Published Apr 14, 2009If John MacLean's first album under the Juan MacLean alias signalled to Kraftwerk-ian robotics under the apt title of Less Than Human, it appears that in the last four years the former Six Finger Satellite guitarist has now chosen to explore matters of the flesh. The Future Will Come could be better titled More Than Human (League), as MacLean and collaborator Nancy Whang (also of LCD Soundsystem) were apparently smitten with the Sheffield legends while writing the new album - and it shows. Moving on from Less Than Human's mechanized electro house, the Juan McLean now stress the more expressive vocal dynamics of MacLean and Whang, a payoff that strengthens the cosmically spatial arrangements. Operating like an homage to the Human League's Philip Oakey/Joanne Catherall/Susan Ann Sulley formula, the singers bounce back and forth off the motley production, which favours everything from the expected '80s-leaning synth pop ("The Station"), Moroder-ish Italo disco ("The Simple Life"), restless techno ("One Day") and slithery acid ("No Time"). Their instant classic Chicago house anthem, "Happy House," at the end feels a bit too organic to gel as smoothly as the rest of The Future but its luminosity underlines how humanity brings out the best in their music's ongoing evolution.
Nancy's role in the Juan Maclean seems to have grown with The Future Will Come. Do you see it now more as a collaboration than John Maclean's project?
Yeah, for sure. That was one of the discussions that Nancy and I had before we worked on the record. I wanted her not to be perceived as a guest vocalist but as a full-time member of the band. On my first album and the twelve-inches it was never preconceived that Nancy would sing; I'd finish something and then think, "Oh, Nancy would be good on this." Whereas on this album Nancy and I talked about it and said, "let's make you a full-time presence."
The Human League were an influence for this record. Are we talking before or after Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware left?
It's funny, the Human League were always such a big influence on me and James Murphy for years. But we were always fans of the early stuff and never really took it seriously once the girls entered the band. And then when Nancy and I started talking about duets and an equal male/female vocal presence on the album, the only example we could really come up with was that version of the Human League. It seemed like such an obvious starting point.
Would you say "Happy House" was a creative turning point between the two albums?
Well, the funny thing is that "Happy House" was actually done in the same sessions as all of the album tracks, which is hard for people to get their heads around because it came out a long time before the album. For better or for worse, I think people were expecting a full album of "Happy House" stuff but that obviously wasn't the case.
Were you looking to make an album that was considerably different from Less Than Human?
When I was making Less Than Human I didn't realize that I was making an album. Essentially it was just a collection of tracks that I had worked on for a number of years. We just assembled them in a way that made sense for an album. For this I knew from the beginning that I was making an album and wanted the tracks to be more album-oriented, or a pop-oriented verse-chorus-verse structure, as opposed to just a dance floor-oriented album.
I was a big Six Finger Satellite fan in the '90s and noticed that they reformed without you last year. What was your reaction to that?
They just kind of did it and I don't really understand why, other than they want to keep playing music. But it has nothing to do with me or what we did when I was in the band. I'm not consulted about any of this stuff. I kind of wish that it had ended when it did when I quit. There's nothing I can do about it at this point. (DFA)