We’re in a very strange time right now, in many ways, and I think that we are a little disappointed in what’s happening out there in the world.
Am 1. April, als die amerikanischen Wähler noch hofften, Donald Trumps Präsidentschaftskandidatur würde sich als ein Aprilscherz rausstellen, erschien das dritte Album von Autolux. Pussy’s Dead ist zwar kein explizit politisches Album, beschäftigt sich aber in vielen Punkten mit der nicht gerade optimistisch stimmenden Lage in der Welt. Wir haben mit Drummerin Carla Azar über Desillusion und das neue Album gesprochen.
I recently talked with Suuns about technology and digital elements in rock music. I want to begin by asking you one of the questions I asked them: Do you think it’s still possible to make relevant music today without having it have digital elements?
Of course I do, absolutely. People are doing it. In Africa, there’s some incredible music going on, and there’s no digital [elements]. There’s definitely great music happening.
What influenced you while writing Pussy’s Dead?
I’m not sure what influenced me while I was writing. Musically, I tend to not try to listen to things to be influenced by, although I’m listening to music all the time. I think life things influenced me, things of that nature, for this record in particular, based on a lot of the things that I was doing in my life at the time.
Musically, I would say I listened to a lot of hip-hop during the making of this record. Say, Kendrick Lamar. I feel like my drum beats are more influenced by his rapping than the beats on his records. And where he comes from, there’s a certain sense of freedom, lyrically, that I feel every time I hear him. I just love that, it reminds me not to overthink things.
Talking about rhythm: It plays an important role in your music in general, maybe even more so on Pussy’s Dead. Do you always start with a rhythm when you’re writing a song?
No, I think the only song… well, there’s a couple of songs, actually, that maybe just started with a rhythm. One of the songs, “Brainwasher”: When I was doing the drums, I heard a beat in my head and all the drums first; and then I heard a bass line and I played a quick bass idea. So I guess that song started with drums. As well as a song called “Hamster Suite”, where Greg had one of my drum beats and he looped it and wrote a song idea around that drum beat. So I think there are three or four of it that happened that way. Probably the ones with the really strong beats on them.
Tell me about your recording process. Do you go into the studio with the songs fully fleshed out or do you work on them a lot while recording?
On this record we did a little of both. There are a couple of songs where the actual demos ended up being the basic tracks that we used on the album. We did finish those [in the studio], but for a lot of songs, we work out arrangements, we mess around with them until they get to a certain place. And then we go into the studio, do all the foundational tracking, and all the fun stuff and overdubs happen after that. But we don’t go into the studio and start writing in the studio, no. I mean, it depends. Autolux has a studio, so we’re always recording. Like I said, there’s a couple of songs that were already recorded and we just went into a bigger studio and rounded the tracks up and finished them. It happens in various ways, we don’t have a rule.
You always take your time between albums…
You know what? I don’t want to. I definitely don’t want to take my time between records, I don’t think anyone does. I think it’s just the way things turned out for this album. I went on tour with Jack White and made a record with him. And I made a movie [Frank, Anm. d. Red.], so I was busy. That was definitely a setback for this album, which I would say would have taken four years instead of six. And the way we work – we just want to make a great album. We don’t set out to take forever making a record, we just have lots of things going on. I think for the next record though, we’re definitely going to start ahead of time. I’d like to start writing now and actually set aside a certain amount of time and only use that time to write and make the album. I think it will be a lot quicker that way.
All of you having your various side projects, it’s nice seeing that you still come back to Autolux in between projects. Do you have to start from scratch for every new album?
We basically are always doing things. It’s not like we don’t see each other for a long time and then keep coming back to it. Autolux is constantly there. We’re constantly working towards something. It’s just something like, a family member. [laughs] Always there, you see them when you go home for Christmas.
Can you tell me someting about the artwork?
First of all, the title of the album came from a Charles Dickens book, called The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It was a name of a character in the book, her name was Pussy. Gregory was looking through the book, he’d never seen it before. It was the last book Charles Dickens had written, he died before he finished it and [Greg] was curious about it and saw these words on the page. He kept seeing the name Pussy and he thought that was interesting for 1870. And then, completely out of context, they would talk about Pussy’s dead father and he thought: “You know what? That made me laugh and it’s just funny in an emotional way.” He thought that this might be a good title for the album, and so we all toyed around with it. We kept coming back to it and it ended up sticking.
So once we made that decision, we realised that whatever artwork is on the cover, it was really important and tricky because we didn’t want to give the wrong idea, we didn’t want to conjure up the wrong things but we wanted to make people curious. And so the one person that we thought of was a friend of ours, a painter. Anthony Lister from Australia, great painter. Very controversial, very political, very anti-establishment. He’s also very funny. Technical, but he can be very childlike in his style of drawing. So we asked him, he really wanted to do it, and that was the image he came up with. It just seems perfect, because it’s borderline silly, but it’s also very strange at the same time and makes you wonder what’s going on. And it has also got this really matter-of-fact, childlike effort to it. So that’s what the artwork is, basically.
Pussy’s Dead reminds me a lot of Porcupine Tree’s Fear of the Blank Planet, which has this anxious, disillusioned mood and a certain fatigue with today’s society. Am I right to see a parallel there?
The mood of this album definitely has that, because all of us are very disenchanted. We’re in a very strange time right now, in many ways, and I think that we are a little disappointed in what’s happening out there in the world. That definitely reflects in our work. I don’t know that other band, but I’m sure that that could be the case if people are consciously aware of what’s going on around them. They’re going to write about it.
What would a perfect Friday night look like to you?
[Long silence.] You know what, I’m drawing a blank right now. [laughs] Let’s see. It varies, and I think I can’t find anything in advance. It’s very difficult. It could be a hundred different things, it depends on who I’m with. You know what? Being with somebody that I’m in love with on a Friday night is perfect for me. And it wouldn’t matter what we did.