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||Dat Politics bring a sense of fun to the clicks, beeps, and cuts of glitch pop. Claude, Gaetan, and Vincent may be based in the industrial northern French town of Lille, but their sound marks the mood of the European post-electronic age. Recently Gaetan
and Claude crossed paths with avant-pop songster Momus in Paris.
Momus films the discussion at a mutual friend's apartment in the bastille quarter. vincent
was at home taking care of business in Lille.
MOMUS: For DAT Politics, the laptop is a musical instrument.
GAËTAN: The laptop is going to be as important in the history of music as the guitar. DAT Politics was conceived as a totally laptop-based project. The first time we played live with the three-laptop line-up, someone came up to us at the end and said, "Why don't you just press play and then leave the stage?"
MOMUS: But things can go wrong. And there's improvisation.
CLAUDE: When we play live, there's a lot that can go wrong. We each play on a different computer, so there are three different sources being combined. We don't use MIDI Musical Instrument Digital Interface so we have to keep in time with each other. If something goes wrong, we have to improvise and catch up. Sometimes, to keep it off balance, we'll put
a song we don't usually play into the set, maybe a cover, like a hardcore version of "Video Killed the Radio Star." We like to mess around, mix things up, do something savage.
MOMUS: Some of your music reminds me of the schizophrenic surrealism which seems native to Belgium Red Nose parades, Ensor paintings, that kind of stuff. I also hear it in groups like your Belgian friends Scratch Pet Land.
CLAUDE: Any schizo stuff probably happens because we're three people who have different ideas, moods, and personalities. But we're trying to bind them together into one project, one piece of music, and one design.
MOMUS: I think you integrate it all together pretty well. But there's still a channel-surfing playfulness that sets you apart. Were you video gamers as children?
GAËTAN We played electronic games like everyone else, but none of us were console collectors or anything. We've been told that we're very jumpy and impatient musicians. People hear a bit we're playing and say, "That should last longer!" But we've already moved on to the next idea.
MOMUS: I saw some American reviews which, even though they were positive, said that your sound could be a bit irritating at times. American culture is very fast moving, so it's funny that American critics would be uncomfortable with your speed.
CLAUDE: We like to create frenetic rhythms. That's why we get on so well with someone like Kid 606, who layers samples over beats in a pretty hectic way.
MOMUS: Maybe musicians in smaller towns make frenetic music because small-town life is slow-paced. You live in Lille that's a pretty small town.
GAËTAN It is very calm in Lille way too calm! But we're not originally from Lille. We come from the Champagne region about two hundred kilometers to the east. We moved to Lille for college. Living there, you have lots of time and no distractions.
MOMUS: And really low rents.
CLAUDE: That's true! And in France, there's a government program that subsidizes musicians. We can live comfortably without working.
MOMUS: Although you live in France, you seem closer to the Berlin scene than the Paris scene. The band Chicks on Speed, who are based in Berlin, put out your last album on their eponymous label.
GAËTAN We do have some friends in Berlin. We also feel close to groups like Goodie Pal in London, and A Musik in Cologne.
MOMUS: You've recently started your own small label, Ski-pp.
CLAUDE: Yes, and it's taking up all our time right now. In January we released an album by Felix Kubin, which he made when he was in his teens in Hamburg, using cassette tapes and synths. Now we're working on a Ski-pp compilation.
MOMUS: I love that Kubin album. It's like the great missing Neue Deutsche Welle album, but sung by a boy whose voice hasn't broken yet. What's the music-making process like for the three of you?
GAËTAN We meet up every day and play what we've been individually working on. Sometimes we mix two totally unrelated tracks, and then one of us records a keyboard part, someone does a vocal line, and someone chooses sounds. Finally, all three of us sit down in front of one computer and do post-production together.
MOMUS: Can we do an anatomy of a song, for instance "Pass Our Class?" It starts with the voice reading a very bureaucratic-sounding letter...
CLAUDE: Yes, that's Matmos, the experimental electronic duo from San Francisco. It's a real letter they received.
MOMUS: How did they end up on the album?
CLAUDE: We met them in San Francisco in 2000. Then we kept running into them in Europe, playing the same festival circuit. They came to Lille when they were touring with Björk, we all had lunch and everybody got drunk in the middle of the afternoon, and we proposed a collaboration. It was like a little holiday from touring for them. We gave them the main melody, and they adapted the text to fit.
MOMUS: The way the music is structured is really sophisticated and unpredictable there are lots of transitions at the beginning, with cross-fades and granulation, which create a kind of sound grain or sound dust.
GAËTAN We can't really re-create that delicate editing when we play live, so in concert, it's a lot more raw.
MOMUS: Are there any politics in DAT Politics?
CLAUDE: We don't consciously put social commentary in our music, but there is a spirit of autonomy and community. Often we seem to be losing ourselves in a kind of parallel universe of music „ record sleeves, concerts, funny images, and art. We've built this highly specific world around ourselves as a fortress against the regular world. Maybe one day we'll do a project which is more political...
MOMUS: You could call it Politics Politics! But the act of building a parallel universe is political in itself it gives people a glimpse of formal possibilities that might one day become social possibilities. I sound like an aesthetics professor now, so let's change the subject. What about DAT, Digital Audio Tape? It's a forgotten digital technology, a kind of lost utopia. The idea of nostalgia for the digital is funny. Nostalgia is usually the province of guitar bands, while computer bands gaze boldly into the future. Are you optimistic about the future?
CLAUDE: Not really!
MOMUS: But the music sounds optimistic, childlike, playful.
CLAUDE: That could be optimism, or it could be seen as a wishful regression to childhood.
MOMUS: How do you want your sound to develop in the future?
CLAUDE: We just did a track called ñBubble Queenî that included some singing, for Mille Plateaux's compilation Clicks and Cuts 3. We're really pleased with it. The people at Mille Plateaux want to move things more in the direction of digital pop and digital R&B. That's the place our stuff is going towards too. Our last album, Plugs Plus, was a move in that direction.
MOMUS: My new album adds a sprayed-on layer of glitch textures to fairly classical song structures. But I have the impression that you're moving back from a songless digital frontier while I'm starting to move towards that. You start with jams, then build up more and more complex structures by juxtaposing or deforming parts until distinct sections start emerging.
CLAUDE: Yeah, we don't use the standard verse-chorus structure. We do things our own way, maybe because we actually don't know how to write songs! No bridges, no signaled solos. If we do put a solo in, it's an accident.
MOMUS: What would I find if I came and rummaged through your record collections? Gainsbourg? Bowie?
GAËTAN Bowie, yes. No French chanson, though. We always refer back to the music that has touched us. The classics for us are people like Lou Reed and John Cale. Michael Jackson's Thriller was the first record Claude bought! That's all part of our background, and it might jump out at any time.
MOMUS: Philip Sherburne, the American critic who wrote the sleeve notes for Clicks and Cuts 2, had a conversation with Taylor Dupree, the minimal electronica musician, who said it was just a question of time before an artist like Björk or Madonna put out a glitch pop record. If someone like that approached you to produce them, what would you do?
GAËTAN If they could take the music as it is, fine. But it doesn't usually happen that way. Even the collaboration between Björk and Matmos on Vespertine didn't work
like that, unfortunately. It would be great if more people came around
to this deconstructed type of music, but we don't want to have to put it through a filter in order to reach MTV or the radio. We appreciate the difference between the electronica that reaches a big public and the electronica that stays underground. It may be starting to change now tastes change, but who knows how long it's going to take?