Working Men’s Club, off the back of their UK top 20 album Fear Fear, are about to embark on their biggest UK tour yet. With a unique, electronically-carried sound played as guitar music, Working Men’s Club are among the most compelling live acts circulating at the moment. Ahead of their headline show at Manchester Academy, and to celebrate the release of the ‘Steel City’ remixes on the deluxe edition of Fear Fear, we spoke to frontman Syd Minsky-Sargeant about playing in Manchester, Steel City music, and songwriting processes.
With this massive headline gig at Manchester Academy, what can we expect from it?
I think we’re obviously trying to step up our production for this tour. These are the biggest venues we’ve played throughout so there’ll be the addition of a few things we haven’t added in for a long time. There’ll be extra lighting and stuff like that, so I think it’ll be a really good show. We just want to keep upping the live performances as much as possible. Obviously, last year we did The Ritz and that was brilliant, but this is a much bigger venue so we just want to make it twice as good if possible. It’ll be a pimped-up show, I think, especially for Manchester.
You’ve played a lot in Manchester over the last little while, what is it about the city that you love so much?
I don’t know, we just seem, for some reason, to be really well-received there, so it’s kind of an incidental thing. It’s a great city and we’ve spent a lot of time there, and half the band lives there, so it makes sense to appreciate that city.
You’ve also played a wide variety of venues in Manchester, with the show at White Hotel and even shows at YES quite recently. Is that something we can expect more of soon?
I wouldn’t say so, no. It [the Manchester Academy show] definitely will be the last show there for a while because we don’t want to overdo it, but we’ve played in most places in Manchester. I think now we want it to be a special thing each time we go back there.
Last year, you supported New Order at Heaton Park. What was that experience like, and did you get to speak to any of the New Order guys at all?
We didn’t because we had to get off to play another gig at the White Hotel, but it was really good. It was a nice homecoming because I travelled back and forth between Todmorden and Prestwich growing up between my parents. My dad used to work in Heaton Park, so it was a coming full circle thing to play there.
Who would you say your main live influences are in terms of how you carry yourself as a live band?
I really like Cabaret Voltaire and the way they change stuff up constantly, and always flip between different setups and the way that there was never one way of doing things. I never saw Cabs but from watching videos, I love what they’re doing, and I love the records so that would be one for me.
To the album, and specifically the remixes, how did those come about, because they’re all Sheffield-based remixes. Was it by virtue of chance or did you recruit specifically Sheffield producers to remix the tracks off Fear Fear?
For that EP we did [recruit from Sheffield]; there are a few more remixes that aren’t out yet which aren’t specifically Sheffield-based. But that EP, it’s specifically Sheffield producers, half of which we know and half of which [we] approached. It was my manager’s idea because he’s from Sheffield, and the first records were made there, so it’s another nice full circle thing to do and made sense for that record.
I read a quote from Toddla T saying that it sounded like Sheffield was all over the track he remixed, what do you think the sound of Sheffield is?
I think obviously the sound of Sheffield was Warp Records really in an electronic sense, started off with people like DJ Parrot, Sweet Exorcist, and Richard Kirk and then [Cabaret] Voltaire before that which Richard Kirk was half of. Ross [Orton] who I make the records with learnt his basics in dance music from working with Parrot and then Toddla learnt his basics from working with Ross, and then I’ve learnt my basics from working with Ross, so I guess it’s that domino effect of lots of different producers working together.
It was a nice thing to do, and it definitely felt close to home. It’s nice for Toddla to put his spin on it, but also for Forgemasters to do something because they were the first Warp release, ‘Track with No Name’ by Forgemasters. They’re Sheffield originators and it’s still an underground scene I think, so it’s very important within the dance music world.
On the subject of Ross Orton, as he produced the first album Working Men’s Club, was it not even a question that you would work with him again?
Yeah, it was very natural on the second record to work with Ross again. With lockdown and everything, it was an easy option to keep working with someone that I’ve been making music with since the first record and I still make stuff with him. So, yeah, it was just natural.
With your songwriting process, is it lyrics or music first or do you have an archive of beats? How does that all work?
For the first two records it was definitely music first, then add either just layered lyrics on top immediately or take some time out, but nowadays I try and be less traditional about it and do it one way or the other, just so it doesn’t sound the same. I don’t know, I think things will constantly change.
Are you writing at the minute?
Yeah, I’m always writing, but there’s no rush to get anything out at the moment.
Is the current political situation influencing you?
I don’t think there’s anything influential in any form of politics at the minute, just the fact that it’s all very bleak and boring! I wouldn’t say that’s an influence in any way, it’s best ignored in my point of view.
Just to touch on your music videos, they’re very expressive and potent. How involved are you with that side of things?
Quite thoroughly within the most recent campaigns and more thoroughly going forward. I think the visual side of stuff is very important as well as the music. They’re quite random so it really does depend. All of those videos have been directed by other people but I like to oversee things.
In the future, would you be interested in directing a few videos?
Yeah, definitely, but it depends on the scenario.
Finally, where next after the tour for Working Men’s Club? Is there new music on the way?
No, we’ll just be dipping for a bit. I’ll get into writing another record, I think. We’ll be putting in plans for what comes next after the tour; January’s always quiet, isn’t it? So we’ll see.
Working Men’s Club play their headline show at Manchester Academy on Saturday 26 November, and you can buy tickets here.
Fear Fear (Deluxe Edition) is out now, and you can stream it below: