The Collapse Board Interview: Falco (Mclusky)
Despite living in London during their lifespan, Mclusky were a band that completely passed me by. Even though I read the NME weekly, or possibly because I read the NME weekly, they were a band that I can’t remember hearing or seeing anything about. Moving to Brisbane in 2005, it was a completely different story, with people in various bands and the people that I was meeting at shows asking me if I liked Mclusky and then providing the much-missed education as to what I’d missed out on. By this time Mclusky were all over but starting with a Shooting At Unarmed Men show at Rosie’s, the band featuring Mclusky’s bassist Jon Chapple, who had moved to Australia when the band folded, and then through Future of the Left shows and albums, the post-Mclusky band formed by their singer/guitarist Andrew ‘Falco’ Falkous and drummer Jack Egglestone, I came to realise that Mclusky were the band I was desperately searching for in those musical fallow years of the early 2000s.
With Falco and Egglestone being joined by Future of the Left bassist Julia Ruzicka and The St. Pierre Snake Invasion’s Damien Sayell to play sets of Mclusky songs at a small number of benefit shows, the last couple of years has seen more shows under the name Mclusky* (asterisk in reference to missing members), including an Australian tour in January 2020.
We spoke to Falco about the tour, why they didn’t continue as Mclusky and how they made the transition from being “fucking rubbish for years” into the band they became.
Falco: Hey, how’s it going? Sorry about that, I was on another call cause I thought you were calling at 10 past but no worries at all, it’s absolutely fine. When you try to coordinate calls because of the time difference across almost the entire, the entire girth of the world, it’s always gonna be fucked, so no worries.
Collapse Board: Yeah. Sorry about that. The first time I tried, I got some weird holding music and I’m like, this can’t be you, something’s gone wrong somewhere.
Falco: Can you imagine if I had my own hold music? That would be fantastic! I would like get a proper electronica piece as well. I’ll have to commission it.
CB: Well, it was some weird eighties ambient piece.
Falco: Why not! You know what, that’s my mission for next year.
CB: So you’re back in Brisbane in January again. Are you a sucker for punishment for Australia in summer and shows in Brisbane?
Falco: Yeah. Which is going to be loads of fun, loads of fun just because it’s going to be loads of fun (A) and (B) because Damien, who’s playing bass and singing, he struggles with temperatures above 20 degrees. So I think Brisbane in the summer, with that humidity, which is like your bones are fucking sweating, as you know, that’s going to be a real challenge. I think Damien more than anybody. I mean he’s never out of the gym, he’s seeing the tour more as an intense cardio challenge, more than anything. You know, you’ve got to cope with the heat the best you can. I’m just glad that the Brisbane show isn’t the very first one for him because it is tough. It is tough coming from the UK to Brisbane, coming from a climate, which should be accurately described as shite to what would accurately be described as very fucking tropical indeed. So, yeah, it’s going to be fantastic.
The first time we did Australia, Brisbane was a very first show, pretty much fresh off the plane, and I was a bit of a chubby lad as well, and mate it was…yeah. Fish out of water doesn’t even begin to describe it. But it was loads of fun. The first Brisbane show in particular is the kind of thing I’ll remember on my deathbed. Although I hope I don’t have a deathbed, I hope it just happens very suddenly, I hope I have a death carpet or some death stairs.
CB: It was probably only a couple of tours, but it always felt that you toured Australia during Ashes summers.
Falco: Yeah, that’s right. That was a Future of the Left one that was during the Ashes.
CB: Was that a miserable experience for you?
Falco: I love my cricket, even when England are shit, which is most of the time. It’s just a wonderful experience. And even though Australians have got a lot to teach the world about sportsmanship, I love Australian cricket and the Australian cricket approach. I love the passion for it over there. And I love the, I wouldn’t call it banter, because with banter it implies the most tedious fucking people on earth. But I have some good conversations about it and on the way over. Julia always gets annoyed with me just having conversations with random people about cricket on the plane. That’s life for me, just confronting people in the aisle about what they think about Mitchell Starc in English conditions, that’s my idea of a good time.
