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    Juicy J, Cathedral Pedals, and Roald Dahl: Mount Kimbie Discuss the Creative Process

    Written by

    Zach Sokol

    Mount Kimbie, via their Twitter page

    British production duo Mount Kimbie are releasing their sophomore LP, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, this Tuesday on Warp. Mount Kimbie's last release, 2010's critical darling Crooks And Lovers, eventually boxed the group into the forefront of the blogger-created pseudo-genre 'post-dubstep.' This style connoted lush-production, R&B and ambient influences combined with UK garage and 2-step. With Cold Spring, though, Mount Kimbie cannot easily be labeled by PR gurus looking to coin a music meme. 

    The duo retreated to its studio in South Bermondsey to create possibly the best come-down album this side of Burial. Favoring cathedral pedals and guitars over found samples, this new release is an obvious shift from previous records. Tracks like "Made To Stray" and "So Many Times, So Many Ways" even get into electronic jams that will undoubtedly be epic in a festival setting. Mount Kimbie sounds like a band now, even if it is still a Boiler Room favorite.

    I spoke to Dominic Maker and Kai Campos (the brains behind the synths) about goofing off with members of Stereolab instead of working, their desire to cover Juicy J, and Roald Dahl as an influence on this album. Don't expect the duo to remix others soon, but they joked about releasing an cathedral pedal covers EP of Cold Spring Fault Less Youth. We can only hope. 

    MOTHERBOARD: What was your favorite part of the recording process for this LP?
    Dom: To be honest, this is the first time we’ve ever had a record mixed. I really enjoyed that process, going through everything with a fine tooth comb with this guy who’s brilliant. It was over the course of two or three weeks.

    What’s his name?
    Dom: Dilip Harris. Yeah he works under Demus—that’s his tag—and he’s made records before. It was a very different thing for us, going through each track individually.

    Kai: It really changed the whole tone of the record and it wasn’t something we had thought about before.

    Is that because you used live instruments on this one that mastering it made more sense?
    Kai: Yeah, and like this was pre-master and everything but there was lots of—before we went to do i—I was like ‘We don’t need someone to do it because we’re brilliant,’ then I went to do it and after the first song it was like I can’t believe we ever thought about not doing this.

    Do you think you could do it on your own now?
    Kai: No. I thought it was just handing over all your work and someone would make it sound like a pop song and then bring it back to you. It wasn’t like that at all. We sat there making the decisions and Dilip had his opinions and that was good to listen to. But essentially he was good at getting out what you wanted to say and taking things to a place you wouldn’t have thought. It was much more of a collaborative process than I thought it would be.

    When you were in the mastering process did you change anything drastically—the sequencing or the tone?
    Dominic: Little bits. We added vocals.

    Kai: We added that to the beginning of one track and it sounds way better than the vocals we recorded in our studio because the mic was ridiculously good. Yeah, we moved stuff about structurally and there was stuff where we said ‘Oh, that doesn’t need to happen there,’ and you kind of see things with a bit more clarity. And the tone – sonically – quite a lot was changed. The live drums sound completely different.

    This record’s tone is totally different from your others but how different was the actual recording process—besides mastering?  
    Kai: In some ways it was very similar and in other ways it was completely different. We had our little studio in South Bermondsey. It was near Packing. It was basically a glorified bedroom studio that we had access to all the time and wouldn’t get any complaints.

    Was it the same space they showed in the #Hashtag video?
    Kai: Yeah. And then just a hundred meters down the road that was owned by Andy Ramsey who was in Stereolab.

    No way, Dots and Loops is one of my favorite records.
    Kai: Yeah, it’s really good. We went there just to record a drum track because we didn’t have space in our studio for all the mics. And he was great, a really funny guy. He had a lot of gear and we ended up just pissing about in his studio for like two weeks. It’s funny because when our manager was asking about the credits it was like, how do we credit Andy? And we said ‘That one song.’ And our manager was like “One song? You were in there for like three weeks.’ And we were like “Yup.” [laughs]

    We stayed in his studio just recording on his gear and that process was totally different. Also, we had never had an engineer before. He was in the control room when we were in the live room and he was like ‘That’s good but I think we should do another take.” And we were like ‘We had never thought about doing another take before.’ [laughs] We always assumed the first one would be the best. It was the first time we had done more than one take of anything. That was a revolutionary but obvious idea we hadn’t thought of before.

