Classixx Talk New Albums, Scary Bus Trips and Holy Ghost!
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Last year LA duo Classixx ignited dancefloors with their throbbing brand of down-tempo disco - a silken amalgam of pillowy synths, elastic basslines and bob-and-jerk rhythms. In 2009 they also managed to made Phoenix sound poppier. Do you know how hard that is? That's like making a shitter version of Nickelback- nigh impossible. Ahead of their forthcoming Australian tour Pedestrian caught up with Mike and Tyler to discuss their prolific remix work, their debut album, a theoretical pairing with Holy Ghost! and scary Texan bus rides.
So what have you guys been up to today?
Um, it's raining here, so we're just trying to stay dry and get some work done.
What time is it over there right now? You're in LA right?
Yeah, it's 7 o'clock right now.
Cool! So I guess we should start at the very beginning. How did you guys come to find each other and form?
We grew up together basically and we played in various bands together. And then a few years ago we had an idea to start an electronic music project and we've been doing it ever since.
What were your first impressions of each other when you met?
Tyler: Well, we met when we were little kids so I don't if you have impressions when you're that young.
Michael: Well I definitely did. Tyler used to push me around a lot and I think he even stole my lunch money at some point (laughs) but then as we got older Tyler stopped growing and I outgrew him, now I'm the tall one.
So do you steal his lunch money now?
You guys are coming out to Australia pretty soon, have you ever been out here before?
Yeah, we came out in the summer a long time ago but it was just a one-off gig, and we played in Sydney and it was beautiful. And the next time we came in the winter and did a run of the whole continent. But we've definitely been wanting to get back to Australia to feel the Summer there again.
So what can people expect this time around? Is the show going to be any different? Or is it pretty much the same, just with different tracks?
We're probably a little better since the last time you saw us just because we've been doing it so long. But I've always thought we were pretty good at it, we just try to have a really fun time. We try to play stuff that you might not have heard but also stuff that you really like. Nothing really specific but it should just be a really good party.
Are you guys working on an LP of original material at the moment or is that a bit far off yet?
Yeah we are. That's our main objective. We've got a few tracks right now and we're going to be finalising them over the next few months so that we finally can release them.
What's the vibe of it so far?
The vibe kind of reflects our remixes and our other stuff. It's kind of all over the place in terms of tempo and vibe, there's a lot of vocals, its going to be pretty vocal. The main thing we wanted to do was collaborate with as many interesting vocalists as we could, that was our main objective from day one. So, there'll be some really interesting vocals but I think we kind of want to keep the name of the vocalists under wraps for the meantime just because we don't want to create too much hype.
Yeah that's cool. The process of writing original stuff, is that completely different to the process of remixing? Or is there a common thread?
On a lot of these tracks you always have the vocals first, on remixes. And for a lot of these tracks we'll come up with a bit of music and send it to the vocalist and on that level its opposite, I think that's the main thing thats different.
Yeah, and with your remixes you guys were pretty prolific last year, they were all killer, amazing remixes, is it hard to give up that production to someone else when you could have saved it for yourself?
No, not really. Because it helps develop our brand I guess. So we'll always have something to do with the final product but yeah sometimes it feels a little weird.
Yeah, there's a few pretty big names in there, Yacht, Holy Ghost! and Phoenix for example, how did those come about?
Each one has been different! the Phoenix one it came through Kitsune we were doing some remixes for them and talking about putting out the single that we ended up putting out "I'll Get You" with them and they had a remix single that they were doing for Phoenix so we did that and they liked it but each remix is different in how it came our way.
And do you have to turn down remixes now?
We turn down remixes sometimes but it's usually just because of poor timing. But yeah we have to turn them down sometimes, its not very hard to turn down a remix. On the other side we've been lucky enough not to have our remixes turned down but there have been a couple that we never really saw get released. Or they just got released on the blog.
We also heard that you guys would be playing live with Holy Ghost! is that right?
They said in an interview that they've enlisted you guys to help out with their live sound? Have you guys been practicing or anything like that?
Well, actually we went out there to practice some of the stuff with them and we really wanna do it, but its more of an idea, so if the different schedules come together it'd be really cool if that happened but nobody really knows if its going to happen for sure yet. We're huge Holy Ghost! fans but we try not to let our enthusiasm for Holy Ghost! outshine the work that we have at hand. So it's difficult to try to and be a realist about things.
