In 2003 it looked as if the Cooper Temple Clause were about to become the next big thing. In fact if their bosses at Sony BMG could have had their way they might have done. However as Ben Gautrey tells Room Thirteen, this would have meant going against everything the band was about so it was time to move on. Although the split from their previous record company wasn't the sole reason for their vanishing from the face of the earth, or at least the UK bit of it, it can't have helped.

Now the band are back, with a headline gig on the V Festival fourth stage already under their belts and with a video that has seen them grab the headlines, they're clearly not wasting any time in picking up where they left off, all be it minus a member from when we last saw them.

Ahead of the release of their new single and album, Jo Vallance and I joined the orderly media queue at the offices of new home Sanctuary records for our twenty-minute window of opportunity. Aside from all the usual gubbins about label splits, loosing a band member, the new record and that video, we learnt about a Karaoke night in Japan with Dirty Pretty Things, what Ben likes to play when DJing, and why he loves England striker Peter Crouch.

R13 (SW): So how was V?
B: V Festival was an interesting one. It was the only festival we played in the UK this summer so obviously it was really good for us because we love festivals. It's the only chance you get to see other bands as when you play your own tours you're busy. Unfortunately when we played the Stafford day someone had the bright idea of pulling out the power for the right hand side of the stage so for about ten fifteen minutes half our equipment wasn't working.

R13 (SW): That's a good way to come back.
B: That was quite interesting yeah...then on the second day the water from the previous day got into our electronics. We didn't really notice until 'Panic Attack' started and we ended up with some kind of Aphex Twin meets Square Pusher beats going on.

R13 (SW): I imagine some people will have liked that though.
B: The crowd were amazing. It was great to have such phenomenal support while we were having these little technical faults.

R13 (SW): The interesting thing with V was, talking to people at the Chelmsford site people's reaction to you was "Oh yeah...forgot all about them!" Did you get a sense of that?
B: We didn't feel it as we weren't playing the main stage; we were playing a little tent so there wasn't much pressure on us for how many people were coming to see us. It was just a show for people who wanted to come and see what the band sounded like minus a member playing new songs. We didn't really feel people not knowing us or remembering who we were as the tent was full; it wasn't like this huge arena.

R13 (SW): And how has loosing Didz changed the band?
B: Um...when Didz left it was a shock, we'd all known each other from school and grown up together. The Cooper Temple Clause was just an extension of our friendship. Obviously as people grow older things happen in their lives, Didz had a little young family and moved to London while the rest of us were still based around our studio in Reading. A lot of the sessions for this album were moved to Bath and Bristol which meant Didz was having to do six hour round trips and with a baby girl he couldn't always get to the studio when he wanted to as obviously she came first. So he found it really hard, a strain not being able to contribute as much as he wanted to and we found it hard not wanting to upset him but wanting to plough on with songs and getting frustrated waiting for him to arrive at the studio. So when he said he was going to leave the band and join Dirty Pretty Things the immediate feeling was one of sadness and regret as we were going to be loosing a very dear friend who wasn't going to be as much a part of our lives anymore. But his departure gave the band a whole new lease of life, gave us a new focus as we knew we now didn't have to wait for him and we could carry on, anyone who writes songs will say the best stuff is done spontaneously and if you're waiting for someone to come and you've got all these exciting ideas it can be really frustrating and you loose momentum. We're just happy that he's happy with Dirty Pretty Things and ultimately it's worked out better for us as a five piece, and live as well as we're sounding more focused and better than we did when we were a six piece.

R13 (JV): Now that you're signed to Sanctuary, do you feel more comfortable and that you're not being pushed to be more commercial?
B: Definitely. There were a number of reasons why things started to go sour with Sony BMG. We signed to a completely different bunch of people, they all left and new people came in. Initially it was OK but then we started getting pressure from them to get stylists and change how we were as a band, what we stood for, the kind of songs we wrote. It was very clear in the last few months that what Sony BMG wanted from Cooper Temple Clause and what we were as a band were miles apart. It was an arduous and on going process to get us off the label. Eventually, luckily they let us go and take our recordings with us and not just release a single with out any care and dump us which to my mind was what happened to Hope of the States and why they broke up, through a lot of bitterness with their label and the way they were treated. Luckily we managed to get off that, there were some people there we liked but the majority we had no idea about them and they had no idea about us. Definitely coming to Sanctuary has reinvigorated us because it's people who care and know what we're about and know what the songs are about. It's been a while since we've been able to work with people like that.

