As a genre, I find that techno can sometimes be engaging…..when it chooses to be. Motor have taken this idea to the next level, however: they’ve tweaked their pummeling beats into full-on songs. Vocalists and everything, and I do mean everything. The guests on their fourth LP Man Made Machine are living legends, including Martin Gore of Depeche Mode, Nitzer Ebb‘s Douglas J. McCarthy, and Gary Numan from, um…Hammersmith. We sat down with member Bryan Black to talk about this shift in focus, making new fans, and why electro needs to die.
Electronic Beats: Let’s talk about the new album. Really interesting that you started to focus more on guest vocals.
Bryan Black: Yeah, that wasn’t really intentional. I think when we were invited to the Depeche Mode tour we couldn’t really turn it down, even though obviously it’s not our sound. When we did that tour we ended up becoming really close with Martin Gore, and just for fun we gave him a song we were working on. He came up with such a strong vocal, it just inspired us to explore working with vocals in the context of an album.
Whom did you want to involve that maybe didn’t pan out?
We pretty much got everyone we wanted. We were almost working with The Knife on a track and we couldn’t get the vocal from them in time on this album. But in the future I think we’ll work with Karin. Pretty much everyone else we worked with we toured with – Gary Numan, Douglas McCarthy, Martin Gore. So we were just on tour together and it was a fun thing to do. It was pretty natural.
So you made all the songs on tour?
We wrote most of the songs when we were on tour with Depeche Mode because Dave Gahan got sick after three days and cancelled like ten shows. So we were in Berlin and we pretty much wrote most of the album during that time. It all came together quite quickly, but then it took an extra year to produce.
Did you have any desire to start making music that would really kind of cross appeal to both clubs and maybe casual fans, or were you really just doing your own thing?
It was a reaction against electro. We started with techno and somehow we ended up by the second or third album becoming an electro act, which was never my intention because I’ve always been a techno person. Initially I didn’t mind because electro was really exciting seven years ago. Over the last few years it just got so nauseating that it really turned me off playing festivals and clubs and electro parties. It didn’t feel right. I just wanted to get as far away from that world and kind of start fresh. The best thing to do was to do something completely different, reset the controls. That doesn’t mean that the next album will probably be completely different again. We’ll probably find a balance now between our early material and what we’re doing now. It’s an ongoing process.
Have you heard any of the future bass stuff, like Kingdom and Nguzunguzu?
Yeah, I like that stuff.
I know a lot of people who are lighting a candle in the hope that these guys will be the death knell of cheesy club electro. Me as well, even though I doubt it. Cheese never dies.
I think electro really needs to move on. It’s been on loop now for many years. Something needs to develop. It’s good to hear that people are doing new things with the format.
A lot of times in Berlin you go to a party, and anytime it’s advertised as electro you walk in and you feel like you’re in 2006. Do people seriously still go, ‘Holy shit, Hot Chip’s ‘Over & Over’, right on! Oh wow, ‘Crimewave’, this party owns’? It’s that sad stuck-in-the-past mentality that happens so often in musical scenes, like goth or industrial.
Exactly. They were great at the peak but then when the music stopped becoming innovative and stop moving forward than the scene was dead. It’s funny how everything is always evolving. Techno can become a bit stuffy and sometimes becomes a bit same-y and it doesn’t really push the envelope sometime. But I think techno will definitely never die. It just needs to continue to evolve.
I’m a little bit of the odd man out in the office just because I came up listening to more punk and abstract music. I really never got into techno. I’m still not quite aware of any interesting producers that are really out there right now who are doing stuff beyond the typical….
Very loopy, one BPM the whole night?
Exactly. This drives me nuts. I can’t deal with it.
I share that feeling with you. Motor doesn’t really fit into that world, at the moment. With CLR, all the singles are being remixed by the top techno guys. All the singles have these great techno remixes which keep us in club land, while at the same time, obviously, we are reaching a much different audience with the CD, with the vocal tracks. Which is quite exciting. We kind of tapped into this whole different market, with the Depeche Mode crowd and everything. It’s kind of nice, actually, to step outside that box.
What kind of crowds do you usually get during shows?
The crowds we are getting now, like the Depeche Mode fans, are quite passionate. They’re not just like random techno people showing up. It’s nice to have these kind of fans that really follow you, instead of just subscribing to the scene you are in or the label. We’re getting a much different fan base on this album every day. I think it’s nice to have that opportunity to have your music heard by more people. It’s not as if we’ve compromised our sound. It’s still quite a challenging record for most people to listen to.
You mentioned that there were some really innovative techno producers. Who do you think would be top of your list of innovative techno people?
All the stuff that Perc is doing at the moment. He has his label Perc Trax. All his production is great because he’s taking techno away from the 4×4. He’s mixing up the beats. Perc is one of my favourite labels at the moment. Really great stuff if you like industrial tinged techno with some ambience, with some drone.
Industrial dance or industrial experimental?
Definitely industrial techno. It’s still DJ friendly techno, its just that the beats are shifting a little. I would definitely recommend checking him out.
Speaking of industrial, how did you get involved working with Douglas McCarthy?
We’ve been friends with Douglas since the beginning. He worked with us on the first Motor album.
Has he ever done any remixes for you?
We talked about swapping remixes because I really love his new solo album. I thought about doing a remix for him. There should probably be some kind of collaboration coming up soon.
Would you want to work again with more vocalists?
Yeah, for sure. I think now that we’ve done it is something we want to explore at least on a few tracks. We haven’t even thought about who those vocalists could be. I think it’ll just kind of happen. It’s usually how it happens, we just meet someone.
Yeah, like on tour, backstage, at the festival, we do a remix for someone. Then ask them to do a vocal. It’s something like that. We don’t really plan out. Like I said, it’s an ongoing process.