Juan MacLean – A Heavy Price To Pay, Interview
by Anna Denejkina
Juan MacLean – A Heavy Price to Pay
Written for Future Entertainment
Originally published on February 14, 2012
From the foundation of Six Finger Satellite’s post-hardcore sound, he fell into a natural progression within electronica. Today, whilst holding over a decade of music behind his name, The Juan MacLean is only weeks from returning to Australia for yet another, innumerable run of shows on his perpetually demanding schedule.
The man responsible for the massive ‘Less Than Human’, ‘Visitations’ and one of DFA’s strongest releases, ‘The Future Will Come’, has roused the appetites of fans who have been waiting for his return for over three years. And as the anticipation rises and the touring is in an uninterrupted advance, the life style is taking its toll, leaving a shadow of destruction on personal and romantic relationships, and a feeling of apprehension for returning home.
“I think that’s just the trade-off [for] living this kind of life,” began John. “I’ve played somewhere around two-hundred shows last year; most of my life [is] on the road – which is amazing, it’s a pretty magical life… – but I still say that it is a pretty heavy price that you pay in terms of your personal life, just because you’re gone so much.”
Seen a cult figure amid fans of DFA’s work, Juan MacLean’s (real name: John MacLean) distinct musical sound is infused with lyrical content surrounded by the subject matter of this trade-off, and as he described, “it has been a big theme all along,” specifically within his latest work with Nancy Whang (LCD Soundsystem).
“For my last album, when we were writing lyrics, I feel like that was pretty much the central theme of the entire album, our experiences of living that way – spending pretty much our [whole] adult lives playing, and being touring musicians, and the fall-out of that,” he commented.
“It’s just such a different experience out there on the road, and [when] you come home, personally, I get very antsy. I don’t really want to be home very much.”
For John, the emotional conflict of living on the road has not turned toward a ‘sex, drugs and rock n’ roll’ platitude, and “I think that’s allowed me to have that kind of a schedule.”
“I think if you’re really getting messed up on drugs or drinking every night, and waking up just ruined every morning – then it’s pretty much impossible…” he explained, before reminiscing on a time when the DFA collective found dusty Polaroid shots taken before their real, ten-year touring and DJing cycle began, highlighting the before-and-after of their lifestyles.
“The affects of that were pretty astonishing,” he laughed. “I think it ages you exponentially.”
MacLean’s latest studio effort, ‘Everybody Get Close’ (2011) was an overtly emotive record, despite John’s admitted lack of deliberation for the balance of emotional tone within his music. But it is his attraction to melancholia that answers the above: an attraction that began with his musical roots and the influences of New Order and Joy Division, and a personal endeavor of combining the dark and the light within a progression of a single song.
“I think it has a lot to do with music I got really into when I was young,” explained John. “As a teenager, one of the biggest influences on me was New Order, and I was a big Joy Division fan before that, when I was a kid.
“I think being into that type of music really set the attraction for music that seems to be both uplifting and sad at the same time. It’s a tone that I’ve always tried to recreate as much as possible in my music, and I think it’s a very difficult thing to do.
“It’s easy to make overtly happy and upbeat music, or go in the other direction and make very dark music. But to somehow combine those element over the course of a single song, I think is a really difficult thing to do and something I’ve always aspired to do, and have been attracted to in other people’s music.”
John’s forthcoming turn on the Future Music Festival tour will be a reunion for the DFA Records collective, and this gathering is not only appreciated by the fans of the label, “I’ve looked forward to it for months!” he said. Undeniably, the musicians gracing the DFA stage have become a family that seldom sees each other, and unlike the customary traditions of family-ties coming loose, this is, once more, a touring ramification.
“The most exciting thing for me is having everyone in our DFA family together, on the same stage, playing the same festival,” John exclaimed. “All of us are on the road so much, a lot of the time we don’t get to see each other any-more – unless we cross paths somewhere else out in the world whilst we’re on tour. So to get everyone together on the same stage, and have a unified aesthetic going on that we’re in charge of, is really fun.”
The aesthetic mentioned by MacLean is a concept of taking the New York City life into Australia, giving James Murphy, Pat Mahoney and Juan MacLean, along with a slew of others gracing the stage, free rein in curating their Nightlife Exchange Program.
Ironically, however, for John “the fact is that night-life in New York kind of sucks at this point.” And in frankness, he continued. “Most of the nights that everyone is DJing are happening in new, boutique hotels that have clubs in them,” he emphasized with a tone of disdain and condescension for this trend. “Just New York, in terms of DJ culture has not been very good for a long time.”
The questions of loss of authenticity within the city that never sleeps are met with an explanation that is explicitly reminiscent to that of our own music industry irritations: ones that will be effortlessly understood and are frequently felt by musicians yearning for a space to perform.
“The problem is there are lots of amazing DJs and producers in New York, as much as there ever have been, and I think a lot of it has to do with zoning laws in the city,” he began.
“It’s just very difficult to open a club… and maintain a proper club. You essentially have to pay for a license to allow people to dance, and if you don’t have this license they will shut you simply by coming in and seeing people dance to music… so that’s really killed of a lot of night life in New York.”
Currently writing his new album with Nancy Whang, John clarified that the record is tentatively scheduled for a release at the conclusion of this year, or the beginning of 2013.