R13 (SW): Is that why there was such a big gap then between your last album and this one?
B: There's many reasons. We went to America for a few tours and to promote our album and that's obviously out of the public profile. Then we started doing demos with one producer and then we went and worked with another producer Chris Hughes. Then Didz left and we did a few tours to see if we could function as a five piece or if we had to re-evaluate and get another member in. Then the mixes we had done for the album weren't sounding quite right and so we were looking for the right mixes and we had to wait a bit of time. Then there was a lot of head scratching on both sides with Sony BMG and us, yeah part of the reason we took so long was Sony BMG but it wasn't the sole contributing factor or even the main contributing factor. It's just that we've spent a lot of time trying to make this album right, right for us and not make the same album again and really try and push ourselves and try and make people who are aware of Cooper Temple Clause surprised by what direction we've gone in.

R13 (SW): And so for that reason what would you say is the most exciting aspect of the new record?
B: I think the range of depth that we've managed to achieve. In terms of when we started this album we just wanted to get a better sense of melody evident in the whole album. After a lot of songwriting, homing our songwriting craft with Chris Hughes when we just stripped it down to just an acoustic guitar and the vocals which we'd never done before, we'd always built layers upon layers of sonic sound and then put lyrics and melodies on top, this album gives people a clearer indication of what we are as a band, Tom and Dan do some of the singing it's not just me, and all five of us write collectively, lyrics and the music. I think that's what we're all immensely proud of.

R13 (SW): You talk about stripping it all down yet you've come back with arguably your heaviest song.
B: Yeah...the process of choosing a single is always really hard because you make an album and then someone's asking you to pick something that represents the whole thing. There isn't one song that represents the whole sound of it. We asked lots of different people, friends, family, people we work with at Sanctuary what they thought...

R13 (SW): And they all said different things.
B: Yeah we all picked different ones. It was our radio plugger who took the initiative and said we should come back with 'Homo Sapiens', which we'd never even considered could be a single from the album. I guess he perhaps thought it was the best bridge from where we were, to where we are now and would serve the purpose of not maybe setting the world alight but reintroducing people to the fact that Cooper Temple Clause are still a band and have a new album coming out. I think it's the closest sounding thing to where we were, but on this album there's the most delicate acoustic numbers we've ever done. There's a song called 'Take Comfort' which was recorded in half a day.

R13 (JV): The uncensored video for 'Homo Sapiens' is pretty extreme, where did that misanthropy come from?
B: We always loathed the idea of just being a band in a dark and dingy room and being filmed and it's raining. We always think that shouldn't happen and the video should have a link to the song. 'Homo Sapiens' is basically a comment on the world leaders of today, or certainly western world leaders and what they place as important and I guess their arrogance in assuming that the human is so much elevated above every other species, when the most fundamental things in the world are water, the planet...not to sound like some kind of ecowarrior...most important things are water, the environment yet we're going to war with people over oil, basicly the arrogance of man really, just a comment on that. We were given lots of different scripts for a video and the one we went with we thought tied in well with the song as it's about abuse of power. We wanted to be seen to be shooting politicians we thought were abusing power, perhaps people in the military, lawyers, factory owners, we wanted people to rally behind us and say "yeah come on come on we're with you". The ending is where we get killed ourselves because we're no better than the people we're shooting. It's quite hard to get all that into a three and a half minute video so people might be quite confused about the message but basically we're just trying to comment on people we think abuse power. Obviously not every politician abuses their power and not every member of the military abuses power but there is examples of where people do.

R13 (JV): Is there still a personal aspect or aspect of yourself in your songs because it seems a lot of them are commenting on situations or painting scenarios?
B: I guess 'Homo Sapiens' is a personal comment on where we come from as there's a lot of anger towards the people who are meant to be in control of all of our lives. I guess that's the most overtly political song on the album. The rest of the album is the common themes...I guess loss really. Tom and Dan both broke up from long-term girlfriends and so it's about relationships and starting again really.

R13 (JV): You released 'Damage' as a legal download, what do you think of illegal downloading as a possible breach of trust?
B: I don't know. You kind of speak for yourself as a music fan, there's downloads that I've heard and acquired and if it's a download I like then I'll always go out and buy it as I'm a sucker for the packaging and being able to hold it in your hands. We're not like Lars Ulrich and say it's wrong because it happens and we did it ourselves when we were kids. I think a lot of people if they download something they like they wanna go and buy it and show their support for a band. Also we've been found out about in places like Lithuania, we've had emails from this guy who's downloaded our stuff illegally and it means it's getting your music to places it wouldn't otherwise do. For that reason we're behind it and people are gonna come to your gigs if they like your songs.

