token girl: like a girl, but better

Monday, 18 May 2009

RETURN TO NEW YORK: Interview with Nancy Whang - electroclash muse, jumpsuit ambassador and icon of NYCool


Nancy Whang, today in YSL sweater and carrying not one, but 2 slouchy bags at Bar Italia in Soho is very much still the coolest woman of the international electroclash scene 2002-present. Muse to many, she's the stage-right star of LCD Soundsystem, the voice of Soulwax's Nite Versions and now the perfect pop accompaniment to The Juan MacLean's retro/disco revival. Their new record is about to be my 'sound of the summer' album. Nancy’s currently on tour with Juan and the band doing keys and choruses, but she usually resides in Brooklyn NYC.

Because we only had about 20minutes for the interview after their soundcheck at Madame Jojo’s [where they apparently played an amazing extended version of the already-extended ‘happy house’] and I didn’t have my Dictaphone with me, I forgot to ask her some very important questions, such as, where do your lyrics come from? And you inspire the music, but what inspires you? And can you recommend any jumpsuit outlets?

But never mind. Let the Nancy traxx speak for themselves: [Singing isn't even her real job either! how cool is that.]

Top 5 Nancy traxx!
1. losing my edge with LCD 'i know what you really want'
2. e-talking with SOULWAX 'it's not you, it's the e-talking'
3. happy house with THE JUAN MACLEAN 'launch me into space'
4. NY excuse with SOULWAX 'this is the excuse that you're making, you're making'
5. one day with THE JUAN MACLEAN 'one day baby... i'l
l tell you
what you wanna hear'

How long have you been working with The Juan Maclean?
Well I worked on his first record [Less Than Human, 2005], which was like a solo project for him and there were a couple of tracks that he wanted to have female vocals on so he asked me to sing them. I remember listening to the record again after it was made and thinking, 'Oh my god I'm actually on a lot of that record!' So actually I think I'm on it a lot more than I remember being on it, but that [the first album] was a kinda different thing [to the new one], it wasn't so much singing as being like this 'other instrument'. And then we played a couple of shows together, but that was around when LCD started getting busy so I couldn't really do that much... Then a couple of years ago we started on this record - Juan wanted it to be more pop songs with more of that kind of singing on it and a pop structure.

How did you get into playing music in the first place?
It was through LCD really - most people want to be in a band but I never even played in high school - never wanted to!

How did you get into LCD then? From LDN, Brooklyn in the early 00s looked like the most exciting scene ever - parties and people and bands.
Yeah, well it was a bit like that, but I mean, you know, it was, fun and cool, but it wasn't all concentrated in New York. It was a much smaller group of people and there was also lots of other stuff going on too. Basically I met James (Murphy) years ago through friends and he put together a live band and wanted friends to join him. We were just gonna play a couple of shows maybe over a couple of weekends...

Was it like formal nightclub shows or friends' parties?
The first ever show we played was in London at the Great Eastern Hotel at a Return to New York party. It was crazy, in this amazing hotel and all the people that were there, that we met that day, we've stayed friends with over the years. All of us started out at the same time. [You can read an NME review of one of the early RTNY parties here].

What do you think of your Soulwax collaborations - how do you see them now, in retrospect... after all, they're still the party classics, right?
Well, I don't know really... I can't really listen to 'NY Excuse’ now - the sound of my voice on that is grating to me, but it was really fun to make and you know, for sentimental reasons. But I always hate that song, I don't know why... For the remixes on the Nite Versions, I wasn't there for the recording and they ended up so far from the original versions... [my recording of this bit of the interview on my old mobile phone was really difficult to decipher, but Nancy appears in the Soulwax film Part of the Weekend Never Dies where she speaks about the making of E-Talking and lots more. I can thoroughly recommend it].

I don't even think of the Nite Versions as a remix album now... When they did Any Minute Now, it was really hard for them and they'd been working on it for a long time. They were djing a lot and playing live, but when it came to the record, it was complicated to go back to playing as a rock band - when they were djing...and making dance music... and Any Minute Now is a really good rock record, but Nite Versions was the album they should have made... and they couldn't have made NV without AMN.

What of your musical accomplishments are you most proud of?
Just that I'm doing this at all, really! It wasn't really on my agenda to make music, I think I was just really lucky - met the right people at the right time.

