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Interview: The Ting Tings

Ting-Tings_claireb

UK band The Ting Tings, who are Katie White and Jules De Martino, have been based in Ibiza for the last 18 months whilst they wrote and recorded their third album, which has been co-produced by former Duran Duran guitarist, Andy Taylor. In case you’ve never heard of them, they had a number one single in the UK with ‘That’s Not My Name’ in May 2008, and their first album ‘We Started Nothing’ went to number one in the UK album charts later that month.

I spoke to them at the end of August after the first of their two performances at Mike and Claire Manumission’s Phantasmagoria night at Booom, where they played some of the their new material for the first time. They were in the throws of preparing for the album release and planning the forthcoming tour. I wanted to find out why they came to Ibiza and if the island had any influence on the album and ask about the process of putting it together. They talked openly for 40 minutes and what resulted is a fascinating insight into the creative process between the two of them and their approach to working within the tough world of the music industry, and lots more.

Their third album ‘Super Critical’ was released on October 27 and their tour kicks off in Brussels on November 15.

Info at: www.thetingtings.com

Claire B: So you came to Ibiza to write and record your third album. How long have you been here for?

K: How long have we been here for [she looks at Jules and they both laugh]?

J: We came first on and off to do some writing and rented a place, brought this studio [the equipment in the room where we did the interview] into that house, stayed four months and then went on tour, came here and rehearsed, went on tour again in China …

K: And then we came back from China and rented a house in Santa Gertrudis that had a little studio space and we started writing and recording there, and then slowly moved our studio over to here [at Sonic Vista Studios] with Andy. It’s probably been about a year and a half, but backwards and forwards a little bit.

J: Probably a solid year, and then half a year on and off when we were travelling quite a lot. We were kind of based here – all our equipment was here. I’d say we spent a solid year working here on the record.

K: And then we went to New York to Avatar Studios to mix it and finish it.

Claire B: Why did you choose New York?

K: It was the studio basically. Because, the good thing about Andy was that he has a lot of experience, because he’s old school you know, he’s from back in the day …

Claire B: That’s Andy Taylor who used to be in Duran Duran?

K: Yeah, he knew how to work all that analogue tape which Jules, especially Jules was fascinated with anyway, so why Andy was quite interesting was because he’s spent the last 6 years learning Pro Tools but his real forte was recording on analogue tape, and we wanted that kind of sound from the late, late 70s and early 80s. And he’d actually recorded there with Power Station in the past and he recommended that studio. So we went there, and it was all wood, the studio, so it gives you that real woody sound. We ran every track through analogue tape and back on so everything had like this air in it. And then, it went so well that, how long did we book the studio for?

J: We rented the studio for 6 weeks to mix the whole album, but I think we finished it in 3, so we had 3 weeks there and then we ended up recording 2 tracks there that made the album.

Claire B: So you actually wrote and recorded the tracks whilst you were there?

J: We had demos of these tracks when we went there, and they weren’t the greatest tracks, they weren’t going to make the album, but because we had 3 weeks there, Bruce Springsteen’s brass section came in for a day and so they started playing on it and we thought this track is actually good and then rewrote the worst bits of the song, corrected it …

K: And then we were watching this documentary on 10CC and how they recorded ‘I’m not in love’ and how they recorded their vocal and every note and the whole spectrum of chords, and then they played the huge old mixing desk like a keyboard, and we were like, we’ve got 3 weeks, when in our lives are we ever going to be in this kind of studio where we can experiment and have a bit of fun rather than rush. So we did that. We have a song called ‘Communication’ where we did the whole 10CC approach to it and played the whole mixing desk like a keyboard.

J: It was probably the only time, we’ve recorded 3 albums now, the first was a treat because it was from our bedrooms in Salford and it was really successful, so we’ll never forget that experience for obvious reasons. The second album was, second album blues, it was a tough record. We went to Berlin to record it, and that was hard work …

Claire B: And then you scrapped it as well didn’t you because you weren’t happy with it?

