GAMES: THAT WE CAN PLAY.
I know i’m not the only one who grew up with a father who swore by his new family-friendly, early-Macintosh computer and the obnoxious, banshee-level-of-noise printer that accompanied it. The sounds that resonated, or should I say, pummeled out of that little piece of early CPU technology were some of the most menacing and dissonant noises i’ve ever experienced, and they still haunt me to this day. Heaven help anyone entering my home between the years of 1989 and 1995 when that printer was in operation. Guests in my home would have swore that Cyberdyne Systems were overseeing brainwashed factory workers working long, grueling night shifts like slaves in some sort of industrial setting alongside heavy machinery, pulleys and repetitive, monotonous robotics. Of course I would tell my guests not to worry, and lead them down into the damp, musky cellar to see that it was merely a late-1980’s/early-1990’s printer making all the racket.
Daniel Lopatin: We met in sixth grade. We were in the same science class. We teamed up for a 3D plaster of Paris project where we created a futuristic shopping environment that consisted of record stores only. It was like Monopoly, but you went around buying CDs and tapes. It made no sense and was REALLY heavy to carry. Joel’s dad dropped us off at school and had to carry it in for us. I remember one time Joel got Metallica’s Black Album on tape and we were super psyched to listen to it but when we got to Joel’s house, we opened the case and (Green Day’s) Dookie was inside. It was dark.
Joel Ford: We used to jam in Dan’s basement on his dad’s Juno-60 [synthesizer] and an Ensoniq SQ-2 [synthesizer] which we borrowed from our high school music department. I used the SQ-2 as a drum machine, manual/Kraftwerk style. That was really the first time we were seriously thinking about electronic music together. Years later, I was living in NYC doing Tigercity and Dan was in Boston getting OPN off the ground.
DL: We really wanted to keep collab-ing and at some point we found ourselves in the middle of an intense 72-hour internet writing frenzy. This was the beginning of Games. Our respective bands got super busy and it took us moving into an apartment together this year to really get the project going again. We did a week of demos during the summer of 2009 at Joel’s parents’ house in Massachusetts. This is basically when we discovered our sound and approach. We had a ridiculously sick collection of vintage synths that we amassed over the years.
Pitchfork: What would you say are your main musical influences?
JF & DL: DJ Paul, DJ Screw, Aphex Twin, DJ Premier, midfunk, Italo disco, the Weather Channel, Weather Report, Return to Forever, Boards of Canada, James Ferraro. [Gang Starr’s] Moment of Truth and [Miles Davis’] On the Corner are huge records for us. DJ Premier and Teo Macero are two of our favorite producers. Their cuts and edits always recontextualize performances and samples in the most psychedelic way.
DL: [Gang Starr’s] “Robin Hood Theory” is a blueprint-level jam for us. There’s other, lesser discussed [DJ Premier] beats that are just as good, but Moment of Truth was a classic when we were in high school and really got us moving in the direction of samplers and stuff like that.
Pitchfork: Between the images on your Tumblr, as well as the “Everything Is Working” video, you seem to favor a visual aesthetic for this music as well. Would you say you have a specific visual aesthetic you’re drawing from?
DL: I’m super into dudes like Megazord, Jon Rafman, Rasmus Emanuel Svensson, Tabor Robak, and Michael Willis to name a few. We like shithoused Windows PC art and melted boomboxes and snowmobiles and corporate campus photos.
JF: Basically anything that reminds us of our dads at work.
Pitchfork: Daniel, how does your compositional approach to Games differ from your approach to your work as Oneohtrix Point Never?
DL: OPN is completely off the grid. Its like the slime underneath techno and other synth-oriented music. Games is like hardwired plumbing in the house of pop. It’s not pop itself, its sort of like the behind-the-scenes arteries and capillaries of pop music. Games isn’t REALLY pop music, and neither is OPN. Both are part of the same ecosystem and both deal with exploring the undercurrents of pop music.
JF: Our EP That We Can Play comes out in late September/early October. The first single, “Strawberry Skies”, is a Law & Order-inspired computer-funk jammer featuring [Brooklyn musician/singer] Laurel Halo.
DL: Joel’s solo project Airbird is gonna drop real soon. We’re going to Jan Hammer’s studio in December to record the Games full-length LP.
Pitchfork: Wait, what?
JF: Jan Hammer’s son lives in Brooklyn and happens to be a Tigercity fan. I met up with him recently and we’re trying to work out the details of tracking synths for the Games full-length record at his dad’s studio in upstate New York…We’re honing in on the concept still, but it definitely involves athletic cuts and smooth jazz-fusion.