Dave Mccabe Talks


As lead singer of The Zutons, Dave McCabe had one of the most recognisable voices in the 00s indie scene. Having left those days well behind him, Dave returns this year with his brand new project – Dave McCabe & The Ramifications. This new outfit is a significantly more electronic offering and sees Dave venture into pastures new. He’s set to appear in London and Manchester before playing his home show at Liverpool’s Sound City on 24th May. I had the pleasure of speaking to him and finding out a little bit more about his latest venture;

So I just wanted to ask you a few things about your new project. Essentially, what’s the plan? Is there something in particular that you’re aiming to achieve with the music?

I’m just trying to get it out there. I’ve realised that I’m not really good at anything else – I tried bricklaying, I’ve been reading loads and I’ve just generally been bored. I always go back to music. And then there’s drinking lots, and all that that entails. That was enjoyable but I decided I needed to do something a bit more to get out there. I needed focus. I forgot how much I enjoyed making music.

Have you not been making any music since The Zutons?

I’ve never stopped really, I just haven’t been throwing it out there and doing loads of gigs because it never felt right. To be honest, the main thing with this is that I always wanted to carry on making music because I don’t feel like I’m done. I want to carry on and I just didn’t want to get another guitar band together because I’ve been in one of them and we’ve done  loads. If I’d wanted to do that, I suppose I would have just tried my hardest to get The Zutons back together which never crossed my mind.

What made you decide to go down the electronic route?

I always wanted to do that with The Zutons but the rest of them weren’t that into it. Nothing against them, some people in the band don’t like that kind of music and I could have never made that record with them. If you want to fucking do something, you’ve got to do it differently. We’d done what we’d done so now we’ve got to go the opposite way. I never thought it would go the opposite way as it has done, this much, but I like it a lot. When I was a kid my brother used to always have Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Human League and all that lot on so that’s always been there for me and I’ve always loved it. People in Liverpool, some of them laugh at you for liking that kind of music – not in a nasty way, but they never thought you’d go and make that kind of record. Not that this record is anything like Depeche Mode and I’m not putting myself up there with Kraftwerk but you know what I mean, it’s electronic.

It is a very different direction to have gone in, it’s got a real TV On The Radio vibe to it.

The last stuff I heard by them was years ago, it was more guitar stuff really. I don’t know what they’re doing now but that’s good, I’ll take that! Cheers! 

I just don’t see the point in making a guitar record again really, there’s no fucking point is there? I’ll do it in the future but I think you’ve got to want to do these things and it just felt right to do this at this time. It’s not just down to me, it’s more of a collaboration with Mr Chop and Viktor Voltage, and my mate Ray.

Are they essentially ‘The Ramifications’?

Yeah, I suppose so. They won’t be playing live but they’re a big part of it. It’s nice to write songs and give them to someone and just let them manipulate them. I think a lot of people in bands, especially in Liverpool, don’t want anything like that. They want complete control.  I just realised when I had control, they weren’t that good. The songs weren’t necessarily crap, it was just a case of letting someone else fuck about with them while you just focus on the songwriting and singing them, which isn’t a bad thing for me. I didn’t play a lot of stuff on there, a lot of it I played on the guitar but then they redo it on a keyboard or something else – they were just being creative and using their imagination. I’d go away and leave them with it for a few days and then come back and see what they’d done. It was a nice surprise, a nice way of working. Time-consuming but it’s like getting a new band together in the studio, you get the sound together in the studio. All you know is that you want it to be different, you don’t know how though. You know why, because you’re bored of the other ways of doing it. It’s just the way it’s turned out, it’s not like I’ve made a rule of only synthesisers or anything like that.

Have you got a name for the album yet?

‘The Church Of Miami’.

Which is one of the tracks as well, is there a release date yet?

Not yet.

But it does seem like things are moving forwards now at quite some speed.