J: Yeah, and then we scrapped it, and we had label issues, the whole kind of …

K: Everything that could go wrong went wrong …

J: Yeah, the perfect storm, and then doing the third album, we’ll never forget it. I think it was the most … working with Andy in Ibiza, in a room, in fact this room and another room round the other side at Sonic Vista, which was his room when he was here, and we amalgamated our equipment. We had the best 9 months with him just creating stuff. And then the icing on the cake was going to Avatar Studios in New York because we felt like we were a band again, because you’re in a real studio, with a real producer [Andy] who back in the day was using analogue, and he was back in his element as well because he hadn’t done a lot for quite a long time. There was just this natural buzz. We had a great engineer who has worked on … and all the stories he would tell us about all the greats he had worked with … you’d be sitting there all day and then go back in the studio and feel really confident to play guitars and drums and with the brass section, so it felt like we were really making a record. I know that sounds weird, but with digital recording, and you know with all your technology, you’re recording us now and this is fantastic because its ideal to get it down, but nothing beats having proper mics and testing one, two, three, and once the needles go, you really feel like you’re making a record.

K: It’s like analogue film isn’t it? If you use analogue film in a camera it’s so much more exciting and every take counts, every photograph you take you put more thought into it because you know you’re not going to see it for a week until it gets developed, and you know you’ve only got 30, rather than a digital camera where you can take thousands and hope you get one.

J: And I remember when we went there with all our digital recordings, what you have to do, you have spend about 3 days with an engineer, because we’re not capable of doing it on the old desks, because you run all your recordings back through all the channels and lift it and bring it all through the analogue system. And we were so fearful because with technology you can do everything digitally and a lot of the records you hear, probably 90% of records you hear, they’re going through processing, if you want imitation analogue-sounding plug-ins that give you the desired effect, and they’re really good and they’re really fantastic, but if you go through real analogue stuff, it’s not like you can go “oh it’s not working, just tweak it”, it either works or it doesn’t, if it doesn’t you have to stay digital, you can’t kind of go … we were using voice boxes to sing through that Marvin Gaye had sung through, and you know back when he was singing he wasn’t going “oh, auto tune that, tweak that”, you can’t do that, they don’t have the facility, it’s an instrument, you literally put it through, compress it, listen to it and if it doesn’t work, you’re like “oh shit, we can’t use it”.

K: And we hear a lot now about the sound, the songs, not only the songs but the actual sound people, they don’t know what it is, but they hear it in it, it’s some kind of air it puts in it which gives you like an atmosphere as you listen to it.

J: You’re not cheating anything and it was a real moment for us because when it all went up on the Borg, I think we left the engineer for about two days while we sat in the kitchenette partying and stuff and he said right I’ve got it all up, you can come and listen to your recordings now, as if you’ve done it all in the studio, and pressed play, and 50-60% of it worked naturally so we were able then to carry on. It wasn’t like we had to sort of repair loads of stuff, and it was just amazing, it was just like, I won’t forget it …

K: No, it was really good.

J: If we can afford it in the future I think we’d always do our demos in our own studio, and then get to a really good renowned studio with some history, because you get so much from it.

Claire B: So do you think you end up with a kind of a more live sounding sound, recording it like that?

J: I don’t think it’s live, because it is a studio album still, it’s still in a studio environment. We played everything, we always play everything on our records, we don’t use samples, we’ve produced all our own records except for this one which we’ve co-produced with Andy Taylor, so everything in our records is guitars and drums, although we loop some of our own drums, so we record drums and we may take the best bit of those drums and create a loop to give you that rhythmic pattern just like they did in the 80s with midi and the drum machines, they were still looping but they were like much more real in time. So I don’t think it gives us more of a live band feel but I think it does come out … in digital recording you can go over and over and over again perfecting it, you can keep processing it, with analogue you can’t, because once it’s on tape you can’t cut the tape up, you can splice the tape …

K: So it’s not perfect but its got a charm to it, whereas, us as well, especially Jules, he’s a perfectionist, he can work on a song for like a year to a point where he’s murdered it, and then he finds it again, whereas with the analogue thing I think …

J: You leave it, that’s it, it’s there …

K: It is what it is …

J: You just have to put your performance in, you have to make sure when you do your vocal take, and particularly Katie that you’re in the right frame of mind, you’re comfortable. And then on this record she didn’t use any headphones at all, we’ve never done that before, and that was something that Andy helped us along with. When you put headphones on, I hadn’t thought of it before because every picture I’ve ever seen of the greats, even back in the 70s everyone’s wearing headphones at the microphone apart from in Michael Jackson sessions which we did watch online, when you take the headphones off and you just have the speakers in the background you’re part of the record, whereas in your own bubble, you can go off and …

