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Franz Ferdinand

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AboutSome time around the end of 2001, Bob was sitting in Alex's kitchen. Alex had just been given a bass by his friend Mick, on the condition that he did 'something useful' with it.

"Do you want to learn to play the bass then, Bob?"
"No, I'm an artist, not a musician."
"It's the same thing."
"OK then."

So Bob learned the bass and they planned a band. It had to be something big. Bob wanted it to be on the level of Field Marshall Haig's tears that fell as he counted the statistics of the men he had sent over the top. Alex wanted to make music that girls could dance to.

Alex met Nick in Jo and Celias' kitchen. Nick was dressed like a young Adam Ant and was stealing Alex's Vodka. They were about to batter each others brains in when Alex asked if he could play drums. Nick lied and said that he could. They agreed to meet up in Nick's South Side mansion.

Nick could hit the drums, but not in any particularly coherent order. He was a classical pianist and double bassist and had come to Glasgow because a friend in Munich had said it was a laugh. Although he couldn't drum, he liked the idea of music for girls to dance to, and they found that they could write songs together.

Paul was the best drummer in Glasgow, but nobody wanted to hear drums, now that 808s had been discovered. Paul had pawned his kit, but liked the idea of playing the guitar, so started coming down to Nick's South Side mansion. One day he and Nick swapped over, on the condition that Paul still got to sing and didn't have to use rack toms, as they stopped the audience getting a decent view of him.

Girl Art was an exhibition organised by a group of students at GSA. They heard the plan for music that girls could dance to, so asked the boys to play their first gig. It was in Celia's bedroom which was lit by neon. At least 80 people watched and most of them danced.

Nick and Alex decided that they needed somewhere bigger than Nick's South Side mansion to play music in. Hunting for property, they went for a walk along the disused railway line that crosses over Paddy's market and the Clyde. They discovered two things: that the line wasn't disused after all and a huge abandoned art-deco warehouse overlooking the Clyde. They tracked down the landlord, persuaded him to give them the keys to the 6th floor, christened it the Chateau and made it their home.

The Chateau was a wonderful home. After evicting the pigeons and fixing the windows, they found a sympathetic electrician who managed to wire the building in a way that left the electricity board innocent of the knowledge that they were supplying the power. At one point in its long history, the warehouse had stored sports equipment. Franz Ferdinand held a Sports and Leisure night: rowing machines strapped to trolleys were raced, vibra-belts wobbled, weights were lifted and rifles were shot from the saddle of a rocking horse.

The Chateau is in a part of Glasgow that used to be called the Gorbals. At one point it was associated with violence, vermin and poverty. None of these exist in Glasgow today. The second Chateau event was a little grander. On the Fifth floor, Robb Mitchell and Switchspace gathered together a collection of artists to put on an exhibition. On the sixth floor, Ferdinand brought together some of the best music Glasgow has produced: Uncle John and Whitelock, Park Attack and Scatter. Lighting was in the form of banks of sunbeds that had been found on one of the other floors. They were wired to flicker on and off randomly as the bands played. Early evening, people started to arrive. Then more people. Then more people. The bands played and the lights flickered. Wine flowed and everyone danced. It felt liberating. Then the police arrived. They seemed terrified. There were only a few of them and they were panicking. Very soon another couple of vanloads arrived. It was like a scene from a speakeasy in prohibition-era Chicago. As the cops were racing up one staircase, crates of booze were flying down the other. Somehow, Al Kapranos took the brunt of the wrath. Possibly because of the phonetics of the name, possibly because he was the only one who didn't run away. He was arrested, but the charges of running an illegal bar and contravening various health and safety, fire hazard and noise abatement legislation were dropped. When he was chatting to the cops over a cup of tea down at the cells, everyone friends again, they said that they had been looking for the place for a month. They had been driving round the block, trying to find a way in to where the noise was coming from. It seemed that they were just happy to be confused no longer.

The Chateau was now marked territory and could no longer be used as a centre of noise. Franz Ferdinand played shows in other places. Lucy McKenzie, a Glasgow artist, held nights in her Flourish Studios. These were similar to the Chateau, but a little quieter. Stereo, a bar with a rare and supportive attitude was also a haunt. The Chateau was never abandoned, but another place, equally as magnificent was found.

On Tobago Street there is a Victorian courtroom and gaol. When McCarthy discovered it, it had been abandoned for over 30 years. It was ideal. The perversity of breaking the law in what was a bastion of the legal system appealed greatly. It has that air of brooding opulence and inarguable authority that 19th century West of Scotland municipal buildings command. The ceilings are higher than church and are mounted in omnipotent plasterwork. They were entered in awe and fear. After thirty years of Glasgow elements, some of the harshness had been softened, however. The plaster had cracked. Rain ran down some of the internal walls. The cell doors swung open. It was perfect.

It was decided that the gaol and courtroom was also the Chateau. Anything can be the Chateau, if it seems right. It is even suspected that there are parts of the Capithole that could be the Chateau too. For the next night, the building was split. Robb Mitchell filled the cells with artists. Franz Ferdinand presided over the courtroom. They booked train tickets and brought the Country Teasers North. They built a stage from scaffolding and borrowed bits of sound system from anyone vaguely sympathetic across the city. On the night, it was colder in the building than outside, but people arrived. Then more people. Then more people. Braziers burned in the courtyard and the bands burned in the courtroom. Wine flowed and everyone danced. Eventually the police arrived.

Tobago street is one of the city's rougher streets. It is populated mainly by scrapped cars and hookers. This time, the police were much friendlier. They didn't want to arrest anyone and gave four warnings before shutting the power down.

By this point it had been noticed that there were faces in the audience that definitely belonged South of the border. Somehow London had seeped in to Glasgow. This wasn't a bad thing and Franz Ferdinand decided to visit the Capithole. They played a few shows and decided that they liked it. As a city, London is bigger than Glasgow and has more people that want to put out records. Franz Ferdinand spoke to several of these people. Some of them were truly astonishing mavericks who have changed the world with their work. Some were wankers, shoving too much coke up their noses, while letting shite fall from their mouths. Eventually, they met Laurence Bell, firmly in the former category. He runs the Domino Record Company. A last great independant. When he asked them to sign, they were so touched they could say nothing but yes.

Franz Ferdinand currently live in the courtroom of the Chateau, where they write and record.

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