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Spektrum: Don’t Be (Kinda) Shy ::

Reported by Olly @ Trackitdown on September 25, 2006

“You’ve got a lot of bands these days that call themselves punks, and they act really angry because they are punk- all that ‘I’m punk, I’m angry, yeah’. It’s important to have something to be angry about.”

Sitting on the dusty ground in the garden on Hoxton Square on a warm Sunday afternoon, Spektrum singer Lola cuts a striking figure as she admits she hates both punk posers and today’s surface obsessed celebrity culture that allows such posturing fakes to get away with it.

“We are independent, because we don’t think the mainstream music people are going to be willing enough to put something like ‘Mayday’ out to the mainstream. I read an interview and someone said it had really simple lyrics and I thought ‘Bollocks!”” she continues.

The ‘Mayday’ she’s referring to is the band’s recent single (and album opener) which pays homage to the anti-capitalist demonstrators who braved armies of riot police in years gone past, with demos and squat parties a world she clearly relates to more than the Hoxton fashionistas scattered round the square.

“We are always being flabbergasted by these politicians dousing us with all their fantastic words and smokescreens when in reality we’re now living in a terror reign,” she says.

“We are living in a police state, but it’s a comfortable one. Even if it’s only a subtle thing, that’s what makes me angry, in a punky but not too aggressive way. It’s good to be aggressive sometimes anyway, because you can’t be sweet and light all time, can you?”

Spektrum drummer and percussionist Isaac Tucker is equally outspoken, though quieter as he gestures around at the people bunched up in groups catching the late summer sun in the centre of the square.

“If you take this place round here for example, a lot of these people are probably a little bit too cool to put anything political in their music. They are so cynical and sarcastic about everything already they are just like: Who cares? Whatever’,” he suggests.

 “We may as well get the message across because no one else seems to be doing it at the moment. It’s probably quite a good opening.”

The vehicle for their message is new album Fun At The Gymkhana, their first album since German duo Tiefschwarz catapulted them to clubland icon status in 2004, via their crossover energy packed remix of Kinda New. Both remain somewhat ambiguous about Tiefschwarz’s mix, with Lola grumbling  “I didn’t like it at first, but it’s grown on me.’

“It’s funny because even though I’m making club music, I’m not really a clubber, I’m an old school clubber, not a new one,” she explains.

“I’m a dancer as well so sometimes I get bored with the constant four to the floor, so I didn’t like that version at all initially. But then, everyone was saying it was brilliant and I was like ‘Really? Is it?’ “

Isaac, who spent much of the 90s making a living as a house DJ in New Zealand,  disagrees, saying ’from my perspective, I thought it was really good when I heard the remix. “Then I saw it being played in Fabric for the first time, saw everyone’s arms go up and everything and was like ’Wow, this is going to be big’, :he laughs.

Ironically, new single Don’t Be Shy is also already benefiting from a couple of its remixes, with George Demure’s version and in particular Tugg’s Cold Turkey Mix setting them up for another big club hit, though Isaac stresses their wider goals.

“We are live musicians and we play in a live band, but somehow we get associated with the dance scene ,” he explains. “That’s good but at the same time it would be nice to also be identified with a bit more of the indie crowd. I guess we are trying to straddle two climates.”

Skrufff: Starting with where Spektrum are at musically now, you’re six years into your career and have just finished the album, What do you see the style of Spektrum now?

Spektrum (Isaac): “The first album did really well though more in critical terms than record sales. This time we thought we’d try and expand it further and get a wider range of variety of songs on the album, the last one was a bit more dance floor I suppose and quite angry and punky. This one seems to have the same anger, but not so physically in the music. The music is a bit more chilled in some if it, there’s even a love song in there. Dare we say it?”

Skrufff: Between the four of you, are you all in the studio together all the time?

Spektrum (Lola): “No. Lots of people are doing other projects and stuff…so…

Sometimes the songs come out from jams, but we don’t really jam much as a band really. We either play or chill.”

Skrufff: How does it work with the songwriting? Are you sending each other parts?

Spektrum (Lola): “No, I generally write stuff anyway, so I’ve always got loads of bits of paper and stuff around me. Whether it’s working with Gabriel (synth programmer Gabriel Olegavich) or we are doing a jam, the song comes out that way really. We don’t actually sit in the studio and write together. We do it all at different times.”

Skrufff: Do you all have a clear, shared vision?

Spektrum (Lola): “No. It’s just what we do when we get together. I don’t think there was much planning, it’s just what we have done in the time we have given ourselves. That’s what we will come out with. We never try too hard. It’s just time and the fact that people are just all over the place that makes the album take such a long time to come together.”

Spektrum (Isaac): “It’s like if you have too many expectations about what the sound should be like at  the end, you are always going to get let down because there are so many other people involved and they have their own expectations. It’s more about the alchemy of what’s in the mix and where it goes.”

Skrufff: Is the plan to make Spektrum this global, touring, 24/7 machine?

