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Ladytron: A bit spooky

Now we are dealing with four musicians from Liverpool... no, not those four you might be thinking of, this time itīs two girls and two boys, and their style can rather be described as Electronic Pop-Rock... In Europe they might not be that well-known yet, their album "Witching Hour" has just become available here, but Ladytron raised attention recently as tour support for Nine Inch Nails. Before their last support show in Helsinki STALKER met Helen and Reuben for a little chat.

First of all, could you describe the other band members, their characteristics or spleens?
Reuben: Do I do Dani? Mira? (laughter)
Helen: It is difficult to describe your fellow band member...
Reuben: ...at the end of the tour

Perhaps you can start with yourselves...
Helen: I am Helen, I sing and play the keyboards, and ... I am...
Reuben: ....quite shy
Helen: (laughs) Yeah and shy, thatīs the characteristic
Reuben: Shy and Scottish!
Helen: A good combination. (laughs) Mira and Dani are from Liverpool, and -er- is a car fetishist, classic cars.
Reuben: I like old cars, from 70s, 80s I like to work on them as well but I donīt have so much time to work on broken machines... it is just a lot of fun. I can fix simple things, but my main thing is about driving them. I mean, being on tour and with the band all the time, itīs nice to go home and just be normal, doing normal things like going for a pizza, to a cinema or just staying in ...
Helen: ...or walking around...
Reuben: ... it becomes something ... you start really loving it, finding it really precious... it is nice to have hobbies outside music.
Helen: We are at the end of this tour, tonight is the last gig with Nine Inch Nails because itīs the end we are all a bit jaded, tired and run down...
Reuben: ...it has been a seven week tour which is pretty much the limit for us, really. Last time we did something like that in the States, which was also hard-going. But this one has been different because we are supporting another band, itīs a different kind of energy on stage. It has been really good, weīve been getting a lot of new fans, everything has been very positive.
Helen: In between we have been doing our own gigs as well, we played last night in Stockholm. It is nice to have your own gig now and then , because it is a completely different vibe and it keeps it fresh.

Well, NIN is perhaps more compatible with Heavy Metal audiences, so you never had any negative experiences?
Reuben: No. NIN have been around since 1989, so their fans have been into that band for a long time, they grew up with the band and tend to be more open-minded. Nowadays Metal and Electro-Pop are much more overlapped... I think we probably listen to the same records, we have the same sources of inspiration, I suppose.
Helen: I think the fans are quite trusting as well because Trent Reznor asked us to come on this tour, and we are happy about that. Fans are really interested in why he chose us and therefore they are interested when they come to the gigs. We get pretty full crowds which is unusual for a support act, and they seem eager to find out what we are about. We have not had any problems at all, any negative atmosphere.

So why did he pick you for the tour?
Both: He just likes our music
Reuben: We toured quite a lot in the States and Australia, so our profile is quite strong there, especially at the West coast. Itīs great because the album has just come out in Europe whereas it has been out in America for two years. So it is nice to come inside this tour with the release of the new album.

What are your musical influences, besides the obvious ones, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk – what is your main inspiration?
Helen: It is really varied, there are four of us in the band. When you go to write a song you donīt really think it is going to be in the style of this or that... a lot of things influence our music, it is not just Electronic stuff, but Folk... me and Mira like Folk music, Bob Dylan..
Reuben: It is whatever you listen to since you are a child, because...
Helen: ...you cannot pinpoint one thing...
Reuben: ...you form your idea of what is music from a very early age, I think. Obviously there are bands you are into, you try to be as creative and original as possible, you donīt say īI want this to sound like thatī. In the case of īHe took her to a movieī it was a kind of tongue-in-cheek thing, just something we thought would be nice, we didnīt even think it was gonna do well, and then the NME picked it up and made it the īsingle of the weekī. It just rolled on from that
Helen: But from that single everyone jumped to the conclusion that we were really influenced by Kraftwerk. We all like Kraftwerk, but there was just one stream of notes that obviously rang a bell in peoplesī heads...
Reuben: And there are four of us as well, and we have synthesizers
Helen: But I donīt think we are anything like Kraftwerk
Reuben: I think influence is in the broadest sense, we have a lot of them, because there are four of us in the band, therefore the musical interests are really wide-ranging
Helen: They cross-over as well

So everybody is involved in the songwriting, there is not just one person?
Reuben: Well, Dani is the major songwriter, but we all write songs and we work on each othersī tracks as well. In the creative process we might have a pool of demos done by different members, and some of them might need lyrics, a melody, drums... in varying degrees of completion. We work on each othersīmusic.
Helen: You kind of do what you can and then pass it on to someone else to stamp their mark on it.

