Interview: Rick Boardman of Delphic at Roskilde Festival (Part 1)

By on Monday, 12th July 2010 at 12:00 pm

One of the highlights of Roskilde for me this year was seeing Manchester electropop dance band Delphic perform at Pavilion, the smallest stage of them all at the festival. A couple hours before their performance on Friday 2nd of July I met up with Rick Boardman (keyboards, synths, backing vocals) backstage to have a chat. The band had arrived literally minutes prior, having driven several hours from an appearance the previous night at the Peace and Love Festival in Borlänge, Sweden. In part one of this candid interview, I learn about the little town they call home, the Manchester music scene and why you haven’t a chance with them if you try flirting with them in a club, and I even briefly act as therapist.

Oh, and if you wondering what is up with the seated pose and banana, Rick insisted on eating a banana while I photographed him to, in his words, ‘promote healthy living’. What a breath of fresh air in the rock ‘n’ roll business!

So…tell me a little about yourself, what instruments you play, and how you contribute to Delphic.
Well, I play…I mean, performance-wise, I play keys and do a bit of singing. And I guess, I dunno, we’re a quite a synth-led, electronic kind of band, so we always have of lot of synthesisers lying about. I guess the main thing about all of us is that we’re kind of all composers, all kind of studio buffs, so that’s the kind of real Delphic. What we do onstage is a means of interpreting that, I guess. In the studio, we’re all writers…so yeah.

Who or what inspired you to start playing music and want to be in a band?
I guess…I dunno, I must have been around 6 or 7, 7 when I started playing piano. And I always played piano. And then about the age of 16, I think my dad gave me a Minidisc recorder. See, that’s what we’re talking about, the time period, it was really big for about 2 years, it was totally going to take off – and yeah, it was ‘Kid A’ by Radiohead, and he gave me a couple of their songs. And I’d never gotten into Radiohead before, and um, we had a few synthesisers lying about. My dad had a few synthesisers, he used to build synthesisers. So I messed about with them, trying to rip off what they’d done with their Warp Records-influenced stuff, and from listening to that I got into loads of experimental kind of prog music and stuff and Godspeed You Black Emperor! stuff and all these big epic post-rock bands and stuff like that. And then from then it just kind of progressed, and I just thought, you know what, if I can somehow get away with this, this is a much more fun job than going to become a lawyer like my dad or anything like that! So I kind of stuck with it.

Same with the other guys really. I’ve always played with Matt (Cocksedge) the guitarist since we were about 16. He’s been in my first band and every band we’ve ever been since and there’ve been five and six of them until this one, as kids. James (Cook, lead singer / bassist) lived down south and moved to Manchester 9 years ago, so I’ve only ever been in this band with James, but he was going for similar thing when he was younger, being in bands with people he knew around the same age I guess.

Yeah, I read in a BBC interview that before Delphic you were in all these other bands. How do those bands compare to what Delphic is now in terms of sound?
I think the main thing is…we talk about them in not the fondest of ways, which we shouldn’t really do, because they’re an important part of our musical life, an important learning curve. It’s an important thing to go through. I think even most artists, even when you look at the greats – my favourite artists, you know, David Bowie, etc., they’ve all gone through this kind of period early on where they just kind of don’t know what they’re doing…and now they’re compared to the ‘Ziggy’ (Stardust) album or whatever. There are all these odd stuffs going on. I think the main problem for us, and what was important to go through to get to this, was just we never felt we were in control of our own music. We were always chasing someone else’s style or scene. So it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what style it was. We went through a number of different things. We were, I guess, copying other people with the overall goal, an end goal to try and get somewhere, get a record deal or whatever. Just copying. So okay, we heard Bloc Party‘s first album, let’s be like Bloc Party. We heard ‘Kid A’, let’s be like ‘Kid A’. Or we heard Godspeed You Black Emperor!, let’s be like Godspeed You Black Emperor!

And it was only when we were old enough and mature enough, we’d learned all what we felt we needed to know about being in a band, we quit and filtered out the shit members of the band because there were a load of us in it and some of them didn’t work. Me and Matt carried on and brought in James, and then kind of said, you know what? Let’s do what we want to do, what aren’t we hearing on the radio at the moment, what music do we want to make that we aren’t hearing elsewhere? Let’s just do that! And if everyone likes it or no-one else likes it, it doesn’t matter. And from that point on we felt more in control, and things started happening for us.

Do you have a permanent touring drummer now or is he part of your band, how does this work?
Yeah, he’s kind of an enigma really. It is a mysterious situation. He’s called Dan (Hadley) and he played on the album (‘Acolyte’), on pretty much all the tracks. He started playing with us before we gigged and helped build up the songs live. He doesn’t write with us at the moment, although when it comes to the second album I think we will kind of bring him in more. He joined a year later than us, and we’ve known each other for such a long time, and it’s not easy to bring someone into your group. But we’ve been with him for about a year and half now and we could never do without him. There’s no other drummer I’d feel comfortable with.

