Every so often a DJ mix crosses my desk that blows my mind. Lately, many of the CDs in the FabricLive compilation series have done just that. The last one to come out, FabricLive:29, mixed by Cut Copy founder Dan Whitford, had me craving more and more from the moment I put it on. The CD features, of course, Cut Copy songs, but mixes in Goldfrapp, Daft Punk, the Faint and Roxy Music, among others. It's a blazing collection of indie, hip-hop, electroclash and straight up rock.
This CD, along with others from artists like MSTRKRFT, are pushing forward a new dance genre: Hipster House. I spoke with Dan while he was back home in Melbourne, Australia, where he and his bandmates are working on a new album, the follow up to 2004's Bright Like Neon Love. This new CD, tentatively titled Demon Tracks, is set to come out in early 2007.
During the interview, we discussed living in Australia, their forthcoming tour and partying with the guys from Franz Ferdinand.
SomethingGlorious: Your Fabric Live CD is one of the hottest mixes I've ever heard - where'd the inspiration come from?
Dan Whitford: I guess it comes from other artists who do really interesting mixes. Over the years I've really loved what the Avalanches and Optimo have done for their DJ mixes; trying to create something really musical that can be more than just a collection of current club hits. When I listen to Optimo mixes I always get a sense that they have a really broad understanding of different genres and eras of music and there's always potential to be really surprised by their song choices. I guess the approach of wanting to challenge people a little bit with the track selection as well as making them want to party was a real aim for this FabricLive mix - and I think that's why it's had such a positive response.
SG: Were these all songs that you already knew and loved or did you research new material for this mix?
DW: It was a bit of both. I knew I was doing the mix about three or four months in advance so I sort of had it in the back of my mind. There were times when I'd hear a track played out or buy something from a vintage record store and think 'Ok, that's one for the Fabric mix.' But really it was an opportunity to gather a list of favorites and some obscure gems to put together the comp. The Ciccone Youth track, for instance, was a track I'd dropped into DJ sets as far as 5 or 6 years back and I'd always wanted to put it out on a mix CD. So this was one I'd been saving.
SG: Was this a collaborative effort from all three of you or were you the main guy behind the Cut Copy Fabric remix?
DW: Yeah it was my mix this time. Tim [Hoey] has recently started getting into DJing a lot and we play together a lot out and about. But so far I've done all the Cut Copy DJ mixes myself. I'd say that will probably change though as we do more and more together.
SG: After hearing this mix, stuff by MSTRKRFT and other DJs like
Chicago's Flosstradamus, I want to coin a new genre of dance music
called Hipster House - do you feel like it's appropriate?
DW: Maybe ... it's interesting because ever since I first started DJing I can see dance and indie music growing closer and closer together. Ten years ago, house was always so commercial in the ways that it sounded and was marketed and almost anti the whole indie vibe and vice versa. Daft Punk was like this huge breath of fresh air into that scene and things have gotten steadily more creative and integrated between dance and rock music. Now in Melbourne you see all the same kids at rock shows as you do at dance parties and that never happened back in the day. It's great really - 'cos I've always loved both dance and rock stuff. I think it's a healthy thing for the two to meet in the middle.
SG: How does the DJ thing fit in with your live rock process?
DW: Since I've DJed from before we started the band, it's always been there. I think it gives you a different appreciation of all types of music and there's an amazing energy to how some big dance tunes work when you hear them at a club. I guess knowing what works on a dance floor gives you a bit of extra insight when you're writing tunes, as does performing live with a band. So I think the end product probably just ends up being a bit more interesting 'cos you've got two perspectives on the music you're writing rather than just the one.
SG: Which do you prefer?
DW: I prefer performing live with the band I think. But having said that there's a lot to be said for not having to pack up after you DJ.
SG: Do you ever see yourself doing a DJ set tour?
DW: Sure - we already do that in Australia. We might do a bit of the same on the back of the Fabric mix.
SG: What are you working on from a band perspective - I understand you're in the studio?
DW: Yeah - we've taken this year out to write and have scaled down playing live to only a handful of festival appearances. Right now our second album is pretty much there, in demo form at least.
SG: Where are you recording and who is producing - any notable guests, maybe a duet with Alex from Franz?
DW: This has yet to be decided and we've had no shortage of options as far as different producers and locations go. But we're actually quite keen to do this at home. We're actually pretty amazed at how good we've got it sounding just recording and producing ourselves so far, so I'd say we might work on this some more and see how far we can take it. Might even get Alex to drop in, although it could hinder the writing process seeing as whenever we hang out with the Franz guys it leads to us all getting incredibly drunk.
SG: What's the expected release date?
DW: Early 2007.
SG: Of the new music you're working on, how does it differ/compare to Bright Like Neon Love?
DW: It's a pretty big leap I think. It still sounds like us, but we've gotten even more immersed in our world of '70s pop, Italo disco, prog rock, early rave etc. I think it's a more confident group of tracks and I think will probably make a more unique record when we've finished arranging it.
SG: Does the new stuff have more of a rock edge or blur the lines between electronic again?
DW: I think it's probably even more blurred. I struggle to describe it really. It probably has the diversity of sounds like ELO's records, but more now -- and more Cut Copy. Not sure if that answers the question, but anyway...
SG: Do you have a working or final title?
DW: Neither really. I think we were calling it Demon Tracks because I misspelled 'demo' when I burned the CD. It sounded kinda cool.
SG: When's your next proper tour?
DW: We're touring in Australia early next year in January/February, then the U.S. and Europe I'd say.
SG: Are you living in Australia or Brooklyn? Last time I interviewed
you (for the Chicago Tribune) you all were in your place in Brooklyn.
DW: Definitely in Australia. We actually loved the States the best as far as places we've toured thus far, so it would come a close second, but for songwriting I like being isolated from the hipster capitals. It's a bit easier to get into your own weird headspace and do something a bit more unique; whereas I think in places like New York and London you get bombarded by the "newest" and "latest." There's just too many distractions.
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