Underpants, Squirrels And The Meaning Of Life
Just off 8th Avenue In The Port Authority district of New York, you’ll find a set of battered doors that lead straight to The Strokes HQ. Up on the third floor is the space where they’ve rehearsed ever since they first got together.
Inside, it’s like a living room. There’s a Star Trek poster on the far wall, a black and white picture of John Lennon resting against the window and a tattered Stars And Stripes hanging above an aging sofa. It’s here that The Strokes are coming to answer the hundreds of questions you’ve set prior to their headline appearance at this year’s Reading and Leeds festivals.
First to arrive, at 5pm on a stifling Sunday afternoon, are guitarist Albert Hammond Jr, a riot of Zebedee hair and stripy socks, and bassist Nikolai Fraiture, suitably restrained in all black. They’re soon joined by a shaky-looking Fabrizio Moretti (the drummer was up until 6.30 this morning with Ryan Adams and still feels sick) and guitarist Nick Valensi.
As they sit around wrestling with each other, singer Julian Casablancas hobbles in, supported by a wooden cane and resplendent in a black T-shirt with the word ‘Reggae’ printed across it. He sits down and lets out a yelp of pain. ‘My knee’, he mutters by way of explanation.
‘What do they want to know anyway?’ demands Nick, seizing the list of questions. ‘Do we prefer badgers to squirrels? Jeez, dude, this is going to be weird’. It certainly is. So let’s crack on.
Julian, how’s your knee? I’ve been sending spiritual healing you way when I’m not busy. If it’s working I might take it up professionally ~ Neal Pariah, Southampton
Julian: Tell him, thanks for the attempt. Maybe it is working a bit, but I’ve messed it up pretty badly.
NME: How did it happen?
Julian: It was July 4 in Los Angeles and we’d just done the ‘Someday’ video. We were having a barbecue in a friend’s backyard and we were playing around, play fighting and I don’t know. It was a fun time that went awry
If you were all women, whom would you fancy? ~ Roberta Hay, Cambridgeshire
Fab: I am a woman
Albert: Which male would we fancy?
Fab: Probably each other. C’mon guys, can’t we say that?
Albert: If I was a woman, I’d masturbate all day. It just seems like it would be so much fun. You know, longer orgasms and it’s something you can do quietly and privately (mimes doing it)
What’s you favourite dinosaur? My personal favourite is the triceratops. ~ Katherine
Fab: I like the stegosaurus because he was a vegetable-eating motherfucker but he was still a badass. And he had that fucking tail that had the spikes and he had those fucking things that went up and down his back and he was great.
Julian: I don’t really have a favourite dinosaur
Nick: I like the pterodactyl just because it starts with a ‘p’
Nikolai: I haven’t given this any thought before today and I don’t think I’m going to start now
Fab: Herbivore! That’s the word, not vegetable eating motherfucker.
Albert: I like the brontosaurus because he’s got that long neck and he sits there and munches in the tree.
Fab: And he was the biggest dinosaur.
Albert: He was huge, like the elephant or something. He was always, like, ‘ Hey what’s up? I’m just hanging out’
Fab: He (pointing at Nick) likes the pterodactyl because it starts with a ‘p’
Albert: Its starts with a ‘p’? Get the fuck out of here.
Nick: Its true. ‘Pt’, the first two letters of pterodactyl.
Albert: Shit, that’s a good reason to like it
Fab: In that case, I like psychiatrists, because they start with a ‘p’ too.
What annoys you most about the music scene in 2002? ~ Julie Micallef, Wiltshire
Nick: What’s been annoying me recently?
Fab: I want to say it, but I can’t. I have a very specific one, but I don’t want to open my mouth…
Albert: I’ve got one. In the office, we have MTV2 on the whole time and we keep seeing all these bands who are worse than the bad bands they’re copying
Nick: Right! Bands who base their sound on Staind. It’s like taking your sounds from something that’s bad already. Its like a new low. It’s nu-metal.
Julian: Nothing really annoys me. For a long time now, I’ve just looked at the whole music scene as a big business. The only thing that annoys me is that The Strokes aren’t more popular.
