egoeccentric talks to... The Ting Tings

So you'd think that being No. 1 in the UK and No. 2 in Ireland would make The Ting Tings too busy to talk to us. Well Jules DeMartino (the male Ting) took time out of his seemingly gruelling schedule to have a natter.

Click the 'read more' for the interview, or alternatively you can download or stream it below.

Click for mp3

Evil Bob: Hi Jules, where are you right now?

Jules De Martino: We're in Brighton playing the Great Escape Festival last night and tonight.

EB: How did it go last night?

JDM: It was incredible. We didn't go on until 1.30 in the morning and there was big queues down the street and it was very hot and sweaty and rocking. The best gigs are the ones that are like that.

EB: I believe congratulations are in order. You've about to be the Number One Single in the UK. Is that right?

JDM: Yeah we've been No.1 all week. We've been fighting off Rihanna and Madonna and Coldplay. Its quite interesting to find ourselves ahead of such major selling artists. We made this record ourselves in Salford, banging out some music for some parties that we threw so its a good feeling and we're just hoping that we can hold onto that spot tomorrow.

EB: Is it anything that you foresaw when you first started becoming a band that maybe you'd be No.1 someday?

JDM: Not at all. We started this band by accident out of frustration and we started out doing it at house parties in Salford. We had this space that we rented with out studio and our rehearsela dna we had friends come over and we made a little stage with some beer crates and stuff like that and we started putting on events where we could earn some money out of selling beer.

EB: Do you miss those days now?

JDM: Yeah it worked alright. The first couple of nights we had this old TV where we cut the middle out of it and we had this sign saying "Beer Donations" cause you weren't allowed...cause we were based in an old mill in Salford so there's a lot of artists that live and work there so we weren't allowed to charge for entrances where there was rented property. It was a little bit awkward to do so the way we used to do was to ask for donations and after the second party we had 130 pounds of donated beer money.

We kind of thought 'This is great, this is where we can start earning some money' so we just started running nights where we played for 20 minutes and we'd have other bands come on and then when we started earning a bit more money from donations we'd pay the band 50 quid or something. We thought at first we'd try to run a club or something but our music just got stronger and a lot of people started to talk about us and then we started going out on the road.

EB: The first thing I saw of you was when you played Jools Holland before Christmas. Was there a moment when you thought "This is it, its starting to happen"?

JDM: Well I remember the moment where we felt we were a band rather than just an outfit that was trying to run a club and that was our current manager he came to about the 3rd party that we throw up in Salford in the space and he had said to us that we ned to take what we're doing a little bit more seriously instead of just getting drunk and he thought we had something very fresh, new, whatever this thing was and after about the 5th party he put us in this 5 day bar fly through the UK supporting a band called Stray Light Run that we'd never
heard of who were like an emo band and we had no idea what the audience thought. We had nothing. We had 3 songs.

That was what we were playing in our comfort zone, in our own place, our own space. When we went out in the first night we played and Katie had only started playing the guitar about two months ago so she was still learning. She didn't really know what she was doing and we went on stage and we got loops that I was controlled with my feet and my drum kit and Katie had just distortion guitar, she played the first song which was "Great DJ", it went on for about 8 minutes, we only had three songs that we had to play over 25 minutes.

We just had to extend everything as long as possible and the 1st song that she played on the guitar and at the end of the song she asked the audience if they could hear her guitar and the sound man told her to turn her amp on. She had no idea how to turn her amp at the start so it was a completely new experience but it was...we came off stage feeling r
eally hot and sweaty and the energy was really high and we wanted to go back on stage for some reason. There was something. We came off and we thought "Oh shit, I'm gutted thats over, the audience loved it" and we kind of couldn't really wait until the next night and those five days that we played in a row was the most incredible feeling cause...I don't just felt like...all your dreams of being in a band and going on the road. it was like we were getting some energy out if it and it just mad it like a drug, made us want to be on every night and I think at that point it was the first time outside of our comfort zone that we felt we may be in this as a band.

EB: You've been in the music industry for quite a while since the 80's. So since Babakoto and Mojo Pin which were your previous bands. Isn't that right?

JDM: Well yeah a bit later than that. I was only very very young in my first band that started to surface around the early 90's, late 80's. It didn'
t do much unfortunately and I was only the drummer in that band and I was too young to be doing it really so I've got no real kind of experience of that decade. More of the 90's I'd say that I had more of an experience because I started getting into my decent teens and understanding what it meant a little bit more.