Now you guys were originally based in Manchester, is that correct, or outside Manchester…?
Just outside Manchester. Twenty-minute train journey from Manchester. Basically, me and James met at university and James…when he finished university, he was going to go back down south to see his parents, and I said no no no, come on, let’s…we were actually in this other band at the time and he was doing other things. I always thought James had kind of something about him, and I really liked his voice. And it was like, come on, you stay up in Manchester, and I’m sure at some point, we will end up doing something together. He ended up living with me and my family, I was still living with my mum and dad at the time and he moved in. Permanent lodger with my mum and dad, my sister and me. Lived there for a bit. Then we split up the old band and restarted. We wrote a lot of Delphic tunes in that house, my mum and dad’s. We also went away to a cottage in the Lake District for a month or something, and that was kind of throwing ourselves into an uncomfortable situation, spending a lot of time together, going for walks. Really inspiring, really important point, we wrote half the album up there really, conceptualised a lot of it.

But this place called Marple, we always say we’re a Manchester band, we now all live in Manchester, we all still share a flat in Manchester. But Marple’s a little town with some very proud people there. So when they got wind that Delphic was from Marple and doing well, they advertised it everywhere and they changed the Wikipedia page, ‘Delphic come from Marple!’

Is it like a village outside Manchester?
Yeah, it’s a small town, very small. But it looks like a cute little village. But in fact Miss Marple um…I think em…was it Agatha Christie that did Miss Marple?

She was on a train from like Sheffield to Manchester and she went through Marple and that’s where she got the inspiration for the character.

Well you know, Stevie Nicks got the inspiration for a Fleetwood Mac song from driving past a sign on the motorway for the town I was born in.
Oh really? The Marple one is a bit better of a story. [laughs] But Marple, it’s actually quite a nice little hub for bands. There’s a few bands out there at the moment. There’s a band called Egyptian Hip Hop, who are originally from Marple. Another one called Dutch Uncles that we are very friendly with…

I didn’t know they were from there. I think the problem is that the media just lumps everyone together and says they’re from Manchester.
Yeah. Don’t really know why Marple gets so many great bands. There was a band called the Maple State, they were like an English version of Minus the Bear. But they’re no longer together, unfortunately. Tony Wilson used to live there, the Smiths wrote ‘This Charming Man’ there. So it’s got quite a heritage for a little place, yeah.

Well, I’m sure in general the Manchester area is very nurturing towards bands.
It is, yeah.

There’s such a big scene. It’s got to be the largest music hub in the North I suppose, right?
No, it is. And the network is really, really strong. I knew that as soon as me and Matt were 16 and started going out and said, okay, we’re going to gig. You know, there were venues to play, there were places we could go. You know, from the age of 16, we didn’t know what we were doing, we were writing a bunch of rubbish experimental prog trosh music or whatever. But it was nice, we could go and make friends with promoters and people were helping us. Within a year, we did this one song with flutes that was quite good, and Guy Garvey from Elbow rang us up and said ‘I really like it. I want to put you on this night, we want to put you on this compilation’, and everyone was trying to help here. Really strong network of people. We quickly made a lot of contacts. Even though none of that early stuff necessarily worked, when it came to Delphic, we had this huge network of people we could depend on, and that really helped us not having to go through the kind of toilet gig circuit, playing every night looking for Mister A&R Bigshot. We knew the people to speak to and we knew the places to play, so we could bypass in a way and I guess get where we wanted to quicker.

Yeah, Manchester has a lot of great venues. I was there a couple years ago…
Yeah, were you?

Yeah, I saw Morrissey on tour there.
Where did you go?

He played three nights in a row – the Manchester Apollo the first night, then the Opera House, then Bridgewater Hall, this small, classical place.
You went to all of them?

Wow. Big Morrissey fan then, yeah?

Yes. [laughs] I’ve been lucky to have been to England 3 out of the last 4 years. For bands.
For bands? Fantastic. Manchester’s great, I mean obviously the Smiths…I’ve actually been to Johnny Marr’s house actually, to do a recording once. Pretty unbelievable because he lives in a very nice house. But he’s another one of them people you know…he’s off with the Cribs now but he’s very supportive of young bands and helping them…Doves, Elbow, they all are really. Except for Oasis who fucked down to London and didn’t care about the rest of us! Just left this big splurging mess on the city and then fucked off. [laughs]

‘Acolyte’, your debut album, was released in January in the UK. When was it released in Europe? Around the same time?
Yeah, some European countries, it was released a couple weeks after. Some, about a month after. In America it’s only just come out (29 June).

Congratulations on its success.
Yeah yeah, thank you.

