Blood Red Shoes' Steven Ansell: “The punk kid in me wants to ruffle more feathers”

(Image credit: Stefan Hoederath/Redferns)

“My main inspiration for taking up drums was being bored of guitar,” explains Steven Ansell. 

From slinging riffs in punk rock bands, Ansell discovered his true calling for battering the skins when he formed Blood Red Shoes with Laura-Mary Carter. 

The raucous duo just released their fifth album, Get Tragic, on their own Jazz Life label. Note: they don’t play jazz.

You’re a self-taught player? 

 “Yeah. I don’t know anything about anything technical. People sometimes ask me questions about something I did, I’m like, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about, man. I just hit the damn thing.’ 

“Laura is self-taught on the guitar, so there’s this perfect unity where we both just operate on instinct and chemistry.”

How did your work with producer Nicolas Launay on Get Tragic go?

“We were trying to reinvent our sound, to explore new places, to take influence from more electronic and synth-led music. He pushed us further down that road, so on some songs he made rules like, ‘You’re not allowed to put any drums on this.’ 

“There’s one track where I programmed the drum beat, and another track, ‘Find My Own Remorse’, we went to an electronic producer and said, ‘Send us some beats for this track,’ and I just didn’t play drums.”

When you first go into the studio, I think every band finds it a bit sterile, a bit stifling, stiff and sensible.

Were you nervous about fans’ reaction to the new sound?

“I wasn’t nervous, I was excited because I wanted to freak people out. I actually kind of wanted to piss people off. 

“Reaction from our fans has been really good and reviews have been really good. That’s really cool, but the punk kid in me wanted to ruffle more feathers than it did.”

How has your approach to recording changed?

“Piece by piece we’ve learned a lot about using the studio. When you first go into the studio, I think every band finds it a bit sterile, a bit stifling, stiff and sensible. Over time you start to learn the things you can achieve in the studio that you can’t do live and these extra possibilities become quite creative. 

“Gradually we learned that we have ideas that are much bigger than what we’re capable of playing as a two-piece, so let’s not worry about the fact that we’re a two-piece and let’s do whatever sounds cool.”

What has been the highlight of life with Blood Red Shoes?

“There is this French director called Olivier Dahan, he directed La Vie En Rose. He turned out to be a big fan of our band and he invited us over to this completely insane party in Paris where they were demolishing a seven-storey hotel. 

“Keith Richards was there, Johnny Depp was there, and he was making a film about the demolition, so he wanted to shoot us reading poetry in this room whilst people were throwing TVs out windows and smashing it. 

“It got so out of hand they had to evacuate the building and they lost the footage. It’s still one of the craziest things that ever happened to me.”