The best gig we did was up in Cumbria in Barrow in Furness. It was really odd, all the locals and some artists, it felt like a youth group…
Incendiary interview Micachu
Amsterdam’s old town is changing, some would say very much for the better, others for the worse. And I’m not qualified to give an opinion, outside of an uneasiness over what will replace the red light’s colourful mixture of heady raucousness and menace. But what is very clear is that it’s a weird experience walking through a very quiet red light district. It’s like a ghost town, it really is.
Anyways I don’t come to Amsterdam to stare at ladies in windows or smoke myself senseless and then throw up pizza on the street. I’m in town to interview Micachu, an act whose debut Jewellery could be a real tonic for these uninspiring times. The band, who comprise of three unobtrusive, waif-like beings named Micachu, Raisa Khan and Mark Pell are down at the Desmet studios to give an acoustic set to the liberal intelligentsia, but have time to answer our questions…
IN: Your LP is tremendous, it’s very playful and witty… impish.
M: Impish… I mean yeah, it is possibly... I don’t want things to be too deep you know?
IN: I know you’ve expounded the values of pop and it’s a very poppy LP. Why do you see pop as a refreshing medium?
M: Wicked! Thanks! Several reasons I guess. I think… I hope that there’s a continuous sound to the record, in that it’s distorted and rough but I think as much as it might have been a bit lazy, (rather than a conscious decision on our part) the style really varies between each track… and I guess you could argue that with pop music has always been a reflection of what is going on in the underground. Pop shows up underground sounds in a different way. The song structures are very conventional on our record anyway…
IN: Growing up, I always thought good pop was a weird medium, in that pop music always had weird hooks and sounds, purely to catch people’s attention. In some ways it was the least orthodox of mediums, and I thought your record harked back to that idea. Rather than overtly writing pop songs you’ve written an LP that tries to capture people’s attention, is that fair?
M: I’d say that’s definitely the case. There’s definitely bits where we play a bit too loud or where I punch in a bit rude to keep it fun for us.
R: Not being too polite, you know?
IN: There are a lot of textural oddities, in the way you put things together.
M: Totally! All of our interest in texture and sound comes from electronic music and being encouraged to use it. I’m particularly bad at using synthesizers, and I use a lot of sampling and other audio stuff which means you are encouraged to make music from sounds and textures rather than from chords. You are always encouraged to find that hook and base the song around that. I think it is also how you dress up a song; you can do an arrangement of a song in any kind of way… We focus on textures to keep the surface of a song interesting.
MP: There are only so many colours you can get with guitar and bass guitar but being able to use a laptop and look at other sound sources.
M: I guess that’s what we do with our own instruments, we don’t really look at other sources, or directly sample that much, we spend a lot of time on percussion, using different mallets
IN: You don’t really over egg the pudding though, which might be from you not using too much guitar… Guitar bands always feel obliged to add extra layers.
M: Oh yeah… totally. I think it’s such a temptation to over complicate things and we often have to remind ourselves that we should keep things bare and simple. Because it’s just as strong a gesture to keep things simple and I feel it’s also a lack of passion in epic music. Big, large sounds is not something I particularly do. But, Marc really enjoys a big rich sound.
IN: You also remind me of Holger Czukay and his solo LPs. The thing I love about his music is that he was either super serious or incredibly playful. There was always a big, “fuck it” attitude floating around in the mix. You never know really where you, as a listener stand.
M: What, having a dual nature in our music?
IN: Do you look to deceive people?
M: I dunno, it’s not something we’ve thought about I guess…
MP: It would be nice to feel that our music was apparent to people straight away. We’ve been saying a lot recently that it’s just good to do what you do well and be really blatant and strong with it. I don’t think we look to deceive anyone...
M: Keep it honest, exposing your taste in an embarrassing way. Sometimes it doesn’t sound right, but we kinda like it, you know? There’s a fine line of course. It’s difficult, but we don’t really have an intention of being too coy. It’s good to be obvious.
IN: There it is you go and work it out.
M: Totally! (laughs)
IN: Do you find the UK music scene flat?
MP: It’s funny that we don’t find it like that, but we’re in a really nice circle of really good music.
M: It’s just nice to support each other, and there’s some good stuff around, and of course you become friends with other bands and you see their music grow... It’s a nice social thing and it’s a supportive thing. I dunno, maybe it’s bad to be too involved (laughs)
IN: Who cares?
M: Yeah we haven’t really thought about it. Thing is we started this a year ago and we just kind of walked into it. We’ve not been on the gigging circuit at all, doing all that “meeting people” thing.
IN: I’d like to ask you about Matthew Herbert.
M: It’s great working with him! Totally great!
IN: Is he a complete lunatic? That’s what I get from listening to his stuff.
M: Ah, uhm well. He’s very ambitious and he’s very headstrong and clear about what he wants to do on each record, and passionate about hating things he doesn’t like. He’s really in touch with the equipment he has, and that was a real experience for me. He’s a nice guy, if he likes something he really supports it and puts a lot of effort into it… and we’ve been really lucky in that respect. He’s got some odd artefacts, some WW2 bombs in his flat.
IN: What, live ones?
M: Fuckin’ hell I wouldn’t have gone in there if they’d have been live.
IN: There is a guy near my mother’s house who has built an Egyptian pyramid in his house. There’s nowt so queer as folk. Oddity is relative.
M: Totally! A lot of this stuff which people see as weird is just a writing process for us. We all have aspirations outside of the band.
R: Film music. (Laughs)
MP: I like work-shopping. I’ve been getting into that this past year or so.
M: Composition and building things. DIY. Nothing grand but it’s my hobby.
IN: Isn’t DIY in your case a visual reconstruction of song structures? (laughs)
M: No. (Laughs). Not that… It’s just fun, I just think I’m practical.
Suddenly the light goes out in the dressing room.
IN: What the fucking hell is going on in here?
M: Have we been sitting that still?
MP: It’s the sensor, we haven’t moved...
IN: Swiftly on. I was back in London recently and I thought it was a weird vibe.
M: Everyone’s pretty freaked out.
MP: The people still with jobs are pretty nervous…
R: Rush hours are getting later; people are working later and later. The buses are still packed at 9pm.
M: I dunno about London… one of the good things about being in a band is seeing Britain, we’ve not really been about before. The best gig we did was up in Cumbria in Barrow in Furness. It was really odd, all the locals and some artists, it felt like a youth group… It wasn’t like a trendy gig, there were no trendy people.
MP: It was this arts centre on the docks. The sound systems were seemingly built from cupboards.
M: We had such a good time, when we first got there we thought, fuck we’re gonna get crucified, we’re gonna get booed off the stage, and first on there was this really northern lads guitar band, up for it, all this kind of thing... So we just got drunk and thought fuck it we’ll have a good time. But luckily it was alright, you know? Everyone got involved, there was some graffiti art happening at the same time, everyone was writing on the walls. And then we stayed at this amazing bed and breakfast. The woman was lovely, she lived on a farm…
MP: A really classic old farm b&b.
M: London is so different.
MP: You come back to London and it’s just jarring. It just takes time to build back up to speed.
R: Never go on the tube straight after the tour…
M: Your head in someone’s armpit on the tube (laughs).
Words: Richard Foster