Ladytron have been going at it for ten years, shaping their own universe of keyboards and urban scenes full of taciturn souls. Not satisfied with releasing a compilation of their best work, “The Best Of 00-10” (Nettwerk, 2011), this week the band are coming out with a new album, “Gravity The Seducer”. We spoke to Daniel Hunt about the record, which he says is more melancholic than usual. All in all, this is a good time to let the man talk about the career of the critically acclaimed Liverpool band.
Is it an achievement for you, ten years as a band?
When we started, we didn't think we were going to last this long. Though the truth is that what has given meaning to the band has been the release of every album, rather than time itself. Our perspective has always been short-term, with our eyes on the next album.
What’s your formula?
The secret is to create every time we want to and try not to get bored, sounding the same on every album. But the fact that we've never felt any kind of pressure has also helped. We've never been a mainstream band for the masses. The audience has discovered us little by little, through different channels. There's no contract, so to speak, with our audience, because it's fairly small. I would like to think that that is the formula that enables us to go on doing what we like for another decade.
A few months ago you released “Best Of 00-10”, a compilation of your biggest hits so far. Did you release it to settle the score with your past or to start a new chapter?
Well, it was the right time, what with the anniversary and that. It's a good time to remember what we've done so far, although on our new album, “Gravity The Seducer”, we do show a new side to our music.
How would you define this new style? For example, “White Elephant” is the dreamiest track you've ever done.
That's exactly the direction it's going. It's the perfect music to let yourself go with and for us to set a new goal and establish a different image of our work.
Is it hard for you to choose the perfect track-list?
We usually record more than we're going to use and it's always hard to discard tracks. The tough part though is to make the songs work together, as a whole. I would say that on this album we did it better than ever, every song has a very distinct, melancholic feel.
Now that we're looking back, are you one of those artists who don't want to have anything to do with some of the tracks as time goes by?
Not really. One of the biggest challenges for any artist is to know when the thing you're making is finished. Some people take six years to record an album and they're never satisfied with the result. We've learned with each album not to step into the trap of extreme perfectionism. Furthermore, these days there are many ways to let your tracks be heard as soon as you've recorded them. It's very useful to find out in real time what the first reactions to your new tracks are.
Apologies for the obvious question, but what are your best and worst memories of the past decade?
You're excused. We don't really care about great achievements or anything. In my case, I remember things like the first time I heard one of our tracks on the radio, or the first copy of our last record fresh from the factory. I don't need a lot. Probably our most cherished memories are some of our gigs, like the first time we played in Bogotá or in China. We remember emotional things, not the time we played on TV or some great review. Regarding the bad times, we're a fairly optimistic bunch. When something bad happens we just forget about it as soon as possible and move on.
At first, concerts would give you a headache . . .
When we started out we had no intention of ever playing live, we just wanted to work in the studio. It wasn't until our second album that we noticed there were people interested in seeing us play live, in countries like the United States. At that point, we felt forced to do so. Also, before “Light & Magic” (2002) we didn't really work as a complete band, we were all combining the rehearsals with other jobs. When we got to that point we started to fully concentrate on the music, we knew we had to go on tour, whether we liked it or not.
You also didn't want to be seen as part of the then emerging electroclash scene.
The problem was that we didn't feel part of it. That whole thing started as a simple festival in New York and after that, a whole scene was created around it artificially. At the time we got angry when people put us in that category. Nobody agreed on what it really was and yet they always labelled us as electroclash. I remember a stupid article in NME saying that we were the future of electroclash. I got really tired of reading stuff like that. And furthermore, I seriously doubt that people had to dig through the electroclash section of their record stores to find our records. It was hilarious, really. In hindsight I have to admit that it had its perks, the short time it existed. One of the good things was that in small cities where nothing ever happened, suddenly parties and clubs started to emerge focussing on electronic pop.
Though earlier you said that Ladytron don't reach the masses, perhaps paradoxically you collaborated with Christina Aguilera on her release “Bionic”. What happened in the end? Of the three tracks you recorded, only two appeared on the album - and only as bonus tracks on the special edition.
That wasn't our fault; it was a decision made by the album's producers. The stuff Goldfrapp did with her wasn't released at all. We had a good time and it was fantastic to work with Christina. But once the work in the studio was done, it was out of our hands. I suppose there was a series of conservative commercial decisions behind it, according to which it was decided that it could be too risky when it came to releasing the album.
Coinciding with the release of their new album “Gravity The Seducer” and the tenth anniversary of the band, we spoke to Ladytron about their past..