LADYTRON interview 2008
By alexander laurence
I did one of the first interviews with Ladytron in 2000. They had an EP out
then. I spoke to Daniel Hunt before they had played any live shows. I met
Daniel in New York City during one of his first visits there. Since then they have
released four albums and have toured the world. Recently they have released a
new album called Velocifero (2008).
The members are Daniel Hunt, Reuben Wu, Mira Arroyo, and Helen Marnie. The
band started in Liverpool in 1999. Their albums include 604 (2001), Light &
Magic (2002), and Witching Hour (2005). They have become famous DJs and remixers
over the years. I spoke to Reuben Wu in May 2008, during their recent American
AL: I did an interview with Daniel Hunt back in November 2000. I had heard
the first single and a version of the first album. What do you remember about
that time, and how is the band different now?
Reuben: It’s very different when we first started. Everything happened very
slowly. Things worked very differently back then. We have learned how to be a
band. When we first started it was a part-time thing. Danny and me still had
jobs. Helen and Mira were still students. It was a very slow process getting
known and getting airplay. It was strictly a studio project at first.
AL: Did Danny write most of the first album?
Reuben: Danny had already been in a few bands before Ladytron. He had built
up a collection of tracks. He had written much of the first album over a few
years. Most of it had been in different stages of being finished. When we
started working on the music, most of the demos for the first album were already
done. In that way, it wasn’t written as an album, but more a collection of
songs. The next album, Light & Magic, was more like an album. As we go along,
the albums are more coherent.
AL: When I first heard Ladytron, I was thinking of techno bands like
Kraftwerk and Gary Numan, and some John Foxx. But when I listen to it now, it sounds
more like indie rock bands of the time.
Reuben: We have never been embraced by the techno world because we are too
song based. We have always been by ourselves and not comparable to other bands.
When we play these festivals that are almost like raves, we stick out because
we are too rock and roll. And when we play with indie rock bands, we don’t fit
AL: When did the band start playing live?
Reuben: It was some time after the second album. Our earliest shows were not
live at all. We had a playback tape. We were just miming back then. We didn’t
start out as a live band. We couldn’t go out on the road because we all had
jobs. We could only do one show at a time. That has pretty much changed over the
years. We are pretty much a live band now.
AL: Now bands have to tour if they want to survive.
Reuben: Exactly. I realize more and more that an album is like a yardstick,
or merely a blueprint, for the live show. We have played all over the world. We
have toured consistently for three years.
AL: When you first started playing, everyone one was calling this music
Electroclash. All these bands like you, Adult, Fisherspooner, Peaches, and others
didn’t really have anything to do with each other. What did you think of all
Reuben: Exactly. That was more about a group of bands that came out of
Williamsburg at that time. But it seemed to embrace a bunch of bands from all over
the world. We had never known about that area and about those bands. They
seemed to be more about doing music with keyboards. We were never a band that
talked about instrumentation. We were always about songs. There are bands now that
electronic bands and have keyboards, and they are not called Electroclash.
Although these labels were frustrating at the time, it all brought that music
more into the mainstream a bit. There are bands now like Soulwax Nite Versions
and LCD Soundsystem who would have been called Electroclash back in 2001. They
have seemed to have leapfrogged the whole thing.
AL: Many of these Electroclash bands are not around anymore.
Reuben: We were doing our own thing. When we were in Los Angeles doing our
second record, we were oblivious to all that. We were more concerned with being
ourselves and not reflecting anything going on. It was such a relief when the
second album came out. We wanted to distance ourselves from all that. The
second album was like a bookend to the whole Electroclash thing.
AL: Has the last few albums been more collaborative?
Reuben: Yes. They have been. Each record has been different. But it’s good to
have all members contributing to the band when you have four members in the
band. Things have evolved over the years. I think that the next record will be
way different. Over the years I think each record gets better and better.
Velocifero is the most diverse and most cohesive record we have done.
AL: You don’t worry about the singles?
Reuben: We do identify which songs are potential singles, but, to be honest,
I think we are much more an album band. I like to think of us as making a
collection. It’s a package without any filler.
AL: What new influences shaped the making of the new record?
Reuben: For Witching Hour: we were happy with the sound of it. But we wanted
to work more on the bass end of things. We wanted a harder drum sound. On this
new record we worked on the production. We are all big fans of the prog-rock
band Goblin. They were an Italian band in the mid-1970s that did a bunch of
horror soundtracks. I was listening to Goblin when I did the track “Black Cat.”
I feel like the album is more psychedelic as well. We started to do some of
this on Witching Hour. Those songs worked better at this time.
AL: I heard that you already have another album ready to go?
Reuben: We were on tour for so long, that we wrote thirty songs. We had to
select songs to be on this album, and that left fifteen songs. I am not sure
what it is going to be yet. It is just a collection of demos at the moment. It is
more downtempo. It’s more like a soundtrack. We haven’t been able to work
on it, but the songs are there. We hope to release it in the next six months.
AL: These are songs that didn’t fit in the album, but had a cohesion in
Reuben: There was a different energy. It’s just a bunch of demos at the
moment. Hopefully we have some down time in the next few months to work on these
songs some more.
AL: What is the live show like? You still play with six people?
Reuben: It’s always been six people. There is the four of us with a live
drummer and a person who plays bass guitar and keyboards. I think that we have
become tighter as a band over the years. We incorporate much more sounds from the
album in our live show.
AL: What was going on before?
Reuben: Before any electronic sounds were triggered by drum samples. We still
have triggered drum samples and other sounds that can’t be created live. We
are such a complicated band and we have so many layers of sound. It’s very
tricky to reproduce those sounds onstage, especially live.