06 January 2013

Rare FM interview (2005)

Ladytron's Daniel Hunt talks to Robert Dunn and Pavel Oulik about why the new album has taken so long, losing the uniforms, Liverpool and why Pete Burns is probably better than him.

First thing, there's been a delay in releasing this album. It was meant to come out last year. What happened there?

We changed labels, that's all. When we started working on it, we were on Emperor Norton in the US and Telstar/Warner UK and rest of the world. Both those labels imploded while we were making the album. It was a ridiculous helpless situation to be in. We were in the process of demoing it two years ago. We went into to record it April 2004 so it could've been released by that autumn. It was very quick to write and record. It was really quite an easy smooth creative process. Just logistics held it up really, nothing that exciting.

The new album seems to continue in the vein of Light & Magic in that it was a departure from 604 for a darker, less poppy sound.

Maybe, in part of it but I think arguably it is the same as Light & Magic. Parts of that were darker but parts of it were more poppy in a way, like "Evil" or "Seventeen", or "Blue Jeans". This one, and I know everyone says that about their latest album, but this is by far our favourite and a lot closer to what we intended to do and the sound in our heads than previous two albums. It's a lot closer to what we originally had in mind and it's just a lot better articulated. The production's better; the songs are better; arrangement's better. It's also because we finished it a year ago but we still listened to it ourselves, which is probably slightly narcissistic, but if we're not bored of it yet; hopefully other people won't be.

Is it true that when you were touching it up in LA, the production guy thought there were guitars on there?

Well yeah, this story actually came when we recorded a cover version of Tweet's "Oops, Oh My" which musically was totally different to the original. It was just an idea we had on Monday, rehearsed on Tuesday and recorded on Wednesday and it was on the NME Turn On Chart the week after. It's just a little anecdotal thing, but it was all overdriven monosynth on our sound. When we were mastering it, the master engineer said 'I'm gonna tweak that frequency to bring out the guitars a bit more' and we were like 'Well, there no guitars on it'. It's the same thing with this record, like when people heard "Sugar" they went 'they've gone guitary'. The only guitar on that album is that high pitched wailing sound, the rest of is synths and the drums are drum machine. I think people hear a dynamic like that and assume that it's rock and also everybody is waiting for every synth band to commit the ultimate act of betrayal, Depeche Mode style. Like, y'know 'They've gone rock on us! They've gone rock on us! I knew it was gonna happen!' and that's not what we did. This record, in terms of our original root, probably the most influential band on me of the nineties is Stereolab and that's where we come from. Stereolab and My Bloody Valentine. We always got compared to The Human League and Kraftwerk but we were constantly trying to say that that was not what we wanted to do.

This is your first proper tour since Light & Magic in 2003. How does it feel to be back on the road?

It's good because there's only so much you can think about music, especially after such a long time working on this record and waiting for it to be released. Playing live is like the closest you get to manual labour, like working in a factory - it's instantly gratifying. So when you're on tour for a long time you're desperate to get creative again. I think it's very difficult to work on music when you're playing music every night. Thinking about those old songs, you need a break from that. But once you've been thinking about phased high-hat sounds for eighteen months you definitely want to get back on the pirate ship again. Go out there and hammer away.

So how's the tour been so far?

It's been good. It's got progressively better night by night. We remember the Oxford one being particularly good. Aberdeen as well. Glasgow was last night and that's always good. Played in Liverpool... our tour was strangely routed. We made a set of Mickey Mouse ears. We were just backwards and forwards on the M62 for like four days.

How was the Liverpool one?

It was good. Mine and Reuben's families were all out. It was good actually, because normally, loath to admit it but, the Manchester ones tend to be better than the ones in Liverpool.

I remember being at the last Liverpool gig in 2003 and there was a moshpit.

Were you at that one?

Yeah, and Franz Ferdinand supported.

Oh yeah, that little band. It was funny that because we supported them this September. A strange symmetry two years later. We thought they were really good and thought they were gonna do well but we had no idea that was gonna happen.

And Reuben's dad was next to me.

Oh yeah, Reuben's dad was moshing. He was at it again this week.

You played a cover of Cabaret Voltaire's "Nag Nag Nag" on your last tour. Are you gonna do that again this tour?

