Category Archives: Interviews

Mr Mischief – Kissy Sell Out Interview

Kissy Sell Out

Kissy Sell Out

Gigwise, April 2009

The bundle of energy that is giggling down the phone is recounting the perils of snowboarding misadventures. “I’m not like one of these French guys that can do double back twists. When I was younger I used to go rollerskating a lot and I could do all kinds of things, but these days, you know if you fall over it hurts now. I remember when I was a kid if I fell over and hurt my shin I’d just carry on. But now I think ‘fuck that shit! I’m going for a fucking pint! I’ll go for a Fanta indoors and watch TV!’”

The delivery is pure Woody Woodpecker, all mischievous laughter and hungry intent, but the voice is unmistakably Kissy Sell Out – toxic remixer, Radio 1 DJ and now curator of the snowbombing bash, Tignes; literally one of the coolest festivals in Europe.

It’s no surprise that Kissy is a freak for snowboarding. Listening to his late night Radio 1 show feels like hurtling down a glacier with a massive grin while he throws an eclectic snowball of club classics, mash-ups and rabid mixes of the likes of Bat For Lashes and Little Boots at you. Amazingly, for a show that is delivered at breakneck speed, with Kissy’s enthusiastic passion and ear for a ridiculously great tune, he never crashes and burns, leaving that for the actual boarding.

“Yeah, I got taken down by the blood ambulance once,” he says, recounting one messy episode. “I broke my nose going through some trees. I went off a big hill that was very steep, like a mini cliff, and my board hit the ground first and my body kind of followed and I smacked my face, I cracked my goggles and my goggles went into my face and cut goggle marks into my face.” He quickly pauses, and you can practically see the laughter swelling up in him. “And that’s why my nose is so big! Hahhhhahaha!”

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Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier…The Rakes

 
the Rakes

the Rakes Progress No More

Gigwise, February 2009

They call it the toilet circuit. From Southampton Joiners to Glasgow King Tuts, these intimate and legendary venues are the bedrock of British music, daring any band with a couple of chords and a swagger of self-belief to pass through its musical sewer system. The gigging equivalent of the marine training camp in Full Metal Jacket, if your band has done its dues at the likes of Leicester Princess Charlotte and Newport TJ’s they’ll be fully prepared for all the perils of the music industry: the onslaught of a jaded music journalist or even an inappropriate support slot with the Feeling.

Of course, few make the grade, but of the bands that do always be suspicious when you hear their fond memories of “those slender times that made us the band we are”; chances are they’re saying it while chugging away at a bottle of Moët and whiling away the hours before stage-time in a dressing room the size of Coventry Cathedral.

Full marks then to urban perennials the Rakes, who having finished recording their third album Klang (released on 23 March) in Berlin have dived gleefully head-first back in to the cavernous cellars and Public House back-rooms of the UK and are seemingly revelling in the experience.

“Oh yeah, it’s certainly an experience being back” remarks Alan Donohoe, the Rakes debonair singer, as he casts his eyes around the walls of Cardiff Barfly’s tiny dressing room. “Have you seen the graffiti in here? It’s amazing.” He points to the back of the dressing room door, where a previous bored guitarist or drummer has taken the toilet circuit analogy one step further and scrawled in large black marker three words: Dirty Shitty Things. “It’s everywhere in here. Maybe it’s a specific Cardiff Barfly thing that you have to leave toilet humour versions of band names on the walls? Nine Inch Stains is especially good. The only thing is we’re having trouble thinking of one for us. Maybe we’re so un-risky we can’t think of any toilet humour nicknames for our band? We’re not that clever.”
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Against the Grain: An Interview With Portishead

Portishead

Portishead

PopMatters, June 2008

By culture and temperature alone, L.A. is a different world to the weaving urban sprawl of Bristol, the city in the West of England that pokes through Portishead’s sullen sound as much as the stark beats and introspective voice of singer Beth Gibbons. If L.A. is palm trees, Harleys and silicone, then Bristol is closer to the kind of unsettled dimly-lit streets and dark alleys that the Specials drive down in their video for “Ghost Town”.