CB: Back in the day there was no intention to keep the name Mclusky and get a new bassist and for you and Jack to keep going with the name and the band and the songs?
Falco: It was considered, as far as I remember, for a few minutes, but sometimes when making a decision, you don’t necessarily rationalise things, you don’t come up with bullet points or a for and against list. It just didn’t feel right to do that at the time. A few years after that, I maybe kind of regretted it, because if anything, The Difference [Between Me and You Is That I’m Not on Fire], the third Mclusky album is something of a gateway to Future of the Left, I suppose, you know, thinking about it now, but it certainly wasn’t designed that way in the time.
And it was a little bit, not disrespectful, but it kind of disregards the role that Kelson [Mathias], the original bass player in Future of the Left had, because a band is the sum of its parts. But when you’ve got a voice which is like mine and you drum in the way Jack [Egglestone] does, the similarities are hard to avoid really, although it’s a different band in some crucial ways. It’s a bit more informed by math-ier or weirder music, it’s not straight ahead. You’re actually not saying that’s a good or a bad thing, it’s just a thing, it’s just a fact. But yeah, maybe it would’ve been cool to do that.
I suppose, for me being the only original member, certainly at the time, because Jack had only been in the band for a couple of years, it just wouldn’t have felt right and being in that band for the last year or so, it wasn’t angry, there wasn’t loads of conflict or whatever, but it was always on borrowed time and the nervous energy of keeping it going because it meant so much, to me in particular, was quite a lot, and you just want to push the fucking thing to the side after that and start something new, shed the skin and go on. But from a commercial perspective, that was a fucking really stupid decision.
CB: Did he feel a sense of loss when Mclusky ended?
Falco: Definitely, because even though we’d only been a touring band for two, two and a half years, it was five or six years to get to that. When people ask me about the band, the thing is you only get one life, so you’re only in a band once in your twenties and so it’s very difficult, unless you have really special warlock powers, to have anything to compare it to. It took us a long time to get to the point where we were a full time band partly because we were fucking rubbish for years, it was bad. Looking back at it objectively, it was pretty bad, but by the time of [Mclusky] Do Dallas we were a proper fucking good band and it was easy, is how I’d describe it from then. Musically, for me, at least, it was easy, it was loads of fun.
I think all bands are the sum of their in-jokes, as you can tell, and all of a sudden they either hit a stride where they become themselves or they don’t. We were lucky enough to be able to play this music which, as far as I’m concerned, was of our personalities. Really great music, I think, does that. When you see somebody, you pretty much know who they are. I mean, you don’t know what time they take their dog for a walk or what their favourite flavour of fancy middle class corn in a packet is, but you can pretty much tell the essentials of who they are, and it was fantastic. But yeah, I was really, really really sad but it was what had to happen.
There wasn’t really a debate of whether I shouldn’t be in a band with John [Chapple] anymore. I think from both sides, that was an absolute given. It was tough, the last half year at the end was really, really tough. I remember saying to my girlfriend at the time, then obviously told Jack and said this had happened and I said I’d like to continue working with him, and I really did want to, because Jack was a very good musician then, but he’s absolutely incredible now. At the start of Mclusky, even when we recorded The Difference, Jack hadn’t been in the band for very long and his performance on that album is really good, but if he was doing it now… like I say, he’s incredible. But I was really sad. I mean it was devastating for me, to work so hard at something and just for it to splutter out like that.
There was a period when the original drummer, Matthew Harding, was in it, where the band nearly ended, before we’d even come to Australia, because I felt as if I was just driving the whole thing myself. Sometimes you’ve got to understand your own complicity in that. I’m a little bit of a control freak but you still want other people to keep pulling with you. And for whatever reason, they just didn’t. So I kind of went through different levels of devastation even before the band ended. It’s like when you’ve got a relative who has dementia or something and they haven’t recognized you for ten years, and when they eventually pass away, you grieve, sure, but you’ve already done the essential grieving before that moment.
