Techno Strategising With Simian Mobile Disco.
Simian Mobile Disco have just released their most ambitious and experimental album to date, reclusive duo SMD only like to leave the house to record new music or play for Bugged Out. Read all about it.
Simian Mobile Disco by William Selden
Simian Mobile Disco are to house music what strawberries are to cream. James Ford and Jas Shaw are the London electronic duo currently building a brand new, untested hardware set up and preparing to record their third most ambitious live album to date in Joshua Tree, CA. Plucked from relative obscurity by Paul and Johnno to play a set down their local club, the inimitable Sankeys, Jas and James have become an integral part of the cult independent music night. Curating their own Suck My Deck Bugged Out compilation in 2007, playing at ten score parties and previously featured in BO's print predecessor Jockey Slut, the two best friends package up the past twenty Bugged Out years from behind the booth.
MM: What are you spending your time working on at the minute?
James: We're both working individually doing production and writing for other people at this point.
MM: Who are you producing for?
James: Lots of different people. Klaxons, Arctics…
Jas: We also making a new album right now with two really simple hardware sequencers that we built and samplers.
James: We wanted to change the system that defines the music that we make. For our new record the plan is to record the tracks the other way round to the how we would normally create a record. We're going to build two systems and then we're going to record an album on it unrehearsed at a one-off gig in Joshua Tree, in the desert, that's going to be our new album.
Jas: Almost the way bands used to do it, in the 60s. We will have all the songs and recorded in a day or two.
MM: How long have you been building the equipment for?
James: The sequencers arrived today. We just wanted to really push ourselves to make something fun and accomplished, we hope it'll work.
Jas: I think what's interesting about it the way we're putting the music together, we don't know exactly how it will sound until we actually finish the live recording. We can control the end result to a certain extent, such as the way the sequencers interact with each other and there's a random factor that we have to embrace.
MM: So you wanted to create a completely different sound?
Jas: It'll be related probably less club vibey but just as electronic and I think a lot of the records we're interested in are quite minimally arranged or quite simple old records. We realised the linking factor in a lot of the music was a pretty jammy sound. Pretty simple. It's that human element of just a couple of synths and a couple of things making drum noises.
James: and not being able to edit is a big thing.
Jas: Especially against the backdrop of mega shiny, polished electronic music that has become so popular now.
MM: Are you looking to tap into a different type of audience?
James: We haven't thought that far ahead. Literally, we're the most selfish music makers.
Jas: Where we'd want the new music to live is the places that we've enjoyed playing over the last few years, which are smaller more arty festivals and clubs that stay open very, very late. Rather than crossover festivals where you might be playing with crossover bands.
MM: And why have you chosen Joshua Tree to record the album?
James: It's just like one of those odd places that seems to have something special about it. It's also something to do with all the animals that live there. It's quite difficult to evoke your spirit guide if you're not in the desert.
MM: How did you first get involved with the Bugged Out crew?
Jas: I remember going back to Sankeys for one of the first Bugged Out gigs we played at in Manchester and having a really strange sensation of looking out at the venue where James and l had got messy and used to hang out with our mates…
James: Looking out at kids that were you then.
Jas: Exactly. It's really weird but it's something special to still be a part of Bugged Out, and honestly, the Bugged out lot, we've done a lot of gigs and bumped into a lot of promoters, but when you meet people who are in it for the right reasons you can really tell. People that do it because they love clubbing and they're really interested in the music and not just for shit loads of money.
James: I think it's pretty amazing, we were looking back at some of their old flyers and you look at the people that have played and it's ridiculous. It's like a total who's who of stuff that you like. Like documenting culture at a certain point. As a kid getting into dance music, Bugged Out was definitely the solid, staple club night that we went to. We've partied with Johno and Paul quite a few times. I remember being at Bestival with Johno one year. I was walking along and we were pretty hammered and I can't remember exactly how it happened but we basically ended up in the wrong tent. Instead of watching Richie Hawtin who we wanted to watch, we ended up watching Vanilla Ice.
Jas: If you think about it, you can still watch Richie now, you're not going to get to see Vanilla Ice!
James: And I remember laughing about that at the time. But yeah, it was a mistake.
Text Milly McMahon
Photography William Selden