Erol & Kai Jet On Making ‘Twenty One’ Plus ‘Hideaway (Home Demo) Download
Erol recently caught up with bassist Kai Fish to discuss the making of the Mystery Jets acclaimed album ‘Twenty One’ on the eve of their next single release ‘Two Doors Down’. As a extra special bonus, you can download the original home demo of album opener ‘Hide Away’ recorded way back in March 2007.
Erol: Kai! What happened? It’s been a long journey…
Kai: E! It has certainly been a long journey, and I’ve a sneaky feeling we’re not even half way there… How long did it take us to record? A year? I can’t believe it, it feels like barely a month ago we set foot in Konk for the first of many sessions. It’s definitely been a roller coaster, more nemesis in Alton towers than a stroll through an English park… I don’t think we could have done it any other way though, do you?
Erol: I agree. Being a second album, there’s a lot to consider, and I feel it’s a time where you really need to explore your own music, and edit yourself much harder, and it takes time. Rushing a second album is usually the death knell for many bands. We went through almost 10 studios, 5 engineers; we lost ‘Young Love’ due to a hard drive failure and had to rebuild it from fragments of audio..
Kai: Who would have thought… although listening back to the album now I think it feels very together, I certainly doesn’t sound like the journey it took to get there. I think it was maybe the way the songs were in such various degrees of completion when we went in to record them, that made the process such an epic one. Something to remember for next time!
Erol: Talking of ‘Young Love’, you co wrote it with Will, when I think of bass players who write for a band I recall Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ and XTC’s ‘Making Plans For Nigel’.. It could well be one of the bands biggest ever songs, any theories you may hold on this?
Kai: From the start I always saw being in a band as much more than playing the bass. Being in a band is as much learning how to work well with others as it is learning to play your instrument, and I think over the years we’ve really come to appreciate that. I definitely find writing songs to be one of the most exciting parts of the process, and I think Will and I really found a way to work together on this album that’s been very rewarding.
Erol: I know part of the agenda for the record was to strip things back a little and let the music breathe, focusing more on the bare bones of what the songs needed to illustrate, but do you think that something more was learnt during this process? Do you feel that the bands songwriting developed through this method?
Kai: Without a doubt. When we were younger we tried to cram as many musical ideas into each song as possible, with varying degrees of success! But I think it was really good to have gone through that. I remember before we’d started recording, we all talked about stripping back the songs to what was absolutely essential. I think it also shows confidence writing in that way, because what’s there has to be strong, as it’s got nothing to hide behind. I think that you deserve credit for helping us with that, so one gold star for Erol then.
Erol: Awww shucks.. ‘Two Doors Down’ was the last track to be recorded and is arguably the albums brightest pop track, why do you think we all felt it was important to push the song as hard as we could into that terrain?
Kai: There was an array of different influences on the album, and for certain tracks 80’s pop was definitely a big one. Blaine was really getting into a lot of Phil Collins and Whitney at the time, so it’s possible to track back some of the influences for Two doors. Personally I listened to loads of Quincy Jones production, and also stuff by Prince, Blondie and the Eurythmics to name a few. As a band in general we were discovering all sorts of different sides of 80’s music. We often go through phases like that together… We’d also been really getting into DJing a lot, and we’d end the set with an 80’s smash, like I wanna dance! I think it started out in quite a tongue in cheek sort of way, and ‘Two Doors’ definitely has it’s roots in those big sparkly 80’s mega hits.
Erol: Bands like Aztec Camera and The Cure had a great knack of being able to have these huge glorious timeless pop songs which could very easily sit next to some of the the years biggest pop tracks, yet still retain a cult status. Do you feel like a cult artist playing with pop?
Kai: Since the beginning, i think you could say the Cure are a pretty good template for us, in the way there is real scope to what they’ve done musically. But how people see the band can sometimes be quite different from how the band see themselves. If you’re discovering the band from the last two singles, then i could understand people seeing it as very pop. If you know our older material, then you might see Mystery Jets as a prog band. We’ve never seen ourselves as one thing or another. It’s always been an adventure musically, and if we ever got stuck doing the same thing, or felt we weren’t moving forward then i don’t think we’d want to carry on.
Erol: I’d say it was there in previous singles ‘..Dennis’ and ‘Diamond’s In The Dark’
Kai: Yes. Regarding ‘Two Doors’ and the notion of ‘Pop’, I think we wanted to really push towards that when we were in the studio, just to see how far we could go, without losing the Mystery Jets’ identity…
Erol: Definitely. I think Blaine hit the nail on the head when he said that the 80s where such a creative and special time but it gets bad press. When you look back at some of those records, they were pretty radical with regards to arrangement and production. Someone like Trevor Horn for me is as important as Phil Spector or George Martin or any other ‘revered’ producer from the past. It’s ironic how a period which pushed the synthetic nature of music is frowned upon now considering what is happening these days.
Erol: I remember Will thought we were gonna make a dance record when we started! How far do you feel the Jet’s could have explored the electronic stratospheres without compromising the bands sound? I feel this Hide Away demo has a great balance of naivety of not being fully immersed into something, but taking cool little things from here and there..
Kai: One way to answer that question is focus on another song called ‘Man In The Corner’. The original demo for that had a more ambient and melodic quality, and took more influence from listening to people like The Knife and Radiohead. With Hide Away, it all came out of a jam when we doing a radio session in Paris. I was noodling away and came up with a bassline which i was sure was a Hot Chip song, anyway, we just carried looping it round and around, and everyone started adding harmonies on the top and we thought nothing of it. Unknown to us, the guy at the soundboard had recorded it and sent it over to us in the post and to my surprise, i was really loving what we had put down. Fast forward to January (2007) and we had this instrumental called ‘Television’ which wasn’t fully realised, so i took elements of the jam and glued it to that track. And that’s what this demo is. We never really thought twice about if it was Mystery Jets-y or not, but we pursued it as it was really interesting for us, and we wanted something on the album which reflected us at that point in time.
Erol: ‘Hide Away’ has got a big ass bassline, what inspired you to take to the Pro One synth for that track? Was it inspired by dance music?
Kai: Again having got into DJing, and listening to you DJ at Bugged out, we were really getting into the whole electro renaissance. I think 06/07 was really the pinnacle of all the new electro/dance Dj’s, in a way that people who wouldn’t necessarily listen to electronic based music, were really discovering it through people like Justice, Simian and yourself. Would you agree?
Erol: For sure. If there was one moment you recall from the making of this album which you will remember fondly, what would it be?
TKai: hat first month in Konk was pretty magical. Those initial recordings of ‘Flakes’, ‘MJ’ and ‘Hideaway’ were great, and of course eating all those puddings, and making those crazy mini films together was definitely special, maybe we should think about co-directing something? You gave us some great massages too.