Q Magazine March 2007[photogallery/photo00029358/real.htm]
I Refuse to say Fuck Bush.
The Killers man:practising Mormon, condom salesman, insists upon washing his own underpants.
Manchester Apollo after the soundcheck Brandon Flowers wants to do his laundry. Flowers is certainly one of the most curious characters in rock a small town Mormon who found his salvation listening to Morrissey with his band The killers he has brought a double dose of glamour and drama back into music-first with the Brit influenced insouciance of their debut album hot fuss, and then via the passionate cinemascope Americana of it's successor Sam's town.
Stardom of course, allows eccentricity it's head so tonight he wants to do laundry. Won't the hotel do it?" I don't like it, he half giggles, quietly offstage he's a slightly shy, slight man, thin in his black jacket and skinny trousers. There was a washing accident in Barcelona: he has lost trust with hotel laundry.
To wind up the soundcheck the band murder Dire Straits Romeo and Juliet guitarist Dave Keuning is struggling with his part: Flowers voice is raw He's picked up a bug on the road (Romeo and Juliet is another act of downbeat eccentricity. Flowers knows it's not a fashionable song but has fallen in love with it.)
Afterwards we drive halfway across town to the MEN Arena where George Michael is taking a night off from his three night stand there. There is a washing machine there Flowers patiently loads his socks and pants into the giant machine and presses buttons.
As idiosyncrasies go it's a charming one he likes to do these things himself. It helps keep him sane along with the calls home to his wife Tana.with hot fuss flowers looked like a man from a small town upbringing reveling in the discovery of metropolitan weirdness now with Sam's town, an album set broadly in Las Vegas the theme is of coming back home, the weird boy made good, and trying to save himself. Machine on he sits, coughing quietly.
You stopped drinking. What was that about?
I don't know I stopped smoking too It's been three weeks.
So now you get a cough. It's classic,isnt it?
It seems that your body's cleansing..It's hard I smell the crew smoking It smells so good.
What Brought stopping drinking on, then?
I think it causes my wife alot of pain. Her family too, And she hears stories. And my mom went through it with my dad.
Your dad was an alcoholic before he turned to religion,wasnt he?
Your song This River is wild has this idea of a thing that can always drag you down, drag you under. Does that relate to your father and his alcoholism?
I wasn't really thinking about him on that one think it's a little bit of him, but it's an idea of overcoming and transforming.
Did that weigh heavily on your mind? There's the idea that alcoholism is genetic
Yeah..and my dad's dad was an alcoholic. It's a strange thing to think it's in my genes but I believe it is.I think I use that as an enabler which is not really the best thing to do I mean it's a great excuse.
You miss drinking then?
(laughs uproariously) It's harder to sleep at night.
You put out a Christmas song. A great big sled for Bono's charity Red on ITunes.You mentioned you wrote it in your sleep. It's not the first time is it?
No. It's not. Salvador Dali would hold coins in his hand before he went to sleep so he would wake up just when he started to go to sleep or something, I've had dreams of entire songs.Parts,solos,chorus.Enterlude is the only one I really remembered It's strange it's fun.
I bet you wish you knew what people would have thought if you hadn't called it "one of the best albums of the last 20 years", too.
Ha ha yeah I regret the backlash it's created but it is one of the best albums of the last 20 years that's not a ridiculous comment.
Hot Fuss had a really European flavour,and then you came to tour it in Europe at a time when anti-American feeling was at an all time high because of the war. Did that make you think about what being an American is?
Kind of. it even started before that I'd never had a passport before I came here. None of us had ever left and leaving made us realize how American we were. But then I started to notice the way I was treated I refuse to say "Fuck George Bush" If there's a herd of people, you say "fuck" and you are the greatest thing you could be the opening band and you'll get a bigger reaction than The Killers if you say "fuck".It's easy so I refuse to say it And I notice bands saying literally, I'm sorry we're from America.
You grew up in this tiny Utah town of Nephi and discovered Britain through Morrissey and the pet shop boys. What did you imagine Britain to be like?
I can't really explain it I got that it might be overcast a lot.I don't know It was just magical to me that was it. I realize now it was because it was so far away and so unreachable
You must have thought Nephi was stiffling.you left at 16 to go to Las Vegas.
It was. Nephi has only recently got its first spotlight. There just wasn't anybody there for me. I had friends but then the music thing happened and that made me feel separate I wasn't an outcast, No one was mean to me I just didn't want to go and see Korn after school. I hated the offspring. I'll never forget my mom cooking for me my last night in the house. It was difficult.
It didn't stop you leaving though?