    Dom: I think he enjoyed it as much as we did because he just sits in his room recording loads of different music, but with us he was like ‘Let’s put it through this, let’s try this!’ and stuff like that.

    Did you have any upgrades in gear? New recording equipment or editing software?
    Dom: We used Fruity Loops on the first record and we still use it now. The actually sounds were coming from either gear we had bought along the way or specifically for this record.

    Any prized possessions? A favorite guitar?
    Kai: It used to be the Tempest [analog drum machine]. The Tempest kick started quite a lot of stuff and also the OP-1 Synth which was yea big [makes toaster-sized hand motion].

    Dom: And the cathedral pedals which we use for live shows and it ended up being used quite a lot in the studio.

    I heard so many different instruments on the album and I’m trying to make a list of each one I’ve heard. I picked out accordion and things like that.
    Kai: That’s like a big harmonium actually. It was in Andy’s studio. That first song with Archy [Marshall, aka King Krule] it was just on the first half, then we went in and he had this big harmonium and I’d been meaning to re-do some sounds with him, so we just started playing things on the album that were already done on the harmonium and we were like we could do a bonus disc that was just cover versions on the harmonium which would be great.

    Dom: That would be amazing. [laughs]

    Kai: Everything sounded better. So there was definitely about a ten-minute period where we thought we were just going to use the harmonium for everything. Thankfully it was only sparingly used.

    If you were going to have someone remix this album – any famous musician – who would you like to have on it? I’m thinking like that Bjork remix album with Death Grips on it.
    Kai: I don’t know. We actually struggle deciding stuff like that.

    Dominic: Management keeps asking for a list of names and to yes or no to any of them, and I don’t know how that works.

    Kai: Remixing other people ourselves is something we’re not that interested in. I’d rather concentrate on more original work and get more stuff out.

    Why are you not interested in doing remixes?
    Kai: It’s hard getting inside the head of somebody else. But, I think we will have remixes done of this album, it’s just hard finding the right people. There are a couple people in mind for specific tracks, but it’s taking longer than we thought it would and don’t want to jinx it.

    Then who would be your totally unrealistic, homerun musician to remix something from this album?
    Kai: I’m trying to think of someone.

    I think it would be great to have a chopped and screwed rap track. Some trap rapper like Juicy J.
    Kai: Yes Juicy J!

    Dom: Juicy J! [laughs]

    Kai: That would be a real trip. We actually started doing a cover version of a Juicy J track.

    Which song?
    Dom: You know “Cocaine Mafia”? It’s the intro where he’s like [sings] “Cocaine mafia! Cocaine mafia!"

    Kai: It’s a Scarface song.

    Are you guys big rap heads?
    Kai: Not really.

    Dom: I just love Juicy J. He cracks me up. Some of the productions I love.

    Kai: Dom often reads out his tweets during rehearsal. Deadpan readouts of his tweets. If Juicy wants to do anything with us then let us know.

    When you started making this record, what mindset were you in? It had been a little while since the Carbonated EP, so when you started sketching out the tracks what type of mental or emotional states were you feeling?
    Kai: I think we were a little burnt out. To be completely honest, I think during that whole last year of touring and the beginning of making the record I kind of lost interest in making music. We had gone two years without doing it. It wasn’t something I felt like I needed to do every day. I really enjoy it while I’m doing it and I like it when it’s finished.

    So you don’t write on the road ever?
    Kai: No, never. Which is crazy, but it just doesn’t work. We’re trying to find ways around that but we don’t have any great solutions apart from buying these ridiculously expensive headphones. It was loads of not getting excited at all and it was a challenge to fall back on the whole process, but it was a good change, a good thing to go through if you’re making new work.

    So those were your feelings to making music in general, but what about your feelings about your personal lives or your life outside of music? How were you feeling when you started digging into this album?
    Dominic: I think we both felt a bit detached from everything because it had been such an intense thing – the whole touring thing. So coming back home almost felt like we needed time to filter back into our friends and society. Also we were trying to find a space that we were really comfortable with and it took us ages. Then we were just like, if it has a roof let’s just take it and it took a while and that was almost an excuse for not starting. Getting back into the rhythm of it and the workflow, suddenly there was a good week.