Geoff Barrow clearly notices the difference. Named after the Bristol satellite town he grew up in, Portishead emerged in the mid-nineties with Dummy, a startling debut that bucked the prevailing trend of outward-looking Britpop with an inward-looking melancholy of scorched-Earth pop. Blending slow-motion hip-hop grooves, old-school scratches, mournful soundtrack samples and Beth Gibbon’s tormented lyrics, Dummy went on to sell four million records worldwide, inadvertently creating the trip-hop sub-genre and providing the soundtrack for countless dinner parties along the way. Their self-titled follow-up went further against the grain, upping the mournful overtones as well as the underlying sense of paranoia, but it still sold healthily.

The subsequent ten years then have been for Portishead their own kind of wilderness, the kind their music often evokes. Burn-out, divorce, and dismay at how their music had been received at times, all played a part, while Barrow even speaks of turning his back on creating music at one point. And then midway through 2007, while many were still doubting another Portishead record, All Tomorrows Parties – the innovative UK festival promoter – announced that Portishead would curate their A Nightmare Before Christmas event. One look at the line-up, a bill that included drone metal, experimental electronica and Balkan folk, suggested that once they did return, maybe it would be worth the wait after all. We could all relax.

Now that Third is released, Geoff Barrow can finally relax himself. He clearly knows the difference between ten years staring at a stubborn tape machine and the glimmer of the Californian sun. “I’m sat by the pool,” he laughs, still coming to terms with his surroundings. “I really don’t know how I got to this point. I’m sat next to some terrible speaker playing trip-hop music in this hotel!”
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Challenging the Purists – Trentemøller Interview

Trentemøller

Trentemøller

Gigwise, April 2008

The sweat is still fresh on the walls when Anders Trentemøller sits down for a chat after an astonishing show at the London Forum.  Looking down at the now empty stage from our place on the balcony, a scene where earlier his live band had literally ripped up the dance music rule book and partied with 1,000 indie and electro kids, the Danish musician is modest about the furore he has just caused. “There was a good energy tonight. This is our last day on a big tour around the world, so I think we really gave it that bit extra.”

The truth is that tonight’s set confirmed Trentemøller as one of the most exciting and compelling live artists in electronic music. Anders already has the dance world sewn up. The Last Resort’, his acclaimed debut album from 2006, is a masterpiece of minimal techno, lush ambient and filthy electronica.  Last year he not only issued ‘the Trentemøller Chronicles’, a collection of rare tracks and prized remixes of The Knife, Robyn, Moby and Royksopp, but in ‘Moan‘, a slice of oozing minimalism and Massive Attack-style melancholy, gave us one of the finest ever dance tracks. Preferring the raw, organic experience of a gig and avoiding relying on a simple laptop, Anders had always played his material live. But then last year he finally fulfilled his vision of recreating the depth and texture of ‘the Last Resort’ on stage.

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“At the beginning I was quite afraid of bringing it on the road,” he explains. “It was an album I did all on my own and I thought how should I do it live? Just do a lot of laptop and sampler and stuff? But that would be too boring. There was always this kind of rock attitude in the music, so I thought why not play it more live?” Drawing on his musical background of playing in rock bands, Anders recruited two good friends onto bass and drums (that they were famed Danish singer-songwriter Mikael Simpson and renowned fashion designer Henrik Vibskov speaks volumes about the respect Trentemøller carries in his native country).

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“I wanted to have this energy that is in the music and to somehow for it be there also live. I wanted it to be organic, in a way, and warm, and still have this space for making errors and maybe the drums and guitar do something different each night.  It is cool for me not having it too strict because then I would get bored of playing the same set again and again.”