All of these boys (DFA crew, 2ManyDJs, Juan Maclean) dj, don't they? But do you?
I don't - but I think about it all the time. I have a moderately large record collection, but I think I have a kind of mental block against it...hmm I don't know that I could do it... I really don't think I should! I talked to my friends about it and they were like, 'Yeah, it's so easy' and I'm like, 'I don't think it's easy!' I think it's one of the easier things to do for a living, but I don't think it would be. And the other thing is that Juan is a great dj - all these people, all my friends who dj are GREAT djs and I can't even try to do that - and I don't want to because I know that I could never be a 'great' dj - I mean, I might be a GOOD dj, but it's a really different way of listening to music.

On the new album - [which i'd only been able to listen to once by this point...] I hear the The Human League in there, lots of 80s pop references...
Yeah, that was our framework - The Human League were obviously an influence and Kraftwerk are always in the back of our minds and Grace Jones, always.

Did she inspire your jumpsuits as well?
Yes and no. She definitely has amazing style, and a great look and the personality, but actually my friend Mandy made me a jumpsuit first of all. What happened was, I was working in a woodshop building sets and I got tired of having to wear dirty clothes all the time, so then I started changing my clothes when I got to work every day, but that was annoying too, but then I was like, why don't I just put on a coverall and I really enjoyed being in a coverall because it was just one piece, a complete outfit. Then I started looking in second hand shops for jumpsuits to wear on stage.

What were you making?
I was making window displays for stores... So yeah, powertools!

What's been your favourite gig?
We've only been playing a bit - last year we toured for a couple of months, I feel like we're still practising, so I think it's gonna take a few months to get into it. We're not playing Sonar this year, but maybe next time.

Do have to keep your 'day job' too?
I haven't been working - I could go back to work if I wanted to but I don't really want to but it's nice to NOT work. I may go back, but my job before, when I was a set designer was great because I could be away for a year and come back to it.

Are you a native New Yorker?
I grew up in Portland, Oregon, but I've lived in New York since 1995.

The home of riot grrrl, right?
I never got into that scene even though I was in that region of the country. And I,um, liked boys.

More Juan Maclean: website & myspace

My photos from their brilliant art-rave show in the foyer of Queen Elizabeth Hall at ETHER on 21 April here.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

ex-press yourself

rock chicks (PUKE) have their ramones, gNr and skid row tees and slithery drainpipes, but what do dance divas have apart from a glowstick and a glazed stare?
i've amassed a near-redundant collection of variously mangled, reassembled, customised pop music people merchandises which have hardly been worn ever and are now stored in greyed, rolled up raggity lumps under rotting cardies in my wardrobe. apart from MADONNA and TIGA, most were drunken/internet/impulse buys, not fashion statements - yes i possibly loved every band at the time, but (1) t-shirts really really don't suit me (2) why do i have to show off about who i like in clothes form? no one cares.

when i got my first BABE t-shirt in '94 it didn't take me long to realise that letting your t-shirt do the talking's a fun (if dumb) way of getting attention. while rock and pop acts have always flogged their brands on carefree cotton, dance kids have always been a bit more subtle, imaginative or just not bothered about pledging public allegiances on their clothes. increasingly, however, the rave scene's been having fun with this simple & effective medium, starting with those let's move to berlin and buy t-shirts t-shirts and culminating in a whole rail of slogan tops...

for the much-dreaded end of the end, mr c & co have commissioned a shirt-company to design a mini-collection commemorating the underground good times everyone's enjoyed there. i like this TIL DEATH DO US PARTY vest (which is pretty much sold out). the black and gold (bl-a-ck and gold) is always a winning combination - just ask adidas, nike and AA. but roll out the clearance rail for bpitch's techno tees (above) - who wants to be more techno than you?? i hope the phrasing got lost in translation. not funny. but I H8 techno? that's more like it.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

everybody wants to be a dj

last friday night when i would usually be following on my post-work dinner and drinks with a disco, i instead went home to witness the disco, on-screen, courtesy of the brothers dewaele. part of the weekend never dies wasn't a bad motto for me to live by once upon a time - and only temporarily - but soulwax did it for about 2 years, playing gigs by day, djing by night and doing their rock-rave thing the rest of the time. yeah they're old, but in their new, hmm... documentary? (don't want to do a play on words for that one) they are throughly aged in the white jeans and polo tees> that's the night version of their stage-wear. not that it matters. if they're old, (like their contemporaries featured here: lcd, tiga, erol), then the wobbly, careless youth of their audiences brings the average age of the cast down a generation or so.
structured around the playlist of their always-played, recycled anyminutenow/niteversions, i'm thrown back in the pit at fabric, glastonbury, canvas (RIP) and SONAR this summer for KRACK, ny excuse... not bored, just thrilled, again unashamedly. soulwax wouldn't go away. we moaned about their bad parties - the easter overload in kings x when everything broke and everyone had to q, even to get home, but they deserve this extended mtv interview. the only proper document of the electro-trash scene committed to serious celluloid. NY excuse to listen to soulwax again.

