|At last, it's Low Motion Disco
The mysterious chillout duo comes clean to RA's Todd L. Burns about their working process, why deaf people love them and what to call their music.
"I love lying," laughs Reeto. That may be the only thing we know for certain about Low Motion Disco, the shadowy edits/covers/whatevers project that the producer helms along with his wife. Sure, if you read his website, you'll find out that Reeto loves lying because he's an acclaimed fiction author in his native Switzerland. And that he loves cheese. And that he once took acting classes in New York City. (There we go with the lying yet again.)
But we can't shake the sense that Reeto is messing with us a little bit. Perhaps it's the group's manifesto: "We tend to be the strange kind of party visitors, the ones that rather stand around and watch people dance than dance...never the less we want to be a part of the party, therefore we developed a way to dance while not moving. We do it standing at a bar, or sitting….while doing this, we groove and shake as hell, it just doesn't show on the outside. This technique is the basis of all we do. We call it low motion disco."
It sounds goofy on the face of it, of course, but once you get a listen to Keep It Slow, Low Motion's debut album, it all begins to make sense. This is music you can't quite dance to, music made for grooving while sitting on the sofa and dancing to in your mind. Whether it's the dreamy, dubby cover of "Things Are Gonna Get Easier;" the floating, Robert Wyatt-sampling "At Last I Am Low;" or "East Mountain Low," a song that takes elements from freak folk duo MV & EE and (possibly) Rihanna, it's...well...it's Low Motion Disco.
We caught up with the mysterious Reeto to talk about his early editing days in the '70s and '80s, the good vibes emanating from the duo's music and why revelers at Zurich's Lethargy Festival couldn't figure out whether he had started his set or not. We apologize in advance for any lies that he may have told us.
How did you get introduced to electronic music?
I started playing the flute when I was a kid. And everything went from there basically. My parents were into music, and, I always did music. Classical music in the beginning, and when I first heard about hip-hop, I was blown away. [laughs] There was lots of soul music at home, as well. When you listen to soul with your parents, and early hip-hop when you're a teenager...and disco, which is a natural side effect of those two things. Well, that's how it all started off.
When did you first started getting into hip-hop? And how? I imagine it was scarce in Switzerland.
Yeah, when you grow up in Switzerland like I did, it was pretty hard to get a hold of those records. We didn't even have radio stations playing that stuff, so as soon as you met people who were into it, you'd start to exchange different sources on how to listen to it. We met like on a daily basis, at some guy's cellar, where we tried to scratch on an unscratchable record player. [laughs] We also tried to build a record player that you could scratch on, and that you could change speeds without noticing so that we could mix. The first edits I did were soul and disco edits on my dad's Revox, with scissors. [laughs]
And when was this?
That was like in the late '70s, early '80s. That was the only way to do something like that back then. My dad taught me how to edit on a tape, and that's the way I started to fumble about with music.
Do you remember the first edit that you made?
Absolutely not. [laughs] It must have been my sister singing or something. I was simply doing recording, editing, everything. You could even do echoes when you looped some recordings on the Revox, you could do dubby, spacey echoey things on there. That's what I was really fond of, but all those tapes are gone now. I usually edited very random stuff and tried to extend it so that I could fit an extra pole into the system. We would loop it over that pole—I used an umbrella stand, for instance—that I would place next to the tape recorder so that we could make the loop much longer. It was all around and would start to repeat itself, but not in a very short way.
That sounds similar to what Brian Eno was doing with Music for Airports.
Yes, exactly. I grew up with that record. My dad was into that stuff: Brian Eno, Talking Heads.
"He told me that he wanted to do the record covers, because my music has good vibes."
What gave you the idea to do an edit? Did you just wish that some parts had been taken out of the song?
Exactly, yeah. It's always like, "This would be such a great song if that part where she sings wouldn't be so long." And with a Revox tape, it was really easy to do. It was just a question of listening and dropping that felt pen at the exact right second on the tape, so that you knew where to cut it. The difficult part was, if you like something, you have to record it twice, or three or four times, and then put those edits together. And in the beginning, I remember, my very first edits that I did, just so I didn't lose track of the different bits and pieces that I cut out, I put them on a board with magnets. [laughs] So all my edits were having these blank dots in between. That was a bit difficult...
That made them very distinctive, I'm sure.
And unlistenable. [laughs] Yes.
You were doing these edits back in the early '80s. So, you've been in bands and doing other things before Low Motion Disco, I'm sure.
Yeah. I was in a new wave band. I did a couple of silly things with art students. (In your 20s, you start to come up with whole new genres of music. Or, at least, that's what you think.) I did loads of things: I was a singer, I did hip-hop. Just trying to always keep track with stuff that was keeping my interest, musically.
And, then, when I first heard about MySpace, I was blown away. That's why I put up a couple of tracks up there. I actually forgot about it after I put the first tracks up and the next time I was on I had four different labels asking for record contracts.
Wow. And Eskimo was one of those labels?
Did you know of Eskimo before you came to...
Yeah, of course, that's why I wanted to deal with them. I had probably 70% or 80% of their back catalog sitting around in my studio, so it was absolutely clear for me that we were going to work together. And, it's perfect, because I can literally do whatever I want. I came up with all of the artwork and everything, which was really important to me.
