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

04 February 2019

Bido! Lito! interview (2019)

"Ladytron are, for me, the best of English pop music. They're the kind of band that really only appears in England, with this funny mixture of eccentric art-school dicking around and dressing up, with a full awareness of what's happening everywhere musically, which is kind of knitted together and woven into something quite new."

This is a quote from Brian Eno. Lifted from Wikipedia and unashamedly so. A quote like that stops you dead. Brian Eno knows his eggs and rarely proffers his compliments so starkly. For anyone familiar with the work of Marnie, Wu, Hunt and Ayoro then the excitement of a return is enraptured in such a comment. For those of you who are not: welcome. They've been away, you see, and now the time is upon us to behold a band that was conceived, then born in Liverpool and brought up around the world. There are places in Glasgow, São Paulo, Chicago, Bulgaria, Italy, London and Bebington that have nurtured and developed the four-piece to the point where the 'electronic pop' (their own simplified tag) of Ladytron is more than just a sound. It's an ology. A way of crafting distant and otherworldly artificial pop sounds that are actually none of the above. They are warm, defining and cultured. They are sweet, simple and dark. They are the sound you'd hear when crossing the International Dateline of space and time on a broken Korg.

We are on the cusp of the sixth Ladytron album, simply titled Ladytron. There's been a hiatus, brought on by life and the merits of living in the moment. There's babies (Mira), solo work (Helen), photography (Reuben) and production (Danny) that have all conspired to keep the creative flow of the band to a mere trickle over the last seven years. But all that has changed and a redefined, realigned and rebooted Ladytron are returning with an album of such heft and direction, it's hard to believe the gap was that long. Danny is stood outside a cafe in Glasgow. It's cold and he's tired. Rehearsing is a bitch. But now the dust has settled on getting everyone back in the same room, Bido Lito! can ask the opening question that he's probably sick of now: where the bloody hell have you been? He doesn't sigh. He almost enjoys the bounce.

"When we wrapped up the last record [Gravity The Seducer], late 2011, we just stopped. Mira had a baby and stuff. We didn't tour it as much as we'd have liked to as we couldn't play live any more. We were ready for a break and we anticipated three years or something like that. A brief pause, I guess."

It's such a good record. A remarkable 'comeback' if you will. There's a nod to new romantic on Tower Of Glass, there's a fraught, post-punk nursery rhyme Paper Highways, there's Michael Jackson pop electro-funk on Deadzone and the industrial seeping You've Changed. There's a lot of ideas fighting for attention here. He continues. "It [the new album] wasn't intentionally over-thought. It was a collection of our various ideas from the break that worked well together as a group. It was actually easy and therefore the most straightforward record to make. We had more material than we needed, but as we'd been working remotely, going in the studio was such a release. Remember we'd also been going back and forth to the UK and bouncing stuff around the four of us for a couple of years."

Ladytron have had the luxury of being able to creatively mutate over the various record deals down the years, so it seemed right to plough on and plan. "We weren't in a hurry," Danny continues. "We'd done six or seven world tours and it was very intensive for a long time. This break has allowed us to hit reset." This time he does sigh. Not a world-weary sigh, more a contemplative force of breath. "We had time to think about if we are going to do another Ladytron record, how do we go about it? We didn't just think about chronology, like when we did on the first five albums, this time we wanted to move things on and approach it in a different way. It's a Ladytron record in its purest form and there's the addition of everything we've learned since we got together."

The album backs that up furiously. There's an argument that the previous album, Gravity The Seducer, was not a typical Ladytron record. Their need to push the boundaries suggested it had been pushed too close to the edge, and the pop sensibilities had been overcooked. This eponymous sixth has more than steadied the ship, it has plotted a course that suggests that there's a future ahead. There've been hiccups along the way. Indeed, the time it has taken to produce Ladytron is not lost on the other band members, as Helen explains. "Seven years in the life of Ladytron compressed into a neat 13 songs. That was actually the hard part, pruning it down to a listenable amount of songs." Electronic music production as topiary? Did it work? Did you argue? "Yes! Personally, I'm really happy with the album. It's different to our previous efforts, but I think it needed to be. We needed to come back as a new, refreshed Ladytron and that is definitely expressed through this record. I'm not going to lie; having four members spread out across the globe is not always the easiest to negotiate. However, some things you just have to work around for the greater good."

