We tend not to make much of a secret round these parts that Russia Dreamwave ElectroPoppers Tesla Boy are amongst our favourite acts around today. From first discovering them deep in the Outrun community on MySpace they always struck a chord with us, combining out then newfound excitement in this (then) new breed of retro cool SynthWave and out love of vocal SynthPop.
After showing us all what they could do with a killer EP, their début album, Modern Thrills, cemented their reputation for being on of the most talented bands around, whether on the Disco, ElectroPop or SynthWave scene, combining all three styles into one form as catchy and Poppy as it was dancefloor friendly. Inspiring an army of Russian SynthWave acts and kicking off the Russian retro scene, Tesla Boy also brought their brand of vintage DiscoPop to the world on their own terms.
Massively successful in their homeland, with the release of the sophomore album, The Universe Made Of Darkness, Tesla Boy are widening their international appeal with a string of high profile US shows and collaborations with the coolest of House music cats. Tesla Boy head honcho Anton Sevidov to a little time out of their promotional schedule to chat with us about where Tesla Boy came from, where it is and where it’s going.
ER: Let’s take it right back to the beginning. We first became aware of Tesla Boy back in the 2009 MySpace days and your first EP, just prior to being picked up by Mullet Records, what had led you to that point? Had you been in bands before? What attracted you to your retro synth sound?
TB: I have been engaged in music all my life, starting as a jazz pianist. When I was 15, I brought together my first band, and it was so-called acid-jazz, the kind of music we played at that time. Further electronic music carried me away and I arrived at understanding that I really like the 80s sound very much. I began to style my songs in this manner. And next thing what happened – the public was ready to love it.
ER: Speaking of MySpace, the whole Dreamwave and Nu-Disco thing really took off there, do you feel like the social network was a big help to kick starting your career.
TB: Exactly, I really think that social networks made us well-known.
♫ Tesla Boy – Fantasy
ER: And now, you’ve just released your second album, The Universe Made Of Darkness, which had widened your international appeal. How are you feeling now that the album is out in the wild? Were you nervous about “the difficult second album” syndrome?
TB: I thought of the second album syndrome when we started our first tour. I was under the impression that everything is cool – everybody loved our music. At the same time I started to write new songs. And when everything was almost ready I said to myself – Stop it! What about the second album syndrome? You cannot just record it! And I was forced to rewrite it.
ER: We can hear a bit of an evolution of your sound in the second album. How has the way you write changed in the 3 years since Modern Thrills?
TB: I really wanted to add this sensation of a live concert. I did my best to work from my feelings, doing what I really love to do, without paying attention to the style.
ER: Were your influences for this record different from Modern Thrills? (A little more 90s perhaps?)
TB: That was the time of great change worldwide. In 1991 our state split, and freedom was the choice of the time. It was euphoric and painful at the same time. Change is always painful, although necessary. Those were my thoughts when I was writing 1991.
ER: There’s a couple of collaborations on The Universe Made Of Darkness. With Tyson and Fritz Helder From Azari & III. How did these come about and was there anyone you wanted to work with but it didn’t happen?
TB: I met Fritz when Azari & III came to Moscow. At this time it occurred to us to make a track together.
It was Martin who introduced me to Tyson. Marin also worked on his album.
I really would like to work with Erol Alkan. And write a track with Michael McDonald.
♫ Tesla Boy (Feat.Tyson) – Broken Doll
ER: How hook up with Martin Dubkka, your co-producer for the new album?
TB: Martin is a very good musician and our tastes are similar. I really love his style – he is not imposing al all, I like his ideas, and I am happy with our collaboration.
ER: You’ve been playing live a lot in the US recently, how does playing in America compare to playing in Russia? Are the crowds very different?
TB: To tell the truth, there is almost no difference. Probably, it is because the young people is our audience, who look very much alike and similar in different countries. Serbians and Mexicans stand out most of all – they are very hot.
ER: If you were to take us on a night out in Moscow, where would we go? What are the highlights of the Moscow scene?
Strelka-bar, La Boule, Simachev, La Lubanka, The Museum Of KGB, Butirka.
ER: We feature tons of Russian artists on Electronic Rumors (Hot Hot Hawk, 7he Myriads, Serj V, Cosmonaut Grechko, 5 Reasons, Lovinski, Quasars, Sohight & Cheevy, DZA etc…) what is it, do you think, that attracts so many Russian producers to the retro synth sound, and what is it that makes them so good at it (because they really are!)
TB: The Russians are a nation with a very good ear for music. Our heritage is huge – Tchaikovsky, Rakhmaninov, Borodin, Prokofiev. Their music possesses melodic beauty. This probably relates it to the sound of 80s. This background might produce this kind of effect.
♫ Tesla Boy – Another Light
ER: So what’s in Tesla Boys studio? Especially in terms of Synths and outboard gear.
Sally Shapiro first came into our lives way back in 2006. This duo, because Sally Shapiro is a duo, made up of ElectroPop producer extraordinaire Johan Agebjörn and an blissful unnamed singer whom we shall henceforth call Sally (to avoid (or create) confusion), have put out some of the most exciting, listenable, Italo-Disco tinged ElectroPop records in the last decade. Released today is album number three, Somewhere Else, that has already spawned the acclaimed singles What Can I Do? and Starman, the latter featuring a guest turn from Toronto’s Electric Youth.
The album is a thrilling excursion through poppy, dancefloor friendly electronic music with heart. Johan’s beats are always meticulously produced. Clean, shiny and pitch perfect whilst Sally’s sugar sweet, personal vocals tell tails in the most appealing way. This time around the pair have a little help with Anoraak, Le Prix and the aforementioned Electric Youth all doing turns on Somewhere Else.
Sally and Johan too some time out from their album release prep to chat with us about how this unlikely partnership hooked up and what the album holds:
ER: First off, how did you two get together?
S & J: We met in a youth environmental organization back in 2001 where we both worked at the office. But we actually didn’t discover our common interest in 80s disco until 2004!
ER: Did you both come to Sally Shapiro with the same influences, or do you each bring something different with you?
S & J: Johan is more the expert on various genres of electronic music. Sally has a good feel for what is a good and catchy pop song. She can’t really deliver a good vocal performance if she’s not into it. In the beginning, it felt like poppy 80s disco was the only thing that worked for both of us, but we think that we have broadened a bit since the start.
ER: I always feel that there is a 60s British Pop influence to Sally Shapiro songs, in a kind of Saint Etienne way. Is that the case or do you think there is just a 60s Pop influence in classic Swedish Pop in general?
S & J: We don’t think that the 60s are a conscious influence, but we listen to British pop like Saint Etienne and Belle & Sebastian for example. “What Can I Do” was very inspired by Belle & Sebastian.
ER: With so many good ElectroPop artists coming out of Sweden, and the music seeming to be the more dominant form of Pop there, do you think there is a reason for ElectroPop finding it’s spiritual home in Sweden?
S & J: We don’t know. When we grew up it was not like that, Sweden was a guitar country and far behind the UK when it came to appreciating electronic music. But Sweden was also early a very computerized country so maybe that’s a reason.
♫ Sally Shapiro – What Can I Do?
ER: Where does the name Sally Shapiro come from? Are we right in thinking Johan chose it? Is it named after anyone?
