Josh Hayward of The Horrors: ‘I don’t think we’ve ever really followed any trend’

The Horrors. Picture by Nic Shonfeld
The Horrors. Picture by Nic Shonfeld
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When The Horrors first appeared nearly a decade ago, they were a snotty bunch of punks – complete with gothic nicknames – playing raucous garage-rock that harked back to the likes of The Cramps and The Birthday Party.

But somewhere along the line, and four albums later, their sound has radically changed to something far more psychedelic and involved.

And tonight they’ll be headlining the 15th Blissfields festival, near Winchester, with the likes of Simian Mobile Disco, John Grant and Public Service Broadcasting also on the bill.

When The Guide caught up with The Horrors’ Joshua Hayward he was busy in their own studio, building a sampler. As the holder of a first class physics degree, the band’s guitarist often makes his own pedals and equipment.

So, when they started in 2005, did they have any grand ambitions?

‘Very few’, says the softly-spoken six-stringer. ‘We wanted to release a seven-inch and that was about it.

‘We weren’t careerist – we didn’t sit down and say one day we want to be rock stars.

‘The whole idea was quite abhorrent to us. When we started Arctic Monkeys were getting really big, and that just seemed awful, having to do all that.’

At those early shows, The Horrors sets were over as soon as they began and critics were split – either raving or calling them a joke.

‘That’s kind of all we had,’ says Josh, who was known as Joshua von Grimm back then, explaining those short, sharp, shocks of gigs. ‘It was about being very excited about having started this band and having something to show, so we wanted to show people, even if it was very brief.’

We’re sticklers for going back to things to keep redoing them or deciding that they’re not finished at all, or binning them altogether, so every time I give a date for the new album I get a bit worried

Joshua Hayward

And when they supported Arctic Monkeys on their 2007 arena tour, they were infamously pelted with objects by an angry crowd.

Josh recalls: ‘Playing to the Arctic Monkeys’ crowd all those years ago, at the time I thought it was quite funny.

‘But you think if five kids walk away from that and listen to the Velvet Underground then it’s worthwhile, but it was tough, it was like a football crowd with people throwing coins at you.

‘And that’s not quite as cool as Suicide supporting Bruce Springsteen and having axes thrown at them. It’s annoying petty things, mobile phone batteries, that kind of thing. It’s all quite pathetic so you walk away kind of despairing.’

The five-piece have never really been associated with any scene: ‘I don’t think we’ve ever really followed any trend. I think it’s weird, I do listen to new bands, it’s not that we live in isolation chambers or anything.’

But they have been described as having a shoegaze element to their sound – a sound which has recently been having something of a revival. ‘I think we kind of spearheaded that. I’ll go on record as saying that’s our fault’, he says, tongue quite possibly in cheek.

With their last two albums, Skying and Luminous, going top 10, the group are currently working on album number five with super-producer Paul Epworth, who has worked with Adele, Paul McCartney and Coldplay among others.

‘We’re trying to concentrate on writing, that’s our biggest goal this year, and getting out occasionally to do some shows.

‘For the first time in a very long time, we’re working with a producer. We’ve done the last two records in our own studio and we wanted to change things up a bit, see if we could learn something.’

While Josh says things are going well, he’s hesitant about committing the band to a release date. ‘I hope we bring it out at the start of next year,’ he laughs, ‘I think.’

‘We’re sticklers for going back to things to keep redoing them or deciding that they’re not finished at all, or binning them altogether, so every time I give a date I get a bit worried.’

‘This is what I hope Paul will bring – a sense of perspective. I was very much looking forward to having someone in charge and say: “No, it’s done”, and not having to constantly thinking about it.’

They’ve been recording at Epworth’s north London studio, The Church.

‘It’s a beautiful sounding place. I’m concentrating on the instruments and that side of things. Paul’s got a team of engineers – we used to engineer it ourselves – so you can just worry about the musical side of it.’

However, they’re not quite ready to unleash any new material just yet.

‘We haven’t played them yet, due to the very fluid nature of how we’re writing, and we don’t often do that.

‘I don’t feel that when you hear a band play something completely new at a festival, it doesn’t normally translate particularly well because festivals aren’t optimum listening environments – they’re all about the vibe.

‘You put a lot of pressure on that moment, and you come away going: “Oh no! That doesn’t work, we’ve got to bin it”, or “That’s the best song ever!” It does terrify me.’

As their fame has grown, so has their rabidly loyal fanbase, and Josh has attracted his own share of websites and blogs devoted to him on the internet.

‘There was a blog or something that had every picture of us ever taken. I’ve always been very vocal about my mistrust of the internet and social media in general and I don’t really partake in it.

‘I kind of see it like a library. I use it to learn about electronics and it kind of stops there. I guess if you’re in the public eye people will document that and then keep that documentation. It’s odd to collect that much though isn’t it? It’s strange.’