Helen's comments are slightly at odds with Danny's, but only marginally as both views are born out of relief. This has been more difficult to arrange than both members are giving us, dear reader, credit for. But the globalisation of technology, infused with the desire to make this happen has brought to the fore the need for an act like Ladytron to flourish. As pop music blands itself through its own advancement, the acts that grow in the margins are becoming more and more essential, or necessary, depending on your passion for the anti-mediocre.

The new album draws on the societal sources that have plotted the course of the majority of Ladytron's oeuvre, especially since the first album. Ladytron have never been shy of exploring themes that are personal to their own world-view. But it's been the 'difficult' sixth album, so what were the main influences both musically and, more importantly, culturally?

Here's Helen Marnie: "Musically, we wanted to bring an energy to some of the tracks in order to create songs that were more danceable, or at least had more of an up tempo vibe. But at the same time we always want to create space and atmosphere with a record, and songs such as Run and Tomorrow Is Another Day do that well. It's hard not to be influenced by the politics of today, but saying that, most of the songs I've written are more influenced by personal events as well as being injected with a little imagination. One track is a dreamscape, exploring that feeling of trying to dodge death as we always do within a dream."

Danny's side of the story has a more concrete base of influence. "Experience and wisdom, really. We were writing in that vein on the last two, but now, I feel, we are closer to the subject matter, especially when you consider we are getting older and we have had more experiences. I'm satisfied with the lyrical content of this one more so than any of the others. We've grown up more and life has shown us things that it possibly hadn't before. I certainly wasn't dissatisfied with the previous ones, but this one has something about 'the moment' to it. A small proportion of listeners would get it from the off, but we've gone out of our way not to explain a lot of it."

Hold on, this is an interview! Explain it then. "No!" He laughs and mutters something about being out of sync with being interviewed. But the roller coaster has started its incline. "I'm not averse to going into detail, but I'd rather people listen and glean from it what they can. There are areas where you are over-emphasising and over-explaining when I'd rather the listener interprets it themselves and that's where the wisdom is. You need footnotes, something to reference in certain types of situations or certain songs. That's invaluable."

The new record hasn't quite got around to the full live experience. Only the two 'singles' – The Island and the utterly glorious bastardised pop of The Animals – made it into the set for the band's three shows in late November (Glasgow, Liverpool and London). It's worth noting that these were an overwhelming success as the quartet gingerly dipped their live toe back in the water. Glasgow was heaving, and a sold-out London Roundhouse proved the demand is still more than there. There were over eight hundred in Liverpool, the older songs being as enthusiastically received as some of the more 'classic' analogue tunes. Ladytron made sure all bases were covered, Helen gave it the full electro Dusty Springfield and Danny wigged out in true Will Sergeant style. The coloured visuals and dismembered hands dripped from the three screens and the synth bass dislodged confetti from the ceiling. The packed Liverpool Academy danced, listened, swayed and thrusted as a rejuvenated Ladytron powered through their strongest moments.

As the band exited the three screens came together to show a giant '¡No Pasarán!' They shall not pass. A comment based on Danny's life in the day-to-day political upheaval of modern day Brazil. With sweat dripping off the walls and the 30-something crowd baying for more, the lights came up and there was a palpable sense that there's more of this to come. Especially in the Merseyside soul of its creator.

"With the Liverpool show, we just wanted to see a load of people we haven't seen for a long time. But I do come back reasonably regularly. Liverpool produces so much unique stuff and has a better infrastructure in terms of labels and 'scenes' for want of a better word. There's a whole bunch of folk that didn't exist 20 years ago and I'm very proud of what's happening here."

With that he exhales, wishes me a good night and turns back towards the warmth of the cafe, the bosom of his band waiting to drink, laugh and row about the rehearsals. They needn't have. The gigs were a success and 2019 sees our heroes take on America, South America and back to Europe, cradling an album that has been more than worth the wait. Ladytron are here for your pleasure and they deserve that embrace so much now more than ever. Welcome back. Don't leave it so long next time.


06 January 2019

Music Radar interview (2019)

Classic album: Daniel Hunt on Ladytron's Velocifero

The fourth album from this eclectic electropop foursome saw them moving in all kinds of new directions

After they dropped the career-saving Witching Hour back in 2005, Ladytron took a three-year break before their fourth album follow up, Velocifero.

Holing away in the luscious surrounds of a luxury studio in Paris, the quartet, made up of vocalists Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo and synth/production whizzes Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu, got busy putting their hearts and souls into some new music. They wanted to build on their previous good work, and hone their increasingly experimental and mature song-writing skills.