I mean if I'm going back to those years and how its changed now its like anybody will tell you the most important thing about music is the Internet, is digital recording, is th
e way that you can record in your bedroom. You don't need to spend $100,000 with a producer who doesn't have a fucking clue what he's doing and you can do it yourself un your bedroom and you can experiment and you can put it on a disc and give it to your friends and they can go into their bedroom or their bars and if its good they can actually play it alongside Madonna.

EB: From what I've gathered you seem to be discontent with the way your last band: Dear Eskimo, didn't work out so well. Has that affected the way The Ting Tings have gone about treating their music and the industry in general?

JDM: Yeah totally. Being in a label environment with Dear Eskimo the first time around there was more of in the band so obviously it was a different set-up. Labels can be very selfish going through their own changes, their own ego's and everybody else suffers. The whole thing about a lable is that its meant to be supporting their artists, artists come first, thats w
here the creativity lies and we're really sore about Mercury, the label, and the way they treated us, the way they changed all their staff and brought in new people and eventually dropped the band without even meeting us. Its incredible how you can get people to drop you and not even come to your gig and yet they signed you. Its just a crazy environment you can be in with labels. They really rattled our cage. So much so that I wasn't really into being in a new band.

Katie was very the one driving because our writing was so strong she said we should carry on writing and thats how we started our parties. I wasn't prepared to go on the road and start a band and I didn't want to be involved in records or record sales or the politics of a record label. So we started these house parties and we put out our own records and again we had no intention of getting where we are now. It was about satisfying our own needs, making pop music because we wanted to. Producin
g our own album and things like that, between our jobs.

The difference being, this time around, we signed to Columbia, hypocritically, but the whole point about signing to them was they approached us in a completely different manner. They've a different team. They had a different kind of view on how they run their outfit, how they help their bands, meeting key people like Mike Pickering and Tav our manager who are both very important to us because they come from DIY areas. Mike was a big DJ in the Hacienda days and he was in M People. Tav has looked after bands like Ash for 15 years. We've had a very DIY approach, very hard working band with a nice string of people and eventually the whole Columbia team got involved and it felt really good. The way they were supporting our own creativity and keeping control of it and it worked out.

EB: Your albums just out to the general public but you've obviously had the songs a while. Have you kind of got sick of them already?

JDM: We haven't had them that long. We started the band in January 2007 experimenting and doing these gigs and, like I said, we weren't really thinking for one minute that we were going to be a fully blown band. It was more like getting out there and having some fun. So we finished the complete album, the end of that year, in December. It was delivered right in the end of December. So we've only had a complete 10 tracks from January so its still pretty fresh because one has to imagine we haven't been touring as constantly through the whole year. So these songs, the max they've been around for is a year which isn't really a long time when you're only starting to work on them for the last half year, being able to get on tour.

A lot of bands don't get the opportunity to play every night. The new challenges we face are not sitting there listening to our music. We're not sort of listening to our album every night saying "I'm getting sick of it". You're on different stages around the world, dealing with new problems like a power plug which is the wrong power plug or an audience that doesn't speak English or getting there because you're so knackered cause you're had 3 hours sleep or trying to find the energy live or the fact you're on a bus arguing all the way. All the new challenges take it away, you don't just listen to your music constantly.

EB: You have suggested that you might just quit The Ting Tings and start all over with a new project. Is that just idle talk or is it a very real threat?

JDM: Its not idle talk and its not a threat its just that as a band we're very creative with our art work. We fell into this band experimenting with pop and being in a studio and playing live. Katie picked up a guitar for the first time in about February learning it and me being on the drums, not having played them in 4 years, going back to mine and Katie picking up the guitar and playing it badly. It was all part of the experimentation or getting on stage and just driving something to have a good time. Trying to find some freshness and I think that we're always trying to...we get so impatient and bored waiting for a release or doing anything normal and we haven't had to do that. We've been in a band for one year and in that one year we've finished an album, done something like 4 tours, we're on our 5th tour now. We've been to the States, we've been to Europe, we're about to go to Japan. We've had 3 singles out that we did ourselves. We did all the art work ourselves. We've just got our first single out with a major label thats currently Number 1 in the charts.

