Q&A: Ford & Lopatin On Playing Together And Playing With Studio Toys
Games was once the name of longtime pals Joel Ford and Daniel Lopatin's studio project that they collaborated on while Ford performed in Tigercity and Lopatin operated under the spellcheck-challenging noise moniker Oneohtrix Point Never. But now the duo just goes by Ford & Lopatin, and on their poppy yet bizarre new concept album about the year 2082, Channel Pressure, they've shoehorned as many Reaganomic touchstones that can fit onto a single plastic disc as humanly possible. We chatted with them about revisiting their jazz-fusion past, playing with their extensive gear collection, and their favorite R&B summer jams.
You guys met back in sixth grade. Did you instantly bond over music?
We definitely bonded over music right away. Dan lived within walking distance of school and I remember the both of us sprinting to his house one day to listen to my new copy of the Metallica self-titled tape.
You both cite jazz-fusion tracks from that era. What were other kids listening to that you reacted against? And I'm wondering which one (if any) you guys have revisited and how your perspective on them had changed at all? Did Return to Forever still sound good?
I don't think our jazz and jazz-fusion listening was reactionary. It's just what we liked. We listened to a lot of the popular rock music at the time we became friends. Grunge gone pop bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, etc. Return to Forever has become more of a reference for keyboards and keyboard sounds over the years, but I still jam out to '70s Herbie Hancock albums. Thrust never gets old for me.
You also drew covers for fictional bands' albums. What were these bands called, and what were the visuals like? Did you save any of this stuff?
There is a manila folder somewhere with all of the fictional tape and cd cover art. Would love to find that. I remember a few band names. They were very alt-rock / grunge"Nails on a Chalkboard," "Run-Of-the-Mill," "Indus Fan."
Have you stayed in touch all this time and followed a similar musical trajectory, or were there divergent years?
Dan tried out for our grunge band in sixth grade and was denied the part of bass player. As time went by the same band (The Grainers) became funkier and weirder and by later high school we were like prog-fusion and couldnt exist without Dan and his synthesizer. So yeah, he rejoined the band before it ended when we graduated high school. During that time, though, we used to jam in his basement with two synths. We were called Polyphonic and I think we played one show.
Dan played Juno 60 and I played manual / unsequenced drums on an Ensoniq SQ1 that we borrowed from the high school music department. We ended up randomly going to college near each other (UMass Amherst / Hampshire College) and again played in a short-lived band together that was kind of like Suicide, but with live drums. Dan eventually started doing electronic music in his bedroom, which was the beginning of Oneohtrix Point Never. I was there when he first sequenced his Juno60 with an MSQ-700, and it was one of the purest listening experiences I've ever had. After college I started Tigercity, which brought me to Brooklyn; I've been there for six years now. When Dan moved to Brooklyn three or four years ago, the possibility of us collaborating again became real.
What made you guys want to consolidate everything together in terms of putting together your own studio and record label? Was it important to handle all the business yourselves?
The idea of having our own label was presented to us by Keith [Abrahamsson] and Andres [Santo Domingo] of Mexican Summer over lunch one day last fall. It made total sense being that we thought of ourselves as a production team more than a band. The opportunity to collaborate with friends and in such a rad studio is quite an honor. The curatorial part of running a label comes naturally for us, especially Dan, who's had his own thing going for a while with Upstairs CDR. Software is an imprint under Mexican Summer, so the distribution, marketing, and promotion is all handled by their organization, but we're creatively involved in some way at every step of the process.
What piece of equipment in the studio are you most excited about utilizing?
There's a lot of toys in there in addition to our own synth / gear collection. They've got a 1974 Neve console, and an entire room just for echo / slap back delays, a '60s plate everb, a few tape machines, and Tom [Clapp, Kemado co-founder / studio designer] is currently dropping in 24 additional channels of API and building his own gigantic mains. I hope we don't go deaf.
Who is working in there now?
We are! Doing a bunch of records this summer including an Airbird EP, Autre Ne Veut LP, OPN LP, Harmonizer / Megafortress split EP, and possibly a Channel Pressure re-edit record.
Are you glad to have the label serve as an umbrella for friends' acts as well?
Yes. We love collaborating with friends. We have so many talented friends that we're excited to work with in the studio.
Did you find working together on a full-length after all these years to be an easy process, or was it a more involved collaboration?
It was super involved but also real breezy. Our other longtime friend Al Carlson is a talented engineer and helped make the transition into the new studio really smooth.
Were there any musical touchstones you kept in mind while making the album? Anything and everything by Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra.
This album touches on R&B often and with sincerity, and I was curious as to what your favorite summer jams are in this vein. Pharrell + Snoop, "Beautiful"; Marvin Gaye, "Summer Breeze"; Clipse, "I'm Good"; R Kelly, "Ignition (Remix)."
If you could work with any current R&B singer, who would you tap?
The Dream, Jeremih, Rihanna.
Ford & Lopatin perform at the release party for Channel Pressure tonight at 285 Kent.
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