S & J: It was Johan’s suggestion to use a pseudonym in the tradition of Italo disco stars like Valerie Dore and Katy Gray. It’s not named after anyone, but we wanted a name that sounded English, with a surname that was not too common and not too uncommon. And then the first name should begin with the same letter as the surname, and it’s beautiful with names that end with a y, isn’t it?
ER: Sally’s said she has no interest in being a Pop star. When you originally wrote songs together was it with the intention of the public hearing them, or just for fun?
J: Well the goal was to make a track for fun and hopefully that someone wanted to release on a 12″ record. But we never thought it would reach out to more than the Italo disco fans and vinyl collectors to be found on various forums on the internet.
ER: Were you surprised with the reception Disco Romance received, and how fast it became a hyped record?
J: Yes, though it actually didn’t become hyped that quickly. At the very beginning, the distributor complained that it didn’t sell so well. Then Pitchfork rated it “best new music” and everything changed, it got re-released twice and licensed to different countries. But the whole process of re-releases and finally two remix albums based on the tracks took one and a half year.
ER: And now, three albums later. How would you say your sound has changed since the first record?
S & J: It’s a bit more varied, we’d say, but still grounded in 80s disco, which is still the ultimate genre of music. But these days we take influences also from trance, euro dance, IDM, jazz, electronic funk, indie pop etc.
ER: Is there a theme that runs through Somewhere Else?
S: There’s a theme in all our music, we think, about melancholic longing and hope. Hoping that something will be better, maybe in a different place, somewhere else.
ER: How did the collaborations on the new album come about?
S & J: Johan released the album “Casablanca Nights” in 2001 with a lot of collaborations, so he’s got quite used to working with other producers and he likes it. He works with Le Prix a lot, sometimes they meet in Stockholm but mostly via the internet as we live in Lund in Southern Sweden. The collaboration with Anoraak was originally Anoraak’s idea and a different version of that track appeared on his album a few years ago, we’re really happy with the track and wanted to release this version too. The collaboration with Electric Youth was our idea as we really like them. Both those collaborations were carried out through the internet, we’ve never met them…but it would be nice! Apart from the collaborations mentioned here, there are also lyricists, co-writers (frequently Roger Gunnarsson) and guest musicians involved on the album.
ER: How does the writing and recording process work for Sally Shapiro? Is Johan allowed in when Sally’s recording now?
S & J: No, Johan is still not allowed in. Johan is the composer and producer, sometimes together with other songwriters and producers. When he has something almost finished he plays it to Sally and gets some feedback. We then write the lyrics together, and the vocals are almost always the last things that are recorded before finally mixing the track.
ER: Is there a favourite synth or bit of studio kit.
J: Not really, it shifts. Yamaha DX-7 wasn’t used before this album, it can sound really smooth. Earlier there were a lot of sounds from the Roland Juno-60 and Jupiter-4.
ER: If money was no object, what synth would you love to own?
J: Elka Synthex.
♫ Sally Shapiro – Lives Together (Johan Agebjörn Dub)
ER: Are there plans for Sally Shapiro beyond Somewhere Else?
S & J: Not which are official right now.
ER: Are Sally Shapiro more of a full cooked breakfast, or bowl of cereal kind of duo?
S & J: Bowl of cereal probably. Sally drinks coffee, Johan drinks tea.
Many thanks to Sally and Johan for speaking with us.
Sally Shapiro’s Somewhere Else is released today in the UK and tomorrow in the rest of the world. It comes highly recommended.
Tomorrow, Sally and Johan will be hosting on online release party where you can chat with them and ask them stuff we was too lazy to ask, details here.
An imposing figure in electronic music, Arnaud Rebotini has seen it all. A legend amongst producers who has never been afraid to walk a different path, and the path Rebotini walks usually ends up being emulated by the masses a year or so later. An analog experimentalist who has ploughed through EBM, Detroit Techno, Acid House, ElectroClash through to and French Electro and Disco leaving a trail of ground-breaking 12” in his wake.
Whether in his solo synthesizer noodlings or as part of ElectroClash come Electro-Rock pioneers Black Strobe, Rebotini continues to push boundaries and inform, rather then follow, current dance music, and even Indie, trends. He’s latest output being a return to Black Strobe for an ungodly Electro/Swamp Rock hybrid that is as grimy as it is funky.
Amidst all this pioneering and ground-breaking, Arnaud took some time to chat with us about just where the madness comes from.
ER: So, I think you came onto our radar back in 1998/99 with Black Strobe and since then played around with electronic music styles both as Black Strobe and with solo releases. But we get the feeling there’s a lot more going on in your past. Can you fill us in on your musical background, what influenced you to start writing music, and what your musical journey to the point we are at now was?
AR: I starting music in Noisy band influence by band like The Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth, after that I was singer in Death Metal band, in the same I’m starting electronic music, I released my first 12” around 1995 it’s pretty Experimental Techno. I was influence by early Warp Records and Detroit Techno. I always listen some very different kind of music, was I was teenager my favorite records was Herbie Hancock Head hunter, New Order’s Power, Corruption And Lies, and Muddy Waters: fathers and sons. I don’t thinks that’s changed that much.
ER: From the electronic side of things, as well as the obvious House influences, we hear a lot of old school EBM in your music. What electronic styles have influenced you over the years?
AR: I like all good electronic music, from early Electro Funk stuff, to old school EBM, Detroit Techno Chicago House and Krautrock have a great influence on me. And form Techno a mix between ambient Krautrock band like Cluster or Tangerine Dream and Disco.
ER: And the, of course, there’s the Southern Blues. Especially with the new releases there is a big Swamp Rock vibe going on. There’s a kind of darkness, a kind of seedy sexuality and a kind of lost souls feeling, that this kind atmosphere. When did you decide you wanted to try to combine that with electronic music, was it something you always had in mind?
AR: This sound come may because now I listen a lot of Nu disco stuff and southern rock and blues. At I think it’s really cool to mix it with disco. Like Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson have done in certain way. And the biggest success of Black Strobe are Italian Fireflies and I’m a man, so tried to mix its all in a on one and unique style.
♫ Black Strobe – Italian Fireflies
ER: When do you tell if a track is going to be a Rebotini track or a Black Strobe track?
AR: Rebotini is pure electronic music, and a solo project in studio and on stage. Black Strobe is a band and not only electronic music, you have drums, guitars, vocals.
ER: And your style switches from Bluesy to more electronic and back again. Does that happen organically, naturally, or do you set out to make a particular type of record?
AR: I think it came naturally it’s base on classical chords and melody, everybody all ready know it, and it was funny to me have no classical bluesy production, to make some kind of electronic Blues.
♫ Arnaud Rebotini – Few More Minutes Of Love
ER: So what’s the Black Strobe studio? Do you have a favourite bit of studio kit? Any favourite synths?
AR: I have a nice studio with a lot of hardware stuff, a lot synth, and effects. May be my favorite is one of my first synth, not the most rare, but probably the most versatile, and easy to carry for the live, it’s the Roland SH 101.
ER: If money was no object, what piece of studio gear would be your dream to own?
AR: Probably a Buchla 200 series.
ER: Your music particularly, in the electronic arena, lends itself well to a live situation. What’s your preference, live or studio?
