NEW YORK — When the members of Franz Ferdinand were introduced to Kanye West backstage at the MTV Europe Music Awards in the fall, the rapper buttered the Glaswegians up and then grilled drummer Paul Thomson about his "grimy" beats on the band's self-titled 2004 debut. Really, West was looking for pointers — and his interrogation was, essentially, the record industry equivalent of asking a magician how he pulled off his dazzling tricks.
West, who's dubbed the band's sound "white crunk," has openly acknowledged that Franz are not only his favorite bunch of rockers, but that the band's sound shaped, in several subtle ways, the feel of his forthcoming disc, Late Registration. And according to Franz frontman Alex Kapranos, the feeling's mutual.
"A lot of [Kanye's] production has been inspirational for us on this new record," he said. "The approach to the recording is revolutionary, and he's been a big influence on us. There's a confidence in that kind of recording that you often don't find in the recordings of [rock] bands. I think it's just having the guts to take a melody and turn it right up and say, 'This is the tune, it's really catchy — why don't you just listen to it?' "
That's not to suggest that Franz will "crunk" things up on their forthcoming second album, which they've been mixing at New York's Avatar Studios in recent weeks. But the band's approach to the recording process has changed, to some degree.
"With this record, we've managed to realize more of what we were trying to do with the first record," Kapranos explained. "It's almost like with the first record, we had ambitions of what it was we wanted to get down, and we had five minutes to scrabble at them and get them there. With this record, we feel like we've managed to get to a few places that we didn't quite get to the last time."
Scheduled for an October 4 release, Franz's second offering will feature a dozen tracks, including "The Falling," "I'm Your Villain," "You Could Have It So Much Better," "Outsiders" and "Walk Away." What the record won't have is a name — much like Weezer's first and third albums, Franz's will be self-titled, and its cover will feature a different color scheme.
"Something we decided right at the beginning was that we weren't going to give any of our records titles," said Kapranos. "So this record isn't going to have a title either. If anything, they'll be identified by the three different colors that you find on each of the records." This time around, those colors are black, red and green (rather than brown, orange and cream).
Franz recorded much of the album in Kapranos' home in Dennistoun, Scotland, intentionally avoiding the starched, stilted atmosphere of a professional studio (see "Franz Ferdinand's Second LP Might Make You Feel Inexplicably Happy").
"We started hanging around with each other the same way we did when we first got the band together — at each other's houses, picking up guitars, writing tunes whenever we wanted to," he said. "We wanted to make sure we didn't lose that side of the band. We got the band together because it was a fun social thing to do. It should always be fun and thrilling to be in a band, and we made sure we kept that."
One of the disc's standout cuts, the Ric-Ocasek-if-he-fronted-Of-Montreal dance track "Do You Want To?," is slated to be the first single, Kapranos revealed. The band's recruited Diane Martel, who has worked with Method Man, Gang Starr, N.E.R.D. and another Franz fan, Snoop Dogg (see "Move Over, Pharrell: Snoop's Next Dawgs Are ... Franz Ferdinand!?"), to helm the video, which will be shot next month in New York. Franz — Kapranos, Thomson, bassist Bob Hardy and guitarist Nick McCarthy, who'll tie the knot on Saturday — specifically wanted a hip-hop director to preside over the shoot.
"With 'Do You Want To?,' we were just trying to capture a particular event and a particular mood that you find at a certain kind of party we used to go to and still go to in Glasgow," Kapranos said. "There's this air of crazy, reckless abandonment you get at these kinds of occasions, and a certain air of unpredictability. You always get those conversations with people, but they're not really conversations, because the music's so loud and the sound of everybody around you is so loud, you just get things shouted in your ear."
The song's lyrics are, as Kapranos explained, a word-for-word transcription of "some of the things that were shouted in my ear while I was at this particular party, and I'm just recounting what someone else said to me."
The track "Turn It On" is much darker, in contrast, and was inspired by the delusional musings of a Franz fan.
"One of the members of the band got a letter from somebody who had a particular take on that individual's communication with them," the singer said. "They felt that this guy in our band was sending them messages through our songs, and that's what that song is about. It wasn't just one particular song on our first album. This person thought there was a direct communication between them and a member of the band."
The track "Walk Away," Kapranos said, captures not only the immediacy, the vigor and energy of poppy rock music, but addresses the "grander sides of life, those kinds of emotions that feel like you've been hit by lightning and just knocked out on the ground — those emotions that leave you winded, like you'll never see life the same way again."
Kapranos feels that the band's danceable sound has evolved with this second record, but that the group never once loses sight of those essential ingredients that shaped its first LP.
"There are certain raw elements which made up our group and we've kept the whole of them, because if you lose site of those basic things, you'll end up careening off the track," he said. "We built the idea of this group upon rhythm, the idea that we wanted to create music you could dance to, with the same dynamics and energy that you hear in a club when you're dancing to electronic music. We wanted to keep that element, but we're also expanding on that."
The band will launch a North American tour on September 20 that will end on October 18.