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DID YOU READ

TALK: MSTRKRFT

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Last time I crossed paths with Jesse Keeler, he was playing bass in the indie-punk duo, Death From Above 1979. Since then he has pulled the plug on the band that made him a household name in various indie circles and teamed up with fellow electronic music enthusiast, Al-P, to form MSTRKRFT, a group that may have already eclipsed the popularity of Keeler’s previous band.

While we were walking to the site of our interview, Keeler–either feeling obliged or knowing it was too obvious a question for me to pass up–discussed how Death From Above 1979 became no more. Keeler said he and Sebastien Grainger were never really close friends, he was just a guy who rented a room from him.

Long story short, Keeler (who apparently did most of the work in duo), couldn’t stand his bandmate and officially put an end to the group. I then asked him, “Well, what if ten years from now, someone paid you a whole bunch of money to reunite Death From Above 1979, would you do it?”

(left to right: Jesse Keeler and Al-P of MSTRKRFT)

Keeler said, “They’d have to give me a million dollars and two weeks to remember all the songs.” After thinking about it for a second, Keeler responded, “Ten years from now a million dollars wouldn’t even be that much money, so I don’t know?”

Jim Shearer: When you’re remixing a song, do you ever see the people you’re remixing for?

Al-P: Mostly no, we actually don’t even have any contact with them. There are some exceptions though.

Jesse Keeler: Otherwise, no, it’s just a check and a CD from the distance.

Al-P: Recently we did a Kylie Minogue remix and the writer of the original song contacted us after the fact, and was like, “Hey, I like your remix,” which was kind of odd, cause nobody ever really gives us feedback.

Jim: It would make sense that if you did a good remix for someone, they’d take you out for a nice dinner and buy you a couple drinks. Has that ever happened?

Jesse: We’ve gone drinking with people we’ve done remixes for and they got really drunk, and kicked over tables, and got into fights, and we ran away from them. I’m not going to say who it was.

Jim: Can you hint to who it might have been?

Jesse: It’s a guy from England who wasn’t white.

Jim: For your DJ sets, who does the bulk of your record shopping?

Jesse: I’m eye-balls deep in it. Al’s the one that actually buys records and I’m the one that gets the promos. We have such a network of friends around the world that are doing the same thing as we are, and so pretty much everything we play is, “Hey this is my new track, can you use it?”

Al-P: At the time we’re playing stuff, it’s pretty much exclusive. We get it directly from somebody. Once it’s not exclusive anymore, we kind of stop playing it.

Jesse: There’s no track that we haven’t spoken to the person who made it.

Jim: You wouldn’t play something just because you’re friends with a certain person, would you?

Al-P: I’m going to be the first one to tell my friends that they suck.

Jim: (laughs) How important is shot selection–choosing the right tracks–in a DJ set?

Jesse: We spend a lot of time beforehand picking what we want to play.

Al-P: There’s nothing in our crates that is shit or filler. The furthest that we go in that direction is a “tool,” which is something that goes between two bangers for like 30 seconds, just to go from one song to the other. We spend a lot of time selecting big/good tracks.

Jesse: In Europe they’re really used to minimal, but they call us “maximal.” We only choose maximal songs.

Jim: What’s your definition of “maximal?”

Al-P: If you imagine a minimal techno track, where you got a kick drum, squeak sound, and hi-hat if you’re lucky–that’s minimal. We’re the opposite of that. Maximal is jamming as much as you can into your little sonic window.

Jim: Various clothing and drink companies will throw lavish parties featuring DJ sets. I was wondering, what’s the oddest party that you guys have played?

Jesse: A while ago we were asked to play in a clothing store. We started playing dance music and the place was really bummed. The bouncers looked like older dudes from the 80’s who were probably into 80’s soul music, and we just switched into that for like two hours. I played everything I had from my computer. The bouncers were so into it. That was really fun too, cause I thought, “You flew us here, you paid us, and now we’re just playing whatever.” It was basically AM radio.

Al-P: One that I remember is CMJ. We played about four or five parties in one day, and the last one we played was in this dark, sketchy, underground gay club. There’s nothing wrong with gay clubs–that’s were dance music comes from really–but nobody told us what this club was about. I remember going down there with Lazaro Casanova looking for the promoter and Lazaro turned over to me and said, “Dude, there’s a lot of dudes here.” And I look around and it’s an all Home Depot-type gay crowd–just big guys that look like they’re going to work on your house. Not sissy at all, these guys could probably kill you. It was just kind of weird cause we weren’t expecting that.

