Showing posts with label Ladytron interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ladytron interviews. Show all posts

26 October 2017

Maja Magazine interview (2009)

Ladytron: sensual synth

In the music industry, a fourth full-length album validates the staying power of any music group; thus have Liverpool, England-based electro pop band Ladytron, proved able to leave fans demanding more. As the band — Mira Aroyo, Helen Marnie, Reuben Wu and Daniel Hunt — prepares to release Velocifero this summer, they reflect on the gradual changes that have taken place since it all began in 1999.

"We started out a really long time ago; it kind of felt like we were kids when we started," laughs Mira, who was born in Bulgaria and holds a biology Ph.D from Oxford University. "We didn't have a clue it was going to go the way that it's gone. We didn't really have any big plans or ideas. It started off as a fun project and it basically turned into our lives. Musically it's just grown immensely."

After the foursome found their calling they were off and running with 2001's debut release, 604. It was with this synth-pop record that imitators began springing up, nevertheless leaving Ladytron to shine in a light all their own. Through vintage analogue equipment and hours of experimentation, Ladytron achieves their distinct sound.

"We just try and be ourselves," Reuben explains. "For us it's natural and instinctive to produce music the way we do. I expect that if I was in a different band I would find it very difficult to come up with the Ladytron sound. It's a magical combination of many things."

"We put things through keyboards and a lot of distortions and delays to the point where you can't really distinguish live drums from programmed drums or keyboards from guitars. I think what distinguishes us from a lot of live bands is that we do write things with an electronic means. We don't start writing songs by jamming out to the guitar and then converting them. It's always about sitting down and having these instruments around you," Mira adds.

After 604 came 2002's Light and Magic, followed by 2005's much-praised Witching Hour, with hit singles "Destroy Everything You Touch" and "Sugar." Between albums, Ladytron developed their live show, doing DJ sets and performances in what seemed to be a constant state of travel—touring Argentina, Brazil, North America (on Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Lovers tour), and Europe (opening for Nine Inch Nails).

"The way that we are live really helps us grow musically," Mira said. "This whole touring experience is really getting to know each other more personally but also, more importantly, musically."

"When we started working on Light and Magic I suppose we'd become a proper band at that point," Reuben added. "Some people perceived the sound of our music as being a bit darker with slicker production techniques, and we went a stage further with Witching Hour. By that time we'd done a hell of a lot touring, and I think it was that critical point when we realized we were a different band from what we were when we started out."

Witching Hour has been described as Ladytron's best album – but with Velocifero following, it's apparent they intend only to get better. After being recorded in Paris, the new release includes collaborations with Vicarious Bliss and Alessandro Cortini of Nine Inch Nails. The innovation and emotion in this particular album radiates through songs like "Ghosts," "Black Cat" and "I'm Not Scared." Velocifero also marks the first release with the band's new label, Nettwerk.

"The new songs are really quite different from each other. It was hard for us to pick singles," Mira said. "It's a leap forward from Witching Hour. We were more interested in making different sounds, in getting different sounds from keyboards rather than just tweaking tracks after with effects. Rhythmically I think it's much more diverse and much more interesting."

"The new album is really exciting," Reuben said. "I think it's a stronger album; I think there are more songs on it with the potential to be people's favorites. Obviously the band has moved on and branched out in different directions, but at the same time there are a lot of songs which have a familiar sound that people know from the previous albums."

Now that the fourth album is complete, Mira and Reuben both say Ladytron is getting ready for the extensive tour they have scheduled throughout the summer that, so far, include Europe, Canada and the U.S. Mira said they're also beginning to talk already of another album following in quick succession with songs held back from Velocifero that will be "a bit weirder and more downtempo."

And how does Ladytron see itself when it comes to fitting into the current state of pop music?

"We kind of occupy a space on our own," Reuben explains. "I don't think there are any bands out there who are similar to us. I think we stand alone; we've been on the scene for a really long time now. I think we're in a really good position because we're seen as a band who would go out and do their own thing."

"From when we started it's a lot more diverse, people are using a lot more mixtures of sounds," Mira said. "I think that with Witching Hour we basically gained a lot of confidence because electronically it was just a lot thicker than previous albums. It seems like we're kind of on a train now, forging through."


18 July 2015

Virtual Festivals interview (2003)

Virtual Festivals: Ladytron have been playing an awful lot of festivals recently...

Helen Marnie: Yeah. The last couple of months we've been doing the European festivals like Norway, Sweden, Spain, Greece and Portugal. This is our first UK one this year.

How does Leeds compare?

They're all different. Like Spain for example. Spain's just a mad country anyway - it works differently! This is the third time we've done Reading/Leeds in a row but Reading yesterday was the best we've ever done so we're looking forward to Leeds. Our stage is really good this year. Last year we were put on in the dance tent and we didn't quite fit. Although it's dance-able and stuff, it's not dance music. It's pop and a bit of rock - not what people really want to see in that tent. It's much better this year now that we're on the Radio 1 stage.

What would be your fantasy festival line-up?

The line-up on our stage that I watched yesterday, Electric Six, that was just amazing. The crowd went mad. They were a good fun band. I love Interpol. I've also now seen the Polyphonic Spree! But on my perfect line-up, Prince would probably be there and then I'd have to have somebody like Joni Mitchell. I think that the line-up on the Radio 1 stage is very good this year.

You've had a lot of press this year. How has that affected the band?

I think that we've still got a long way to go but it's good that we have been doing a lot of festivals 'cos that's not our audience really. Like yesterday at Reading, on the front row, you could see a few people that knew you but the majority was just like people who had probably never heard of you. It's a good thing to do, to get more exposure. The last year's been really good because we've been touring America and everything seems to be going quite well.

Ladytron have been cited as fashion icons. How have you found that?

It's a bit weird because it's not what we set to do. Some fashonistas have latched onto the fact that we wear uniforms and things. That's not why we wore the uniform in the first place. It was a uniform so therefore it wasn't fashion but it's backfired a little bit!

Have you had any time to write any new material this year?

Touring is not the environment for us to make music. Although you have the ideas for things like that we haven't had the chance to put them down. Once all the festivals are done and the UK tour finishes we're going to go back in the studio, get everything down and just start again.

Are you anticipating a different direction for the new record?

Yeah, I think that this year's live show will influence what we do a lot 'cos our sound has progressed more with a live drummer and bass player on stage. It completely changes the way we are and it's made us all a lot more confident. It will affect the way we go in and record. I think it will rock a bit more than previous records.


17 July 2015

Q Magazine Special: The Story of Electro-pop (2005)

Phase Four


"We bumped into Tiga last year", explains Ladytron's songwriter Daniel Hunt, "and he said, Congratulations for escaping electroclash". While Montreal DJ Tiga has so far failed to follow-up his Top 30 cover of Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night", Liverpool-based Ladytron have just completed their third album, due for release in early 2005.

Founding member Daniel Hunt started making electronic music after buying dilapidated synths for "next to nothing from this huge car boot sale right by the ventilation shaft of the Mersey tunnel. It was a bit like Barter Town in Mad Max".

In 1999, he joined forces with a fellow designer, a model and genetics student, namely Reuben Wu, Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo, to record Ladytron's first single, "He Took Her to a Movie", on a 50 pounds budget.

Apart from mucking about half-broken machinery, Hunt was drawn to synthesizers because "not only are Depeche Mode one of my favourite bands, they seemed to offer a completely different view of how alternative music could be made".

Dressed in uniform black ("we wanted simplicity") they released 604, an album of quietly understated pop, in 2001, followed by the more ambitious Light & Magic a year and a half later. The latter contains the excellent singles "Seventeen" and "Evil", and is both more powerful and better designed - a concept that is close to their heart.

"It does feel as if the way the future was anticipated 30 years ago has actually happened", argues Hunt, pointing out the futuristic designs of iPods, digital cameras, mobile phones and so on. "It didn't look as if it would and then suddenly you look around and it kind of has".

