If Mouse on Mars start talking to you about the future, you’d best listen up – you might learn something. That much is obvious from their dazzling new LP Parastrophics, whose hyperkinetic experimentalism proves just how prophetic the German duo has been. Put it up against the maximalist electronics of Rustie or Flying Lotus, and MoM more than hold their own, even if it sounds like the logical follow up to Iaohora Tahiti and Idiology, records that came out over a decade ago.
So where does Jan St. Werner see people who are similarly ahead of the curve? Surprisingly enough, America. Specifically, Los Angeles. While my conversation with St. Werner ran the gamut from Jewish intellectualism to luchador masks to the wonders of Bootsy Collins, we kept coming back to the idea of L.A. as being the “future world city,” despite the entire town crawling to a standstill to honor The Artist a few days prior. “One of our recurring views is that there are jump cuts in terms of how truth and linearity works in this world,” St. Werner told me while on Skype in Berlin. “There’s things going on in completely different areas on this globe so you think there’s something that connects them, but there’s nothing scientific you can use to explain these occurrences. We imagine there’s one future world city, but New York presents history as we know it in certain ways. The art we associate with New York is retrospective. Power in the future will be completely decentralized, which is how Los Angeles feels to us.” In fact, describes Parastrophics as being something of a love letter to the “bastard mashup” of America despite an almost utter lack of discernable lyrics. Below, St. Werner discusses the Five Real American Heroes that inspired Parastrophics.
1. Gold Inferno
We were really into a Los Angeles mindset when we did the production. We were going through some YouTube videos of Gold Inferno, this jumpstyle dancer. He was on So You Think You Can Dance and he failed, but he’s still got this huge cult following. It’s a very clumsy, rave dance originally from Belgium where people kinda jump weirdly up and down and listen to very fast gabba-style techno. Gold Inferno is quite tall and he wears a golden wrestler mask and he goes through alleys in L.A. with a boombox making these videos. It works so well with one of our tracks (“Polaroyced”) we decided to base the entire video on him – the whole concept is absurd and we wanted him to be in it, but we never got a hold of him.
2. The Shakers
We found out about the Shakers — they were similar to the Quakers in the 19th century. They tried to reconsider religion and use America as new ground to do that. Men and women were completely equal, no hierarchy. They had a very tolerant idea of the non-material world and the idea of Jesus. They had this practice where they drew all these weird maps of things that happened to them in a day, including the ghost world and mathematical formulas. And this whole map looked like a score or a diagram to create a machine. So we used this as the album sleeve — that’s a Shaker design.
3. Sun Ra
There’s this great idea of funk that we associate with America and spiritual free jazz like Sun Ra. The latter is without a snare drum or a metronome, and the tension between those two is where we see our music. We try to see it as free design and can go in any direction at any time, but we have no problem with metrics and repetition. It’s a paradox: in the academic world, beats are detested. It has changed a little bit, but in classical music, things repeat. In pop music, things have to repeat and there’s no room for free jazz, no space for taking your time. You can’t do a pop song with a 30-minute guitar drone. The theme of a good pop song has to show up in 30 seconds, if not, you’ve lost. We think America is the boxing ring for those two musical dogmas: either complete nonlinearity or repetition. Sun Ra had repetitive pop songs, but there was always this instinct to go into outer space. Same with Funkadelic, they were never scared to freak out.
4. The Astronaut Farmer
There’s something inventive in the American psyche. People want to “make it possible,” they want to make it happen. You can make something great from leftover tools or even garbage. This idea of making a rocket with garbage, we saw it in a movie with … Bonnie “Prince” Billy? Bobby Boy Bilson? The ex-husband of Angelina Jolie. Billy Bob Thornton! It’s a massive cliché movie and you have to cry three times because it’s pressing so hard on your emo buttons. It’s how we see our music. I think we’re astronaut farmers in a way … we’re really down to earth but what we do with the bits and pieces blows us away. It goes beyond everything rational and even beyond emotional. You can’t even cry as fast as the roller coaster goes. We just worry that there’s so much music in America, there’s no room for a German astronaut farmer band.
5. Steven Jo
The music we’ve been into these days has been coming from America, which hasn’t really happened for a while. And a lot of it comes from L.A., and that’s where it connects from the start, the idea of the future city. We like a lot of the stuff eLan does, he’s on our label Monkeytown. Him and Shlomo (from the Brainfeeder collective). A lot of this weird, loopy stuff you have no idea where it comes from. But there’s also this one comedian Steven Jo who fits into that same world – we found one of his weblogs and he was going on about Facebook, and we just sampled the phrase. We wanted a hip-hop vibe (for Parastrophics track “Chordblocker, Cinnamon Toasted”) and this urgency but at the same time ironic and Dadaistic. We didn’t want something that just said “money” or “bitch”. And there’s this one phrase he said while going on about Facebook…“Facebook is a cockblocker.” It was perfect! Our label reached out, and he just wrote back saying “ok.” This is how the future works. It’s not huge contract or sucking out the last dollar, it’s about making things happen.
Watch the video for “Polaroyced” below: