A Magnetic Chat With Simian Mobile Disco

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In case you might have missed the news, Simian Mobile Disco just released their third studio album Unpatterns via Wichita Recordings. Get it here. The duo also recently released an iPhone app that allows you to listen to the album in its entirety whilst playing with a host of custom designed moire patterns. Each patten can be manipulated by touch screen, allowing you create shifting and evolving interference patterns. We love it. We caught up with the SMD for a quick chat about things. BTW, the men kicked off a pretty quick North American tour about a week back in support of said album. Tonight they’re playing here in Los Angeles at Control. If you’re local, we’re holding a ticket contest, go here to enter.

When youre recording, there should be pressure. There shouldnt be a relaxed situation, you should feel that there is a danger that it can feel too easy and get too comfortable.

How are you doing today?

Well at the moment we're trying to figure out how to do our live show from having just finished this record. We don't have any documentation on how we did it so we're doing this page coding process. It's a long process before we start to play.

How did you come up with the name Unpatterns?

We came up with the title pretty late on in the process. We didn't have any particular master plan going into this. From working with a friend of ours, he showed us this warrior effect where you take two very simple PAT sequences and move them against each other. It's a very simple effect. We took a real parallel from working in the studio to how it actually looked. We used very primitive PAT sequences for complexity.

What is your favorite piece of hardware to use?

The nature of our gear, all the stuff that we use, is modular. It goes back to the point where the actual studio itself is the instrument. We take the output from 3 or 4 synths and run it through a synthesizer to get a more complicated sound.

What would you give as advice to a new producer to get in touch with hardware?

There is nothing wrong with software. A lot of people get the idea that we are morally against software, but really get to know your software and how it works so not looking at screen and listening to the music. But if people want to get started with hardware, there are so many ways to get into it. Initially, it is really expensive—buy a midi or a 101, just a single purchase, The nice thing about the modular stuff you can pick up one or two pieces and then pick up bits as you go along. As you get more cash over the years, keep adding to it. Also when you have less, you're forced to work with one module or what you have and try to do much more with it. A lot of the modules that you buy you realize that they can be used in many different ways that aren't so obvious. It's all about finding new sound and pushing it forward.

When the two of you work in the studio, does one of you work on a section and then pass it off or both work in conjunction?

We work in conjunction. At a live show we work simultaneously. It really takes the two of us to keep it together. We've been making music a long time together, and we've learned our away around.

When you record on the modular, is there less wiggle room for your sound than there is on software? Is it nerve wracking to get it right?

Yea, sometimes you go back to something you recorded and you're like this sounded great and you can try to go back and rebuild it—we've tried a few times and it's a total nightmare you can never get back to the same place. It just never works. There is that moment even after you've done recording and all that kind of stuff, where you're like "ok we're done" it's done forever. I like that, I like that pressure, it's an element of danger that goes with it. There are times when I say I wish I could change that and then six months down the line you come back and say you know what, I 'm glad we didn't change it. There is a danger that you can over think things as well. You look back and you say we'll fix this and this and this but so often you find that all that fixing actually didn't make it better but more average.

When you're recording, there should be pressure. There shouldn't be a relaxed situation, you should feel that there is a danger that it can feel too easy and get too comfortable.