Meanwhile, Ladytron's forward-looking style has not only survived electroclash and the financial meltdown of their label (they're now signed to Island), they even spent autumn of 2004 touring China in association with the British Council to promote 21st-century music.

Their new songs are described by Hunt as "still electronic but nastier. We've always been into Neu! and My Bloody Valentine and now we can be influenced by stuff like that. Before it would still sound like The Human League by the time we'd put the ideas through some ancient synth".


As Ladytron's Daniel Hunt explains, "there's a lot of stuff that's completely taboo, that you're not allowed to like. It's as if people are afraid of it. And if you're influenced by anything from that period, then they think it must be a joke, that you don't actually like it. But it also means that you're starting out with something fresh, that you're not using all the usual old reference points".

Scans source. I transcribed only the parts where Ladytron were mentioned.

06 July 2015

Premonition Magazine interview (2002)

It is the second album of this young Liverpool-based band who sparkles their pop compositions with electronic sounds straight out from the '80s. When asked about the obvious nods and allusions popping up throughout Ladytron's songs, founder and programmer Daniel Hunt denies any conscious imitation attempt, insisting on his despise for fashion and hype and unhesitatingly reproaching other bands with doing exactly what Ladytron's usually criticised for... A debate that soon turns round in circles. However justified, such criticism doesn't necessarily deserve to be commented upon at length, at the risk of depreciating the album's efficiency. Dissecting Light & Magic should remain a pleasant exercise.

Ladytron is a young band who's been very rapidly propelled into the "hype". Aren't you afraid of such a rapid success?

There is no rapid success, or any "hype". We were on an independent label who cannot afford "hype". We have been together 4 years, hardly overnight success.

Don't you think that you're somehow too much pop for the electronic scene, and too much electronic for the pop scene?

We are not a part of anyone else's scene. If someone wants to place us within a scene and then finds that we do not fit... that demonstrates the absurdity of scenes in general. We exist in isolation, always have. At the beginning we were compared to LRD, because that was the only thing around to compare us to... in retrospect that is false. We have made no secret that we make pop music, we didn't intend to make a cash in Hi-NRG record this time... although that's what most have done... we can remix our songs into club tracks very easily.

You are often compared to Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode or Zoot Woman... aren't you bored with all these comparisons? Without what bands would Ladytron not exist today?

Those comparisons are false. Our songs look more to Lee Hazelwood than Kraftwerk.

Your music is at once cold and extremely emotional. How do you create such an amazing balance?

Just by writing human songs, songs which are not obsessed with style or fashion, that is where we differ from some of our peers. We're just a completely different school to most of the things we're compared to. We are more like New Order than say... Gary Numan.

Where do you take your inspiration for writing texts?

Bad sex!

What are the differences between this new album and 604?

This is a better album, it works as a record a lot more coherently, it's more varied, better produced.

Light & Magic is less dark than 604, is it deliberate?

Some people say it is more dark.

Nods and winks seem to constantly pop up throughout the album. Reminiscences from Visage on "Cracked LCD", "funkier" echoes in "Turn It On"... is it some kind of deliberate tribute or a totally unconscious process?

There are no "winks" ;) It is all coincidental, and involuntary. "Cracked LCD" sounds more like The Cure or Joy Division, but started life as a Hi-NRG track. "Turn It On" sounds more like Genesis than anything else.

Are you always dressed in black? Is there a meaning to that?

No, we dress in different colours, just uniform. It is so people don't focus on our clothes... although it seems to have the opposite effect. We hate this fashion-led electroclash scene, the 80's clothes are horrible. We made it clear at the beginning that we are not interested in '80s revivalism, that the clothes and the hair are not interesting... just some of the music production.

I've read somewhere that you were planning to work on the Tron 2 soundtrack, is it a joke or what?

That is completely untrue... and not a helpful rumour to have floating around. We did rescore the original Tron movie for a live event in London, that's all, that's probably where this rumour came from.


07 April 2015

Remix Mag interview (2005)

On Roxy Music's debut album, Bryan Ferry sang of revenge enacted upon an unsuspecting object of affection in a song called "Ladytron". Keyboardist Brian Eno layered synth drones and strings atop curiously effected guitars and orchestral instruments. It was a song of dark emotions wrapped in a seductive groove by turns relaxed and passionate, and it toyed with sounds and moods rarely experienced in the pop music of the time. That time, specifically, was 1972, long before any member of the Liverpool, England, band Ladytron touched finger to key of any of the group's prized vintage synths, which were being produced at the same time as Roxy Music's experimental avant-pop.

Nearly 30 years later, when Ladytron released its first album, 604 (Emperor Norton, 2001), few listeners heard a connection between its synth pop and the stylish art rock of fellow Brits Roxy Music. Rather, Ladytron was unceremoniously lumped into the electroclash movement with acts such as Fischerspooner, ADULT. and Mount Sims, where it would stay through the release of its second album, Light & Magic (Emperor Norton, 2002). Although the electroclash label didn't put Ladytron in bad company, it did overlook the breezy sophistication of the band's minimal yet layered synths-and-beats sound and its knack for writing pop hooks and melodies, which stand on their own. What no one could have known for certain was that for its first two albums, Ladytron was gestating in the cocoon of its home studio. The band broke out of this incubator with a yearlong world tour supporting Light & Magic and then spread its wings fully when it went into a Liverpool studio with producer Jim Abbiss (Kasabian, UNKLE) to record Witching Hour (Rykodisc, 2005), an album appropriately enchanting for its title.

Sound resolve

Witching Hour is all about bending the line between genres, so much so that the ends of the line meet in the middle. In other words, Ladytron has come full circle with its influences, including '70s Krautrock and art rock, '80s electro and synthpop and the cavalcade of '90s dance styles from which the band draws. Early experimenters such as Can, Neu! and Roxy Music helped inform Kraftwerk, which in turn inspired the creators of hip-hop, house and techno but also influenced new-wave bands and the contemporary psychedelics of shoegaze guitar bands. In an artistic progression that may surprise many — yet disappoint few — fans, Ladytron invokes pieces of each of these styles to create an emotional, energetic, catchy, beautiful, intelligent album that is either very challenging to classify specifically or incredibly easy to classify in general as pop music.

"We're not very interested in being a band attached to another band's reputation or sound", says Daniel Hunt (keyboards, production), who wrote the bulk of the material for Ladytron's first two albums. On Witching Hour, the other members — Mira Aroyo (vocals, keyboards), Helen Marnie (vocals, keyboards) and Reuben Wu (keyboards, production) — contributed more to the writing.

The result feels more like a stylistically diverse group effort, and it's expertly paced — indicative of a band whose members have all spent the past few years picking up DJ gigs. Witching Hour opens with the tension-building drone of "High Rise" and then explodes into the powerfully stoic drive and bounce of "Destroy Everything You Touch", in which Marnie's icily delivered vocals scolding an insensitive friend could be a direct answer to Ferry's "Ladytron" lyrics. The album then ebbs and flows between ethereal, midtempo tunes; instrumental interludes; and club-ready rockers until it gives way to a gorgeous, synth-pad-drenched conclusion in the last three songs, including the ode to My Bloody Valentine, "Whitelightgenerator", and Ladytron's first certifiable tearjerker, the wistful and climactic "All the Way...".

Lady treks

For Ladytron's 12-month Light & Magic world tour, the group added a live bassist and drummer to the lineup and stopped using sequenced beats and loops onstage in favor of playing all the parts in real time. "We used to play with a laboratory set up onstage", Aroyo says, referring to the nearly 15 vintage analog synths that the band used onstage each night. "It just felt really limiting, like we couldn't go anywhere with it being tied to a loop".

To punch up the live sound, the band added drummer Keith York, formerly of Broadcast, and bassist Andrea Goldsworthy. "We wanted to explore something that was more dynamic", Hunt explains. "The first two albums sound very serene and small compared to how the tracks ended up sounding live, when they became harder and more powerful".