    What can you tell me about the album title? Why is there a space between “Fault” and “Less”?
    Dominic: We envision it as five separate words. They’re like islands—different and far apart. It can be interpreted in whatever way someone wants to, but each individual word is more…

    Kai: Fault has it’s own connotation which is different from faultless or less. However you look at it and whatever comes to mind first, and obviously together it means something else and that’s kind of like the relationship between all words, these things that are connected and have their own imagery, but maybe mean something else when alone.

    Does that relate to the songs in the album? Listening as a cohesive album, compared to individual tracks?
    Kai: Yes, exactly. We were just talking about genre in the last interview and kind of jokingly said the album was like five different genres and each word in the title is a different genre and you can kind of group the songs into each one like chapter titles.

    Does the order go Cold, Spring, Fault, Less, Youth?
    Kai: I don’t know, I haven’t looked at it yet. This was just some shit we were talking just because we were talking too much.

    Dominic: [laughs]

    Is that how your interviews work? You just keep bullshitting until something sounds good?

    [both laugh]

    Kai: Yeah, I guess.

    Could you see yourself collaborating with more musicians in the future? Or bringing anyone on tour even?
    Kai: If it hadn’t been Archy I don’t think anyone else would have been on the record. It was something we were so excited about, this guy is incredible and it wasn’t just that he has a good voice. He is just really, really good and also a talented songwriter. Plus we were genuinely happy to have him in the studio. Yeah, I definitely think we have an interest in doing that again. A. with Archy, but B. with other people we feel as excited about and not just people who have a good voice.

    "It was a huge shift in process from thinking that songs would come; instead I started treating it more like a craft that had to be practiced." — Kai Campos

    Who else could be a good fit with Mount Kimbie?
    Kai: We had been talking about Micachu from Micachu and the Shapes and I’d really like to see that happen.

    Any one else in mind?
    Kai: No, not really. Michachu is on another level with Archy and we think they’re the best. I wouldn’t want to jinx anything before it happens.

    How are you guys preparing for this current tour? I saw the videos at SXSW and its definitely different from a Boiler Room set, but what will you bring to the stage that will be particularly different. I know there’s the live drummer but will you be playing guitar? How often are you guys practicing?
    Kai: We’re practicing at the moment and just trying to figure out the songs and the best way to present them. Tony [Koos, the band’s new drummer] is the main difference, now that there’s three of us. It means we can use ourselves and not be controlling five pieces of equipment and looking at each other nervously and just trying to keep the whole fucking thing going.

    Does the drummer leave room for improvisation on stage?
    Kai: I don’t know, at the moment we’re laying songs out and playing them how we practiced them during recording, but just the nature of how we’re playing them leaves so much more space that by the end of summer, we’ll have the room and structure to [improvise] which is cool. Sometimes when we’re rehearsing it’ll break out into some ridiculous jam which – by the end of the year – I would like to be confident enough to pull that shit off, but at the moment it’s like stupid, we’re just having a laugh. It would be cool if we were ballsy enough to do that.

    What other music were you guys listening to when you were recording this record?
    Dominic: We shut down quite heavily, but there are a few things. The Tame Impala album we listen too a lot. There were a few other bits and bolts like the Actress album RIP.

    What about books or movies or other things that may have inspired you guys?
    Dom: I was reading a lot during the time we were writing. I bought all the old Roald Dahl books and was wading through that.

    Kai: I got halfway through this book filled with writers writing about writing – their process and stuff because I was having some trouble finishing writing. That was incredible and a huge change.

    What collection was it?
    Kai: There was one called The War of Art and I can’t remember who the fuck it’s by, but it’s kind of like brainwashing or some weird church thing where you’re like "This guy’s a genius!” and that definitely wears off but there’s some stuff that just changed the way I was going into the studio. The whole record was really about the creative process.

    We were not making music and then coming out of that. It’s pretty badly written, but it’s talks about creative insecurities and reasons for not doing work. It was good; I can’t really knock it. I don’t know, it was a huge shift in process from thinking that songs would come, and instead I started treating it more like a craft that had to be practiced and knowing that if you carried on just working, the ideas would come out.

    You’re not going to just be struck by some genius idea, you have to be going in, making an environment that you can work in and just carry on working until when you have an idea you’re already in the process of having your hands on it.

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