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The result is startling. Trentemøller live takes all that is suggested in his records – the dark brooding analogue and gothic ambience – and heightens it. So the dirty analogue bass of ‘Vamp‘ and ‘Evil Dub‘ is even more bone-crunching filthy, while the minimal soundscapes becomes even richer, bringing in influences of the Cure and Portishead. For a cutting edge designer Vibskov plays some mean drums, perfectly rolling over the minimal beats that Anders releases from the banks of electronics. Simpson meanwhile, is all Peter Hook-cool, doing what all good bassists should do: keeping the bass low, and the sound lower.

Not surprisingly, his decision to give a rock-injection to the live set-up has raised a few eyebrows in the dance world. Anders speaks of the band’s second ever gig, at last year’s Glastonbury Festival. A well-received headline slot in the dance field, complete with baying fans anticipating the gig with shouts of “Trente! Trente!”, he was criticised by some because “we had drums and guitar and we didn’t play much techno.”

The criticism from the genre fascists who simply can’t see his vision and would prefer everyone boxed into their own little musical worlds is nothing new for Anders. Fortunately he’s dedicated and passionate enough to ignore it. “In the beginning there was a lot of DJs saying ‘what is this? This is not techno,'” he explains. “There was a lot of people writing me on MySpace dissing me and saying ‘why are you doing this rock thing?’ and ‘this is not pure techno’. And rock people wrote to me saying ‘what is this? This is not rock!’ There will always be people who don’t get it, who just listen to one type of music all their life.”

Interestingly he tells a story of one his musical inspirations, the new wave punk/electronic band Suicide, who also had a big affect on Primal Scream. “They were beaten up several times because other punks thought it was totally unacceptable that they used electronic instruments.” Punks playing at electro? I ask the electro kid playing with punk if he’s had any similar bother from techno purists. “No, no, no, thankfully!”

It was probably not surprising that the electronic producer who grew up listening to the Smiths and Mazzy Star would one day return to some of these influences for his music. When asked about other artists he rates he doesn’t answer with acclaimed artists from his field like Michael Mayer or Gui Boratto, preferring instead to talk about innovative rock and indie artists using new production methods to blend electronics with their sound. He constantly references Thom Yorke and praises his solo album, ‘Eraser’. “I would love to hear that album live because it really brings together the good singer-songwriting and his voice. The melodies are so unique and then he brings electronic atmospheres and the whole electronic universe together and that melts together just perfect. I think Thom Yorke is doing one of the best jobs using both the rock and electronic world and mixing it together.”

Having already provided acclaimed remixes for Moby and Pet Shop Boys – Neil Tennant is at the Forum tonight for the gig – the newest Trentemøller mix is a song featuring Thom Yorke, Modeselektor’s ‘White Flash’. “It will be out in three weeks I think,” says Anders enthusiastically. “It was a big thing for me doing this remix so I’ve been spending all my time on that.” This should then be followed by a Trentemøller mix of Roxy Music. “Bryan Ferry is going to sing on the next album, which is quite fun. I think it was his management that wrote to me that Bryan wanted me to remix an old Roxy Music track and if I did it for free he wanted to sing on my next album, so I said yeah, that’s a cool deal!”

Anders will also feature on the forthcoming, highly anticipated, Lulu Rouge album, ‘Bless You’. And then there’s the first Trentemøller film score round the corner. Having already drawn upon the drowsy moods of David Lynch and Vangelis’s Bladerunner score in tracks such as ‘the Very Last Resort’,  Anders provides the music for taut, political thriller ‘What No One Knows’, the new film by Dogma member Søren Kragh-Jacobsen.

One collaboration still alludes him though. Anders has been trying to track down his hero, Mazzy Star’s illusive chanteuse Hope Sandoval. The thought of her dessert blues vocals and Trentemøller’s rich production is captivating. Anders believes his new record will be out in a year, so if you have her number you’ll find Anders Trentemøller in Copenhagen taking the next wave of dance music forward, annoying the purists wherever he can.

