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A Minute With: The Arctic Monkeys, on America, old songs and synths

By Carlos Ruano and Daniel Ruiz

MADRID (Reuters) - They have recorded in America and frontman Alex Turner lives in Los Angeles and affects an Elvis look in their latest stage show, but the Arctic Monkeys remain a British rock-and-roll phenomenon.

None of the four members - all from Sheffield in northern England is even 30, but they already have five albums under their belts after surfing an Internet-built fan base to stardom - one of the first rock groups to do so.

On stage on their current tour to promote new album "AM", Turner sports an Elvis Presley-style pompadour and swivels his hips. Famed for vocals inflected with a Yorkshire accent, his spoken voice is these days overlaid by a California drawl.

While other rock groups of their generation have morphed into more electronic or synthesized sound - following the dance-floor trends of the day - the Arctic Monkeys have gone the other way, with more distorted guitar, powerful bass lines and Matt Helders's signature percussion.

They have consolidated their formula on their latest album - which ranges from ballads to psychedelic themes - and returned to the top of the British charts.

Turner and Helders spoke with Reuters in Madrid before a show at the Palacio de los Deportes arena near the beginning of a world tour that will last until the middle of next year.

Q: How did you escape from the synth-fever we had a few years ago?

Turner: Oh, synth-epidemic. I didn't know it was going on actually. We just keep taking the tablets, I suppose, drink plenty of water... It seems like when a guitar band get the synths, it's like it's not enough. That's not something that was ever on our agenda. But I'm not going to rule it out, I've got nothing against.

Q: You seem to have struck a balance between musical independence and commercial success. Does it have something to do with being on a mid-sized label?

Turner: Perhaps it has something to do with that. Laurence Bell, from Domino, who owns the company, was who came to sign us in the first place. He allowed us to try different things and ... I think working with him help us to achieve that balance you are talking about.

Q: But you feel absolutely free?

Turner: I suppose creatively, yes. I mean, I will ask for his opinion, it's welcome. It's not a situation like you hear about with a label guy in the studio saying, "I was looking for this or that."

Q: You seem to have a lot of respect for your old songs. How do you feel today when you're playing "Teddy Picker" or "Dancing Shoes"?

Turner: Some are more enjoyable that others. Sometimes it's tough to get through one of the old ones ... You know, you don't feel like that anymore. When you tell the same joke 600 times, you won't hear what it is anymore, but then sometimes like the 601st time you might see something in it you didn't before.

Q: Do you think playing in America is the gateway to international success?

Turner: I don't know because I think we're kind of relatively successful internationally, you know, tonight we're playing in this huge place and the same tomorrow.

Q: You went to record some of your albums in the States?

Turner: Originally it was just getting us far away from this kind of comfortable environment or whatever it was, some version of 'home'. The first we did over there was the third album and at that point we really wanted to tear up the rulebook and work with new people. So we went to (Queens of the Stone Age frontman) Josh Homme's studio in the desert and made that "Humbug" record and that was a massive turning point for the group. I think we needed to go there and freshen up our ideas. It was like if this band is going to continue you need to move forward.

Q: How many new guitar pedals and stuff did Joshua show you?

Helders: A lot of machines, a lot of pedals. From what I saw there was a lot of s*** there.

Turner: On the record we used a lot from his collection. He has got some tricks, yeah. I think we found a lot of the hand moves ourselves. He's got his sound but it's about trying to create your own. That was a turning point in the whole picture. Joshua helped us to plant a seed for a fruit tree which is yielding juicy plums these days.

Q: Would you say you were in the Beatles camp or the Stones?

Both: Beatles

Q: Arcade Fire, The Strokes, Vampire Weekend or Radiohead?

Both: Strokes

Q: Wes Anderson or Francis Ford Coppola?

Helders: That's a good one.

Turner: Maybe Wes Anderson but I don't know.. that Godfather film... How about that (to Helders)?

Helders: Well you can say Godfather is the best film ever made so...

(Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Michael Roddy and Robin Pomeroy)

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