K: You’re over analysing yourself again …

J: And so all the vocals, we were sitting there and Katie was just singing along, you can hear the difference, you’re really in contact with it. I think that’s the major difference with this record for us. It’s a departure in sound. Every record we make, we’ve always said from the beginning we want to challenge ourselves and not be the same band all the way through. I know sometimes your audience wants you to be the same band, they want more ‘That’s not my names’ and ‘Shut up and let me gos’, they want 10 of them, but for us, as artists, the type of band we are, we just can’t do that. It has to be, you know, I was at college studying art, you know after the first year you develop a bit more and straight away you’re looking for a new challenge, you want your art to change, and I think that’s what we’ve done with each album. Luckily meeting Andy and being able to go to Avatar gave us that platform for change once again. The second album was different from the first and I think the third is different from the second.

K: Yeah.

Claire B: I was going to ask you about the writing process and how that works between the two of you when you’re writing songs. The way that you’ve recorded this album, did it actually change the way that you would normally write?

K: Before we went in with Andy we had a lot of ideas. I really got into writing on my iPad in Garage Band. It was so easy, I’d literally be sat in the bath going [sings notes] writing songs and it really worked because we had some kind of bare bones that we’d go in with. We may completely change it when we go in there but we had like a starting point. It’s normally, we’re weird, every song’s different so, you know, one song is some kind of a lyric idea we have before we go in like ‘Wrong club’, for other songs it’s just we’re singing along and we’re singing absolutely random words just to get a vocal down and then the melody and then we’re like “oh that sounds like Daughter”, or remember I was singing I forgot I was a daughter in one of the songs, and I don’t think I actually sang that but it sounded like it, and then we based the whole song around the concept of that fight you have where you’re really living a crazy life and checking yourself going that you’re someone’s daughter, like sort yourself out for something like two minutes. So every song’s different. Sometimes it’s Jules on guitar, sometimes it’s me playing some crappy little chord sequence on my Garage Band or sometimes we’re driving along and, we got done on a speed camera once, literally with me with the phone held to Jules’ face as he was singing, and we were like, he wasn’t technically on the phone because we were recording but the phone was in his face, and he’s gone, “quick I’ve got an idea”, and I’m like this [Katie pretends to hold a phone to Jules’ face] …

J: And the camera flashed …

Claire B: Photographic evidence of the writing process.

J: Yeah, we got caught in France.

Claire B: Why did you choose to come to Ibiza to do the album?

K: Many reasons really. We like going to a new place every time we make an album. We went to Berlin, we went to Manchester, we didn’t want to go back to Manchester for the third album. Jules has quite a connection with Spain, as his family are here. We came here, I don’t know why we came here for those two weeks, but we were looking for somewhere to rehearse before we went to China and maybe Jules’ family had been there and said why don’t you rehearse in Ibiza, it’s quite close. And we came here in the winter and it was nothing like I’d thought Ibiza would be like. We’d only ever played at Ibiza Rocks in San An and seen San An for one night, with Brits kind of vomiting on each other, and then left, and that’s all we really knew of Ibiza. And then suddenly we were here in the winter and we met all these amazing characters and there was this kind of ghost town feel, but not, and it’s really odd, and we thought “wow, what a good place to go to just get away from yourself and just write”, and that’s what we did. We didn’t have any intentions of working with anybody on the record, let alone Andy. We met Andy here. What happened was, we were getting offers, when we were writing when we came to rent the house in Santa Gertrudis, as we were writing we kept getting offers to write for lots of big artists. They all wanted, write us a song like ‘That’s not my name’, and we’re like “oh my god” and beating our heads on the table trying to write them ourselves you know, come on, “oh here you go, have it”, yeah, we’ll just keep writing. It’s like two years of depression sometimes to get one bit of good song out of yourself. So Andy, who would become friendlier and friendlier with us said well if you want to do something like that and you’re too busy on your own album then maybe we could record it in my studio and I’ll help you out with it and take the pressure off. So we said “OK”. I can’t remember which artist it was, we got a song, they said can you write us a song, so we sat in the studio with Andy and the first song we did was amazing, and we were like, “I’m not giving this song to anyone”, which is again why we probably don’t write for a lot of other people, because if we write something good, we’re like so passionate and it’s so like an emotional moment for us to then just give it to someone and watch them tour it, it would break my heart. So I was, at one point I remember you said well we need to send it to this person and I was like “no, it’s the best I could do, I’m so happy with it” …

