I live in fear of settling in some kind of resigned lethargy as I get older. I hope I'll be one of those mischievous old people who always acts like a teenager, and my kids will dread bringing their kids to see me because I teach them rude words and make them listen to old fuddy-duddy music (Aphex Twin, Radiohead, etc) at deafening volumes.
"Who is James Sanger? How did he get a writing credit on such songs as 'Bedshaped' and 'This is the Last Time'?"
Tim replies: It's a long story, and judging from the current discussion on the forum, one that's long overdue to be cleared up! James is what's known as a programmer - someone who specialises in adding interesting parts of one sort or another (usually beats and synth parts) to a recording. Back in 2000, before we had a record deal, we worked on some songs with a producer called Mark Wallis. If I remember rightly Mark was working on another project at the time, and had asked James to help out on that project.
Anyway, a few months later James came down to see us while we were doing our weekly rehearsal at Backstreet Studios on Holloway Road. He had recently bought a farmhouse in France with a view to building a studio there, and he asked us if we wanted to spend some time there recording. We were feeling pretty desperate at the time so it was a really exciting offer. We had agreed all this with him when we were a four piece guitar band, but a few days before we went out to France, Dominic (our guitarist) decided to leave the band. I remember we were very nervous about telling James because we thought he might change his mind about working with us, but we persuaded him
that it would be really fun to make a more electronic album, which was more his area of expertise anyway.
James knew we didn't have any money to pay for his time or the use of his studio so we cut a deal with him whereby we agreed to give him a percentage of the publishing royalties from any resulting recordings if they were released commercially. He would also receive a reduced royalty if the songs we worked on were released in a different form - ie not the versions we recorded with him in France. At the time we'd never made a single penny from any royalties, so it all seemed like a pretty good deal! Publishing royalties are the royalties paid to the writers of a song, and if you get a cut of the royalty it means you get credited as a songwriter. We worked on four of the 'Hope And Fears' songs at James's place in France, hence he is credited as a songwriter on those songs, even though they were all already completely written before we worked with him, and even though the versions on the record are massively different from the versions we did with him.
James helped us out immensely by giving us the use of his studio and equipment, and also by teaching us how to record music using a computer. The latter has been especially useful over the years, enabling us to record demos at home. We never released any of the recordings we made in France, but the four songs from H&F did include some parts that we wrote and recorded while at James' studio. They also include a few bits of programming that James actually did himself - eg the great drum loop that's tucked in under Richard's drums in 'Sunshine', that big fat kick drum on 'She Has No Time', and the cool bass sound in the middle eight of 'This Is The Last Time'.
Sadly James does tend to pop up on TV every few months claiming to have written lots of songs for us, invented the Keane sound, kicked Dom out of the band, or whatever, but I think that's just something you have to put up with when you have a bit of success! He helped us out when we needed a boost, and we'll always be grateful for that.
I told you it was a long story!