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  • Interview: Danger Radio

    Fri, 08 Aug 2008 08:15:51

    Interview: Danger Radio - Danger on the dance floor

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    Few bands get dangerous on the dance floor anymore. Danger Radio is a big exception. They blend straight-up funkified grooves with poppy punk melodies, and the results are delightfully danceable. In fact, their debut album Used and Abused has got enough groove and gusto to satisfy any disco fan attending this year's Warped Tour. This Seattle six-piece knows how to craft a catchy hook too, amidst all the shakin'. Drummer Nico Hartikainen took some time to dish with ARTISTdirect about Used and Abused and reviving the '70s vibe.

    It seems like absolutely anything goes with your sound. Would you say that's the case?

    That's a very good observation. That's definitely something we've always kept in mind while writing. We can go in a lot of directions.

    Where does your writing process usually start?

    Basically, Andrew [De Torres, Vocals] and I will sit down in a room and hang out. A lot of our pre-production ends up starting on this program called Rave. It's very electronic. People use the program a lot in hip hop. We'll make a beat, or we'll come up with some sort of riff. It'll be really bare bones, and then we'll put stuff on top of what we come up with. It depends on the mood of the day or what we've been listening to.

    It seems like you start with the electronic side of things first.

    Yeah, sometimes. However, we'll also begin by sitting down with an acoustic guitar. Andrew's more comfortable writing on guitar, and I'm more comfortable writing on keyboards. If I write on keyboards, it's easy to map stuff with the beats.

    Do the songs come together pretty quickly?

    Some songs come together in five minutes. Or you can have a cool idea and you don't know what to do with it. Then you come back to it a month later. Usually we try to keep it together. If something doesn't seem to be working, we'll come back to it later. We like to keep things flowing.

    It seems like there's a '70s funk vibe to the album. Is that something you're into?

    For sure. My roots go way back to artists like Stevie Wonder. It's the same with Andrew. That was definitely something we kept in mind. We wanted the album to sound modern and pop, but we definitely wanted to have an older feel to it. It's hard to achieve that balance without sounding too old or too new.

    The cover art's got a Boogie Nights feel.

    Yeah, when we saw the artwork, we were like, "Wow." I think the guy really nailed it. We told the guy we wanted something old school with a modern feel. We felt like it was something you would see on a Motown album.

    Two standout songs are "Kiss & Tell" and "Slow Dance with a Stranger." What's the story behind those?

    We wrote "Kiss and Tell" almost a year ago. I lived in this apartment with my 50-year-old roommate, and we had a keyboard there. I just sat down, started playing, and I wrote that song in 15 minutes. That was awesome. "Slow Dance" was a little different. We worked with some writers on that one. It's really for driving, and it pushes a lot. It's straightforward. We just wanted to keep it fun and exciting throughout the song to the end. "Kiss and Tell" is slow and groovy, and "Slow Dance" is intense. When you listen to the record, you don't hear two songs that are exactly the same.

    You guys tap into a groove that's been missing from a lot of new bands. It seems like no one knows how to get down anymore.

    That's what we try to do. With our live show, it's very bass and drum-driven, and if the feel is not there then it's not going to work for us. We all grew up in jazz bands, so feel, groove and beat are the main elements of all our songs. If it doesn’t feel good, then it's not going to work. That's one of the most important things. That's why the old school songs, all of that Motown, are such huge influences.

    How does the sound translate live? It must be pretty crazy on stage.

    It's fun and exciting. We try to keep it interesting and fun. We try to get the crowd in on it as much as possible. We've been touring for a while now. The groove is definitely important. We dance. Our bassist and I are looking at each other all the time trying to keep the groove up.

    When you're playing live, do you have any keyboards or any programming stuff near your drum kit?

    I play to a sampler, and it has a metronome, so I listen to that. We have two synthesizers. I'm sure we'll extend it when we have the time or more money. It's just hard to pull some of that stuff. Some of the stuff has to go on the samplers just because we'd need three keyboard players, and there's just so much programming, which is that more modern side of us. Keyboard players have done good jobs with pulling through on that stuff. It's an ongoing process trying to make the live show happen.

    If it doesn't feel good, then it's not going to work.

    Where did the album title come from?

    The title track is called "Used and Abused." We felt it kind of lyrically throughout the whole record, it came together pretty well. Andrew writes a lot about his current situations and things like that. It's not like a record that is innate. Another song talks about hope and stuff. It wasn't planned or anything like that. It seemed to fit talking about relationships. We felt like "Used and Abused" just really stood out. It seemed like a good choice to sum up the record. I love that track. It's one of my favorites on the CD. We just went with that. I ended up working with the guy who did the artwork, and he liked it. It just kind of came about in the end. It was meant to be.

    What's the concept behind the "Slow Dance with a Stranger" video?

    We got some edits back, and it's basically just us playing the song. There was originally a scene where there was some girl getting pissed off at a vending machine as an interlude, but we're figuring out if we're going to keep it or not. We're playing in front of a bunch of lights and TVs and stereos. I can't wait to see the final result.

    What's the music scene like back home?

    Seattle has always been great, and it's always been great to us. Kids are just really into the music scene there. We love it. It's one of our favorite places to play at. We would love to stay there forever.

    It's interesting because people always associate Seattle with grunge and darker kinds of music. You guys have more of an upbeat vibe.

    It's definitely interesting; we always get asked how much Seattle influences our music. If you know the scene and the bands coming out of there as we were growing up, I could point out things. Some of the greatest artists came out of there. We have big shoes to fill coming out of there. Some bands change their location on MySpace because they don't want to be from Washington because they don't want to be affiliated with that [Laughs].

    —Rick Florino

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