Julian: No, I’m only joking
Boxers or briefs? ~ Vera, New York
Nick: Neither. No underpants, never.
Fab: Check this out, homeboy (unbuttons trousers to reveal his pubic hair)
Albert: Neither for me either, except maybe sometimes in winter.
Julian: I do a random medley of all three. It depends on what’s washed. If I have nothing clean, then nothing.
We’ve all read Noel Gallagher’s opinions on The Strokes. What do you think about Oasis and ‘Heathen Chemistry’ ? ~ Paul Lamkin, Southend-on-Sea
Fab: I haven’t heard it. You haven’t heard it either, Nick
Nick: This is our chance to….
Fab: … do absolutely nothing, turn the other cheek and be very calm and collected.
Nick: … start an NME feud.
Fab: A feud isn’t necessary.
Nick: They’re a band with impressive longevity and I, guess sincere ideas. And Noel Gallagher’s an awesome guy.
Julian: I haven’t heard it either. Oasis are a good band, though. What do Oasis think of us?
NME: We think they like you.
Julian: Well I met Noel and he’s really nice. When they first came pout, I thought they were really cool new rock band. What’s the song? ‘ Maybe? You know Maybe I don’t really want to know..’ That one.
NME: That’s Live Forever
Julian: OK that’s the one. I first heard that one and thought it was really cool
What’s your favourite sexual position? ~ Johnny Queefer, USA
Fab: It’s obvious that that’s not his real name.
Albert: I’m a simple man. I enjoy missionary, it gets the job done
Nick: I like the defensive end
Nikolai: The defensive end?
Albert: Right, I like the linebacker position
Fab: When I have sex, I don’t even know what position I’m in. I’m hanging from the ceiling and shit.
Albert: Oh my god, Fab!
Nick: There are so many, it’s hard to pick a favourite. I like to do a bunch
Nikolai: It would be unfair to the other positions to single one out
Julian: This question reminds me of when I was at college and I’d met these people who invited me to hang out. I thought that was really nice, because I didn’t know many people. Anyway, I thought we were going to have some beers or something. Then they just said ‘ OK, now we’re going to go round the room and you have to stand up, say why you want to join the fraternity and what’s your favourite sexual position. I was like, ‘What the fuck I doing here?’ But I was kind of stuck there, so I said ‘ Hi, my name is Julian, I don’t want to be in the fraternity and I don’t know why I’m here’ I didn’t answer then and I’m not answering now.
Which one of you of owns the most shoes? ~ Chris Moyniham. Surrey
Nick / Fab / Julian / Nikolai: Albert!
Albert: Me. I’ve got 19 pairs.
Albert: I’ve got lots of Converse and I’ve probably got every colour – American flag, yellow, red, off-white, black ones and then I got some other ones.
Nick: Everyone else has two pairs of shoes, tops. Nikolai has one pair.
Julian: I wear the same shoes for months. Having said that, my dad had all these shoes he was going to throw out and he just have them to me, so I’ve got a bunch of old shoes.
What’s the nicest non-sexual gift a fan has ever given to you? ~ James Morrissey
Julian: Socks are nice
Albert: Yeah, socks and homemade pasta. That happened on an American tour. The pasta was delicious and I’ve still got the socks to this day. They were great socks, really colourful.
Fab: It wasn’t like one pair of socks, it was, like, two pairs for each of us. It was very kind.
Albert: They thought about it for sure. It wasn’t just white tube socks. The socks were cool. I love socks.
Julian: Actually, there’s a fan in San Francisco who always give us a bunch of cool unknown CDs. I think it makes him happy to turn people on to good music. He’s given me some cool stuff.
Who would you rather be – Kevin Coster or Ted Danson? ~ Alan Middleton, Scotland
Fab: Who the fuck is Ted Dancer?
NME: Ted Danson
Fab: Oh, Danson
Nick: I think Ted Danson wears a toupee
Albert: I would have to say Kevin Coster. He’s bald too.
Nick: I don’t think he is. What kind of question is this, anyway?
Albert: I’d say Kevin Coster
Nick: I don’t want to answer
Fab: I’d be Ted Danson because he had sex with Whoppi Goldberg
Nick: He did!
