words: Tom Goodhand
pics: Kevin Petch
“This really isn’t going to help with the perception of us as a ‘wacky’ band is it?” says Paul Morricone, whilst putting on a white lab coat, a pair of safety goggles and picking up his clipboard (not all at once, obviously).
Today’s interview is brought to you by the theme ‘Health & Safety’, which, completely coincidentally, is also the name of Being 747’s forthcoming second album. Remember this theme whilst reading the rest of the interview. You may notice it cropping up again, and again, and perhaps, again.
So, onto the interview. Let us start, at the start. Except the story of how Being 747 came into being (arf!) isn’t particularly exciting, so Paul has offered us an alternative:
“We all (that would be Dave Cooke - vocals and guitar, and twins Steve Morricone - bass/keys and vocals, and Paul Morricone - drums and vocals) met at a health and safety convention, and we all realised, when we were talking about the Rollerskate & Bananaskin factory we were about to visit, that we all had a shared interest in making informative and exciting music. So we got together, and we’re the safest band in the world.”
Dave embellish the tale some more, “and I was developing a Velociraptor claw arm for every day use around the house. I was demonstrating it to children in the woods, and Steve happened to find me there, and Steve has a real fascination with dinosaurs, so we got talking, and before you know it…”
I think we can all agree that Dave playing acoustic songs, then getting two mates to help supplement the sound is a much less exciting tale, and as John Ford said, “When the legend becomes the truth, print the legend”. We might as well see if we can start the legend.
By this point in the interview, you will have hopefully noticed that Being 747 are a three piece. Listening to their albums, however may suggest different, the dynamics and instrumentation that Being 747 use isn’t exactly standard, as Paul explains:
“As a three piece, the nature of it is that you have to be very resourceful. If all our songs were just one guitar, one bass, a set of drums and vocals, then we wouldn’t get the dynamics we wanted out of them.”
“So that’s why Steve plays the bass and the keyboards at the same time, and there’s lots of backing vocals and different sounds. Yet, at the same time we also like the constraints of being in a 3 piece, I mean, you listen to the recordings, and it very rarely veers away from what we can do live.”
The other benefit of being in a three piece, as Dave handily explains via the medium of graph, is that “Hassle increases exponentially as you get more Band Members. The more Members you get, the more Hassle (proceeds to draw a line graph). So eight Members would create almost infinite Hassle.”
Paul then adds another axis, ‘Getting Stuff Done’, the general gist being, the less Band Members, that more Stuff Gets Done. Then one final factor must be added.
“The more members you have, the more people you get coming to gigs, as you’ll have more friends.” Dave explains, “they’ll always be someone who’s seventeen or eighteen and brings hundreds of friends. Unfortunately, with three members with a finite and diminishing amount of friends and social circle, it’s very difficult for us to achieve Maximum Audience Density based on who we know. That’s why it’s better to play gigs (although it is more hassle) with a band who have at least eight or nine members, because they’re then bound to bring loads of mates, who will disappear the minute you hit the stage.”
Of course, as entertaining as reading about graphs must be, the really interesting thing about Being 747 is the music. It’s very pop, isn’t it Paul?
“Everything we do is pretty immediate, and it’s designed so. It’s only because the songs are really strong, and have a story to tell, so we can make it really upfront. There are some really tender songs on there, but they’re still immediate. I don’t think many people are doing that. They’re either drenching themselves in reverb and doominess, just for the sake of it, and not thinking ‘hang on, what’s really going to grab peoples’ attention again’”.
Much of the subject matter revolves around storytelling. There’s ‘The Retribution’, with what Steve calls “a nautical theme” about “men on a ship being punished for being bad husbands”. “Yeah,” agrees Dave, “just for being cads”, there’s ‘Microlyte’, which Steve explains “is a warning of getting on the wrong side of a potential partner, and how it can cause all manner of mishaps when they try and get their way or some kind of revenge”, and what Dave calls a “a health and safety warning about the dangers of belly boarding”, ‘13 Stones To Float’.
As wonderfully poptastic as Health & Safety is, Dave explains that it’s, “kind of like a stop-gap album to solidify some songs, before we moved onto the meat, as it were. The historical meat and veg that is our concept album, our Life On Earth album, which goes from the dawn of recorded fossil history right up to the current day, in thirteen chapters of pop song.”
Just to emphasise what this grand project entails Paul confirms that “it’s a musical interpretation of David Attenborough, through the medium of pop song.” And this isn’t just a piece of frivolous ‘wackiness’, no sir. “Combining education with pop music is something that people haven’t really done before”, Steve explains, “we have actually, through a friend of ours, sounded out some local authorities about this, and they’ve gone mental for the idea. We are actually looking at this like a real project, something to take round schools, with visual material, follow up educational material, costumes and everything.”
Dave has stumbled upon one hitch however. “The trouble is you’re not actually allowed to teach evolution to kids. It’s not part of the curriculum, and a lot of schools are going to have problems with the fact we’re teaching evolution, which is why we’re going to have to wrap it in some kind of God element or factor.”
It’s schemes like this, that means that Being 747 running their own label, Wrath Records, is vital. Dave reckons that “If we were on a major label and said ‘we’re going to make an album about the evolution of life’, they’d say ‘know you’re not, you’re going to write a song like XTC, only not as good, like everyone else’.” He’s almost certainly correct.
This major label attitude is a problem that Steve sees throughout the music industry, “You know when you’ve got a soup, with loads of lovely, fresh ingredients, and you over boil it, you boil out all of the taste, yeah, all you’re left with is this faintly aromatic water. This is an analogy of what’s happening in the music industry at the moment. You have great ingredients, XTC - fantastic, Wire - fantastic, Joy Division - fantastic. All the interesting stuff has been skimmed off the top, and you’re just left with this sludgy stuff. Gruel, I think is the only word for it.”