"We got a lot of confidence out of playing as a live band", Aroyo continues. "We're a lot better than we were before". The band started touring to support Witching Hour in October (it should cover the U.S. during late winter and spring of 2006) and has kept the six-member format for the gigs. Adapting the album to the stage was much more intuitive this time. "Basically, the way we had done the previous records, we were just a recording band, not a touring band", Aroyo says. "We made the records and then appropriated them live. Whereas with this one, it's still very delicate and precise on the record, but it's punchier. It was quite easy to adapt this one live". That didn't mean that the band simply forsook all of its carefully processed and mixed drum tracks from Witching Hour to have them played on a standard drum kit. "We're kind of like a weirdo rock band, but we're not really interested in being a traditional rock band in any way", Aroyo adds. "So the live drum sounds need to fit right in with the rest of the music".

Drummer York plays both sampled sounds from drum pads onstage and a full kit that is miked and effected to capture the essence of Witching Hour's heavily treated beats. It helped that York played drums on about half of the album and contributed to the creation of the drum sounds. "He's very clever with the drum processing", Hunt says. Although York and Goldsworthy are sidemen, they bring a lot to the process. "They're not in the photos and not in the band proper, but they take a lot of responsibility for what they do", Hunt says. "They're an integral part of the way we perform live".

The band has also dropped most of its vintage synths from the stage show to preserve the instruments and ensure better reliability from contemporary digital-modeling synths. Trusty old servants such as the Korg MS-10 and MS-20, the Roland SH-2 and SH-09, the Moog Micromoog, the Sequential Circuits Pro-One and others are used for recording, but Ladytron replaces them live with models such as the Korg MS-2000 and MicroKorg. "A lot of the original sounds were made on [vintage] Korgs", Aroyo says. "The new modeling synths aren't as good as the real thing — they don't have all the natural modulation the MS-10s and MS-20s have — but they're a pretty good approximation".

Preproduction hours

After the Light & Magic tour wrapped in the latter half of 2003, members of the band wasted little time in preparing material for the next record. Hunt, Aroyo, Marnie and Wu wrote material on their own at home, sometimes full songs or just short sketches of a song. "We write all the songs on guitars and keyboards", Hunt says. "We don't sequence until the last minute". When the group does sequence in parts, it's usually with Steinberg Cubase SX. "We're used to it", Hunt explains. "We've been using it for seven or eight years. A lot of people talk about Logic, especially since Apple bought it. But if you've just come off tour, and you've got to write another record, do you want to work on music or sit there and learn another application for six months?" Hunt also notes that for the most part, the band eschews software synths because, in the end, they usually prefer the tracks they record on hardware instruments anyway.

After hashing out material individually for a time, the band worked as a group for at least a month piecing ideas into demos for Witching Hour. "Because there was such a delay between this album and the last one, people assume it was a creative delay", Hunt says. "It totally wasn't". By January 2004, the Witching Hour demos were prepared, and the band took about 24 working song ideas into the studio to work with Londoner Abbiss, who in 15 years of producing has worked with Björk, Sneaker Pimps, Massive Attack, Placebo, DJ Shadow and many others.

Although Abbiss was a large part of the process, several of the vocal and instrumental tracks from the group's original demos made it to Witching Hour. "People assume that because this album sounds a bit different, the producer has changed the sound or that, because we changed labels, the label changed the sound", Hunt says. "This album was headed in the direction it was from the moment it started. Jim brought his skills and a fresh pair of ears and took it to another level altogether".

Sonic search

A great deal of sonic exploration to find the perfect tones and timbres was key to the studio sessions. "We started doing this six years ago, but now all those sounds we used people can get in any cracked version of Cubase", Hunt says. The band drew upon Abbiss' expert ear and vast collection of rare and exotic instruments and signal processors to diligently create a sonic palette. They spent weeks recording and tweaking sounds, and the band leaned heavily on the producer's collection of effects boxes, especially vintage Electro-Harmonix overdrives, delays and synth boxes, such as the company's Bass Micro Synthesizer. Unsung heroes also came in the form of old unidentified Russian knockoff pedals, such as the box that mimicked the classic WEM Watkins Copicat tape-delay box. "Some of the sounds were unattainable without these strange boxes we were feeding stuff through", Hunt reveals.

High-maintenance instruments, such as a harmonium (an Indian hand-pumped reed organ) and an ARP 2600 analog modular synth, won over the Ladytron members' hearts in the studio. "One day, we couldn't function at all; we'd been out the night before", Aroyo recalls. "Jim just sat there in the studio all day with a guitar, and he was surrounded by Korg synths with every output going through every pedal he could possibly have and the ARP 2600, as well. All day was spent like that, and we came up with one sound. The ARP 2600 is very tricky".

They treated drums just as meticulously. To record the drums for "amTV", a sassy piece of synth rock with a particularly massive and noisy snare, the team devised a setup that Hunt calls a "freak show". The drums were miked, sent through ring modulators and then into amplifiers, miked again, filtered and so on. "It was this insane contraption", Hunt boasts. "It ended up producing this drum sound completely by accident, but that was a good experience".

Throughout the recording, the emphasis was on the result, not the method. "A lot of the songs have a mixture of both sampled electronic drums and [acoustic] drums", Aroyo says. "The live drums ended up sounding very tight, crisp and effected. People might even think that they're sequenced".

Along the same lines, and what's more noticeable on the album, is that guitars and synths are used interchangeably. During the recording, Ladytron often treated synths with guitar overdrive and distortion pedals and sent guitars through Electro-Harmonix synth pedals; on several of the songs, it's tough to determine synth riffs from guitar riffs. For example, the droning lead sound on "High Rise" is ambiguous, but it's actually a guitar played with an EBow. "There's been guitar on all the records, but people are saying on this one, it's more dominant", Aroyo says. "But the guitar is treated so much, it's like the stuff you get in Krautrock or shoegaze records. It's just being used as a sound wave".

Bewitching in China

With Witching Hour ostensibly finished in the first half of 2004, the album sat in limbo while the band waited on the logistics of moving to a new record label. While the band considered remixing and DJ gigs, fate intervened when a government organization called the British Council offered Ladytron the rare opportunity to tour China as part of a cross-cultural outreach program. The band couldn't pass it up. "They probably picked us because they saw us as a more interesting proposition than your typical British four-boys-with-guitars band", Hunt says about the minitour, which included stops to cosmopolitan cities such as Shanghai as well as obscure locales. "We went to some strange dilapidated park full of miniature world monuments, and literally no [Western] band had ever been there. The records have never been distributed there, so the only way to get the record was to download it illegally. So the benefits of file sharing are pretty obvious. It's more important for people to be able to get your music".

More significant, China served as the testing grounds for the first live performances of many songs off of Witching Hour. "We came back into the studio and mixed having more of a pure idea of what we wanted to do", Aroyo says. Soon after returning, Ladytron secured a deal with Island/Universal in the UK (and Rykodisc in the U.S.) — fittingly, the same label group that reissues Roxy Music discs.

In the interim between releasing Witching Hour and touring, Ladytron is demoing for the next album and remixing bands such as Bloc Party and Goldfrapp. The band tends to home-record remixes from scratch using only the original vocal unless another approach is requested. Regarding other artists remixing Ladytron, Hunt gives one strong piece of advice: Be creative. "When we get a remix back and it sounds almost the same as the original", Hunt laments, "it's really disappointing".

Select Witching Hour gear

ARP 2600 modular synth, Solina String Synthesizer
EBow electronic guitar bow
Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synthesizer effects unit
Harmonium through a Leslie amp
Korg MicroKorg (live), MS-10, MS-20, MS-2000 (live) synths
Moog Micromoog synth
Native Instruments Battery software drum sampler
Roland SH-09, SH-2 synths
Sequential Circuits Pro-One synth
Simmons Clap Trap drum module
Steinberg Cubase SX software


23 January 2015

Sunday Mail interview (2008)

The Beat Goes Tron

Ladytron singer Mira Aroyo quit science to hit the stage with Helen Marnie, Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu - and reveals here why it was the best move she ever made.

Why is the album called Velocifero?