No. but it was bad it was horrible. It wasn't much better in Las Vegas though Laughs I went from school that had 350 kids to one that had 3000 one that had been built as a penitentiary I was in a school with alot of gangs in Vegas. We had bloods and the whole bit. The Mexican kids were the Morrissey fans (the singer has a fervent Latino following in the us)Theyd come at me with pompadours see me in a Morrissey shirt and they'd wave to me, but they were also violent, so I kept my distance that was funny.
You were interested in violence, you've written four songs about murders: Jenny was a friend of mine, midnight show, leave the bourbon on the shelf, and Where is she?
I know exactly where it's from "I love the romance of crime" (from Morrissey's sister imp a poet) from that line..Just growing up and hearing that all the time. I can't escape it. Morrissey owns a piece of my brain.
Was it anything to do with Nephi being on of those towns where crime never happens?
Yeah the biggest thing when I was in Nephi was that one car got stolen. In seven years I was there. one car.
And they never found out that you'd taken it?
Yep and I'm still driving it (laughs)
What was your biggest disappointment with Britain when you finally got there?
I didn't know what I expected our first trip to England was great. It was September of 2003 and you had a heatwave and it was in the 90s and we stayed at the Columbia hotel, so I was in heaven it was," oasis wrote a song (Columbia) about this place and were staying in London." Nothings let me down Its just that vie come to realize that it's just a place with people...
Just like where you're from
Yeah but you people write those catchy songs why do British people do that?
Because we love pop music. In America the critics are afraid of pop music. Rolling stone tends to look down at anything that's too popular.
Rolling stone? They gave Paris Hilton more stars than they gave us.
That's just them trying to be postmodern.
(laughs) I'm disgusted with it. I'm so upset.
Bruce Springsteen is one of the touchstones of this album. He's a political animal. But your not.
No I don't think I know enough. That's a big weight to put on my shoulders. It's getting heavy for me now just to succeed still. We've got to prove ourselves I want to sell more records than with Hot Fuss with Sam's Town. even if it's just to prove rolling stone wrong (laughs)
Or is it that you have a vastly unfashionable political opinion you're too ashamed to express?
No not really.no.I wouldn't say that I'm getting onstage every night singing "somebody told me that you had a boyfriend that looks like a girlfriend", so..
You admire Bono:he feels quite at ease making political statements.
Maybe it will come later. I'm just able to grow facial hair for the first time in my life so maybe...
Your facial hair has been noted widely...
Did you know it had so much significance?
No I didn't realize I think it's good. When we've finished sums town. I'm going to cut it off put it in a envelope and send it to Neil Tennant (tennant warned that flowers growing facial hair was a misplaced attempt to be taken seriously as an artist)
Hotels are another theme of sam's town. they surround you in Vegas. you worked in them. the live show starts with Entrlude and you singing "we hope you enjoy your stay.."
I think it's just something that was around. I don't know how many times I've seen." we hope you enjoy your stay with us" so it just made sense when we created sams town.
Hotels are funny. they are kind of outside any geography and outside any morality too. was that something you noticed when you worked as a hotel porter in vegas?
Yeah.we had a lot of things happen. There were a lot of hookers and escort services.pimps.weird people I mean, the whole bit.canes and cadillacs,purple trenchcoats.One time a guy tried to kill himself and he didn't succeed he shot one of his eyes out. he was crawling through the hallways screaming I wasn't the one who stumbled across him in the hallway so I didn't see him.
It must make for good theatre
Yeah I got to watch. one time I got a call from someone saying "could you buy me some condoms?" going up there into the room..people on beds..i'd never seen anything like it.
Did you get a good tip?
yeah I got a 20
Las Vegas is all about carnal sin. did you ever explore that?
I tried I didn't succeed. I just went round with my cousin going to concerts or swimming pools for some reason that was a lot more fun and a lot less exhausting that chasing girls.
I tried things but it was never a big thing I never became an addict.youre 14 years old you start listening to bob Marley you've got to try marijuana its a rule. now I know it makes me lazy and I don't like that feeling (pause) I was 15 I kind of embellished there...
As a Mormon weren't you supposed to go on a "mission" to a foreign country, knocking on doors...?
yeah it's something you're supposed to do. If your 19 and you're worthy. there's not even a question about it. My brother went to Chile. but at 19 I'd just bought hunky dory I meet people all the time who say" I was raised mormon"like"i was raised Mormon and I'm cool now" they don't know that I'm still into it. I think its a great thing to question it at that point and now I'm back it means alot more than if I just did what I was told .I think it's ok to question it a little bit.
You want your band to be one of the biggest in the world but you're married (his wife Tana is a convert to Mormonism) you want to have kids. are those ambitions at war with each other?
Yeah but I'm learning to do what makes me happy and makes my wife happy. because I obviously have something that makes me want to do this. You know I'd give it up if she asked-which she never would. I want to be a navigator we've found all the land on earth already there's no more to look for, so I'm just looking for songs I guess.
