Named after the Roxy Music song of the same name, Ladytron are one of the spearheads of Noughties New Wave and electronica, whose influence can been seen from everyone from Lady Gaga and La Roux to Hugo in Lost (apparently, he's a big fan). DIY sits down with the band's DJ/writer Reuben Wu to talk about their follow up to 'Velocifero', their songwriting Bible and their recent writing trip with Xtina Aguilera.
Back with a new album for 2011. First off, do we have an album title?
'Gravity the Seducer'.
On your Wikipedia page, which is very slickly constructed I might add, it says, "Ladytron has created a body of work that reveals a fresh creative arc - and, as time has told, served as a reference point for a current crop of artists such as Lady Gaga, Goldfrapp, La Roux and Crystal Castles". Is the new Ladytron album a reaction in any way to the depolarisation of electronic music? Sonically, what are we to expect from the new music?
To my ears, it certainly sounds less electronic than previous albums, but it's difficult to step out of my perspective to really make that judgement. To us, 'sounding electronic' has never been something we've had on our minds while making the music. For this album, the majority of instruments we used were not electronic. Autoharp, Conn organ, piano, violin, cello, guitars... The songs on it are more atmospheric, more spacious sounding, softer-sounding than the last album.
What do you think about the current state of electronic pop music? Are you Gaga for the Lady? Or was the Black Eyed Peas assault on electro one step too far?
There are some really great electronic artists out there who I absolutely love, like Summer Camp, Daniel Maloso, Brian Eno, Boards of Canada and so many more.
Reuben, you're a classically trained violinist. Helen has a music degree... how important were the academics of music for you? Would you sound like 'Ladytron' without it?
Having a musical background has definitely helped me. I never liked having to play the violin as a kid because it was an incredibly difficult instrument to make a nice sound with, but it has given me an understanding which has definitely had an impact on the music I've written. On the other hand Danny and Mira haven't had musical training, which I think excites the overall musical chemistry.
It seems as if a lot goes into the melody, arrangement and texture of the songs, whereas the lyrics are often minimalist. Do you still see the lyrics and music of 50:50 importance in your songs? And does this opinion hold true for other people's work?
Every band is different. For us, all these aspects are crucial to our music. Even if you might think that our lyrics are minimalist, they have the same importance as the the melody and the production.
What is the golden rule of songwriting, according to Ladytron?
As songwriters, you have a respectable range, as you wrote some songs for Christina Aguilera, one of which is on her deluxe album Bionic. Forgive me, but you think of the 'big league', you may envision something like this new TV series with Matt LeBlanc, 'Episodes', where the Brits pitch their TV show for a remake with Big US TV industry Execs whose can-do attitude is about about as genuine as smiles... is there any truth of this in your experience of pitching ideas for songs?
That sounds like a bloody nightmare to me. It was quite a simple process with Christina Aguilera. She got in touch, we wrote some songs for her, she chose the ones she wanted to work on, and we travelled to her studio to collaborate on those songs.
What was it like as writers making songs to measure for a global name?
It was never making songs for measure - she asked us from day one to write as if we were writing for ourselves and she would just fit into that. It was a very good position to be in as songwriters.
Did you work with Christina directly during the process and if so, what was she like as a 'colleague'?
Yes we spent some days in her studio working on lyrics and melodies and also building up the tracks themselves. Fortunately we were able to share some musical inspirations before we started working with her and just hang out so things were pretty chilled out and comfortable.
You're a Liverpool-based band. Do you embrace or resent the fact that is one of the most celebrated cities in the world in terms of its musical heritage - but that's its musical heritage is generally considered to be The Beatles and pretty much The Beatles only?
I'm very proud that we we formed in Liverpool. The omnipresence of the Beatles eventually fades into the background until you don't notice it, especially when I was living there, as there is so much music in such a small city. However there are times when we've been faced by some pretty funny Beatles references when we are touring internationally, and that's when it becomes more obvious to us. We never resent it.
You're named after one of my favourite Roxy Music songs. What is so special about this band for you? If you had to choose a fifth member of Ladytron, would you prefer Eno or Ferry?
They were just so forward-thinking and unconventional yet had such great pop songs and an amazing image, like the last gang on Earth. They used synthesizers and oboes and saxophones which didn't fit into any genre at the time. I'd say Eno only because I also love the music he made after Roxy, like No Pussyfooting with Robert Fripp, and he asked us to play at the festival he curated at the Sydney Opera House.
You have a penchant for peculiar gig locations - Tate Liverpool, for instance, making the Picassos vibrate and the Chinese festival you played. Is there a gig dream you really want to realise?
A gig at the North Pole.
What can fans be expecting from you live this year?
Watch this space.