It means carrier of speed. It was the title of a track which didn't make it on the album but we liked the name so much we kept it. Scooters and pushbikes also go by the name. We Googled it and found it was also the title of a 19th-century Italian opera. We just liked it because of the speed of velocity.

What's the inspiration behind it?

To do something more diverse and better. That's all really, otherwise it's just the same inspiration for all the things we do. We want to make songs we enjoy and like playing and hopefully other people will enjoy them. We've been going for eight years and I don't think we would have if we weren't pushing forward. I'm happy with the album. I guess it's natural to think it's your favourite because it's the last one you have done.

What was it like recording in Paris?

We went straight from touring in America to recording. One of the studios we were in was underneath a big theatre where they record people like Charles Aznavour. Duran Duran recorded Rio there. It was funny doing it with people who were not English-speaking. Funny but nice.

You are originally from Bulgaria. Do you get back home much?

We've played there twice. I have to go quite often because my grandma and uncle are there. It was pretty amazing to play there because I think people appreciated it.

Do you get nervous playing at home?

My home town now is London. It's where my friends are. It's always stressful because you have to make sure everyone is OK. It's like it's your party and you never get to enjoy it much because you are pouring drinks and stuff.

How did the band meet?

Through friends. Helen was at university in Liverpool, where Danny and Reuben are from. They were on the music scene. They were DJing and we met through mutual friends.

Your fellow vocalist, Helen, is from Scotland. Do you visit here much?

I love coming to Scotland. We've played at Oran Mor in Glasgow a few times and it's one of our favourite venues in the UK. Because Helen is from Glasgow, she goes there all the time. She has a flat there as well.

You were a geneticist. How did you get into music?

We've all been very passionate about music and I was a DJ before but I never thought it would be a career. We all had jobs when we started Ladytron then little by little we ditched them. I was a geneticist doing a PhD and realising lab work wasn't for me. We were doing Ladytron at the same time and I was enjoying it more. It was easier and more fun.

Is there anyone you'd like to work with?

We are really interested in during more film soundtrack stuff. Stay at home, less touring, more soundtracks. The director who did the video for our single "Ghosts" is a big Ladytron fan and he has some scripts that he is hoping to start on next year. He has asked us to work on the music.

Any favourite films?

I'm obsessed by films so there are lots of favourites but I really like Watership Down, David Lynch films and lots of horror films.

What's your favourite way to spend a Sunday?

In summer, I like to go to a nice park, cycle around or have a picnic on a boat or a barge. Right now, that would be nice.


26 September 2014

Chief Mag interview (2007)

Ladytron is an electro-super-synth-pop band that hails from, among other cities, Liverpool. We spoke with Mira Aroyo, a founding member and songwriter, about the newest album, Witching Hour, and sing-songing in Bulgarian.

Chief Magazine: What were you listening to when you were a kid?

Mira Aroyo of Ladytron: Well, in my teens? A lot of Nick Cave and Bob Dylan and Neil Young and Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. These were things that were past on from my parents, so it was kind of a nice first point of reference. And I was into Nirvana, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, things like that... My Bloody Valentine.

Then I got into sort krauty music and that's kind of how I got into electronic music. I used to go to a lot of krautrock. That's how I got into dance music, sort of, even though it's not dance music at all. I kind of missed out on the rave thing the first time around. I was listening to Sonic Youth, and then I ran into it after it actually finished, sort of in the mid-nineties. But a lot of sixties stuff, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, all sorts of Phil Spector stuff, Serge Gainsbourg, a lot of country.

I was actually looking at your MySpace page. I think MySpace is becoming a new kind of forum for bands to promote but also to actually see their fan's faces, to develop a more intimate connection.

Yeah, definitely. The four of us do it. There's no record label or anyone or anything like that. We spend a lot of our time reading messages and answering messages and stuff like that. People realize that something is not being organized properly or not working and will write a letter saying, oh, I don't know, "There's a problem with the pictures here or there". And you say "Oh, I'm sorry", and then you fix it. There's a hands-on effect.

Do you guys trade off work on the MySpace page?

We all do it as we feel. Sometimes, you know, we just all do it as we feel but we all, it takes quite a bit of time.

Where are you based?

Helen [Marnie] and I live in London. Reuben [Wu] and Dan [Hunt], when we see them, are in Liverpool, though Dan lives in Milan. We recorded Witching Hour in and we have a studio down there. So, I guess in between London and Liverpool, really.

You sing a lot of your songs in Bulgarian. How did that develop?

It started one night when we were recording a long time before "Evil" was out. We were doing a song called "Commodore Rock" and we were just drunk, you know. We'd been out and we got back and it was just like, "Oh, so should we try it", because the rhythm is a lot more staccato. It's got a different diction and different rhythm than English. So it started off as a drunken idea and I just started mashing up loads of lyrics from Bulgarian songs, the national anthem and stuff like that. But it kind of worked and we did another few things on 604 in Bulgarian because of the rhythm of it and I just kept on doing that when the song came up with a similar rhythm. I wouldn't be able to do rhythmically what I do in Bulgarian in English. It's just so very different. It's not patriotic thing or something like that.

So, when you're writing the lyrics are you collaging Bulgarian lyrics from other songs?

Yeah, yeah. Well, "Commodore Rock" was pasted together from all sorts of sort national kinds of songs but the rest of the songs, they're all my own lyrics. Like "Discotraxx" from the first record and the other stuff are usually the same type of lyrics in English but in Bulgarian.

Does the band plan to meet in London and Liverpool to rehearse and write?

Yeah. We rehearse before tours and then we all write separately at home and then we get together, like in pairs or as a band, and then we end up in a proper commercial studio record stuff. We're quite concentrated when we work.

Are the lyrics written before you head in to the studio?

The songs are pretty much written before we go into the studio. The songs are written in our home studio, sometimes away from any kind of equipment, but some may be semi-developed, and then you work on it from there. They'll be 80 percent developed and then you build it up. It's different from song to song.

Do you guys show up to the studios with most of the ideas for the weirder effects developed?

Yeah. I mean, we do come up with a lot of the stuff that's on the way to getting produced, just done in home studios. We have an idea, but on the other hand, some songs take up a little bit of time but other songs completely develop in ways we wouldn't have imagined before going into the studio. Like in the case of Witching Hour, with Jim Abbiss. Jim Abbiss really helped us realize a lot of stuff that we wanted to do but we weren't articulating.

Was there a concept in mind when you put together Witching Hour? Do you think about that or does it sort of happen organically?

We'd been touring Light & Magic and 604 for the two years prior to Witching Hour, that I think the sound really built up because we were playing live so much. I mean, before Light & Magic, we hadn't really been a touring band. We played a few gigs but we were never really happy with the live shows. When Light & Magic came out we went on the road properly and we turned into a proper, viable sort of touring band and we learned quite a lot of dynamics. We were working with a drummer we found it a lot more organic because everything was being played live. Songs from Light & Magic and 604 were developing and taking on a new energy, so a lot of that went into Witching Hour.

We realized what we wanted to achieve, and we were kind of happiest with this sound.

Are you guys writing now?

We wrote a whole lot of stuff during the summer and then we started touring again and we've been on a big U.S. and Canada and Mexico tour in the autumn. Now we've come back from South America and a couple of more dates in the U.S. I think we're going to stop the touring a little bit, have a few shows here and there, maybe more so in Europe, but concentrate on the next record. We're hoping to finish it by the end of April. We've got about 20, 25 songs or so written but it doesn't really, you know, sound as an album. It hasn't taken shape yet. So, we've gotta work on that the next couple of months.

Do you get out to see music at all or are you too burnt out from touring?

Oh, I go to shows all the time. I love going to gigs, maybe a little bit less though than I did, maybe, five years ago because we're away a lot and then when I come home... sometimes I like being at home. But I do go and try to see a lot of bands and I go record shopping a lot. We DJ as well, so we kind of have to stay on top of it, really.

What recent show have you seen that you had fun at?

I'm really looking forward to seeing this English band called Circulus and they're playing together with another English band called Crimson. They're kind of prog rock. When [Crimson] plays a live show, they've got, a brass section and the whole show is kind of, like, contagious and a lot of it is very disco.