Having cast off the trendy and limiting 'electroclash' tag, they continued to explore further into what reviewers at the time would uniformly describe as a much icier and bleaker sound. Blending goth, techno, glam, indie, and new wave, with haunting lyrics and dense production, Velocifero would ever so slightly eclipse Witching Hour as the band's crowning achievement.

"We wanted to consolidate what we had achieved with the first three albums," says Daniel Hunt. "In particular, the third, Witching Hour, which was a huge leap. The longer a group works together, the further you get into your own universe. Outside influences become less and less important."

The resulting album was filled with contrasts. With dark and light. Shadow and sunshine. At one moment you have the post-punk glory of I'm Not Scared, and then the soaring bass rumble of The Lovers. Tracks like the Bulgarian kids TV show theme update Kletva catch you off guard and Predict the Day strips everything back to showcase their most minimal arrangement to date.

"We learned on the previous record to push things further," says Hunt. "To test the extremes of how far we could go with a track, even if the end result isn't ultimately used. We had this basic philosophy of always hearing an idea out, regardless of whether your instincts tell you it is going to work or not."

Ladytron are back in the studio again and promise their first album in seven years in February. The new single, The Animals, is out now and features a remix by Erasure's Vince Clarke. For now, though, join Daniel Hunt as he takes you through Velocifero track by track.

Black Cat

"This album is cut from similar cloth to [2005's] Witching Hour, but it is harder, much denser, darker in general, which is unsurprising after you've just come back from two years straight on the road. Plus, we were making it during the financial crisis.

"I love this track, though. And starting shows with it was so exciting. This is one of the ones where Mira raps in her native Bulgarian. By this track she had really perfected it.

"She prefers to sing in English, though, and this was the last time she did a vocal like that. Maybe in the future there'll be more."


"This one has something special, it still gets me. It was the first tune we had ready for the album, and had been played with a little on the Witching Hour tour in soundchecks, but never performed.

"This has an improbably long held organ chord at the beginning - I can't remember what we were even thinking with that.

"I guess Ghosts is a little different to what we'd done before. When writing it, it always reminded me of ['60s psych rockers] Sharon Tandy with the Fleur De Lys, but then the end result doesn't sound too similar…

"I'd also like it on the historical record that this came out years before any of that 'sorry, not sorry' business."

I'm Not Scared

"This might be my favourite song on the record. Michael Patterson did a wonderful job with the mix.

"We worked on it first in this wonderful studio in Paris. Obviously there's a strong argument for making records in unspectacular places with as little distraction as possible, and we have done that too, but there's also nothing like taking a break from comping vocals and going across the street for oysters, or finishing a session and heading straight for Le Baron or wherever. We made the most of our time there, certainly.

"The recording itself was sometimes a little difficult, though, and we ultimately had to take the session away from the producer, who was having some problems in his personal life, and finish the mix in Los Angeles with Michael Patterson."


"This was supposed to be the hit. Listening back now, it should've been. When we were recording this, it felt like a hit. It wasn't gonna be the first single, but it felt like the one that was gonna crossover. Other people thought that too. For whatever reason, it didn't really happen. It was a popular song among our audience, but it wasn't like it became a proper smash hit or anything.

"I don't think it's underrated within our audience, but I think it's something that we could have done a lot more with. Every band has this story, though."

Season of Illusions

"Most of the tracks were in decent shape from our own studios before we went to Paris, but a few, like Ghosts and Season of Illusions, really took off once we were working there.

"Mira's songwriting was really coming into its own by the third and fourth albums, too, and this might be my favourite of hers.

"When we first started, I was the only one who really had any experience. And then, album by album, everyone was putting in more songs and getting better and better.

"By then, Mira was getting really good at writing, and Season of Illusions is one of our favourite things we've done. She'd done other stuff before that, but at that moment this was up there with the best we'd got.

"Normally she was doing these kind of rap-y vocals in Bulgarian. Then at some point she started writing in English and writing more and more melodic songs.

"She was a little bit in a pigeonhole of just doing these really unique rapping tracks on each album, so by the fourth one she had an urge to do something beyond that. She's lived in England most of her life."

Burning Up

"This was one of many 'not quite' singles on Velocifero. It ended up having a new lease of life on the [housing market crash movie] Big Short soundtrack - which I suppose is pleasing symmetry, given my earlier comment about making this during the financial crisis.

"When we were recording it, in 2007, it was the last summer of calm before the neoliberal bubble burst. To think back to that feels eerily nostalgic now; it was the last moment when things seemed 'normal' (they obviously never were).

