n the 2002 glut of New York dance rock bands that sounded like Gang of Four and Wire, Radio 4 probably sounded the most like a lot of other bands. But their first album, Gotham!, was a pulsating political juggernaut that would have done The Clash proud. And their second album, Stealing Of Nation (just released on Astralwerks), an original, swirling mix of Bush-induced angst ("cut your losses/ get the votes/ come fall they’ll change every single quote) set to dub and salsa beats, puts to rest any doubts that Radio 4 has developed into its own band.
On September 23, they started their first American tour in two years, where they’ll support oft-troubled, but hugely-successful UK rockers The Libertines. Nerve met Radio 4’s guitarist Tommy Williams and keyboardist Gerard Garone and discovered that underneath all the tattoos and black uniforms, they’re just earnest monogamists who hate their president and love their moms. — Jada Yuan Why don’t you sing about girls like all other bands?
Tommy: Because all other bands sing about girls.
Gerard: As much as I love sex and as much as I love women, it’s not something I need to express. There are a lot of other things that get me fired up, in terms of creativity, other than sex. Have you ever had violent reactions to your music?
T: Violent? Yeah, in New York actually. It was a really terrible show. There were five people in the crowd, two of which were journalists who came over from Europe to write about us and the DJ was, like, setting up his stuff and talking to this guy right in front of us while we were playing.
G: He was sitting on the stage in front of us, playing on his computer. And he did this pretty much the whole show and then the last song I’d kind of just had enough and threw a bottle of water on him. And destroyed his computer gear?
G: It hit some electronics.
T: A fight broke out and they didn’t want to pay us. Anything glamorous about your lifestyles?
T: We don’t have to work. That’s as glamorous as it gets. What’s the worst day job you’ve ever had?
T: Working at a paint store. But I used to have to clean these homeless peoples’ feces out of the parking lot every day as part of my job.
G: I worked at a women’s clothing store as a stock boy. What was your first tattoo?
G: This ridiculous thing around my arm. [a black band with various points on it.] What is it?
G: I have no clue. It means absolutely nothing. It kind of looks like scorpion pinchers. Do you ever go out on the New York dance scene?
T: Sometimes. Usually when we’re home, I just stay at home with my wife and watch TV. Oh, so you’re married. When did you get married?
T: Last October. How is she handling you being on the road all the time?
T: Well, she comes for some parts. And I guess she deals for the rest of it. Did you woo your wife with dance moves?
T: She used to work for our booking agent in London and that’s how we met. I don’t know how I wooed her.
G: I know how you did, but I’m not going to say anything. Tommy’s got good lines.
T: But it was true! It took me a long time, you know.
G: It did. He worked very hard for his wife. I had to hear about it for weeks on end. Was she resistant at first?
T: Well, I lived in New York and she lived in London. She lives here now. But it took me like a year before I actually got her to go on a date with me. We were in London and for six months we were never apart for more than ten days because the band was over there so much. And then, you know, I just knew. I mean, the night we met, I was introducing her to people as my wife. I knew it. The whole wife thing might explain why she was hesitant at first.
T: Yeah, she was a little freaked out. Whatever. I won in the end. So, back to dancing. Gerard, do you go out?
G: Yeah, I’ll go out sometimes, but more for special occasions, not for going out just to go out. We’re friends with this band Futureheads and they had an afterparty [after opening for Franz Ferdinand], so we went to that. It’s not like, “Oh, it’s Friday night. I have to go out.” I’m not really one of those people who will go up to women and hit on them and try to make them come home with me. If something happens, something happens. I’m like the lazy outfielder. If the ball comes to me, I’ll catch it, but I’m not running all over the field for it. Do you ever use dance moves to pick up chicks?
G: It would never work. I’m terrible. It’s just different when you’re performing. It’s much easier getting into it than when you’re just having a night out. I guess it depends on how drunk I am. What’s your feeling on illicit substances?
G: Everybody does something or other. But there’s nobody’s shooting smack on the bus or doing crack. We’re pretty well-adjusted. We’re not very hedonistic at all. Why do you think that is?
G: I don’t know. Maybe it’s the way we were raised.
T: Plus, we’re not kids anymore. Are you all mama’s boys?
G: I’m a total mama’s boy. I’m the oldest. My mom came to see us last week. She comes to all the shows. Stands in front. Sings the whole record.
T: His mom’s really cool.
G: I get along with her really well. I get along with my dad, too. I think it has to do with the fact that I didn’t get along with her when I was younger. Now that I’m older, I’ve come to the conclusion that my parents are cool. It took me a while. Did your mom ever sit you down for a sex talk?
G: It was kind of too late by the point that she wanted to have that discussion. I was fifteen. Me and my aunt and her husband, we all went out for dinner and I went to get something out of my wallet and a condom fell out of it and she saw it and she just looked at me in shock and was like, “You’re having sex!?” And I was like, “Yeah, I thought you knew.” And that was pretty much it. I guess she figured she didn’t need to have the sex talk. She saw the condom and that made her happy. At least she knew I was being safe. Was the band late-bloomers or just commitment-minded?
