Black Cab: ‘Rock Seems A Little Too Confining Now’
News posted Wednesday, November 16 2011 at 10:00 AM.
Related: Black Cab.
Black Cab will headline the M+N-curated Tote 30th birthday gig in Melbourne this Friday – but not as you might remember them.
The duo of Andrew Coates and James Lee have ditched guitars in favour of a electronic set-up that will feature synths, samples and live sequencing. They’re also applying this approach to their fourth album, the follow-up to 2009’s Call Signs.
Ahead of The Tote gig, which also features The Laurels, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and Iowa, M+N spoke to Coates about the shift in sound and direction.
So what’s prompted the change?
The line-up and sounds were getting totally stale, so it’s time for a change. Rock seems a little too confining now. James and I have always been pretty keen on electronic music, and he’d been hankering to ditch the guitar and work with keyboards and electronics. We adapted some of our old tracks to the new format to get things started and have been working in new tracks at a few low-key gigs as a three-piece. Trying to write with the whole band was getting too hard as well, and the recent full-band recordings were not working. We’ve since ditched all band sessions and have started again from scratch. It’s much easier with just a few of us.
The last two singles [‘Sexy Polizei’ and ‘Combat Boots’] were very programmed driven so we were keen to see if we could make electronic music central to live sound, which we can do with Steve's real-time sequencers and live synth playback. The last show at The East [Brunswick Club in Melbourne], despite being a sell-out, felt dead on stage. There were bad vibes all round so it was time for a change. The other guys are all excellent musos, but it was clear it was time to go somewhere new.
Who’s in the new incarnation?
James on synths, me moaning a bit, plus Steve Law working real-time analog sequences and treatments, which has always been a highlight live for me.
You’ve played a couple low-key shows in this format. How has the change been going down with fans?
A few folks have said they prefer the old guitar driven sound but we're also seeing some new faces at gigs. No money in music so may as well please ourselves, I reckon. And if people hate us that's fine too.
What direction will the new album take? Have you started work on it?
New album will be totally driven by analog sequences. Recent singles ‘Sexy Polizei’ and ‘Combat Boots’ showed the way, and these just didn't feel right live with the full band and we can now take them somewhere new each time. We’ve been tracking a bunch of new stuff, including a 20-minute analog reworking of ‘Hearts On Fire’ [from 2006’s Jesus East] which sounds pretty cool.
Has it been the most difficult of the four LPs to conceptualise?
Not really. It’s harder to find somewhere good with six musicians all wanting a piece of the thing. Easier to strip it back. We're kind of obsessed right now with 1970s East German swimmer Kornelia Ender. We might base the album around her. Could be a double as well.
What can people expect from The Tote show?
It’ll be raw. Lots of mistakes and fuck-ups; taking some risks with technology; and two new tracks. They will likely be shambolic but hopefully interesting and different.
Do you have a favourite tote memory?
Can't forget the stage carpet pre-reno: a sticky stale mix of sweat, beer, vomit and dirt. Made the mistake of going barefoot one gig and that was the last time I ever did that anywhere - every step kinda stuck to the carpet. Closest thing in Melbourne now is every square inch of The East. Tote mics also had a funky aroma of beer breath, old saliva and rank metal. Singing through them was a bit like bad, drunken sex.
M+N CURATES THE TOTE’S 30 BIRTHDAY
Friday, November 18
The Tote, Melbourne, VIC
w/Black Cab + King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard + The Laurels + Iowa