Interview: Jordan Foster
Ahead of his debut Sheffield show as part of Outlines, we caught up with Shock Machine to talk life after Klaxons, influences and what the future holds. Catch him on Friday night at Leadmill alongside Jagwar Ma, Fear of Men and more.
For anyone unfamiliar with Shock Machine, give a brief insight as to what sort of music you've been churning out of late under this new moniker.
Wonky melodic pop music played on analog instruments. Sounds pretentious!
Shock Machine's debut album is released next month - just in time to warm us up for your performance at Outlines! What can we expect from this full-length release?
After Klaxons ended I thought, if I only had the chance to make one more album what would it be? I started unashamedly re-listening to the music I loved growing up and that made me want to be musician in the first place (amongst others, The Beatles, Todd Rundgren, Brian Wilson, Paul Simon, Elton John). I then tried to write songs with them in mind.
I also wanted to be ambitious and not feel like I had to write in a generic pop sense. It helped that I didn't have a label at this point and I was simply writing for myself without having to please anyone. So it soon transpired I was making the music I wanted to make.
Sounds crazy but your musical past can really be a weight on your shoulders and with Shock Machine I had no expectations which was very liberating and made the process fun again. More specifically, I'll always have a pop sensibility but with Shock Machine I wanted to push the musical side of things into stranger places.
What predominantly influenced it?
The direct musical influences were the above, plus things like Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips, Panda Bear, US Girls, Bowie, Wings, 10cc, ELO, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, and chords in 7ths. I love the early post Beatles McCartney records - the spirit of Ram was a huge influence. Also I was enjoying making it so I guess the record has a slightly sunny disposition.
James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Florence + The Machine) lent his dextrous production. How did he help shape the record?
When I first started writing and demoing songs at home, James was one of only a couple of people I had the confidence to play my music to. I was actually really nervous and lacking confidence.
However, I thought 'what have I got to lose', so I played James the songs and he was really enthusiastic about them. I started writing more and gaining confidence. I'd send him demos as I went along and he'd add notes like "make the song weirder" and so I would!
When it came to recording James is also a brilliant drummer, so between him and I we were able to play all the parts
Many Shock Machine fans will have discovered the band through Klaxons - your initial breakthrough group. How would you say this project differs from your previous?
I actually don't think many Klaxons fans have made the connection yet. I think people move on so fast musically and in this age there's a lot of music out there and people jump from one thing to another without having as deep a bond with a band. You stream a song, listen a couple times then move on to the next thing. I'm probably being over dramatic but it kinda fees that way.
How this project differs is it's just me! Klaxons was a bonkers three-headed beast that was always pulling in a few directions (punk, dance, pop, psych, house, reggae!). Shock Machine is more in the melodic dream-pop side of things that with Klaxons we sometimes steered toward.
Most of your initial tracks appear slightly more measured, more psychedelic; was this a conscious evolution, or one owed to age and maturity?
No idea. Again I was just trying to make what came most naturally to me. There was no weed or lava lamps. The only connection to psychedelia is a love of phase.
It's almost 10 years to the day since the release of Klaxons' Mercury Award winning and nu-rave-leading album Myths of the Near Future. From your perspective, did the nu-rave scene develop organically? Or was it simply a bunch of bands lumped together by the media?
I'd say the later. I can only speak of Klaxons but we started as a kinda joke band from New Cross. The NME started grouping together a load of so called nu-rave bands and then was a momentum that everyone started riding. Really though I don't think any of the bands had anything in common musically or lyrically.
I'm totally proud and have fond memories of being in Klaxons though. We pretty much ticked every box of what a band should do and it's great now having Jamie and Simon as friends without the band baggage. It all seems like a wonderful blur.
Why did the fleeting wave of nu-rave run out of steam so quickly?
Because it was built on neon sand.
What does the future hold for Shock Machine? Chart ruffling or sticking under the radar?
Number 1 records across the globe. Hugely successful tours. Drug and alcohol addiction. Rehab. Repeat.