Dylan Ettinger's new record Lifetime Of Romance is about to drop on Not Not Fun. We met up with the prodcuer whilst he was touring Europe to talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger, new-age music and how Chris Carter is now using an iPad.?
What's your favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger movie?
Definitely Commando! It’s the perfect 80s action film. It's so ridiculous, it doesn't even try to be realistic at any point. The movie starts up with Arnold and his daughter, up in the mountains feeding deer and then immediately it just devolves into chaos. He has to fire off all those Latin-American Terrorists in his house, jump out of the plane ... all this stuff’s at the beginning and then it just gets more and more ridiculous as the movie goes on until he literally fights the entire army of a Latin-American island-nation - and wins.?
He always ends up winning, but in Terminator 2 the ending was a bit sad . . .
That's one of the few movies where he's the bad guy though. He won but he had to sacrifice himself to save John and Sarah. It's touching.
I was reading somewhere you wanted to tell a particular story with your last album New Age Outlaws . . .
Yeah it’s based loosely on a cyber punk science fiction story I was developing as I wrote the songs. I started off just as a way to help me make it happen, like a soundtrack, but gradually as I was working on the recordings, the stories started to become more concrete, and you know, there’s a lot of characters and locations and stuff. But I'm not a good writer and I was frustrated and quit. Music is what I do.
But you have lyrics in your track. 'Lion of Judah' for example?
That's the first recording where my main effort was to sing. Usually if I use any words it's just random. I enjoyed playing the song with lyrics and singing it so I decided to do it more. Also the whole idea for the next record makes more sense with lyrics.
Your next record is called Lifetime of Romance. I saw pictures of the video shoot on flickr, pictures of Synths lined up pretty smooth and cold in a static room. What does that have to do with romance?
The concept I had, was to write a record about my personal failures with relationships, like fucking it up all the time with girls. So I use these really cold and analogue synth-sounds and try to adjust the position between the heavy personal lyrics and the sound. It works on two levels. There is this simple straight forward pop-song with simple sounds and this very personal meaning. That’s the idea for the video: me performing a song with two girls as a backing band. So I lined up all three synthesizers and then there is this shoot of me playing and they are totally disinterested. The idea was to switch it around, the synths are the stars in this video and the girls are the instruments.
I saw a short clip of the album recording on YouTube and the voice totally reminded me of Daniel Johnston.
Really? He's really good, one of the best. I mean, most of his songs where written about that same girl who turned him down when he was in high school. I've been a big fan of Daniel Johnston for years.
How did you come up with the whole new age thing?
I've always taken the idea of new age as how it was done by Ash Ra Temple back in the 70s. Not so much like the late 80s and early 90s transcendental or spiritual New Age. The way I've always kind of embodied any sort of New Age vibe was more in a traditional synthesizer out of space kind of transcendental music way. It's not a spiritual thing for me.
I can also hear a lot of Krautrock influences.
Yeah especially an album I did called Cutters. That one was very influenced by Kraftwerk and Cluster. Also Ash Ra and of the 70s German synthesizer stuff.
I saw your live set and that was pretty straight forward compared to your record. How come?
Even when I was doing really long form pieces, recording New Age Outlaw and stuff, my live sets were always very short and to the point. I think that comes from my experience playing in punk bands in high school and being part of the noise scene. Everyone plays really short sets there - usually 20 minutes. I feel that’s about as far as people's attention span can really handle so I've always done as much as I can in that short amount of time. So when it comes to playing live, if you play too long, people get turned off. They loose interest and you think "oh I should've stopped a while ago while it was still cool".
What's your live set-up?
I've been just using Moog Rouge synthesizer and an Alesis Micron. I run both through a Boss loop peddle so I can just liven up the synthesizers on top of the beats. Usually I use more gear. I have a home made Oscillator, a Dave Smith Instruments Prophet and a Moogerfooger Filterpaddle. But on this last European tour I had to pack light.
What do you think about all the stuff that’s coming out for the iPad right now?
I've seen my friend the other day who was DJ'ing with an iPad and it's actually pretty cool. Lots of synthesizers that have come out for iPad so far are all just like an emulator of classic synths like the MS20. Korg has this classic software line just like built specifically for touch screens. You know they should just engineer for the iPad which is interesting because there's a lot of visual touch controls. When I saw Chris & Cosey playing, Chris Carter had his iPad on stage. It’s pretty funny to see all these dudes that are known for classic analog and home-made synthesizers, and now they use mass produced Korg software and stuff. It make sense though if you think about it. Chris Carter and Throbbing Gristle were always on the cutting edge and they were always a step ahead from everyone else and now they are the first people to adapt this new technology.
So are you going to tour with an iPad?
I don't think it's my style. I like to do things pretty traditionally mainly because I don't feel like learning how to use software to make music. I've always used whatever shit I can get a hold. I'm not that kind of guy who always gets excited about new gear. I guess to start using computers to make music and perform live I have to make too much conscious effort in that direction for it to make much sense. I do things pretty naturally. I'm not gonna rule it out for the future.
What stuff you listen to right now, besides Kraftwerk?
I'm really into Peaking Lights. Of course! Wet Hair are great. Rene Hell, that’s Jeff Witscher’s newest project, is amazing and I just love L.A. Vampires. Clams Casino. That one track “Motivation” is the shit.
Photos: ©Taylor Swaim