New Year's Eve 2015 with CUT COPY Live!
Juan MacLean (DJ Set), Saint Pepsi
444 Jessie St
San Francisco, CA, 94103
This event is 21 and over
Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. While the two summers of love were birthed from burdening times, Vietnam and 10 years of Thatcher's reign, they were one hell of a party. Unprecedented explosions of youth culture which tore down the walls of perception through communal elation and celebration. Cut Copy's Free Your Mind creates a fantasy of the next youth revolution, binding the two epochs without the negative baggage. An event told in three dimensions. Turn on, tune in…
Participating in the forms of cultural practice that develop in and around the club, the quartet discovered a portal to the UK acid house movement through Melbourne's booming subterranean dance community. Interacting on the dancefloor without uttering a word, jointly reaching a higher state, feeling involved in a secret society and ultimately becoming one with the music. A sanctuary that's seemingly only a few degrees away from a bygone era which connected the dots with warehouse locations revealed by hotlines, pirate FM radio and baggy uniform.
The embryonic stage of Free Your Mind saw frontman Dan Whitford take a new approach to songwriting, roughly sketching a song per day for a 4 month period before presenting the fruits to the band and realizing their full potential together. While the album's themes are at the foreground of the completed work, it was never intended as a concept record; rather ideas buried deep beneath the mind's eye, unlocked by the collective consciousness of Whitford, Tim Hoey, Ben Browning and Mitchell Scott. Unity in effect.
Recorded in various locations in close proximity to Melbourne's finest coffee houses, the album was largely an in-house affair before the band enlisted the sonic ear of Dave Fridmann (Tame Impala, MGMT, The Flaming Lips) for mixing duties. Given the psychedelic nature of dance records, Dave Fridmann seemed the perfect match. Pilgrimaging out to his secluded forest base in upstate New York, both parties formed an immediate connection.
Whitford explains "we would cook communal meals for the band, Dave and studio staff, sleep upstairs at the studio and even play badminton on a makeshift court out the back. It had a real feeling of being part of some utopian artist commune, which I guess fitted right in with the feeling of the record."
Free Your Mind launched in unconventional fashion with a lathe set up at Pitchfork Music Festival, literally cutting and copying 120 dubplates Let Me Show You for the lucky few who were at the right place at the right time. Like an illegal press manufacturing X-TC for the global rave, the experiment gave random youtube user debaser22 the keys to share the experience with fans all over, uploading a crude document of his 1st listen. For two weeks this muddy bootleg was the only reference of the track's existence, before the band developed a hypnotizing autostereogram that put viewers into the seat of an altered state, setting the tone for a record that invites participation, activates all senses and enlightens the mind.
From using Asger Carlsen's absurd figure manipulations as press shots, the non-traditionalists have forged further to subvert expectations. Placing huge billboards displaying the phrase "Free Your Mind" in remote areas of the Californian desert, Chile, Western Australia, Mexico City, Wales and Detroit, the band utilized their individual art backgrounds to communicate this mysterious catch cry of an unidentifiable movement.
Whitford adds that Cut Copy are not preaching an agenda, interpretation is left to the imagination, "whether the billboard sits in decrepit suburbs of Detroit, the mountains of Chile or the Aussie outback, people come back with a totally different impression of what it might mean. It's open ended, with infinite interpretations. I think the concept of freedom is one that's universally positive and timeless, and whatever each person's version of that freedom is, it's a good thing to be reminding people or even just ourselves to be "free".
Juan MacLean (DJ Set)
"It's been a bit of a sore spot., laughs Juan Maclean, "sitting on this album and seeing this robot stuff pop up all over the place. I have serious robot credentials that go back years and years. Like, a decade! But Daft Punk beat me to the punch." He may be joking, but the man's right. If anyone's earned the right to call their debut album 'Less Than Human' and imagine a love triangle consisting of a man, a woman and the man's gay robot friend (as in 'Shining Skinned Friend'), it's Maclean.
He was guitarist and synth player with acclaimed but obscure, gonzo electro-punk band Six Finger Satellite, who began formulating their blend of rigidly mechanised disco beats, oddly sumptuous synth melodies and razor-shredded guitar work in the early 90s. The brutish but groovy result suggested a cross between Devo, Kraftwerk and Big Black. Then, America was mired in grunge, the famous French robots were still in short pants and the 'punk-funk revival' was in the unimaginable future. Six Finger Satellite were just too far ahead of their time and perished accordingly.
As a result, Juan MacLean nearly gave up. Not just on music, but on life itself. Creative disillusionment and personal despair aggravated by years of drug addiction (he started shooting coke at an early age, then moved on to heroin) had, toward the end of last century, brought him to his knees. Then, as the world prepared to party at the millenium's turn, two shifts occurred. First, he quit Six Finger Satellite, got the hell out of New York City and decided to try doing something rather more socially constructive with his life than just playing in a band. Secondly, he found himself being bugged by Six Finger Satellite's former live soundman. But this guy wasn't after money or the return of borrowed gear or any one of the countless other things that usually prompt such reconnections. MacLean was being hassled by his old friend James Murphy to start making music again.
