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Ratatat Interview – God is in the TV

Ratatat Interview

By Bill Cummings

God Is In The TV

New York Electronic double act Mike Stroud and Evan Mast better known as Ratatat released their new album LP3 through XL earlier this year, the follow up to 2006′s Classics and 2004′s self-titled debut. Since their last full released they’ve built a strong reputation as remix artists working on Bjork’s Wanderlust and on a track for Animal Collective culminating in the release of the second in their acclaimed Remixes series, featuring bootleg remixes of Notorious BIG and Young Buck among others. Remixes Volume II also featured exclusive new freestyles from Beans (Warp) and Despot (DefJux) and is currently available for free download on the band’s site, www.ratatatmusic.com.

The new album LP3 came together in a matter of weeks after the duo – were asked to produce some tracks for their friend White Flight who introduced them to Old Soul Studios.

Old Soul is a large old house in the small town of Catskill in upstate New York. A veritable treasure trove of keyboard instruments, from a grand piano and harpsichord through to a mellotron and Wurlitzer. Pretty much all of the instruments at Old Soul made it onto LP3 giving the record a much broader palette of sounds. The band also decided to mix the album in a studio for the first time, heading to Trout in Brooklyn, NY to mix the entire record down onto 1/4inch tape.

And the GIITTV verdict on LP3? ‘Ratatat have always made music which just so happens to be electronic, working outside of the conventions of electro – club bangers were occasional and though they did make remixes, these were slower tempo hip hop efforts rather than reworkings of whatever was popular on dancefloors of the time. Sweeping guitars (that were actual guitars rather than the synthesised lot) and an ear for perfectionist production led Ratatat to form a sound suited to home-listening rather than at a club, and LP3 takes this approach even further, rather taking the easy route of heading in a more mainstream direction. It’s easy to admire the musicianship of Ratatat but ultimately there’s not much else to do when you listen to LP3, as with no groove, few hooks and no vocals to grab you, it ends up being not a lot more than background music. Decent background music, admittedly: but background music nonetheless.’

We caught up with one half of Ratatat – guitarist Mike Stroud – for a chatette:

Hi there how are you?

Hi, I’m good, a little sleepy. How are you?

What’s your name and what do you do?

My name is Mike Stroud and I play guitar and some harpsichords, pianos, tablas etc. in Ratatat.

When did you meet as an act?

We started making music together in 2001, just recording some joke songs for fun at first.

Who would you pinpoint as your main musical influences?

Lately, baroque and classical music. Schubert’s 8th Symphony is my new favorite. I also love old rock n’ roll bands like The Kinks, The Zombies, Queen, especially Brian May. We’re both huge hip hop fans. We got to meet Wu-Tang Clan the other night and Ghostface Killah is probably my favorite rapper of all time, so that was really exciting.

Can you describe your sound in five words?

The exact opposite of jazz.

What can you tell me about your label? How did you end up working with XL?

We were discovered in 2003 by Matt Thornhill at XL. He had heard two of our songs on our website and I met him in London and gave him a couple more songs to listen to, and that was it.

I feel really lucky to have been picked up by XL because they’ve got a lot of great acts and they let us do basically whatever we want. They’re also good friends to us now.

What can fans expect from your live show? Who is supporting you?

The tour we’re on right now is a bit strange because there isn’t a supporting act for most of the songs. It seems like we’re doing a bunch of club nights where there’s only one band. Fans who haven’t seen us before should know that we don’t stand on stage with a laptop and send emails, I play guitar mostly, Evan plays bass, drums occasionally, and autoharp, and we also have a keyboard player. The show is pretty dancey and loud right now.

Can you tell us about your new record?

The main thing about our new record is that it’s the first time we ever went into a proper studio to record. The studio was called Old Soul and it’s in this really boring suburban town in upstate New York called Catskill. It’s more a less a mansion filled with random instruments like a grand piano, harpsichord, mellotron, tons of different vintage organs, drums, etc. It seemed like a mansion anyway. We had been used to recording in tiny apartments in Brooklyn with just a few instruments at our disposal. I think the excitement of having so much space all of a sudden, along with tons of new instruments, made for a really fun and spontaneous recording session. We wrote and recorded a new song just about every day we were there. There’s a bunch of new organ sounds for us, and much more live percussion on this record.

Do you like touring? What do you like to listen to on your tourbus? What do you like to do on your days off?

Yeah, touring’s great. It’s much nicer if you have a tour bus because all the traveling gets pretty exhausting. We’re in a splitter now, which is basically just a van, so we listen to the driver’s choice. I usually don’t know what we’re listening too. I’ve been listening on headphones to two bands a lot, The Idle Race, which is Jeff Lynne’s first band, and White Flight.

What do you think about the new music download revolution? How is it changing the business?

I’m probably the least business minded person in the music business, but it seems that it’s becoming harder and harder to earn money as a band. The money seems to come mostly from touring now, and licensing as well. I don’t expect to make much money at all from record sales the way that we might have in the 90s or earlier. It feels kind of weird selling a song to a car commercial or something like that, but it pays the bills.

Since my site is called God Is In The TV what’s your favourite TV show?

Hmmm, I love that show “Freaks and Geeks”. My favorite of all time is “Twin Peaks”.

What are your future plans?

Eat lunch, take a nap. Hopefully make a couple more records and buy a house somewhere.

Thanks for your time

Thanks a lot.

Ratatat album released their album LP3 in July through XL recordings.

Evan made a video for the Ratatat single Mirando – you may recognise it from the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Predator.

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