March 24 2016

The Juan MacLean vs. That Work

New York-Le Bain
NYC duo That Work sat down with The Juan MacLean before they share Le Bain's decks on Friday, March 25th.
THAT WORK: Favorite song of 2016 so far?
THE JUAN MACLEAN: I really like the new Lindstrøm track "Closing Shot." It made me feel better about the reviled category nu disco. To me, nu disco has slightly more credibility than nu metal. I get very upset when my tracks are placed in this category. 
That Work and Juan MacLean (photo by Neil Aline)

That Work and Juan MacLean (photo by Neil Aline)

What has kept you busy since the release of In A Dream?  Is there a new album in the works?
Of course I’m constantly on the road DJing. That’s always a given. I’m working on the next The Juan MacLean album, but in the more immediate future I am finishing a bunch of new Peach Melba tracks and also a lot of stuff with Shit Robot. We have a new project coming up that I’m very excited about. It’s pretty much live machine-based house music—very raw. 

Is there a consistent way in which your songs get written? What is your workflow?
I’m not much of a musician. The only instrument I can really play is guitar, which is not helpful for making electronic music. For me, it’s all about sounds. I tend to make loops first—those are the germs of the songs. I’ll make a loop with a basic groove, maybe some melodic parts, and then I’ll slowly start replacing the programmed drums with live drums and gathering up more keyboard parts from friends who are accomplished players, like Alex Frankel and Morgan Wiley. Then I edited all these parts down into a rough outline of a track and send it to Nancy for vocals. 
The Juan MacLean's "A Place Called Space" (DFA records)

Do you think its necessary to be able to play an instrument to make electronic music?
No, not at all. I make a lot of tracks using sequencers. I have a a few things I use that are basically part writers. For example, the Intellijel Metropolis. It’s a sequencer that has provisions for specifying what key and mode you want to be in. But I really don’t know how to play keyboards. I just mess around on them until I find something that sounds good. 

Do you use loops or do you prefer to record tracks live?
I’ve never used sample pack loops for anything. I basically make my own loops, either with machines or live playing. Even if things are recorded live, like drums, I’ll chop them up, quantize them, and make loops. 
"THUMP: Mixed By The Juan MacLean."

Do you have a uniform? 
Yes. Black jeans, a black T-shirt, and a black sweatshirt. 

How important is physical intimacy?
I don’t really believe in it. It makes me uncomfortable. I’d rather spend time with my machines in my studio. 

Have you spent any time at Central Booking in New York?
Yes, back in the '90s. It was scary back then. I'm not sure if they’ve changed things up since then. Maybe they have gluten-free options in the cafeteria now.
Photo by Justin Miller (2005)

Photo by Justin Miller (2005)

Knowing your love for analog synthesis, do you ever find yourself using soft-synths in the studio?  
All the time! I use the Mono/Poly soft synth quite a bit these days. 

Favorite piece of gear in the studio?
These days it’s my Intellijel Metropolis coupled with an Intellijel Cyclonix Shapeshifter. I’ve been making loads of tracks with that combination. Most of the new Peach Melba stuff is based around that setup. 
What are five of your favorite books?
In no particular order: The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson, Tropic Of Cancer by Henry Miller,  Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and The Outsider by Colin Wilson.

Do you have a fitness regimen? 
Yoga, but I don’t like to talk about it—it leads to too much online eye rolling. 

On Friday, March 25th, Le Bain presents That Work and The Juan MacLean (DFA records).
Doors open at 10pm. The Standard, High Line. 

Header photo by Neil Aline