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 groups ode to mega-stud Zinedine Zidane.
Out: Your musical history is really complex. Give it to us straightwhat is Zero 7 about now?
Sam Hardaker: [Laughs.] Well, it is quite complex, and its 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 dont know, I guess you should just accept that its liable to keep changing and probably wont get any more clear. Even to do with the fact that Sia is not there, or previous collaborators of ours havent worked with us on this record. And weve also worked with some people on this record who arent even involved in it now. Its kind of a crazy way to go about making albums. Until we find a better way to do it, thats how were 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 whos involved. We didnt 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. Its hinged with this -- its as much about whos not there as who is there.
What does Zero 7 mean?
It doesnt really mean anything. It wasnt intended to be a band. I guess everything Ive said so far probably kind of makes you see that its 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 wed just do a few remixes and bow out quietly.
So whos the brains behind the duo -- you or Henry?
Its a big assumption to say there are any brains behind it. I dont know. We each have our own little moments of glory in the brains department. But I cant 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. Weve 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 its definitely a lot of joy and inspiration from a lot of that music and the whole disco club scene. Thats about as much of an influence as I can think of. Yeah, thats about as gay as we got. You never know!
Whats 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 couldnt 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.
Hes also hot. Speaking of hot, do you miss Sia?
Yeah, yeah, very much. Its one of those things where I think its probably quite healthy for us to explore some other work and relationships and try other stuff. Not to mention shes living over there [in the United States] now, and were 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 its different when you go into the studio with someone you dont really know. So obviously, with Sia we had worked together almost 10 years, on and off, on different things, so its a very different relationship. Hopefully, it will come around again, and we can do some more great stuff together.
And now you worked on a few things with Eska. What is this we hear about her and a Britney Spears CD?
[Laughs.] To be honest, I wasnt actually there for the Britney Spears moment, but Henry said Eska came down to the studio -- he has a studio out in the country at his house where we work, and I was abroad at the time, and those two got together. He said that, as I was saying before, we hadnt worked together before so he didnt know how they were going to get on in the studio. And I called him once while I was away to see how it was going, and he was just saying, Its going great! We spent all of last night sitting in the studio playing each other CDs. And he was like, She totally turned me on to this Britney Spears shit! [Henry and Eska] both have had a really strong pop sensibility, and they love good pop songs and production and stuff. I think they just had a really good bonding moment over their shared love of this Britney Spears track. I think its called Piece of Me?
Ah, thats a good one.
I dont really know it, but Ive heard him mention it before. [Laughs.]
What was it like getting the Grammy nod in 2007 for your album, The Garden?
It was fantastic. The best thing we experienced to do with that record was definitely over there in the States -- one being the tour we had with Jos Gonzlez and Sia -- which was, easily, the best tour that weve ever had. We really felt like we were starting to get somewhere with the live thing. And then coming home, and hearing about the Grammy nomination -- it was one of those things. We didnt expect that we were going to win a Grammy, but somehow just to get that recognition of your work is meaningful. Especially with everything seeming to be declining with sales, you just dont have as much of a gauge of how much people are listening or [if] its making much of an impact. Especially for a band like us -- were not a big kind of chart band, we dont tend to have big radio records or singles. Each album though, its getting less and less. So to have something like that, although its not directly related to fans, it does make you feel like somebody is out there listening.
You werent just the littlest bit pissed that you lost?
No, no, no. We were in a category with, like, Madonna and shit. It was just cool to be sort of acknowledged. And it kind of put a nice bookend on that period of that record.
But the soundtrack for Garden State, which you contributed to, did win. That must have been exciting.
It did win one what?
Um, a Grammy.
It won a Grammy, did it?
Yeah, the soundtrack for Garden State. You didnt know?
No, I didnt know that. [Laughs.] Honestly, I had no idea. You know, another thing, Ive never seen Garden State.
No, and actually somebody gave me a DVD of it when we were on tour over there last time. I havent watched it. In fact, Im going to pull it off the shelf now, and watch it tonight.
Probably a good idea.
Its one of those things -- a lot of people, especially in the States, have commented on the use of our track in that film. It sounds like its been a really positive thing for us. A lot of people have gone over to our music through that film. Although I havent seen it, Im very proud [laughs] -- just from what people tell me.
Zero 7s new album, Yeah Ghost, is available in stores and online now. Their North American tour kicks off in Washington D.C. on Thanksgiving Day. For more info on the band and a full list of tour dates, head to their website.