I dunno, why did we do that? It was just something we wanted to do at that point. It was funny because when we were working it out, we worked out the music easily - it's just two chords, Mira actually phoned up and got Richard H. Kirk's number off a mutual friend to get the lyrics and he was like 'I'm not sure if I remember them' so she was sitting in the rehearsal room on the phone transcribing the lyrics direct from source. We then invited them to Leeds Festival because we were going to play it live but our set was too short so we couldn't even play it and they were standing there at the side. So I dunno, we might play it again or we might just do another cover probably.

You've ditched the uniform outfits. Was this because it was limiting since people generally and the press especially were concentrating on the image of the band?

A little bit, but it's also because they were made for the last record. They weren't the same as the ones we had for the first record. On the first record we were wearing a few different things, but yeah it did get focused on a lot. It was just something that had run its course. And the girls wanted to wear dresses. I suppose it goes with the record as well, creatively the record's free-er. If things get difficult we can always sell them on ebay. Actually there were three sets. There was a green one, a black one and a white one. The white one only got worn once because it looked too much like catering had arrived.

Light & Magic was well received in the US and you played to much bigger crowds. Are you going back there to tour this album?

Yeah, definitely going back in Spring around March-April. This album's gone down even better than the last one. Getting better reviews and a lot more radio play even.

What do you think the difference is? Here you're relatively famous but what's it like in the States?

Well it's the same there. We're famous on a cult level. We sell out a venue like this [Koko] but it's not like cab drivers know who we are so I think it's probably a good level to be at. Over there it's basically the same but the venues are bigger, obviously the country's bigger. Like we've played somewhere bigger than this in New York and Chicago but then they're bigger cities.

Between touring, being in the studio and DJing which do you enjoy most?

It's different because there's so many different ways you can think in terms of music. In the studio, the album is the main thing but once you've thought about a record for so long you wanna get to work in the factory. DJing is just a bit of fun and also an easy way to get to places where the band hasn't been yet. We did Brazil, Argentina three or four times. We haven't played live there yet but we will next year. And we always go to America before we go on tour and do a DJ tour first so it's just an extra element. I think it works for us in terms of getting our name around as well.

Your DJ sets all differ. You're all very eclectic but your styles differ within the band.

Yeah, exactly. You get more Fleetwood Mac with Helen; you get more Os Mutantes with me; you get more Johnny Cash with Mira. Reuben just plays Gabba nowadays.

The British Council set a few gigs in China for you. How was that different to what you're used to?

It was an emotionally pretty draining experience for me even though I really enjoyed it. It was just like so much experience packed into two weeks. We only played four shows and saw so much. I mean if we'd just played Shanghai it wouldn't have been anyway near as weird. It would have been very impressive. But we saw Chungking as well which was completely different, it could have been a completely different country. It was good that they picked us to do it because they could've picked any band out there. But someone, somewhere decided we were taken out there.

You're the representatives of the British music industry.

Well, exactly. They could've taken any four-piece y'know four boys guitar band out there but they probably thought 'What good is that gonna do?' Without wanting to sound too big-headed but maybe they saw in us someone doing something a bit different rather than the regular thing people expect from Britain.

Do you have a favourite moment from a gig and/or DJing?

A lot of gigs on the American tour were really special. The gig in Sofia was very special. Exit Festival in Serbia this year was especially good. And the Champions League final, DJing that and playing Ring of Fire 40 times in succession.

How many fans were you DJing to?

Well a lot of them were still arriving so it was like this river of red coming down the hillside and I was trying to play a John Peel tribute set. So I played The Modern Lovers, "Kicker Conspiracy" by The Fall but I just kept having these guys coming up asking for "Ring of Fire" so I ended up kept putting it on. I knew Pete Wylie was gonna play a cover version of "You'll Never Walk Alone" later on so I asked his permission like 'd'ya mind if I played it now?' and he let me so I put it on and there was probably 25,000. Instantly, all these scarves in the air and everyone singing, I was literally in tears. It was the most insane thing, I'm sure there's footage of me and Gary from The Bandits who was there with us, people were passing us flags. After Wylie's version I had to DJ again so I stuck "Ring of Fire" on again and there was a stage invasion. The stage was just suddenly full of fans and I just looked at the people around me looking on in horror and I was like 'You best just pack these CD players away. I shouldn't play anymore. You should just take it all away now otherwise someone else will take it away for you!'. So I just gave up and then got pissed. And then went into the stadium and took 15 years off my life.