AR: I like both. Studio is the composition and production time, you feel alone with the music. Live it’s the opposite it’s the execution time, and you feel close to the ground
♫ Black Strobe – White Gospel Blues (Extended Version)
ER: Speaking of playing live. Any crazy rock ‘n’ roll stories from your tour adventures?
AR: Playing live spending time on the road, waiting for the soundcheck, waiting for to play, waiting for the next gig. And for the rest what happened on tour stays on tour.
ER: Any nightmare shows? What’s the worst?
AR: I always forget my nightmares.
♫ Arnaud Rebotini – My Life In House Music
ER: What’s your breakfast preference? Cereal or a proper continental breakfast? Would your answer change the day after a show?
AR: My favorite Breakfast is the Proper English Breakfast! After a show I need bean eggs sausage and mushroom !
♫ Black Strobe – Boogie In Zero Gravity (Extended Version)
Black Strobe’s Boogie In Zero Gravity EP is out now.
If they were to make a movie based on electronic chanteuse Karin Park , it should be titled Karin Park: International Woman Of Mystery. This Swedish born ElectroPop star might have only recently entered your consciousness, but she’s had a world-hopping life that’s seen her go from Sweden’s deepest forests to schooling in Japan, to the icy tundra’s of Norway and a Scandinavian Pop career to match including Norwegian Grammys and massive hits.
Now she’s breaking out onto the international music scene with the highly acclaimed Highwire Poetry album. A dark, icy, yet ultimately welcoming collection of beat and synth driven Pop tracks holding songs that both, create an emotional connection with the listener, and are pretty darn catchy too. Drawing on all manner of influences from British Industrial to ScandiPop, Karin crafts a beautiful synthetic atmosphere, otherwordly and strange, whist drawing us into her world of lamentations and impassioned, and sometimes sultry, refrains.
David Bowie and Massive Attack count themselves amongst Karin Park’s fans, maybe it’s about time you should too? See what Karin had to say as she took some time out from promoting Highwire Poetry to fill us in on a few things that make Karin Park tick.
ER: So, you had quite a multicultural upbringing, being a Swedish girl in a Japanese convent school. Do you think this influenced both your music now, and how you came to music in the first place? how did that happen?
KP: Everything we have experienced makes us who we are I guess, so yes, my upbringing influences my music and the way I see things. I always feel like an outsider everywhere I go. That hasn’t always been the best feeling but I accept it now and try to make the most out of it.
I knew from when I was very little that I was gonna’ be an artist. It has never been anything else for me and it came very natural. My brother got his first drum-kit at the age of 3 after hammering away at pots and pans everyday so it was the same for him.
ER: And it was moving to Norway that facilitated you rise to Scandinavian fame, bagging two Norwegian Grammys. Does Norway influence your music in a way Sweden wouldn’t?
KP: Not really. Releasing a record in Norway instead of Sweden was a random set of coincidences and one thing led to another. Living in Bergen for some years though, a city that has 250 rainy days per year, makes you stay inside the studio quite a lot. I think you can hear the rain in a lot of music that comes from Bergen like Røyksopp, Annie and Kings of Convenience.
♫ Karin Park – Thousand Loaded Guns
ER: What did you listen to growing up, was it electronic music or did you come to that later?
KP: My first proper encounter with music was Depeche mode and Whitney Houston. I like them both for different reasons. But the love for the whole electronic music genre came later when I discovered analogue synthesizers and the whole world around that. I’ve also had a love for metal music for a long time.
ER: You’ve collaborated a lot with your brother David on your latest album Highwire Poetry and performed live with him for most of the last decade. How do you prevent sibling rivalries and arguments from interfering with the music, or does that just not happen at all?
KP: David is one of a kind and very talented. We do argue sometimes, but we keep it short and pretty straight forward. We are both pretty outspoken so it can sound a bit harsh some times but there is not much confusion that way. And we can read each others mind, so that helps.
♫ Karin Park – Restless (Radio Edit)
ER: Is it strange going from being pretty successful in Scandinavia to essentially starting from scratch with the international audience?
KP: It’s refreshing. This record is a bit like starting from scratch for me everywhere, cause it’s quite different from my earlier records. And it’s nice when people listen to it with fresh ears and no presumptions.
ER: How has the reception Highwire Poetry received struck you?
KP: It’s an honest record and people get it, it seems. The fact that it was well received makes it easier to work and I’m just happy to be able to perform the songs live now as they deserve to be.
ER: Industrial influences aside, why do you thing so much Scandinavian ElectroPop has that icy, dark edge we love so much?
KP: Scandinavian nature and the fact that it’s cold and dark most of the year gives the music a melancholic vibe that shines through in Scandinavian music, books and film. At dinner at my house today, everyone around the table had to tell the others their 3 biggest complains in life. Typical Scando-conversation, I guess.
♫ Karin Park – Tiger Dreams
ER: So what’s the Karin Park’s studio? Do you have a favourite bit of studio kit? Any favourite synths?
KP: In my studio there is a Moog Taurus 1 , Juno 106, a Korg MS 20, a Roland Drumatix 606 , a Casio MT-65 and many other small keyboards and synthesizers. There’s a drum kit, oil barrels, pipes and bells to hit, Hiwatt guitar amps and cabinets, Tandberg tape-recorder amps and my Yamaha silver flute that I bought when we lived in Japan at the age of 8. I live in a big church so I have a lot of stuff there and there’s more to come. My favourite is the Korg MS 20 though. I use it when I play live.
ER: If money was no object, what piece of studio gear would be your dream to own?
KP: An ARP 2600. And an engineer to go with it who can fix it every weekend.
ER: Do you prefer songwriting/studio work or playing live?
KP: Sometimes I feel like writing is a curse because when I write I feel an urge to go somewhere I haven’t been or where it’s painful to go emotionally. But when I’ve written a song and I know it’s really good, I think about performing it. Then it comes to life for real and can’t live without that feeling. Can’t have one without the other.
♫ Karin Park – New Era
ER: Now Highwire Poetry has been so well received, what next in the plan for Karin Park world domination?
KP: I want to go and play live in loads of places and meet cool people in every country. I love to travel and want to see everything in this crazy world.
ER: What’s your breakfast preference? Cereal or cooked breakfast? Would your answer change the day after a show?
KP: My breakfast preference? It depends on what kind of day it is, I guess. Greek yoghurt and honey is cool when it’s sunny but maybe I’d go for a rooibosh cup of tea and a tuna melt with jalapenos and applewood cheese if I wake up and the wind is howling outside. No wait, no jalapenos in the morning….. But definitely applewood cheese.
Many thanks to Karin for giving us a few moments to give you lot an insight into the life of a Scandinavian ElectroPop jet setter.
While you’re hear, check out this reMix of Karin’s new single, Thousand Loaded Guns, but our favourite deep House DJ Maya Jane Coles.
♫ Karin Park – Thousand Loaded Guns (Nocturnal Sunshine reMix By Maya Jane Coles)
The Thousand Loaded Guns single is released 10th September, Karin Park’s début album Highwire Poetry is out now.
The cream always rises to the top. In the 2008/2009 surge of ElectroPop acts surprisingly few actually ‘made it’, fewer still are still kicking around for the second album. From the moment we first heard London duo (then three peice) CHEW LiPS’ début record, Salt Air, it was obvious they were going to be big, and they were going to be around for a while.
