Need To Know: Simian Mobile Disco

9.28.2009

By Justin Ocean

If you haven't been sweatin' to tracks from Simian Mobile Disco's latest album you're clearly not going out enough. Released last month, the British electrostars' second effort, Temporary Pleasure, has enough saucy energy to start its own sonic stimulus plan, living up to the promise of 2007's debut Attack Decay Sustain Release as a new, if retro, direction in dance music.

Already known for their sick beats and headline-grabbing videos (who can forget the absolutely sick, line-toeing 'Hustler'?), coproducers/synth-wranglers Jas Shaw and James Ford call in their contacts for a who's who panel of our some of our favorite queer-friendly guest vocalists from Hot Chip to Super Furry Animals -- and in the case of the Gossip's Beth Ditto, some bona fide homos -- who lend a new dimension to the dance floor'ready tracks. We caught up with the 31-year-old Shaw as he was headed to a gig in Singapore and got the low-down on American Apparel alliances, the pleasures of producing with Peaches, and how there's no such thing as too much analog -- or too many flashing lights.

Out: As a fan of the Gossip, hearing Beth Ditto as a soul diva on 'Cruel Intentions' made me do a double take. I never would have thought of that for her.
Jas Shaw: Yeah, she's sort of known for really shouty vocals, but from chatting with her at festivals we knew that she was up for doing something a bit less belting it out, a bit more quiet. For 'Cruel' we knew we wanted a kind of soul-y, Detroit-y kind of vibe and just on the off chance, we sent her the tracks' Fortunately she went for it!

How did you pick the rest of artists who sang on the album?
It's quite weird actually. It almost feels like they picked themselves. We made loads of instrumentals which suggested types of vocals, like a female vocal or a particular type of style we were looking for, and we literally just ended up e-mailing MP3s to people who we've met on tour that would be able to do that kind of vocal, figuring only a few people would get back to us. We expected to only get two or three vocals back and we got nine! That really defined the direction of the record.

Did you write the lyrics in collaboration or just leave them up to the guests?
On a couple of occasions they used working titles as a starting point to the track, but we gave the vocalists free range to write whatever they wanted. We choose people because of their writing style and the sound of their voices, so it would have been a bit wrong to write vocals and give them to say, Yeasayer's Chis Keating [for 'Audacity of Huge'] who is an amazing writer himself.

Are there any artists you would have liked to have for this album but couldn't get or will be approaching in the future?
We've been trying to chase down Nick Cave for ages, and understandably he hasn't gotten back to us yet. There have been loads of people we'd be up to using, so going forward we'd definitely chase down people. But at this stage, I feel it's time for us to get back to doing some instrumental techno stuff. That's our background.

As coproducers, do you and James have complimentary qualities you to bring to the creative process?
No, not really, which is probably a bad thing. [Laughs] Usually we'll both kind of jump between the traditional roles of someone playing the 'artist,' and the other person giving comments and being the 'producer.' Our music taste is very similar simply because we lived together for years and years, and we still go out and DJ together. And when we find new bands that we're interested in we tell each other about them.

So which other bands are exciting you right now? What's the hottest sound coming up?
You should check out UK Wonky, which is a slightly weird version of UK Funky stuff, which is a slightly faster Dub set. The wonky stuff just has a really, well, wonky edge to it. In terms of American stuff, Grizzly Bear and the new Animal Collective record are amazing. Recently I recorded in London at Toerag Studios and have been getting into a lot of stuff they've done there like Diagonal and Electric Wizard. It's a '50s style studio -- all valves, tapes, no computers, and no nonsense.

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