"From the very beginning," explains Maclean, "I always made a promise to myself that when I thought the time for Six Finger Satellite was up in terms of creativity, then I would just quit. I thought it was better to go out in a blaze of glory, rather than make five more albums nobody cared about. " Maclean quit in 1988, just one month before their final LP, 'Law of Ruins' (produced by Murphy) was due to be released. "I was just so sick of it," he claims. "I was burned out from going on tour, plus it had just stopped being interesting, so I sold all my equipment. I thought I'd never have anything to do with making music again."
With that in mind MacLean moved to New Hampshire, where he lives now. He cleaned up, studied for a degree and began teaching English in a young offenders' institute (he spent time in such places as a kid), which he does still and describes as "pretty fun." Meanwhile, his enthusiasm for music had been reignited by (a pre-DFA) Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy. "They'd mail me CD's of things they thought were good," recalls Maclean, "and the three of us started having this dialogue again about older dance music that we'd always liked - Kraftwerk, house and techno." Goldsworthy also introduced Maclean to music that we'd always liked – Kraftwerk, house and techno." Goldsworthy also introduced MacLean to the work of experimentalists like Autechre and, although he found it "very calculated and intellectualised," it did help get him excited about music again. So much so, that in 2000 he bought a computer and sampler. "The real breakthrough," according to MacLean, "came when I took Herbie Hancock's 'Rockit' – which was one of my favourite records when I was like, 13 – and attempted to rip it off. The result was 'By The Time I Get To Venus,' because at the time, I just wasn't good enough to get that close!" That track became the debut 12-inch by The Juan MacLean and one of the first singles released by DFA.
'Less Than Human' refines what that tentative first effort only hinted at. It's a precision-tuned rekindling of MacLean's love affair with everything from Kraftwerk to Juan Atkins and Derrick May, Funkadelic to Giorgio Moroder and Lipps Inc, DAF to Talking Heads and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. It's full of tics (sin drums, cow bells, Bootsy Collins bass lines, Moog Liberation motifs) borrowed from dance music history, but refuses to engage with retroism, nostalgia or any notion of 'the classic.' Opener 'AD2003' tracks back to Kraftwerk via Orbital, buoyed up by bubbles of percolating glitch. 'Give Me Every Little Thing' rewinds through Underworld and Talking Heads en route to Studio 54. 'Tito's Way' contrasts acid-house synth squelches and rave whistles with clattering, tribal percussion. There's a constant, though. Even the LP's euphoric epic – 14-minute, piano-decorated closer 'Dance With Me', sung by LCD Soundsystem's Nancy Whang – is poignantly subdued, touched by a melancholy that reflects MacLean's own world view. "It doesn't seem incongruous to me to have a lot of that stuff in there," he says of the album's sadness, "because I made a big effort to make an album, rather than a collection of tunes with just one good track that everybody knows. So I never really set out to say, 'this is a song that will played for the dance floor,' or whatever.
"When I started on it, I don't think I had any pre-conceived notions at all, except that I knew I'd always be operating under the same aesthetic principles that I'd held in making music my whole life. For example, I started taking old multi-track, Six Finger Satellite recording tapes and I sampled all the drums from them – that's most of the drum tracks you hear." For the rest, there's a live drummer, flute, guitar, synths, piano and vocals – no samples. "I might spend months and months on one track," MacLean explains, "and we have a lot of live instrumentation on it, so a lot of things that sound like samples are actually me playing."
As to the DFA connection, MacLean declares that working without Murphy and Goldsworthy was never an option. "Even now, if I weren't going to work with James and Tim, I just wouldn't be doing this at all. The thing that James does is something that he and I had been formulating for years and years, when I was in Six Finger Satellite – his recording techniques, his approach, the determination that he was going to put out the best thing he could possibly put out, or else it just wasn't going to be put out. . . we spent every day and night together on tour for years, talking about recording – there was never a question of doing it with anyone else. I don't need to be working with James because, in an engineering sense, we both do the same thing, but working with both James and Tim, it's three people sitting there going, 'that's no good, that's no good,' and maybe one in three things will be passed by all three of us. It's a really tough jury – the toughest – but I wouldn't have it any other way."
Saint Pepsi started in December 2012 as an Ableton exercise, but is now 21-year-old Ryan DeRobertis' main outlet for songwriting and production. The Long Island-based musician's first release with Carpark is the "Fiona Coyne" 7-inch, to be released in August, which will be followed by a full-length album in the fall. Saint Pepsi got its start with four mixtapes of new wave and synth-pop samples. As DeRobertis developed his sampling technique, he branched out into disco and funk music. The netlabel Keats Collective released the Hit Vibes album in May 2013. Around the same time, Saint Pepsi received even more attention for his "Call Me Maybe" remix, a captivating re-working of the Carly Rae Jepsen hit.
Since then, DeRobertis has been focusing on exploring the weird side of pop music. "I'm drawn to tuneful melodies; complex chord structures; outlandish synths and drums; and I like to take pop a capellas and see how I can warp the songs while keeping the melodies almost entirely intact," he says. The "Fiona Coyne" 7-inch showcases DeRobertis' talent for crafting his own melodies. DeRobertis sums up his ambitions simply: "I want to make pop music for freaks, basically.