2020: a time of social decay among burnt out landscapes, crumbling buildings and the smell of injustice in the air. It's an awful time, as you can imagine. A bit like Robocop really; drugs and violence on every miserable street corner coupled with the bludgeoning atmosphere and wretched knowing that no one gives a damn anymore. There is, however, a soundtrack to this time; one of equal despair, but one that you can get down to - the industrial technoid backlashings of MOTOR. Luckily enough for us though, the duo helmed by Mr. No and Bryan Black come from a decade prior to this time, and have been tearing floors apart with their bloody concoction of hard futuristic techno and industrial rock.
With three albums already under their belt and another in the works, MOTOR are clearly on the up. They've been the go-to guys for remixing artists from every end of the spectrum and, like their peers - Depeche Mode and Throbbing Gristle, are taking the live rock mentality of a group to the club. On Saturday 8th May, MOTOR will be tearing up Room Two and probably turning it into a metaphorical bloodbath, but before the health and safety brigade stamp us down on this we caught up with the darkest dudes on the block to chat about their rising success, recording music in hotel bathrooms and touring with the Mode.
Firstly, can you please introduce yourselves... Bryan Black:Hello, this is Bryan Black. Mr.No: Hi I’m Mr.No, often referred to as “the French bad boy techno rocker.”
You have a heavily industrial sound and aesthetic. What have been your inspirations? BB:Many of the bands we have remixed or toured with: Depeche Mode, Nitzer Ebb, Throbbing Gristle. As well as early Aphex Twin, Autechre, and piano works by Ligeti and Philip Glass. We haven’t modeled any of our songs on other artists music, but surely all the years of listening to electronic, industrial, ambient, classical and punk has made an impression on us which ultimately seeps into our music. Mr.No: For me it was always the analogue sound. My favourite artist is Mr Oizo.
Coming from completely different continents, how did the two of you meet and how does this affect working on music? BB: We were both living in London when we met. I had gone to London in the late 90’s to study film and graphic design. I met Mr No through a mutual friend. We started to hang out and discussing music technology. I was considering starting a pure electronic project after years of making industrial rock music. It seemed Mr No also wanted to ditch the rock scene and make some stripped down dance music as well. Mr.No: I was playing drums as a session musician in Camden’s Underworld with this dreadful rock band called Dirty Harry. My friend Jared Lelouche, a crazy American poet, turned up with Bryan who was not impressed, but somehow we bonded in the dressing room afterwards when he heard about my electronic project. BB: Mr No had a studio in East London at the Fortress. We started playing around and started making demos, all of which were signed to Gigolo and Novamute almost instantly. Nowadays we live in separate countries, so we make music in hotel rooms when we tour. The hotel bathroom operates as the vocal booth. We get noise complaints quite often, but that’s to be expected.
There are some interesting song titles within your albums that seem to represent images of violence or some dark nature. Some titles refer to more obvious forms or violence (‘Death Rave,’ ‘Jacked Up,’ ‘Drug Punk’ and ‘Spazm’) while others read like violent sounds (‘Thwack,’ ‘Sikk’ and ‘Yak’). Is this an avenue which you take interest in exploring? Mr.No: We are pretty laid back, but when we write music together it triggers our dangerous side. BB: Were not really that dark. I have no aspirations to be a serial killer or a drug pusher. The titles usually come after the songs. We choose titles which describe the songs. It’s more interesting for us for the titles to be as raw and bold as the music itself. We started MOTOR to do something completely raw and pure. We didn’t want any clichés in our music. Just pure energy and equally, restraint when necessary.
Unlike many live acts within the club circuit, you perform your songs individually with breaks between each track. Do you prefer to be seen as more of a live band rather than a dance act, or somewhere in between? BB:We always thought to do justice to our sound; we had to deliver it in such a fashion that suited the music. We had no desire to be another laptop techno act. We would rather bang things and make some serious noise and interact with the audience. In this respect, we are more of a rock/punk act that happens to be making electronic music. Mr.No: I like being a party maker with the music, but we’ve got big egos and the breaks between some tracks allow for more applause. More fuel for the MOTOR.
During your live performances, one half of you stick to the beats while the other works the vocals and synths. Do you stick to this method in the studio or dabble in everything? Mr.No: My drive is the beat, so we start with beat jams, bass and melodies. Bryan mainly does the arrangements and adds vocals. Once the track foundation is solid, I mix the final version. BB:We each can do everything and anything. In the studio, we both write songs from scratch and bounce them off each other until they are done. It takes both of our input to make a MOTOR track.
You’ve worked with some big artists from very different musical styles including Depeche Mode and Kanye West, as well as being signed to Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak imprint. How did your collaborations come about?
BB: We were asked to remix Depeche Mode. Martin Gore was a fan. We started hanging out with DM after the remix, and eventually were asked to support them on their Tour of The Universe. We said yes of course. Kanye West was a random meeting: we met him at the airport as we were boarding the same flight to New York. I just approached him and started chatting, he gave me his number and we kept in touch. We sent Steve Aoki a demo of ‘Death Rave,’ which instantly became his secret weapon. He started every DJ set with that track for about 1 year. During that time he decided to sign us to his label.
How was touring with Depeche Mode last year? BB: It was both incredibly stressful and amazing. As the support band, the crew treat you like cockroaches. But once you get in front of 30,000 people everything changes. The band were super nice to us. We were the only support band to get cheered on by their audience. Depeche Mode fans are notorious for being tough on support acts. I kept waiting for a watermelon to smash me in the face, and it never happened. Mr.No: It was quite an experience playing techno at 6pm in huge stadiums at a low volume.
For a group who is partly inspired by rock/live music, would you like to see your live performances going beyond the clubbing atmosphere and into playing more rock style venues? Mr.No: I hate the live rock music scene, I much prefer playing clubs and building up a crazy party vibe. BB: We have played rock clubs and it’s not our thing. We prefer to play clubs and festivals. With the Depeche Mode tour, we proved that we could take our brand of techno to the masses and make it work. Since the tour, we’ve updated our live show to be even more compatible with the club environment. Many of the songs have been remixed and extended with the club in mind.
What other artists are floating your boat at the moment? Mr.No: Erol Alkan is the man; I love his taste of music. BB: Currently, I’m listening to Pantha Du Prince, Ligeti, Autechre, The XX, Brian Eno, Tones on Tail, Vangelis… oddly, I don’t listen to techno.
What plans do you have in the pipeline for 2010? BB: We're recording a new album at the moment. It will be the first time MOTOR collaborates with outside vocalists and artists. We have some amazing people on this record. It's going to be quite shocking to people. After 3 solid techno albums, we’re ready for the next challenge.
What can we expect from your set at fabric? BB: Something different and unexpected. 1 hour of mayhem. It will be fun, no one will get hurt. But I would recommend wearing a helmet, just in case. Mr.No: Pure techno party music for 2020