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Franz Ferdinand retreats to clubhouse to make ‘Always Ascending’

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Alex Kapranos, second from left, brings Franz Ferdinand to the Fox Theater this week. (Courtesy Cara Robbins)

Clubhouses are of paramount importance to any solid gang. That’s why Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos put a lot of effort into securing his, a secluded live-work studio in southwest Scotland an hour’s drive outside of his native Glasgow. It’s where the group — still flummoxed by the amicable departure of founding guitarist Nick McCarthy two years ago to raise his family — disappeared for most of 2016, and found a new energy and commitment in the retro-chic synth rock of its 2018 album “Always Ascending.”

“My studio is in a small village, and I tend not to give out the name because I don’t want people coming by,” says the singer, who brings Franz Ferdinand to Oakland this week. “But if you walk out the back door of my house and keep on walking, you’ll walk for about 25 miles without hitting another human, and if you walk in the other direction, you’ll hit a pub in about five minutes. So that’s the perfect balance for me. And it’s where we hung out, lived together in the same place, and for us, it was the best way to work.”

As a kid, Kapranos, 46, read music magazine stories about how experimental artists such as Can and Captain Beefheart worked in house-commandeering fashion. And as Franz Ferdinand began its ascent with 2004’s overseas hit “Take Me Out” and self-titled eponymous debut album (which entered the U.K. chart at No. 3), he saw it as a romantic notion and a method he would employ one day.

“I loved the idea of taking the band out of its environment and making this universe your own, because you absorb yourself completely in your work,” he says.

His roomy cottage comfortably slept the entire band, plus bassist Bob Hardy’s cocker spaniel Alvie, and everyone agreed to follow a strict vegan diet, harvesting vegetables daily from the backyard garden.

“When you have an animal with you in the studio, it draws you out,” he says. “You go outside because Alvie needs to walk, and you don’t get caught up in the trap of being so mesmerized by your own work that you’re never seeing daylight.”

Later polished by French producer Philippe Zdar, songs on “Ascending” bound from bubbly Eurodance (“Lazy Boy”) to Ohio Players-ish funk (“Paper Cages”) to “Dare”-era Human League (“Lois Lane,” “Glimpse of Love”).

The clubhouse experiment, Kapranos believes, was a success. “It was about pushing yourself in directions you hadn’t gone in before, and approaching songs from different starting points,” he says. “And that’s everything from using a mode or a scale you hadn’t before, or a chord progression that you’ve never tried.”

Franz Ferdinand
Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. May 17
Tickets: $39
Contact: (510) 302-2250, www.ticketmaster.com

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