The Crystal Ark | Interview
LCD Soundsystem’s synth wizard talks technology and copulation.
In the duo Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom and solo under the name Black Meteoric Star, electronic producer Gavin Russom was the long-haired wizard of the DFA Records stable. The gadget geek not only built his own synthesizers, he crafted them for LCD Soundsystem, with whom he toured as a keyboardist. The New Yorker recently resurfaced with a new outfit, the Crystal Ark, and discussed the origins of the visually oriented project as well as his views on technology and inciting raunchy activity.
The Crystal Ark is a rather big group. Isn’t technology supposed to make a band more compact?
There’s two ways you can look at technology: You use it to make things that used to be hard easier and quicker or you use it to go further than what was possible before. I’m of the second school. The Crystal Ark at its largest on stage is nine people. On this tour we’ll be traveling with five. It’s a big family and we’re in service of getting this music out there.
How did your experience touring with LCD influence the Crystal Ark? Did you come away with any do’s and don’ts in terms of writing or running a band?
I definitely learned a lot on that tour and I’m sure all of it influenced the Crystal Ark in some way. Being so immersed in LCD’s music made me really crave other kinds of sounds that weren’t in that palette, and then I was also really deeply exposed to the way James [Murphy] writes and ran the band. It was the interaction of those things that created the Crystal Ark.
You make a lot of your own music gear. Is any of it used in the Crystal Ark?
Yes. I used some of my own designs in the Crystal Ark’s music and that definitely creates some of the unique feeling. I also used a lot of other production techniques, and used instruments that I didn’t design in ways that were maybe unusual and grew out of my experiences with my own designs. I think that creates an interesting feeling because there is something very otherworldly about the music but it can be subtle at times.
Your tracks tend to have a krautrock-meets-disco-remix feel, in that they seem designed to play for an extended period, but they’re not the usual DJ fare, either. Is that a reaction to some of the ADD dance music happening now?
I do think of it as part of my job to offer an alternative to the constant oversaturation of the sensory sphere, and to provide experiences that develop an alternative to what you could call an ADD mentality. I’m very influenced by music from a time when dance music was extremely thoughtful, creative and adventurous, and also enjoyable and fun.
How did Latin music enter the equation?
During the time we were working on “The City Never Sleeps,” I went to see Danny Krivit deejay and there was someone playing live agogo bell. So that fed into this idea of combining live percussion with electronically generated beats and synths. That’s not necessarily Latin but it led to me asking Alberto Lopez (we went to high school together) to play on the tracks and join the band. He is from Colombia and a student of several Afro-Latin drumming traditions. A lot of what people experience as a Latin feeling comes from Viva [Ruiz], of course, since she is of Latin background as well and is singing in Spanish.
What’s the live show like? I hear there’s been some copulation at NYC gigs. Can we expect that in Chicago, too?
Everyone in the group is talented in a very special way, and it shows onstage. As far as copulation, that’s up to you, Chicago.