New York rockers go head-to-head with each other
We lock Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi and soft-spoken bassist Nikolai Fraiture in a chilly conference room at a London, Ontario hotel with nothing but a pile of random questions to ask each other and some Starbucks pastries. One had all the answers while the other mostly furrowed his brow. See if you can figure out which is which.
Here Are Nick and Nikolai!
Nick Valensi: The first question for you. Name a comedic movie and sketch comedy show The Strokes have paid homage to? This is Strokes trivia for you.
Nikolai Fraiture: I know Mr. Show is the sketch comedy sow, or David Cross. (Note: the band’s 2002 tour was dubbed The Wyckeed Septre Tour after a fictional band on Mr. Show. After further deliberation, neither can identify Wayne’s World as the comedic movie. The band played secret shows under the name of The Shitty Beatles, a reference to the classis 1992 comedy.)
Nick : We couldn’t even get that. OK, your turn.
Nikolai : What did you do to celebrate the completion of First Impressions of Earth?
Nick : I flew out to LA and spent the summer in California relaxing poolside. Took a month-and-a-half off. Literally did nothing.
Nikolai : Sweet.
Nick : It was great. I hadn’t taken a vacation since I was in school.
Nick : What’s your favourite musical moment or song on First Impressions of Earth?
Nikolai : Favourite musical moment. Ohhhhhhh. How long is a moment?
Nick : Could be a song. Would be a split second. I actually have a specific one.
Nikolai : OK, go ahead.
Nick : One of my favourite moments on the record is the kind of outro to “15 Minutes,” which we referred to as the “Circle of Forts.” That’s what we referred to it as when it was a work in progress. Anyway, I love that shit.
Nikolai : Yeah, that’s good. (laughs)
Nick : OK, I’ll pick up another one. What was your favourite movie from the last year?
Nikolai : I’m not a big movie-goer, but I know I saw something I liked this year.
Nick : We saw V For Vendetta.
Nikolai : Yeah, V for Vendetta, that one was great.
Nick : We saw that one together
Nikolai : At the IMAX, yeah.
Nikolai : What’s one place you haven’t played that you’d like to?
Nick : There are several. I’ve always wanted to go to Russia and we’re going to Moscow this summer, and I’ve always wanted to go to China and we’re going to Hong Kong this summer. I don’t know if that really counts and China. If we do manage to get a day of two off, I want to fly to Shanghai or Beijing or somewhere, and check out that culture. It just seems so drastically different to anything I’ve ever seen.
Nick : Who are the most talkative and quietest members of The Strokes?
Nikolai : Most talkative I’d say Fabrizio and probably you. The most quiet — is that English?
Nick : Quietest.
Nikolai : Ha. That’d probably be me. It depends on the setting. In interviews it’s probably be me. Julian becomes quite cryptic in interviews. We all have our days.
Nick : In general, I think you are the quietest. Like you said, there’s moments. Like in a bar setting, you would definitely be the quietest member.
Nikolai : Definitely not.
Nikolai : When you’re recording, who’s the first to show up at the studio and who’s the last to leave?
Nick : I think, for the most part, we usually show up at the same time. When we leave — If we were in the studio today and leaving we’d set a time to some tomorrow. We’d say, “OK, let’s all show up at 1 p.m. tomorrow,” Or if we’re feeling brave, “Let’s show up at 11 a.m.” People are often late, but that is the case with rock bands. We all mostly leave at the same time, but it seems to me the person who spends the most time in the control room listening to stuff and going over stuff is Julian. He will be the guy who will go in there after everybody’s gone and tweak shit and so it the way he wants to do it. Then everybody comes in the next day and says, “This is a little different. What’s going on here?” And he’ll say, “Aww, nuthin’. This is just what you heard yesterday.” (laughs)
Nick : Name three music acts everyone should know about.
Nikolai : Presently? Arcade Fire. I don’t know if they’re lesser-known or not. In America maybe. Should know about, maybe not necessarily like, Arctic Monkeys. And um..
Nick : (whispering) Eagles of Death Metal
Nikolai : What?
Nick : Eagles of Death Metal
Nikolai : Eagles of Death Metal, who are awesome. We offered them this tour, actually, but they turned us down.
Nikolai : You just got back from tour, dropped your bags. What’s the first thing you do?
Nick : When I get home from tour, I take meetings with my stylist, my interior decorator and my accountants. People just in and out of the house, taking meetings. You know, keeping busy?
Nikolai : It’s true. It’s really hard to get a hold of you after a tour.
Nick : Well, someone’s gotta get all that work done, you know?
Nick : What’s your favourite city to play in and why?
Nikolai : I don’t have one favourite, but in general, not New York. There’s always pressure in your hometown and it always ends up not being fun. Everyone’s nervous and it never ends up being what you think it will be in your head, like a big homecoming party. You get nervous and drink too much. L.A. is fun because it’s sort of like New York, but minus the pressure.
Nick : So, not New York, but L.A.
Nikolai : Yeah.
Nikolai : Name a meal you can make yourself.
Nick : I make really good meatballs. It’s true. No joke.
Nikolai : A little meatball pasta?
Nick : Yeah, Spaghetti and meatballs. Or, I tend not to go the pasta route. I’ll just make meatballs with very, very light tomato sauce on top and some steamed vegetables.
Nikolai : Mmm. Contain the vitamins.
Nick : What are two things you can’t live without on tour? Whoo, glad I didn’t get that one.
Nikolai : Fresh underwear and socks. And, um. I guess music to listen to. No iPod. I have the archaic CD player.
Nikolai : What were your feelings after hearing the completed First Impressions for the first time?
Nick : “Finally. got the fucker finished. Thank God.” I think I felt like it was finished before it was actually finished because we finished it, we finished tracking and we mixed it and then we ended up mastering it. And I thought we were really done, but it turned out some people weren’t happy with it, and we ended up remastering it a couple of times. So I thought it was done before it was. So when it was finally done, I was like, “About fucking time.”
Nikolai : There were a lot of people with a lot of opinions.
Nick : Opinions are like assholes, though
Nikolai : Everybody’s got one.
At this point, a handler comes in to signify the end of the interview
Nick : Thank you, Nikolai, for participation, for interviewing me and answering my questions.
Nikolai : Thank you also.