Why the title “Witching Hour”? I have this strange association with this very old Venom song...
Reuben: It was a lyric in īSoft Powerī, there is no other reference...
Helen: Itīs just nice, mystic ...
Reuben: A bit spooky
Helen: Yeah... we like that!

Well, I remember reviews of Electronic bands, they were criticized of being too static on stage, so how do you solve the problem?
Reuben: We train the girls to dance. (Helen laughs) When we rehearse, I take them into the local dance arena to teach them... because I am playing the synthesizers I cannot move around, I am dancing in my heart, and the girls are doing their thing, dance around, nobody is looking at me. Being static, it was a problem for us when we first started playing without a drummer, we relied a lot on backing track, and we played on top of that, and in that instance we did feel very exposed. We were just starting out at that time and felt very nervous. But now we have a drummer...
Helen: I think it all has been a learning experience. When we started we did not really know what we are doing that well, I was very nervous on stage, Mira was nervous, you donīt really know how to act. And over the years you learn what works and how the audience reacts to you... I think it is just the years of experience, we got better and on stage it has become a more flowing movement... we also use our own visuals on stage, the whole stage complement... lighting...
Reuben: Visually we used movies we were into, found footage or stuff we did ourselves. I think in the future we would like to go a little bit more into making it more involved with the music, so that it is triggered by the music. Sometimes visuals can take peopleīs attention away from the band, which is sometimes the intend when the band is pretty nondescript looking. Our visuals are Helen and Mira, everyone looks at them, we donīt really need anything...

Well, what is in your opinion the best thing, and what is really shitty about being a musician?
Helen: There is nothing really bad about being a musician... but I find it very hard spending prolonged periods on the bus. It is really hard, there are a lot of people on the bus... it smells...baad... so if you are on for a long time you just want to run away...
Reuben: The best thing is the travelling, seeing new places and just broadening your perspective of the world, and suddenly you are a different person.

But do you have time so see anything?
Helen: Sometimes, not always...
Reuben:Itīs up to you. Obviously there is a gig to play... Mira is really good in taking time to visit places and explore, and I try when I can and follow here. Sometimes we get to places multiple times
Helen: That is much easier, you can have a day off an rest, and the next day you can do the touristy things
Reuben: And once you played in a place you get invited to come back again. For instance, we have been in China for three or four weeks, playing a tour over there, and since then we went back a few times, to Beijing, to see the Great Wall. So the travelling thing is good...
Helen: The best thing is going on stage every night
Reuben: No, I donīt know about that, I donīt like the music bit...
Helen: No? Being a musician is shit (laughs)
Reuben: The best thing are the groupies! (laughter) And the worst thing for me is being away from home for long periods of time
Helen: Yeah, that is the worst thing. Some people can deal with that very well, I think it depends on what you have back home, family and friends, then it is hard to be away for such a prolonged time.

Finally, do you have a funny or crazy tourstory for us?
Reuben: Loads of them
Helen: (laughs) Oh, I just cannot think of... well, we often leave people behind, in the US we took off with the tour bus and left somebody at the petrol station and did not realize until half an hour, hour later... but that is not really crazy, is it?
Reuben: No... I donīt think anything really bad happened to us... hm, crazy story, crazy story ....Well, once in Serbia we played after Slayer in an old medieval fort, Slayer, Ladytron and Fatboy Slim. That night I had to rescue our Bass player we had at that time. He downed a bottle of Vodka, went off by himself and fell down a wall, hurt his ankle and was stuck down there in the dark, ages and ages, and eventually someone found him and took him to hospital. I was out, and when I came back to the hotel at about 6 am I got a call from him, he was crying “I am in hospital, I hurt my foot, can you come and get me?” I said no, because I did not know how to get there, “why donīt you come to the hotel?” Then I had to wait for about an hour, eventually this little Trabant came with this huge male nurse and Sebastian sitting next to him, crying his eyes out... I had to pay this nurse with the last money I had and had to carry our Bass player upstairs, about three flies of steps to put him into his bed...and he was crying “Iīm sorry, Iīm sorry”...
Helen: (laughs) Did you have to undress him, too?
Reuben: No, I didnīt.

Thank you for the interview!

Author: Klaudia Weber, photos: Ladytron, Julia Sheremeteyeva
Date: 2007-04-22

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