Catching Up with Zero 7


By Gregory Miller

Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker, better known as the British electro duo Zero 7, just released their fourth album, Yeah Ghost, and are currently gearing up to tour the United States after a three-year hiatus. We caught up with Hardaker to chat about his carefree attitude toward awards, Sia separation anxiety, and the group's ode to mega-stud Zinedine Zidane.

Out: Your musical history is really complex. Give it to us straight'what is Zero 7 about now?
Sam Hardaker: [Laughs.] Well, it is quite complex, and it's not getting any less so. This record, this chapter of our adventures, has been equally, if not more, complex than any of the previous ones. I don't know, I guess you should just accept that it's liable to keep changing and probably won't get any more clear. Even to do with the fact that Sia is not there, or previous collaborators of ours haven't worked with us on this record. And we've also worked with some people on this record who aren't even involved in it now. It's kind of a crazy way to go about making albums. Until we find a better way to do it, that's how we're going to be rolling, I guess.

How is this album different than previous Zero 7 records?
Different personalities make for a different atmosphere. And the collaborative process obviously varies a lot, depending on who's involved. We didn't want to feel like we were going down too many familiar paths through the making of the record, so we tried to explore a few other approaches to writing and recording. And it was kind of a difficult record in the way that it came together, but it was very interesting for us, in terms of the process and what it brought to light. What we got out of it was quite a lot -- more than some of the other records in a way. It's hinged with this -- it's as much about who's not there as who is there.

What does Zero 7 mean?
It doesn't really mean anything. It wasn't intended to be a band. I guess everything I've said so far probably kind of makes you see that it's still not really a band. It was something that we just came up with in an afternoon to give a name to a remix we had done for Radiohead years ago. And it was kind of one of the first things that came to mind, without ever imagining that we were going to go on to make albums and go on tours and stuff like that. We thought we'd just do a few remixes and bow out quietly.

So who's the brains behind the duo -- you or Henry?
It's a big assumption to say there are any brains behind it. I don't know. We each have our own little moments of glory in the brains department. But I can't say any one person is really hanging on to that role.

Do you think the gay culture has had any influence on your career?
On my music? Not directly. We've spent a lot of time listening to music that has strong associations with gay culture and club culture over [in the United States], where it kind of gets mixed up. So it's definitely a lot of joy and inspiration from a lot of that music and the whole disco club scene. That's about as much of an influence as I can think of. Yeah, that's about as gay as we got. You never know!

What's with the idolizing of Zinedine Zidane?
Really it was just one afternoon, me and Henry were sitting in the studio trying to finish this track, which we had kind of been struggling with, thinking we needed somebody else to come and sing this song, and we couldn't possibly get it together ourselves. And in the course of a couple of hours, we decided that was bullshit, and we could get it together ourselves. It was just a shifting of our attitudes toward it. We were just messing around with the lyrics and just trying to write down a lot of things that would kick-start us, and kick-start self-belief and imagination. And for some reason Zinedine just popped in there, and I had this vision of him transforming some situation in this stylish and graceful way that only he could do. And I just jumped on that.

He's also hot. Speaking of hot, do you miss Sia?
Yeah, yeah, very much. It's one of those things where I think it's probably quite healthy for us to explore some other work and relationships and try other stuff. Not to mention she's living over there [in the United States] now, and we're here. We did intend to make records without her, but it made us very aware of a lot of the good things about that working relationship and how much she brought to the table. We had a lot of fun when we worked together. Generally, good things happen when we get in the studio together. We definitely missed her. We had a hard time trying to find somebody to work with, and thankfully we hooked up with a few people and got some stuff together. But it's different when you go into the studio with someone you don't really know. So obviously, with Sia we had worked together almost 10 years, on and off, on different things, so it's a very different relationship. Hopefully, it will come around again, and we can do some more great stuff together.