Are you starting to get recognised on the street or when you’re out in the shops?
We’ve had the odd thing in Manchester, but it’s usually around gig things. I mean, to be honest, we’ve tried to…we’re quite shy, kind of retiring people in one way. At least on this campaign. And when we started out, we were very conscious of putting art and image above ourselves, because we didn’t feel we presented, I guess the three of us…I dunno, we’re just shy, we’re media camera shy, so as you would have noticed in our videos, we made a conscious decision to not be in any of the videos. And all our press pictures and photos that we’ve done they’re slightly distorted or manipulated, we wanted ourselves to look slightly weird so if we walked down the street…I mean, no one would know we were Delphic really…but obviously in Manchester we get the odd kind of thing.

The good thing about Manchester is that it’s not like going down to London. Where it’s like wow, I went to this party with so and so and da da da da da. And I saw this guy…[adopts high-pitched voice] and oh my god, you’re from this? [goes back to normal voice] And in Manchester, it’s like [folds his arms over]…whatever. We just don’t care. Everyone’s so chilled out when they’ve grown up in Manchester. Liam Gallagher could walk across (the street) and everyone would be like, whatever. It’s just cool innit, in Manchester. [laughs] We’re lucky, we can be in a little bubble up there and go around and not worry about being recognised.

I was going to say, since you’ve been on Jools Holland, everyone’s seen you on network telly, you know.
Yeah, that obviously was a huge thing. And um…there’s been a funny thing. James was riding his bike home the other day and he thought he was getting threatened, because someone was shouting ‘you’re fucking Delphic!’ He had his hood up and he’s riding his bike and thinking how the hell does he know who I am? And this guy was shouting ‘you’re fucking Delphic!’ He didn’t know if it was positive or negative.

Usually, to be honest, and we do this a lot of the time, what will happen, we’ll be out at a club, and we’re very, very self-obsessed and involved with each other in quite a bizarre way. We’re very close, and we’ll spend the whole time arguing. We’ll have these discussions, and we’re like brothers you know. And we’ll go to a club, and be there with our crew and there’ll be these two pretty young girls looking over, trying to make eye contact. And during this time me and James will be having a blazing, you know, obnoxious row and totally miss the fact that anyone is trying to flirt with us. And then our crew will be like, ‘what are you doing, you idiots? Those beautiful girls are trying to give you the eyes.’ And we’d say ‘What? Really?’ We didn’t notice, we were so wrapped up in like, I think we should go to this chord for the next album and da da da da da… [laughs]

Now you mentioned you share a flat in Manchester.

So like, uh, do you get into rows over who does the washing up and that sort of thing, or…?
Yeah, we do, actually. To be honest what’s actually happened recently was, it’s been very difficult. We all live in this flat together. And it immediately became apparent that it was a bit too intense. I mean, like, it’s a big enough flat, it’s got two floors. For three people, it’s slightly too small. It’s big enough for two. It’s slightly claustrophobic, and so it started to impact the relationship between the three of us. As you can imagine with three people, often it’s like two will go off, and one is left on their own. And usually it’s me and James will go off, or me and Matt will go off. So I’m always all right, because I’ve always got someone. [both laugh] But it can often leave out the other person. And James started feeling really, really claustrophobic and felt he couldn’t write in the flat, and I kind of…I dunno, somehow I wrangled myself a space on the top floor so I had a little writing deck, and James was stuck downstairs and wasn’t happy with the writing situation. So he moved out into a flat in the Northern Quarter, about a half-hour’s walk away, for about 6 months.

And me and Matt were left there. And then me and Matt started getting really close. And me and James were kind of…I mean, this is deep, deep psychological stuff! This is like a counseling session! [both laugh] But me and James had always been very, very close but then our relationship started to suffer being apart from each other. We like to kind of, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning, ‘I got an idea, can we work on this? Get up from your bed!’ And we’ll work on an idea. And we couldn’t do that living there, so James then moved back, back into the flat, a couple months ago. But now Matt has moved out, but Matt is now living in the flat across the corridor, so on the top floor on our block of flats, there are two apartments, me and James are in one and Matt’s in the other. So that’s kind of working out for us now. So um, yeah, there’s less arguments now that it’s just two of us in there, me and James are getting on really well. And the writing’s really helped by the situation, and Matt’s kind of just…

…so he’s close enough in case there’s suddenly a burst of inspiration!
Exactly. So we can just pop across. You know, we like the idea of…we’ve been like this for a month now and we’ll swap around and maybe I’ll live on my own for a while!

Actually, that’s the perfect situation because in case someone’s got a mate who’s coming into town, you have a place for them to crash.
Yes, exactly.

Check back here on TGTF tomorrow (13 July) when we post the 2nd half of this interview…

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[…] to their set; it has been transcribed as a two-part interview that you can read on TGTF; part 1 is here, and part 2 is here.)At Roskilde 2010, there were 5 main stages, and oddly (in my mind) Delphic was […]

[…] multi-instrumentalist Rick Boardman (pictured in the header pic), which goes very well (read part 1 and part 2 of the interview posted last week). So well that Rick and lead singer / bassist and […]

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