Jesse: The oddest moment was when we started to play “You Gonna Want Me” by Tiga. There were these two tough dudes–shaved heads, no shirts, leather pants–and they came right to the front and stared into our eyes, the hardest stare you’ve ever seen. I turned to Al and said, “These dudes are so down right now,” and I look up and they’re still staring right into our eyes. You couldn’t shake them. When we put on “You Gonna Want Me,” they we’re like, “Oh yeah!” Lazaro Casanova–skinny, young boy from Miami–he hid under the DJ booth cause I guess he was getting a lot of attention while we were playing.

Jim: You guys have seen The Blues Brothers, right?

Al-P: Yes.

Jim: It seems like in your profession you would encounter a lot of those “Rawhide” moments, just like the Blues Brothers did when they played that country dive bar in the middle of nowhere.

Jesse: It definitely happens.

Al-P: Actually one of our favorite quotes from that movie is “Get in the car and start her up,” when we finish a bad gig and just want to get the hell out of there.

Jesse: Every few nights that will happen–Get in the car and start her up!

Jim: In this day in age with laptops that hold zillions of songs, it seems like you’d be able to adjust to any situation? But, was there ever any situation that you couldn’t adjust to?

Jesse: There was one particular in Leeds, England. We were playing a night club and someone said it was an “electro night,” but in England that’s a loose term that gets thrown around a lot. So we go in and play and after two songs we shorted out the power. The music stopped and all the kids rushed up and said, “Play The Strokes. If you play The Strokes it’ll be awesome mate!” We didn’t have The Strokes. After ten minutes of no power people started yelling, and I’m like, “Well, what are we going to play?” There was nothing we could do. We had to get out, cause they were not having it. I don’t have any British, jangly rock music on my computer cause I think it’s horrible.

Jim: For your new album I read an interview that said you were going through some “legal shit?” Has the “legal shit” been sorted through yet?

Jesse: It’s sorted enough.

Al-P: We’re just proceeding and working on our record, which should be out in September. It’s business as usual for us.

Jesse: I have a great way of explaining our legal trouble, we’re holding four aces and a king, and the other dude’s got some twos and three, and nothing suited, and he’s just bluffing. We know there’s nothing he’s got to mess with us right now. It’s cool, keep putting your money down, but there’s no way in hell your hand’s going to touch ours. That’s kind of where we’re at.

Jim: Wow, this interview has turned into a riddle.

Jesse: For legal reasons, sometimes that’s the best way to do it.

Jim: How do you guys create songs? Does someone come up with a bass line? Do you both bring in different elements?

Jesse: I take a bunch of shots of Jager, and then I get my dog to lick my asshole, and then I try to emulate those sounds on a Casio. Oh no, no–I thought you were asking how Tiesto makes tracks.

Jim: (laughs) Ouch.

Jesse: We start with an idea that is usually somewhat formed. It depends though, sometimes we have no idea what we’re going to do and a track comes together immediately, and other times the track comes together over a month or so. In the end, it’s just different paths to the same spot.

Al-P: Like my mom says, “If you throw enough shit at the walls some of it’s going to stick.” Sometimes we’re just cycling through ideas and we’ll finally get something where we’re like, “Yes, this is it!”

Jim: Is it all done on computer?

Jesse: We use real synthesizers and a lot of real sounds, but we do all the sequencing and recording into Pro Tools. Pro Tools doesn’t really do you any favors, but we’re kind of using it like a tape machine.

Jim: Will you tour when the album’s released?

Jesse: Yeah. We’re going to tour the states again. It’s tough to try to divide our time between North America, Europe, and the rest of the world, because we really are an international act.

Jim: Any changes to your live set-up?

Jesse: We’re still DJing. We talk all the time about introducing other elements, but our DJ set is not like other people’s DJ sets where it sounds like they’re just fumbling around. We really pride ourselves in our mixes and make something more out of the parts, something different.

Jim: Do you ever miss playing an instrument on stage?

Jesse: No, live music’s such a sonic compromise. It’s really tough if you’re a perfectionist to go up in front of people and play. And sometimes when you know it doesn’t sound like you want it to, you just have to accept it, because there’s no capacity to make it better than it is. For me, it still happens when we DJ, but not nearly as often, because the whole DJ and club culture is quite centered around awesome sound and keeping us happy. Live music–whew–I would want to pull out my hair sometimes or feel really embarrassed standing in front of a lot of people knowing that it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but having just to keep going, because you’re there now and there’s nothing you can do. I never felt that way when we were DJing.

Jim: For novice dance fans, is it a good thing when your name is thrown around with groups like Daft Punk or The Chemical Brothers?

Al-P: Of course.

Jesse: It is flattering. I kind of like the idea of operating just beneath that level, cause I feel it’s much more sustainable. Both of those groups have made hits that I don’t think there’s much of a desire in us to make. Al and I would much rather be compared to The Neptunes than Daft Punk, cause we’re more interested in production–in general–than producing dance music.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.