Musicians being arrested is an all-too-familiar story. The usual rockstar tale almost always involves a drunken fight or drug charges, but Franz Ferdinand singer Alex Kapranos has a different story to tell, and it’s hard to beat in the tales of rock and roll high jinks.
In 2005, Franz Ferdinand were gearing up to release the follow-up to their internationally revered eponymous debut album, which took the industry by storm and made the Scottish indie outfit one of the most adored acts on the circuit. Their newfound fame quickly took them around the world, and they were playing sold-out shows across the planet. However, a trip to Russia would end up providing Kapranos with the shock of his life.
In late May, the band arrived in the country for a pair of shows in St. Petersburg and Moscow, which saw them showcase new music taken from their forthcoming sophomore album, You Could Have It So Much Better, which would arrive that autumn.
Franz Ferdinand’s stay Eastside was only fleeting, and following the shows, they were jet setting to New York City where they were due to complete mixing their album. However, a strange sequence of events would throw up the most unexpected roadblocks on their journey.
Russian immigration officers aren’t known for being the sort of folks that you’d ever want to find yourself on the wrong side of, and they can be uncompromisingly intimidating. When Kapranos was passing through Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, in what should have been a routine stoppage, the Franz Ferdinand frontman soon discovered it was anything but that.
Immigration officers stopped him and informed the singer that they had noticed his name on a ‘no-fly’ list of passengers who aren’t permitted to travel from to the States. Kapranos was even informed that he was a “high level security risk.”
The Russians explained to him that they couldn’t allow him to board any plane heading to the States. Thankfully, of course, this would turn out to be a case of mistaken identity – but it wasn’t smooth sailing by any stretch. Kapranos told The Times: “There were guys in uniform milling around. I could tell it was serious.”
Kapranos’ passport names him as Alex Huntley, which is his mother’s maiden name. The singer used this name on official documentation at the request of his Greek father, who thought that going by the name of Huntley would mean that his son wouldn’t face discrimination due to his foreign heritage.
However, Alex Huntley is also a name used by an ex-MI6 secret service agent, Richard Tomlinson. The former spy, Tomlinson, had been fired from MI6 in 1995. However, during his tenure working for the MI6, he did use Alex Huntley’s name on one occasion when on a so-called ‘business’ trip in Russia.
Tomlinson was a controversial spy who tried to publish a book about his experiences in the secret services, which ended up with him serving a year in prison. Following this, Tomlinson moved to Switzerland and travelled to the US to speak about his spy stories, once again landing himself in hot water.
While in Washington, Tomlinson was arrested and deported back to Switzerland. As Kapranos’ experience shows, even a decade after Tomlinson left the secret services, he was still a wanted man because he was blowing explosive tales that weren’t meant for public consumption.
Tomlinson told The Times: “The reason I was deported is that MI6 told the Americans I was a security risk. It would appear from what happened to the chap in Franz Ferdinand that, in Russia at least, the American restriction on me flying to the United States is still in force.”
Thankfully, the two men looked nothing like another, and Tomlinson is 13-years to Kapranos’ senior, which helped the singer convince the immigration officials that they aren’t the same person. Although this should have taken a glance or an internet search to see why Kapranos’ had been in Moscow — it took the singer over an hour to convince them that he wasn’t a disgraced former MI6 official.