“It’s probably an exorcism…” The Big Interview: Ladytron’s Daniel Hunt

Image courtesy Ladytron 2018

On a most amicable hiatus since 2011, Ladytron return to Liverpool tonight ahead of the release of next year’s eponymous sixth album. Mike Pinnington caught up with the band’s Daniel Hunt on the eve of a tour to support the new material…

Formed in Liverpool in 1999, Ladytron (Mira Aroyo, Daniel Hunt, Helen Marnie and Reuben Wu) emerged at the turn of the century against a backdrop of drab indie and pop hits – Elton John’s Candle in the Wind was the best-selling track that year. It goes without saying, then, that their sound – a lush electro shoegaze mashup – was a breath of icy fresh air.

Their E.P.s, Miss Black and Her Friends (1999), Mu-Tron EP (2000) and Commodore Rock (2000), were followed by their first long-player, 604, in 2001. On the first of February 2019, they release their long-awaited and self-titled sixth album, and tonight they return to play Liverpool for the first time since 2011. Ahead of that gig, I spoke to one of the band’s founders, Daniel, about getting the band back together, new creative directions and, of course, the new record.

The Double Negative: You’ve been away a while. Is it good to be back?

Daniel Hunt: It’s later than we’d intended – various aspects of our lives changed, so we knew we were going to take a break. But we imagined it was only gonna be about three years, but certain things like family and changing location – y’know, Reuben and I both changed hemispheres – so even though… I found some notes from about six years ago, about planning for the next record, and at that point I thought we were gonna have one out by the end of 2013, or something like that. [In the end] we came together to start working on the record in 2016 … the gap doesn’t sound as drastic as seven years to us.

“It feels like the work of a different person. I think this is natural”

Shifts in lives, changes of location… Have you managed to pick up where you left off? How’s it been?

We’ve all grown. To some extent, you’re different people, but it’s been really quite straightforward. I think the other things that we’ve done creatively – inside and outside of music – it’s only improved our abilities. Even our perspective, y’know? I mean, it’s been surprisingly easy. Everyone’s been asking a similar question – ‘is it strange to be back together?’ – but what I’d describe as strange is it’s far more straightforward than I’d anticipated it to be. Even making the record, there’s phases in an album’s production, if you haven’t done it for a while, that you forget about. It’s maddening when the attention to detail and pedantry kicks in over mastering and things like this: ‘god I’d forgot all about it’. So, aspects like that, the technical side, I’d forgotten about. The creative process of making the record – the recording, the production, the mixing and everything else – incredibly straightforward, shockingly so.

Have these different phases of life informed the record?

Definitely, in terms of where we are as people, yeah, without doubt. Now, we’re rehearsing, and playing older material. Some of it, you have to step inside your own shows from whenever it was, 10-15 years ago. Parts of it are emotionally and psychologically more comfortable than others. Parts of it, you go ‘this feels like me’. Other songs, ‘this isn’t actually me at all’. It feels like the work of a different person. I think this is natural. Other people say you’re opening the box when you go back, you know all the baggage with that. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. In a way it’s probably an exorcism. It’s been refreshing to go over certain pieces of music that don’t look that important and then I go, ‘fuck this is my favourite’. There’s a couple of pieces from the past in the set now, that never felt like they were important works, but they’re by far my favourite now. I love White Gold from the last album, Gravity the Seducer.

Image courtesy Ladytron 2018

Titling the new album Ladytron, is that an affirmation and celebration of coming back together?

You only really get one chance to have an eponymous record, and this time, after such a long break, it makes sense to us. To us, this sounds like a Ladytron record. It felt quite straightforward to make, we could hit reset, and on that level, it makes sense [that it’s] eponymous.

There’s been a lot of love for the new stuff, including the video for The Island, which is great but harsh! [you'll have to watch to see what we mean – Ed.]

I know. It is. I fucking cried when I first saw it. I was in Sao Paulo with a bunch of friends who wanted to see it. I put it on and I had to stand semi out of the room. I was half out the doorway, and then when it finished there was silence. Everyone turned and looked at me, and I was like ‘sorry!’ It wasn’t my idea, I support it, but it was the director’s call.

