What better way to kick start a new album than a storming Glastonbury reception?
The Gods have always been on the Arctic Monkeys’ side. But now, perhaps, it seems that things have fallen into place more than ever for the Sheffield band’s latest album.
The Arctic Monkeys’ latest release, the plainly entitled AM, shows a band that’s matured in stature, sound, and has blended the neon from America’s West Coast with their gritty Sheffield roots.
You can still hear High Green chimes in the visceral Do I Wanna Know? in which lead singer Alex Turner sings – in his charismatically South Yorkshire style – ‘got summat in your teeth’ but elsewhere the album oozes seventies rock and and mid 90s vibes.
The album also features a guest comtribution from Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, whose 30-second guitar piece was described by Turner as ‘really exciting’.
But this heavier contribution from one of metal’s most revered artists has not only affected the Arctic Monkeys’ shift from indie to rock and roll, it’s also influenced the way they operate as a band.
“Josh Homme’s become a good friend of ours and now he came down to have a listen and offer his input. I suppose in a way he influenced our attitude towards making records.
“After doing Humbug we thought we could make anything then. He was the one that made us see that whatever we make it will still sound like the Arctic Monkeys, as long as Al was singing it would still be us.
“He has his ways of doing things that no-one else could do or copy.”
“I think we’ve spent more and more time on every album concentrating on everyone’s individual part and the drums in this album came across as something we were really into. And in terms of how we wrote the parts – as well as what I was playing – we stripped everything back a bit and simplified it.”
Indeed, this is not disimilar to the way in which Led Zeppelin worked during the late sixties and seventies, particularly when it came to writing and recording drum parts.
“This is something I took from John Bonham,” says Matt Helders. “Some of thost exciting stuff he does in those records is when he leaves gaps.”
This retro philosophy is also heard in the production of the record.
“For us we always think of making records as if they are going to be heard on vinyl.”
But the album wasn’t easy to write, as Turner explains.
“There was a lot of sitting up on my own all night long battling with the puzzle this time – probably more than before”, he says.
“I had a dartboard in the back garden and I’d throw arrows as I’d sit there trying to write. There was definitely some symmetry in how the words were going and where the darts would land – a fair amount of missing the board altogether brought me the occasional treble 20.”
Songs went through several layers of refinement as well, as Helders explains.
“All songs on this record have all got three or four versions before the final one. We were never content with the first attempt. Lyrically [Alex Turner’s] a bit like that as well. There are things he’s written where a few weeks later he’ll say ‘I wish I hadn’t written that’ so he tried to avoid that.”
AM was recorded in a small East Hollywood studio with producer James Ford and Sheffield-based producer Ross Orton. Helders says: “We’ve worked with James ford before and Ross Orton co-produced all of the album. He was out in LA with us. Ross recorded R U Mine? and that was the song that got the momentum going on the album.”
It’s not only Ross Orton that the band’s recruited from Sheffield. They’ve also pulled in Sheffield’s Dead Sons guitarist Tom Rowley to play during live shows.
Helders says: “There was a lot more layers to this show and we put keys on there too.
“We’ve always been precious – definitely on the first two albums – about making it sound like just us four and if it can’t be played live tomorrow it shouldn’t happen. But now we’re more into making records and the fun side of it is making the best record we can.”
The Arctics Monkeys’ rise to fame was fast. The band released their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not in 2006, which is the fastest-selling debut album in the UK ever.
The band very quickly set a very high precedent. But inspite of this, Helders says they don’t feel the pressure when writing new material.
“I think the only way we can make sense of it is that we had to do it that quickly before we got caught up in it all. We went straight into making another record. We lived with that first record more than anyone else had but from first to second people know how long you’ve been working on it. But the first one you could have been doing it all your life. I think that’s where people expect the pressure to come from.”
And while the album’s about to hit the shelves, the band haven’t time to rest their laurels yet. Arctic Monkeys are preparing for a UK tour this autumn, with a very special homecoming show at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena.