The following is an interview with Daniel Hunt of Ladytron. It was conducted on Saturday, 15 April 2006, the day after Ladytron kicked off their North American tour with a show in Washington DC. The band returned late last year with their 3rd album, "Witching Hour," and recently released a new EP/DVD, "Extended Play."
The US tour just kicked off in DC – how did that show go?
It was good. The last time we played DC I think it was about 3 shows in, and it was in the middle of a blizzard. It was a bit better this time. The weather was good, and we sold out.
What can people exact from this tour?
We played live a lot after that last US tour. In fact we were touring for about another 8 months. I think it's a lot more powerful now. It's definitely progressed, the live show.
Have you made any major changes in terms of live set-up or instrumentation?
Not really, it's exactly the same as it was last time, it's just that there's a guitar as well. I play guitar and keyboards. That's the only addition. There's 8 synths on stage, and one guitar, if that gives an indication.
Have you added guitar to songs that in the past were performed on just keyboards/synths?
Just on a couple of songs where it made sense. The way we record, there are loads of guitars on all the records. But when we didn't have a guitar with us, we'd approximate with synth going through a bunch of delays or something. So we just use whatever is appropriate. We're not purists, at all. The bands that we like are not afraid to use whatever instrument works. A guitar, when you feed it through a few pedals, is just a sound generator, really. Using a guitar doesn't mean it's going to become kraut rock or Oasis or something.
Can you talk about the new "Extended Play" EP?
The EP was done because the label wanted something to put out while we were on tour. So we did some exclusive mixes for it, and released some that hadn't been out before. We also put together a DVD, which is the "Sugar" and "Destroy" videos and this film we made when we toured in China. A mini documentary.
And "Witching Hour" just came out on vinyl?
Yeah, we always think all our records should be released on vinyl. It was always intended. It's just that the label wanted to tie it together to when we came to tour. It seems to be pretty standard now to release something on vinyl after it comes out on CD. But as long as it comes out on vinyl eventually we don't care.
What was the reason for switching labels, from Emperor Norton to Ryko?
We've switched labels about 7 times since we started! We've been in this long enough … it's kind of irrelevant. The most important thing is the team around you and the people you work with day to day at whatever label it is. Ryko is good at the moment, because a lot of them are Ladytron fans. So they've been very enthusiastic.
The music industry has changed so much over the past decade or so – what do you think has been most effective in terms of getting the word our about Ladytron? The internet? Radio? Club Play?
I don't know. The internet has definitely had an effect, especially in between albums. There seems to be twice as many people into us than last time, even though we didn't do anything in between. The best way for people to hear the record is the radio or online. Myspace is really good for bands. We've only been on that for the past 6 months. Things have changed a lot in 5 years even. Something like Myspace, there's probably going to be a point where it gets saturated and possibly useless, but it's good for the band. Things aren't being forced down people's throats. It's not like a record company making some big Flash animation site or sending a lot of unsolicited stuff out. The fact that it's actually people networking around the band, on their terms, it brings them closer to the band in a way. I think that's really cool.
What are your thoughts about online music distribution?
As far as file sharing, that debate is dead now. It exists, and everyone does it. There's a certain naivety about who it actually affects … some people are adamant that it doesn't affect the bands, that it only affects the labels. Which really isn't true. Because there are now legal downloads as well, people really do now have a choice. If someone doesn't spend any money on music, there are other ways to support a band. Going to a show, etc. If someone does want to spend money on music, but doesn't want to go out and buy cds, they can instead go to iTunes of whatever. At least they have a choice. And if they like a band, it's not like the only way they can support them is by going into a store a buying a record. Because it might not even be available where they are. We've played places in the world where none of our records have been available, and the only way to get them is to illegally download them. And then you go and play a sell-out show, and everyone knows all the material. That's amazing. It wasn't possible even five or six years ago.
Some people see it as bringing back the single. Have you considered releasing individual tracks between albums?
Yeah, we might possibly do that. You could put a track out as an individual release, and that's very easy to do now. It's not like you have manufacture and distribute them. I still think that we consider ourselves an album band.
All three of your albums sound a bit different from each other. Do you think it's a natural thing, or do you intentionally set out to give each release a fresh edge?
It's evolved naturally because we were playing the tracks from Light and Magic live for a year. And when we were playing them live, they became heavier and more dynamic. We were playing them with live bass, and live drums triggering sounds. And by the end, it got to the point where we were like 'if we were recording the album now, this is what it would sound like.' Rather than it be kind of a bedroom production. We ended up finishing in a studio with a producer, but that's what it started off as. So this album, it was just a natural thing where as we were working on it we were aware of things that we weren't aware of before. Just from playing live so much. Also, we felt like we had the freedom to make the record we were capable of, rather than the record people expected. Our label in the UK, when they got the demos they were like 'oh, we know you want to make the big opus or whatever, but can't you just make Light and Magic 2 first?' I think you can do more for the reputation of the band by making each successive record different. There are a lot of bands who get big by doing the same thing over and over again, but we don't want to do that. We want to be successful by making the music we're inspired to do. Rather than what people who don't actually like music very much want.
What are your plans for after this tour? When can we expect the next release?
Well we've already started to work on stuff for the next record. 'Witching Hour' was delayed for a year, between recording and release. We don't want to have a big break again this time. We want to just be on the way with this record. At some point we'll have a break from touring 'Witching Hour' and we'll go record maybe half of it. And then hopefully get the next record out pretty quickly. Early next year, hopefully. Rather than wait so long again.