Interview: Simian Mobile Disco
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 09:41:54
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James Ford is a very busy man. As a highly in-demand producer, the British musician is responsible for perfecting an impressive batch of great records coming out of the UK right now. Take, for example, the coveted Mercury Prize-winning debut by Klaxons, Myths of the Near Future, which, despite the nu-rave pigeonholing, barely sounds like anyone else in the running—even Bjork has acknowledged their innovation by selecting them as her support act. Yup, even Bjork.
But we're not here to discuss Ford's day job. As one-half of the electronica duo Simian Mobile Disco (the other member being James Shaw, or "Jas," as he's affectionately known), this producer's night job is equally impressive. In fact, it has recently overshadowed his invaluable knob-twiddling. Rising out of the ashes of the electro-rock band Simian, the reputable twosome crafted the critically acclaimed electronica debut Attack Decay Sustain Release into an impressive dance album that calls old-school into session. We caught James on the phone despite his hectic schedule to talk about the Mercury Prize and how lyrical substance is overrated.
Where are you now?
I'm in my hotel room. We're staying in a Best Western, though, but still a hotel as opposed to sleeping on a bus with the constant rumbling beneath us.
Best Western, eh?
Living in style. Living the dream.
What's your live performance like? Are you standing there and checking your email on your laptops?
We try to make it an actual live experience and stay away from the laptop thing. We're apt to change the structure of the songs based on the audience response and staying malleable. We've also got a huge light show. It's quite a hassle but, to be frank, we're trying to prevent this from becoming standard.
Your previous band Simian was a conventional rock band and your new record as Simian Mobile Disco is as un-rock as you can get. Where did it all change for you?
Well, Jas and I were really into electronic before we were listening to the rock music. We loved the Aphex Twin and the Warp label aesthetic. We actually saw Simian as a combination of rock and that electronic flavor, so SMD is a progression.
You just produced the Klaxons record and they won the Mercury Prize. Congratulations!
That was a pretty massive surprise to all of us. I was home, actually—not expecting the win. We all thought Amy Winehouse would take that. I walked immediately out of the house and got a cab to go celebrate.
You've produced the last Arctic Monkeys record, as well as Mystery Jets. Are you like the new Brian Eno?
Your records for the most part all have totally different aesthetics; are you afraid to commit to one sound? And how important is it for you to get along with the artist you're working with?
I would hate to be pigeonholed into one style. I want to do dance, rock, messy sounds and pristine. It's very important to me to keep things fresh, most of all. It would be a bad idea if we didn't get along. Being a producer, a lot of the times, is about making suggestions. You want the band to trust your suggestions. It's not healthy to be a dictator about it.
Is the prize going to make things different for you from here on out?
I don't think things will change much for me. I mean, I'll probably get paid more money and have the chance to pick only strong projects to work on, but aside from that things'll probably be pretty much the same.
What are you working on now?
I can't really talk about it, but I will tell you that I am working on a project with Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys. Not so much a solo project—more like a side project.
You've been around as a musician for a while. Tell me about not having success but still persevering in the music industry.
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