It's 1999. Industrial designer and part-time keyboardist Reuben Wu strikes gold when he and fellow Liverpudlian Daniel Hunt meet Glaswegian vocalists Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo. It's 2001. With debut single 'Playgirl', Wu and friends re-popularise a little thing called electropop. It's 2009. Ladytron have spawned four albums and an entire musical genre, and they’re one of the most influential bands in the world.
"We still get the same crap hotel rooms and the same crap riders", laughs Wu. "They never get better and they never get worse. One thing we did find when we toured last year was that advance ticket sales were lower than usual, but on the days of the gigs, a whole lot of kids decided to come and see the band. We ended up selling out most of the dates on the tour. Everyone needs rock music, and it's survival of the fittest".
Wu is happy to claim his band's place atop the Darwinian food chain, but doesn't necessarily agree that they can take all the credit (blame?) for today's electro-saturated musical landscape. "Yeah, there are a lot of bands out there who probably wouldn't sound the way they do if we didn't happen", he concedes. "But I think at the same time, a lot of those bands wouldn't sound like that if things hadn't happened between 1979 and 1984. We're by no means the genesis of electropop, we just managed to repopularise it.
"But the other thing that's happened in the wake of electroclash is that it's made electronic instruments acceptable in mainstream music. Remember when Madonna released that electro track? So many bands have synthesizers and keyboards now, but they don't really see it as electropop anymore. They just see it as pop".
Similarly, Ladytron haven't seen themselves as an electropop band for quite some time now. Most critics pin that evolution to last year's 'Velocifero' (their fourth LP, which literally translates to 'bringer of speed') and its ubiquitous single, 'Ghosts'. They're wrong.
"That didn't happen during this album. That happened during the second album (2002's 'Light & Magic'). Our record had been out for awhile, and we were getting all this press saying we were the pioneers of this thing that was happening in New York. Our attitude was, 'ok, we're doing our own thing, and we're not part of any scene' … I think 'Light & Magic' bookended that whole period for us. It was like, 'that's out of the way, let's not think about that anymore'. We've really developed and evolved our sound on an album-by-album basis since then".
That evolution has brought them to Brian Eno's notice. Eno, the avant-garde pioneer who played on the Roxy Music track Ladytron takes its name from, has handpicked the band to take part in his 'Luminous' festival. "It's quite an interesting story, actually", Wu says. Normally such a statement precedes an incredibly dull story, but he isn't lying.
"Helen and Mira were loading stuff into their car after a show in Oxford when a girl came up to them and introduced herself as Brian Eno's daughter. She said she was a fan of the band and that she'd gotten her dad into us, which was pretty exciting. A couple of days later, we got a call from Eno's people asking if we wanted to play the Sydney Opera House. And it's entirely down to the kids keeping dad cool!" Naturally, after nearly a decade of world tours, this isn't Wu's first trip Down Under.
"This'll be my fifth time in Australia. Eventually I want to drive across the outback, but you never know what's going to happen. I'm worried I'll be murdered". It's 2012. Wu survives an ordeal in the Australian outback and lives to write an album about it. It's a success, inspiring hundreds of imitators. Nobody is surprised.