Immediately snapped up by the hippest of hip label (at the time) Kitsuné Music for their first two singles set a precedent for mixing Indie sensibilities with grungy ElectroPop and infectious melodies that had been oft copied since. But their string of catchy singles and reputation for an intimate, energetic live show has always seen them ahead of the pack.
2010 saw the release of the début full length record, Unicorn. An instant hit, loaded with track that resonated with both Indie fans and Electro heads alike. The perfect example of how you can still do something unique with ElectroPop. Damn good songs too. Now, just in time, with memories of ‘10’s summer fading from people memories, CHEW LiPS are retuning. We’ve heard two single from the album so far, and a handful of tracks live, and with each new track we grow more excited for the album release.
Hot on the heels of this weeks première of the video for their amazing new single Hurricane, CHEW LiPS took some time to chat with us about their past, present and future:
ER: I have to get this out the way first. We’ve been writing about you guys since Kitsuné Music released ‘Solo’, and despite things relaxing in the font department I belligerently refuse to stop writing Chew Lips as CHEW LiPS. Doing it right or doing it wrong?
CL: Relax, the upper case / lower case thing feels a bit Nu-Rave nowadays…
(OK then, from now on we won’t…)
ER:. So how did the Chew Lips adventure begin? As a listener I always get the feeling that you all came from wildly different places and this Indie tinged grungy ElectroPop sound was something that was just spawned when you came together.
CL: That’s pretty much what happened. None of us we’re really into anything vaguely “dancey” at all, we were definitely from more of an indie background. Also, as we were a three piece then we couldn’t really make enough noise without using drum machines & synths, so we kind of slipped into this style. I think that’s where some of our early originality came from, the fact that we didn’t know anything about the instruments we were using meant we weren’t constrained by the rules.
ER: Coming together and then blowing up music blogoshpere so quickly, and being snapped up by one of the coolest record labels in the world at the time. How do you think that affected you? It must have been a hell of a lot of pressure, when most bands that early into their careers are still finding their feet?
CL: Not really, you kinda get used to everything that is happening to you as a band very quickly. We were lucky to have good management from early on, who took us away from everything & allowed us to take our time making a record. Luckily we never had to rush anything, we get to mess around & write a lot of songs before choosing what we think are the best ones. We did a lot of pretty awful gigs back then though, we’ve only recently found our feet live I think, the new drummer has helped massively.
♫ Chew Lips – Hurricane (Radio Edit)
ER: Fast forward to 2012. ‘Unicorn’ is a tough act to follow, it’s (in our opinion) one of the greatest albums of the 2000’s. How did you approach the new record? What has inspired it, both lyrically and musically.
CL: Thanks, that’s very nice to hear. We approached this one by trying to step up everything from the first album – the songwriting, the sounds, the production, the thought behind it, the lyrics, the whole package. Tigs was living in Paris during the writing & recording of this record so that totally influenced her lyrically. Musically it’s gone way deeper into the analog world I guess, with loads more proper old synths & drum machines, with some live drums too. Loads of harmonies & BV’s this time too, which is new for us.
ER: And how would you describe it’s sound? What’s it going to be called?
CL: It sounds massive I hope, tougher than before, more focused than before, possibly more open & emotional than before. We wanted it to be a bit more of a pop this time, with a lot more hip hop influenced beats rather than the 4/4 thing. We’re still not sure on the name yet though… We had a name for it all the way through which the label has now said is “too indie” so we’re now trying to find a new name for our baby.
ER: Now you’ve slimmed down to a two piece, has the way you write or record changed?
CL: Not so much really, we only really wrote stuff in the practice room very early on. We probably did more stuff over email this time round as Tigs was in gay Paris a lot & I was in London.
♫ Chew Lips – Solo
ER: So what’s in Chew Lips’ studio? Do you have a favourite bit of kit?
CL: Lots of old analog synths… I share a room in Shoreditch with a friend & between us we have a really nice setup. We have a Pro One, a Juno 6, a Prophet 5, an MS20, an SH101 and loads of crazy tape echos, spring reverbs & pedals. I like fun stuff you can get your hands on rather than plugins on the computer. Favourite thing at the moment is my Sequential Circuits DrumTraks an early 80’s drum machine, it sounds incredible on everything.
ER: If money was no object, what piece of studio gear would be your dream to own?
CL: Probably a MemoryMoog, we hired one for a few days whilst recording the album & it’s just amazing. Everytime you turn it on it’s worth recording as it’ll be doing something amazing & random. The sound of the Thom Yorke record basically.
ER: The first few times we saw you guys live it was all raucous and usually resulted in Tigs parading up and down the bar of whatever venue it was? What can we expect from Chew Lips live in 2012, more of the same?
CL: More of the same but she’ll probably be in tune this time & not so out of breath! We’ve worked really hard on the live set this time round & it’s definitely way better than it was before. A kick ass girl drummer really helps.
ER: Speaking of which, do you prefer recording or playing live?
CL: I like both, geeking around in the studio for months is really fun, but playing live is great, the feeling after a good show is amazing. I like travelling too so touring is great fun. We’ve been to some awesome places recently too, China, Russia, all over the place but Eastern Europe is the best.
♫ Chew Lips – Play Together
ER: Tell us one thing about Chew Lips you’ve never ever told anyone. 😉
CL: Erm, tough one… There’s nothing left to tell, there are no skeletons left in our closet.
ER: What’s on the cards for the rest of this year? Does the album have a release date yet? And festival appearances?
CL: More gigs, more festivals, Hurricane comes out Sept 3rd & I guess when the record comes out depends on how well that single does. It could be early next year for the album to be honest.
♫ Chew Lips – Salt Air
ER: Are Chew Lips a cereal or a Full English Breakfast kinda’ band? Would your answer change the day after a gig?
CL: Usually cereal for me (Bran Flakes) & for Tigs it would be either Porridge or eggs, she fucking loves eggs, we call her the Mongoose. The morning after a late night it’s definitely a fry up, usually at this amazing Italian place in Newington Green that we love. Would have to be served with coffee too, we’re obsessed with coffee, I worked out how much I spent last week on coffee & it was more than on food. How stupid is that?
ER: Thanks guys.
♫ Chew Lips – Do You Chew?
Chew Lips awesome new single Hurricane is released 3rd September.
By now Turkish producer Surrender! should be on your Nu-Disco radar. He’s one of those artists that, rather than making a massive splash, has slowly and surely entered our consciousness over the last year to the point where the announcement of his self-titled début album, due out September on La Bombe, was exciting stuff.
And this 23 year-old, despite only a handful of releases to his name, is already earning himself fans in the form of some of electronic music’s top names. Aeroplane, A-Trak, Villa, Treasure Fingers and Digitalism have all become regular spinners of Surrenders! tunes, Digitalism even included his track Travellers on their recent DJ-KICKS album.
His music is instantly familiar, yet uniquely fresh. The obvious elements of French Touch and Electro, Italo and House are all present, but Surrender! pushes them into overdrive, creating something as exciting as chainsaw synthed Electro-House and as Funky as Disco. The forthcoming album promises to be an odyssey through hard hitting, groove laden synth madness.
