‘Doing what we do, you get a massive buzz’ says Franz Ferdinand bassist Bob Hardy

Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes at The Wedgewood Rooms, March 29, 2017. Picture by Paul Windsor

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From setting fire to beds and cutting holes in walls to throwing TV sets into swimming pools, rock musicians have not had the best of relationships with hotel rooms.

But Bob Hardy, bass player with Franz Ferdinand (second left in main picture), opted to take a different route.

Franz Ferdinand Picture: Andy Knowles

Franz Ferdinand Picture: Andy Knowles

For the past decade Bob has been taking pictures of himself in hundreds of hotel rooms around the world, but in each one he has obscured his face with whatever he was reading at the time.

From sci-fi epics by Neal Stephenson to Seneca’s Letters, Noam Chomsky and random magazines, it’s not most people’s idea of ‘rock and roll.’

Bob explains, ‘It’s part OCD and I’m interested in documentation and recording, and have been since I was at art school – it was part of that.

‘I graduated in 2003 and then started out on tour soon after that, so it was a continuation of that.

‘Some of them bring back memories.

‘They’ve all got associations, but some are so anonymous I can’t even remember what country they’re in.’

‘There’s one with a bandage on my head where I had fallen over backstage when I was drunk and it was an incredibly embarrassing incident.’

Bob - who takes a picture of himself reading in a hotel room before each gig - was speaking to The Guide as the band were en route to France at the start of a tour which promises to keep the four-piece busy through much of 2014.

But next week they will be returning to the south when they play Southampton Guildhall.

Their most recent visit to the area was last year when they played a well-received set on the Saturday night at Bestival on the Isle of Wight, (pictured below right).

It was also one of the band’s first high profile shows since they’d gone on a break at the end of the tour for third album, 2009’s Tonight: Franz Ferdinand.

‘It was the first time we’d been there – the crowd were awesome – we had a great time,’ says Bob.

‘It was the best festival we had done in ages.’

After the band had finished touring Tonight, there were rumours of friction within the group following a relentless release and tour schedule.

Frontman Alex Kapranos went as far as telling The Observer in an interview that they had come close to splitting up.

Then last summer they suddenly re-emerged with a new album Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action – an album bristling with the energy they had on their first two albums. An energy many felt was missing from Tonight.

‘It was exhaustion really. You are living and working with the same guys, day-in, day-out,’ says Bob now.

‘It can be quite stressful. It’s high stress situations, playing big shows, you just need to have a break.

‘If you go on a month-long holiday with your friends, no matter how good friends they are, if you’re together all the time, there will be stressful times. And a tour can go on for a lot longer than a month.

‘Over the course of the first three albums, it had been non-stop. It was long overdue, I think.’

The time apart allowed Bob, Alex, guitarist Nick McCarthy and drummer Paul Thomson to unwind and begin to appreciate what made them enjoy things at the start of the band.

‘When we started on the new album you could feel it was much more agreeable,’ says Bob. ‘Getting away from it for a while makes you realise how amazing what we get to do is.

‘During our break I did get back in to my painting – it takes a long time to get into, so I hadn’t done any for a while.

‘Domino, our record label, are the coolest label in the world. There was no pressure from them to come up with a new album, nothing like that. They totally followed our lead.’

It seems the band are trying not to burn themselves out again. They recently took part in the 6 Music Festival in Manchester, alongside the likes of The National, Jake Bugg and Damon Albarn – their first outing in three months.

‘We hadn’t played since November until the 6 Music Festival and it was amazing. You get this massive adrenaline rush waiting to go on. It’s a massive buzz. You kind of forget what you do for a living.’

And they’re looking forward to getting back on the road.

‘We are putting some stuff into the set we haven’t played for a while which fans have been asking for, so it feels kind of new to us’, he explains.

The band have always prided themselves on their broad range of influences, and in particular from dance music – they’ll often drop unusual covers into their live sets.

‘We did something with a Donna Summer song at the 6 Music show where we sandwiched it in one of our own songs, and that was fun.

‘We always wanted to be a band that played dance music with instruments.’

They are also starting to tentatively look towards a fifth album, but nothing is yet set in stone.

Bob adds: ‘I think in the autumn we are going to some more far-flung places, but we will be working on new stuff during the tour.

‘The actual recording could take a little longer.’

‘Alex and Nick are the main music guys, but the ideas can come from anywhere, we’ll all chip in with that.’

Franz Ferdinand play Southampton Guildhall on March 19. Tickets (£26.45) from 023 8063 2601 or o2guildhall-southampton.co.uk

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