SPEED FREAKS: KLAXONS - EMusician

SPEED FREAKS: KLAXONS

Read exclusive Remix online interview with James Righton of the Klaxons as he discusses the debut album, his whirlwind year of forming a band, working with James Ford, and touring Europe.
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James Righton, keyboardist for the Klaxons, recently sat down with Remix to discuss Myths of the Near Future (label TBA, early 2007), the band's debut full-length release.

The Klaxons released the Xan Valleys (Modular, 2006) EP in October. How does the EP compare with your upcoming full-length, Myths of the Near Future?
The EP is just a taste of what the album is like. We've got 11 tracks on the new album, with a "secret" track as well. It's kind of an experimental track. The name of the album was literally one of the first things we had when we first came together.

You've been together for a year, is that correct?
Yes, we had our one-year anniversary on Nov. 5 [2006]. The past year has been a crazy train that I can't get off. The wheels might come off at some point, but we'll just keep going, we'll keep moving.

And in just a year, you guys have been selling out shows across Europe, having released only singles and an EP. There's a giant buzz about the Klaxons.
We don't think about [the buzz]. We don't believe it. It's weird. We're confident in the new record. It's 11 songs that we're all proud of. Even if people don't like it, we're happy with it. We know we've made a good record.

When we first got together, the idea was just to make a really strong debut album. We worked really hard over the past year to get 11 songs. We went through a lot musically and personally to make that happen. But when the three of us get together, three personalities clashing, something good happens. It's really weird. We're really fortunate to have met each other and have that kind of chemistry. Plus, we all like going out. [Laughs.] Partying is the foremost entertainment. But at the same time we love playing music together.

You guys worked with James Ford (Simian, Simian Mobile Disco, Bloc Party, Test Icicles, Fingathing) on Myths of the Near Future. What was that like?
James has been with us since February, right when we first started. We did our early demos with him. He's like a satellite member of the band; he's very important to our sound. He understands where we're coming from and what we're like as people. The main thing with a producer in the studio is how to get personalities together to form an end product that everyone is happy with. It's a compromise. We spend quite a lot of time playing around with noises and effects, just trying to do something interesting with sounds. He's got a really good know-how in piecing it all together—things like the vocals, especially with our group because the three of us sing.

While songs on Xan Valleys range from electro-punk and indie-rock to new wave or grunge, they're all very melody-focused. What is your process in putting songs together?
We'll come in with some kind of idea or part for the music, and we'll work on that part for a bit. Over the top of that, usually Jamie or I will start to sing melodies, and then the lyrics fit over the top of those melodies. It's a weird way of writing, though, because the words fit the melodies bit by bit. I think it's the way Michael Jackson used to write; he'd sing melodies and then fit [words] in phonetically. You have to put each beat with the right word and syllable. I think melody is so important, and it's been neglected by a lot of bands. [Melody is] the one thing that lodges in your mind. That's what you hear, and that's what people pick up on. There's a pop melody over a lot of the music that we make, which I still don't know how to define. [Laughs.]

Speaking of hard-to-define music, what are some of the tools or gear that you use to create that genre-bending sound?
Pitch-shifters are the main things we use on guitars and keyboards. I use a very rare, vintage Boss pitch-shifter. There are certain keyboards that you can buy that have all the effects on it. [Some of them are] so generic, they've all got the same settings and the same sounds. You get one, you get a drummer, and then anyone could form a band. It's really dull and uninspiring. It's actually alarming the amount of bands that form that way. It's not a good idea. We use really shitty, cheap, old keyboards...anything that has an interesting sound. And then we usually treat and process them, using lots of foot pedals—pedals that really shouldn't be put through keyboards. Simon uses lots of guitar pedals, delays and pitch shifts, and I use really cheap distortion pedals. I buy lots of crappy pedals that end up sounding really interesting. It's one of the ways that you can create your own unique sound. With the pedals, you can really fatten out a sound, give more power and drive to it. Jamie uses this really rare Japanese pedal on his bass to give it this Stranglers-esque bass sound. It has a really bright kind of distortion.

Where do you find these rare pedals?
For vintage equipment in the UK, eBay is the best place to go. The specialty stores have all closed down. Other than on Denmark street in London, most of the specialty stores have been killed off. It's quite sad because you can't go to stores and rummage through things anymore. It's tragic. You can do it online instead, but it's harder because you can't ever try out anything. It's all trial and error. All the producers I know pretty much live on eBay. It's really funny because we're all bidding against each other. I was bidding for a pedal I liked, and I looked at the bidding and saw that James Ford was already bidding on it. [Laughs.] We're all bidding on the same bloody pedal.

The Klaxons had such an insane year in 2006. What are you looking forward to in 2007?
I'm really looking forward to traveling the world with my friends, getting to meet people from all over. What I'm most excited about is just getting the album out there. At the moment we're in state where we're just talkin' 'bout it. I just want people to hear it now. This is something I've always dreamed of doing. It'll be incredible when I'm able to go into shops and see it there. It'll cap off a pretty incredible year for us.—Lori J. Kennedy