Spektrum (Lola): “Kind of. I don’t see why not. It’s our career, our survival. For me, I need to work as much as possible and I want to, whether it’s with Spektrum or doing other things I want to go around the world and see the world with work and spread the message.”

Spektrum (Isaac): “It’s important for us to tour at the moment. We’ve never played in America or Japan yet. We’ve had plenty of requests to go to both of those countries but they have always fallen through, so I think it’s important that we actually get out there and do it.”

Skrufff: Are you on this mission to be famous?

Spektrum (Lola): “More to spread the word. I was going to go on a political tirade, then; about that freedom fighter thing, revolution in your mind and outside in the world. All the stuff that’s going on with England and America I think as I writer you want to say something about that. ”

Skrufff: Do you think people are open to these ideas?

Spektrum (Lola): “I hope so, because there were a lot of people at the march on Saturday (she attended an anti war march) . It felt really positive but at the same time you never know, because at the same time you think a lot of people are asleep and quite happy to conform. I live in this world as well and I like nice things too, but it’s like trying to change the outlook somehow.”

Skrufff: You broke through at the same time as electroclash, how much were you affected by that scene?

Spektrum (Isaac): “ “We weren’t necessarily inspired by it….”

Spektrum (Lola): “We were outside of, that was why.”

Spektrum (Isaac): “We kind of got cubbyholed (pushed) into it…”

Spektrum (Lola): “But we never got much from it, really.”

Spektrum (Isaac): “I thought it was really cool when I heard Fischerspooner, which was maybe a year or so before they got picked up by Ministry Of Sound. I thought that was a really cool album. We put our music out and people were saying we sounded like ESG so we thought we’d better look up on the internet who ESG are and had a listen and thought ‘Oh yeah, that’s cool, nice’ but it was really incidental and accidental. I’d say Teia our bass player was quite into electroclash whereas I liked it because I found it was really fresh, because I was sick of all the other dance music I was listening to. I’d gone from sub genre to subgenre hungering for something interesting and there wasn’t anything there. That’s kind of why I ended up playing with Spektrum because it was something that was really experimental and different.”

Skrufff: How long had you been in England for?

Spektrum (Isaac): “About six years. I was a musician and a DJ in New Zealand, and pretty much got as far as you could go at that time. I played at a lot of the big festivals.”

Skrufff: Playing house music?

Spektrum (Isaac): “Yeah, and I was making funky alternative house. I was also making a little bit of drum and bass as well, more jungly type eclectic stuff. I was working as  a radio DJ as well. I came here to London because I couldn’t get any further over there. You’ve only got a population base of 3 and a half million, even if you’ve played on a track that’s in the top ten, you are still making bugger all money from it. I just thought I might as well come over here and give it a whirl.”

Skrufff: I first came across you from Tiefschwarz’s remix of Kinda New, how do you view that track now?

Spektrum (Isaac): “ “If you are a clubber and you go out a lot and keep your head to the ground, what’s the new sound or what’s coming out, then I think you can see that that tune did a lot at the time for what was happening on the dance floors around the world and it paved the way for the big electro house sound in many ways. Still my biggest criticism of dance music is that after the mid nineties when people really started to try and cash in on the whole scene and you got your Pete Tongs and all those kind of people that are out there really making big money from the clubs and the outdoor illegal parties had been outlawed, what happened was that it got so fragmented into sub genres that even now a lot of the problem it seems is that people become too afraid to take the plunge and play music outside their own little sub genre.”

Spektrum (Lola): “Unless you go to a squat party….”

Spektrum (Isaac): “Yeah, you might hear everything, you might hear Cyndi Lauper mixed with Megadeth. The squat parties that we like to go to have got allsorts going on – reggae, drum and bass, ska, dancehall.”

Skrufff: Do you ever play in squat parties?

Spektrum (Isaac): “Yeah sometimes. I haven’t for a while.”

Skrufff: DJing?

Spektrum (Isaac): “Yeah. I try and play as much as I can but it depends on the situation. If I’m getting paid to play in a club and they are expecting banging electro or electro house then I’ll play that, but I’ll try and expand the brackets a bit here and there and throw some more guitary, rocky, garagy stuff in there. I try and squeeze at least two or three or four genres into a set. I always throw a couple of breaks tunes in there, because after a while it’s the same old house syndrome. People get a bit sick of it. You throw something like that and it suddenly ups the energy, but you don’t want to do too much of it because then it gets a bit too boyish. I try and cater for every sense.”

Skrufff: How much do you believe in destiny or fate?

Spektrum (Lola): “Oh wow. I don’t know. I think about that question often. I believe in both of them. You might have a chosen path – whether you want to do it or not is up to you because you still have a choice.”

Spektrum (Isaac): “I believe in destiny but I think I rely on fate.” 

Spektrum’s new album ‘Fun At The Gymkhana Club’ is out shortly on Nonstop Records.

Jonty Skrufff (