I've seen you get charged up by a good audience before. What gets you going at a live show?

When someone is jumping or throws something in the front. It's always great to see people dancing all the way to the back. The last time we played New York this boy came up on stage. He got kicked off, but first he said "I lost my virginity to 'Seventeen!'". We were touring with CSS in the United States this autumn and they had a lot of energy. We'd watch their show and they were just so much fun to watch. By the end of their show we'd be playing and they'd go into the crowd wrapped with toilet paper, kind of dressed as mummies and body surfing and stuff like that. Sometimes people don't realize how much we get out of a crowd.

What about any movies? Have you see the new James Bond film yet?

No, I haven't gotten a chance yet. I haven't seen Borat. I think I want to see Borat, too.

Borat is good.

I've haven't had the chance to go to the cinema. I've just seem films on airplanes and they've all been really bad.


12 August 2014

The Black Key interview (2014)

One of the most beautiful things about bands is that their music represents a culmination of ideas from a set of independently talented individuals. When a band like the electro-pop/new-wave Ladytron bursts onto the scene, you know each and every character has something to say, and that the message is pretty damn impressive.

Reuben Wu's message is clear: blending inspirations from all media can never go wrong. Not only is he one of the band's keyboardists, songwriters and producers, but he uses his various other talents as foundations for potentially awe-inspiring, sensory experiences. In anticipation of his upcoming DJ set at the Death's Door Part at The Garret, we discussed his numerous passions, lessons learned, and even his first cruise trip...

Will this be your first time in Miami?

No, I've been there probably tens of times, I'm sure. I can't remember how many time [laughs] but we've always had great gigs and great shows over there. Last time I was there was in March and I was DJ-ing on a cruise ship. It was one of those festival ships.

Was that for WMC?

It was Paramore and the cruise ship was called like the "PARAHOY!" cruise which was fun because I hadn't ever been on a cruise before and we went to the Bahamas and I had a room with a balcony and stuff and, yeah, it was nice.

You guys have been around for quite a while, over a decade actually, how have you observed the industry changing since you first starting up over in England?

Well, we started out just as the internet was being used and I remember when we first were talking to labels and stuff and we were talking about using Friendster and Myspace as social media and, you know, "we should put the band onto Friendster and Myspace, it would be great" and people were saying: "oh, isn't that a bit silly?" [laughs] and: "that's a bit weird, isn't that just for dating?" and so we did that in the end, but there was this kind of resistance from these labels which were being quite closed minded and obviously didn't see what was going to happen.

So, it was kind of strange to see how everything has kind of gone completely in that direction and the way the internet affects... when we first started releasing records, we didn't have like huge major label deals so it was really difficult for our records to be bought or listened to in countries like Mexico and Colombia and Russia and so people started finding us on the internet and just downloading stuff for free. And that's how we started building up this fanbase so when we eventually were able to do it, we were able to actually fly to those places and do a show to a really huge crowd for the first time ever and that was all down to having music which was downloadable so that's a great positive point coming from that kind of thing.

Obviously it was the very early days but, you know, we were definitely on that cusp of the way things started to get marketed on the internet and I think from bands which appeared later on didn't benefit so much from that because by that time, the industry had already changed and there was already a full saturation point of music on the internet.

Does social media and platforms like Soundcloud help or deter you getting your DJ tracks out in any way?

Personally I don't use Soundcloud that much, I don't use it as a place to put music, I use it as a place to announce... so it's just a place for me to put things. So I would generally use other methods to do that. I think, also in the same ways as Facebook, we haven't really released that much stuff recently so I haven't really been thinking about best places to release stuff.

Yeah, it's been a while, Gravity the Seducer came out in 2011. Is there anything we can expect coming up?

Um, we're still having a break. But we're thinking of doing a new album hopefully at the end of this year and to have something ready for next year.

Awesome! How's the recording or creative process with you guys? Is there a specific format you follow when creating new music?

Yeah, we tend to work independently at first and we will just write our own songs and make our own productions and we do that until we're satisfied and then that's the point where we'll get into a room together or we start sending each other tracks and working on each others' music. Once that is done, we start getting into the studio and actually working together in the real world [laughs].

Is there ever a time where there's a track that has a little more Reuben or Daniel than others?

Yes. Always. All the tracks have ownership. But, once they're worked on, you know, we've all kind of put work into all of them. So, by the time they're actually finished and in the album they're kind of... we all have a joint-ownership.

Looking back, what would say was the key to your guys' success?

Um, we were touring a lot, I suppose. That really really helps, going out and playing shows, meeting people, and also making sure that we play places that aren't always on the beaten track. For instance, when we played the U.S., we also played the smaller towns as well.

So you like to cover as much as you can, basically.

We try to cover everything rather than just doing hotspots. And that goes for all over the world as well and I think people appreciate that. I also think that we've had time to grow into our own shoes. A lot of time in this day and age, a lot of the bands are sort of forced to grow as soon as they have a single out and they have a new album and it can be very disruptive for a new band, for the media to hype them up and to not give them the chance to breathe and not be in that limelight.

It took us about three albums to properly grow into something that we felt confident with. You know, the first album was really just a collection of songs and it was very very DIY and the second one was kind of our first real album because the songs were written in the same amount of time and the third album was the most collaborative of all of them. And I think it's still one of the best albums that we've done.

Knowing what you know now, after all the things you've learned and been through, is there anything that you would do differently? Or any advice you'd give the younger versions of yourselves?

Um, I probably would've told myself to not just work on music and to do other things. Because, before I was in music I was doing design and I was doing a lot of drawing and it kind of bled into the band quite a bit in terms of artwork and design and packaging and stuff. But, I then started dabbling in photography which was kind of just a hobby but I think I would've liked to get into it a bit more a lot earlier on. Just to kind of keep the balance between music and something else up rather than just do music.

I was actually going to ask about your design background because I know that when you guys first started you were actually still studying design and how it can be seen as an influence in your work but I guess you kind of answered that one.


How is your photography going? It seems like you have more time to delve into it now.

Yeah, I do now. Since we've been taking a bit of a break, I've been able to think about doing my own stuff. And not just photography, I've started making my own films and that's kind of gone around full circle where I've started needing music for my own films so, it's starting to become this self-contained, independent thing... which is quite nice, actually.

What kind of musical scores are you into, is this more of a score thing or just compiling a soundtrack?

Um, I'm generally making music first and then tracking visuals too. I think a lot of people do it the other way around but I feel like the music is so important that a lot of visuals just seem like a compromise, the visuals are just there to accompany them. But they have exactly the same energy and should echo off each other. So yeah, I've just been experimenting. And I've started doing music videos and stuff like that so it's kind of a new journey for me.

So, actually, where are you now?

I'm in Chicago!

Well, now that you're coming to Miami for a DJ set, I know you like to work primarily with CDs when you play, is there any particular reason for that?

Um, the reason is because I haven't started using a USB [laughs]. After vinyl I started using CDs and I haven't moved on since then and, yeah, that's just the way I play. I play my music like as if they were vinyl. So I go from deck to deck and I just like the way that is. I don't like the idea of turning up and the USB sticks don't work or just losing your USB sticks. I'd rather lose all of my CDs and then burn a brand new set with my computer.

When you're creating your sets, do you prepare something in advance? Or do you like to feel the crowd and the venue out?

Yeah, I play out how I feel. I always feed off the audience, so I don't really like to plan what I'm going to be playing but I have a list of stuff that I really enjoy playing.

Like what in particular?

Ummmmm... hmmm... I quite like Daniel Avery. His stuff is amazing. And I like the fact that his energy is so high and yet really minimal as well. I like Moullinex, I love his remixes. What else? Um, Front de Cadeaux who are a French producers. Sorry, I don't really like listing people I like playing...

You don't have to! [Laughs] I meant, what sounds or genres do you like working off of?

Ohh, okay, alright [laughs]. Nu-disco, deep house, it's all electronic. It's all upbeat. I generally don't play any EDM or anything like that. No dubstep [laughs].