In the lead up to the album’s release, Surrender! took some time to give us a peek into the world of mad Disco.
ER: So, first up, what prompted the name change from Opptimo to Surrender!? There was a lot of support for Travellers, why the change?
S: What I didn’t knew was that there was another Opptimo with only one ‘p’. Optimo from the UK. And they were also making electronic music. So it was best to change it earlier rather than have problems later. If they were just a rock band I don’t think I would have changed it but hey, I’m really glad I did!
ER: When did you get into making music? How did that happen?
S: I got into making music when I was 18. It wasn’t anything serious at first but as time passed and I learned new things, I started to really love it so I kept going and going. I was always interested in making music.
♫ Surrender! – Volute
ER: What did you listen to growing up, was it electronic and dance music or did you come to that later?
S:When I was about 7 I was in love with Michael Jackson but that changed throughout the years and I started listening to some really hard metal bands. Dimmu Borgir, DEICIDE, Bloodbath etc. But at the same time I always loved the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy. So electronic music was always there with me no matter what. And finally at 15 I just completely fell in love with electronic music.
ER: You’re about to drop your new album in September. Tell us a little about it and what it means to you as a whole body of work?
S: It was really different than just making an EP because EP’s are easy to do for me. I can just use the same formula or same kind of approach with them but an album is a whole another ball game. Just like that Chemical Brothers song: Music:Response. You have to keep the mood alive and think of the album as one rather than just a compilation of tracks because in the end they are like organs of a body. You cannot separate them and expect to have a functioning body. I matured a lot with this album, I actually learned more about music than I did in the last couple of years.
♫ Surrender! (Feat. Jhameel) – Hurry (Lovin’ Is Crazy)
ER: When you sit down to write a track, what is influencing you other than music?
S: Not a lot of things. A good road trip and meeting new people always seems to give me new ideas and thoughts about music though.
ER:So what’s the Surrender!’s studio? Do you have a favourite bit of studio kit? Any favourite synths?
S: I wouldn’t even call where I make my music a studio because the only hardware I have is my M-Audio midi keyboard along with a T.C Electronic sound card. I don’t even have monitors. It’s funny to see people visit my place and ask where all the gear is.
♫ Surrender! – Locate
ER: If money was no object, what piece of studio gear would be your dream to own?
S: Juno 106.
ER: Do you prefer songwriting/studio work or playing live/DJing?
S: I think that they complement each other. It would really hard to do just one and skip the other.
ER: What’s your breakfast preference? Cereal or cooked breakfast? Would your answer change the day after a show?
S: Right now I’m actually working out and eating healthy for a change so my breakfast is a few small tomatoes, a little cheese, 2 egg whites and green tea. And yes, after a show it would change probably Haha.
♫ Surrender! – Fast Days
Surrender!’s self-titled début album is due out in September on La Bombe.
Flemming Dalum is a name that will need absolutely no introduction to anyone who knows anything about Italo. The man is a legend. For many of us, when we first begin to dip below the surface of Italo music, it’s Fleming’s celebrated mixes that serve as our guide.
Known as ‘The King Of The Cut’, Dallum is probably the world’s most famous collector of Italo records and a DJ who as bolstered the Italo scene since it’s beginning. A self-confessed vinyl junkie with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Italo, Disco and Synth music in general, Flemming crafts mixes that take the leister not only on a journey through Italo, both the hits and the obscure, but also on a journey through a Sci-Fi landscape, Flemming Dalum’s mixes always have one foot on the dancefloor, one foot in space. Never loosing fait, even when Italo seemed to fade into obscurity, Flemming is still a central figure on the scene, supporting and championing the next generation of Italo producers though this Italo resurgence we are currently experiencing.
The King Of The Cut recently took some time to chew the fat about his history with Italo music and present electronic rumors with a special exclusive Italo mix! Having an electronic rumors mix from Flemming Dalum feels like unlocking an end of level boss!
ER: You known for being the all round authority on Italo, but before the early 80’s when you become enamoured with Italo, was there any other types music you are into?
FD: I grow up with the typical Pop and Rock sound in the ’70’s. In the late ’70’s and early ’80’s I became very fascinated by the new synthesizer sounds! Before my Italo passion started back in 1982, I was actually very much into electronic music from England, Canada and USA.
ER: And how was your love for Italo born?
FD: A good friend of mine came back home from holiday in Italy in 1980, 1981 and 1982 with lots of great Italian disco music. At that time we called it for “Italian Space Disco” (properly only a local theme) I remember one record in particularly: KOTO – Chinese Revenge… I guess after hearing that record there was no way back for me… soon I discovered so many Italo records full of amazing synths!, so fantastic and great… I simply had to go directly to Italy to buy more! In 1983 one of my friend invited me to join him on a trip to Italy to buy more of this fantastic music. He spoke perfect Italian which helped us to become friends with the staff at Disco Magic and Il Discotto… After this trip I continued on my own and I’d visit them approx. 10 times. It was perfect for me to buy Italo directly from the source.
ER: In the early ’80’s were the records hard to find in Denmark?
FD: Yes pretty hard actually. A few shops did import from Italy… but in the end I had to go there myself to ensure that I didn’t miss any records.
Also funny/interesting to see: in the ’80’s I could actually have many of the records approx. 6 or even 8 months before it was available in shops in Denmark. And still only a small part of Italo Disco reached the Danish record shops…
ER: How did you first manage to hook up with the big Italian labels?
FD: The crew at Il Discotto and Disco Magic was very friendly and totally amazed that I wanted to travel all the way from Denmark to Italy, just to buy records 🙂 . In-between my trips I talked with them over the phone, to ensure I didn’t miss any essential vinyls.
ER: What came first, the Italo collecting or the DJing? How did the DJing come about?
FD: I played in a band on synth/keyboards in the early ’80’s. After some years I started to buy records with this fantastic synths sound (they sounded better than when I played on my synths hehe). So I started to DJ around 1982/1983. I have a nice memory of the summer of 1984 I played a 45 minutes Italo set in a club in Italy. The heavy record collecting started around my first trip to Italy in 1983.
ER: How did you cope in-between the fading of Italo in the late ’80’s and it’s underground resurgence in the 21st century?
FD: I was so fascinated with the underground electronic/synths sound, so I followed the cutting edge/frontier of electronic underground from the Italo faded away in 1986 until today!
ER: Is there any Italo record you’ve always wanted a copy of but have never been able to get your hands on?
FD: No… Actually I was lucky to have a complete collection in 1986, after 3 years of extreme record hunting I found everything I wanted. During the last 8 years I’ve met so many nice friends from all over the world who kindly helped me with new discoveries. Times change, and it’s been interesting to see how other records are popular now.
ER: I know it must be hard to pick, but what are your favourite records from the golden age of the ’80’s?
FD: I have very clear all time favorites which haven’t changed much for many years:
‘Lectric Workers – Robot is Systematic
Steel Mind – Bad Passion
B.W.H. – Stop/Living Up
Klapto – Mister Game
The Creatures – Spacefly/Solar Eclipse
Future State – Future State
Peter Richard – Walking In The Neon
Cellophane – Gimme Love
Trophy – Slow Flight
Charlie – Spacer Woman
ER: What do you think of the current crop of producers making Italo (or Nu-Italo?) these days? Which producers do you really rate?