CB: You said that you thought Mclusky were really bad for years and years so was there some magic moment where everything changed?
Falco: Not that I particularly noticed, it’s just there would be a song. I think when you’re a band, particularly a young band, and by young band I mean like you haven’t released loads of records or whatever, a band who are still finding themselves or still aware that they’re still finding themselves as well, you write some songs and you go, “Oh, that’s a good song.” I don’t know if you’ve played in bands yourself, but there’ll be a new song in the set and it makes the other songs sound a bit leaden in comparison, it’s obviously better than the other songs. So I operate on the basis, “Well that’s clearly the best song in set and now we need to write other songs, which makes that sound like the worst song in the set.” That would be the way I’d look at it because I think sometimes even a little bit of internal competition in the set is a good thing. At least it is for us, because for about two years in the Mclusky, and for about two years in Future of the Left actually, when we had the time to fucking rehearse, we’d write songs the second we walked through the door. It was getting stupid. We wrote so many songs we probably forgot 50 or 60 pretty fucking good ones. It was just one of those periods where everything, just everything just worked. The key thing when everything just works is just to make sure that you’ve got your head strapped on enough to take advantage of it, because like in any artistic enterprise, or any fucking enterprise at all, there’s going to be fallow periods when nothing happens. I guess it was just certain songs.
Even though I really don’t like the first album, it’s a collection of demos, I’d really rather it didn’t exist, but the song ‘Whiteliberalonwhiteliberalaction’ on that album was kind of a thing for me, it was like a new benchmark for the kind of songs I thought I could write and then by the time we did ‘Lightsabre Cock Sucking Blues’, which originally was just a silly throwaway song, I mean it was literally a piss take of a ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’, that’s what it was, but it ended up, because of whatever crossover, whatever Venn diagram of personality and music ability, it ended up sounding like it sounded. And then, of course, the songs from the first album in the set felt really limp in comparison. There wasn’t a magical moment as such, unless you knew something I don’t know and there was a wizard outside casting spells on our dirty little rehearsal.
CB: Has it been easy for you and Jack to say yes to play these Mclusky*shows?
Falco: Oh yeah. As long as Jack isn’t at a fucking christening. Jack’s at a christening every fucking four days. I don’t know how many pregnant people he’s met, but Jesus. I have to say not it’s not the christening of his own children, he’s not going around fathering kids all over the fucking place, but yeah, it was easy. And also it was the same for Damien [Sayell] as well, because he’s in a band [the St. Pierre Snake Invasion] and they had an album out this year and they were touring that and it was pretty tough at some stages to fit shows in.
But people really wanted to put it on as well, and the desire to do something. If you have a personal desire to do something, of course you want to do it, but when people are really hassling you do it as well, it’s a good feeling. Future of the Left gets a similar kind of attention but never quite the same impetus to get it in there because I suppose people knew it would sell and it would go really well. But yes, it was simple for the most part. One of the shows, I didn’t really enjoy. The crowd were just odd from my perspective, it was strange. I wouldn’t say what show that was was, I’ve decided not to slag off crowds anymore, it’s disrespectful to people who’ve paid substantial amounts of money. But apart from that, the shows have been great and I’d say at least two or three of them that we’ve done so far have been magical. So I’ll take that. Not a lot of people get to experience magic like that in their lives. I’m very happy indeed.
CB: So it’s not frustrating given the amount of time and effort you’ve spent building up Future of the Left as a band?
Falco: To a degree, but also it is what it is. It’s highlighted some things about Future of the Left as well because, even though on one level it might appear insanely more popular, on average, and I don’t know if you like a good graph or some good statistics, on average the shows are 23% better attended than Future of the Left shows. But it turns out that 23% makes quite a big difference financially. Future of the Left is basically just a band which breaks even across the world. We go and play shows, we don’t like to do them in a half arsed way, we like to do it properly and then, if we sell some t-shirts, I mean we are literally t-shirt salesmen at this point , if we sell some t-shirts and some records, then we actually get to make some money and make rent and stuff, which is great.