Fab: I want to have sex with Whoppi. They were going out for a long time.
Julian: It’s a horrible choice, but if I had to be one, it would be Kevin Coster. I saw that movie Bull Durham when I was younger and he looked pretty cool in that.
Money no object, what plastic surgery would you have done? ~ Paul Jones, Liverpool.
Julian: I don’t know. I’d probably get a facelift to look a little younger. Don’t print that, though
Fab: I would not have plastic surgery done. I don’t believe in it.
Albert: I don’t like it either.
Fab: There’s a certain amount of charm to an older man who’s got the wrinkles to prove his been through shit. How old’s Mick Jagger? He looks great.
Albert: When you have it done you never actually look younger anyway. You never see a 60 year old woman who’s had it done and think ‘Wow, you look 20!’.
Fab: And they get those weird flaps behind their ears
Nick: I get a boob job if I had to have plastic surgery. Big ass, triple-D jobs
Albert: That would be great because I could play with them all day.
Nick: I would love you to titty fuck them
What do you think of all these bands that are being lumped in with you, like The Vines, The White Stripes, Black Rebel, The Hives and The Libertines? ~ Julie
Albert: I don’t like being lumped into any group
NME: Do you think you opened the door for this kind of music?
Albert: It’s not an ego thing. Before we came out and did well in England, there weren’t a lot of American rock ‘n’ roll bands doing well over there, were there?
Nick: I say, more power to them. I wish anyone with integrity luck whether I like it or not. As for us having opened the doors for other people, if that’s the case, then that’s cool. I’m proud of that and amazed at the same time.
Fab: That’s not the answer to the question, though. It’s what do we think of these bands
Nick: I really like The White Stripes
Julian: These bands are cool. I don’t really know most of their music to be honest. I think what we do is different. When we started everyone was saying retro we are, but now its a new cool thing….
Do you prefer badgers or squirrels? ~ Frank Bell, Edinburgh
Julian: I think I prefer badgers. Badgers seem like they have more personality.
Nick: My answer is that, considering they have beautiful cute little squirrels all over Central Park in New York. They’re sort of city animals.
Fab: They’re really quick and they roll acorns in their hands and then they do this (mimes squirrel eating an acorn) then they stop and look about and then continue doing it. That’s shit great.
Albert: And in Australia they can fly, right? In Australia all animals can fly, can’t they?
Nick: In Australia all animals can fly? What about kangaroos?
Albert: Well, all the animals are weird then. Kangaroos are like giant rats
Fab: If I was a superhero I’d be The Squirrel, dude. He can climb anything. he can fly and he’s a badass.
Nick: Shit, you’re right
Fab: And he’s got a big tail
Albert: And he’s cute, so he get all the ladies
Nick: And you’d be, like, eating nuts all day
Julian: Fab loves nuts
What’s the meaning of life? ~ Neil Shackcloth, Manchester
Nikolai: A good movie
Fab: Why doesn’t he ask God that question and leave us out of it?
Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll – is it your way of life or just a terrible cliche? ~ Nicolas Campiche, Paris
Nick: It IS a terrible cliche and it’s not our way of life.
Julian: It’s certainly not a code I live by. We don’t say it and then high five each other. We’re not a band doing this just for the ride.
Albert: Yes, we have sex. Yes, we drink. And, yes, we play rock’n’roll, but we don’t live by that. We live by music and all that other stuff happens to be stuff we’d do anyway.
Nick: They’re like bonuses. If it was only the sex and drugs and not the music, it would really be a sad state of affairs.
Who would win in a fight between Batman and Spiderman? ~ David Wragg, Oldham
Nick: Squirrelman would kick ass.
Albert: You don’t think Spiderman could cover him in web and Batman wouldn’t be able to get out.
Fab: Dude, Batman’s got so many gadgets in his belt that would cut through that shit in a second. He’s probably got spider repellent in his belt as well.
Albert: I’m thinking Batman, Adam West couldn’t kick my ass, let alone Spiderman’s.
Nick: Adam West couldn’t, you’re right. I’m thinking Batman is a better movie than Spiderman, so I’m saying Batman.