FD: Until a few years ago I only focused on the original old classic from the ’80’s. Recently I found a lot of great new producers – here’s a few: Mark Wilkinson aka Kid Machine, David Vunk, Fred Ventura, James Penrose, Frederic Bergamaschi, Mike Salta, Michael Künzer/Aube Records, Edward Den Heijer/Iventi Records, Ken Dutrieue, Fredag I Firenze, Kai Lüdeling, Alden Tyrell, DJ Overdose, Ali Renault, Rude 66 and more…
ER: When you sit down to make one of your famous mixes, where do you begin?
FD: I always have sooo many ideas in my mind. I love to pick a theme and try to create a certain vibe/atmosphere. And I guess I’m pretty lucky to be able to select tracks from a unique and complete collection.
ER: Do you still DJ with vinyl? Have you gone digital yet?
FD: I’m addicted to vinyl.
ER: Are there any exciting new project in the pipeline?
FD: Well I’m working on lots of exciting new projects – for example with Steen Gjerulff, James Penrose, Kid Machine, Fred Ventura, Savino, Fredag I Firenze and Mike Salta.
ER: And would Flemming’s choice of breakfast be?
FD: Nice strong coffee
ER: Thanks so much for speaking with us Flemming!
Here we can, very proudly, present, Flemming Dalum’s exclusive electronic rumors mix, a jaw dropping hour of synthesizer goodness. There’s a few premières and surprises in there too. Stick some headphones on and take a hour out of your life to experience pure Italo.
German Electro duo Jens Moelle and İsmail Tüfekçi are pretty legendary. As Digitalism they lead the vanguard of mid-2000’s Electro resurgence, riding the high point of, and contributing to, Kitsuné’s cool and generally paving the way for modern Electro-House and Indie/Electro crossover. With raucous songs and an energetic live show, Digitalism showed the world that electronic music could rock…hard. Seven years and two studio albums later, Digitalism have consistently proved they are not only masters of rocking a crowd with high-octane Electro, but also deft songwriters, effortlessly mixing Indie and Electro amongst melding pot of styles that encompasses Disco, ElectroClash, Punk and Techno. Big beats and great songs, what more could you ask for?
Recently the duo were asked by Studio !K7 to curate and mix the latest in the long, prestigious line of DJ-KICKS albums. Released next month Digitalism’s DJ-KICKS through some of the best, punchiest, Electro around with the two Germans both paying respect to their career since 2004 and dropping some brand new exclusive tracks of their own. The likes of Vitalic, TWR72, WhoMadeWho and The Rapture rub shoulders with fresh tunes and reMixes from Digitalism in possible the best DJ-KICKS album for a while.
Jens and İsmail were kind enough to take some time out of their busy promotion schedule to put up with our waffle and fill you guys in on some of the inner workings of an Electro legend.
ER. Interviews tend to start by asking about influences, but in this case we’re really interested to know what your influences and music backgrounds are. Digitalism has always been such a melting pot of sounds, from Electro and ElectroClash, to Punk and Indie, to House and Techno. Where does that all come from?
D. It probably all started with growing up with 1980s computer games. They had amazing 8-bit soundtracks, and they were sometimes all about diving into weird different worlds made of bits and bytes. There were amazing compositions, and they sounded a bit new wave and punk sometimes. We love soundtracks in general, also the classical ones from John Williams, Vangelis and Ennio Morricone. Some people said we sound quite ‘Nordic’, pretty atmospheric and melodic like Röyksopp and Björk for example. Maybe true – we live close to Skandinavia in Germany. In the 1990s we started listening to Dance Music, especially House, and got hooked up by a weekly radio show that played the top ten tunes, vinyl, 10-minute versions. It was the first insight into nightlife and a totally different formula of music. We then met twelve years ago in a record store and started DJing House. After a while we got bored of the regular new releases, everything sounded the same. That’s when we started going more leftfield and alternative in our sets, like with Disco Punk, ElectroClash and Breaks. It was more fun. Of course we also had our years listening to early U2 and even Trance (in Germany, unavoidable in the 90s), and we share a love for Hip-Hop. We absorbed a lot of music and made it into a very broad dough if you want. We don’t like concentrating on just one genre too much, we get bored too easily. But what combines all of our music is that it’s electronic, it’s riff-heavy and it’s cinematic. And cheeky.
ER. And so how do you see yourselves? I would say most people we know who are fans of Digitalism are Electro fans, but some the time you are straight up Indie. Where would you say you fit and do you see yourselves bringing, say Indie to Electro fans, or Electro to Indie fans?
D. We reside within the two poles of Techno and Indie music. Ever since we started making music, we did it in a DIY way. So even when we make something that’s more techno, it might have that garage band attitude shining through. We didn’t care much about flawless production, that’s why our music sounds pretty raw in general. At the end, we’re electronic artists, because we don’t have a band background and we don’t play guitars and all that. We use those sounds, and we have those instruments lying around in the studio, but at the end we work with electronic gear, and we come from a Dance Music background, so even our more songy tracks are still danceable.
Our home base was always the electronic scene, so you could probably say we’re bringing Indie to them. But then again – we’ve played so many festivals with band line-ups programmed around us, that we sometimes also gave an insight into Electro to those live-band audiences. It’s great to have them all aboard.
♫ Digitalism – Simply Dead
ER. So what’s the story with you two coming together? Did you decide to make music with a bit of everything you liked because no-one else was?
D. We met in a record store in Hamburg twelve years ago. Jence was working there in the afternoons after school, and Isi came round as a frequent customer. It was a place to hang out like in ‘Hi-Fidelity’, and they were specialized on House and Techno vinyl, so it was more for DJs only. We spent a lot of time there, practicing mixing on the turntables and browsing vinyls. We were just old enough to go to clubs, and we started DJing. The owner of the store did parties every now and then, and he put us on the bill together. Since then we’ve played together every time. Having spent so much time in the store, we started to get bored of the releases that would come in every week. They all sounded the same, and we didn’t want to play stuff that 99% of the others would be playing. So we started making our own edits at home to have something unique, and later on when we had more gear, like a keyboard and stuff, we made our own first tracks. We felt like there wasn’t really the type of music that we’d love to play, so we had to make it ourselves – a mix between techno, punk and electro. Back then, we were the only ones in our home town. That’s why we played mostly abroad at the beginning. Now it’s thriving with lots of young and really talented producers.
ER. ‘Idealism’, and the singles that came before it, were some of of the biggest records that were part of the 2005-2007 resurgence of Electro, how much was that a pressure when recording ‘I Love You, Dude’? You must have felt like all eyes were on you.
D. It wasn’t too bad to be honest. We had a couple of years of touring-only after the release of our first album, and we got more experienced in playing live, and collected lots of impressions from travels and being on the road. All that went into the second album. We knew we didn’t want to repeat ourselves, that was clear for us. Everything else was basically freestyle. Like with the first album, we started making quick ideas, tested them in DJ-sets and then had some favorites that we later on turned into full songs and tracks. We loved them, so we just stuck to them. This time we wanted to get deeper into songwriting for a change, so lots of the track on ‘I Love You, Dude’ are shorter and more structured, and have vocals on them. It was just something we felt like doing when we made the album.
