Italian music- and fashion journalist Benedetta Cucci gives an insight to the growing (major) acceptance for Synth-Sounds. The 80s are back, at least as strong references. The fashion-/art and music-label Ersatz-Audio and the band Adult. were there before the media-coverage exploded and they are ready to kick ass the hype.
Ersatz means synthetic. Adult. is a serious name that was chosen by Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller, as a joke or seriously, they admit, »because we didn’t want raves to book us and we did not want to play for young kids with glow sticks and teddy bear back packs anymore«. Adult. means different audience. These two names, Ersatz chosen for one of the most adored synthpop labels around, and Adult. as perfect band-brand, have for sure a certain sound. You’ll remember them easily.
Adult. is the phoenix out of the ashes of the outstanding Techno-Project Le Car, from Motorcity Detroit, of course. In Austria, Adult. may be best remembered by one of their very first released tracks on the compilation »Electro Juice II« on Sabotage Rec.. It’s a sound deeply seductive on which Adam and Nicola really work. Adult., different from any other, recognizable among all the others. Ersatz can be seen as a label working on the very front for music that deals with a sound that is more and more becoming interesting, both for media and for clubs. But for sure also for big labels who are really good in buying phenomena but not good at all in foreseeing trends. Just look at Fisherspooner’s 2-Million-pounds contract with Ministry of Sound for licensing the track »#1« for England. Looks good, feels good, sounds good. For the band for sure. For the audience who still believe in purity a bit less. But after all Fisherspooner exist to sell a product not just to satisfy their hedonism. And of course this interest from a major for the electro-pop-world will bring the whole thing to a final explosion, with a renaissance and a renewed purity. Hope is still around: Let Adult. be your guide…
But…let’s start the conversation with Adult.’s Nicola, met in Athens during the Bios-Festival in April and interviewed by mail days later, when the Detroit-duo was occupied in playing in arty places in USA and finishing the compilation »Misery loves company«. It will be out in shops on june 4th, featuring 13 artists from DMX Krew to Solvent and Skanfrom, from Kitbuilders to G.D.Luxxe, from Lowfish to Charles Manier via Goudron, Gold Chains, Tommie Sunshine, Magas, Khan and Electronicat together in the project Pig, Cat & Co and Adult. themselves.
I was impressed by the live-set: Straight, musical pressure, concentrated, no breaths, no stops. Intense. I thought your presence maybe was too far from the audience on that huge stage at Bios. Apart from the fact that you were not really fit for fun (Nicola had a terrible cold), is it usually like this how you play or is it more involving people?
Nicola: We like to be close to the crowd. We don’t usually play on big stages. But sometimes, at big festivals, they make it hard for you, especially if your not a main act. There are a lot of people playing, which means a lot of stuff on the stage, which sometimes doesn’t leave a lot of room for you. So in a case like that: »fuck it«. If you are going to put us at a big table with no room to move around it then we will stay back there and play.
The beloved machines have gotten in these last years more and more responsibilities. People relay a lot on them. Do you think there is an exaggerating trust? During your concert in Turin it happened that you had to stop the show because of the laptop breakdown. Ho do you feel when things like these happen?
Nicola: I think there’s always been an exaggerate trust, whether it’s your drum machine or your guitar or your laptop, something can break or go wrong. You can even lose your voice like in recent occasions… Turin was unfortunate, but it doesn’t make me feel less confident. I think it makes you a stronger person/performer. You learn from your mistakes, it makes you more prepared. The only problem with playing live is that there is always room for something to go wrong, which sucks, but I’d rather take that risk than put in a DAT or CD and lip-sync to it. That to me is unfortunate.
Do you think your music expresses the mood of your town Detroit or is there no real link to the environment? I remember you told me about playing live: You said you don’t feel you could bring your music everywhere…
Nicola: We think that living in Detroit has a definite affect on our music. The city is stark, cold, industrial. I think, people who are from cities more like Detroit – more industrial – respond better to our music, like Glasgow for example.
Do you think your music is romantic?
Do you think your music is sexy?
Nicola: Yes, but maybe only to people who are neurotic.
Lyrics are monologues, the way you sing is very robotic and the situations you describe are linked to imaginations that really fit to some needs of our society: driving fast, entertainment to death, building relationships through mobile-phones more than socializing, phone-mania. Is there an intent to report what’s going on in human beings nowadays or not? (I really like »Lost Love«, there is something, a mood that reminds me to Normal’s »Warm Leatherette«, a song that always makes me shivering….any inspiration?)
