Need To Know: Simian Mobile Disco
By Justin Ocean
You guys really do dig the analog. Why stick with it instead of more modern incarnations?
That's really difficult to answer because we're definitely not slavish to the analog retro scene or anything like that. It probably just goes back to us having been in bands and we enjoy the process of proper instruments and proper dials and proper plugging stuff in to effects. There's something slightly clinical about doing everything inside of a computer. Moreover, we're big fans of something being a performance. Even if you're only kind of looping some drums out for a synth, actually doing it manually you get things you wouldn't expect, weird kind of feedback-y things happening, where as if you do it all inside of Pro Tools you just get exactly what you wanted. It's that chaos of things, on the tipping point of complexity, particularly with modular synthesizers, where they start to do weird nonsense. And nine times out of 10 the thing that it wants to do seems to be more interesting than the thing you wanted it to do anyway. That lack of control is a good thing.
Why did you choose to partner with American Apparel to sell the deluxe version of your album?
It was the label's choice, but the way I look at it, if it's good enough for S'bastien Tellier, it's good enough for us! Also, increasingly there isn't a record shop in every town, but they might well have an American Apparel. It's strange times for music at the moment.
Well, you have a kind of slick sexiness that jives a lot with theirs, too. Can we expect more videos like the two for 'Hustler,' with the girls making out or the sick model-food-porn version that played here in the States?
[Laughs] We're battling with the label at the moment because we really want to do another video with Saam Farahmand, who was the guy who directed the original 'Hustler' video [with the lesbian make out circle]. He's got this absolutely amazing and bizarre idea for 'Cruel Intentions' that will probably also be banned on all TV channels and is actually quite expensive to shoot. The labels don't really have the money, so we're kind of begging and borrowing from everyone to see if we can get it shot within our budget.
As you've traveled around the U.S., what cities have responded the most to you?
New York gets it. I always enjoy Philly, actually, and San Francisco and L.A. are always good. We did a gig in El Paso or something like that and it was in a small venue but really amazing, really good fun. It's as much as the individual towns as it is what kind of venue you play. Even though we feel like a lot of the European techno stuff is not that well known, people are getting it on a primitive level, which is exactly what we're about. They're not into it because apparently it's cool or any of those reasons. They get it on a level that a five year old gets it: simple, intuitive reasons.
Was there anywhere it went horribly wrong and all the factors just didn't mesh?
The worst disaster was in Boston. Every time we put the bass in, all the power for the whole venue shut down! Luckily our lighting guy is also a 'sparky' so he ran around back and figured out what the problem was, and it all went fine after that. The crowd was really good and realized it wasn't our fault, but for a band like us, an acoustic set is not going to do it. [Laughs]. We usually spend our entire fee on lights, as many strobes and as many Pixelines and LEDs and whatever nonsense we can possibly cram on the stage. I don't think they were prepared by the amount of crap we bring with us.
Given you've got people like Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip on the album, can we expect some hot remixes from any of them?
That's an interesting idea really, I hadn't even thought about that. Getting the vocalists and their band to rework the tracks. Actually, though, there's no time for that. I feel like the whole remix scene is so over-saturated as is. I get things through the post and it's a track and maybe a dozen remixes on it. That's just way too many. And we've been guilty of that, too, in the past, so we're really trying to kind of pin the label down to just three good remixes and that will be that. But look out for a great mix of 'Cruel Intentions' from Maurice Fulton. He's one of my favorite producers.
I love what you did on Peaches's new album, I Feel Cream. The title track is pure sex: hot, dirty, good. What was it like working with her? She's a pretty big gay idol for a lot of people.
I've been a fan of hers every since I got a copy of The Teaches of Peaches, so it was amazing working with her. To be honest, I never really thought of her as gay. It's kind of an irrelevant thing in the studio what someone's sexuality is. But certainly she's such a strong character and has been such a strong voice in music for a long time that it was really interesting having her in the studio. We felt like the reason she got us involved was to push her in a slightly different direction so there wasn't really any point in doing something that sounded like her past records. She's an amazing producer in her own right, she can easily do that by herself, so there was that degree of, I guess, 'creative tension.' We're both planning to play at the Big Day Out [in Australia and New Zealand] early next year, so we'll get to hang out with her again, which will be very nice.
After Attack Decay Sustain Release got so many accolades, did you have any sophomore jitters of how you were going to best yourself this time?
Yeah, you're right, there's quite a lot of pressure on people regardless of how the first record did. But because both of us were working quite hard producing other bands, some of which were actually second records, the stress that they were feeling almost alleviated how we felt about our whole album. We literally didn't have time to analyze it. It was us trying to fit two or three days between this gig or that production gig, or whatever, to work on it. I'm a big fan of just getting on with stuff and worrying about the details afterward.