At the end, we had something that was obviously different to the first album, but also was pure Digitalism, and we loved the finished songs, so we just released it. You know, as long as you love what you are doing there, you’re good. If you have doubts then you should reconsider. We weren’t doubting, because we make music out of passion in the first place, not to please people. But of course, you never really know how to handle that follow-up record. You establish a certain profile with the first LP and then you can only extend the spectrum with the second one. We felt like that was the case, so all good. Now that we’re through the notorious ‘album 2’, we feel free to do anything. Looks like exciting times are ahead!
ER. So now you’ve been asked by Studio !K7 to put together their latest DJ-KICKS album. That’s quite an line-up to follow, how did you go about compiling your playlist?
D. For us it was very clear that we wanted to present our sonic universe and history as DJs to the people. So we started by writing down all our favourite records, labels and producers from back then, and added more new music by those people or a few new favorites by upcoming artists and friends. We wanted to make sure that the list covers our whole musical spectrum, from techno via electro, house and disco to new wave and indie music, and that people know us better after they’ve had a chance to listen to the mix. At the end we added a lot of new tracks that we’ve been working on, and we had a perfect compilation. It’s like when we started making music for our DJ-sets. Now it’s a DJ-mix with ups and downs, waves, time to breathe and harder bits, and again we’ve added new music. It’s like going back to the roots, but at the same time it’s a next step for us.
ER. And the new Digitalism tracks on there, would you say they were leftovers from ‘I Love You Dude’ era Digitalism or a peek at Digitalism’s next era, what the future holds?
D. Who knows? A lot of the new tracks were made earlier this year, without a plan. We then got asked to do a DJ-kicks in the middle of that process, so we just went: ‘Yeah let’s put all this stuff on it to make it even bigger!’. Two tracks are a bit older (‘The Pictures’ and ‘Simply Dead’), the rest are all new, and the remix for The Rapture was made exclusively a few days before the deadline for the DJ-kicks. We were just jamming around in the studio, so we don’t know what’ll come out of it next when we’re back there.
ER. Having reMixed the likes of Depeche Mode (and Dave Gahn) and The Cure, would you say you had a fondness for old SynthPop and New Wave? Sometimes, in some of your arrangements, we get the feeling that might be influences coming from there. I always hear a lot of New Order in your more Indie-Electro songs.
D. That’s correct, we like the mix of live bass, edginess, amateurism and synthesizer sounds ever since the 80s video games that we’ve mentioned earlier. A lot of New Wave and Post Punk music had that kind of vibe – it was a bit colder and darker, they used the first drum machines and sequencers, and they had warm basslines with icy synths. Something really appealing. People should check out that era (end ‘70’s ‘till mid ‘80’s).
ER. Your reMixes tend to be pretty different to the original. what’s your process when deconstructing and reconstructing a track you’ve been asked to remix.
D. We approach a remix usually the same way we deal with our own original material: We make a Digitalism track out of it. That’s the same with our music: We have one idea and remix it about 20 times.
ER. So what’s in Digitalism’s studio? Do you have a favourite bit of kit?
D. The heart of it, since we started, is a computer. We have a huge analogue mixing desk that’s wired up with all sorts of hardware synths, new and old ones. We have a guitar there, even though we’re really bad in playing it, but we compensate that with the use of samplers and other tricks. From day one we always found our own ways of production and of making things happen and getting the results we wanted. Back then we didn’t have any money so our first computer was so slow that we were forced to get creative when it came to multiple tracks and all that. That’s when we started sampling ourselves a lot.
We love our Korg Electribes (we even had them on stage until last year, our studio is full of them) and old Teisco synths, and we have an EMS Synthi A. That’s a super rare one from the 70s. Its ‘brother’ synth the Putney was used by Brian Eno all the time. You can patch anything through it and it has nice real spring reverb..
ER. If money was no object, what piece of studio gear would be your dream to own?
D. Some massive modular synth probably. And The best high-class valve hardware compressors. Couldn’t afford them so far.
ER. How’s the Hamburg music scene, when I think of Germany my mind goes straight to Berlin, Sell Hamburg to me?
D. Hamburg’s been big for House music in the 90s, with people like Boris Dlugosch (who used to produce with Moloko f.i.) and Knee Deep (big in the Miami scene back then). Our record store boss even is good friends with Masters At Work, Dimitri From Paris, Roger Sanchez and all those people. There was a legendary club called ‘Front’ that gave birth to underground and acid House in Germany back then.
You’re right, people first think of Berlin when they hear the word Germany, but now Hamburg has a big electronic scene doing its own thing and making some really good music. Tensnake, Solomun and Stimming for instance are all from Hamburg. There’s a lot of stuff happening – and it’s much more beautiful than Berlin, like a huge park with lots of canals.
Oh, and Hamburg is famous for its redlight district, the Reeperbahn. Nearly everyone’s heard of it. It was the place where The Beatles started, and it’s got so many venues, clubs and bars that many close after a few months due to competition, then re-open and so on… It’s a very dynamic and interesting place.
ER. So you’ve played around a few places. Any crazy rock ‘n’ roll stories from your adventures?
D. Of course, but we don’t even want to get started with that – it’s like opening Pandora’s box. There’s no artist that’s been touring for a while without any crazy stories.
ER. What would be your preference, to perform as a DJ team or as a musical outfit?
D. We like to switch back and forth between playing live and DJing. Since last summer we’ve played about 120 live shows, and at the moment we’re on a DJ-tour through the States. It’s good to have that for a change every now and then, so we can test out new ideas and drop some favourites in the sets. When we play live, we it’s more physical and we can get rid of lots of energy on the other hand. We use a lot of sweat usually, performing.
♫ Digitalism – 2 Hearts
ER. What’s coming up for Digitalism after DJ KICKS is out?
D. There’s be music releases around the DJ-Kicks of course, and we’ll be touring more, as DJs and live. Everything else is under wraps – we like to surprise.
ER. Is Digitalism a Cereal or a Full Continental Breakfast kinda’ band? Would your answer change the day after a show?
D. We love cereal but the next day after a show is always good with bacon and eggs. We’re not big fans of continental breakfast.
So, there you have it.
Many thanks to Jens and İsmail for taking the time to share their thoughts with our readers.
Digitalism’s ‘DJ-KICKS’ record is out 10th July. You can pre-order the record here.
It was the summer of 2010 that New York based eclectic ElectroPop duo of Amanda Warner and Pete Wade, better known to the discerning Pop world as MNDR, first came to out attention. A combination of stumbling across their track ‘Fade to Black’, and consequently the ‘E.P.E.’ EP, and then within a few months Mark Ronson’s MNDR & Q-Tip featuring ‘Bang Bang Bang’ blowing up, had us hooked.
MNDR manage to walk a line few people can successfully pull-off. Their music is both interesting, sometimes even experimental, and edgy, yet at the same time as catchy as the best Pop track and infectiously danceable. Thoughtful songs, loaded with meaning and a sense of humour, coupled with electronic music production that isn’t afraid to do something different, whist understanding the importance of melody, is a winning combination. The past year has seen MNDR go from strength to strength as Amanda has been touring extensively and releasing as string if acclaimed singles, most recently ‘#1 In Heaven’. All building anticipation for the release of MNDR’s début full length record ‘Feed Me Diamonds’, which promises to be one of the electronic albums of the year.
