2008 has seen the duo garner significant radio play and chart success for their dance floor bombs, many of which you can download over the next month on RA for free. Each week we’ll exclusively host two singles from the mini-album for you to download straight onto your iPod and get your dose of French-tinged, British indie electro flavour.
autoKratz live at Dour Festival
RA chats with autoKratz
Despite your apparent blog ubiquity, I haven't seen much in the way of biographical information about autoKratz. Did you grow up in London, Russell? What were you like as a kid? Were you always a music nerd?
Russell Crank: I’m actually a Mancunian currently prostituting myself to London. I came down from Manchester a few years ago, as I was a bit frustrated with the lack of new ideas coming from Manchester’s music scene and its persistent over reliance on its own nostalgia. I feared that the very things that had made Manchester the most culturally significant British city in terms of youth culture from the '80s/early '90s were becoming its albatross. I am still massively influenced from the Manchester music I was brought up on; Joy Division, The Fall, and the Stone Roses, and in electronic terms 808 State, Sub Sub, and the impact of the Hacienda (although I'm a decade too young to have gone!); but the reason these bands were so special and made their home such a unique city was that they were new, exciting, and innovative. I just don't really think the city has that drive to move things forward anymore.
I was force fed music by my brothers from before I could walk, and dragged along to festivals since around the same time, so I suppose I’ve always been addicted to new sounds.
You mentioned recently in an interview that the last record you bought was a copy of The Fall's Code Selfish, Russell. What other bands have influenced your sound that might surprise the casual listener?
RC: I really love The Fall. I actually booked them for a party of mine and would have to describe when Mark E. Smith (a particular hero of mine) slapped me across the face as my proudest moment to date. For a man so mad to make consistently fantastic albums, and at the quantity he gets them out, is pretty remarkable. Another massive influence of mine is Devo; I love the depth of what they do, the movement they created for themselves, the amazing combination of electronics and guitars and how it all still sounds so fresh and exciting now.
Recenlty I’ve got right back into all the shoegaze stuff of the early/mid '90s in a massive way. Stuff like My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse, Ride, and Slowdive. I really love all that wall of sound guitars and subdued, calming vocals. And we’ve started using some spacey guitars in a couple of tracks and especially in the live show.
But how all these influence the music we make; I really don't think they do, as we don't try to emulate anyone. David and I need to make music we find interesting and original or we couldn't do it. We don't set off with any purpose in mind, we just write what we write. I suppose Daft Punk, early Underworld and Kraftwerk are the most relevant reference points, but we really don't try to sound like anyone.
You talked in the same interview about how Daft Punk at Glastonbury changed your life. Tell us about that show.
RC: I've been going to Glastonbury every since I was five. It's just always been such a massive part of my life, and I suppose it's the place I feel most comfortable, a bit like home in a way. Every year it’s always the most amazing experience for me; I just love the variety and eclecticism of the place, the music, and the people.
I went along to see Daft Punk in 1997 in the Dance Tent, and would probably have to say that's the first time I really understood electronic music properly, and what it can do. It was probably the most significant gig of my life cos I knew then I wanted to understand how to make music like that. Since then I’ve been obsessed with combining the freshness and originality of electronic sounds with depth and meaning. And that's important to autoKratz; not just making people dance - trying to get something across on other levels as well.
So for this year to play in the same dance tent at Glastonbury was really like a realization of what I’ve always wanted to do.
You've said that the AutoKratz name is based on a shared love of Orwell among the two of you. Are you guys reading a lot while on tour? Any good books that you can recommend?
David Cox: I have just been introduced to Yukio Mishima, a Japanese author who killed himself in the '70s by hari-kiri. My favourites so far are The Temple of the Golden Pavilion and The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. The prose is breathtakingly beautiful, but also manages to have such an exciting pace. Genius.
How did you hook up together?
RC: We met in a scuffle outside a nightclub when I felt really worse for wear, and ended up vomiting hysterically onto an innocent bystander's new shoes, and that was David. In an understandably hostile response, he raised his fists and poised for a brawl. I was cowering bracing myself, until in a rare moment of goodwill David paused and calmed himself having noticed my Devo t-shirt. We got talking about music, and realised that we weren’t so different in what we liked, and more importantly what we wanted to make.
What caused your decision to start making music with this particular sound? Were you guys making other types of music before this?
DC: I became aware of the sound from hearing the odd track when out clubbing. I then learned that a lot of these tracks were on Kitsuné. I just loved the harshness and the melodies. So when we first started writing, a lot of those influences started creeping in.
RC: The old fashioned way actually. We started off doing some shows in grotty east London warehouses, and as we started to get noticed we got a demo onto their desks.
DC: Kitsuné were THE label we wanted to be on. The creativity within the label is something I have never seen before. From music to art and fashion, it's really exciting to be around. The thing that strikes me is the diversity, which again is what makes the label special. They don't pressure us at all with expectations of a certain style or anything, more of a "as long as it's amazing" attitude.
RC: They are very open and trusting in the directions we chose. But we also love their input as at Kitsuné you have a group of people who have been central to some of the biggest electronic projects ever (Daft Punk) and some of the most creative people I have ever met in music. They’ve just got a passion for new music which I find inspiring; always wanting to move forward, and not merely finding a sound and monopolizing it like so many labels do nowadays. I think the indie labels whose reputation stands the test of time are those who move forward with new directions; such as Factory, Warp, and Mute; people who are compelled to support new things.
What's up with your website? It looks like a blood cell under a microscope at the moment.
RC: It's actually a close-up of our DNA. Abake are a group of artists that are part of Kitsuné and Maki there has worked hard on developing the ideas of autoKratz through our artwork. Through all our releases you can see a story developing in the artwork exploring the ideas of autoKratz and the future as seen by Orwell. It gradually shows the growth of autoKratz from a genetic formula, to our DNA and eventually autoKratz as a pharmaceutical conglomerate. Creating imagery is central to what we want to do, to express ideas of what autoKratz means.
Kitsuné is a fashion label, as well as a record label. What's the most expensive piece of clothing that you own?
DC: Dunno... I find it crass to talk about how much things are worth. It's what it means to you that counts. We're Russ n Dave not Posh n Becks. Though Russ has recently had quite a spectacular tit job.
Why are cops always shutting down your shows?
DC: Because we're too loud. We shake buildings to their foundations making them unsafe. This is apparently is frowned upon.
Tell us about how the live show works when the cops don't shut it down.
RC: We work to make our live shows unlike any other electronic act you have ever seen. Live we use machines, guitars, and vocals, and play with more of a rock & roll approach. I think it’s vitally important live to express energy and drive, and that's something essential to reach an audience. I’m bored of watching electronic musicians stuck behind banks of machines on tables pressing buttons. We both properly go for it on stage, because we really want to show the energy in the music.
What's up next for you?
RC: We’re off on the road continuously across Europe and the UK until the end of the year, with a US tour looking likely in November; with Japan and Australia dates to follow around Christmas and in the New Year. And our debut album of new material will drop in 2009.