Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford on the ups and downs of EDM moving into the mainstream
Motor Mouth Media
You're also an incredibly busy producer [for acts like Arctic Monkeys, Florence + the Machine]. How do your priorities rank, as far as SMD and your producer and DJ work?
I definitely have periods where I've been doing a lot of producing, and I had to make a decision to take time off to make this record and tour this record. We're trying to keep our other projects to a minimum until this is over a little bit. But I don't have much of an over-arching strategy. Obviously we've got management and we have a diary and time constraints, and if it's a good gig that looks like it will be fun, we'll take it. If it's a really good production project, we'll take it. It's really on a case-by-case basis.
The thing about deejaying is that I sort of see the point of it as representing the music you like and are into and a bit of your own music and where that comes from. You're also responding to the situation as well. If you're warming up for someone, you don't bang it out in ten minutes. You're connecting the dots between the DJ before you and the DJ after you instead of just crashing it all out. Often you're the end-of-the-night set where you start kind of small and really wig it out at the end. It's fun because it's different every time.
How much does your ability to recreate a song live affect how you create it?
Our live shows have quite a big impact on how we record, in a weird way. We'll get all the machines sort of tugging around doing something, and you just play with it and tweak it until something clicks together. And then we press record and improvise. It's kind of like capturing a performance for half an hour or however long it is, and then I suppose we edit together the best bits until it starts to feel like this thing with a structure. Most of the tune is made in one pass or two passes. Then the real work is editing and making it sound nice.
Who has better dance moves: you or Jas?
[Laughs.] We're not really dancers, sadly. It's like opposite ends of the seesaw. I'm a drummer by trade, so I've at least got some rhythm. I'd say me. I haven't seen Jas dance even so much as a wiggle. Waving your arms doesn't count. Maybe that's why people become DJs. There's some sort of Freudian logic in there.
What's the biggest stylistic difference between you and Jas today as you grow into your third album?
Most duos have one DJ and one musician type, and honestly it's not really like that [for us]. It might be a more interesting interview if it were, but we've been working together so long that it's like we produce each other or maybe micro-produce each other at different points. If someone looks like they're getting too zoned in on a sound, the other person is there to be like, "That's enough, stop" or, "Hey, that's really good."
The thing is that we've never really been part of the scene. Right now, if we ever get roped in as part of it, we'll run the other way. I don't know why. There's all this noisy electro that's sort of became dubstep now, but we never really wanted to be a part of that. It's hard to say, really. I don't think we fit in anywhere, which is a blessing and a curse. We're happy doing our own thing, but it's easier if you're part of a movement. I'm sure we'd be more successful if we jumped on a scene and embraced it wholeheartedly, but we just end up doing what we want to do, honestly, and there's not much more logic in it than that.
Which part of that scene most induces you to run away?
Actually, probably the stuff we're talking about, especially the way Americans add that rock aesthetic, that fist-pumping sort of electronic music as heavy rock. That's something I really don't get and really don't like, that really noisy dubstep stuff and really aggressive electro stuff. Whenever any music gets into that territory, I have to walk the other way.
I'm glad electronic music is in the mainstream again, and I think it's good for everyone making it. But my concern with the idea of EDM is that it only represents that side of the dance-music experience, and that European longer tradition, less focused on the stage and more focused on the communal experience that lasts several days instead of 45 minutes, is lost. My fear is that current promoters get the wrong idea that that's maybe all that dance music is.
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