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Niall Doherty

“Michael Stipe told me to see an acupuncturist”: Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis on the best advice he’s received from his alt-rock forebears

Foals' Yannis Philippakis in 2019.

In the great big circle of rock life, each generation of bands passes their wisdom and pitfall warnings onto the next. The person they are telling usually don’t listen and their band splits up over a row about which flavour of Doritos to have on their rider but still, it happens nonetheless. Dance-y indie-rock quartet Foals have now been around long enough to pass on their own tales to the next wave of bands just as they received themselves – a couple of years ago, frontman Yannis Philippakis told this writer all about some of the advice he’d been given from his elders.

“Michael Stipe told me to see a reflexologist or acupuncturist,” he began, stating that he’d been talking to the R.E.M. frontman about how brutal touring was for his body. “At the time, I’d get back to Oxford and go straight to the pub. I wouldn’t know how to stop the tour, it would continue with me at home in a way that I’ve learned better now. Michael Stipe said the way to do that is you have to allow yourself to be ill when you get home, go and see acupuncturist and release all this stuff. I didn’t ever do it but I liked the advice.”

Philippakis said that another artist whose knowledge he readily accepted was that of Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, who he bumped into in the midst of a heavy partying period. “I saw him at Lollapalooza festival in Chicago and I just felt pretty mangled,” he recounted. “I felt quite far away from myself. The stage self and the touring self and the boisterous self is quite different from the person I'm at home and I felt very far removed when I saw him and weirdly I had this craving to go to these Greek monasteries. He encouraged me to do it and I did, when we finished touring I went to this very remote kind of monastic thing and it was amazing.”

The guidance he got from Damon Albarn was more practical. Philippakis said he wanted to know how the Blur and Gorillaz man could juggle so many projects, wanting to expand his own musical horizons in a similar way. “He just said, ‘First question – do you have a PA?’. I said, ‘No, I don’t’ and he said that’s how you make it work. You get somebody to help you with the organisation to keep you ticking over.”

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