Mclusky is, like I said, on average 23% more popular. Mclusky does detract from Future of the Left and frankly that’s why when we did the initial shows, we were like, “Well, this is a fee for the show,” because it detracts from the day job. It does, there’s no doubt about. It lets people focus back on that. But I spent years in Mclusky doing that thing and even though that isn’t, at this time, creatively dynamic, there’s not things bubbling away there, I’m just as proud of that. And you know what, another desire to go and play the songs.
As much as I love being in Future of the Left, it’s my passion, Future of the Left shows are not just physically hard and hard on the throat but they’re mentally quite hard as well. Some of it, the playing and singing at the same time, all the stupid words I have to remember, it’s like taking an exam or something, you know? Whereas Mclusky, I’ve got a little bit of some lyrical reminders strapped to my monitor when I play, but they’re just first line, cues basically, so I can remember where I am, because I’ve got so many songs swimming around my head then. But Mclusky is easy. Basically to play and to perform is so easy, you barely have to think about it, which is, you know, what a lot of rock ‘n’ roll should be really.
CB: Julia played bass for that first show with Damien singing but now Damien is playing bass as well. Is that to make childcare more manageable or did she not fancy it?
Falco: It began as a childcare thing. Julia fussed? I mean Julia missing out on playing a rock show, she’s fucking steaming, you know, but to be honest with you, because we did four shows for various causes, and I think that was 2015, I forget, something like that, but there wasn’t really any pretence about that being Future of the Left doing Mclusky songs to raise money for this. That was more the spirit of it because that was literally what it was. When we’re doing these shows, we’re thinking of it, at least for the duration of the show, actually as a band and as it being three of us. That’s just more in the spirit of the original band was and it totally makes sense like that. Yeah, it began because of childcare issues. I mean how rock and roll is that?
CB: Okay. I’m pretty much out of time of my 20 minutes, but it’s been really good talking to you.
Falco: Yeah, no worries mate. Excellent. So you’ll be at the Brisbane will you?
CB: I won’t, sadly I’m overseas for Christmas and on my way back from the UK when you’re playing in Australia. So it’s disappointing to miss you. I’ll have to wait another 15 years and hope you do it again.
Falco: Well, I’m sorry about that. It’s not necessarily the last time, we haven’t said it’s the last time we’ll do it and there is the possibility in the future we might even try and write some stuff, but only after the next Future of the Left record. And when I say there’s a possibility, we’ve talked about it for four minutes, you know, and everyone went, “Yeah, that might be alright.” That’s as far as our intense planning has proceeded. I hope you get to see it because, I don’t want to over sell it or whatever, but if you’re familiar much with Future of the Left, you’ll know that nothing’s half arsed in this house. And for me, the person on stage, and there’s no criticism implied of anybody who isn’t in the band anymore, I’m perfectly capable of explicitly criticising people, it’s just loads more fun. There’s nothing, there’s literally nothing, to worry about. It’s just fantastic.
CB: It sounds great, I’m sure I’ll see you again with Future of the Left next time you come over anyway.
Falco: We’re hoping it’ll be next Christmas-ish time for Future of the Left and, if not, probably the year after that. As Julia keeps telling me, I can’t base everything around the fucking Ashes. The subtext of that is, “You’ve got a kid now, grow up”, and you know what, maybe she’s got a point, but she doesn’t know how much I love the Ashes, so she needs to leave it.
CB: Yeah, it is pretty great.
Falco: Mate, mate, it’s everything, it’s everything. It’s the beginning and the end of time. Unless you’re playing a test in New Zealand, which actually isn’t the Ashes anyway, and then it’s just boring. You take care and you have a lovely day and when I say lovely day, I hope you had a lovely day and hopefully see you out there next time.
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