J: We’ve got hoards of songs, like demos if you want, and our manager is constantly saying, you know when you’re off here touring and the record would be doing what it’s doing and our manager is saying like, “you know all those demos you’ve got, can I send a few of them out?” and I’d be like “no”, because you never know, it would be like that’s the EP, the special deluxe version we’re going to put out. We never do put them out …

K: But there’s a part of us that would probably really like to write for other people as well, but I think we need to get our Ting Tings album together first and feel really good about that. And then by the time we’ve finished touring we’re going into our next album and there’s never time, but we wrote this song with Andy and we were like “oh my god, this is really good”, and we really enjoyed the process of working with someone which we didn’t think we would, so we said “oh let’s do another one”, which we did, which was ‘Do it again’ and we were like, “wow, this is working”, so we said to Andy, “Andy, you’re co-producing, we’re bringing a load of equipment into your studio as well”, and we didn’t move, and that was it. There was no plan.

J: We just lived there and we would get there at 11, 12 and then not leave until 3, 4, 5 in the morning and sometimes we slept there …

K: How often did you see us? We were here and we never went out, not even really to eat or anything, we were just recluses with Andy, doing the album …

J: That’s not hard to do, because he’s pretty reclusive …

Claire B: What’s the album called and when is it being released?

K: The album’s called ‘Super Critical’ and it’s being released on October 27th.

Claire B: And you’re releasing it on your own label this time is that right?

K: Yeah. We’re releasing it and it’s being distributed through PS throughout Europe, Sony in Japan are putting it out there, because we would have loved to done our own label the whole world round but we have no knowledge about how Japan works, so in Japan we gave it to Sony, in Australia we gave it to, it’s part of the Mushroom group. So yeah, we’ve kind of kept as much of it on our own label as possible and then where we have to, maybe in the States, that we go with, in an ideal world we would go with a really big Indie, because again we don’t think that me, Jules and Tav our manager and one other person could tackle that whole American radio thing, but for Europe we’re doing it through our own label.

Claire B: And have you done it that way so you can have more control?

J: Yeah.

K: It’s so it’s enjoyable really. We stopped enjoying it with Sony and everybody good got sacked, so you know, everybody whose baby we were who were around when we got signed and looked after us at the beginning, they got sacked and we’re employing them now. It’s really weird and it feels like we are still on Sony in a way because we’re working with everybody that we worked with, but just not through Sony. We thought quite hard to leave the label, not full of bitterness, but just knowing that we can’t work like that, it’s just impossible for us that there’s 20 people having a meeting of what we should sound like. It wasn’t like that for the first album, we made the record ourselves, and so for the second album we had such a bad run of an experience that we thought well rather than sitting here and slagging our label off which is not getting anyone anywhere, let’s just do it our own way and be positive rather than negative.

J: We’ve always done that. On our first record we printed our own vinyl in Salford and for the first year ‘That’s not my name’ and ‘Great DJ’ was a double A side on vinyl that we pressed in Germany cheaply and we put it in Piccadilly Records and it became distributed from our house really. We really enjoyed that process and as it was gaining momentum from our shows and the little tours that we were doing, it’s something that you’re so attached to and you’re very proud of when you’re putting your record out, not just being the artist but also physically giving someone your hand-made record if you want. And then it got really out of hand and then Sony moved in and we were in a lot of debt and we couldn’t afford to live our lives and so we took that deal, and us and Tav our manager, we’d said from day one that we wanted to, we were a pop band and we wanted to be one of the very few pop bands that can be really independent. There’s a lot of indie bands that are independent, and they sell little records and they go on little tours and they support themselves and it’s really cool, but we are a pop band, our music tends to do really well on radio and synchs and stuff like that, and we have this notion that when you do cross into success, commercial success, you are part of the system, you know, you’re part of that whole kind of mechanism. You fit in on a Monday and then next Monday it’s Michael Jackson and the next Monday it’s The Doors or whatever records they’re releasing and it’s really frustrating because you become part of a plan, part of an agenda and that goes against everything we believe in. The way we make our music, we make every record ourselves and we’ve gone off and found a place and funded it ourselves, even when we were signed we did that. So when it came to this record it just felt like that we’re going to do it all ourselves again but have to suit this corporate thing of sitting in board meetings and go through what slots you’ve got, and what you can’t do, what colours you can’t wear and why MTV don’t want you to say these words and it just felt again, it felt that we’re not restricted with who we work with. Like meeting Andy was fate, being in Ibiza worked brilliantly and then all of a sudden you do all that great creative work which is the main thrust of what you do and then you give it to a label and you sit there being told what to do, it just doesn’t make sense. They’re really good at it, but they make 10 bands really successful and 100 won’t be, and they can live off those 10 bands. But it’s like social entrepreneurship today, everything is social, everybody is running Air BnB and renting their rooms out and living their lives like that because it’s tough out there and we work like that because here, the way we’ve set this up, you can see by the state of things, this is just the band plugging in and having a little room and getting on with it. So when you get to that final hurdle of putting your records out, that’s the bit that we haven’t done over the 3 records well. We’ve always been with a major, and when we said to our manager, look we’ve got this record, everyone is thinking it’s really strong, how do we go about not falling into that trap of being just another one, how can we make another statement, not just musically, and not just on our tours because people go “oh they’re a great band live”, what’s the next statement, not a new fashion, not just the way you cut your hair, you know everyone’s seen a mohican everyone’s seen all different hair cuts, what is going to be the statement? So we were fuelled by that, and Tav has helped us immensely to get through all those barriers that you have to get through, opening the label, we called it Finca Records …