I mean thats in one year and you can tell that we're an impatient lot and I think that reflects on the comments we say about starting a new band. I just can't think of anything worse. Getting to the end of the year and beating ourselves up because we're playing, as you said, the same songs for 3 years or something and thinking "What do we do now? Do we write another Ting Tings album? Is this another one to stack on the shelves?" Unless we find the inspiration to actually have something to moan about like we did on the 1st album, cause we got sacked off by Mercury, the first time round in our last band. We had a lot of frustration and unless we have something to moan about, getting tired, whatever it is we have to moan about at the end of the year. I think that the whole point of being an artist is to try and express yourself in some way and thats maybe why we come across that we might start a new band find something to write about.

EB: Do you think that there’s a kind of snobbery that might exist with some music critics regarding your ‘Pop’ past- Katie’s in particular with Total Knock Out. Do you think that there’s an inclination to treat you differently?

JDM: It could quite exist- I don’t know. Being on the road we don’t tend to read everything, obviously we don’t have time. It’s not good to keep reading about yourselves- it’s not good to keep talking about yourselves! Sometimes it drives us nuts talking about ourselves, cause sometimes it’s nice just to listen to the music, people take an opinion and write what they wanna write.

But when it comes to people obviously researching and finding out about Katie’s past, about being in a predominantly girl band when she was 14, she’s absolutely proud as punch. Doing that- she was at school and she took the initiative to find two friends who couldn’t sing to save their lives, and tried to form some sort of band because of their love of music. Everything that was being played on radio at the time when she was a young teenager were Boy and Girl bands. She’s got no qualms about listening to bands like The Spice Girls and having Spice Girls pencil cases- she’s absolutely proud of that. For her it was the best music in the world, it made her have fun. So for her it’s not like this is the music she’s into now- she was into it when she was 14, and it’s what inspired her to form what was a Girl Band.

Contrary to peoples’ beliefs and what’s been written about her supporting ‘big bands’- it never happened. She did the local festival; she was one of the little bands on it, on the back of a lorry dancing with little radio mics. It was rubbish and she admits it herself. The two girls who were with her were her best friends but they couldn’t sing or dance to save their lives- but it was something that started her.

My admiration was Elvis. I went back, I was the opposite. Elvis wasn’t my time at all but my Mum and my Dad had all his records so I stole them. What’s the difference? If someone wants to write about “Oh, Jules’ background is so incredibly eclectic or musically more advanced cause he was nicking his Mum’s Elvis records” or whether Katie was listening to the Spice Girls or the Backstreet Boys on radio and going out and forming a band… then they’re dumb if they’re doing stuff like that cause it’s all about expressing yourself and finding a way to start, and it means the same thing. It’s taking a risk. And Katie was taking just as big a risk as I was.

EB: So apart from obviously Elvis, what did you listen to when you were growing up?

I’m not a great one for sort of following the times at all. When I was very young my parents were disturbed at the fact that firstly I’d steal all their records, and secondly I played all the B-Sides. I was a big fan of Elvis from when I was a little kid. As much as you get people who go out and start buying records at a very young age, most of us, even if we’re dedicated musicians, when we first start we don’t have any money. We don’t have the sort of situation where we can just walk down the street safely and buy a record.

The first note of being into music is the stuff that your brothers & sisters have got, and you start stealing off your parents. That’s how I got into music. Stealing my records off my Mum and playing the B-Sides. She couldn’t understand why I’d play the B-Sides to all these Vinyl and not the A-Sides that she was in love with, and what made ‘Elvis’. I think it’s just cause musically I loved production. I produced this album with Katie, but you know, being more involved with the technical side I like experimenting with instruments. So I think that was natural for me when I was very young- that all the music I had been into was a little bit more eclectic than Katie’s.

I can go through millions of bands- I don’t have a fascination about one. I was big a fan of Joy Division, Nirvana, as I was of Queen, as I was with Banarama back in the 80s. It’s all about the records for me. I’m not a big fan of following a band and buying album after album after album religiously. I’m much more a fan of records- if something really appeals to on the radio, be it a single or be it an album. It’s about the record. You put it on and immediately you hear it. When the song’s amazing, and the development and delivery is amazing, it stays with you for life in one shape or form.

How are you handling the fame that you must be surrounded by at the moment? For example, you must get recognized now a lot more than you did before.

