Dave McCabe: “I wanted to challenge myself, I couldn’t be arsed just making a safe record.”


Back in business with his new band the Ramifications, Getintothis’ Jamie Carragher caught up with Dave McCabe ahead of the release of his new album, Church of Miami.

There haven’t been many records released with Dave McCabe‘s name on them for the last six years or so. Following The Zutons (relatively quiet) split, he’s kept writing songs for the likes of Mark Ronson, which is no surprise given the uber hit that Ronson and Amy Winehouse had with the Zutons hit Valerie.

Finally, he is ready with his new project, Dave McCabe & The Ramifications and their debut album Church of Miami. Those paying attention around Merseyside may have stumbled across one of the band’s live performances, and will therefore be aware of McCabe‘s new approach.

We caught up with him ahead of the album’s release…

Getintothis: Your new album’s coming out September 4. Excited?

McCabe: Yeah, I’m excited. It’s very stop-start at the moment. It hasn’t really kicked in yet that there’s an album coming out.

Getintothis: It’s been a long time in the making.

McCabe: Yeah ’cause it had to be right, there was no pressure on it. It’s not like the world was waiting for a Dave McCabe album so you may as well make it as good as you can make it rather than rushing something out.

Getintothis: The album’s a new direction for you. It’s very electronic.

McCabe: Yeah, it isn’t to me like. I mean, I know it is. But I’ve heard it so many fucking times now, it just sounds like thenext natural step for me. I know everything that’s on it, I know the guitars, I wrote the songs in the house on a guitar. To me it’s just a canvas and you just let them [producers, Viktor Voltage and Mr. Chop] manipulate the sound. But I like that about it. I played a few things on it, but the majority of the synthesising and the programming, I didn’t really do. I found with this record, you’re giving your babies up basically and you’re letting someone else have a go. I think you’ve got to do that, and if you don’t let people do that you’re never going to move on. You’ll probably go back to a four piece band with a fucking saxophone break in the middle of it, but that’s not what I wanted because I’ve done that already. Nothing against The Zutons, like.

Getintothis: So it’s a new way of working for you.

McCabe: I wrote about 40-45 songs. Every time I took stuff in, Mr. Chop and Joe Fearon and Viktor Voltage were saying,  ‘Like that one, like that one, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.’ That was a wake-up call for me:  someone saying straightway, ‘Nah, that’s shit.’ And I was like ‘Don’t you like this bit?’ and they were like,  ‘Yeahhh…I like that bit. Let’s see if we can use that bit.’

That’s why I think it took a while to do. We had about 6 songs we actually liked. I went away and wrote more and found more. I’ve got loads of songs on my laptop that have just mounted up. To go through them, obviously, most of them aren’t great. I’m not gonna lie. There’s only so many times you can go ‘Fucking hell…’ And then one will just jump out at ya.

Getintothis: You’re very much known as a man with a guitar in his hand but this new album might change all that.

McCabe: When I was younger, I’d have Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode and Human League and all that on in the background, when I was a kid in the 80s. And then even growing up in the early 90s. And that’s kind of why I went withNirvana and Guns N’ Roses and all that, because I’d been blitzed when I  was a kid. Now as I’ve got older, I’ve started going back towards that. And I’ve always liked Beck or Beastie Boys, that thing of mixing everything together, all the best bits from all the decades of good music.

Towards the end it just started sounding really electronic so we went with it because it had continuity for the record.  

It’s been about 4 albums this. It’s been a slog… When I say slog, that’s probably not a good word. It’s been a journey…

Getintothis: You haven’t just put out the first thing that came into your head.

McCabe: No. I wanted to challenge myself really. I couldn’t be arsed just making a safe record. It’s not safe if you just do the same thing. I think it’s probably dead boring, you’re not really opening anything up, you’re not exciting yourself so nobody else is going to give a shit about it.

I actually like this album a lot more than the album I made before it, which was probably 7 years ago. I actually enjoyed making this record and I’ve enjoyed playing it and I’m shitting myself when playing certain gigs, ’cause I don’t know what to do on the stage so I’ve got to find out what it is I am.

Getintothis: Without the guitar…

McCabe: Without the guitar. Without the constant vibration of loads of amps on stage.

Getintothis: It gives you a lot more freedom on stage and it’s like, what do you do with that freedom?