Fab: Batman is just like a fucked-up individual in the head, and fucked-up people are more prone to being badass.
Albert: You’ve convinced me. Nikolai?
Nikolai: Batman, obviously.
Julian: But Spiderman has superhuman powers and Batman is just a guy that works out. Batman’s just a normal guy who’s very fit. I think the guy with the superpowers always wins.
Who is the most bizarre celebrity to come backstage to meet you? ~ Warren Parker
Albert: Someone weird, right?
Fab: What about the guitarist from Rob Zombie’s band? You know, the guy with blood all over himself. Actually, he was the bass player.
Nick: He wanted autographs for his family.
Fab: It was cool.
Nick: Personally, I would like Bea Arthur to come to a show one day. I guess you don’t know who that is. She’s the star of a popular American ’80s sitcom called The Golden Girls. I keep hoping she’ll come, but she never as. Maybe she reads NME and will answer my prayer. She’s probably about 75 now.
Julian, your hair is very cool. Who cuts it and do you really use beer to style it? ~ Jamie Pitts, Carterton, Oxfordshire
Julian: A Japanese girl called Mika cuts it. I’ve used beer once or twice before. I think I only use it when I don’t have any water. I wouldn’t recommend it. I don’t wake up in the morning and put beer in my hair. It’s for emergencies only.
As your sudden rise in popularity started in the UK, do you feel any particular loyalty towards your fans in this country? ~ Lloyd Meredith, Glasgow
Julian: Every time we go to England it’s pretty special. The first time we did things that a professional band does, it was in England.
Fab: I always look forward to going to the UK to do shows, because I know they’re going to be wicked. If that’s loyalty, I don’t know. It’s just a bond.
Albert: We definitely have good fans in England. People who come to see our shows there, come to have fun. It’s lucky, because when you’ve had this much attention, people sometimes come to judge you. I don’t think they do in England.
Fab: In Glasgow, it’s always brilliant.
NME: This guy’s from Glasgow.
Fab: Tell him we love it there. We thought we were going to get our asses beat up there. The band before us were getting heckled and shit was getting thrown all over the place, but then we came on and and the whole room started to bounce. It was loud.
Albert: I’d like to go back in time to that gig.
Fab: Dude, don’t you know that if you get into my bass drums, you can? It’s a time portal. The only problem is that you’ve got to fit through that tiny hole at the front.
When are you guys going to wash your hair? ~ Kevin Smith, Tucson, Arizona
Nick: Is that Kevin Smith the director?
Albert: What does he mean? I wash my hair all the time.
Fab: I wash mine every two days.
Nick: I should wash my hair tomorrow. That last time I did it was a week ago maybe.
Albert: Well, I got my hair cut so they did it for me. Mine’s really dry, so if I wash it, it stays the same way.
Nikolai: Whenever it’s dirty.
Albert: The real question is: when is Kevin going to wash his hair?
If you were a porn star, what would your name be? ~ KC Higgins, California
Fab: There’s a science to it. I learned this from a porn star.
NME: It’s your first pet’s name and your mother’s maiden name.
Nick: Fluffy. My mother’s maiden name is Delberg. It would be like Fluffy Delberg.
Fab: Mine’s Kio Frotte.
Nick: You can’t put this shit in.
Fab: I love Fluffy Delberg.
Nikolai: Mine’s GG Reno.
Julian: Mine’s Valentine Kitchenson.
Fab: By far the best one was Fluffy Delberg.
Nick: You’re not putting that in, man.
After the success of Is This It, do you feel any pressure to make a follow-up equal to or better than your debut? ~ Michael Hartt, Australia
Fab: Of course, man. Everyone’s looking at us now. We’ve got to write better songs and that’s a fucking scary thing.
Julian: I felt pressure when we were doing Is This It. But it needs to be there. If you don’t do anything that’s better it’s not very exciting. I think a lot of people have faith in us, but they’re not completely sure because they’ve only heard on record.
NME: When are you going to record it and when’s it going to come out?
Nick: Definitely within the next five to six years.