"Listening back, the record sounds of its time, but also sticks out a mile in some respects."


"This is a cover of a Bulgarian singer songwriter from the 1970s who Mira's family knew [Kiril Marichkov]. He actually met us at our first show in Sofia in 2003.

"It's a great song. He remarked that Mira's accent on the track made her sound like a hillbilly, or something like that.

"A video exists of us performing this on the set of a children's TV show, which might see the light of day, eventually."

They Gave You a Heart, They Gave You a Name

"This one, I feel, was a little bit neglected - It was a good song, but didn't get as much attention in the studio as the others.

"We really began to hit a squeeze with the time we had available, and I always thought we could've gone much further with that one.

"With hindsight we could've kept it back for another record."

Predict the Day

"This one has very different production to the rest of the record, and was mostly put together by Reuben and Helen. They'd tried something quite different to anything we'd done up to that point.

"When we started playing it live, it kinda went up a level, too, as tracks tend to do. You'll have a version in the studio and then you've toured it for a year and it ends up in a different place. This track developed beyond the version here.

"The album version's production is very minimal, while the rest of the album is very dense. This is a bit of respite [laughs]."

The Lovers

"Some people at the label wanted this as a single. We didn't agree. Listening to it now, I think that they were right.

"I feel like the album is very dense and there were obvious singles on it. This one was one of the best tracks on it. I don't know why it wasn't one.

"We were pushing tracks further and further to the end of the album. A lot of reviews at the time were saying that this was one of the ones that we were doing that was interesting. Maybe we underrated it.

"To be honest, this song is most like what is on the new album. It was just that we did so much stuff in a short space of time back then.

"This track just came up really quickly. It's buried in this sea of reverb and has this really eerie sensation to it. The new single [The Animals] is kinda cut from the same cloth, as it's as dark as that.

"One of our labels in Germany were demanding that this should have been the single, but we already had Ghosts and Runaway and we didn't need it. In hindsight we should have made a video for it."

Deep Blue

"This was actually two tracks, initially. Mira had a song already demoed and Reuben had a very musically different track without a vocal. I could imagine them together. So, as an experiment, I decided to take Mira's song and combine it with Reuben's track. It became more than the sum of its parts in the process.

"I think this is the closest yet to a definitive album. Tracks like Deep Blue helped that. Witching Hour took many by surprise because it was so different to the previous two records. We had changed a lot. But on Velocifero we were already refining what we had evolved into."


"This is one of my favourites. We had it for a few years prior and it went through various reinventions.

"The video by Neil Krug was something really special, too. We were up at Montserrat in Catalunya, but we had no idea what Neil was going to do with the film.

"I've no idea why this one is so late on the record, or what we were thinking by putting it there, as it's one of the strongest singles we ever put out. We were often doing the opposite of what we were advised. Maybe this was one of those occasions."


"Helen and I did this like a duet. Everyone in the studio was a little stunned when the first vocals went down. We received some compliments from people I really respect about this one. I'm still very proud of it.

"I'm proud of the album. It might be our best. I would normally say Witching Hour, and most of the audience seem to agree. Witching Hour is definitely better produced, it is a special record. But I also think this one had a power to it, which was perhaps overlooked at time of release.

"It wasn't easy to make either, or cheap - and at any moment it felt like the whole project could collapse."


06 September 2018

ClashMusic interview (2018)

For a while there it looked as though we had lost Ladytron.

The much-loved group covered Noughties digital pop in swathes of black, a stylish, artful project that merged terrific songwriting with a slew of fresh innovation.

Largely silent for seven years, Ladytron recently began to stir. Work on a new album is progressing, with the band recently sharing new single 'The Island'.

A brooding, dystopian return, its taut paranoia and synthetic feel is perfect for these unreal times, and comes equipped with a magnificent short film.

Shot by Bryan M. Ferguson in and around Glasgow, it opens with the birth of a humanoid, The Experiment, and we follow its troubled, threatened existence.

An intense yet beautifully shot clip, it's a sign that Ladytron don't just want to match past glories - they want to surpass them.

Watch the video below, then check out a full Q&A with Ladytron after the jump.

Ladytron have been away for so long, how do you go about assessing what the group means, and how it should sound in 2017?

Daniel: It was really quite basic. We decided in July 2016 to begin making a new album. five years from the last one's release. A few years later than we had expected. We began working on material and during that first phase it actually felt easier to be making a record after this amount of time, separate from chronology, or live shows or anything else. Then there's obviously certain things that strike you during the creative process - the world has changed tremendously in seven years, so have we.