Nicola: I think there is sometimes an intent to tell a story of how we see things that surround us and things that are happening in society. But most of the time the things we write about are just words that we like, that sound nice. We just find lots of these words and then make sentences out of them, and then put the sentences together. I think that’s the fun of the lyrics. The listener can make up what the song is about. It’s not like we’re putting this story right in your face about »a couple that is having love problems« or a story of how »people are so starved for entertainment«. The songs are for you to transcribe/translate.
The human face of machines or: My friends are electric
How did you start to make music and which sounds you were looking for when you started to play?
Nicola: We started by me working with Adam’s solo project »Artificial Material«. He would be working on a song and be ready to throw it out and I would say: »Well, what if you try this…«.
It started to get to the point where we would start and finish a song together, and the music was changing. That’s when we decided to form a new project. We wanted to bring a punk/pop reference to techno music. We wanted to give electronic music a »face«. We wanted to have a project that was more band-oriented than a guy behind a laptop. And when we first started playing live in ???98, there wasn’t a lot of people doing that. Kitbuilders from Germany. I think the Chicks On Speed had just released their first 7???. But we were all outcast. There were people who really loved it, and there were kids that would come up to us saying »can you speed it up, I came out tonight for a techno beat…«
How do you and Adam work together? Which is the creative process established between you two? Are you just music mates or together in life as well?
Nicola: We are married. We have been married for about 3,5 years. I think we have been writing music together since 1997. We formed ADULT. in 1998. The writing of music, both lyrics and notation, is an equal split. We do everything together. A lot of people think that since I’m the »singer« and a »girl« that all I do is stand up on stage and say stuff, which is very untrue. I have several years of classical piano-training.
How much do you work with fashion-photography? Do you research a hidden beauty in unusual fashion point of views… like using fake stiff models for example. What gives this timeless and cool mood to the pictures?
Nicola: Most of the fashion photography work I have done has been for myself. It’s something I have to do, because if I don’t it makes me feel crazy. I really enjoy taking pictures, and if they get used for a gallery exhibition, than great, or published, than great. The ADULT. project has been nice, because it’s been a good excuse to keep making more photos.
You and Adam are really connected to images. Are you not interested in using visuals live?
Nicola: We will see what the future holds. Right now I’m working on a video for a show we are doing at the Andy Warhol Museum. It should be fun, but I don’t think I would always want to have a video. It seems that nowadays everyone wants you to have a projection to play in front of. It has become very important to some promoters and bands. We’re just a band playing our music. We’re not trying to put on some amazing spectacle. We’re just playing music. Does this make sense? However, I will say that both PanSonic and Chicks on Speed incorporate the use of video very well into there live shows. I’ve seen both of them play live several times and it’s always super.
Why did you chose Adult. as your band name?
Nicola: We thought it was a serious name. We were tired of getting booked at Raves. Young kids with glow sticks and teddy bear back packs. That’s bad stuff.
Your opinion about the electropop frenzy going on? How is it there in USA?
Nicola: It’s cool. But there is a lot of bad, cheesy, music that’s coming out. Those people will kill the scene, and make it hard for the people who have been working hard for a long time. But I think when the whole fashionable part has become boring and people move on to something else fashionable the people who are making good, quality, interesting music will still be there and will continue on just as they did in the beginning. Right now in New York it’s crazy. And people are starting to say that New York is the originator of this new scene/music. But that’s bullshit. These people are forgetting where acts like Dopplereffekt, Drexciya, Adult.., Ectomorph, and Le Car came from. Or all the great music that was coming out of Germany in early 98.
Do you usually say yes to everybody who asks you for a remix or do you choose?
Nicola: We choose, and many times we say no and they offer more money and then we say OK.
How do you chose artists to be featured on Ersatz Audio?
Nicola: We look for music that is different.
Next projects coming out?
Nicola: New Releases just out: Magas: »Bad Blood«, Lowfish: »The Accident Causer«. Coming June 4 th: Various Artists: »Misery Loves Company« (EZ020). For fall: DMX Krew, N.O.I.A. from Italy, G.D.Luxxe, and Goudron ( a new artist from Detroit)