Forget that Phaser and Simian opened for Ladytron last Saturday – attempts to project the ‘disinterested with everything but our music’ and ‘love us, we’ve cute British accents’ aura couldn’t mask their uneventful sets.
Liverpool’s latest darlings were beyond that, with their minimalist presence giving way to the massive impact their mesmerizing music had on the crowd. Front women Helen Marnie and Mira Arroyo appeared demurely pleased that Club Soda’s audience went crazy for more Ladytron at the start of their third encore performance.
Ah, substance wins again, but how does Ladytron manage to do it? From what Danny Hunt and Reuben Wu say about their latest album and touring, it’s by being dictated ultimately by themselves on their own terms.
“Light and Magic” was recorded in L.A., away from what media hypes as meccas of avante-garde-ish movements like New York, parts of the U.K. and Berlin (all of which notably lack the constant and ideal sunniness of L.A.). Why?
Danny Hunt: Apart from climate, Mickey Petralia and Emperor Norton, our label, are based there, so there was a support network around us, and no shortage of suggestions of worthwhile bars and restaurants. Personally, I loved it. I had spent quite a bit of time over the preceding two years there anyway. You develop romantic notions of how cities are from a distance, and visiting them either magnifies or completely alters them. . . Los Angeles had no real draw prior to my first visit. I was told I wouldn’t like it, which proved to be false. I got to know some of the underground venues, such as The Smell, which sparked my interest in labels like GSL.
Did recording there affect your approach to creating the second album?
DH: The album was 50 per cent made in the northwest of England and taken to L.A. to complete and take up a level. I visited a few months before recording, to meet Mickey and finalize details and took the demos with me. Playing them off my laptop in the hotel room, in the Californian sun, made them sound entirely different. I thought this was an interesting idea. Dark (or minor) music is extremely popular in California. To most Europeans it makes no sense, but I understand the appeal. The classic example was when we drove out to Santa Monica – there was some kind of classic rock radio station playing Hall and Oates’ “Kiss on My List,” which didn’t work for us. . . We put on “Transmission” by Joy Division, and in the sun, it made sense in a new way.
DH: I don’t think we’re ever influenced by anything directly, it’s always pretty instinctive. Sometimes people miss the real influences though. For example True Mathematics to me sounded like Tricky’s “Black Steel.” However, because of what has been written about us before, some assumed [True Mathematics] was influenced by the normal. If anything, we were probably more influenced by ourselves. I think you can only start to understand what a band is after three albums, so this one is just part of the journey.
You’re returning for a North American tour. Apart from playing your music to appreciative fans, what else are you looking forward to with this trip?
DH: I want to feel like Motley Crue. I’m interested in “living the dream.” I actually enjoy touring a lot right now. . . Ask me in six months and the answer might be different, though I don’t think so. It’s a simple existence – someone else does all your thinking for you, all you have to do is sleep, soundcheck, play, and get f**ked up.
Any unusual moments in North America?
DH: I did the Greyhound alone from St.Louis to L.A. because of snowstorms canceling all flights. That was a baptism of fire from the Midwest – there were NO normal people on the bus. I won’t be repeating that little adventure.
DH: I actually spent some time in Memphis and New Orleans. I like midtown Memphis, I feel there are a lot of similarities with Liverpool. New Orleans is just a pit of evil, but I’d still like to go back again.
It wasn’t too long ago that you were in Montreal to do a show…
Reuben Wu: As I remember the audience were pretty much electro/techno kids. It was a great opportunity to play lots of stuff which isn’t normally expected from a DJ in an electro band. I think I played tracks like Sonic Youth’s “Silver Rocket,” “Queens of Noise” by The Runaways, and “Just What I Needed” by The Cars. Thanks to copious amounts of taurine and vodka I don’t remember much else apart from feeling very vulnerable from behind (as the decks were in the middle of the room). It was electro with a fist.
Shychild, a synth-and-drum duo from New York, had a particularly great time here eating poutine and staying in a tent inside someone’s loft. Did Montreal provide you with similar charmed experiences?
RW: There are some great record shops in Montreal, and I can’t wait to get back there as I met loads of really nice people. I’d like to catch a live show by Les Georges Leningrad if possible. There are some great tracks on their record.