Interview: The Japanese Popstars (2)
Published on December 13th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Back in June, Rocksucker spoke to Decky Hedrock of Northern Irish dance producers The Japanese Popstars while he was working on their Radio 1 Essential mix alongside band mate Gary Curran.
We caught up with Gary to gauge the mood in the camp at the end of what has been an exciting year for the trio, what with all the high-profile remixing engagements and the release of their second studio album Control Your Allegiance, which features guest appearances from the likes of Jon Smith of Blues Explosion fame, house music star Green Velvet and legendary The Cure front man Robert Smith…
I imagine 2011 to have been the maddest, most full-on year yet for you guys as a group. What have been your highlights?
Yeah, it’s been hectic. There have been a lot of highlights: winning video awards, meeting a lot of great people, two stints in America playing great festivals, Glastonbury, the MTV Music Video Awards recently. There are probably other things that I can’t remember right now. It’s been a good year but we know we’ve got to work even harder just to even experience the same thing again.
How will you be spending Christmas and New Year’s?
I’m actually going to America with my lovely girlfriend, to stay with her and her family in Boston. Gareth and Decky are going to cover the DJ sets while I’m away! I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to relax.
When I spoke to Decky in June, he said that you’d already started work on album three, insomuch as you have some ideas in place. Is it further down the line now by any chance?
We’re always writing ideas; it’s just a case of developing them. There are a few collaborations in the pipeline as well. We want to get back into the studio during our quiet time of January and February and just see if we can better what we’ve done previously, or at least accomplish the same! We’re all selt-taught so we all try to learn as much as we can, and we need to find ways of being able to work quickly and efficiently on the road as well.
Are there any remixes in the pipeline?
We’ve just finished a remix for a well-known artist but I can’t say who because we’re still waiting to get word back about whether or not it was accepted! We’re all going to take on more remixes in the new year to keep the ball rolling. We might even put out an EP before the next album, keep the name alive.
Your videos are invariably brilliant. How much of a say do you guys get in terms of creative direction?
We get sent ideas and scripts and stuff, and we sit down and collectively decide which one we think would be the strongest in terms of representing our music, representing the brand. Luckily enough, we’ve had really talented people doing them. The video for “Let Go” is something else – it’s amazing what David Wilson achieved with that – and we had Jamie Thraves, who’s worked with Radiohead and Coldplay, doing “Song for Lisa”, and we had a company called Cagoule doing “Shells of Silver”. I think it’s number three on the main page of YouTube in America, so it’s been well-received. You have to allow these guys to do their own work as well, rely on their creativity and go with their vision. We’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing people. Also, the videos bring a visual aspect to our live shows, which is an added bonus.
“Shells of Silver”
Are you happy with the upgrades you’ve made to your live set-up over the year? Any plans to take it even further?
Yeah, our live shows are constantly evolving; we always try to change bits of the music here and there. In terms of putting on a show, we know we’re a long way from being at the level of The Chemical Brothers or Daft Punk just now. Basically, those guys have a lot of money! If we ever make the big bucks, then we’ll upgrade again. But we’ve made a big step forward; we’ve got a new desk, screens and stuff like that. I was quite happy with how it looked on MTV.
What do you think about Underworld being chosen as music directors for the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony?
I think that’s amazing. That’s exactly what would motivate nearly any music producer. I know that Tiësto performed at the Opening Ceremony at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Underworld do so much stuff outside of dance music, like the soundtrack to the film Sunshine, and that shows their diversity and how they can evolve themselves. That’s what I’d like to be like. In fact, I’d like to achieve even a snippet of what they’ve done. It’s amazing for dance music and electronic music in general, Underworld getting that opportunity.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
I know they’re quite well-known, but I really like Foster the People and the new M83 album. The new Black Keys album is supposed to be fantastic. Also, I’d recommend anyone who’s on Jools Holland!
Finally, if you had to name your top three albums of all time, just off the top of your head, which would you go for at this very moment?
Leftfield – Leftism, Radiohead – The Bends and M83 – Saturdays = Youth or Led Zeppelin Remasters.
Gary, thank you.
“Song for Lisa”
Controlling Your Allegiance is out now on Virgin. For more information and a list of live dates, please visit thejapanesepopstars.co.uk