Claire B: Is he your manager?

J: Yeah, Stephen Taverner. He looks after ALT-J and us, they’re the two bands he looks after, and we were able to, it took quite a long time to set up, the mechanics of it, finding people that want to work with us in that arena, we found some amazing people, and now we’re going through, like Katie said, we’re distributing it through PS, we’re getting great airplay in Germany and in Holland and we’re just starting to kick off in the UK and we’re getting great airplay on college radio in the states which is the best way to start, because it’s the real … the best way to get that interaction is with an audience. When you’re with a record label you don’t get that …

K: Yeah you get so out of touch with them don’t you …

J: They know how to swerve that and hype and get you into a marketplace to give you longevity if it works. We need that reaction with an audience because it is, Twitter for example, I know it’s been around for a while, we missed it on the first album because it was a very new tool when we first started doing it in 2008 when we put our first record out …

K: It wasn’t even around …

J: We didn’t know much about it, it was all MySpace then. But with Twitter you can wake up on a Monday morning and faced with a mountain to climb to try and get your record out and trying to get it heard and you can feel down, and you can go on Twitter and there’ll be like 200 fans that day writing and saying that they have just found your record on some little radio station and think its brilliant and that sets your whole day up, it’s just totally invigorating. You think let’s get the next day done now, and that’s where we’re really enjoying this at the moment, it feels so much like we’re a new band again, and that’s another thing, nothing beats being in a new band and we were told this when we first started out …

K: Yeah …

J: We didn’t sleep, we had 3 hours sleep a night, we were moaning at our manager about how our clothes were stinking, and how dare you put 3 shows on a day, how can we function like this and my mum’s going to f***king kill you when she sees how much weight I’ve lost, there’s all that shit going down and our manager used to say, look, enjoy this moment because you’ll never have it again. And he was so f***king right, because being in a new band and being discovered and breaking through is the best thing that’s ever going to happen to any musician. And I think we crave that, being artists, we don’t just want to go top of the pile and say, “look what we’ve done”, we want that discovery. Because that’s how we discover music, we’re looking around, particularly on adverts now and synchs, we don’t actually listen to a lot of radio, but we hear an advert online and we go “what the hell is that music?” and then we look, search and it will be this obscure band in America and then all of a sudden, two months later and they’re breaking through. It’s that element that we’re absolutely adoring at the moment and I think that if we can make this work via this method, the message for us and all our friends in other bands is that it does work if you can just get over that hill, it can work hopefully.

K: And if not it will be really enjoyable doing our own thing anyway and being creative, so …

J: Yeah … sweating it out in Ibiza [they both laugh – it was another really hot, humid day].

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Claire B: I was going to come back to Ibiza actually. Do you think that being in Ibiza has had an influence on the album musically?