Mormonism is perceived as anti-gay anything that goes against procreation is supposedly the work of the devil. but you're fascinated by the gay pop culture your fans include Neil Tennant and Elton John.
I don't really think about it. I don't judge anybody I mean for some reason I think vie always been a fan of gay popstars.the happiest time of my life was driving to san Francisco one time with my dad in our geo merto,playing Elton john Otis Redding and buddy holly. we just listened to them over and over. goodbye yellow brick road and Daniel. It's about the happiest time of my life I didn't care if Elton was gay..or I didn't know.
Some fans assumed you were gay-until your marriage sort of disapproved that. how did that feel?
I felt like I was doing my job. I'm a huge David Bowie and Morrissey fan. I'm doing something right here and then...I don't know. It wore off I realize how much work it must be to keep up something like that. people have done it. I don't want to do it I just know I tried it for an album and I'm done (laughs) so forgive me. I love my wife if I want to have kids it's not something I wanted to play around (pause) I wasn't even trying to do it it was just something that happened.
Three days later in Newcastle. Flowers is uneasy about the last part of the interview we did in Manchester. The whole religion and gay thing I have a lot of gay friends I want to stay away from the religion thing. I don't want to offend anyone he says,wearily.He knows this is dangerous ground he trying hard to be as honest and as open as he can, but it's hard. Since we last met the news has broken that the killers are planning to cover Dire Straits song with label mate Johnny Borrell "it's not set in stone," says flowers "it depends if we have time to finish the song.and on how he feels about it." they've just finished rehearsing it again. In the interevening two days, something has clicked dramatically. We find a small backstage room to continue the interview.
Journalists refer to the other killers as "the frizzy one"," the happy one", and "the gloomy one"
Yeah (laughs) I think you nailed it. we have four really different personalities you know that Ronnie (vannucci drums) is more boisterous and funny, and Mark (stoermer,bass)is so silent-there's a lot of truth to him being kind of grumpy. And Dave(keuning,guitar) is kind of a future astronaut. his heads already there. he's just waiting to take his body there. He's on a list to go to space.
He's going to be a space tourist? What a fine ambition.
Yeah but not for me. I don't like airplanes as it is.
Despite being quite shy sometimes, you're described as arrogant.
I think we're ambitious and people aren't used to that any more. you grow up and your told anything's possible to reach for the stars. but you know when somebody's doing it they get slapped on the hands and that's strange. I guess your supposed to do it quietly.
In 2005 you joined U2 onstage when they played Vegas. What goes through your head when you're singing onstage next to Bono?
Man, I was just on a roller coaster. we had just sold all these records, I was in the studio with (Actung baby co-producer Flood) and if U2's coming to town we just call someone and we get to go. Last time I saw U2 I paid $100 for a ticket from a scalper. four years later I'm at a bar with Bono and these guys "why don't you come to the soundcheck tomorow?We'll figure the song out." I can't explain how..you get so immune to it. U2 are just great.theyre so loveable and they knew what my favorite U2 song was. You cant beat it when I come home that's the song my wife plays In a little while by U2.as well as home and dry by the pet shop boys. she gets it on right away and that's my song. and I'm singing it with Bono and my wife gets to sit in the front row watching me do it.
Famously you met Morrissey when you were working at spago restaraunt in Vegas. but there must have been more famous customers than that
I did Celine Dion,Mike Tyson,the Reverend Al Sharpton
Did that teach you anything about fame?
Well I didn't realize the lesson I learned from Morrissey at the time but I do now. He didn't deal with me in a bad way. but his bodyguards did I know now it's ridiculous taking a guy a pizza and telling him how much you love him. As a kid you don't know that. now I make sure not to embarrass people who approach me
Were you embarrassed?
Sure, Afterwards he was sat in his private dining room and he could see directly in to the kitchen where I'd be making an iced tea or cutting bread. and he'd look at me and wed lock eyes and both look away. he was probably watching what I was doing with that knife. I understand that now.
That night onstage in his saloon tender's suit, under the white bulbs that proclaim the words sams town the killers hold Newcastle rapt.Flowers stage presence half carny king half rock god, is electrifying but if threes always something edgy about his performance. it's contained in the fact that he's never quite what we expect him to be. he is a genuine eccentic.his stardom all the more potent for the slight sense of unease he projects in among all the brilliant moody stagecraft.All the way through he maintains an aloofness a distance you can see shy he was so attracted to the emotionally awkward Morrissey After Exitlude he pauses before leaving the stage "I feel so much love coming from you Newcastle" he says "if I had time I'd come down and give each of you a hug," he announces only half convincingly.