G: Well, we’re not really young kids anymore. I lost my virginity at age 14, so I was pretty young. But now everybody’s pretty comfortable with where they are in their relationships. I mean, I’ve played the field enough in the past that I don’t really miss it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by having a girlfriend. The groupie stuff does sound pretty depresssing.
G: Yeah. That stuff’s okay when you’re in your early twenties, but when you’re in your late twenties, you get to a certain age where that just starts looking sad. Nobody wants to be like Tommy Lee. There’s something just a little gross about that, about being the forty-year-old guy who’s still single and having sex with nineteen-year-old girls. Does Radio 4 even attract those girls?
G: I guess not. [Laughs]
T: The backstage at a Radio 4 show is probably the most boring place you’ve ever seen. You’ve got three out of five guys on laptops.
G: And another two of us passed out from drinking too much.
T: People are either drunk or on their computers. Our vices are alcohol and the internet.
G: There’s a total tech geek squad in Radio 4. Well, there’s actually only one member who’s fully a geek, but there are crew people who go on tour with us who round out the squad. Are they Lord of the Rings fans?
T: There’s nothing geeky about Lord of the Rings! I’m a toy geek. I collect toys. Gerard, he’s one-hundred-percent cool.
G: I’m really obsessed with religion and conspiracy theories. What’s the conspiracy theory du jour?
G: I am obsessed with Christianity. Not in the sense of believing in it, but in the sense of how it got started and why it’s still around today. I’m really interested in how people take certain things from religion but not take other things, you know, preaching about “Love everybody,” but acting intolerant. Do you have a Catholic guilt complex about sex?
G: Not any more. I used to. It wasn’t so much guilt as trepidation. Guilt is for the older generation. I just want to make it clear that I’m not religious. At all. Just angry and political. What’s the one thing that Bush has done that pisses you off the most?
G: This is what’s really strange. I wasn’t a big conspiracy theory buff until the current administration came into office. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that these people are purposely fucking up everything.
T: The war in Iraq is the thing that pisses us off the most. Can I speak for everyone?
G: That’s a pretty fair assessment. That and the stealing of an election. That was a little annoying. I think what makes me even more is that the majority of the country will vote for this person.
T: He will win this election.
G: And he is by far the stupidest president this country has ever had. He’s not well-read by any means. He’s just a moron. What do you tell kids?
T: That he’s got bucks.
G: It’s like saying, “Oh, well, you can be a coked-up alcoholic, get a C-average at Yale, and, son, you might actually get to be president.” And then it’s like, “Laura Bush, she’s the epitome of class.” She killed two fucking people driving drunk! Do kids ever come up to you after shows and say your lyrics make them want to vote?
G: No, one of the biggest problems with Radio 4 is that most of the people coming to see us already feel the same way we do. Did you set out to be political?
T: I don’t like calling ourselves a political band because then all of our records would have to be political and that would suck. I think we talk about things that are important to us and things that we go through and things that we see. And that’s always been the agenda. Not songs about girls, just things that we think are important. I do find your political lyrics more eloquent than !!!’s.
G: I’m responsible, actually, for !!! having any lyrics. We were on tour with Out Hud and Nick had lost his lyric book in the middle of Bordeaux, France. He couldn’t remember, but he was jumping around the streets half naked with his pants down and his lyric book fell out. And we got back to town and he couldn’t find it. But I knew where it was. Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever had sex?
G: There’s been a couple weird ones. My principal’s office in high school. That’s probably the weirdest. When I was in high school I had to talk to the principal about something and my girlfriend went with me. He wasn’t there and nobody else was there, and I was fourteen, so it didn’t take very long. We just looked at each other and it seemed like a good idea. Any other ones since then?
G: A phone booth in a certain bar in the city that shall remain nameless. Do you have any secrets you can pass on to the masses?
G: The most important thing with sex if you’re a guy is to make sure the woman is pleased before you are. It makes afterwards a lot better and it keeps the fighting down. There’s nothing that girls hate more than not having an orgasm. Believe me, I know. That’s the first thing guys need to learn when they start having sex. Any other advice?
G: Make sure you know what you’re doing when you go down on a woman. It’s very important. I don’t want to be more graphic than that. But you could watch Sue, that old lady with the sex show on Oxygen. You can learn a lot from her. My girlfriend makes me watch her. What’s the worst experience you’ve ever had?
G: I’m a guy. Guys don’t have bad sexual experiences. All sex is great when you’re a guy. Women, it’s a different story. When you’re a guy, there’s no such thing as bad sex. Would you ever have sex with a Republican?
G: No. I seriously doubt it. Sorry, Britney. n°
© 2004 Nerve.com.