Words by Anthony Thomas
It was four years in the making but long time pals and collaborators Classixx, aka Michael David and Tyler Blake, finally released their highly anticpated debut record, Hanging Gardens, back in May. Hailing from California, the duo began planting their seeds across the American music landscape back in 2009 by remixing big names, releasing a couple of hits, and becoming fixtures on the DJ circuit. The seeds soon bloomed and as they harvested the fruits of their labour Hanging Gardens began to slowly materialise, eventually emerging in a burst of slick, synthy sunlight. It was certainly music to Fuzzy’s ears, who signed them onto the already stellar line up for the newest party in town, Listen Out. I had a chat to Tyler recently to talk about the record, celebrities, and IDM.
You’ve said the initial hurdle on Hanging Gardens was deciding whether people cared enough about a full-length record. What made you guys decide it was a good idea?
You know, we grew up listening to full albums so it’s always been important. Some our most powerful moments musically have been listening albums. I still remember the first time I listened to Kid A by Radiohead and thinking to myself, “I want to do this, this is what I want to do.” It was that album that made me want to do music. For us, it was important for us to prove that we could do it. That was happening quite naturally, we were doing it and all the songs kind of felt like they were in a family together. It’s something a lot of people in dance music don’t really care about doing anymore and that’s fine. I understand the idea of just putting out singles but we were also making songs that didn’t really make sense by themselves.
Road testing tracks live prior to release is something you guys aren’t big fans of. How were you gauging interest?
We DJ’d a lot of them and were able to test the songs out and see how they worked that way. I mean dance songs are pretty cut and dry; it’s pretty easy to see which ones work. As far as playing them live, we’re starting to play live now and we’re only now finding out which ones don’t work live because it is different. By the time we come out to Australia, our set will probably be a little different. Some things haven’t been working quite as well as other things.
The record does have quite a lot of guests on it, all from fairly diverse branches of music. Did you write the songs with collaboration in mind?
I’m trying to remember, it’s been a while since that stage of the process. On All You’re Waiting For we worked with a few different people on that one but all along we just wanted to get Nancy (Whang, LCD Sound System) to do the vocals. It was tricky because at the time she was touring with LCD Sound System harder than any band I can imagine. It was impossible to get her tied down. Then they broke up and Mike and I had our chance to hit up Nancy. We flew out to New York, basically kidnapped her and Nick (Holy Ghost!) and made her do it. She totally killed it. Other songs, though, we just sent off the tracks to a few different people who we thought might be able to do interesting things with them. One song, Long Lost, has Active Child on it. Before that we didn’t know Pat (Grossi), we were just fans of his music so we sent it to him and he did some really cool stuff on it. The collaborations came about somewhat differently for each song.
Is collaboration vital for production acts in this day and age?
I would definitely say so for us. It’s more fun to collaborate, there’s more strengths coming together and more people checking over things. Mike and I, we understand each other really well. If I make a reference it’s something that we have literally grown up with together so he knows exactly what I’m talking about it. In that way it’s helpful, we can immediately tell if something is worth keeping in a song. It’s not for everybody but it works for us.
California was clearly quite a big influence on the record and you have described it as innovative. Do you hope to reflect that in the music you’re making?
That would be awesome but I don’t think our music is as futuristic or reinventing the wheel as other things happening right now. We definitely try and have our own sound. A lot of our stuff is influenced by music that came before us so there’s a bit of both. A bit of heavy influence from things we’re trying to recreate, I think through doing that we come up with our own things.
I have this image in my head of you guys playing a really big celebrity party. Have you had any offers yet?
[laughs] I mean that happens inevitably from living in LA; it’s just there. You see stars around and we’ve done that kind of thing before. It’s not something that we seek out or necessarily enjoy because they are all high status or whatever. Firstly, that kind of thing doesn’t impress Michael or myself and secondly, we have played those kind of private parties and shit like that but the people there care far less about the music and what you’re doing than if you’re playing a party where the kids are actually listening to your music. They are there to see you rather than rub shoulders with whoever is cool at the moment.
You play for the people not just the status?
Absolutely. We were DJing this party at The Hammer museum in LA for a radio station and the kids that came, [came] because they had heard our music. We looked out into the crowd and there’s kids singing our songs. That’s way more rewarding than looking out and seeing some celebrity getting drunk with some other celebrity and not paying any attention to what you’re doing.
What do you consider to be the most overlooked aspect of your music?
Michael and I can both play instruments. A lot of electronic music now has less of an instrumentation focus, some kids are just doing it on their laptop. That was one of the reason we decided we wanted to play live in the first place, we want people to know that we can actually play instruments and that we’re experienced musicians. That kind of thing really appeals to us, we’re inspired by that kind of thing. Like the new Daft Punk record, we’re really into it. The level of musicianship was really impressive to us.
You’re coming down to Australia later in the year for Listen Out, which is being branded as an intelligent dance music party. Is that what IDM is? Music that isn’t just made on the computer?
That genre term to me means something somewhat different. When I was growing up, that tag was associated with a certain kind of music, like Boards of Canada. It’s weird when things like that get reappropriated. I mean, what dubstep used to be in the UK is completely different to what people associate it with now. It’s strange. I’m not averse to it but I don’t know if it means the same thing to me as it does for kids.
So where do you fit on the line-up?
Just from looking at the artists on the line-up and not thinking about what it’s been tagged as, the thing that I gathered is this connection of relevance. Everything on there is really relevant. Disclosure have made on the most interesting dance records of the year. Azealia Banks, as far as female hip-hop goes, she is one of the most interesting things going on. I’d love to say that our music can be related in that way as well.
I have heard that you think Aussies are some of your best audiences. Firstly, shit yeah! Secondly, why is that?
I don’t know how that’s happened but I do know that when we come to Australia it feel more close to home than anywhere else. I really don’t know what it is. It’s just happens that Australians connect with the music we make more than the rest of the world. We feel connected to Australians as well. It might be that a lot of the music we listen to and love comes from Australia, bands like Cut Copy, so perhaps you guys are used to it?