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The Megabomb Is Back – Tiga Interview

April 2009, Gigwise

Ciao Tiga

Ciao Tiga

In an age of instant Internet gratification, it’s hard to believe that times used to be tough for pop fans. Before broadband afforded us access to a thousand blogs continually updating us in real-time with the progress of Madonna’s latest raid on the orphanages of Africa, any self-respecting music fan would actually have to leave their comfy bedrooms and attend the real world once a week for their fix of pop gossip.

The music press used to look so attractive back then. You’d eye the pages with glee, ready for them to reveal their secrets – Thurston Moore’s noise-core picks; Morrissey’s latest rant – and even though some of the trivia could be pretty droll it felt you were a little closer to your heroes as a result. All that wonder and intrigue in the days in between left you craving those juicy little facts; snippets of the lives of people so far away from your world. And pop stars used to seem bigger and more mysterious for it.

Yet here we are, two thousand and nine, the Perez Hilton generation, suckling on the Tweets of a popstar’s every move and living the digital equivalent of the old upper classes: clicking our fingers and demanding our mp3 snacks are fetched immediately by our Hype Machine and Last.fm butlers. It may be wonderful having your culture at your every beck and call but don’t your pop icons lose some of their mystery when they arrive in .rar format, freshly leaked a month ahead of their release date, rather than wrapped up in a gatefold sleeve after running to Woolworths after school?

So how do you appear as fresh and relevant in 2009 yet still convey that crucial sense of mystique? Well, if you’re Tiga you passionately embrace all the possibilities of Web 2.0 but ensure they work with, not against you. Three years after letting his killer debut, Sexor, slip out and become a word-of mouth electro classic, Tiga has returned with Ciao – and practically set pulses racing by inviting the likes of Soulwax and James Murphy along for the ride. Interestingly, he’s thrown away the rule book of deploying advance promos and seeing 15 months of hard work end up on a torrent site months before its release, instead issuing top-secret directions to the wonderful “Tiga Introduces..” podcast, where he guides the listener through each intoxicating track in his own idiosyncratic way.

Subverting the now so deliciously is classic Tiga. It’s a surprise then that none of this carefully-executed approach has slipped into his music. “I don’t think there’s anything about Ciao I made as a reaction [to the times],” states Tiga as he finishes a well-earned cinnamon bun after a long day of promotion in London. “You know, I kinda make the music I like at the time. But the strategies surrounding Ciao, I think how people deal with music now and how you release your music, I mean everything that goes into and around it has changed a lot.

“When Sexor came out I think the idea of free file sharing and internet promotion was all a big fringe. I mean everyone knew it was growing but it was still a little theoretical and now it’s reversed. Now it’s the dominant force and it has to be really factored in. And it’s also quite exciting, all the promotion now, as everything about Sexor was either word of mouth or traditional distribution. I never really benefitted from Myspace or Facebook or anything, so now it’s quite exciting to see how things go with those new things.”

When even pop behemoths like U2 have recently suffered their hard work leaking ahead of its release, Tiga’s stubborn strategy should be admired – weeks from its revealing and the Internet remains a strict Ciao-free zone. And all the better for it. The follow-up to Sexor is a tantalising dip into the world of Tiga. Part pulsating, glamorous electro – full of gorgeous, preening funk and glitz – and part full-on club masterpiece, it’s a ready made dance classic that will be all the better for the world to discover collectively. What’s more it perfectly conveys the fascinating two sides of Tiga – and reveals him as the perfect enigma for our times.

He is the electro wonderboy after all, the electroclash pin-up that took that genre to its peak with the success of ‘Sunglasses at Night’ and his luscious re-work of Nelly’s ‘Hot in Here’, before riding out its inevitable implosion, releasing Sexor and becoming the super-hot DJ he is today. But while the self-confessed “avidshopper” cuts an ever so dashing figure in photos and videos, he knowingly contradicts the glamour by hiding behind an unassuming baseball cap while delivering his acclaimed DJ sets. And while he swoons over “shoes, hair and gloves” on new single ‘Shoes’, he’ll Twitter with impressive football knowledge on Liverpool’s Champions League game with Real Madrid.

