I Am Kurious Benjii

Misspellings Intentional

The Groove Guide; interview with James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco)

Another one from the Groove Guide archive – while nu-rave had hit critical mass back in the UK through the popularity of Klaxons, Hadouken (‘member them?) and Hot Chip – despite some purists stating they were not part of that group – there was some more reserved acts that orbited around that scene, so it felt.

Simian Mobile Disco had released their stunning “Attack Decay Sustain Release” in 2007 alongside the annoyingly good “We Are Your Friends” collaboration with French house team Justice.

So my editor at the time commissioned me to interview James Ford, who was the producer du jour for the aforementioned scene. Production credits in his early years included Test Icicles, *that* Klaxons album and a perinnial NZ favourite, Peaches.

Oh, and he also worked with Arctic Monkeys on their subsequent albums after their debut and more recently Blur’s latest effort, “The Ballad of Darren.”

So I got to talk to him shortly before his production credits blew up.

Collaborating Beyond Expectations: Simian Mobile Disco’s Unconventional Remix Partners

They combine a house mentality with a minimalist electro approach to their sound – latching onto a certain hook or sample and building a luxurious sound which addles the brain like the pills and bellyaches one may associate with going out on a Saturday night.

James Ford and James Anthony Shaw, collectively known as Simian Mobile Disco, didn’t expect to reach these dizzying heights when they first started out playing club gigs in the United Kingdom back during their time in the band simply known as Simian.

We got the ‘mobile disco’ name because we’d finish playing shows with Simian and then rushed over to various clubs to just play house music and electro” James Ford recalls. “We’d literally finish a show at a venue, then take all our records and DJ all the stuff we liked but didn’t really fit in well with the band.”

From those humble beginnings in nightclubs, the group have gone on to become festival favourites, with sets ranging from Reading Festival, Coachella right through to Spain’s premiere Festival Internacional de Benecassim. It must have been daunting, perhaps going into Big Day Out 2009, how to utilize so much space at the festival venues as opposed to the intimacy one would expect from an enclosed space?

“I’m not entirely worried about how we’re going to look on stage at the festival though” Ford responds over queries if a large stage lacks the intimacy one would more associate their music with. “I’m not sure if you know, but we played gigs like Coachella and had no problem filling out the stage. We’ve a lot of equipment and it’s incredible what can be done with lights and so forth.” He then jokes about the ongoing joke about Shaw building the largest modular in the South-East of England. “It’s getting there” he laughs. “It’s bigger than it once was!”

“But with us, it’s not just something that we drag and drop on a computer. We’ve all these different modulators and compressors, it’s not just us stood there in front of a laptop doing our thing. I think some people seem to think that is the case and that’s how all electronic music is created when it’s not. We like to play our own material but also like to throw in different tracks also and play more like a rock band than two DJ’s.”

Though the duo have released an album, Attack, Sustain, Decay, Release, which gathered a number of critical plaudits upon it’s arrival in 2007, they’ve remained very deep-seeded in the realm of remixes – taking tracks by the likes of Muse, CSS, Ladytron and even The Rapture and adding their signature sounds and nuances. “What we generally look for when we get approached to do remixes…” Ford critiques, “… is something that has a good solid beat to it that we can hook onto and making it work on the dance floor. However these days we generally haven’t the time to remix tracks anymore, we try and say no as much as possible.”

“We generally can quickly remix a track though; they can be throw away sometimes though.” Ford quickly remarks afterwards though that he meant that “… in a good way. That’s why there is such a fast turn around because we don’t have to spend all day on them as opposed to our own stuff, which is obviously what Jas and I want to do at the end of the day. That’s why we say no – it’s not that we wouldn’t like to, but again, we’ve not really got the time.”

But what of musicians who want to remix the works of SMD? Is there the same expectation or formula that the two-piece use when remixing themselves? “We like to work with people who are out there and not entirely similar to us. The Pinch remix of I Believe is a good example as it’s a completely different scene to ours. We like to get people involved you wouldn’t expect, you know, not the usual suspects as it were.”

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