K: Yeah, definitely. I think, not in an EDM kind of way, not what you’d hear, it’s almost what we would dream up, what we hoped a club here would one day be, which was kind of that Studio 54 vibe. The main thing being the tempo just being a little bit slowed down. I don’t know, the amount of times I’ve been stood in Pacha and just watched people going “er, er, er, er, er, er” [Katie makes monotonous EDM-like sounds mimicking the music] and I’m like, “god”, I can’t even dance and look cool to it, I can’t find a way to dance to it, it’s just so like … there’s some amazing people like Solomon that we’ve really enjoyed in places like Pacha, but generally it’s, it’s not sexy music, it’s just taking an e and gurn to it music, and you know, it’s all right, and great when you’ve taken an e and gurning, but apart from that, you come away from it and you can’t even remember it because you’ve had to take an e to get through it [laughs]. You kind of feel like you’ve been beat up and we were like watching all these documentaries on Studio 54 thinking everyone looks so sexy and all the girls, the music, you could dance to it you know. You could go to a bar and sing a song because there’s a f***king song in it and not just some trancey beat, so it was everything that we dreamed up that we hoped Ibiza will become in the next couple of years which it probably will anyway. So it did have an influence but not a direct influence, it was more, I mean we weren’t out clubbing every night either, we really weren’t, it was more …

J: But I think rhythm was king …

K: Yeah …

J: In this album, if you listen to the album there’s a lot of kind of rhythmic funk and soul in the guitars and drums and I think as The Ting Tings we’re kind of spikey as a band and that being in Ibiza made us think more laterally, go the length of time in a song and not get everything done in the first minute. Like in a dance track you’ve got to wait for that build and then the drop off and there’s another build and a drop off – we learnt a lot about that in the clubs. You know, some of these tracks are 4 minutes long and I think that gave us that time in the music to sort of glide through 3 minutes much more evenly. In fact our new single that we’ve made a video for [Do it again], the guy that we co-directed with who is a BAFTA award-winning graphic artist, he noticed one thing in the new single that dictated the video. He was saying that did you know that you’ve written a 4 minute pop song that at 2 minutes there’s a break-down, slap bang at 2 minutes it breaks down and then goes again. So it’s actually like Robocop, I think it’s called chiasms, where the beginning and the end are the same in terms of how it starts and how it ends, the sections here are the same going out and coming in then there’s a middle section – it’s very symmetrical. And I think, whereas with ‘That’s not my name’, if you take that song it’s kind of all this spikiness at the beginning and then there’s this long drawn out out-tro – it’s very unpredictable in that way. I think on this album we’ve learnt a lot more about structure in songs and I think we’ve got that from Ibiza – when you hear those builds and those drops and those builds and those drops – I think we took a lot of that on board.

Claire B: All I’ve heard so far from the album is ‘Wrong Club’. Is that kind of indicative of the rest of the album?

J: I don’t think it is …

K: It fits in with the album, definitely, but it’s …

J: Yeah, we were really fascinated with early disco music and I know that the island isn’t full of that but you do get some DJs that are playing quite old school disco music that’s coming back and they like to play that type of tune. We were really fascinated by it, particularly New York disco, San Fran disco, but we didn’t want a pastiche, we didn’t want to go Nile Rodgers, we didn’t want to come out with something typically American funk, hence being in Ibiza would make it more European. But disco was a big part of what we were listening to, and then funk, being a drummer and a guitarist, disco is quite hard to play live because it’s quite standard, you’re like [he taps his finger slowly on the table], you know, it’s all you do for four minutes, so we’d kind of funk out the guitars a little bit more and the basslines …

K: We looked a little bit to new wave, like early Blondie where they were singing kind of disco type songs but delivering it live in quite a punky way. Most Blondie songs aren’t very punk when to listen to them, but the way they, it was kind of spikey rather than smooth like [she sings an example from Heart of Glass].

J: Kind of nonchalant, the vocal. Blondie wouldn’t sing like a Diva, she’d just throw it away and we loved that. Like Rapture, it’s still got that funk and soul background to it, so I think that’s the kind of fusion that we were going for on most of the tracks.

K: Which kind of ties it a little bit to the first album because we were listening a lot to new wave, Talking Heads, Blondie, so we definitely have our bands that we always go back to for a reference, but we try and bring a new influence to each album.

Claire B: You mentioned Nile Rodgers. I was going to ask because there was a kind of resurgence almost in a way with disco when Daft Punk’s album came out with Nile Rodgers, and Nile Rodgers has just gone through a massive renaissance, he’s back in fashion again. Did that kind of influence you in any way do you think?

