I had the golden opportunity to speak with Henry Binns from Zero 7 the other day about their new album Yeah Ghost, parting with Sia, touring, farming, and things like that. Henry was an absolute pleasure to talk to and someone I’d love to have a chat with again someday. What I liked most about this interview was that I could find out what they thought of the new album and how they’d describe it before hearing it from anyone else. It is truly special when we can learn about an artistic creation from the artists themselves.
How are you, Henry?
I’m ok but it’s pouring rain out and we’re here on Baker Street.
Where is that?
Baker Street is the home of Sherlock Holmes, you know that?
We absolutely just… the heavens opened and we just escaped into a pub, so here we are.
Well it’s nice to talk to you and thanks a lot for your time. How was your recent tour? I read that you were in Portugal and also Belgium.
And now you guys are back in London.
We’re back in London. We just finished a thing for Channel Four, which is quite a nice TV station here. And, yeah, the album, it’s just kinda picking up.
It has an early September release here.
Yeah, and that is subject to discussions that are now going on, but yeah, I think that is loosely the arrangement. (laughs)
Ahh, ok. So what can we expect from the new album?
Well, I’m not worried at all, I really like it. It’s more upbeat, a bit more driving, although it’s got its moments, which you would call kind of protocol Zero 7 moments. It’s definitely a real hodgepodge. It’s got really a very folky tune, much more kinda dancy stuff. And, I don’t know… I find describing my music impossible.
Yeah, it is very difficult to describe. Where did you get your inspiration for the Yeah Ghost title?
There really isn’t much to talk about. They are just a couple of words that shouldn’t be together. There is definitely a slightly eerie feeling in making this album. And by that I just mean that sometimes it was like pulling teeth, you know. There was many a big challenge. The parting with Sia was one of them. We were just trying to do things in a way that we weren’t too comfortable with, cause we just felt if you do the same thing then you don’t move on.
So.. it was a lot of ups and downs. Moreso than previous albums.
You have some diverse singers on the upcoming album. Where do you get your ideas for who to feature on your songs?
Really just haphazardly. I mean, I live in Glastonbury now, which is not to be confused with the festival because the festival’s about three miles away. That gives you an idea. I live in the west country of England. There’s quite a big folk scene there, and I met a girl through some friends called Martha Tilston. And we started the album with her, and that wasâ€¦forty incarnations later, and you get what you hear on the record. And we had some stuff that we didn’t quite have what we thought would make a real album, and I think Eska was the one (again, who we met through some members of the band) who just came to my house and just turned it around really quickly, you know, like ripped into it with a pair of pliers… We got some great stuff with her.
Oh that’s so fantastic. I’m really looking forward to hearing this album. What had you guys been doing between this album and the previous one?
You know, I’ve got a farm. We’ve got pigs, sheep, chickens… plenty to do around my house. A bit of carpentry. (laughs) But basically, in between the albums, it’s been a lot of thinking about this record. And that means, we took some members of the band, hired a bus, and went for a tour around Europe with some other material that we had which we couldn’t really put our name on. And we just did some instrumental gigs. Cause you’ve got to remember that we’re not the kind of guys who did pub gigs for years before we suddenly broke. And I think that made this kind of empowering cause you own it and you do it yourself. You go out there and you sing and we all sing. You haven’t got this big Sia voice or anything like that. It’s all to do with what you guys create in the studio. So I think that helped shape this record.
Do you have any plans to work with Sia in the future?
Never again. Tell that bitch I…. No, I’m only joking. She’s cool. She came to my house. And we had a brilliant time. I wrote a song with her for her album, which she just told me that she’s using. And my slightly effeminate streamline has been replaced by the guitar player from the Strokes. (laughs) But she said, “Sounds really good,” so she seemed to be pleased by that. Me and Sia are good mates. I just think we just all decided that we’d done a bunch of stuff and you owe it to yourself to try to do something different and you know what, there might be hell below but if that’s the case… we’re all gonna go.
Where do you guys see yourselves in five years?
Oh god, I’m not ambitious like that. I know a lot of artists that have a game plan. We’re just literally, desperately, trying to do something that we like at any given moment. Game plan in five years: no idea. I mean, I’m sure the greatest kid hits is coming. (laughs)
Nice. What do you think of the music industry these days?
Well it’s fucked. The music business… there is no business. There’s nothing to sell! There have got to be ways to generate revenue somehow, and I think it’s coming slowly, but I think it’s a shame. Music’s really important, and it always will be. I think people do need to paid for it, I’m sorry. There, I said it. It’s important in that way. People need to spend money on music. It’s important in that way. It’s just figuring out how we can make it all work. And it’s pretty scary times, but interesting ones as well, and I’ve made people think a lot outside of what they normally do.
Is there a particular place that you enjoy playing?
Well Portugal is great. They love the music scene. We did ask our audience a lot there. We literally just played one old song. It was just like Neil Young. Sticking two fingers up our audience, playing all new material. I think we’ll put a couple of oldies in for them next time. Loved playing in Portugal. Loved playing in New York; that was fun. I think New York people are very similar to Londoners; they’ve got a healthy amount of cynicism, which we all need.
Where else… I liked to play in Spain. We’ve got a lot of connections in Spain. But Spanish don’t really get our music.
Do you have a future tour planned around the U.S.?
Yeah I think we’re coming over in October or I suppose, the Autumn as we call it, or the Fall. We’ve got the usual hands for the day, which is great. I’m really looking forward to it. It always feels like the real deal when you’re on tour in America: the wide open spaces, and the bathrooms are cleaner. I’ve got a new assortment: this girl called Olivia Cheney. I was just around at her house. And we were just practicing doing songs. She’s a great singer and I think it should be a good show.
Ok, and just one more question. I read that the name Zero 7 came from a bar in Honduras. Is that true?
You can’t seriously be asking me this. I suppose I still do have to answer it.
Sorry. (laughs) This is the last time.
Well there’s been many a story, but this is the official one. Before we made Simple Things, we went on a small holiday (not small, it was quite a long time) in Mexico. And we worked our way through Mexico. And at every given stop, they were saying, “Man, you’re gonna get raped,” and none of it even happened anyway, and we ended up in Honduras, where we spent a little bit of time on a little island called Utila. And on that island was a little bar where we used to drink rum – a lot of rum. They used to mix with two cassette machines, can you believe that?
They had a mixer with two tape decks. I’ll always remember that. And it was on stilts. Anyway, it was called Cero Siete. When we got back, we were very fortunate to be asked by Radiohead to do a remix. And for that very mix, we decided to call it “the Zero 7 Mix.” Shitty name, really. Probably if we’d have thought about it, we probably would have come up with something better. That’s the way it goes with us.
You should go back there and play someday.
Yeah exactly. I’ll definitely get a nice shot of it. I wonder if it’s still there. They got badgered by a ton of hurricanes. But anyway, it would be nice to go back one day.
It’s so nice what you did for that small place.
Yeah, that it gets put on the map by some fortuitous little event like that.
Well thank you so much for your time.