But I can't say that we gave any conscious consideration to external factors in terms of how it should sound. We never do.

'The Island' recalls those stellar early singles, did you want to hone in on that electronic pop sound?

Helen: I think it was more a case of remembering where we came from, our strengths, and nodding to that time whilst also wanting to move our sound forward and develop as a band.

Daniel: To me it doesn't sound like the early days per se, as all of our albums had this sonic thread, but what is evident on the Island is that we approached this record with a blanker canvas than we have had for a long time. We were more free.

Recording sessions took place in the south of England, was this a productive time for the group? How was it to write another chapter for Ladytron?

Daniel: We were recording in the countryside near Cambridge, I've worked there before, but not for this amount of time. Staying out of the city was productive but it was a relief to return to dirt and chaos as a reward when it was wrapped.

'The Island' feels tied in to the current climate, to the general sense of disquiet many of us feel right now. Was this a personal song? Did any specific events – political, societal – spur its writing?

Helen: Yes, it is a personal song. It was triggered by an event in my own life, but equally it's broader than that trigger. I guess it's a cry for help, a call out to like minded people who are passionate about our world and where it's heading.

Bryan M. Ferguson is the perfect choice of director, were you fans of his work? Was there a lot of communication before the shoot?

Helen: A designer friend of mine actually gave me a link to Bryan's films, and i binge watched them immediately, falling in love with his sublime weirdness and heavy use of colour. I reached out to him hoping he'd be interested in making us something, and thankfully he was into the idea. His treatment gelled so well with the music and lyrics, i knew we were in good hands.

Glasgow is an odd but entirely successful base for this blast of sci-fi dystopia – was it always your intention to shoot there? Was the city's geography – or even weather! - an influence on the feel of the song?

Helen: That's weird, because i feel like Glasgow is the perfect base for a dystopian world. Bryan is based up here, as am i, so it was natural to film here. The shoot actually took place over the three hottest days this summer, so Glasgow and the outskirts are looking beautiful bathed in sunlight in the film. I think the sunny weather makes the visual even more creepy.

Daniel: For me, Bryan's film shows this banality of evil. That is amplified by the setting for those of whom it is familiar. If such a ghastly project existed now, in the UK, it would be managed by these kind of bored, dead-eyed, Serco employees. When I see something described as a dystopian future, it always strikes me that only those living in a very tiny bubble of privilege on this planet do not sense that we are already there.

There's a certain nihilism to the clip, do you feel this is balanced out by some lingering hope? What should we take away from such a potent visual message?

Daniel: It is heavy. I cried the first time I saw it. But it should be a reckoning. That in itself is hopeful.

How inter-connected are the themes on the new Ladytron album? Does 'The Island' act as a microcosm, or an outlier for the music you've created?

Helen: There are some definite themes that weave through, but it wasn't conceived like this. Only on listening back to the record, now that it is complete, did those themes become apparent. The Island is an emblem for the record, like singles always should be.


19 August 2018

Paper Mag interview (2018)

The second single teasing Ladytron's next album — the legendary Liverpool electronic act's first after a 7-year hiatus, slated for release in the first quarter of next year — debuts exclusively on PAPER today. Delivered in familiar Ladytron fashion, "The Island" feels like a nod to longtime fans who've been awaiting the group's return for so many years.

But like "The Animals," released in March, there's some subtle expansion of sound on this one. In fact, expansion is quite literal a description — vocalist and songwriter Helen Marnie tells us "The Island" intentionally affords space for crescendoing emotional effect.

The subject matter behind it certainly calls for it. In an interview with PAPER, Marnie explained how the song is both grim and hopeful — in part, a reflection of the push-and-pull of today's political and social climate.

What were you thinking in terms of sonic influences for the single?

We've been away for so long; it's been like seven years or eight years. [So] I wanted to write something that wouldn't scare people away, but also leaned on what Ladytron was good at and how we were before, but maybe introducing something a little bit different. I think "The Island" harks back to earlier Ladytron when we first started, right about 2002, 2003. I wanted it to be a bit more pop, but not pop in that cheesy sense of the word. That's why we've got high synths, arpeggiated synths, and things like that.

It's nice to hear something familiar, as someone who's been a fan for so long, but to hear hints of something new, too. It's not a huge departure, though.