K: Erm, well it’s weird because ‘Wrong club’, we actually wrote that before that track [Get Lucky] came out, and we were quite happy when it came out because we were “ohhh”. We spoke to Nile, we were supposed to play a show with Nile at Montrose Jazz Festival. We’d been in touch and he asked us to go onstage and play with him, and we couldn’t do it because we were playing our show at exactly the same time as his, and when we wrote ‘Wrong Club’ we actually wrote to him and said we’ve got this song that’s so influenced by you and he said “send it to me”, and we didn’t send it to him because we’d just started working with Andy and we felt that that was the kind of path to go. I don’t think you could have an Andy influence and a then Nile, it would have made it weird, you know, so we didn’t do it. I think that there’s also a good band called Jungle at the minute who have that influence as well – for us it just sounds fresh, because it’s just not EDM, you know.

J: I think with Nile and Bernard when they were putting their stuff together, I think they really invented that Chic thing and that sound and I think that when we were talking to Nile, our fear was, and it’s typically Ting Tings, that we could easily get in that world and pull it off, but what are we left with? We’re left with something that sounds like a pastiche or you’re something in their camp. But when we started working with Andy, who by the way was hugely influenced by Nile Rodgers …

K: He was in a band with Bernard Edwards out of Chic, he was in The Power Station with him so he was, he had that knowledge …

J: And Nile had produced Duran Duran tracks …

K: Yeah.

J: And he was like, you know, Nile taught Andy all he knew about how to play back in the 80s, and I think when we were working with Andy we knew after that first month or so we’d instinctively made the right decision because when you think about it you’ve got Nile and Bernard influencing everybody, then you’ve got all the Duran’s and all the bands underneath that are taking from Nile and doing it their own way, so straight away you’ve got a bastardised version of it. Then you’ve got us coming along years later, working with not the guy at the top but we’re working with the guy who was influenced by that guy, so by the time you get your music done, you’ve got something a bit fresh about it, it’s not just where it always is, and I think that with the Daft Punk thing, we loved that track, it was really powerful …

Claire B: You mean ‘Get Lucky’?

J: Yeah, it was an amazing track but it sounds exactly like Nile’s been there, it’s rubbed off completely, it’s probably the best track off the album. We didn’t want to get into a situation where the whole album felt like we’d just stolen, you know, everything that happened in that time and that era. I think what we’ve ended up with when you listen to the whole album is the influence. You hear Andy who was also influenced by it, but there’s enough detachment of what we’re doing that gives it a bit of a left turn, which is, that’s what music is all about, you’re taking all those influences and your reinventing it and adding your thing and it keeps going like that until people forget ….

K: I remember with the first album I got obsessed with The Gossip, they hadn’t really had success with ‘Standing in the Way of Control’ at the time, and I remember on ‘That’s not my name’, I took so many influences for the vocals from that, and I sound nothing like it. Nobody would probably say that it sounds anything like it, because I’m such a pop head, I took what they did and then made it weird pop, kind of girly, shouty thing, but it was definitely an influence. It’s interesting when you mix it with other things, you know what I mean?

Claire B: Yeah, so the influences kind of get diffused don’t they?

J: Yeah.

K: We tend not to listen to too much new music as well when we’re writing because if there’s a great, like The XX, I loved The XX on the second album and everything like, when we wrote a lot, and I was like “no that sounds like The XX and we can’t do that, that’s now,” you’ve really got to go back for your influences because it’s, I don’t know, if there’s something amazing, we’d fall in love with it. So we don’t listen to the radio or anything when we’re writing, we just go and see some old Diana Ross footage of her dancing on some TV show and go “wow”.

Claire B: That was going to be the next question actually. What have you been listening to which has influenced your musical direction?

K: I got obsessed with Stevie Nicks. I’ve always loved Fleetwood Mac – I don’t know if it’s being in Ibiza, as everybody seems to love Fleetwood Mac – you hear them in so many scenarios when you’re hanging out with people, and I really got obsessed with her vocally. Definitely Diana Ross, the Philly sound, even like Rufus and Chaka Khan that kind of thing that’s slightly funky, early Prince where it’s like [she sings a funky, Prince-like guitar riff] all that kind of stuff, so, and again, Blondie, Talking Heads which were all the way through the first and second albums …

J: They’ve stayed with us all the time …

K: They’re our go back to bands, always.