R13 (SW): It might inspire somebody to pick you over somebody else at a festival.
B: Exactly, we're not against it at all.

R13 (SW): Your band mates are off in another part of the UK DJing, how much of that do you do?
B: I do it sometimes. Tom and John are really good. I remember about five years ago when we were in the process of getting signed we went to Trash a few times. It just so happened the times we were there we always saw Solewax and got friendly with them and were just blown away by how good they were as DJs. Then as the years progressed we'd be in New York or somewhere and we'd find we were not people who'd make a lot of money but be very much in demand as DJs.

R13 (SW): What kind of stuff do you play? I've seen you live a couple of times but never as DJs.
B: Me and (Dan) Fisher when we DJ we're pretty selfish, we don't really play stuff we know will get people on the dancefloor, we just play songs we'd like to hear really loud: Weezer, Radiohead, Bowie, Kraftwerk. Tom and John they play remixes by all different sorts of people, a lot of LCD Soundsystem, that song 'Yeah' always goes down well towards the end of a set. They've got an unbelievable thirst for new music, it's not at all indie, there's no guitars, it's all beats and electronic. Maybe I should start to get them to post their sets on our website.

R13 (SW): Some of your band are off doing a gig for Oxjam, how did that come about?
B: When we were at V we did an NME signing tent and some guy approached us on the way up there and spoke to Kieron about it, about what they were doing and what they were hoping to do with it and asked if we'd be willing to lend our support. We're only doing a little amount but they seem very happy with it, we'd like to do more if we had time. It's small things like doing this Oxjam DJ set tonight and charging people on our guest list so they're not getting in free and the money goes to Oxfam.

R13 (JV): You started your own label Morning Records, are there any young bands you'd be interested in?
B: We've been asked a few times, at the moment it's not really viable for us to sign anyone to Morning because we're just so busy ourselves and we wouldn't be able to offer these people anything or give them any time. That's what you really need in a band, you need people around you that are gonna be there for you and offer support when you need it. We're not looking to sign anyone.

R13 (JV): If you had the time is there anyone you'd be interested in?
B: Personally I can't think of any unsigned bands that I've heard...

R13 (SW): Sign Dirty Pretty Things then you can be Didz' boss.
B: (laughs) Er...I don't think Didz deals very well with authority. We saw him at Fuji and it was really good. When you're in a band you have very little time to see your friends and when your friends with someone who's also in a band the only time you get to see them is at a festival. It just so happened we played the Fuji Festival, I think the only time I've seen Didz since he left the band was in this bar in Tokyo, it's a long way across the world to see one of your friends. We had a great time with them, spent several hours just us and them in the karaoke booth.

R13 (SW): What do you do on the karaoke?
B: Well what was discovered that night was that Fisher from Cooper Temple Clause is probably the best Elvis impersonator in the world, Gary from Dirty Pretty Things can do a mean Jefferson Airplane 'White Rabbit' and Didz doesn't need the words scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen to sing Elastica.

R13 (SW): Final thing I wanted to ask, I was reading on your online journal about your gig in Sheffield, that night will be remembered for watching Peter Crouch score an amazing goal in the European Cup, does that mean you're a red?
B: No, why you're a blue are you?

R13 (SW): No red.
B: Liverpool fan...I like Peter Crouch, think he's fantastic. I just like the way he's come back from everyone booing him and hating him and now he seems indispensable to the England team.

R13 (SW): Who do you support then?
B: Oh well...if you've got time...I used to support Wimbledon and they became a franchise and moved to Milton Keynes. I don't support Milton Keynes Dons or AFC Wimbledon so I'm clubless unfortunately.

R13 (SW): You'll just have to pin you're allegencies to Reading now.
B: Na I'm not a glory hunter so I can't do that...

And with the girls in the room (Jo and the press officer) starting to get bored with the football talk that was the interview brought to it's close.

'Homo Sapiens', the new single from Cooper Temple Clause is released on October 23, with a UK tour running throughout this month. The album is set to follow early 2007.

You can watch the video to 'Homo Sapiens' on