This mystique oozes from the album. Tracks like ‘Shoes’, ‘Luxury’ and ‘Turn the Night On’ drip with sass and passion – think Depeche Mode, Bryan Ferry and Grace Jones – while ‘Mind Dimension’, ‘Overtime’ and ‘What You Need’ go for the jugular, all wonky, electro filth and dirty bass. ‘Mind Dimension’, in particular, bears all the maximal analogue and bleeping headrush of ZZT – Tiga’s recent collaboration with Zombie Nation. In short, Ciao, like Tiga himself, is an album that’s wonderfully hard to categorise. Tiga agrees. “Yeah, I gave up!” he laughs. “I had no idea. Seriously, I don’t know what category it goes in. I certainly can’t think of anything else that would sit next to it.”

It also feels like a Tiga DJ set, nicely choreographed between absorbing, glamourous pop and driving club tracks. “Oh that’s good. Well it’s programmed a little like a DJ set. It kinda starts off strong, it peaks energy wise a bit earlier, goes a little stranger and then finishes kind of anthemia, finishes a bit more emotional. I probably can’t change the way I think if even I try.”

The DJ set feel owes as much to Tiga’s excellent programming as much as his choice of collaborators. Ciao sees appearances from James Murphy, Jake Spears and Gonzales as well as long term cohorts Jesper Dahlback and Jori Hulkkonen, while much of the production was shared with Soulwax. Infact, Tiga comments he’s now spent so much time with the Dewaele brothers in Soulwax’s hometown of Ghent, he’s “almost become an honoury citizen.”

The recent excellent Soulwax film, Part of the Weekend Never Dies, comments on how, while artists like Justice, Soulwax, Tiga, Erol Alkan and LCD Soundsystem are from very different parts of the world the scene they’ve forged seems so tiny in comparison when they’re together, and as a result they’ve become such a tight bunch of friends. Tiga finds the bond that has developed between everyone exceptionally special.

“Well I think when you tour a lot as a DJ or musician or whatever you have your old friends back home, the ones you grew up with and stuff, and then you have like acquaintances, the people you bump into all the time and, if you’re lucky, some of those acquaintances becomes old friends. You know, they kind of become part of your real friends. Soulwax especially, it started out us DJ-ing together and then over the years they’ve become some of closest friends and they’re very supportive, they have a lot of good ideas and it’s fun to work with them.”

Ciao concludes with the sublime ‘Love Don’t Dance Here Anymore’, an “autobiographical song of the end of the career of a disc jockey” written by Tiga and Gonzales. It’s always possible you might hear another twelve minute disco epic this year that begins with a soothing two-and-half-minute piano intro before building into such a heartfelt rush you’ll want to embrace your speakers and dance around the room with them. But it’s unlikely.

“I’m really really happy with that,” enthuses Tiga. “That’s my favourite track on the album and also it’s probably I think the most proud from a production angle. I think we really got it right, but it wasn’t an easy thing to do. I like the idea of just a real epic and I thought it would be interesting to start in this kind of piano ballad and then it shifts gears. It turned out even better than I hoped.”

‘Love Don’t Dance Here Anymore’ is so full of intoxicating grace, it’s almost as Tiga and Gonzales brought it into the world purely to soundtrack the sun-blessed crescendos of all night raves. Erol Alkan recently predicted the summer of 2009 is going to be the third Summer of Love. If he’s right, then this could be the track you hear as the joyous screams go out at sunrise, from Glastonbury to Benicassim. Say goodbye to early nights and say hello to the summer. Ciao!

Tiga – Proxy’s “Raven” and “Shoes” Live at Control Fridays, Avalon Hollywood

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