Germany’s electronic duo Mouse on Mars have long been experimenters. Over 11 studio albums and countless collaborations Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma have played in their own corner of the sandbox, allowing a furious amount of sonic investigation into strange realms without pretentiously denying the listener entrance into those realms. Cameron Macdonald once referred to them as “post-everything.” We recently spoke with St. Werner as he travelled from Minneapolis to Chicago, touring behind MOMs latest album WOW. (Which looks like an upside-down version of the acronym of their name.) He seems like a busy guy, joking that he had the phone taped to his head while tweeting with his feet; but he’s also warmly intelligent, introspective, and chats freely with the vivaciousness of a renegade professor.
Mouse on Mars play tonight, March 3, at Santos Party House
Where are we talking to you from right now?
St Werner: I don’t know where I am. I have no idea. We’re traveling to Chicago. I could be anywhere between a Best Buy and a Wendy’s. But it’s nice, there is a layer of snow on top of everything.
I heard you guys developed your own software for your new album.
Yes, we created software for the iPhone that we use on both of these [the last two] records…. It’s called WretchUp. We’re also working on another one called Peakodr that deals with pitch, kind of a vocoder-ish effect.
Speaking of software, do you think there are going to be limitations technology places on artists, specifically electronic ones, or it limitless now?
I’ll give you your headline now: Technology is overrated. Now here is the sub-headline: it’s underrated too. It gives you challenges, it’s an extension of your own mind. It’s not a rock with TECHNOLOGY written on it and we’re sitting in a circle around it like the monkeys in 2001 [A Space Oddessy.]
That makes sense, so the artist and technology aren’t separate?
People say now we have all this amazing software, but that’s not really where new music is coming from. It’s not the range of possibilities, it’s what you pick. Technology is just this challenge. Guitars, tapes, analog gear, all this can be seen as technology. The first flute made by the caveman is a form of technology. So on the one hand we embrace computers, but you have to free your ears. It’s good to remind ourselves of our capabilities, but at the end of the day that’s not creative.
So it’s all up to the artist?
The artist should also define what the instrument is. Even that word artist has a bit of an aura to it. There are things, working in a bank, where it might be harder to be creative.
Do you think someone working in a bank could be creative?
If not we’re fucked. We’re doomed.
We hear you’re working on an opera called Miscontinuum?
We worked with Markus Popp and it’s going to premiere in June… There is this idea about opera that it’s very immediate but that it can also last forever. So we’re playing with this idea… it’s going to be kind of a trip, I don’t know if trip is the right word.
Do you want to talk about the new album at all?
WOW and [the previous MOM release] Parastrophics are kind of a pair. WOW is more immediate to sum it up, it’s a much more immediate record. It’s bouncy and direct. More dance oriented.
I noticed all the the titles are three letter acronyms like DOG, CAN, CAT…
The titles reflect the immediacy of the record. It’s triangular. It’s super hip shit [laughs]… this is the first time I’m ever thinking about it like that.