Julian: We’re going to play maybe four or five new songs at Reading. Maybe people have heard some on bootlegs. I don’t mind playing it, though. I’m really nervous. I think we might start recording in December or January. God willing.
Did Courtney Love inspire Meet Me In The Bathroom? ~ Sofia Ponce, New Mexico
Julian: Not at all. I didn’t meet her in a bathroom.
What’s your favourite album of all time and why? ~ Jonathan Beyer, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Fab: I hate this question.
Albert: ‘Plastic Ono Band’. I got into it when I was working in a record store. It’s a really emotional rock’n’roll album. It’s raw.
Nikolai: It changes every week. This week it’s probably this live Leonard Cohen album. I don’t know what its name is though.
Nick: ‘Uprising’ by Bob Marley, maybe. There are other ones too. That’s my favourite Bob Marley album, though.
Fab: Picking your favourite album of all time is like saying….
Albert: ….what was the best time you jerked off.
Fab: It’s impossible. I could give a bunch of records. I’ll say ‘Desire’ by Bob Dylan, ‘Isolation Drills’ by Guided By Voices and that ‘Best Of 1962 to ’70-something’ by David Bowie.
Albert: ‘Take On Me’ by A-Ha. I play that when I get out of the shower.
Julian: I really like the Beach Boys’ greatest hits ‘Made In the USA’. I jump from thing o thing all the time. At the moment I’m listening a lot to Television.
Julian: Yeah, not the band. Just my television. I’ve just watched Total Recall.
What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream? ~ Kat Street
Albert: Chocolate chip cookie dough.
Julian: Vanilla chocolate chip.
Fab: I don’t know. I like coconut.
Nick: I like milkshakes, is that the same as ice cream? Well, if it is, I like vanilla ones. Haagen-Dazs are good.
What’s your favourite type of biscuit? ~ Jenny, London
Albert: We’re American, we don’t eat biscuits.
Julian: I like Chips Ahoy.
Nick: We don’t sit around eating ice cream and biscuits all day. We eat pizza and drink beer.
NME: Don’t you ever have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit?
Fab: Tell everyone in England, we don’t eat biscuits.
Have any of you ever touched a synthesizer? ~ Box Flend, Wirral
Albert: I own one.
Fab: We’ve all touched synthesizers.
Nick: What’s wrong with this guy? What the fuck does he want? Sometimes it’s good to get away from the guitar. I know Julian sometimes sits at a keyboard.
Which cartoon character is each of you most like? ~ Graeme Haddrell, Kirkcaldy
Fab: What’s the name of that girl in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Nick: Jessica Fox?
Albert: Jessica Rabbit.
Fab: Yeah, that’s it. I’m most like Jessica Rabbit, because I’ve got huge tits.
Albert: I’m like Liono. The guy from Thundercats.
Julian: I’m Captain Caveman.
Fab: Dude, I’ve just realised who I really am! I’m Charlie Brown because nothing ever goes my way. I’m CHARLIE BROWN!
Nick: I don’t know who I’m really like. Do they have Sesame Street in England? I’m like Big Bird. That’s the name these dickheads have assigned me.
Albert: I never call you Big Bird, I just call you The Bird.
Nick: Albert thinks I look like a bird. So any sort of bird. Woody Woodpecker, anything like that.
NME: What’s Nikolai like?
Nick: Nikolai’s like a bulldog.
NME: Are there any cartoon bulldogs?
Fab: In fucking Tom And Jerry, there’s a bulldog. That’s what Nikolai’s like.
Nikolai: When I get up in the morning, the bulldog in Tom And Jerry is the last thing I ever think about.
And on that bombshell, we have to draw proceedings to a close. The band want to rehearse the new songs they’re going to be playing in Detroit later this week at a show with The White Stripes. There’s no doubt, though, that we’ve found out some valuable new information.
We know that The Strokes don’t wear underpants, that Fab wants to be known as The Squirrel and that one day Nick may get triple-D breast implants. As we bid them farewell, telling them we’ll catch them at Reading, they’re still shaking their heads.
“I can’t believe you got us talking about this stuff,” sighs Fab, “but it was fun anyway…”