So you're doing all the artwork for the group?
No. It's two friends of mine that I met when my wife was pregnant with our first child. We met them at birth preparation lessons, and that's how we became friends. The fun thing about it is, they both work together, and the guy was born, what's the right word, when you don't hear?
Yeah, he was born deaf. But he listens to music by holding his hand in front of the speaker. It's very interesting to talk about music with him. He told me that he wanted to do the record covers, because my music has good vibes. I was really flattered. [laughs]
That's amazing! They are really distinctive covers even for Eskimo, who's known for their record design. Have they done more work with other people?
Yeah, they have done loads of stuff, but never record covers. And all the covers are usually from paintings that are two to three meters big, like really huge, and they just shrink them down to the size of the cover. But I really love them. There's going to be a new one coming out, a 12-inch of "The Low Murderer Is Out at Night," and he has a wonderful black kind of cover. There is an interesting remix by these cheesy Russian guys named An-2 and it has a remix by Mark E on it, as well. I think it's coming out in October.
Are you a musician full time?
I'm an author, actually. I write, but I get probably fifteen writer's blocks per hour, so I work in parallel. I literally have two screens in front of me. I write on the small one, and on the bigger one, I just fumble about with music, and try to come up with something that keeps my interest, or distracts me enough so I can write again. I did a book that came out at about the same as the Low Motion Disco album.
Is it non-fiction? Or fiction?
It's as fiction as you possibly can get. I love lying.
"I got asked four times if I had
any idea when Low Motion Disco
was going to come out."
Let's talk about the record for a moment. To be honest, I don't even what to call these things. Are they edits? Covers? What would you call what you do?
The good thing about doing music is, you don't have to find out what you actually do. You don't have to label it, you don't have to name it, you can just do it. Everybody else have to come up with terms, or invent words for it. I just play around with samples usually that I like, and then build up whole new songs around them. Sometimes you wouldn't even know the sample was in there if you knew the original song, and other times, yeah, the song sounds just like a cover. Or, rarely—because I'm an author, I care about lyrics a lot—I will cut out the lyrics of a song that I like, and use that part. And repeat it. I love repetition.
You said your wife was also part of the group. What does she do?
She knows. That's basically all she does. She knows what's good, she knows what isn't. Sometimes you lose yourself, when you work, especially when you work long hours at night. You start to like things that are not good at all. And, if you return to the studio in the morning, you'll find out that this was probably the worst piece of crap you ever did, and then you start losing your direction and everything.
She's your editor.
She's my editor, and she watches the kids while I'm doing silly stuff. And sometimes she sings a line or two or plays a couple of chords or whatever. So, I couldn't do it without her. Without her I would just be an author, with no time to do music. And, because of her I can do it. She's an important part of the group.
Do you have live plans?
Yeah. I'm looking for some musicians that I'll have the faith in to let them go do their own thing with it. It'll have a new name. It'll be called Low Motion Disco Machine, and they're going to go tour for me. Because I don't really...I'm not the stage kind of guy. I don't like that as much. And I don't have the time, because I have two kids. I don't have the time to tour. So the Disco Machine is going to do it.
It seems like from your bio that playing live would not be something you'd ever want to do.
Yeah. I play records. I always DJd, and I still like that, but not if I had to do it for my sole source of income. Just recently I saw Prins Thomas' profile on MySpace, and it says that his location was something along the lines of "at a cheap hotel near the place where the local hipsters go to." So, he doesn't actually know where he is probably, and I don't like that.
When I play in Switzerland, it's usually for a couple friends or something. I don't really like the party thing where you're coming home when your kids are having breakfast, and saying, "Hello kids, Daddy's going to go to sleep. He'll be back up when you go to bed." I just don't like that situation.
So, I try not to play too many parties. Just a couple. I did a big festival here in Switzerland in August called Lethargy, which is at The Street Parade. It's this big European techno event and they do a huge party with that called Energy, and there's an underground party that's been happening for like ten years now, parallel to that, called Lethargy.
How did it go?
Well, the plan was to do it together with a couple of classical ballet dancers. But we weren't going to do classical choreography. We were talking a lot, and the thing was, they'd never heard of my music, and they weren't going to listen to it until they went onstage. They were just going to react to the music, with the background of what they knew from what we'd been talking about.
What did you talk about with them?
We talked a lot about perception, and how to try to get things transported to other people that you care about, and how to be an artist, that can touch people in a positive way, basically. Yeah. And sports. And drugs. And drug control. [laughs]
But, unfortunately, when we got there we found that Emperor Machine, who were playing right after me, were going to be using the whole stage. So we cleared off a couple of tables and stuff so that at least one dancer had a chance to move a little bit. I ended up on a bar stool with my Pacemaker, so this girl was warming up for two hours, but not moving all that much at the same time.
It was great because it was dark and we were dressed in all black and people were a bit confused. People must have thought I was a stagehand or something, because I got asked like four times if I had any idea when Low Motion Disco was going to come out. All I could do was show them the Pacemaker and tell them that they were playing right now. Probably only half of the people understood what was going on. It was fun for us, though. [laughs]
Published / Friday, 05 September 2008