Yeah, I think so. I’m just getting the band together but it shouldn’t take too long because the parts are all there, it’s not like you’re making things up on the spot. 

Now you just need the people to actually play the notes!

Pretty much.

Are you aiming for a full live band on the tour dates?

Yeah, there’ll be a 4-piece, maybe with the odd guest appearance – from mates, not from any famous people. I don’t really know any famous people any more.

It sounds nice getting your mates involved though.

Yeah it is, your mates… They’re your mates aren’t they? They don’t give a shit. I never really had any mates who were in bands, not like Kasabian. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a fucking awkward bastard at parties, I always say the wrong thing. Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm, that’s what I’m like! With hair, and not Jewish, and not that funny either. It took me years to realise that. I try and stay away from people as much as possible these days, unless I’m going out drinking then I can hide behind that. I’ll just make silly noises. I’m not saying I don’t like people, I really do, I just find a lot of other people don’t like people. In Liverpool at the moment people are trying to be fucking cool but you’ve just got to accept you’re a dickhead and become a loveable dickhead. All loveable dickheads are the best people in your life, all your mates, all the birds you’d ever go out with, your mums, your dads, they’re loveable dickheads really.

That just sounds like a really Scouse approach to this sort of thing! I lived up there for a couple of years and there’s just nowhere else like it.

Nowhere like Liverpool? It’s weird isn’t it. Now that they have programmes like Desperate Scousewives, I think a lot of the kids are obsessed with it and that’s not Liverpool really. Liverpool used to be full of scruffs but now it’s birds who’ve dolled up for their man – which I’m not against but if you go somewhere like Warrington, people are generally more friendly. It used to be the other way around but these things happen don’t they. People look down on you a lot because you’ve got long hair and a beard – I don’t tie it up in a topbun every time I leave the house. I do it sometimes because my girlfriend likes it but I feel like a twat doing it most of the time. If you put it in a ponytail you look like a drug dealer from the 90s. You can’t do anything, you’ve just got to look like Jesus full time.

Whatever you’re comfortable with.

Electric fucking Lebowski init?

I wanted to ask you a bit about Liverpool’s music scene – do you ever get to go out and see any bands or anything?

Yeah, I’ve seen a band called Strange Collective who reminded me of the dirty end of Seattle, like Mudhoney but really psychedelic. They were good. Do you know The Sundowners? They’ve got good energy on stage, the bass player was actually my favourite (I weren’t just perving on the birds – you can quote me on that). Apart from that I don’t really get out a lot, I went to watch Beardyman – he was good. I went to a dance night called Waxxx which was pretty good, good night that. I’ve been trying to do more of that really. I find that people look down on you at those gigs because you’ve done alright for yourself but I get paranoid when I’m out. I think when you’ve smoked weed for years and then you stop, the paranoia sticks about for a bit. You need to scare it out of you. Maybe I just think I’m great and that everybody is just staring at me but really they’re not, no-one really knows who I am any more. I’m just a sad old man.

You’re not a sad old man Dave!

I didn’t enjoy making it, I wasn’t getting on with the people I was in a band with. I didn’t enjoy anything about it really.

This album has taken a while and it’s been frustrating but all for a good reason. I don’t want to seem like I’m down on The Zutons because if it weren’t for The Zutons I wouldn’t have had the time or money or whatever to do this, it’s one of them things. I’m just glad something is out now, I’ve just got to keep my head down and keep writing. I feel like I could write a lot more songs than I have been but you always feel like that when you’re not writing don’t you? When you’re not doing something creative you always feel like you should be and then when you are, you know you’re doing it. I suppose you can’t switch the on button. It’s the same with lyrics for me, I can’t always switch the on button with lyrics. I can come up with tunes but lyrics are the hard one. What’s it like writing about a girlfriend or writing about things are ok. No-one writes a song called ‘Things are OK’ do they? Maybe I should write one called ‘Everything’s OK’. No, it’s shit that. Sorry lad, I’m just rattling on at you… I’m into this record, I like it. I’m not saying it’s my best but I think it’s as good as the Zutons first album as a journey as an album from start to finish.

