Alex Turner: “The Guitar Wasn’t Getting Me Anywhere”

18 May 2018, 06:00

The Arctic Monkeys frontman has explained that his frustrating with composing on guitar was the key to the new album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.

Alex Turner claims that sound of the new Arctic Monkeys album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino came out of a frustration with composing on guitar.

The Sheffield-born musician has written some of the biggest indie-guitar-rock tunes of the past decade, but when it came to writing songs for the band’s sixth album, he felt he’d come to a halt.

“I love playing guitar, obviously. I’ve played loads of it on this record, but as a writing tool, I’d reached a point where it wasn’t getting me anywhere,” he told Radio X’s John Kennedy.

His outlook was changed by the delivery of a Steinway Vertegrand upright piano for his 30th birthday, back in 2016. “The piano is one of the things that led to this record,” he explained, adding that the instrument was “the centre of the universe” of the album.

“I don’t remember having very many ideas before I sat down at the piano. It’s not something I’d ever written on in the past, apart from once or twice.”

Star Treatment, the first track on Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, came out of an idea that Turner had while recording the second Last Shadow Puppets album, Everything You’ve Come To Expect.

The other major help Turner had while writing the new Arctic Monkeys record was his Tascam 388 8-track tape recorder, which “lives in the same room as the piano”.

Turner says of the kit: ”It’s a recording device, but I do think of it very much as a writing tool, as much as the piano is.

“There’s two records that I worked on since the last Monkeys record, one of them is the aforementioned Shadow Puppets record, and the other was the debut album of an artist called Alexandra Saviour.

“We wrote songs and made recordings on this 8-track and eventually took them to a real recording studio. Those tapes became the skeleton of it. That sort of approach was something that I very much enjoyed and seemed to be effective to me.”

Alex Turner was talking to Radio X’s John Kennedy as part of a special X-Posure album playback of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. You can read Turner’s full thoughts on each track on the LP right here.