No, I think that with "The Island" there's quite a bit of space, sonically. Whereas our last album I find a bit fuller. I think [the space can] build emotion.

Speaking of emotions, can you tell me more about the message? You referenced the disquiet that we all feel in a statement for this track. Can you elaborate on that?

If you read into the lyrics literally it's quite dark, I would say — quite bleak. But that's not really what I wanted to convey; that's not really how it is. It is a comment on all the social things that are going on right now, but I wanted to create a sense of disorientation, and maybe claustrophobia, which I think a lot of people are feeling right now. I think the lyrics are like juxtapositions. There's a lot of different things sitting together, but they're not necessarily agreeing with each other. I think everyone is feeling that disorientation and confusion. No one really knows what it is these days, and it's really hard to get the truth.

When you're talking about hitting the ground here, it feels very rock bottom. The lyrics mention sirens of the apocalypse.

Yeah, it's very much like that. Hopefully the only way we can go is up. It's just very trying times. But, you know, that's how things go. They go in cycles. Things do need to hit rock bottom in order for there to be resistance. I think that's basically the influence. Personally, it is personal as well, the lyrics. It's not just a social commentary. It's about me. But I don't really want to go into that.

I respect that. Can I ask, though, if it's personal for you specifically or is it in relation to the whole band?

Personal for me.

Okay. I wondered about the title, if the idea of the island itself is a metaphor.

Yes it is. [Laughs] I live in Scotland, so there's been a lot of things that have been happening here. I think that for the people that live in Scotland, we feel like we don't really have a say in situations. The UK is feeling quite small for me right now, and Scotland is obviously a part of the UK, but we're our own country, so I think it's also quite hard for us to accept certain things that are happening. So that's my reference to the island: We are this small place, and we don't really have a say sometimes. But equally, that's a bit political, and I don't want to go too political.

I can sense that you don't want to get too specific about politics. I respect that, but I do wonder where this is coming from...

Yeah, I think it's just unrest, really. And knowing that no matter how you act, how you vote, laws you pass, in the overall bigger picture, for Scotland it doesn't really make a difference to the outcome. That's the island. That's what I'm talking about. Just being this insular society that has a lot of control but is equally becoming more and more insular and small-minded.

Is there anything you'd like to mention about the forthcoming album?

Yeah. It's finished. It's being mastered now. We spent some time down in Southeast England recording it for about a month or so. I'm happy with how it's turned out. It took a while to get things right, but I think it's a good mix of Ladytron. I hope people will appreciate it. It's just exciting to finally have made it.

I'm definitely excited to hear it.

It's hard to know how people will react. But I like it. So that's all that matters. [Laughs]


29 March 2018

The Electricity Club interview (2018)

Named after a wonderfully eclectic song from the first Roxy Music album, appropriately it was Brian Eno who said that Ladytron were "the best of English pop music". Despite Eno's description, one of the most distinctive aspects of Ladytron is their diversity, with Bulgarian-born Mira Aroyo and Glaswegian Helen Marnie joining Liverpudlians Danny Hunt and Reuben Wu in Summer 1999.

With five internationally acclaimed albums in '604', 'Light & Magic', 'Witching Hour', 'Velocifero' and 'Gravity the Seducer' under their belt, Ladytron are now working on their sixth long player after a hiatus of 7 years. It will be released via Pledge Music, the crowdfunding platform which was used by Helen Marnie to support the recording of her debut solo offering 'Crystal World'.

The new Ladytron album has been launched with 'The Animals', a dark electronic rock number in the vein of 'High Rise', 'International Dateline' and 'Tomorrow' which also comes with a Vince Clarke remix. With all systems go in the Ladytron camp, Danny Hunt kindly took time out from the studio to chat to The Electricity Club about the new album, his favourite synths and his own career highlights.

When did the genesis for the first Ladytron album in 7 years begin? Was it a gradual process?

We knew we were going to do it eventually, but various things made it not come together as early as we imagined. Huge changes in our personal lives, and our locations – two of us moved across hemispheres. In mid-2016, we felt ready to move ahead and began writing and planning.

Was there any point where you personally thought there might not be another album?

That was never a possibility.

Helen did two solo albums, but what were the rest of you up to during the hiatus? You co-produced Helen's first solo offering?

Yes, I produced and co-wrote some of Helen's first one. Since then, I've worked with some other artists that I felt a creative connection with, for example last year I co-wrote and produced an EP 'Lua Vermelha' with a very special artist in Brazil called Lia Paris. I also produced Lush's comeback EP 'Blind Spot', which I loved doing. Other than that, film scores and some other things that'll see the light of day soon enough.

