Sweet seduction: the Ladytron interview
For more than ten years now, Ladytron have been tantalising us with their ice cool electronica, breaking through at a time when some of today's Moog meddlers were still getting to grips with their Fisher Price DJ decks. With their new album Gravity the Seducer imminent, we caught up with the band's Helen Marnie to discuss their latest effort and how it feels to reach the milestone of a decade in the industry.
Hey Ladytron! Normally at this point we ask you to introduce yourself and tell us what the most exotic item within your current field of vision is.
I'm Helen from Ladytron! Within my current field of vision it would be a Chinese fighter pilot helmet I got when we were playing in China in 2005.
Because we have access to the internet, we know that Gravity The Seducer is your fifth studio album in ten years - which is a veritible flood by modern standards. When did thoughts turn towards writing a new album and is it easier or harder to come up with new material over time?
Yes, we've been lucky enough to sustain a music career since 1999, something I never thought would happen. As soon as we stopped touring Velocifero towards the end of 2009 our thoughts turned towards album number five. We always write when we have time off, never when on tour. The two just don't mix.
We are inspired by everything around us and events in our own lives so this is all poured into new material. There's always something there to write about.
Do you start with a plan as to how any new material is going to come together into an album, or do you just write and see what works?
We never really plan as such. We give ourselves a rough timeline and whatever material is ready by then goes into the pot and then we decide what we think is going to work best and what should be concentrated on. It's a pretty natural process. It's never contrived. We write about what we want and then pull it all together.
Does GTS have an overarching theme at all? A few tracks like 'White Elephant', 'Transparent Days', 'Mirage' suggest something about illusion maybe?
The album as a whole feels like it is thematically linked. The songs almost merge into one another at points. There are loose themes and imagery running throughout and re-occurring instrumentation. Themes range between life and death, optical illusions, and altitude, to name a few.
Ladytron, as a vehicle, has given you the opportunity to travel all over the world. What's the oddest thing you've ever seen on tour?
Yes, we've travelled to some amazing places and seen quite a few things. I think the most interesting place I've been is probably China. It's just so culturally different from the UK so is very unfamiliar to me. We first toured there in 2005. The streets of Shenzhen and Shanghai were lined with huge red posters on flagpoles with our faces on them. It looked almost military! We were the first western band to play there since Elton John I believe, so it was quite a big deal for us.
What kind of items do you take with you to remind you of home?
These days when I go on tour my most precious item is my laptop with Skype on it. It is a saviour. Means I can keep in touch with my husband and family and stay grounded when crazy stuff is going on on the tourbus.
I imagine Ladytron have some pretty hardcore Japanese fans. What kind of presents do they give you?
It's kind of weird but we have never actually played Japan as a band. Danny DJ-ed there years ago, and our EP Miss Black And Her Friends was released there by Bambini in 1999, however it's one place we've not been. We would love to go though!
What was it like putting together your 'best of'? When you sat down to compile the tracklisting, did it change the way you thought about your decade together?
It was quite a nostalgic process and it did make me realise we've gone through a lot together as a band, but also as friends. Sometimes it's easy to forget that we just started out making music and making fun for ourselves. Obviously today we have to be a more serious outfit, as Ladytron is what we do. But it was good to track through the years. Looking at the photo booklet really showed us as a bunch of kids. We look so baby faced.
Compiling the tracks was quite difficult because we all had ideas about what should and shouldn't be included. In the end we compiled a huge list and then narrowed it down by selection until we all agreed on the final cut. It did take quite some time though. The deluxe version is more rounded I think because it included some more obscure tracks, fan favourites, and tunes we thought should've had more exposure.
When you hit an anniversary like that, does it make you think about the future? Do you want Ladytron to be around for a long time or is it a case of one project at a time?
These days we don't really think too far ahead because who knows what the future holds? We do want longevity though. As long as we can keep producing music that we feel is worthy of release then we will continue to do so.
We always try and ask bands for some personal advice when we can - say there's this guy, maybe he writes for a music website and he's got a bit of a crush on the girl who works in the local musical instrument shop. He's going to go in and try out a synth in order to impress her - what should he play? A bit of Bach? Laura Brannigan? The hits of Meatloaf?
Hmmm. Classical is probably not the way to go. I say play some Carpenters, that's sure to win her over. If it doesn't maybe she's just not that cool.