The rock band Tindersticks are currently promoting their latest album The Hungry Saw on a European tour that takes them to Prague’s Archa theatre next Wednesday. For the group’s David Boulter the Prague show will be something of a homecoming, as the English-born piano-player and keyboardist has been living here in the Czech capital for the last decade.
When I met Boulter recently we discussed his life in Prague. But first: why the five-year delay between Tindersticks previous album Waiting for the Moon and the Hungry Saw?
“I think the reason for having such a long gap was we kind of…not really split up but we just stopped. We got to a point where we got a bit bored with ourselves in some way and we just had to stop for a while and have a break, and try and discover what it was we liked about our music, and if we wanted to carry on making it, really.”
When did you realise that you did want to carry on making your music?
“I’ve known Stuart, the singer, for such a long time…he did two solo albums in between and I carried on working with him on those albums, so we talked about it a lot. And then I think we were still very much excited by each other as musicians. I think there’s a certain trust you get when you’ve known somebody so long, you kind of can second guess what they’re doing. Which is one of the reasons why maybe it gets a bit boring sometimes, and we needed the break. But it just felt like we’d spent most of our lives doing this and it just wasn’t the time to say goodbye to it.”
Stuart Staples lives in France I believe, [guitarist] Neil Fraser lives in the UK, you live here – how does that work, having a band living in three different countries?
“It’s not so bad these days. I suppose I’m used to it because I’ve been living here so long that travel has been an issue for quite a long time. You just have to be careful about being productive with the time you spend together. I travel to Stuart’s at least once a month and we spend a few days either working on projects or just some new ideas.”
Tindersticks have always been popular around the continent. Do you feel more like a European band, now that you don’t live in the UK?
“The strange thing is that since I left, I think on a personal level, as soon as I left the UK I just started to realise how English I am. Because you just realise how different everybody is. No matter how European you can want to be, you still come from where you come from. It’s very hard to lose that. I think as a band we’ve always had this feeling that there was something more out there. Even when we were being recognised and people were really into us in the UK, we were more concerned with what was going on in the rest of the world, especially Europe. And it was really nice to be able to do that – especially getting a tour around Europe with Nick Cave, which really gave us an audience and was a nice way to start.”
Which was way back in the early to mid 1990s, I guess?
“Yeah, that was in 1993. We actually did a tour of Europe with Nick Cave before our first album came out, so it was very early. But it did mean that when the album came out we could go back to places like Prague and Paris and a lot of places around Europe where people had already heard of us because there had been some kind of publicity about it.”
Was that time you came here in ’93 with Nick Cave your first time in this city, in Prague?
“Yes, it was. I think a lot of us didn’t really travel that much as youngsters, so when the band took off its when we started to see a lot of places. And even though it had been three or four years since everything had changed Prague was still a very different place culturally, and I suppose financially as well.”
What are you strongest impressions of Prague as it was in those days, back in ’93?
“I think the biggest thing was being vegetarian and being given choices of things like the fried cheese, and strange salads – you asked for a salad and you got grated cabbage or grated carrot. But it’s very different now. I think the way everybody looked – everybody still had the slightly…foreign, east European look, it was very different. Whereas now I think [Czechs] just look like a lot of other Europeans.”
Tindersticks released their classic debut album back in 1993 and in those days were the toast of the UK rock press. But the fashion-driven British music magazines tend to lose interest in most artists after a couple of years. Is it hard to maintain your enthusiasm a decade and a half after first making a splash?
“We kind of tried to ignore that when it was happening anyway. And I suppose it kind of felt like a natural progression, to move away from being in the headlines of the NME to…I think now we get more like features in the Guardian, which feels like a natural progression in a way for our kind of music. And we still do a lot of t things that feel important to us, we don’t feel as though anything’s diminishing in some way. I mean it’d be great if it was like a mushroom and was always growing, but at least it’s at a level that keeps us satisfied in some way.
“Making music is something I started when I was maybe 14 in my bedroom, and I think even in my 40s if everybody lost interest I’d still be sat in my bedroom making music. And that’s basically why I carry on doing it, really.”
Tell us about your relationship with Prague. What brought you here?
“I always really liked the city as a different place to go. But I suppose the biggest thing was getting married. My wife is Czech. At the time I was living in London and starting to get a bit tired of it.
“It was just after the Brit-pop thing and London started to feel like you’d have to go out there and really attack it if you really wanted to. I was living in my little area for lots and lots of money and at that time Prague was very cheap, and getting married it really just felt like a good time to see somewhere else.”
And how have you found the experience of living here over the last decade?
“I still really enjoy it. I still think it’s a great city to live in. It’s very lively, it’s very small, it’s very beautiful, it’s very easy to use and it works. There’s always something new that I find about the place, just walking around, I always turn a corner into an old street I haven’t seen before, or something’s changed about it."
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