Well, that's my jam so I'm excited to hear you play!

Yeah! I'm excited too. It's always nice to play to a Miami crowd.

Now, this can go for both Ladytron and your solo DJ work, but you guys have quite a few remixes of your tracks and I know as a DJ you work on remixing other people's tracks as well. Are there any artists out there you'd like to collaborate with? Either with Ladytron or just yourself?

I'm not sure. Um, I think I'd like to collaborate with someone not in music and maybe collaborate with someone from the film industry or something like that. Or collaborate with someone that just makes art. You know, rather than two musicians collaborating with each other, I'd rather go out of the whole genre itself and see what happens with someone completely out of that.

That would definitely become a sensory experience, you should come back for Art Basel and host a show.

Yeah, I'd love to!


18 May 2014

Jim DeRogatis interview (2006)

While the democratization and rapid distribution of music via the Internet has been a boon to many independent bands, there's no denying that it's compromised the ability of groups to grow organically over time, crafting a sound that improves from album to album.

"It's actually pretty rare for a band these days to develop over three albums, because people just expect that it will be here and then it's gone", says Ladytron keyboardist and vocalist Daniel Hunt. "The appetite for indie rock at the moment is so voracious that things are just getting soaked up faster than they can be produced. A band like the Arctic Monkeys comes out straight away and has such a big success on the Internet, they're barely even given the chance to make their first album, let alone a third!".

Taking its name from Roxy Music and drawing inspiration from the strangely non-mechanical sounds of early synth-pop artists such as Kraftwerk, Gary Numan and Devo as well as vintage '60s pop, Ladytron was formed in Liverpool in 1999 by Hunt and fellow club DJ Reuben Wu, who recruited Bulgarian vocalist-keyboardist Mira Aroyo and vocalist-keyboardist Helen Marnie.

The group has yet to broach the mainstream, and its music is a treasured secret for a dedicated underground following. In addition to numerous singles and EPs, Ladytron has given us three full albums of exquisitely crafted, unforgettably melodic electronic pop: 604 (2001), Light & Magic (2002) and Witching Hour (2005).

"We had been on tour for a long time with Light & Magic, and we had the opportunity to continue touring it -- Marilyn Manson asked us to support him on tour; things like that. We had made some progress, but we were quite naive, especially about the USA, because we did one tour here [in 2003] and a trip around Coachella and thought, 'That's enough. We've done it now; we've sold out the Henry Fonda [Theater] in L.A.' We skipped all of the crappy little shows that people normally have to do".

"We wanted to get off tour and start the next record, because we thought that was more important. But in retrospect, the record was delayed so much that we could have toured for longer with the last one. We just wanted to get back into the studio and demonstrate what we could do; we already found with the previous albums that we liked them, but we knew we could make something closer to what we heard in our heads".

Witching Hour is indeed the group's strongest offering yet, with songs such as "International Dateline" standing as perfectly realized pop gems. The disc has an overall darker vibe that makes the gorgeous vocals and indelible melodies seem even more mysterious and seductive.

"I think it's more emotional", Hunt says. "I don't know if you've seen a little film of when we went to China -- just some footage that a friend took -- but she started the video with 'The Last One Standing' and ended with us playing 'USA vs. White Noise' live in Shanghai. She said that she took it in the opposite direction of how she perceived the album: as stark, pretty and solid, and then becoming more emotional.

"I was watching TV the other day and there was a documentary about illegal immigrants trying to get from West Africa to the UK I thought, 'God, this is really, really sad', and then I realized they had 'All the Way...' as the music underneath it!".

As for "International Dateline", Hunt says the tune came together in the group's new home studio, which eschews computers in favor of older, more distinctive analog synthesizers and instruments.

"I had this really bad little Casio keyboard that I actually bought for five pounds off a Chinese guy in a cafe. It had this really nice distorted sound, and you could only play two notes at once because it wasn't polyphonic. It was a bit like [the punk-era electronic duo] Suicide. The song just came about with the chord sequence from the keyboards; there were variances with the vocals, then the guitar part went on it, and that turned it into what it is now. The lyrics just came pretty instantaneously".

This underscores a common misperception about the band: despite its futuristic image and fondness for fanciful sci-fi instrumentation, Ladytron maintains the spontaneous spirit of all great rock bands, and unlike many electronic groups, its focus is always on songs rather than sounds.

"I think with this record, a lot of people who have had the opinion of us as automatons before might have revived it", Hunt says. "Sometimes people can only go on what they've heard, their perceptions of it and things they read. And I feel similarly: if someone described a band to me that was all about style over content, I would just be going, 'I am going to murder them!' But that's not us at all".

21 April 2006


13 April 2014

Rolling Stone interview (2011)

Ladytron Go Glam on New Album

Liverpool's Ladytron have created a decade's worth of electro music, handily dodging the faddish limitations that quickly dated the sound their 808-wielding peers and displaying a flawless style to boot. They reemerge in 2011 with both a career-spanning greatest hits collection and brand new album, Gravity the Seducer, both testaments to how the band transformed their pristine analog vision into a new breed of epic synth-rock.

They may have a taste for vintage technology, but they've never been part of a retro movement. In 2002, Ladytron co-founder Daniel Hunt told Rolling Stone: "We don't want our music to remind people of anything". They've succeeded: five studio albums later, the still sound only like themselves.

Early on, Ladytron served their band name literal justice by appearing in videos as a troupe of beautiful androgynous robots. These days, vocalists Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo are portraying an icy exotic Art Deco glam, as seen in the decadent "White Elephant" video. Rolling Stone caught up with Marnie to discuss her band's unmistakeable visual aesthetic, why synths can be sexy, her personal style and the new makeup line inspired by her look.

Can you talk about your days as a model?

I'm not really sure where the "model" information has come from; perhaps something was mentioned in a very early press release. I've never really done proper catwalk. I only ever did a few bits and pieces along with a couple of graduate shows as a favour to friends. I am, after all, only 5' 6" [168 cm]. Far too tiny to be a model. Plus, I look kind of weird, not in that coveted model alien way. Just in a plain weird way!

The lyrics of your song "Seventeen" seem to chronicle a young girl's modeling career. Do you find a that lifestyle life sad?

I can't comment on a model's life though I would assume for most their career is fleeting. I would say it must be hard to be constantly scrutinized solely over your looks. Don't think I could handle that. "Seventeen" was written a long time ago by Danny and is so flippant it would be ridiculous to comment on its origins now.

What do you think about the way fashion interprets music? For example: Aphex Twin and Plastikman seem to be runway favorites. What does this say about how fashion uses music vs. how the public uses it?

Certain people in creative industries will have their finger on the pulse of what is going on musically that is cult or underground. And that is reflected in their work. The worlds of fashion, music – even architecture – usually combine socially. So, it's natural for the fashion world to be exposed to pretty much everything. With fashion, there is also the need to keep creating something different and exciting, and certain types of music will compliment and enhance the catwalk experience. It's not so much about listening, its about the entire physical experience.

Has Ladytron ever worked closely with a designer or played a runway show?

Yes, Danny has DJed for Albino's Milan catwalk show, playing new tracks from our album Gravity the Seducer before it was released. We've also worn his clothes in our "Tomorrow" video and the press photos for Gravity the Seducer. He's been good to us.

How does Ladytron use fashion to enhance the look and mood/feel of performance?

We've never really concentrated on fashion too much. When we first started out we pretty much all wore the same thing. It was like a school uniform. We were a gang. Slowly, we kind of outgrew that though and that's when we starting wearing clothing on stage that were all different but gelled somehow. In the past, Mira and I have worn silk or satin dresses by Aganovich. Nowadays, we are far more relaxed about what we wear. It's a case of what we think works, rather than enhancing the music in any way. It's about what makes us feel comfortable, good about ourselves, and able to perform.

How does the Ladytron sound relate to the visual?

People have the misperception that we are goths because we tend to verge toward dark clothing onstage. However, I think it's more to do with us wanting to look good together as a band. It's about the music and nothing should really distract from that. We've never been flashy, and prefer a more mysterious approach.