JDM: You’d be surprised how much time there is for actually getting out and partying. I mean, we started with a lot of parties, and we started getting renowned in Manchester for being a band that throws really massive parties- and it’s been good fun doing that- but once you start touring most of your time is spent traveling. It really is just sitting around airports getting in planes… it’s just the most annoying thing. Getting from A to B takes forever with your crew and your equipment. That is the most frustrating thing. You just wanna get there, be creative, have a drink and have a good time, but most of the time your just sitting on a bus. And you know what it’s like if you’re sitting on a bus and you’re drunk, and you feel sick.. it’s not a good feeling.

So a lot of the time it’s not glamorous, and it’s not like ‘how do you deal with the fame?’; cause the fame exists in very, very small areas. Like you walk into the venue and you have a crowd of people who want autographs and you’re obviously being humbled by the fact that they’re buying your records and they’re loving your music. You want to give it back to them and you want to have time to talk to them, and thank them, and find out what they’re in to, why they’ve come to the gig, if they’re local… and realistically you’re walking in, you try to sign some autographs then you’re on stage and dealing with a broken pedal, the guitar’s out of tune, and then you’re on stage for 45-50 mins sweating hot, come off, trying to find a new t-shirt, back in the bus, back to the hotel.. and you’re off and doing phoners for four hours!

I mean, we’ve been caught out a couple of times this week with the single being out and there’s a whole new level of excitement with the band, and it’s started to make us.. not worried, but.. we just played Brighton last night, and I suppose the capacity of the venue was 400 and it was absolutely packed- so packed it’s dangerous. Outside the queue of people is going down the street and there’s no way these people are getting in- there’s just no more room, and yet they’re just queuing and queuing. It’s kinda like, you really feel as an artist that you want to satisfy everybody, you want to give everybody a chance to have that experience or be in that club with you so you can all party together.. but it’s just hard logistically.

So there is sometimes a kind of humbling sort of guilty feeling that you’re here and a lot of people are trying to get in and they can’t, and they’re saying ‘please can you sign this’ but you literally can’t cover the ground, you’re only human. So there is a bit of guilt sometimes when you’re in and out of a town and there’s disappointed people who don’t get to meet you or see you on stage. Hopefully by playing bigger venues in the next 6 months or so, as we’re growing we’ll be able to invite those people back.

EB: Is there any one upcoming event or show that you’re particularly looking forward to?

We’re looking forward to so much- our diary is that we’ve got 5 days off at the end of May, and then the rest of it til the end of November is full on traveling and playing everywhere. So we’re looking forward to doing many, many things. Glastonbury! We started off in Glastonbury a year ago, it was our fifth gig- which we were lucky to play, so we’re looking forward to playing there on the John Peel stage. That’s gonna be tremendous- marking a year to the day and we’re back at Glastonbury after seeing how much work we’ve done, putting our own records out and stuff like that.

Outside of that there’s tons. We’re coming over to the States in June, we cannot wait to do that, we had so much fun when we were over there the last time. And now our records have been out there, stuff’s been happening. It’ll be great to get out there and play an extended set, that’s gonna be so much fun. Going to Japan for the first time, I mean, it goes on and on… it’s a jaw dropping experience every time we get to a city. When we first got to LA, me and Katie were like “This is amazing, I so want to live here!”, then we flew to New York and were like “Oh my god, this is amazing, I want to live here”, then we get to Berlin and it’s “Oh my god, Berlin rocks, this is where we want to live”. Every city: Paris, Rome… every city we’ve been to we’re just knocked out by it, then every time we come back to Salford, Manchester we’re like “This is wicked, back home!”. It just goes on, and on, and on.

EB: Listen, good luck in the future- congratulations again. Good luck at the Glastonbury gig, I’ll be there myself so I’ll see you then!

See you at Glastonbury!

The Ting Ting's debut album "We Started Nothing" is out now.
"Thats Not My Name" is currently top of Uk charts and No. 2 in the Irish Charts.
They play Oxegen this summer.

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May 20, 2008 at 5:04 AM egg said...

Its cool that you guys are getting good new bands on your blog. But you gotta love bobs star struck banter that he edited out of the script version. It kind of makes him endearing. Can we label this awww of the day.

May 20, 2008 at 8:30 AM Evil Bob said...

What starstruck banter?
Don't make me spank you Egg.