Synth fetishist Amanda Warner has a style and charisma that puts most frontwomen to shame, a prolific songwriter (she’s also written Pop songs for a publishing company), producer and performer with a clear vision of what she wants to achieve, took some time out from her schedule touring with The Ting Tings to speak to electronic rumors about, y’know, synths and stuff.
ER. Tell us a bit about your musical history leading up to MNDR, have you always been into making electronic music or have their been Rock bands along the way?
AW. I have been into and making music all of my life. From Classical all the way to noise and experimental and lots in between. So yeah there has been a few Rock bands…but always left of centre out of the grip.
ER. So what influences you, both from an electronic music point of view, and what inspires your actual songs?
AW. I have always been inspired by production and sound/sound design. I think it brings out melodies and micro melodies that can be lost a bit using traditional Western instrumentation. I think pop music is about connecting with as many people as possible. I took a break from pop music and was really involved with Experimental/Noise music, which felt more about exclusion than inclusion. When I decided to start making Pop music again I thought I should try and make it about connection and inclusion as much as I possibly can. I think people connect with emotion. For me, sounds can be as emotive as lyrics and melody. However, I think the challenge and what is inspiring about Pop music is writing lyrics and melodies that people can connect with. It is difficult to write a song that is direct and from the heart. It is a challenge to not drench it in metaphor. You can say I Love You or I Feel Sad many different ways using metaphors, but the challenge is to just say it…without irony and straight from the heart. I try and do that everyday with Pop music.
♫ MNDR – Fade To Black
ER. From the outside, it looks like New York is one of the only places in the US you can get away with interesting electronic music. The big dance acts seem to be working all over now but New York still seems to be the home of more eclectic synth stuff. Do you think MNDR could have kicked off anywhere else in the states other than New York? Has being based in NYC now given you an audience you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
AW. I have to respectfully disagree with you. Chicago, LA, SF, Berlin, Toronto, Minneapolis…truly electronic music is growing and changing everywhere. I don’t really think NYC is the centre of electronic synth music. I think this style of music is sort of beyond geography. I’m sure the best EDM is happening in Lawrence, Kansas right now….or Fargo, ND. That’s usually how it goes.
Truly I don’t know if MNDR would have changed into pop music if it weren’t for NYC. That is really odd to say come to think about it. I think NYC sort of focused me and what I wanted to do with pop music. NYC has a way of not letting you fuck around too much…the game is deep here.
ER. Does Pete ever play, or have any intention to play, live with you? Or appear in the videos? Or is he more comfortable holed up in the studio?
AW. MNDR is a duo in the studio with Peter and I, but as far as live performance and everything else that goes with doing an artist project, it is more of a solo endeavour.
ER. One of the coolest things about you, other then the music obviously, is that you’re apparently a massive synth geek. Where did you obsession with studio noodling come from?
AW. I grew up on a farm in rural North Dakota. My dad was a “blue eyed soul” Rock musician and moved onto more Dad music as the years rolled by. He built an extremely modest 4 track reel-to-reel studio in the basement of our old family farm house. It is cold as hell there and I just wanted to multi-track record. So finally when I was about 9 or 10 my dad taught me some basics of multi track recording and it went on from there. There was always music and musicians at our house.
ER. So, what’s in MNDR’s studio? Any favourite or go-to bits of kit?
AW. I ended up selling a lot of stuff when I moved from California to NYC. So I was pretty in the box for a long time. I just recently started to purchase gear again. I finally rented a proper production room in Brooklyn. Right now I have a Moog Voyageur, Dave Smith Evolver, Nord G2 Engine, a replica of an EMS MK1 suitcase synth, Electrix Repeater, and some pedals…bits of this and that. I am super into the Roland EP series vintage keyboards. I believe Fela used them or I know that Antibolis has them. I have a 1974 Telecaster, 1970 Fender P-bass, and some other great guitars. I am getting way back into playing guitar and bass…I guess that’s where I started. I imagine by the end of the year I will be sleeping under a pile of MIDI cables and modules. Oh yeah I just bought an OP-1 and I LOVE IT!!!!!! Also I have heard great things about the Tempest. Does that answer the question? I think I rambled a bit.
ER. And how does the writing and recording process work? Do you and Pete write together?
AW. Generally it starts with a beat that Peter and or I started and then it goes from there. We write almost everything together. Our goal in the studio is to always just start from pure creativity and emotion. I truly hate starting music with “we need a fill in the blank song” sort of mentality. I don’t think it lends itself to good song writing….or at least it doesn’t for Peter and I.
ER. If money was no object, what synth (or bit of studio kit) would you love to own?
AW. I pretty much want everything. If I had to choose, I am super into a vintage Eventide Omnipressor. I would also love a Yamaha CS-80 or maybe a tubon. I also would love a 300 year old baroque double bass with a 500 year old bow. I also want every vintage Danelectro and I want to live at Steve Albinis or John McEntire’s studio…maybe Carl Craig. I think I truly want everything. I really like old studio gear that has a ton of character.
♫ MNDR – C.L.U.B.
ER. Your new video for ‘#1 In Heaven’ sees you sans huge glasses, was losing them for the clip a hard decision? What’s the thinking behind the video?
AW. There’s more to life than glasses…but I do need them and they are my actual prescription. I have some new pairs of glasses….so you will see some of my four eyes again. The video directed by Cody Critcheloe (SSION) is a manifesto. We were inspired by Valerie Solanas, Patty Hearst, zines, and posters. The song is about Patty Hearst and her involvement with the SLA. The video is a live action zine and manifesto being created in real time. We wanted the political/zine undertones to be involved with the video. Cody is a genius…so he can make anything come together.
ER. So, I didn’t really know much about Patty Hearst and the SLA, although it was news over here I don’t think it made the same impact in the cultural psyche. So when I read that the chorus of ‘#1 In Heaven’ was based on her arrest statement I read up on the subject. Is the whole song based on those events or just those chorus lines? What about that situation inspired you to write about it?
AW. The whole song is inspired by her sympathizing with her captors (SLA). I am inspired by heroines and people who have moments of clarity and are willing to throw everything away for their beliefs. Patty Hearst is a million times more wealthy than let’s say Paris Hilton, and she believed in something so much, she was willing to throw away her fortune and fame. The SLA was a violent organization, which I don’t agree with, as I am a humanist, but I can appreciate on some level extreme idealism. I guess I am SO BORED with everyone these days selling purses instead of doing something interesting.
ER. When can we expect the MNDR full length album? And what can we expect from it?
AW. MNDR album entitled ‘Feed Me Diamonds’ is out this summer in late July/early August on Ultra Records. This is a pop album. It has ballads, dance songs, mid-tempos and everything in between. I think you will find that it is not solely a “dance pop” album, but more of a “pop album” you catch my drift????
ER. Are you a cereal for breakfast person, or more of a pile of pancakes kinda’ gal? Would that change the night after a big show?
AW. I am an oatmeal girl no matter what sort of trouble I was in the night before.
Many thanks to Amanda for taking the time to speak to our readers (that’s you lot!), we can’t explain how excited we are to hear to new album.
‘#1 In Heaven’ is out now with MNDR’s full length album, ‘Feed Me Diamonds’ due out this summer, both on Ultra.