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DJ interview

TECHNO SQUIRRELS




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intro by Kris Upjohn & Jennifer Warner
interview questions by Jeremy Balius

The Techno Squirrels prowess is in their ability to create a near perfect mix of texture and melody, balancing the features of solid electronica. A mix of techno and trance, their releases shows off the masterful way in which the Squirrels create hooky, infectious beats, absorbing textures and compelling melodies. Energetic and vibrant, self-assured and accessible, The Techno Squirrels are definitely a band to watch. They seem to be building up a (well-deserved) following and one can only hope that they continue to produce good music to please the fans and the daily growth via new converts to the church of the Squirrels.

(Click here to listen while you read)

We couldn't pass on running an interview with this pair of techno wizards, because along with their fantastic name and music, but we were offered the below q&a from a writer from Australia via one of the Techno Squirrels herself! Read on to find out more...

The last time we spoke, you had just put out Mute on your own label. Please describe the growth process since Mute up to the release of your new album, "Plastic Makes It Possible". Growth in terms of musical ability, business awareness (in terms of releasing everything on your own), etc..

Ryan: Hopefully the growth process is audible on the album. There was tons of growth for myself as a songwriter, producer, and musician. I became a bit of a keyboardist in making this album. Previously, I knew just enough to plonk out a melody but now I'm throwing down organ licks on 'Easier Said.'

Lisa: I definitely have seen enormous growth in areas of my production. My drum programming is less experimental and more purpose-driven. As a business we've grown, too. We signed with the distributor Independent Online Digital Alliance.

When asked what pop music was, Boy George once answered "I just think that everything is pop." What is pop music to you?

Ryan: Boy George might have a tough time finding the 'pop' in Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart... at least I do! I think, though, that pop music isn't a dirty word. I'd love to be thought of as pop music.

Lisa: Popular music is what a lot of people listen to. If many people listened to Arvo Pärt, then his music would be pop music even though he's a classical composer.

With both of you producing, is all the lyricism still with Lisa, or is Ryan doing some of the lyrical writing as well these days?


Ryan: Yeah! I'm writing lyrics now! Not all on my own. But Lisa let me in on the process for this album. She's very guarded about what she sings since it gets attached to her by virtue of it being her voice. But she asked for my input and editorial help, for sure. Usually she had more lyrics than would fit in the song and I'd help comp it down. One track, 'Everything', probably has my biggest finger print on it, lyrically.

Lisa: Ryan is a really good writer. I really appreciate his help. It feels like it's a burden lifted off me that I'm not completely alone in the lyric writing. However, it still needs to be the particular idea or feeling that I want to express because otherwise it's very hard for me to sing it.

How are you two getting on in LA now that it's been a few years there? What re some aspects of LA you love? What can't you stand?

Ryan: What I love about LA is that everyone comes through here. If you want to see live music or work with a producer, chances are they're either in LA permanently or coming to LA sometime soon. What can't I stand? LA's freeway system!

Lisa: The sun is unbeatable and I still love the mountains. The palm trees and exotic vegetation would make it paradise if it weren't for the environmental problems and sprawl.

The album is called "Plastic Makes It Possible". Care to elaborate on the name?

Ryan: The title, though sounding like a positive, is actually a sad admission. It's more like an ironic version of "Plastic is Depressingly Necessary to Make this Album." From the CD itself all the way back to the computers that make the music, plastic has been necessary for every step. So Lisa and I realized how dependent we are on this gunk we hate so much for its damage to the earth and ourselves.

Lisa: Plastic is one of the toxins that have been shown to cause Endometriosis, which is an illness I suffer from. Some of the lyrical content on this album comes directly from my experience with Endometriosis. Knowing how many people suffer from illnesses that may be directly or indirectly caused by petro-chemical plastics. I wanted to bring some focus on that. The cover and title is a reference to the naive 1950s mindset of domesticity and "better living through chemicals." But on the inside artwork we put California's official cancer warning that appears on most plastic products these days.

What are some underlying themes resonating through the album?

Lisa: For me, personally, it's self-expression and self-healing. 'Music Is My Drug' is a self-expression track. 'Everything' is a definite self-healing track. But those themes also pop up in 'Repeat til Fade', 'Unbelievable', 'Easier Said', and probably every other track in one way or another.

The cover photo has this real retro 50's feel to it. Is that tongue in cheek?

