HTRK, pronounced Hate Rock, are set to return to Australian shores next month for shows at the OutsideIn festival in Sydney and All Tomorrow’s Parties in Melbourne. Sounding like a bad trip dipped in desire laden synths, pounding drums and stuttering guitars, we sat down with Nigel Yang and Jonnine Standish to talk death, desire and chess.
LAEM: Work (work, work) was absolutely amazing. What have you been up to since finishing that album? I hear you’re demoing a new album?
NY: Thanks. Yeah, in July we went to the Blazer Sound Studios in Santa Fe to record with our friend Nathan Corbin (Excepter). We’re working on the production now and it should be out next year.
LAEM: This will be your first album completely without Sean. Has it changed the feeling of the music or the way you write and play?
NY: There’s a song called ‘Bendin’ off Work (Work, work) that was the first song we wrote without Sean. Our new songs are more spontaneous and fluid. There’s more layers and new kinds of beats, more club-oriented. We’re using samplers and software more but the songs will still always have a romantic quality to them.
LAEM: Personally I really take the dark bits of your music, yet others say it’s their chill out music or sexy music. What do you want listeners to take from your music?
NY: Yeah, if it’s relaxing, arousing, mood lifting, all these things are good.
LAEM: I know you’ve spoken about the Pitchfork review of Work (work, work) before. Do you feel that people miss where you’re coming from sometimes?
NY: Yeah, it happens, people misunderstand us. We draw on a pretty specific set of experiences and influences, so you usually get it or you don’t. We make a lot of sense to outsiders, outcasts, queers … people on the outside usually, people interested in psychology and altered states. Where that Pitchfork writer failed us is that he didn’t approach the album with an open mind. It was a shame he didn’t get any of the emotional rewards or psychedelic effects that I think are really deep in that album. He just needed more time with it, which is a luxury he probably couldn’t afford.
LAEM: You touch on desire, lust, drugs, love, life etc. yet your lyrics are very cryptic sometimes. What really inspires your lyrics and how do you go about writing?
JS: I do get into these subjects. I try and find a balance between the grotesque, dumb and the elegant in my writing. I’m interested in the humour, wit and sex drive we all encounter while coming to terms with personal loss. It’s about conversation. I study interactions in my own life as well as films, books, emails and texts. I’ll scribble down a sentence or word madly on the back of a receipt and think about that sentence or word for days, months, years until a story emerges.
LAEM: Your image is very beautiful e.g. the Synthetik video. Did you come up with the concept?
NY: The concept for that video should be credited to PussyKrew, a Polish video art collective that we work with. The performers are wearing ‘Little Anne’ masks, which we found out recently are are actually the face of a real little girl who was pulled from the river Seine in the 19th Century. These masks are standard issue in hospitals on mannequins used for CPR training.
LAEM: Why did you all make the shift from Melbourne to Berlin and then onto London?
NY: It wasn’t so much a career move as just a desire to live somewhere new and different. After a few months in Berlin, we got lucky in London so moved there.
LAEM: What inspired the name “Hate Rock”?
NY: Two things: our ambivalence towards rock music, and skinhead punk.
LAEM: What’s a quote our readers should always remember?
JS: I find this quote helpful when monitoring the competition: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake” ― Napoleon. This is especially useful in chess.
HTRK’s latest album Work (work, work) is out on Mistletone Records/Inertia and the deluxe vinyl is back in stock here.