Simian Mobile Disco Attack Decay Sustain Release

Simian Mobile Disco Attack Decay Sustain Release
Only a few years ago, James Ford and James Shaw were one half of the now-defunct British psych pop act Simian. Developed over a number of years, even as Simian were still alive and kicking, this Mobile Disco began to find a life of their own as a remix (Air, the Go! Team) and DJ team that naturally developed into music making. It’s taken four years but Ford and Shaw have prepared a pulsating album revving with heavy synth distortion and copious kaleidoscopic hooks. Attack Decay Sustain Release is an everlasting buzz that profits from sparklingly dexterous and variable production, and momentum that only drops when it should, such as on the album’s closer, the puttering, psychedelic "Scott.” While the rave tag isn’t applicable here (nice try), the Jameses do reference other retro moments. Unabashedly they lure the Go! Team’s Ninja for "It’s the Beat,” a flashy cut of early electro that’s more Technotronic than Mantronix. And there are some mad, pumping oscillations on the schoolyard disco of "Hot Dog” that feel not of the last three decades. Attack Decay Sustain Release is a feverish debut of acidic bubblegum that defies the odds and never loses its flavour. If only more albums tasted this good.

Was your interest in Simian Mobile Disco the reason why Simian broke up?
No, a few people come to that conclusion and I can see why. Simian Mobile Disco was a part of Simian; we were going out and DJing while we were in the band. Simian split up because we didn’t want to carry on making music together, to put it simply. We sort of fell out and over the musical differences thing. It was more down to the personalities and that period of time. Everyone kind of went their separate ways and me and Jas realised that we enjoyed DJing quite a lot and continued that side of it. Often just because we got asked to DJ a bit more or do a remix, and we kept in it on weekends and then it built up to being a thing in its own right. But that was probably two or three years after the event of Simian breaking up, it wasn’t the deciding factor.

Do you see much of a correlation between Simian and Simian Mobile Disco? Considering the Mobile Disco began while Simian was fully operational I imagine there is something there.
I dunno… in a way, obviously because it involves half of the same people, we have a similar attitude. I think in Simian we were definitely trying to mix, I suppose, a kind of a synthetic computer, digital element into an organic sort of rock band and find some sort of middle ground. I suppose Simian Mobile Disco is doing the same thing from another angle in a way: we’re making electronic music from a different perspective, a more rock perspective than most dance producers.

Is Mobile Disco something you think Simian fans would find appealing?
No not at all. I don’t think Simian fans would really like it. I dunno, maybe they would. I haven’t thought about it. Some people might get it, some people might not. I think the first Simian album is much more different than Simian Mobile Disco. We were more into psychedelic rock and that sort of stuff, and we still are… But for this particular project there isn’t an overt influence in there really, whereas it was probably all over that first album. We never really thought about any of it; this just sort of happened outside the back of Simian. We did it because we enjoyed it, and then all of a sudden it turned into something right in front of our eyes, if you know what I mean. There wasn’t a game plan to change directions or even particularly be a band. We just enjoyed playing around, listening to tunes and DJing on the weekend. That’s what it is.

The first time I remember hearing the name Simian Mobile Disco was back in 2002, when your label at the time sent me a promotional EP for Simian’s "Never Be Alone” single and there was a remix for that song…
That was probably the birth of Simian Mobile Disco in a way, because we were asked, "Have you got a b-side?” and we were like, "No we haven’t. Maybe we’ll just do a remix.” So we did one and then we had to call it something and give it a name. That’s likely the first Simian Mobile Disco thing to exist, I guess.

I’m curious about "I Believe,” which features Simon Lord, Simian’s vocalist. What made you go back and invite him to sing?
We were trying out lots of different singers, and tried about 20 mates and acquaintances. It’s also a hard thing to do we find, adding vocals onto our music. I don’t know, there was kind of water under the bridge and we were friends with Simon again. It would have felt weird to not ask him almost, because he’s around and we have contact with him. He’s a very talented singer and it seemed like a normal thing to do.

Simon’s now in the Black Ghosts, correct?
He’s got several things going on now and the Black Ghosts is one of them. He’s doing his thing, Simon. We still keep in contact with him .

Did Justice’s remix of "Never Be Alone” inspire you guys creatively?
I dunno about creatively because we didn’t really like it when we first heard it! That remix that you mentioned, we were already thinking of doing electronic remixes and electronic things, but I suppose in a way [Justice’s] remix opened doors for us. It drew attention to us as DJs and remixers just by the fact that Simian was in the name. I suppose it helped us out and we’re kind of grateful for that. But I don’t think it was like, "Oh well, we’ve got to go do that.” Know what I mean?

So, do you ever feel proud that they kind of made their name based on your music?