Electronic music is so commonly seen as cold and clinical; the visuals, even clothing styles, pertaining to the genres also can evoke that quality. Why do you think that is?

I have no idea why that is. Synths can create exactly the same sounds as guitars. The only limiting factor of playing a synth is when you do it live. Like it or not, you have to stand behind a keyboard and play. There is no way you can bomb about the stage strutting your stuff. So it's definitely a different experience to watch.

Anyway, I really don't think that cold, clinical idea stands anymore. There are so many electronic bands out there that are producing warmth in their music right now. Plus, the mainstreams take on electro kind of quashes that. Gravity the Seducer is an electronic record, but I feel like it's the warmest, most emotional, thing we've ever done.

Is it important to Ladytron to have a cohesive aesthetic between members? How are those choices made?

It's always been important to us that we look cohesive as a band. In the past Mira and I have worn dresses made by friends that although different, were similar enough to draw us together and create a certain mood. My friend Angharad Jefferson is a talented designer specializing in embroidery and illustration. She has created several dresses for us incorporating different themes, mainly nature.

I noticed you wore a cool bow and cape at the NYC show. Who made those items?

My friend Mich Dulce is an amazingly talented milliner and fashion designer. She let me choose a number from her last collection and I wore the black bow headband on stage every night. I recently cut my hair short so it was my way of feeling a little more confident onstage and less self conscious. It worked. I felt great! The cape was just something I picked up online. It, too, was a good buy. I loved wearing it onstage. The movement of it along with the bow made me feel like a little pixie.

What inspires your fashion right now? I've detected a bit of retro glam, which is new for you.

Over the last year I've been wearing a lot of 50s dresses. I love the dreaminess and feminine aspect of them and have also discovered the joy of wearing hats. They really can just finish off an outfit. I've never really been that brave with hats before but intend to embrace them from now on! In our next video for "Mirage" I'm chaneling more of a 70s vibe. I picked up an amazing vintage find, and it worked so perfectly in the video.

Which designers speak to your own tastes?

There's so many out there that speak to me for different reasons. I love the lace dresses of Mui Mui and Erdem for a more ladylike look, and I like designers such as Won Hundred, Sessun, and Isabel Marant for a more laidback look. I'm also really into my jeans by my friends at Arnsdorf. It's an Australian brand. The jeans are so snug and high waisted and make your legs look like they go on forever. I am also a big vintage lover so my wardrobe is quite a mixed bag.

You've gone on record as being anti-fur. Have you always held that view? If not, what convinced you?

I wear sheepskin and leather, but that's as far as it goes. My mum was a staunch supporter of WWF when I was younger so this was a big influence on me. I remember her going on a march against the clubbing of seal clubs for their skins. It has instilled in me a love of animals and a desire to protect the amazing nature around us. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society is an organization I'm particularly interested in. Growing up, I was surrounded by all sorts of animals so fur – be it rabbit, fox, mink, whatever – is totally out of the question. I won't even wear vintage fur. There are good fakes out there as an alternative. Particularly now faux fur is having a massive comeback on the catwalks, which is pretty cool as the opposite has been the case for so long.

Have you ever had an issue on photo shoots/editorials where you clashed with a stylist over the fur issue?

We don't actually use stylists that often because in the past we've not been happy with the result. Sometimes stylists have a preconceived idea about what you like to wear and it usually doesn't match with our own ideals. Wearing fur on a shoot has never really been an issue because we've always made it clear from the start that it's not on the agenda.

Do fashion, art, and other visual forces ever affect the way you actually write, record, and produce your music? How so?

Not really. It's hard to pinpoint influences like that. Personally, I'd say inspiration when writing comes from one's own experiences. The day to day, the ups and the downs, and looking at the world around you in a broader sense. When it comes to recording in the studio technology plays an important part. But we're always looking back too, trying to create new sounds in a different way. Usually the old and new come together to create some kind of monster.

Sadie Frost has a clothing line you've been wearing. Would you ever collaborate with her, or someone else, on a special line?

Frost French is Sadie's label. I've never met her but have been wearing some shorts from that label on our recent North American tour. They seemed perfect for my most recent stage outfit. More freedom to move around without the worry of people taking photos up your skirt. It would be amazing to collaborate with a designer on a range. The opportunity just hasn't arisen or the timing hasn't been right.

We Are Faux, created by one of your makeup artists, has launched an eyelash collection based on your look. How did that come about?

Ana Cruzalegui is a good friend, and she's worked with us a lot in the last few years. She wanted to create a brand influenced by music and fashion, along with the people she's worked with. Ana collaborated with Mira and I on her first collection of lashes. Mine are called Good Girl, and are super duper bad. They're like an art deco building on your eye lash. I love them.


06 February 2014

GE Reports interview (2014)

Liverpool musician and visual artist Reuben Wu is best known by millions of his global fans as the keyboardist in the pioneering electronic pop group Ladytron and an accomplished photographer. Last year, GE and the railroad company CSX gave Wu a chance to combine both of his passions.

Wu wrote a hypnotic soundtrack for a futuristic-looking video clip capturing a day in the life of a massive freight terminal in Ohio. The terminal is using GE locomotives connected to the Industrial Internet, an emerging digital network connecting people and machines with software and data.

Wu made the video in collaboration with director Noah Conopask, The Barbarian Group and GOODCOMPANY. Tomas Kellner, managing editor of GE Reports, talked to Wu about his inspiration, Ladytron, and making film music.

Tomas Kellner: You shot the video at a container terminal in Ohio, but it looks like it could easily be set in orbit around a distant planet. How did you come up with the concept?

Reuben Wu: Both Noah and I are really into science fiction. We were talking about Ridley Scott's Alien, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Koyaanisqatsi, which are among my favorite films. They all portray technology, machinery, and also humanity in a very real way. This Industrial Internet technology is not that far from this future, it exists. And we realized that if we also subverted time and scale, we could produce something quite out of this world in northern Ohio.

TK: You succeeded. Tell me about the process.

RW: We started from a musical perspective. I think that was important. I created three musical ideas before we actually went on site. If the visuals and the music were to be synchronized together, the music really had to be there first, not the other way round.

TK: Can you describe the three ideas?

RW: The first idea combined pulsing energy with the kind of crunchiness and spiky-ness that we wanted to use for portraying the whole container yard. That's why we decided to go with it. The second one was a little bit more minimal and smoother and utopian-feeling, I suppose, and the third one used more break beats.

TK: What happened next?

RW: We created a proof of principle, a scouting video, the basic idea of what we planned to do. We went to the shipping site and shot-handheld footage, and I patched it in with the sounds.

TK: Did you take part in the filming?

RW: The idea was I would be collaborating on the visual level with Noah, as I'm as interested in vision as I am in sound. Also the subjects that I take pictures of are generally in the realm of science, technology and nature. So I shot as much footage as I could.

TK: The terminal is huge. How did you wrap your arms around it?

RW: At that point, everything was still very loose, as far as the concept went. I captured the sounds of everything that moved, that was mechanical. Before coming to the site, I knew that there were going to be cranes, containers and trains, and they were going to be the main elements that we would feature in the video.

TK: The soundtrack is full of machine sounds.

RW: I was recording absolutely everything during both the scouting and the shooting trips. I wanted to end up with a comprehensive library of sounds to pick and choose from as I composed the music. That's exactly what I did.

TK: Did you have a system to organize the sounds?

RW: Once I had recorded my samples, I categorized them into groups. I had crane, train, and container sounds. Those could all be separated within sub-categories as well; sharp percussive sounds, drones and bass sounds, for example.

TK: The machines seem to be playing a melody.

RW: Yeah, I was able to break the sounds down into musical elements as well. I found that a lot of the sounds of the cranes moving across the yard, for example, were almost melodic. They produced hydraulic hums and vibrations, which I thought worked on a different level than the percussive sounds.

TK: Like those made by the containers?

