Interview at dane101.com by Kat Kosiec
Who would you like to work with that you haven’t yet, and why?
There aren’t so much specific people as certain types. I’d love to work with a good tabla player, or maybe a traditional Persian singer, or a skilled duduk player, or…well, I’m pretty open to lots of things. I’ve recently discovered that you can play a Donegal-style fiddle reel pretty well over the top of a north Indian bhangra beat, so I guess I’m not especially constrained.
What are some of your current musical influences/obsessions?
I’ve been listening to Bear McCreary’s “Battlestar Galactica” soundtrack a lot recently. I normally just sort of ignore soundtrack albums, but this stuff stands on its own remarkably well, and he’s basically doing the kind of thing I want to do when I grow up – this wild, pan-ethnic, expansive, cinematic stuff. But then I’ve also been listening to Deadmau5 and Royksopp a lot too, as well as a hefty dose of random bhangra artists. So take that as you will.
When you first mentioned bhangra, I initially thought that was kind of surprising. However, since modern bhangra is found in many clubs and has a very-fast paced tempo, it doesn’t seem so unlikely that an electronic band could find ways to fuse electronic music with elements of bhangra. What is it about bhangra that you find inspiring for your music?
It’s just great fun, musically. It’s got a rhytmic element that just screams “dance music” but it isn’t the standard four-on-the-floor that domiantes so much electronic music. The big dhol drum riffs are really heavily swung, so it sort of has a funk element built in. In some ways it’s hard to mix it together, because the percussion used in bhangra is loud and pretty much obliterates all other treble or bass instruments if not pieced together carefully.
As a huge Bollywood fan, please indulge me in asking this slightly cheesy question. If you had the opportunity, would you be interested in being part of a Bollywood film, like maybe working on some of the musical numbers?
In a heartbeat. Actually, for our last album, we had a guest singer who had actually done vocals for a song in a Hrithik Roshan film. Where it gets tricky is that a lot of my Indian music theory is weak. If a producer told me something needed to be in raga malarani, I’d have to go look that up.
Hrithik Roshan? He’s my favorite Bollywood actor! Which film and song? I think Hrithik is one of the most exciting stars in Bollywood. Not only does he have incredible dance skills, but he can really carry a film. I think “Dhoom 2” and “Jodhaa Akbar” are my faves.
Yeah, Ramya did some vocals for “Kaho Na Pyar Hai”…I think it was “Na Tum Jano Na Hum” but I’m not 100% sure. I last saw Hrithik in “Koi Mi Gaya” which was Bollywood’s 20-years-too-late answer to ET (and 40-years-too-late answer to “Flowers For Algernon”). It was very odd.
Ok, back to electronic music. Null Device has played all over Madison. What is your favorite venue and why?
That’s a tough one. I like them all, mainly because playing anywhere in town means I can drive home after a show and not have it take 3 hours. The Majestic has always treated us exceptionally well, and they have probably the most comfortable green room in town. The Inferno has a lot of sentimental value, though, because it’s where we first played and it’s sort of a home base. And Cathy at the High Noon is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. So it’s really kind of a tossup. Maybe Majestic by a hair because they have the biggest stage.
Null Device won a MAMA for “Best electronic performer” this year. What was that experience like?
Surprising. We didn’t release anything new last year, so I wasn’t even expecting us to be nominated for anything MAMA-like. And yet not only were we nominated, but we won, too. I was kind of stunned by the whole thing. The plaques are pretty nice this year, too. The MAMAs are, for all their flaws, a pretty nice deal. Rick’s heart is completely and utterly in the right place, and the ceremony itself is often a nice excuse for me to learn about a lot of other bands I probably wouldn’t come across otherwise.
When did Matt Fanale first approach you about doing Reverence?
Back when Matt first hit upon the idea for Reverence, in 2004 I think it was, it was sort of a “farewell bash” for Ned Kirby, who was moving off to San Diego and taking the juggernaut Stromkern with him. Since I was a friend of Ned’s and Null Device had played with S’kern a few times, we were toward the front of the line of “people who should play at Ned’s party.” It seemed like a fun gig, Matt was really enthused about it, and honestly I had no idea it was going to take off the way it did. Since then, Reverence has expanded and leveled-up in a number of ways, and…well, we’re still here, and so is Reverence. It’s been great to be a part of it as long as we have.
With this year’s Reverence being a part of Forward Music Festival, how do you feel that your show will be different than previous years? (or do you not think the general vibe will be different?)
Well, hopefully the extra press and crossover that FMF gives Reverence will mean that the gigs will get more of a diverse audience. Most of the bands playing are well-known in certain music scenes, but most of them have a lot of appeal for people who aren’t in the black-clad, techsupport crowd. The Atomica Project, for example, is playing on Thursday, and they’re a very trip-hoppy, Portishead-ish kind of act. The Dark Clan may sing about vampires a lot, but at their core they’re a powerpop band. Caustic would appeal to punk fans as much as noise fans. I’m hoping the FMF association draws in more random people who can say “yeah, Andrew Bird was awesome, but I also really liked this electronic band from Chicago that I’d never heard of before…”
What is the most memorable experience you’ve had performing at Reverence, and what made it so memorable?
The first two Reverences really stick with me. I think it was partially because after the first one, we didn’t think there was going to be a second, and during the second one we were all just so damned gleeful that it happened. During the first, one of the bands (Boole) decided to do a massive electronic version of “Freebird” that pretty much dragged everybody from every other band onstage to sing along. Nobody knew the words and half of us had already freely partaken of the backstage beer, but it was still just a lot of fun. The second Reverence, or “Irreverence” as Matt called it, was memorable because now that the fest had a bit of a reputation, people were coming from far and wide for it. I finally got to meet people who’d for years been big supporters of the bands, including Null Device, but I’d never had the opportunity to meet in person. It was almost like a big family reunion, if half of the family happened to be extras from “The Matrix.” And Matt Fanale was the creepy uncle who hugs you inappropriately, gets drunk and eventually takes his pants off in front of everyone. Which he did.
What’s next for Null Device after playing Reverence?
Well, we’ve got a remix/b-side CD coming out real soon now, and after Reverence…well, first a few band members have honeymoons to go on, but after that, we’re trying to put together a tour for next spring/summer. And as always, we’re still recording new material.