07 April 2011
IGN interview (2002)
I spoke with Daniel recently about how he and the rest of Ladytron (Reuben Wu, Helen Marnie, and Mira Aroyo) put together their retro-futurist pop songs.
Your music is sequenced in a rather simplistic way. Is that because you're using vintage sequencers?
Partially, but stuff ends up in Pro Tools or whatever. I often listen to electronic music and think things have been made over-complex. Mainly, that's probably because we're just learning how to use the equipment. We've never read a manual in our lives. The whole sound of the album 604 - the sequencing, the production, everything - is just us learning how to use the equipment. We didn't actually aim for any particular style.
What sequencers did you use?
It's just drum machines, and we sequenced some stuff in Cubase. We did a couple of basslines there, but the sequencing on a whole was drums. And we played the keyboard parts by hand. It adds that tiny bit of unpredictability to it and you're more likely to end up with a happy accident. Sequencing is useful when we're actually writing, for getting an idea down quickly. And obviously for stuff that can't be played by human beings.
What kind of drum machines do you use?
The main one I use is not very glamorous at all, it's the Yamaha RY-8. If anyone had one they'd be able to recognize the sound straight away.
Yeah, I've used some samples of the 707 as well. We use quite a lot of sample kits. As a reliable workhorse, the RY-8 does it every time.
Have you played with the RY-30? It has filters and stuff in it, it's pretty weird.
I bought the RY-8 on a whim and found it's got a rap kit and stuff, it's great. I picked it up really cheap. "He Took Her to a Movie", that's got it all over it. I've also used 505 sample sets as well.
The Korg DDD-1 is cool too. You can get them for around $100. You can actually sample into it - it's got one second sampling - so you can do weird, percussion samples. Nobody wants the mid-80s digital stuff so it's super cheap.
I'll look out for one of those. I'm just starting on the second album now, so we're wondering where to look for some new gear. We've already got some new stuff but we're not going to use exactly the same sounds on the second album. I read an interview with Air where they said they didn't want to use any of the same sounds at all from Moon Safari and I don't really agree with that. You arrive at a sound you obviously like it; you make a record and people like it - I don't see the point in abandoning the whole thing.
What were some of the keyboards that you used on the record?
I'll reel them all off for you: Roland SH-09, that's my favorite, it's really tactile and fat; the Crumar Stratus Polysynth (I'm sitting amongst them right this second), the Crumar's quite useful and the organ sounds are nice as well; Korg Micro Preset, there's a really nice control called Traveler on it which is a bit like a filter.
I used to have a Mini Korg and it had that. All of the names for stuff were different, like decay is called Percussion.
Yeah. You can get nice white noise stuff with it. Moving on, I've got a Logan String Synth.
That's some weird stuff. Is a lot of it European? I know the Crumar's from Italy.
Wow. So when you're doing a live show, you obviously don't bring all that gear with you.
No, me, Mira and Reuben have two keyboards each and Helen's got one. Obviously Helen and Mira are singing. We put the drums on a DAT because it's the safest way of doing it. We were toying with the idea of going with convention and having an actual drummer but everyone talked us out of it, because it would have diluted the whole essence of what we were.
It's much more Kraftwerk just to have four people playing keyboards.
Exactly. And if we brought a computer or a sequencer, it would just be something else to fail. I don't want to be shouting out to the audience, "Has anyone got a copy of Mac OS 9?" [laughs]
It's nice to hear that you play live because I've been to so many shows where, it's cool but it's a guy sitting behind a computer.
Our attitude was, we might as well not do it at all if we were going to do that. We've avoided playing in England - we played in London once but we were on a tour with Solex in February. We played in Europe when we were invited to get a free holiday but the live thing now is developing into a real thing now that the album is out. We wanted to wait until the album was released and there was a market for what we were doing and people wanted to see us.
Are you going to come to the US?
Yeah, we should be coming over in September.
Do you feel an affinity with other synth revival bands?
There's a few American electro groups like Le Car and Dopplereffekt that you remind me of. The big difference is you have vocals.
I spent some time over there at the end of last year, in LA, and the thing that was weird was, we seem to have all of these punk kids into us in San Diego. It's like, we're like this thing that punk's evolved into over there that doesn't really exist in England. That's quite strange. There's definitely punk in what we do, it's just not immediately apparent. I think that when people see us live they'll understand that we've got this subconscious desire to subvert everything we've created, in a way. We can't really help it, it just seems like the natural thing to do. We enjoy confounding people's expectations of us.
There's nothing more boring than going to see a band and have them recreate the album on stage.
Exactly, we play the songs in a different order. No, I'm only joking [laughs]. Live it's a lot edgier. There's a definite live sound - some of the songs do sound very different. There's obviously a balance, because if we messed with it all people would get on our case about it. "Zmeyka", we start with that normally. The harsher stuff tends to work better live so we gear the set in that direction.
Tag: Ladytron interviews