Chemical Brothers want to love you up. No, really, they do.
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simon have little interest in gloomy predictions of economic doom, they don’t want to spend their free time contemplating peak oil and while they would like it a lot if governments everywhere tamp down on greenhouse gasses, they figure it’s not going to hurt if we got out and dance a bit while we wait.
And if we do that they’re offering Further, their new album which in some ways is their hardest sounding, most roof-raising, pure dance record since the 1995 debut album, Exit Planet Dust.
“Our music is hedonistic and that's one of the responses to life,” says Simon, the curly-haired partner to the straight blonde locks of Rowlands. “Not necessarily taking drugs but being together and finding some enjoyment in life, coming to our gigs to get out of the house and be together.”
No more nesting for us then? No more flicking on Master Chef in place of dinner, Australia’s Got Talent in place of a life? Sure, that used to be the case when the Chemical Brothers poked their heads out of the warehouses and open field tents of the underground dance scene of the early ‘90s, but these days?
“When people are so entertained at home there is less communion and beyond politics, that's the thing I feel really strongly about, getting people to connect and be with each other,” insists Simon. “Putting on a show and getting people out of the house still gives meaning to what we do."
Looking for meaning was probably not a high priority when Simon and Rowlands began mixing house, hip-hop and techno in Manchester and London clubs in 1992. If it moved you it worked and if it worked then they were happy. Even having to change their name from the Dust Brothers to the (probably more pharmacologically correct) Chemical Brothers caused barely a hiccup.
But after six albums, children, domesticity and the rise and fall and rise again of electronic music as cutting edge chart music, the two 40-year-olds could be excused for lacking motivation. Let's be honest, at their age it’s not like they’re still in need of people shouting out how much they love the Chemical Brothers and money hasn’t been a problem since 1997’s Dig Your Own Hole went ballistic, so they didn't need to make album number seven did they?
"I think we enjoy it. We really enjoy the collaboration between the two of us,” Simon says. “The music is a celebration of a pretty long-standing friendship.”
He’s not kidding either. The pair have known each other since school, shared a house as well as a DJ booth for three years and for a long while rarely spent more than a week or two apart. Marriages have less face-to-face time than those two managed.
“But on another level, you have to have meaning in your life don't you? You have to have a reason. There were other things going on for both of us but the Chemical Brothers is part of our meaning, of who we are.”
Normally not one for pounding the table Simon isn’t getting angry by any means, but for this most mild-mannered of Englishmen he is working up a bit of passion now. More so than any political question – and given we’re speaking soon after the Labour Party’s turfing out in the UK, politics is in the air for Left-leaning Simons – the raison-d’êtres of the Chemical Brothers rouses the emotions.
“You say we don't need people to love us but we don't feel we've made the ultimate expression of our band or what we want to say musically. We still feel some kind of dissatisfaction that needs to be got out so we go into the studio and write more music,” he continues. "We wouldn't make another record if there wasn't anything that makes us feel overwhelmed and that we want people to hear. We've done all the travelling we probably need to, we've had a lot of adulation and criticism but maybe there is a sense that we have never made the ultimate expression. But as I said, the Chemical Brothers give us meaning in life and that's pretty vital to anyone."
Of course the question itself of why they are still making music is an odd one. We don't ask lawyers and doctors who are 10 or 15 years into a career why they still practising. The Chemical Brothers make music: this is what they do. As Rowland explained a few years ago: “We’re still keen on the idea of making an album even though it’s getting a bit of an outmoded idea in the world of downloads and people buying single tracks. We love the idea of making an hour of music that is an experience, that moves around and makes you feel different ways and has a resolution at the end.”
And according to Simon, that obsession hasn’t gone away even if rather than worldwide touring this album’s offshoot is films created to accompany each of the eight tracks on the record. “There have been times during the past three records where both of us have been feeling that maybe it's not going anywhere and then things come together and we make a piece of music or there's a germ of an idea,” explains Simon. “This time, moving away from all the guest vocalists and working on the visual show gave another dimension to what we are doing. We haven't committed to a huge worldwide tour. So you take those things away and you just concentrate on just one thing. For me we have a long-standing friendship and the friendship is built around being in the studio together and making music together and I don't think either of us want to give that up right now."
Their lives have changed, with fewer drugs and more children, the nature of the work has changed somewhat as technology and contributors change and evolve, but has the way they work together as people changed?
"It's less intense. We used to live together and then we'd be in the studio all day and then off on tour. It was crazy. Probably we need to say less to each other now because we have an understanding. But when we are right down in the depths of making the album we are in the studio for quite long periods of time together and that's pretty much exactly like it's always been. We see each other less than we used to and on a superficial level we used to argue a lot when we were younger and fierier and now you don't want to argue about the nuances of how a particular track is arranged and say harsh words to someone who you've spent pretty much your whole adult life with. Having said that, I think it's important that we disagree and have conflict otherwise the collaboration would be pointless."
If there wasn't disagreement and friction they may as well be doing it on their own. After all, if you are thinking the same, why do you need two people? "You've got to keep some conflict but the conflicts no longer involve things being thrown," he chuckles.
So no need to bring in a therapist in a chunky sweater to do some Metallica-like group counselling yet?
"Not yet, not yet,” he laughs. “Maybe we'll see how the touring goes.”
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