Featured Story - Franz Ferdinand
Last year's Glastonbury Festival in the UK saw Brit rockers Franz Ferdinand headlining Saturday's bill on the prestigious Other Stage - and central to the set was their brace of Moog Voyager 'Performer Edition' synths that the band have come to rely on for their live performances. We caught up with guitarist and keyboard player Nick McCarthy just prior to their headlining slot, to find out more about the band’s love affair with Moog products.
Franz Ferdinand leapt to fame in 2004 with the single Take Me Out from their eponymous debut album, which won the 2004 Mercury Music Prize. Since then the band have been at the forefront of the British music scene, and regulars on the touring and summer festival circuits. The band's third album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, was released earlier this year featuring a dancier, more dub-influenced sound for which the band took to using the selection of vintage analogue synths they had accumulated on their travels. The dubbier side of this album can be seen on the remix album Blood, which was originally available as a bonus CD with Deluxe versions of Tonight: Franz Ferdinand.
To re-create the sounds of the studio album in a live environment, the band employ the Voyagers at the heart of their keyboard rig, used in conjunction with an AKAI MPC 5000. The Moog synths are played both by Nick and singer Alex Kapranos.
Taking the Voyagers on tour was an easy choice, says Nick:
“We were messing around with our old synths a lot, but on tour all the old stuff just breaks. The Moogs are really reliable, but we also have the security of knowing that if we ever have any issues we could just pick up another one on tour."
Of course it isn't just reliability that make the Voyagers so popular with Nick and the band:
“You can model your own sounds and improvise with all the controls, which is what makes it so interesting for us - as we really enjoy creating our own sounds. The Voyagers are great for playing live because you can save your sounds, which makes things a lot easier. With the older vintage synths you would have to memorise the knob positions for the different sounds, but now it's so easy to change between extreme sounds. With the MIDI as well it's perfect for us – the Voyager is the only synth I use on stage, but I have six or seven different sounds.”
In the studio, the band find many other interesting and unusual ways to use the Voyagers, as Nick explains: “We used the Moog filters a lot – for instance we fed a digital piano through the Voyager and used the filter section, or we'd put a guitar through it. You can hear it on the single Ulysses – there’s a guitar in the choruses, and when it hits this high chord, it’s filtered through the Moog.”
When the band's performing live, this kind of treatment is carried out by their front-of-house engineer who uses the Moogerfooger plug-ins on his Digidesign console. This gives the band the flexibility to re-create on stage the sounds they've achieved in the studio.
One of the highlights of the band’s Glastonbury set was the epic dance-floor track Lucid Dreams. For this track Nick used an external arpeggiator to trigger the Voyager, leaving himself free to play with the filters. And for the live version of the recent single Ulysses the Voyager took the lead role: “It's got a huge bottom end on it - on Ulysses the Voyager plays the main riff but it's also the bass line at the same time because it's got so much bottom end. Then towards the end it kicks in with another Moog line on top!”
Whether you were at the Glastonbury festival or watching it on TV, it’s undeniable that the sounds of the Moog Voyager are now a key part of the new sound that Franz Ferdinand have defined on their latest record. We can't wait to hear more!