McCabe: Fucking right, yeah- shit yourself! We’ve only done 7 gigs. They’ve all been festivals. No club runs.

Getintothis: You haven’t had a bedding in period.

McCabe: Not at all. I’m loving it though.

Getintothis: How was Sound City?

McCabe: That gig for me was a fucking nightmare. They always are Liverpool gigs. You see your Nan in the crowd, you see your uncles.

Getintothis: You need to get out your living room.

McCabe: Yeah, it makes you get dead self-conscious. Your Mum and Dad in the crowd, nothing to do with Liverpool. In your living room, in a gig.

Getintothis: But you’ve got your club run in October?

McCabe: I’m looking forward to it, loads. The more gigs we play, the better we become as a band. The more natural it feels.

Getintothis: Speaking of the band, who are the Ramifications?

McCabe: The Ramifications are: Chris Taylor, guitar, dancing. I say dancing because that’s what he does. Ray Durie, keyboards, bass. Scott Jones, keyboards, singing. Carl Povey on the drums.

Getintothis: You played the Kazimier the other week, which is shutting down next year. Thoughts on the closure?

McCabe: It’s shit like. What are they gonna do? Find another place and make that into apartments? They’re just knocking it down so they can claim council tax. I’m not happy that it’s being shut down. I’m happy that we got to play it but we should be able to play it again and again. It’s got loads of character, the Kazimier. It feels different, smells different.

The Kazimier represents everything’s that wrong with the world at the moment. Trying to milk the most out of it. Years ago before the Capital of Culture, that wouldn’t have happened. There’s a lot of people with big money moving to Liverpool to make money.

Getintothis: The Kaz’s downfall fits into the themes of the album. How modern life and progress isn’t necessarily a better situation or improving things.

McCabe: Yeah it does: everyone’s dying! To be honest, when you’re making the album, it’s hard to know what the fuck it’s about half the time, because you’re in it.

Getintothis: And the single, Church of Miami, is about how superficial modern life can be-

McCabe: It’s about cosmetic surgery and religion. Miami represents everything from cocaine to false buildings getting built, wiping out everything that’s real.

It was a piss-take to be honest. It’s all a piss-take. But it’s turned out bang-on. I don’t know where it’s came from. It wasn’t just me. I wrote it with Joe Fearon and Mr. Chop. To me though, when I hear it, I think GTA and Scarface.

Getintothis: It’s a concept album too. There’s a storyline going through it.

McCabe: Yeah, it’s about a fella who’s lonely, who robs a robot from work. He soon realises that he is lonely -he doesn’t know it at the start- and he realises that he needs real mates. It’s about technology getting ahead of spirituality and humanity, and you can’t replace that, no matter how  good a screen is or how fast your computer is. We’re all guilty of it. I’ve got a phone in my pocket, I was on it before you came.

If you were to write something after this album it would be about trans-humanism, where technology and people become one thing. That’s where the world’s going.

Getintothis: With your Google-glasses .

McCabe: Yeah, the glass-holes. Have you got some?

Getintothis: No. [Shh, not now, Siri] But you can imagine in ten-years everyone having them.

McCabe: It’s like mobile phones in school. One lad had a mobile and it was like ‘Wall-Street’ and we all took the piss out of him. Now we’ve all got one.

Getintothis: We all know we shouldn’t be on them all the time but still…You’d have to go to a country-retreat and go cold-turkey-

McCabe: And be really bored and wank loads. Without your mobile phone you’d actually be wanking more than you would be with your mobile phone. There’s a quote for you.

Getintothis: Let’s finish on an important question. Where did you get this costume from? 

McCabe: I just came up with it with my mate. It’s off a washing machine.

Getintothis: Knew it!

McCabe: One of my mates thought I’d made it with a slinky.

Getintothis: It looks dead techno and then you realise, hang on, it’s a washing machine.

McCabe:  I was going for Space Age Blackadder. You’ve got to play to your strengths.

David Sedaris on organs, rubbish & the House of Commons


David Sedaris, American humourist and bestselling author, talks to Getintothis’ Jamie Carragher ahead of his show at the Liverpool Echo Auditorium this Saturday.

After three sell-out runs in London, two sell-out Edinburgh Fringe Festival stints and a sell-out UK 2014 tour, American author David Sedaris is today appearing at the Liverpool Echo Auditorium. We caught up with him ahead of his book signing.

