Self professed control freaks when it comes to music, the Midnight Juggernauts have always done things their way. And it’s paid off.
Following the success of 2007’s Dystopia, the Juggernauts have just dropped their second album The Crystal Axis.
Who The Hell chats to Andy Szekeres about the new record, the toils of running your own label and what it’s really to have your gig ruined when John Travolta decides to throw a Scientology bash at the same venue.
What was the big idea behind The Crystal Axis?
Well, I suppose it changed over time. After we finished touring at the end of 2008, and we’d spent that whole year away from home, we just wanted to come back and start working on the album. I think the live touring really carried over into the recording process, we just wanted to work on a much rawer sounding album, and I suppose the three of us were a lot more involved…
People seemed to be fascinated by the hype of that whole indie-dance thing when you put out Dystopia in 2006. How did you keep ahead of the game when other similar acts like the Presets and Cut Copy we’re putting out records at the same time?
That whole indie-dance thing became really popular and helped push along internationally in 2007 and 2008. But for us in the way we approach music, we’ve never really thought of ourselves being tied to a scene. I think even doing interviews at the beginning of that, we always said we were in to exploring new things and that each of our albums would be really different. We still didn’t know what the second one was gonna be like back then, but we went with an idea we had at the end of 2008 and it morphed and evolved.
It’s interesting because we have a lot of fans from that more dance music scene, and it will be interesting to see how fans will take it. We’re really proud of it and it’s definitely a different album for us. I guess we’ve written so much in our time, and a lot of it has been different styles so I guess that it’s not really weird that we’ve come up with an album like this. So if you only knew Dystopia, it’s a whole different flavour to that…
But I suppose you’re expanding your audience by trying new things?
Hopefully there’s gonna be a whole lot of new people who get a chance to listen to it. Its hard to know how anythings gonna go. And for us the next six months is just touring throughout Australia and the US and Europe and the UK. We kind of go back and forth constantly. Its good just to be able to have a new set to play
How do you juggle label duties with touring?
I mean its extra work, but we’ve chosen for it to be that way. With this album and the build up for us, like organising and co-ordinating the label side of things with releases in all the different territories was a lot of work and especially when you’ve got people in different time zones. It’s okay at the moment coz we’re in that mode of just getting up the album and working on it. But when you’re touring it gets hard, which is where you need people who you’re working with that you can trust and to handle things when you’re away, so that’s what we’ve set up with the label now.
What was it like with Chris Moore in the picture?
When Chris came along, we hand’t met him before so it was really strange. But we really liked his work and we’d spoken on the phone a few times, and it was great having him here in the role engineer and in certain times when we’d need a certain sound and him being there to facilitate that. He was really easy to work with.
Maybe we’re control freaks, but we have ideas of how we want things to be. He wasn’t there to work as a producer, but as an engineer working alongside us. He was a laid back guy so it worked well.
I read somewhere that John Travolta kicked you out of one of your shows in Paris?…
(laughs) We were playing a party at, I think it was a restaurant that had a band area. Can’t remember it’s name, but it was a pretty amazing building. There was meant to be a party going from midnight until 7am. After we had soundchecked they wouldn’t let us back in because there was this event going on inside the venue that hadn’t finished. So the party couldn’t start, everyone was waiting, and we found out John Travolta was having some party. And they took all our equipment off stage because he had some jazz band on. So when they finally opened the doors they’d set the whole party back by two hours late. It was kinda funny actually. I mean it wasn’t funny at the time, but it is now….
Did you have a run in with him out the back then?
I was trying to find him…but it was difficult.
During your time in America, surely you must have bumped into heaps of b-grade celebs…
(laughs)..there’s been a few.
Go on, drop some names.
Daniel had a meeting with David Hasselhoff….
And how did that go down?
I dunno it was kind of weird, we just saw this photo that came up online the next day. That Perez Hilton guy had taken some photo and someone sent it to us and we’re like ‘thats Dan!’. Dan said he was standing there and suddenly all these people dragged him into a group photo, and next thing was he was standing next to the Hoff.
He said he was quite a strange guy in person. We also met Zed from Pulp Fiction in New York. But Hasselhoff tops the list.
What was it like supporting Justice and being on tour for so long?
That was a really good tour. We kind of realised how big it was and the hysteria around the guys at the time. There was all this press and all these people hanging trying to get backstage. Justice were all really nice to us and it was great fun to drive around America and meet heaps of people.
Since you’re around Vince and Dan all the time is it all beer and bromance or do you drive each other fucking mental?
Well we tend to drive each other crazy. We do get along very well, but we sometimes go at each other. Each year we spend more time with each other than we do with our family. So of course you’ll have altercations.
Who has the worst habits?
Haha I dunno, if I say I’ll get in too much trouble. They’re probably gonna read this aren’t they? It’s a tough one between the two of them. Maybe I have the worst habits! I think everyone’s reasonably tidy, never late for anything. Then again, everything I just said isn’t true.