So how do you guys plan to translate your original stuff live? Are you going to have to enlist players, like are you going to have to ask the Holy Ghost! guys to help you out too?
Ideally we'd love to do something with Holy Ghost! and play in each others bands but first we'll probably do a stripped down version and then when we have more funding, we'd like to do a huge elaborate major production but that's very difficult and time consuming.
And what's the writing process been like for the new LP? What kind of equipment do you guys use? And do you send stuff to each other or stay in the same room and collaborate?
It varies! We work on all little sections and then we work on them and work them up to about a minute and a half or something like that either we find a vocal for it together or we try and get a vocal from somebody else... and then when we have a rough idea of where the songs going we'll expand it into a full song.
And what kind of equipment or programs do you guys use?
Protools is our main source of tracking. But we use a lot of outboard synths. But recently we got a lot of interesting and weird reverb and chorus pedals. We find that with outboard gear you kind of try to master a science because its more real.
I guess its a bit more temperamental as well isn't it?
And has technology ever come to stab you in the back?
Sure all the time. It sucks to have to upgrade your system, thats a huge drag. Like, when you have to upgrade from like, Tiger to Leopard, the new version of Protools isn't necessarily compatible with Snow Leopard and maybe 4 out of 20 plugins need to be updated and some cost $500 to upgrade. It's all the stupid shit you have to deal with every time.
Yeah. So what's it like living in LA in 2010? What's the music scene like there? I assume they're very supportive of you guys?
Yeah everybody's been really cool. Actually in the last year we've started to see that people are a bit more receptive to what we're doing but I think also thats because we play a lot less out here but also the scene is really eclectic. There's groups like Glitch Mob which are completely different from us but really, really talented. One thing that we keep seeing is that there isn't just one type of music on the scene here it's just a bunch of different kinds of music that are all good. But yeah there's a lot of interesting stuff going through LA and pretty much any night of the week you could go out and see something incredible without spending too much money, but you have to seek it out. You're not going to get a flyer for a cool show but if you stay out you can see some really, really amazing stuff, any night of the week.
Do you guys still go out much in LA?
I think Tyler does a little more than I do. We go traveling a lot so when we get home its nice to just chill out.
Im assuming you guys have played all over America? Do you have any weird moments from when you were on the road or any surreal moments?
We just took a Greyhound bus from Dallas to Houston and it has this vague connotation of being a sketchy form of public transportation. And sitting on the bus near me was this really mean looking black dude and his shirt just said "Company Negro" and I thought that was pretty awesome but I was too scared to take a picture of it (laughs). But yeah, we've had some pretty great shows that, well they're not really surreal but they're just fun! And this year we've had the chance to play with a lot of people that we've become friends with. We had this show in Toronto where we met the guys from Azari and III and afterwards the guys who owned the club shut it down and it was just us, Azari and III and some of their homies. There was my guy on the decks and instrumental tracks and then Diedrich who does all the vocals on their tracks started to sing Stevie Wonder songs and all this stuff and it was just a really good time
Are you guys sick of clubs yet or do you still love the club culture?
It depends. When we go out here it's because we go out to see friends play and so it's more about support and listening to the music that your friends are into rather than going to try and get fucked up. So on that level we still really like it but we don't really party that much.
Ok cool. And what future plans do you guys have? You mentioned the original debut LP, is there any other stuff you're working on? Do you guys have any remixes or collaborations coming up?
We're going to do some production stuff with different people that we probably will get onto. And we're finishing a remix for Groove Armada right now.
So are you treating the album like a job? Like, do you devote 8 hours a day to it or anything like that?
We're trying to! Its hard to do that when your job is making music but it depends, we're not super labour intensive (laughs) we try to work pretty hard but if we have some time off we try to get up earlier and work on some stuff but if we get back from a 10 day tour we usually sleep for a day after that.
So what do you guys do to relax and get away from work?
Just watch movies.
Anything to recommend?
Ah, yes, you should see 'Precious'.
That hasn't come out in Australia yet but I've heard good things about it.
I don't know if people in Australia can really relate to 'Precious' but it's pretty good
You guys just tweeted about that right? You saw it and never want to see it again right?
Yeah. Well have you ever seen the movie Million Dollar Baby?
Yeah the one with Hilary Swank?
Yeah it's kind of like that. You get the feeling that you're glad you saw it but you're exhausted when it's done and you don't look forward to seeing it again.
You can buy tickets to Classixx debut Sydney show here; (Details on flyer below)