Claire B: So are you planning a big tour then to promote the album?

K: Yeah, but not, we’re going to do, we’ve got our first show in London pencilled in on the 29th so we’re going straight into rehearsals …

Claire B: 29th of October?

K: September.

J: We’ve got three weeks to …

K: Get our shit together …

J: To get our shit together.

K: My main thing is, because they’re such funky guitar lines, is singing and playing them at the same time, because it’s something that I’ll just have to do for four hours a day, before I can do this with my hand, and this with my voice in a different rhythm. It’s going to be a nightmare, I’m going to be crying on the floor. But we had to do that with the first album, I literally would cry in rehearsals, and then we would get it. So that’s the first one and then we will probably start touring from that, probably do like a month of practise shows, key shows in different places, maybe one in Paris, New York and then tour. But I think it would be nice to hold back and do like, like if you saw what we did when we performed at Phantasmagoria [a club night at Booom in Ibiza in August] where it was like a band within the DJ booth, it would be really interesting if we could expand that a bit more and literally squash our whole band setup into a DJ booth and then play. We’ve done two albums now so we played probably most of the cool indie venues in the UK like five times, for us to go and do like a cool club, something that’s a slightly different venue where a band shouldn’t be, and we’d try and make that work. That would be really interesting to us, so we’re trying to look at how we can take what we’re doing with Mike and Claire at Phantasmagoria, make it even more of a band scenario and then go and do club tours.

Claire B: I was going to ask you more about the live shows actually. So are you going to try and bring more DJing into the shows as well and live mixing?

J: We’ve always played loops – a lot of people don’t know what we do because we run them all with our feet. I have about eight pedals around my kit and Katie has three at the font of the stage, with guitar and drums on top. But everything is live, there’s no coding or backing tracks and all the loops carry sounds and we use our feet to trigger them. What we’re trying to do on this one, because we’re fascinated by decks and DJs, what we’re going to do is we’re going to try and use those loops on the decks, use the hot keys you have on the decks and set up sounds and loops and play our drums and guitars with them, so rather than having a DJ and then the two of us, we’re going to keep jumping on and off the decks to keep everything going, and keep jumping back down to guitars and drums. We’ve tried it a little bit and we’ve tried it with a DJ just to help us out, but we’re going to go into full rehearsals with it, and as Katie said, we’re bound to be screaming at each other.

K: Crying …

Claire B: It’s going to take a lot of coordination isn’t it?

J: Yeah, it is.

K: We make it so difficult for ourselves, we always do, but for us it has to feel like, because we can’t physically play every instrument, and the second we bring other musicians on the stage, it totally feels wrong. We did it once when we toured Australia – we took two musicians and we just ignored them onstage – they were so lovely but we just couldn’t click into it and it felt like the energy was sucked out of it. It wasn’t their fault but there’s something about being on a stage when there’s only the two of you and you’re trying to play every instrument or loop in some way and that’s what gives us our show, because people feel that tension and the second it’s easy and you’ve got your bassist and you’ve got an extra guitarist and you’re all, it totally kills it, so we have to put ourselves through it I think.

Claire B: How was the experience of doing Phantasmagoria for the first time?

K: Good. A little bit nerve wrecking. It was really interesting to see what Mike and Claire were going to do because we’d heard about all their plans, and obviously they had technical problems on the first night but we went back on the third night and saw it and then we’re closing it this week. So yeah, it was good, different.

Claire B: Can we expect any more performances in Ibiza before you go off on tour? Not counting Friday.

K: No, there’s nothing confirmed at the moment.

Claire B: Do you plan to return to Ibiza once you’ve finished touring?

K: Yeah.

J: I think we’ll be in and out all the time.

K: Yeah, it’s weird Ibiza isn’t it? It gets you – you hate it when you’ve been here for a year and been in a damp finca and you’re like “oh my god I’m sick of this” and then you leave and then you’re like “oh I can’t wait to get back”. So it’s definitely sucked us in, yeah.

Claire B: Yeah, it has a habit of doing that doesn’t it?

K: Yeah.

The Ting Tings third album ‘Super Critical’ was released on October 27th and they are about to embark on a promotional tour, starting in Brussels on November 15th. Full details at:

www.thetingtings.com

ting tings tour

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