With a brand new album Slipway Fires to promote and a world tour coming up things are pretty busy for the Razorlight boys, but guitarist Bjorn Agren took time out at their London rehearsal to chat to us about music in general, Razorlight and his new love - the Vox Virage.
It seems that music has always been an important part of Bjorn’s life. Taking inspiration from a very eclectic range of styles, he refers to music as “escape, entertainment and therapy,” and continues, “music is a very interesting art form, if you see a film it’s almost like your been guided through an emotional arch…. being forced to feel a certain way for the characters - its explicit, but music…you just listen to the words and you’ll get some sort of emotion from it. Everyone pretty much will interpret it in their own way. If I listen to Slayer, for an extreme example, I feel quite good, other people would be shouting for help! That’s the great thing - there is no right or wrong - any feeling is valid.”
When Vox last caught up with Razorlight, the band’s frontman, singer and guitarist Johnny Borrell commented that he had always been in awe of Bjorn’s guitar playing and that they both had a very instinctive understanding of the way they wanted their guitars to work with each other. This understanding is something that Bjorn thinks has grown over the years; “It’s always been that way - we’ve never discussed music at all - like how and what things should sound like - we crank it up and it just always works. It’s totally spontaneous and totally from the heart; we just do what we do”.
Doing what they do has paid off. The last release, simply titled Razorlight, shot to number 1 in the UK album charts and had top music magazine editors piling on the praise - with the editor of Q Magazine claiming that the band’s last record was “The best guitar album since Oasis’ ‘Definitely Maybe’. Razorlight rightly deserve the title of the most successful UK band of recent years and the new album is poised to make the band even bigger. “The last album was like a singles compilation, this one is much more of an album album - there’s an arc there and if you’ve heard the first single ‘wire to wire’ that’s like the sound of half the album and the other half is more classic Razorlight. We’re such distinctive players that even though the new album will have a new sound the classic sound will always be there.”
The Double Cutaway Virage is pretty prominent on all the live songs but Bjorn enthuses, “It sounds particularly good on Burberry Blue eyes. I found that if you play the pickup in single core mode and add a bit of drive on the pedal board (if you have it straight in it’s a bit too clean) so if you have it on the middle setting then you kick a bit of distortion pedal, it’s got this nice sparkle but it’s still quite meaty, which is absolutely perfect. Having said that, the best song to play and my new favourite, is Stinger, it’s great to listen to too - a weird tune”.
In preparation for the world tour Bjorn wanted a new set up and so started his research into the best new gear available, “I’d been touring with my number 1 Gibson 335 for hundreds of gigs, but after a while you start getting really precious about it so I’d been looking for something new for some time, something that would work on everything - like having 5 or 6 guitars in one. Because of this I started to read gear magazines again, which I haven’t done since I was about 13 or 14. I remember seeing this magazine with the Virage on it and thought this looks very promising. I got the magazine and I thought this is going to be perfect…it looks like a 335 but it has a smaller body, doesn’t weigh much and with the split pickup too - I thought perfect - lets give that a whirl. I’m using it on everything live now as my main guitar and I use the three-way pickup all the time, although I don’t use the humbucking mode that much as we’re not a hard rock band, but the other two I use a lot - I’m really pleased with it”.
Razorlight have famously played some huge landmark gigs, and last year headlined many of the major UK festivals but Bjorn comments, “As long as the venue is full and the crowd are up for it, it doesn’t matter what size gig it is. It could be 150 to 20,000 and be as much fun.” He knows for sure that “next year is going to be insane”. If the last few years are anything to go by I think he might be right.
Words: Grace Ryan