“I was there with the characters, living with it, and I didn’t want it to end”

How did you choose director Bryan M. Ferguson to work with?

The video for The Animals we made in Sao Paulo with a director [Fernando Nogari] I knew there, then Helen looked for The Island, someone based in Glasgow. Someone recommended him to her and the end result was really great, in both instances. This is how we’ll make videos now; we’ve made enough videos that are kind of half something conceptual with the trappings of a music video shoe-horned in. What we wanna do is make these little mini films – it’s far more creative, far more rewarding. It’s good experience as well, you know? This is the way they’ll go.

Do you have a lot of creative input in the films as a band?

Yeah, a lot of them we’ve had a big input on. In this instance, The Island was more the director’s vision; as soon as we got the treatment we were absolutely, ‘yeah let’s do this’. Whereas The Animals, I had an idea, approached the director, then he took the idea and spun it into a story based on conversations and little writings; then Fernando took it on. It was a fantastic experience making The Animals video – I was there with the characters, living with it, and I didn’t want it to end. I want to see what these characters do next, I wanna see episode two. It’s been a great experience. Often, when you work with a label calling the shots, they say ‘we like this video idea, can we have you lined up like you’re playing live, completely out of context with plain diffused light on you’. It’s like, ‘you’re kidding me?’ You’ve got this wonderful narrative and they just want the band lined up with their instruments in it… What we’re doing is by no means radical, it’s just refreshing for us, it’s the first time we’ve had a completely free hand to do it.

Image courtesy Ladytron 2018

Are you interested in pursuing this line yourself?

Well, erm, I’ve actually worked a bit with documentary stuff, I have a documentary in production… I don’t really want to cross the music thing with that right now. I’ve been working on in for a few years. But in terms of films, we’re lining up what the next single’s gonna be, so I have a video concept for it that we’re probably gonna shoot in Brazil as well, so I’m gonna be very hands on with that. It is something I’d like to do; Mira already does – she works with music videos and docs, and Reuben’s done this stuff as well.

A story that changed my attitude to it – about 10, 12 years ago maybe, Chris Cunningham was introduced to me. He was a fan, and he really liked this particular song on out third album [Witching Hour], International Dateline. And he wanted to make a video for it, but he ended up saying to me, ‘I’ve been sitting in the park listening to it over and over again, and I haven’t got an idea. So, if I haven’t got an idea, I don’t wanna force it’. But then he said, ‘to be honest you should make the video yourself and once you’ve made it, you’ll never let anyone make a video for you ever again’. That was only partially true, but once we got our hands on the process, once we started to own the process a bit, I can see what he means. I would never want to go back to the days where we’d be handed  10 treatments and we’d just pick one.

“We can’t wait for everyone to hear it, we’re really proud of the album”

What do you foresee beyond the live dates and the release?

We wanted to play Glasgow, London and Liverpool. Doing it this way, and coming back in this way, in a way that’s comfortable for us. The album’s out in February, and we’ll be doing more shows, we’ll be putting out more singles, more videos etc – next year’s gonna be a busy year and then we feel like we’ve got to make up for this break. There’s loads of things we’ve wanted to do that we’ve got up our sleeves.

How are you feeling about the new material?

I’m really happy with the album; just coming back from rehearsal with Helen, we were listening to the album in the car. Once you’ve got a bit of distance from the process, and you hear the record in a fresh environment like a car stereo, you go ‘this is great’. You have to have that time to live with it a while before you can appreciate it. We can’t wait for everyone to hear it, we’re really proud of the album.

Mike Pinnington

Ladytron play Liverpool O2 Academy tonight (02 November), and London’s Roundhouse tomorrow

Their new album, Ladytron, is released 1 February, 2019

Read an interview with the band’s Reuben Wu, here, and Helen Marnie, here

All images courtesy Ladytron

Posted on 03/11/2018 by thedoublenegative