Biffy Clyro: interview

Half-nakedness, Japanese audiences, Tokyu Hands & more...

Biffy Clyro: interview

Scottish rock band Biffy Clyro recently played a sophomore gig at Daikanyama's UNIT to promote their latest album 'Only Revolutions’. Last visiting Tokyo in 2008, the band also shared news that ‘The Captain' won Best Video at the NME Awards.

The venue heated up as soon as the band hit the stage and started playing 'That Golden Rule'. Band and audience alike were perspiration drenched in less than ten minutes. It was a really great night!

The next day, the Johnston twins James (B, Vo) and Ben (Dr, Vo) gave a post-gig wrap up to Time Out. Simon Neil (Vo, G) later joined the photo shoot.

The show last night was just amazing. How was it for you guys? James: Great fun. It’s the second time we headlined in Tokyo. Maybe three times as many people came compared to our last show. Everyone was singing along and having a good time. It was fantastic.
Ben: It was amazing to play so faraway from home. And to have such a connection with people from totally different backgrounds and lifestyles to ours. That was incredible.

The noise levels are extreme at your gigs. Could you hear the audience's reaction, cheering and clapping last night?
Ben: Absolutely, yes. I think because the audience faces us, their voices travel towards us. It’s actually very easy to hear what's going on with the audience and how they react.

Was there any song in particular where you felt the audience ‘grabbed’ the moment?
James: Hopefully they enjoyed all songs. Because this is the first time we played songs from our new record here in Japan. ‘Many of Horror’ is a possibility. Before we began, Simon played a couple of chords, and the audience immediately recognised the song. I guess that’s connected with Tokyoites in a special way.
Ben: In Britain or America, other places, if we play a quiet song, people see that as the chance to talk while we are playing. Sometimes we just want to grab people and say, ‘Why you are here, if you're not listening?’ In Japan, everybody listens to everything we say, for us that's really humbling. It forces us to be more humble as audience members too. We wish other audiences would be more respectful.

'Humble'. I wasn't expecting to hear that, because you play emo hard rock. I was also really surprised to see lots of girls in the audience. What’s your secret?
James: [Laughs] I guess over the years that's changed. Our audience has developed from sporty young boys to more girls. I can't explain it. But we are quite happy about it. If pretty girls keep coming to the shows, all the boys will follow.

I don't know if this why, but I’ll ask anyway. During the show, you are always shirtless. Is that your band's tradition?
James: Yes. It became a tradition over the years. We used to tour, get very sweaty and come home with a bag full of clothes completely stinking from all the sweat. So we take our shirts off before we go on stage.
Ben: After two shows, our clothes become unwearable.

(Sniffing) It’s that smell?
James: Oh– [Laughs] A little bit, a little bit.
Ben: [Laughs] A little bit. But not only the stench, our clothes also stretch with all our onstage movement.

Photography by Ryota Mori

Moving on. Since we are Time Out, we recommend ‘things to do’ in various cities. What do you recommend to do in Tokyo?
James: First thing: I‘d introduce Tokyu Hands. But you have to have lots of money. Because you want to buy everything. And you need lots of time. Each time I go to new floor, I'm like ‘YEEEES!!!’ Everything is really fascinating. It's the kind of place you can lose a whole day, no problem. I especially love the floor selling tiny models cars, people, golf courses... You need a magnifying glass to see everything. I wanna go there and buy the whole shop!
Ben: I also recommend karaoke. Karaoke in Japan is totally different. You have your own room. You have castanets, tambourines and lots of microphones. And such an amazing song selection. Last time we were here we found Biffy Clyro in the karaoke machine. I think everybody who comes to Japan should try Japanese karaoke. It's so much fun.

And next, is there a place in Glasgow you can recommend to us.
James: Yes. There are a lot of great places. Some art galleries and museums. There is a lot of great culture in Glasgow. A lot of ideas come from there. I recommend the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. That place exhibits works not only from Scotland, but also from all over the world. The surrounding grounds and the building itself are also really pretty. It’s the kind of place you can spend all day.
Ben: Simon came from Ayr, the birthplace of Robert Burns. He is a very famous poet, well known for 'Auld Lang Syne' which is sung at New Year’s [ed note: in Japan, this is known as 'Hotaru no hikari']. Ayr has beautiful country lawns and hills. When the sun shines, it’s the most beautiful place in the world.

Since your last album came out, you've become more famous than before. What are the rest of your plans for this year?
James: A lot touring. We're going to America, do some touring. Now we're having a really great time. We want to keep moving forward, keep enjoying ourselves. I think we've been very lucky. We just want the fun to continue.
Ben: We toured coast to coast before, but we didn't tour the middle part of America. Luckily we’ll be touring with Manchester Orchestra who've been to America before. It’ll be a great experience to go and see the heart of America.
James: And during the summer, a lot of festivals. Hopefully we’ll come back to Japan.

So it’s okay to believe you guys will soon return to Japan? You’ll have to play a bigger place.
James: Yes! We’d absolutely love that!

Only Revolutions
Release date: Dec 23, 2009
Label: 14th Floor / Hostess
Official website:
Label website:

Related articles:
Blood Red Shoes: interview
 Steven Ansell’s ‘wow’ moment and more…
2009 Music wrap-up
 Japan's music scene according to Keith Cahoon
Tokyo's essential music
 Discover the sounds of Tokyo on a music-themed culture tour

By Mai Michitsuji
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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