06 April 2011
The Portable Infinite interview (2000)
Do you do a lot of DJ-ing?
The label we are on runs a club. I DJ there most weeks. Me and Reuben go out and DJ as Ladytron as well. We did one club in London a few weeks ago.
What's it like in Liverpool? Are you influenced by the city or is the music of Ladytron a work of the imagination?
Liverpool has changed a lot in the last five years. It doesn't feel like England. It feels more like a colony. When I go down south I feel like I'm visiting another country. But that is true probably going from state to state in the US as well.
There is also a lineage with the musical past, especially the early 1980s, like The Teardrop Explodes. People in England have a fixed expectation of what Liverpool produces, specifically Beatles influenced guitar bands, which is sort sometimes true but there's a lot more out there than that.
Do you like Liverpool or Everton?
People in the band are taken aback by how much I'm into football. It doesn't fit in with the image of the band. It's complete therapy. You can't be doing music all the time. I have looked so long for a place to watch games live in LA, and I found a place in Studio City. I got a fax of my schedule for Thursday from Emperor Norton. It says that Danny watches soccer game at 12. Liverpool has one of the most supported teams in the world, but everyone you meet in Liverpool seems to support Everton. It's weird.
How did you meet the other members of the band? Are they all from Liverpool?
Reuben has always been from Liverpool. I've known him for a long time. Mira is Bulgarian and she lives in Oxford. Helen is Scottish and didn't live in Liverpool till very recently. Helen introduced Mira to the band. It was all quite organic. We didn't put up any adverts. We just met people. We fell over each other at a bar. I was working on stuff with Reuben anyway, so it sort of became a band about two years ago. We started working as a band.
I wrote most of this album because I was working on it first and I had built up quite a lot of material. So that everyone has equal input we will make the next album more evenly. It strikes me now why people's second albums are so difficult. The first album has been long since finished. Now there's a bunch of stuff we have to do, and there's a barrier for us before we can record again. We have stuff ready and I want to get on with it. The live shows are not that important to the band.
How many shows have you played?
Less than ten. I've been in bands before where they spend so much time rehearsing and carrying amplifiers around that they haven't actually achieved anything. I thought it would be better to sacrifice the physical fitness. We have our own studio. We do about ninety percent of it there, and then take it somewhere else to finish it.
Is the studio near Strawberry Fields or Penny Lane to get that good vibe?
No. We took part of the wall and put it in the studio. People actually do that. They take a piece of the gate of Strawberry Fields. Where the fuck do they think they can actually sell it? There's only about three hundred thousand people in Liverpool. There was about a million in the 1930s when it was a thriving port, before we were fucked up by Rotterdam. All the Beatles stuff is south Liverpool and we are south Liverpool as well. North Liverpool is predominantly white and working class. Culturally they're a bit backwards. South Liverpool is where all the immigrant communities are and it's a bit more cosmopolitan.
Ladytron got the attention of the NME right away. How did that happen?
It was the single of the week. It had actually been around for six months. It had been sent out and it didn't get reviewed or anything. It was sitting on the shelves for six months and it was re-promoted. Then it landed on the right person's desk, and it became single of the week. That got a lot of attention and we had a load of major labels chasing us. At first we were tempted because it would be an easy thing to explain to my mum and dad. They understand signing to a big label, but wouldn't know what an indie label is. So we resisted that temptation and hooked up with Emperor Norton. I think that if we went with a major label and a worldwide deal, they wouldn't have done as good a job.
Ladytron is supposed to be a pop group. I'm into the idea of subverting things from within. We want to make pop records and not records for pure collectors. The music were into will never come out straight. I think that you can make pop music out of anything. Any instruments. As long as it has a good melody and is regular, then it's pop music.
Do you have Arps and Moogs? What other gear do you have?
Yeah. I've been collecting that stuff since I was about seventeen. Liverpool was lucky to have this shop that was only open for a year, because the market was obviously quite limited. About seven years ago they were selling analog synths. I bought loads of stuff from there and from other sales. So I have about ten analog synths. I have had a few stolen. And I've stolen a few myself. I don't have any old ones. Mini-moogs you are supposed to leave on for half a day. They are brittle. I broke two when we played in Spain. They just didn't work anymore. I use Pro Tools on a Mac. Keeping the programming to a minimum, and play live as much as possible. Someone in Spain described it as Electronic music with skin, because it's not completely pure.
Bands like Kraftwerk and Detroit Techno guys like Derrick May were imagining the future with their music. It was cold, robotic and the human body was close to being eliminated.
It's not like we're anticipating the future anymore. It's strange that people associate those sounds with the future. That people said "This is what the future sounds like". There's a lot of Sci-Fi connotations to the sound. There's no reason why the future should sound like that. I have a friend who built me a ring modulator. It sounds a bit like a theremin. It has limited usefulness. Kraftwerk has become a self-parody. They have an enormous influence. But Kraftwerk 2000 sounds like Kraftwerk trying to sound like Kraftwerk. That happens to a band a certain point in their career: they attempt to recycle what they have done "Free as a Bird" style.
I'm into it. I think it's like playing on the radio and people taping your song. But someone hears about you they check out your stuff straight away. If it does impact record sales in the long term, that's just tough shit. There's nothing you can do about it. I was really pleased to find our stuff on Napster because it was like we were getting played on the radio. I was really pleased that someone had taken the song from the CD and put it up.
I sent an email message to the person who did it and asked them if they had any more Ladytron stuff. They said, "No". Then we had a series of messages back and forth and I told them that I was actually in the band. And they wouldn't believe me.
I checked back on Napster a few weeks later and the content had multiplied. One song appeared off of this Japanese mini-album we had done. Some of the tracks off this will be on the album coming out in January. Well, I saw one track and thought that's weird. Then a few minutes later there were two more songs. So this guy was in the process of ripping off all the songs on the CD. This panicked me because it wasn't out yet. It was out in Japan but we deliberately kept it away from the rest of the world. We didn't want to take any of the impact off the album. I thought that was scary. I felt that someone had gotten into my computer and taken these songs out.
The cover of the Commodore Rock EP makes you look like a Japanese band.
Right. Well, Reuben is Chinese and he does the illustrations. We all work on the artwork. We try and keep it all in house. Many people thought we were Japanese because we released our first record over there. We haven't played over there yet.
Well, there's the four of us with a keyboard each. Then there's these two guys who help us, who do additional stuff. They're not in the band but they play with us. I suppose it looks a little like Kraftwerk as well. I wanted to take it into a whole rock show direction, but I wimped out because the whole sound is based around drum machines. We don't want to confuse people when they first see us. All the keyboards get routed to the two guys in the back, white-coated technicians.
Tag: Ladytron interviews