So that was before the match?

Yeah, before the match. I couldn't have done anything after the match.

Yeah, I was watching in my local and I couldn't bear to watch the penalty shoot-out so I had to stand outside.

The only question for me was what was gonna take me first? Heart failure or brain haemorrhage? Or a combination of the two.

It was quite an experience when you're in a pub in North London full of Arsenal fans singing "You'll Never Walk Alone".

Aw, that must have been mad, yeah. Seriously, I've heard that tragically some people did have heart attacks. Like some 22 year old kid from Ireland died in the pub during the game and I'm like fucking hell. And he didn't even know we'd won y'know. What a fucking way to go. I kind of lived in Milan for half of last year because my girlfriend lived there and made loads of Milan fan friends - lost them all. Made a lot of Inter friends now.

What are you listening to on your iPod at the moment?

I suppose just a case of what I've put on it. I put a load of Eno on it recently, and the Clor album. And I uploaded a load of Os Mutantes onto it. But it's quite an old one so the battery life in is like half an hour or something.

Who's the best band to come out of Liverpool? You or Dead Or Alive?

Ah, definitely Dead Or Alive! They were actually a credible band at one point. No one remembers this but what DOA were doing before they got involved with Stock, Aitkin and Waterman, they sounded like The Doors. They were more like The Cult or something like what The Cult were like in the mid-eighties. But then something happened, I dunno what. But I think Pete Burns is laughing all the way to the bank anyway.

What are your plans for the future?

More records. Well tour, this record, then the next record will come out a lot quicker.

So you enjoying it?

Yeah, yeah, more than ever to be honest. The more we do it the closer we get to a definitive thing. There won't be the gap, because we've had so much time off we've already written the next one. It would be good if we could have another record out this time next year. It depends on how much touring we do in the interim. I'm trying to press that we can take a month off and get the new record done.

So you've already got material for the next one?

Oh yeah, there's loads of stuff already there. We just need time to actually record it. So maybe if we can get a month off somewhere between now and next summer we might be able to go in and record it.

Do you think you'll ever get bored of this lifestyle?

I dunno, it's all I've done; I've never actually had a job in my life. Not because I come from any position of privilege, y'know, very normal family. I've just been very very lucky. All I've ever done is DJ and bands so I can't see myself getting bored of it. It's just a case of where you live. If I wasn't travelling so much I probably wouldn't live in Liverpool.

So are you still living in Liverpool?

Yeah, Reuben and I both bought places in Liverpool. It's a good base but if I weren't travelling all the time I wouldn't stay there. I mean I really love Liverpool and it's obviously home but I wanna live other places.

Where in Liverpool did you grow up?

I was born in Crosby but I grew up in the Wirral...

Really? I grew up in Toxteth and Aigburth, but then moved to Crosby where I lost me accent. [For readers ignorant of Liverpudlian geography, Crosby's a bit posh]

Oh, Reuben's flat is in Toxteth. Mine's in right in town, Duke Street. But we both grew up on the Wirral. We just opened a bar in Liverpool actually which makes things a bit more interesting.

I was back home in the summer and I tried to go to your club [Club Evol] but it wasn't on.

Yeah, because we were opening our own place we stopped the night where it was and we opened this new place, it's like a café-bar during the day and a club at night. It's called Korova on Fleet Street and Wood Street, near Probe Records. That's been open two weeks and going really well. It's a lot more satisfying than doing a club night because other people can do stuff in there and it's about making somewhere where it's good all the time and other people can use it. Like on Wednesday night Dave McCabe and The Zutons just turned up and did acoustic. We programme the music in there pretty carefully, the décor's nice and get all our favourite Latin American beers on the bar.

Do you mind if I take some pictures?

Could you take it later? You gonna be around for the gig? Could you take it later because I've basically just got out of bed and look like shit. It's what I've been dreading because all the interviews have been scheduled during loading time so a bit too early for me.

27 October 2005