Yeah, we’ve got a lot of respect for them, we think they’re really good. It’s good to be associated with them in that way. But it doesn’t feel like it’s our song anymore, in a way. It’s more like they sample our song and now it’s their tune. I don’t feel responsible for it [laughs]. I’m glad it happened because it’s a good tune and it’s done us all lots of favours.

Simian Mobile Disco began as a remix/DJing project. What made you decide to become a recording act and produce your own music?
Because we were never really intending to, I think. I was busy doing lots of production, and getting into that side of it once I discovered I enjoyed it, and Jas was doing his thing. We were just DJing and meeting up on a Friday, trying to make a tune to play on the weekend. And that’s sort of what it was. It was only after it built up to this level here in the UK, we were approached to make an album and we thought it was a good idea. But it was only really at the beginning of this year that we considered ourselves an act in our own right. So, I suppose it was just because we were part-timers.

I like the motto of the album’s title, it seems to describe your music perfectly. Was there any tongue in cheek behind naming it?
Sort of. If you have any geekiness in you about music gear than you instantly recognise where the words are from; they relate to synthesis and the shaping of sound, and they’re pretty mundane words in a real context. But what we liked was when they were taken out of that world and out of our context, we’d show it to our girlfriends or people who didn’t have a clue about where those words might come from. The words are quite strong on their own and have a descriptive meaning, so people might seem to put their own elaborate meanings on to it we’ve found. Some thought it related to life/death cycles, sex, a drug experience — all sorts of different things. In Japan recently there were all sorts of ideas of what they meant, but really, we just got those words off a box in the studio.

I’ve recently discovered all sorts of sample sources that Daft Punk and Justice have been using in their music. Before I had never put much thought into it, which is what surprised me so. Do you use the same methods in making your music?
There isn’t a single sample on the record. We never use them — ever. The only possible sample is maybe a clap or something like that, but everything is made by us. I don’t know why really, it’s just the way we make it doesn’t involve them.

I guess it’s the musicians in you and Jas that are responsible for that…
I suppose, but that’s not to say people who use samples aren’t musicians. They definitely are because you have to know your way around to make samples fit with each other. In a way it’s sort of harder because of all the accidents and weird little things that can make things clash. I think maybe that’s it. In the old incarnation of the band we did use a lot of samples, and spent our time sitting around trying to pick samples that would work with each other and I think we just got bored of it and just went the way of making all of the sounds ourselves.

I remember it was just three years ago that I was writing off artists like the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy, and now dance music’s at another peak with yourselves, Justice, SebastiAn, and so on. Do you see much similarity between 1997 and now?
Definitely, and similarities between that period and before in the Madchester scene, and before that Krautrock — it’s not necessarily a new thing to bring together rock and dance music closer together. I suppose it’s just the nature of things; it’s an exciting thing to do at this point in time, and the most important thing is to make music we like ahead of anything.

Do you think artists like the Chemicals and the Prodigy did something wrong or do you think that scene just fizzled out?
I think it’s like anything: if something getslarge and a lot of people get into it it gets boring to a lot of people due to the exposure. People then go away and do something, then that’s more exciting, and it keeps going. That’s the way people consume things. I think the only things that set things apart is when you do something later when you’re out of the cycle, and you can see if it stands the test of time. Whether stuff like the Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers do, I’m not sure, but maybe we’re not far enough away from it yet.

I read a review that was very critical of the album and immediately passed it off "new rave” made by "witless Daft Punk rip-offs” for "reprehensible indie poseurs who don’t know any better.” What do you say to people who accuse you of being part of this instantly gratifying scene called new rave?
I don’t think we feel part of the "new rave” scene because I don’t think it exists really. I can see why we get lumped in because of the association with Klaxons and that sort of stuff, but it feels particularly media constructed, like they were desperate to find new bands making some kind of music. In terms of the "instantly gratifying” thing, in terms of dance music, I don’t see that as a bad thing. That’s the nature of dance music to a certain extent; it’s supposed to be instant and physical, and I suppose partly throw away — that’s part of the charm in a way. You can go and make an art album that tries to push people’s hearts, but we weren’t trying to make that kind of record. We were trying to make music we could play that people could dance to and that’s as far as it went. I suppose that’s a fair comment! [laughs]

You’ve produced Klaxons, Mystery Jets and the Arctic Monkeys, who you’re apparently working again with. Considering the music you’re making is designed for clubs, what is it that you try to bring to these overtly rock bands?
I suppose just to try and distil what they have and what their vision is for that particular record; to try and make every record out of their personality as much as possible and get as far into that personality and demonstrate it to the fullest. For me, it’s to try and make every album different. I’d never try to make the Arctic Monkeys sound like a dance record, or use anything from SMD on their record. It doesn’t work like that. SMD is a party dance album, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a dance producer. I listen to all sorts of different kinds of music and try and make all sorts of different kinds of music; I feel like I don’t have a "sound” and I wouldn’t want to have a "sound” to use across a number of different projects. It’s about getting the individuality out of each record.