Reuben has been concentrating on his photography, he's built a big reputation with that.

Mira has been working a lot with documentaries which was always a love of hers. We're generally creative people, and were never solely focussed on one project.

The individual members all live in different parts of the world now, so in terms of writing, has there had to be a more remote approach by necessity?

As it always was, even with the first five records we never lived in the same city, or at times even country, there were only brief moments when more than two of us did. Eighty percent of the time we weren't living in the same place.

The method is the same regardless of distance; we work, collaborate remotely and then come together for a period to turn the work we've done individually and collaboratively into a record.

How would you describe the creative dynamic of Ladytron and how it has evolved over the years?

These days everyone is pretty much self-contained. Technology has changed enormously after all, when we began it was a different world in so many ways. And we were basically children playing around with brand new methods.

'The Animals' is the first single and appears to be a return to the harder, more intense sound of 'Witching Hour' and 'Velocifero'?

Perhaps, but it's still too new to judge.

Vince Clarke has remixed 'The Animals', how did he become involved and are you pleased with his quite different and more rigid interpretation?

I love it. I always wanted us to collaborate in some way with him. It came about when I remixed the ERASURE single last year.

After the textural atmospherics of 'Gravity the Seducer', is 'The Animals' representative of the new album's overall sound? If not, how would you describe it?

Well the album isn't finished, the songs are there but it has a long way to go. To me, it is difficult to describe beyond simply that it sounds very much like a Ladytron record.

How do you now look back on 'Gravity the Seducer'?

Very proud of it. It was intentionally more sedate, which was exactly what we wanted, needed at that time. Some of the tunes on it, such as 'White Gold' and 'Transparent Days', are amongst my favourite things we've done. I've had people whom I really respect tell me that they didn't get into any of our stuff until that record.

The way music is financed and consumed has changed considerably since 2011 with crowdfunding and streaming more prominent. What are your own thoughts on this?

I don't have strong feelings on any of this. I am rather traditionalist in this respect.

You've opted to market the new album via Pledge Music, had the band been drawn to it from Helen's positive experience of it?

In our case, it is an ideal way to make records independently.

Being on Pledge Music often involves providing fly-on-the-wall insights into the recording process and other benefits, like China Crisis offered an opportunity to see Liverpool FC match with a band member while Gary Numan sold his old gear. As a band who have generally not courted a personality based profile in the past, have you decided what types of updates you will do yet?

We don't know yet.

You're offering vinyl, CD and download versions of the new album, but also cassette! Have you got your head around why there's a resurgence in this format, what are your own memories of using cassettes?

I'm of the generation for whom the cassette was the format of choice, I never accepted that it went away.

Isn't there just a general longing for actual objects now that our digital lives can evaporate in a moment?

And is not just in the case of records, for example I now buy more actual books than I ever did. We need to leave the historians some physical record of our culture.

Have you added any more vintage synthesizers to your armoury for the new album or have you moved towards VSTs these days? Do you have a particular favourite synth?

We have all our old toys and a couple of new ones. I had to transport as much of my gear as I could halfway across the world to fit my studio out down here. Each time I returned home, I brought a few more things south with me. I love my Crumar Stratus, that and the SH-2 are my main instruments.

What do you think about these recreations like the Korg MS20 Mini, the Korg ARP Odyssey or the new Minimoog?

About 15 years ago, we begged Korg to make a new MS20. We insisted that if they were available, they'd become as ubiquitous in studios as a bass guitar.

So I'm all for this gear being available in a cheap, practical and reliable way. We sometimes used to burn through old analogue synths every couple of days on the road – rare gear we had collected over many years.

As Ladytron's guitarist, how do decide when it's best to integrate the instrument into proceedings?

I'm a keyboardist, guitarist, bassist whatever. To me, through a chain of effects, it's just another object that makes noise.

Are you self-producing the album or have you brought in an outsider for this?

We have people we trust and work with regularly. How we are going to approach this one is still being discussed.

Are you able to reveal any of your own personal highlights of the new album? What are your hopes and fears after 7 years away?

It's early days to talk about highlights as there are still tracks being worked on. All I'd say is that we are already very happy with how it is progressing.

Do Ladytron intend to tour the new album?

Yes, we will, but the most important thing for us is to make a new record. Once that is done we will think about everything else.

Which territories have generally been your strongest?

