How has 2020 been for you so far? How was lockdown life felt like for you?
Joefunkel: Dare I say it – I’ve quite enjoyed the lockdown. I’ve embraced my inner hermit – the challenge is to remain focused on music which I’ve had with varying success.
Dandroid: On reflection, I was very, very lucky. I had been volunteering at a retreat in the Valencian Spanish mountains – taking care of the artists staying there – cooking, cleaning, and being a butler with the other volunteer Ryan. I can buttle with the best of them. Together we became a cracking hosting team. I had been due back in London in early March but Lockdown put paid to that. And I’m still here, in Spain, living at a different retreat in Almeria.
Why work anonymously first of all – what’s the thinking?
Dandroid: We’ve both been involved in different musical projects over the years and we just wanted to leave the baggage of those behind and start fresh.
I understand you are a duo – when did you first meet, why make music together?
Dandroid: We met at a warehouse party in Stoke Newington, London, in 2009. Joe was dressed as Dirk Deckard from Bladerunner, he was dancing in front of the booth as I DJ’ed a 70s pop music set at 8am. My girlfriend at the time and I were planning to go straight from the party to come down on Brighton beach. Joe asked us if he could come along, we said yes. Several festival adventures followed, we were both music producers, making tunes together was a logical step but we didn’t start until 2014. We were having too much fun. Since that time we’ve probably made over 50 tracks, and we thought it was time for other people to hear them.
Who does what, do you have your own different backgrounds?
Dandroid: Joefunkel writes melodies and lyrics – and I know what makes a club rock, and have strange ideas for tunes tumbling into my head. I mainly do bass and groove admin, together we come up with the concepts for tunes. I think this is the toughest part. We do sometimes swap roles, I’m no slouch on the couch.
What inspires you, are you making music for certain clubs or situations or in reaction to your own experiences?
Joefunkel: We always imagine how the tune would go down at 4am in fabric – the twilight zone where you can get away with weird but also familiar enough to propel the partygoers’ mind mill.
Dandroid: I get inspired by everything… I’ve been DJing and making music for 20 years, and was gifted an eclectic musical taste by multiple musical parents (my mum’s been married three times – I have back-up Dads, and two of them were in bands.) As Joe says – we literally imagine ourselves in certain places – a huge festival stage, or a tiny hidden secret tent with 50 people in it going mad (like the sort of thing Boomtown do), or the main room of Fabric at 4am… how will it roll out? How will the crowd react? I remember hearing XPress 2 drop Lazy for the first time at Fabric at 4am and thinking ‘Fuck me these guys have nailed it.’
Why do you love analogue gear so much?
Joefunkel: I love randomly pressing buttons until something happens, and you are instantly inspired by the magic of circuitry – the infinite ways of elements are interacting. One of my favourite Jack Nicholson lines as the Joker ‘Where does he get those wonderful toys?’ – it’s mantra close to the Psyfunkel ideal.
Dandroid: Because you press a key and hold it down and it modulates and vibrates and circulates through frequencies… and it sounds fat and interesting without any processing. Often we work out the melodies and commit to midi and then let it run for the duration of the song, recording, and both have our hands on the synth knobs making it change and go weird. EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE! So many of Joe’s parts are the first take, it’s unreal… I craft some beats, bass and groove and he starts playing over it and I’m just like ‘YES! YES! We got it! It’s fucking brilliant!’ And he’s like ‘no wait we got to do it again.’ Thank fuck I’m there in the studio to wave a flag at it, and press save.
Is it about the restrictions and limited possibilities that come with it vs software?
Dandroid: Certainly with loads of plug-ins you can suffer from choice paralysis, the death of getting anything done. We do use software, but we generally prefer the main instruments being analogue. Joe collects synths… he has an Aladdin’s cave of gear. Just today he messaged me to say he’s having some rare thing shipped from America. I remember when I first met him he would tell me that he’d spent all his wages for that month on a synth, on payday, but luckily his job provided him with food and a flat so he was just going to stay home for a month and play with it.
Tell us about the new one you did for Zombie Soundsystem?
Dandroid: The lead track, Wake Up (To Your Sunshine) was the first tune we ever made, and was the morning after we’d got home from a festival… the sadly now defunkt Secret Garden Party. Oh how I miss that party. The original version was simply called ‘Festie Banger’… and one day that will surface, I still love it. Apart from the vocal it’s completely different. But Joe’s reworking with the bossa nova intro was the killer version.
Lucia happened after a mad gypsy festival we attended called Green Gathering on Chepstow Racecourse. The only remaining tent open at 3am was playing this mad mix of breakbeat, rave, hardcore, weird house – a total mash-up – and it was electric. Absolutely primal. We were blown away at the rawness, and how well the DJ was gelling the music together. No idea who he was. Certainly not a touring DJ. The gypsies, dressed androgynously, shades of Sid Vicious, dancing in this strange heaving hot mess that looked like it was gonna break out into a fight at any moment but of course it never did. And we came straight back into the studio on Monday morning and wrote the beats and synth parts.
My Spanish friend Javi was over in London with his daughter and they were hanging out in the studio with us and she just picked up a kazoo and started saying ‘hello my name is Lucia’ so we stuck a mic up. I Say Yes… When you say yes to things, magic leads down that path. Super Snooker Spangle Sunday? Well that was a jam session that got out of hand. We find it’s better to drag the synths, a drum machine, a mixer and a recording device to somewhere other than the occasionally-stifling environs of a studio. This was in a snooker room in a country house, one of Henry 8th’s old piles. I was playing snooker while the vocals were being recorded. We left it in.
Why call the EP Electronic Mistakes- are mistakes important?
Joefunkel: There’s something unsatisfying about deliberate music, we try to introduce elements we can’t control. We don’t go the full Brian Eno – where randomise is king, we just inflict pain onto the order of things and see if it works.
Dandroid: Yeah, we keep a lot of mistakes in. Especially the synthy weird bits. At one point in the late noughties I was making a living ghost-writing tunes for other DJs, and I remember one tune that literally had 52 versions. The artist shall remain nameless, but we had been working on the record for about a year. About twenty studio sessions. I didn’t care that much, I was getting paid but a bit bored of it, and one day at the start of the session I opened up version 3 – which at this point we’d spent maybe 6 hours on it – and it was, to my ears, perfect. Raw, magical, with wispy synth off cuts, my first stumblings with the atmospheres on a Korg synth. And it had some oomph in the beats. A killer engine room. By version 52, it had become over-produced, too clinical, the beats were weak, it had lost most of the magic – the Korg atmospheres long since deleted, the hi-hats changed about ten times, seven different kickdrums tried… I pleaded with the artist to go with version 3, but he was having none of it. But now, with Psyfunkel, we can go with version 3! Make a musical decision and move on. Finish your tunes!
What else have you got coming up?
Dandroid: We’ve got tunes for days. When I first started DJing I loved the Chemical Brothers early series of EPs – Electronic Battle Weapons – and we intend to do exactly the same… put out Electronic Mistakes EPs every three months… So we are going back over our myriad tunes, brushing them up, and putting them out. The Chems are still putting out those brilliant EPs.
Joefunkel: The second volume of mistakes is being construed and will be encroaching upon your mistakes holes soon.