Ryan: Totally. Once we had the title of the album, we wanted something that reflected the ironic idealism of the "Plastic Age." We started looking around at 50s advertising and came upon an ad from General Electric where a wife was getting a toaster as a gift. From a feministic perspective we loved the idea of the 'wife' in our recreation getting something empowering like a 606 drum machine. It challenges the 1950s "be seen and not heard" quiet house-wife idea with a new 'be heard... really loud' idea.

Lisa: I love subversive messages through simple images. We both read Adbusters magazine and I love the 1950s aesthetic. So when we hit upon this title and idea, it just seemed natural. Being in LA, we found a vintage store that had EVERYTHING we needed... totally authentic and original... for 15 dollars!

I've seen some footage of you on youtube performing live. Please describe your live set up. You both produce, but Lisa sings. Does that mean Ryan primarily focuses on the programming when live, while Lisa sings?


Ryan: I do a lot of sample triggering and filter adjustment, etc. Electronica live is a different beast than playing with a band because you're usually triggering and controlling pre-programmed material.

Lisa: Singing live is a conflict for me because, on the one hand, I feel the audience want to see me singing live but I can't focus on singing and triggering things at the same time. So I can only do that when I'm not singing. The full video that our youtube clip comes from has more of me in the technical role.

What is your live set up?


Lisa: Two laptops running Reason software, Ableton Live software, a drum trigger pad, a few controller keyboards, and that's it.

Ryan: We also, whenever possible, like to include a projection system behind us. It gives people something to watch if we get boring!

Traditionally, dance music is for the 12" and DJs play it out. Why is it important for you to present your music in a live setting?

Ryan: Maybe I'm selfish but if a DJ plays my music live, I don't get to see the audience enjoying the track. For all the advances of the internet, playing live is still one of the best ways to connect with your audience and grow your audience.

Lisa: A lot of people on myspace and elsewhere ask for it and show an interest in seeing us live. There's a few of us in LA who are making this sort of electronic performance music and we're trying to show club owners and clubbers alike that a live act can fit into a club setting between two DJ sets just fine.

Your house is on fire. You can take one thing. What?


Ryan: You know we had this discussion in the studio the other day! I said "nothing." I mean, stuff is just stuff. Sentimentality aside, I'd see it as an opportunity to scale down. lol

Lisa: My handbag... how horribly gender stereotypical of me. But the reason is actually because I couldn't handle the thought of going to the immigration authority to apply for a replacement green card! I'd consider torture over that.


Any thoughts on touring? If yes, when and where?


Ryan: Once the album's out, we're taking it on the road. We're excited to get out to places that desperately want electronic music but don't have it and places that have so much that we'd fit right in.

I heard you've recently made your soundtrack debut on a tv show in Canada. How did that come about?

Lisa: We got a placement in a show called Regenesis, which is a CSI-type show up there. It came about largely through my contact with music supervisors, who are basically the gate-keepers for music in TV and film. They liked the track and contacted us.

What do you get up to when you're absolutely sick of listening to music?

Ryan: I go biking. I load my iPod up with talk-radio and go for a ride. I see other people running or biking with headphones on and can only imagine that their listening to some sort of pump-up mix. I'm listening to policy wonks debate foreign policy. lol

Lisa: I go to yoga class. A good power-yoga class is meditation in movement. It's the best way for me to clear my mind.

Where's the best place to eat in LA?


Ryan: You know, a friend of mine was just going on and on about the Glendale Hospital cafeteria. It sounds weird, but apparently they have great food!

Lisa: In Los Angeles the best place to eat is just a short 385 mile drive north to Scala's Bistro in San Francisco or Snow Garden, an unassuming but killer Chinese restaurant up there.

What is the Techno Squirrels message to the world?


Lisa: There's no conscious message while I'm writing. However, the end result is songs about self-healing, personal growth, and overcoming addictions. So in a sense, there is probably a message of striving for wholeness and balance. Instead of "Plastic Makes it Possible," it'd be "Healing is Possible, Happiness is Possible, and Music is Possible."

Ryan: "Plastic Makes it Possible", out August 21st, and available for pre-order on our website now!!! ;

:: www.technosquirrels.com ::

Thanks to Jeremy Balius of Australia for these interview questions - and to the Techno Squirrels for their answers!

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