Six years after their last album, Portsmouth-based post-punk masters of gothic rock Torpedoes have returned with might just be their masterpiece.
An ambitious, sprawling 17-track double-album, Black Museum has its official launch party at The Wedgewood Rooms next week.
Frontman and main songwriter Ray ‘Razor’ Fagan says: ‘We had about 20 songs so we thought, shall we do a double album? It’s not the sort of thing anyone does anymore, is it? Certainly not from Portsmouth anyway. We might be the only band from here to have ever done that.’
Recorded at a leisurely pace at The Dug-Out Studios in Fareham, Razor adds: ‘It’s where we’ve done all three albums. We do love it there, Geoff the engineer is really laid back and lets us do what we want.’
The band formed in 2002, but Razor and the other members, Martin ‘Wolfie’ Woolf, Ben Prior and Martin ‘Elvis’ Cook have had various other projects on the go along the way.
‘Where we’ve been in bands before it’s been a bit more urgent and you’re doing more gigs,’ explains Razor, ‘but we’re getting older so you just take it a bit easier. Rather than get in the studio and try to do it all in five days, now we take our time, and I prefer that. I’ve done all that quick stuff, where you do it really fast, it’s nicer to take your time.’
Much of the album centre around recent European history, its people and its conflicts, from the First World War, to Brexit. But Razor admits it wasn’t intended as a concept album: ‘I didn’t really think of it as one, but then people started saying that song goes with that, and I like the way that carries on from that one. I didn’t write it like that, but maybe there is something there.
Was it perhaps his subconscious at work? ‘It probably was. I was taking stuff from what I’d been reading –I like history, it’s one of by hobbies, I guess.’
The album’s lead track is called Song For Europe, and as Razor describes it: ‘People think it’s about Brexit, which it sort of is and isn’t. I’ve been looking at Europe for years and I’d been thinking that things were going backwards, we’re starting to cut ourselves out again, and the rise of the far-right in these eastern European countries. I thought all of that had gone but it’s all coming back again.
‘It’s sort of a warning song about not going back to the way we were. It was written about the same time as the vote, but it wasn’t explicitly about that.’
The band hasn’t been hugely active in recent years, as Razor admits, the reception of their last album, knocked them back a bit.
‘I suppose we went a bit quiet after Dark Times. We really loved it, thought it was the best thing we’d ever done, and it just sank. It got some good reviews, but… it took the wind out of our sails. We felt like we’d had a bit of a kicking. So we started doing family stuff and buying houses instead, until I wrote some more songs,’ he laughs.
That said, they’re bullish about Black Museum: ‘I’d like people to have the chance to hear it, that’s the main thing.’
‘We’re getting a lot of good feedback so far, compared to our previous stuff, which is quite nice - it’s a bit surprising. And people’s favourite songs are changing too after they’ve heard it a couple of times. I think it’s one of those albums where the more you listen to it, the more you can get out of it.
‘My favourite albums aren’t the ones I necessarily liked at first, or they took a while to get into. Then suddenly you get it - rather than the ones you like straight away. I listen to them loads and then never listen to them again, or only rarely. I want something that people can get into or hear something a bit different every time they play it.’
For the Wedgewood Rooms gig they’ll be joined on keyboards by special guest Hayley Alker of electro-rockers Curl.
‘We don’t usually have keyboards when we play live, because the stages are probably smaller, and there might be two or three other bands on the bill, so it’s just easier not to. But if we’ve got the space and the time at The Wedge, we’ll give it a go. It could be a disaster, but I’ve heard Hayley’s pretty good – she’ll probably be the best one playing!’
The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
Friday, July 20