Getintothis: David, you’ve been on tour for much of this year. Have you accumulated much material out on the road?

Sedaris: I do get a lot of material out of it… I was so lucky on my last tour of the United States, I just came away with so many weird little encounters and things that I was able to write about and talk about on stage. I get to talk to people and they tell me things sometimes that are just – I don’t know – surprising or funny or shocking.

Getintothis: You’re the non-medical Oliver Sachs. People come to you with their weird stories.

Sedaris: Sometimes people come to me with a story that they want to tell me because they think I’m gonna find it shocking or interesting but usually those are not the stories that I find shocking or interesting.

Have a little conversation with somebody and they can wind up saying something …I was talking to this young man in the United States, he was 16, and I said “Oh, are you gonna have a job this summer?”, and I was signing his book, and he said “No I can’t because I have to spend most of the summer in the hospital because one of my kidneys is dead inside of me and they have to remove it.” And that to me is completely fascinating. That you can have a dead kidney.

Getintothis: Vital organs should always come in pairs.

Sedaris: I met a Mexican kid who donated a kidney to a complete stranger.

Getintothis: Wow!

Sedaris: I think he wanted to become a citizen. I couldn’t believe they didn’t make him one. I couldn’t believe they didn’t move him to the front of the list. Because he came to America, he was in America for two years, and then he gave a kidney to an American. He didn’t send it home to Mexico, he gave it to a complete stranger.

Getintothis: Weren’t you plugging an organ donor charity on your last tour?

Sedaris: Yes: I showed up to a theatre one night, and they were there in the lobby. It’s a group called Love Hope Strength. What they do is they get people to register to donate bone marrow. The reason that I did things with them is because they will let me tell the most outrageous lies about them and they don’t care.

I started telling people that if you donate bone marrow, you get to have sex with the most attractive person in the cancer victim’s family. And that they cannot refuse you. Then I was trying to get more women to donate so I said, “You might not realise this but bone marrow is very dense. A pint of bone marrow weighs 30 pounds.”

Getintothis: If you want to be beach body ready you’ve got to get rid of that bone marrow.

Sedaris: I was getting tonnes of people to sign up, it was great. And then I also said “If you sign up to donate bone marrow you can come to the front of the book signing line.” And that was the real clincher. Because in the United States anyway the book signings can really go on for a long time. And if you have the opportunity to donate a leg and to go to the front of the line then you would do it.

Getintothis: How do you compare doing a book tour to doing a lecture tour?

Sedaris: You sign more books in a book store than you do in a theatre. I don’t care how big the theatre is. The biggest theatre I’ve ever played is in Chicago and it’s 4000 seats and I think the book signing, last time I was there, maybe lasted 4 hours. Whereas I was in a book store in Chicago and signed books for 10 and a half hours.

Getintothis: That’s amazing.

Sedaris: In a book store though, people leave and they go out for dinner and then they come back, or, they leave and they go out to dinner and a movie, or, they leave and they start a family and then they come back. They think ‘Oh, he’ll be there when I come back’ and I always am. 

Getintothis: David let’s talk about your littering bugbear. You live in Sussex and you’re well-known in your local community for picking up litter every day for hours at a time. You’ve even had a bin lorry named in your honour. You were invited to speak in the House of Commons about the problem of litter…

Sedaris: My god. That was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life.

Getintothis: Really?

Sedaris: I was trying to explain the litter: I don’t see people throw rubbish out their window so I was trying to put together a portrait of – who are these people? – I look at the things I find and I’m trying to figure out who this person is – and so some MP tweeted that I said poor people are responsible for rubbish and I never said that.

The point I was trying to make – and I’m sorry I know this is boring – there’s a Waitrose and there’s a Tesco equal distance from me. And I hardly ever find Waitrose bags and I find a lot of Tesco bags. I’m just telling people what I find. I find more Red Bull cans than any other kind of can. I find more Lucozade bottles than any other kind of bottles. I’m just telling you what it is that I’m finding out there.

Anyway so then it turned into this thing and I just wasn’t prepared for that. And I said from the very beginning, “You’re talking to the wrong person, you should be talking to people who throw shit out their window and try to figure out why they do it, otherwise you’re just wasting your time.”

Getintothis: Politicians eh?