Besides the US, Canada, Spain and various countries in the EU, we always did well in South and Central America. But we've been all over. Australia. China. It is hard to say which is strongest because obviously everyone does more shows in the EU and North America, where we have always done well with our tours.

What's your proudest achievement as a member of Ladytron? Any particular songs, shows or tours?

Sydney Opera House for Brian Eno was special obviously. When something exceptional happens – like we played China when very few had, and in Colombia at a time when almost no artists would go there because of the civil war – those ones stick in the memory.

I'm simply proud that our work has reached people, that we've made five albums and we're making another.


28 March 2018

Into More interview (2018)

Over the last twenty years, few bands have been more pivotal in the development of electronic music than Ladytron. The Liverpudlian four-piece, founded in 1999, has consistently walked the line between critical and commercial success, attracting praise from the legendary Brian Eno and a string of high-profile collaborators.

Now, seven years after their most recent release, Gravity the Seducer, the band is back with a frenetic, haunting new single, "The Animals," as well as a PledgeMusic campaign to fund the creation of a new album. The project is still very much in its early stages, but demos have already been laid down and Jim Abbiss, the producer behind the band's seminal album Witching Hour, has been enlisted to work his magic once again.

Individually, the members of Ladytron have been hard at work on their own separate projects, but the announcement of a new album has sent a shockwave of excitement through the band's core fanbase; already, over 70% of the crowdfunding target has been met. So, we reached out to lead vocalist Helen Marnie to find out more about the upcoming project, the choice to crowdfund, and the band's ongoing determination to maintain full creative control.

Tell us a little about "The Animals" – why did this feel like the right song to come back with?

Seven years is a long time in the music world. So much has changed since we last toured our album Gravity The Seducer and, personally, I've changed, as has the rest of Ladytron. So really it was about choosing a song that was quintessentially Ladytron, but which also reflected that we've moved on and are ready to create again. We're bursting with ideas and itching to get new stuff out there, so "The Animals" is easing people in gently.

A PledgeMusic campaign has been launched for the album. Why did you decide to go down this route?

We'd been talking about doing a crowdfunding campaign for quite some time, so it was just a matter of finding the right platform for us, and PledgeMusic fitted the bill. I'd also had the experience of doing a Pledge campaign for my first solo record, Crystal World, so knew all the pros and cons from that. We like the control that we have doing it this way: we get to choose everything from PR to art to songs to formats. The only pressure is the pressure we put on ourselves.

What benefits are there to crowdfunding an album?

It means complete control. Although, I guess, Ladytron has never really been the type of band that was ever dictated to. However, it's the little things that sometimes make a difference, and we get to make the decisions on them, too. In the past, with record labels, we've experienced mistakes being made here and there, and they end up making quite an impact.

Why did you decide to reunite with producer Jim Abbiss for this new project?

Of all the albums we've made, making Witching Hour with Jim Abbiss really stands out, and I think it comes across on the record. It's a coherent, interesting body of work, and that, in part, is due to Jim. I can remember times making records where it wasn't all fun and games, but not with Witching Hour. I think, as people, we all just get along. Jim is super experienced and is full to the brim with ideas, and having that extra dimension is what matters. A fifth brain. He also knows how to push you without "pushing" you; like, how to get the best out of someone in the right way. We all agreed that he was the person we wanted to work with again.

You've worked with some huge names in the past. Are there any collaborators you're keen to get involved with this project?

Oh, there are numerous people we'd love to work with, but I think our new record needs to be about Ladytron and not who we're collaborating with. Having been out of the game for so long, I think it would be weird to come back with an album full of names that weren't ours.

You're already well on the way to meeting the album goal; how does it feel to have this fan support even after such a long hiatus?

As of today, we're at 73%, which is pretty fucking amazing. I can't deny it – it feels good! It feels good that people still have our back and haven't forgotten about us. We have a very loyal fanbase though, so I wouldn't expect any less from them.

Sonically, what can we expect from the new album?

It's difficult to say at this stage, because we're yet to go into the studio and record everything. However, I can say that all the material is there and that the demos are already sounding great – if the Pledge campaign goes according to plan, then we'll be going into the studio soon. That's when everything will come together and the record will take on a life of its own.

We've seen a glimpse of the new aesthetic in the PledgeMusic video. How important will visuals be to this campaign?

Visuals are so important. That is the way of the world right now, so, of course, we'll be really putting the work in and keeping things interesting. "The Animals" video, due for release soon, was shot in Brazil; it looks so beautiful.


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.