It’s the music you want to be making right now?

Yeah, but I’m shitting myself. I’m scared about these gigs. But I think you should be scared, you shouldn’t think that everything is great because it’s probably not. I was always a bit scared with The Zutons when we’d make a new album so that’s a good thing, it doesn’t go away.

Do you still get to speak to any of the other Zutons?

Yeah I speak to them all, some cybernetically and some in person. We don’t all go out for a drink that often, I meet Boyan and Abi for a drink, Russ is kind of busy and Sean doesn’t really like people, he just stays in. But nothing against Sean, he just doesn’t like going out drinking – he’s a bit like Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver. You’re best just calling round to his to say hello, don’t invite him out for a drink.

One of the notes I’ve got written here is that the album was also inspired by your love of DC Comics…

Yeah, well I think the thing with that is just writing about something out of the ordinary. The album is about a guy in the not-so-near future who robs a robot from work because he’s lonely and he takes it home and then he puts it back together. Basically by the end of the album he hates it because it just reminds him of himself and the fact that he’s got to get out and get a life. I mean, that’s probably more Philip K Dick and Kurt Vonnegut, there’s a humour in sci-fi. They’re more like paranoia books to me but I find it funny how paranoid they are. I think with comic books it opens your mind to not having to write about the normal stuff. Alan Moore doesn’t write about waking up in the morning and having a cup of tea and if he did the cup of tea would probably be a dead good cup of tea or he’d be trying to make the cup of tea sound as brilliant as possible. Not everyone can do that. I wanted the album to come out with a comic originally but I didn’t want it to be some shitty-arse comic, I wanted it to be a good comic.

You didn’t want it to be just for the novelty?

Yeah but then I thought ‘what if the comic is really fucking good and the album is just alright?’, you’ve got to keep the comic up as well as the album. Maybe that’s one for the future but at the moment it’s just about making a good album, then trying the comic. Withint the album it got a bit narrative, the writing about this character and what happens to him, so I jumped out of it at the end and decided to just keep the best ones because it got a little bit too much, a bit predictable.

Too much of a focus on the narrative rather than on the music?

Yeah, because I was inside it, I think it was Ian Brody who said ‘we get the picture, now just get on with the music’. He mentioned Tommy by The Who, I’m not that into The Who, where there’s Pinball Wizard and another track and then he could pretty much write about what he wanted. A concept album sounds like more fun.

If you’ve got a theme behind it it can add a level of intrigue.

Yeah but I think the general theme is just about music and you singing on it, even how you sing down the mic, everything about it. That’s the general theme, it’s just you at that moment of time. There’s a lot to be said about performance and energy on these albums, especially when you go home. Even if the songs not as good as the last one you love it as much. Like on Transformer, it’s just got that energy about it. Maybe that was a bad example because there are no bad songs on it… 

One more thing I wanted to ask you about is that you’re playing Sound City this year, is that something you’ve continued to go to each year or is this a big return for you?

Yeah I suppose it’s a big return because it’s with the new band. I think any gig in Liverpool is like a big return, I’ve been out for 5 years without an official band name so it’s definitely a return. I’m looking forward to it but I’ve always hated gigs in Liverpool because you’re trying to get into it and then your Nan is at the front – it’s not very rock and roll is it? It makes me nervous and go ‘oh shit, my Nan’s here, I can’t swear, I can’t talk about fannies or tits on stage…’ That would always make me really nervous but it’s got to be done, it’s like a showcase. Behind you Nan you’ve got all these heads and it’s a bit of a weird thing playing Liverpool but I’m looking forward to the gig. Really looking forward to it, not shitting myself in the slightest!

'The Church Of Miami' will be released via 1965 later this year, keep up to date with Dave McCabe & The Ramifications via Facebook.