Sedaris: What I wish that I’d done, because that politician, he said “So, Mr. Sedaris I see you live in Horsham, very wealthy part of the country, so tell me is somebody throwing a can out their window the biggest problem you’ve got down there?” and for the rest of my life I will regret not saying, ‘Oh God, no – the biggest problem is your mother’s whoring.’

Getintothis: *Big laugh* 

Sedaris: What would they have done if I had said that? Thrown me out??

Getintothis: We think it probably doesn’t comply with Commons’ etiquette… We’re not sure it appears in any of Winston Churchill’s most witty comments in the Commons.  As a guest, maybe you can say what you like.

Sedaris: After that I’ve never got more interview requests in my life – ‘Oh come here and talk’. After the third interview I said “Okay that’s it, there’s nothing I can do to fix this” and to all the people who said “Can you come and talk?”, I said “You know, I’m done talking about it, I’m just going to be at the side of the road picking up rubbish.” That’s the best place for me.

Getintothis: Speaking of politics, did your American tour purposely coincide with the election back in May?

Sedaris: One thing I do like about the United States is when it’s election time, you know who everyone’s voting for. People have bumper stickers on their car, they wear badges on their coats, they have signs in their front yard. My poor sister, Lisa, I went to visit her…and these neighbours who she loved all of a sudden put signs in their yard and it was like finding out your next door neighbour is a Nazi.

Everyone here is much more quiet and you don’t really know who your neighbours are for. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable going to any of my neighbours in Sussex and saying ‘Who you voting for?’ There’s a guy who is with the council who I go out and pick up rubbish with. He’s an elected official and I didn’t know for years even what party he was with.

Getintothis: At this year’s Hay Festival there was a big preoccupation with age and how that affects writing. What’s your take?

Sedaris: I think that as I get older, I think that my writing is better but that could just be me. If I were to look at a paragraph that I wrote last week, I would think that it’s much better than a paragraph than I wrote 20 years ago. But a lot of people don’t notice writing, they just notice the story. A lot of people will say ‘Oh you’re a storyteller’ and it’s like no actually I wrote that 18 times and I was very careful about which word went where. Writers are going to notice that. You can’t expect every reader to notice that and I’m not complaining about that but I think that my writing is better now, but people might enjoy what I wrote 20 years ago more than they enjoy what I write now but I don’t know, I don’t ask them…

Getintothis: You could spend all day wracking your brain about stuff like that.

Sedaris: It’s not a problem for me because I go on tour. The things that one writes about changes, right? Or the circumstances of one’s life changes, because I spend so much time on tour now, it’s kind of my job is to be on tour. And I know the magazine I write for, The New Yorker, doesn’t like me to talk about being on tour but it’s like if I was a doctor I could talk about doctoring. It’s kind of what I do at this point in my life.

Getintothis: Do you think the New Yorker, being so traditional, is scared of writers following the music model, having to make their money from live performance?

Sedaris: Well, I think -and I understand this – it’s like they don’t like you to write about writing. And I don’t like to write about writing, because it draws attention to the writing and then someone’s gonna say ‘Oh my god, you call that writing?’

I generally don’t like doing that either, but there’s a story I’ve been reading on this tour, and I can’t really see how it would work if I left the touring part of it. Because it makes no sense that I’m just telling this story and I’m in this city and then I’m in this city and then four days later I’m in this city. It wouldn’t even make sense if I made it sound like a vacation because if I went on vacation I couldn’t talk to people the way that I talk to people on tour…because I can ask people anything I want.

Getintothis: It’s an odd relationship. You’ve got the power to ask, haven’t you?

Sedaris: Yeah, I asked someone the other night, I was in Belfast, and I said “Are you going away this summer?” and they said “No we just bought a house” and I said “How much did your house cost?” and they told me. Whereas I couldn’t necessarily ask people in a restaurant. You know, if I went to Starbucks to get a cup of coffee and I said to the person behind the counter ‘How much is your rent?’ They don’t know me and they’re just going to think it’s weird and they’re not gonna answer.

Getintothis: Well, we wouldn’t open with it. Quick one: have you written any plays recently?

Sedaris: No I haven’t, it’s been a while. The difference is I used to write the plays but I was never in them. And, then I started going on tour and then I saw what it was like to be the one on stage, and to be the one getting the attention; I loved it and I haven’t written another play since then.