RW: The video really was all about the container. It was our building block for the whole video. It was important that there was a very simple, almost primal, sonic and visual language so I used the sound of the container hitting the ground. It's the first thing that we see and hear when the music kicks into play. We wanted that to really drive the visual language which develops over the course of the track.

TK: How long were the samples you recorded?

RW: All of the sounds are quite short and many of them are repeated quite a bit throughout the music. They make up about 65 percent of the audio content.

TK: How did you splice the samples into the original track you composed?

RW: I kept the music track intentionally basic, so when I introduced the samples, the samples would form a large portion of the musical backbone as well. I ended up doing a lot of swapping things in and out. Some samples I decided I needed to enhance with analog synthesizers. I spent some time complementing some of the samples with further electronic layers.

TK: Can you share an example?

RW: In the very first part of the piece you have a visual of a train whizzing past. It's a quick horizontal movement. I layered the train sample going from left to right in stereo with Korg MS-20 synthesizer sounds. A lot of the soundtrack elements are this combination of real and synthesized sounds.

TK: I can also hear voices.

RW: Yes, we recorded them in the control cab slung underneath the wide-span crane. Everything inside is computerized and there was a continual radio feed from operators at the terminal. We thought that it was important that we incorporated the human element within the whole piece.

TK: How did you synchronize the soundtrack with the film footage?

RW: We started with the music. Alex Hammer, our editor, imported the music into the editing suite and I provided him with my thoughts on phrasing, that any movement on screen would need a sound to go with it. I didn't want it to end up as a mishmash of sound effects. I sat with him and the director and there was a lot of going back and forth in iterations. What I really enjoyed about the process was that the editor had done some things on screen, which I hadn't anticipated. We had some really effective happy accidents.

TK: I like happy accidents.

RW: There is a bit where everything goes quiet after the sunset. It appears that all is quiet and calm, but things are still moving and the facility is still operating. The section that comes directly after that is the finale. There needed to be something just before the finale, like a big drum fill, so Alex cut in a crane shot that shows the cab from underneath. It's been cut in a quick, staccato way. At that moment, the music is actually mirroring the visuals with a synchronized sequence of beats and samples.

TK: You make it sound easy. Is there a film soundtrack in your future?

RW: I've always been interested. The GE project was my first commercial venture combining music and visuals. I am hoping that I'll be able to do a lot more in this field.

TK: What's happening with Ladytron?

RW: I've been concentrating on photography and projects like this one, but the plan is to do a new album this year.


27 January 2014

The Scotsman interview (2005)

Back with the future

The last time I saw Ladytron was the last time I was in Edinburgh's Gilded Balloon. Twenty-four hours after a set of robotically performed electropop, the Old Town venue went up in smoke. The futuristic music jarred - Jean Michel Jarred - with the setting of a world-class medieval heritage site and, while it definitely had an austere beauty, I wasn't convinced that the 21st century was ready for the band.

Flash-forward two and a half years to another ancient hall, the converted church that is Glasgow's Oran Mor, and suddenly Ladytron make perfect sense. The space-age costumes have gone.

"The uniforms got in the way and we got fed up being asked questions about them", explains Danny Hunt, the Liverpudlian band-member who does most of the talking in the bar after the gig. Helen Marnie, of the Scots-Bulgarian dual-singing axis, puts it more bluntly: "I got fed up looking like a boy".

So now Aberfoyle-born Marnie and Mira Aroyo wear slinky dresses and stand back-to-back centre stage, and during their best song - the great lost hit single "Seventeen" - they pose and pout and do a little Human League waitresses-in-cocktail-bar routine. "They only want you when you're 17..." they sing, "when you're 21 you're no fun". This isn't Ladytron selling out; they're simply making the most of what they've very obviously got.

The band took their name from the second track on the first Roxy Music album. While it may be tempting to think that, in the spirit of the first track, they've remade and re-modelled themselves for their upcoming third album, and what's more at record-company insistence, the young four-piece insist the changes are normal, part of natural development and a sign of their growing maturity.

"When we look back at our old videos we're like children", says Marnie, who in common with the others used to stand glumly behind a synthesizer". For the first couple of years I was quite nervous about being on stage. But we've just done our first American tour. That was a real head-stretcher and helped us grow up a bit".

Ladytron are a great-looking, great-sounding band who have yet to achieve great sales. With a new label - Island - behind them, they now find themselves in that strange holding-bay for cult groups: the one between those who make a couple of albums then split, possibly to be acclaimed as massively important only after they've become binmen; and those who go mainstream, with all that implies.

Interesting times for the band, as Hunt acknowledges. "I know every group will say this, but we've always tried to avoid commercial pressures", he says. "Take 'Seventeen'. It was a hit in Australia, Sweden and Spain and people in those countries assume it was a hit here too. Sometimes I think I'm glad it wasn't. It was small and interesting, like the band. I would have hated if it had become an albatross".

"But then I remember that it was released at Christmas, that it suffered from distribution problems, that the Tuesday of the week of release you couldn't buy it in the shops, and none of that can be termed useful for Ladytron".

The group are hoping for a better deal in every sense from Island, who were Roxy Music's old label. This most style-conscious of bands love the old palm-tree logo. But Aroyo, their most style-conscious member - she used to have an amazing, rocket-shaped haircut - is keen to play down the aesthetics this time.

For instance, when we're talking about their common interests, and I ask if it's true they have a shared appreciation of architecture, Aroyo says: "Kittens".

Sorry? "We like other things as well. In fact, we probably like kittens more than architecture". She thinks for a moment. "Kittens In Architecture - should that have been the title of the new album?".

The group are an intriguing cultural mix. Hunt's roots are "black Irish" but he's 100% Scouse. He reckons he's still on a high after DJing for 30,000 Liverpool football fans in Istanbul before the European Cup triumph ("You'll Never Walk Alone", obviously, "Teenage Kicks" and The Fall's "Mr Pharmacist" in tribute to John Peel, and a new team anthem, Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire").

The other bloke in the band is Reuben Wu, who confused the locals during Ladytron's recent British Council-sponsored tour of China. "They thought I was in the group to provide 'Asian effects'. They wouldn't believe I was Chinese because I don't speak Mandarin. I told them I spoke Cantonese and they were like: 'Why?'".

A number of things were lost in translation during this visit to a land where the band had previously sold just 250 records. "I was complimented on my 'Roman' voice", says Marnie. "I suppose the world looks different to China, so I politely suggested to them that I thought it had a Scottish lilt".

During the official welcome, Ladytron's Liverpool base was utilised by their hosts to bizarre effect, through a pub-singer rendition of "Yesterday" and a film depicting run-down streets in the city. Hunt, though, takes positives from the trip. "We were there as an apology for Wham!, the first Western pop combo to play China", he jokes.

The four met on Merseyside, where Marnie did a music degree. She was a "typical pop kid" in her youth. "I was in a group before, but the boys made me sing indie covers", she says. The rest of Ladytron were DJing in clubs when she met them. "I wasn't, I was dancing in clubs, but I guess all of us were looking for something that wasn't happening at that time".

Completing the line-up is Aroyo, the joker in the pack, who talks about their shared sense of humour as being like a "donkey-powered comedy train". The much-travelled Ladytron recently played her homeland, and Hunt admits his expectations of Bulgaria were of a "big grey cloud". "Instead", says Wu, "there were red Ferraris everywhere".

Nothing is what it seems these days, not even Ladytron. The new album is called Witching Hour, and while synthesizers are still very much to the fore, it has got more of a proper band sound, with real bass and actual drums. Aroyo suspects they're turning into "rock pigs".

They might wonder what life will be like in the 23rd century, but no more than anyone else does. "We don't want to be defined by it", says Hunt, who is probably only half-joking when he reveals that a new band rule forbids them to be photographed in front of buildings such as power stations chosen to illustrate future foreboding.

In the early days, according to Aroyo, people meeting Ladytron for the first time were disappointed to discover they weren't humanoids. Now - before our food is consumed in pill form, and music through a chip storing our record collections inserted in the brain - they would love a hit.