THE ALT WORKAHOLICS WHO REANIMATED MUSIC BY SPIKING
HOMEBREW ELECTRONICA WITH WEAPONS-GRADE MENACE TALK ABOUT
CATS AND FINDING INSPIRATION IN MELTED PEOPLE…
When someone asks me what music I’m into. I have to say I listen to heavy metal. Exclusively. But very occasionally, an act from another genre will pique my interest. The earliest Crystal Castles tracks are a good example. Back in 2006 (if you were suitably ahead of the pack) Crystal Castles burst onto the scene with ‘Alice Practice’ and we all know the rest (press adulation, cult following, live festival highlights and consistently amazing output over two extremely inventive eponymous 8-bit thrash odysseys).
Watching them live, it’s no surprise that they came out of the hardcore and noise scene in Toronto. I’d argue fiercely that although they’re an electronic twosome (albeit with the awesome addition of a live drummer), Crystal Castles are more punk rock and exciting than 95% of contemporary guitar bands. Their gigs regularly don’t reach their allotted time for various reasons and often descend into full-on scraps with unbelievably unprepared security. When they do get to play a full set, they inevitably destroy the crowd. Having met them a few times, they are always pleasant, funny and modest. They were also unusually helpful in the preparation for this cover interview. They suggested a photographer who could meet them on the road and spent a long time trying to secure a random animal to accompany them in the shoot to meet JUKE’s stringent cover policy. Bears, snakes, designer fish and a celebrity cat were all seriously mooted. In the end, a tired household puss was the victim….
JUKE: How was working with the cat on the cover shoot?
ETHAN: We were supposed to do the shoot after a show in NYC, but we went to a bar instead. Finally the photographer Fumi dragged us out of the bar and to her friend’s house to take pictures. I think it was 4AM and we had to wake everyone up. I felt bad. The cat wasn’t into it. I think he knew he was the backup animal. I wanted to get a fairy moth but I kept accidentally killing every one I’d catch.
JUKE: Alice seems kind of cat-like.
ETHAN: Yeah, every time she gets stuck in a tree, we call for a fire truck.
JUKE: So how did you find time to write the latest album with the constant touring?
ETHAN: We both left our apartments behind, so when a tour is finished there is nowhere to go home to. So we would stay in the city of the last show of the tour and find a studio or room to set up our gear and record some songs. We did that constantly and after two years we collected 70 songs from many different studios. We picked 14 songs to release together as a collection.
JUKE: Wow. Were there any particularly interesting places you hung out and recorded?
ETHAN: One tour ended in Detroit, so we just stayed there. Someone told us about a street of abandoned stores and told us we could live in any of the stores and no one would ever find out or care. So we lived in a convenience store and recorded songs.
JUKE: Nice. So does the touring or recording environment influence the writing at all?
ETHAN: I don’t think geography can ever influence a Crystal Castles song. No matter where we are in the world, we isolate ourselves.
JUKE : I’m assuming there are some fairly dark themes behind the lyrics and song titles on the album. Can you talk about some of them?
ETHAN: ‘Celestica’ is the name of a company in our hometown that produces plastic, someone who worked there committed suicide by jumping into a large container of boiling liquid plastic. The other workers could not stop the machine so his body melted and became part of the stream of liquid plastic. This was then used to create new plastic products. The lyrics to ‘Intimate’ are based on someone we know who is HIV positive and continues to have sex with strangers without telling them – without wearing a condom. In the song I sing the lyric “You’re Positive, but they don’t need to know.” I like the lyrics in the track ‘Bird’, which are “Show up, throw up, into the womb”. I like comparing the ejaculation of semen into a vagina to a person vomiting. The song title ‘Doe Deer’ is inspired by the children’s song ‘Doe a Deer’ from the musical The Sound of Music. To me our song is violent and I wanted something very innocent and calm to contrast with that.
JUKE: I’ve seen you live a lot and it’s always really intense and very entertaining. There always seems to be something crazy and random happening and it’s often not your fault.
ETHAN: It’s sad when it’s not our fault. Once Alice went into the crowd during the second song of the set and the bouncer had the power cut and ended the show because he thought she might lose the club’s $150 microphone in the crowd. He thought the chance of losing that microphone was worth cancelling the show for. Most people didn’t see this happen and assumed we had left to do coke.
JUKE: There are loads of other examples. I heard about a show in LA where a police helicopter was called out. What happened?
ETHAN: The police came to kill the show due to noise complaints, but the show continued so they sent over a helicopter. People started throwing their beer bottles at the helicopter but they kept missing so there was broken glass shattering all over the streets. We should end every show like that.
JUKE: How do you feel about things like NME naming you Number One on The Cool List in 2008?
ALICE: I was never cool. NME made a mistake.
JUKE: Do you get many compliments generally?
ALICE: I do not receive compliments. Once someone said that I sounded like witches howling at wolves and I thought it was a nice compliment, but apparently they meant it in a negative way.
JUKE: So you don’t think you’ll ever have to worry about ego issues from being successful?
ETHAN: We don’t think of ourselves as successful. We’ve never been played on TV. We’ve never made the charts. We’re always surprised when people come to see us.
JUKE: Can you talk a bit about your city-mates the metal band Cauldron. Awesome band.
ETHAN: I’ve known Jason Decay for ten years. We met in 2000 when he was in an earlier incarnation of Cauldron. He has been battling it out in metal’s underground the entire time and the only light of hope he’s ever seen has been Earache Records noticing his band and signing them. Along the way he introduced me to Christopher Chartrand, who is now the drummer in Crystal Castles.
JUKE: A lot of the better new metal bands seem to professing a serious interest in Satanism currently. What’s your take on that?
ETHAN: Metal bands, by law, should be Satanic. No-one wants a Christian metal band. No-one wanted Stryper.
By: Marek Steven
Photos: Fumi Nagasaka
For JUKE Vol.02