Do you pick up any weird outfits or junk on the road?
I don’t so much but Dan will come on tour with a 20kg bag and leave with a 30kg one. He likes to buy things and tend to…especially if we’re in Japan theres always all these weird gadgets! He buys gadget toys and robots for all of us.
When did you start writing material for The Crystal Axis?
We wrote a bit on the road actually. A lot of the initial sketches of the album happened when we were on the road in 2008. When we came back we went into recording pretty quickly but then we took a break and wrote heaps. Writing on the road isn’t always easy but we manage to do it. We always have our computers with us and our equipment set up, and we do rehearsal times between shows. Usually being on a bus or in a car constantly is pretty boring, so it’s good being able to sit there and work on ideas.
Where’s your favourite place to hang out around Melbourne?
I grew up around St Kilda, but I’m not really a beach person. But now I live in North Melbourne and I always go to this cafe I really like called Fandango. I’m pretty much addicted to coffee, a day doesn’t go by when I don’t visit there.
Was it difficult trying to convert pub audiences with synths when you started out?
It was an interesting time when we got our first few gigs. We’d be playing alongside more traditional rock bands. And occasionaly people might throw something at you. Back then it was just the two of us with synthesizers and guitars. And sometimes you’d be on weird lineups with bogan rock bands. We’d play at all sorts of bars…like the Tote and Pony, and all those kind of dirty little venues which were heaps of fun.
I don’t know if we were delusional, just the two of us at that time. But we always wanted to do the band circuit and we didn’t care if it was too synthesizer heavy. And it made sense for us to be doing the band circuit rather than going down a DJ path which we weren’t really interested in. From the start it might have been a bit of a shambles at some of our shows; we were pretty disorganised.
It’s paid off now though…
Yeah, its great that we get to play big festivals now alongside other amazing bands. It’s very humbling.
What local acts have you been digging?
I really like Kirrin J Callahan. And the new Tame Impala record, I think thats really good.
I can’t think of them right now off the top of my head… I’ll have to go to my iTunes. I really haven’t been back to those venues I was talking about to see live bands since we’ve been away so much. But hopefully if we get a break we’ll go back to seeing local bands.
Cover any crappy songs when you’re jamming?
We’ve played a few covers in our time. We’ve covered like Nirvana, Blur….Split Enz.
We’ve got a whole few we’ll try and at one festival just pick something out, play it, and then never play it again. But we like to have fun with that kind of thing.
As musos, and running your own label and going through the toil of that whole process, how do you feel about people taking advantage of torrents?
It’s hard in some ways. And with our record now, it’d be great if people were buying it, and for our music to get there it’s our number one thing. But it’s kind of just the way it is. I can’t really have a strong view on it in a way. On one hand, it’s made us bigger internationally because the last album wasn’t released everywhere and everyone got it that way, and it’s helped us with touring. It’s tough when you’re releasing it yourself and putting your money behind it. But it’s all about touring now for bands, no one’s making real money from selling records.
It’s all about getting music out there, and people getting opportunites to hear it, however they get their hands on it, whether it’s downloading or buying albums. It’s all about keeping albums alive, not just getting one song. And I understand there’s so much music out there, it’d be good if people listened to albums from start to finish.
How did you guys end up working with Solange Knowles?
We were in Paris, last year or the year before, I cant remember. But yeah, we met her very briefly and she was saying how she was a big fan of our music. And we saw her again somewhere else, and just started having contact. She wanted to work on some stuff and come to Australia just to hang out. So she came here and we jammed a bit, did a bit of writing and it was all pretty loose. Like I read somewhere that we were ‘producing our album with her’, but it wasn’t like that, it was pretty relaxed. But for future projects with her, it’s still on the way.
On the subject of the Knowles family, what’s your favourite booty shaking anthem?
My favourite booty shaking anthem?
Well, I don’t know if this is booty shaking, I actually really like that new Alicia Keys song. I think it’s amazing!
That ‘Put it in a Love Song’ one with Beyonce?
It’s not Beyonce, I think it’s just Alicia Keys on her own. And it sounds like Julian Rhodes produced it, its kind of like, reasonably slow…
(starts beatboxing and singing)
Do you always break out into song in the middle of interviews?
You’re based in Melbourne at the moment, do you think you’ll relocate somewhere else in the future?
I think it’s possible. Me and Vince live in Melbourne and Dan lives in Sydney, but maybe when we finish this tour we’ll all live in different countries, I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll be working together or seperately, but we’re open to ideas. We lived in Paris for a lot of 2008 so we might do it again.
Whats ahead for the Juggernauts for the remainder of this year besides touring?
Well its pretty much gonna be just touring! Well we spend the next six months away… although we do come back in August for an album tour in Australia, we’re doing Splendour and a tour in August, but before and after that, it’s just more touring internationally. So we’re looking forward to living out of a suitcase and out of each others back pockets.
The Crystal Axis (Siberia Records) is out now.