She has worked with some of the greats, and she is truly one of the greats. She is a voice you've heard time and time again, she is a musician of the highest caliber, she is Nancy Whang. Ms. Whang is renowned for her worked with the disbanded LCD Soundsystem and has kept things going with her work on The Juan Maclean as well as her numerous collaborations with DFA regulars and other major acts like Soulwax, Holy Ghost! and Classixx. She is indisputably the beautiful voice of dancepunk, disagree if you like, but I just say the proof is in the pudding.
Recently Nancy Whang was asked by Gomma Records to rework the Casablance catalgoue, and guess what, she did it to great effect! Working with some of the most interesting producers like Audiojack, Etienne De Crecy and Bonar Bradberry of PBR Streetgang fame, she's released an EP that is fresh and contemporary, but definitely maintains the classic vibe of the impressive historical releases. It was no easy task, Nancy Whang and crew worked their magic on Donna Summer, Dennis Parker, and Parliament, and I could keep going on, but you should probably listen to the EP and better yet buy it.
Now, after all that being said, with Nancy absolutely crushing it this year, we really lucked out and were blessed to ask Ms. Whang some questions, and here for you are her answers to those questions!
Seems like you’re having quite the active year! I loved seeing you come out at Coachella! Do you hustle like this every year, or what is special in 2014?
I think it’s just timing. I spent about a year or two doing absolutely nothing. Then gradually, a few projects came my way and it just happens to be serendipity that the fruits of those labors are coming out at the same time.
How long has your Casablanca Reworks project been in the works so to speak?
Gomma approached me in Spring 2012 about doing the second installment of their Casablanca Reworks. This was during my period of doing nothing and it seemed like a fun project so over the following 6 months I recorded the vocals for the various tracks.
How did you come upon these songs to remix/rework? Have you had your eyes on these for a while? Or did they just come about organically?
The concept was Gomma’s. They had done this project the year before with Peaches. But it was an easy sell because I was already a fan of so much of the Casablanca Records catalog. As for choosing the particular songs, between me and the other producer’s, we each had our eyes on certain songs and our choices just lined up really well.
If you had to pick a favorite from this collection, which would you be?
I don’t know if I could choose. I like them all for different reasons. “Working the Midnight Shift” was challenging but fun to sing. It was a real honor to be able to pay tribute to Donna Summer. And I love the darker mood Bonar Bradberry created with the music. Having 2 different producers want to cover “Like an Eagle” meant I had to come up with 2 different approaches so it was a great opportunity to do one in French. “Flashlight” was a real stretch for me but Revenge did a great job working with what I gave him. And “I Was Made for Loving You” is just a hilarious song.
How would you assess the current state of disco today?
I’m not sure I even know what that question means. Is there a current state of disco? It seems to me that disco hasn’t really evolved out of itself the way other musical genres like house or rap or punk have been broken down into sub- and micro-genres. Disco is disco. The one good thing to come out of the latest Daft Punk record is having Nile Rodgers back in the foreground.
Do you consider genre at all in any of your productions? Like the labels of disco and dance punk have become closely associated with your name, do you feel that is accurate? Or do you just make amazing Nancy Whang music and people can call it what they like?
I don’t consider genre to the extent that I follow certain guidelines in order to ensure that it fits into a particular style. I’ll think about what a track reminds me of and try to use that as inspiration. But as far as being labeled…disco and punk certainly have an undeniable influence on me and the music that I tend to make so…sure, label me. Or call it what you like.
How is everything going with your collaboration with The Juan MacLean?
Great. Record is out, response is good. Juan and I are about to do some DJ gigs together over the next couple months. And we’re trying to sort out the logistics of putting together some kind of live performance.
You really are quite the strong collaborator, and anytime you collaborate you make an indelible Nancy Whang mark on a track. What is your philosophy for successful collaboration? Do you go in the studio and let it happen, or what exactly is your secret sauce?
Up until the Casablanca cover versions, I had only ever worked with people who were friends. That has been very important to me - to have an already established level of comfort, as well as knowing that we’re all coming from similar places musically. The Casablanca songs were unusual because I never met with any of the producers. They’re all in Europe and I’m in New York so we exchanged the tracks remotely. Still, the fact that we all wanted to work on these particular songs spoke to a shared respect for the catalog. And when it came to recording process, I went to a friend’s studio. We had never actually worked together before, but I think because of how well we get along on a personal level, he was great at helping me get good performances. Really, though, if we can joke around and be silly and laugh when I fuck up, that’s the main thing.
As you are arguably the voice of DFA, how is everything going with DFA?
So far, so good, it seems. Lots of great new releases from new-ish artists out now and coming out soon.
With such an amazing career to date and going strong, you have of many accomplishments and made such great music that has affected many. What have been a few of your favorite songs that you have worked on?
First time I ever worked with the Gomma guys was for a Munk track they asked James Murphy to do the vocals on. That’s a perfect example of what I was talking about before. We just went in and had a really fun, goofy time, and you can hear it in the recording. We’re laughing through half of it. The Holy Ghost! cover of Ministry’s “I Wanted to Tell Her” was a dream come true. We had all talked about our love for that song, in fact, the entire first Ministry record, and had just been waiting for an opportunity to cover it. Classixx’ “All Your Waiting For” has, to my welcome surprise, become a real crowd pleaser. And I love being able to just hop on stage with them whenever I’m in town when they’re playing. But honestly, and not just for the sake of equity, every track I’ve worked on has been special to me in some way. They’re like old boyfriends - they might not all be my favorite, but I always take something important away from them that I carry to the next one to make it better.
Are you bored of people asking about any possibility of an LCD Soundsystem reunion? I bet you get that question all the time…
I do. The question of whether we’ll do a reunion is slightly better than the one asking why we broke up in the first place.
What other projects do you have in the works? Any possibility of a Nancy Whang album?
Right now I’m focusing on The Juan Maclean. It just came out and so there’s still so much to do behind it. Beyond that, who knows...
Are there any genres that we should be paying attention to that you think are about to blow up? Any new sounds on the horizon?
It’s always amusing to me that people assume because I make current music that I have any idea what goes on behind the scenes of the world stage. I haven’t a clue. But on a more philosophical level, I think the days of watershed moments are over. Information travels so far and fast that nothing gets a chance to simmer to a boil anymore.
What have you been listening to lately?
Museum of Love album which comes out next week has been on heavy rotation. There’s been a lot of Steve Reich being played in the house lately. Love the new Warpaint record and looking forward to hearing the new Lykke Li.
Who should we be listening to?
Museum of Love
I also caught Nancy doing an amazing DJ set in August at Monarch in San Francisco, it was quite the amazing set performing alongside Pat Mahoney. Disco babes and selections that were complete delights! Be sure to catch her and Juan Maclean on October 10th in Philadelphia!