Monday, 29 September 2008


issue 9 launches at the lock tavern on wednesday 15th october - james did this KWAIIII flyer for us. girl gangs tky style!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

boho-etton: has benetton really gone crustie??

benetton's a/w campaign has hit the tubes with a rainbow brite-fest of crusty-inspired colour and woolen hair-jumper get ups. it looks as if the creatives from their agency have been watching fraggle rock boxsets in between getting psychedelic at glade/in the greenfields! if the models in this pic didn't look so guilelessly happy, i'd have to shield my eyes and run away. it brings me right back to freshers week 1999, when i was doing high street hippy-chic in pink buffalo slippers.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

sonar, so good (again)

Kittin is high. Kittin is climbing across the decks on all fours, purring 'Rippin Kittin' and there should be fireworks going off in the sky right now above SonarPub she's so hot. The world's finest goth-techno-leopard-print-diva has devised a super-sized laptop solo show this year, but Mademoiselle Caroline could probably play broken records (which, wonderfully, she's done at previous Sonars) and still have us eating from her paws. Favourites from 'Thee Glitz' days right up to the recent 'Batbox' are multiplied and mixed live into stadium-filling, acid house anthems then overladen with those irresistibly accented lyrics. The Sonar press department might have been hyping the 'female factor' on the lineup, but every single year, the very womanly Miss Kittin unofficially headlines the festival and its reputation rides on her tattooed shoulders.

Last year Hamburg label Dial released (whisper it) 'This Bliss', the debut album by emo-minimal deity Pantha du Prince and some divine decisionmaker has put him in the sublime sunrise-slot. His live set is all surface-sparse techno, teetering on the deep side of house. Whatever it's called, this is music to make you go limp, wobble a bit and not recover your senses until several days later. Each shift in tempo or silky new sound in 'Eisbaden' or 'Saturn Strobe' is an exploding star expanding across the galaxy. When 'Florac' builds up then breaks into a mind-blowing sitar-drone apocalypse, it levels this girl to a trembling wreck, crouching on the concrete floor.

By which time the sun's up for non-stop dj/producer/legend Ricardo Villalobos. Since it's Sonar and since he's closing proceedings (for now) he appears to have undergone some kind of photosynthetic transformation in the Barcelona heat. This morning he could be on the terrace at Space, spinning what sounds Balearic house and having a very non-serious-techno time of it, so that when the glittering curtain finally falls he's grinning, hands aloft behind the decks and we're already counting down the days to Sonar09.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

i heard a rumour

respect to my fave madonna blog, madonnalicious (and so she is!) who are refusing to report/just plain ignoring the *whisper* divorce rumours... good! no true fan would care to indulge such tabloid-filler when there's the far more important matter of STICKYNSWEET tour rumours to listen to!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

you can't knock the hustle

You belong to the city
You belong to the night
In the river of darkness
He's a man of the night

omg jayz jayz JAY-Z!! can't believe he used to be hustling mixtapes with wraps of crack on the streets of NYC! he's SUCH A sweetheart - maybe something to do with beautiful B?

the whole jay-z/glastonbury ordeal ('controversy') has been sooo painful to witness. i don't think this would've been the case if it had been kanye booked in the headline slot - it's less to do with hiphop as a genre, than jay-z's low-visibility over here... even though he made 2 of the biggest hits in years (crazy in love and umbrella?)? i was putting the embarrassment down to the medyah until i watched it last night and witnessed the crowd for myself - only the chicks in the front row knew wtf was going down! no one even seemed to appreciate that utterly cutesome, badass brit-rap that he did 28 minutes in!! bow down mofos! bow tha fuck down!

and i also CAN't BELIEVE that he played 'can i get a OOO-OOO' at glastonbury!! one of my all-time swing-jack tunes ever, 'bounce wit me bounce wit me, uh huh'! yeeeeeeah


Friday, 30 May 2008

festival fatigue(s)

one of the side effects of a choc-a-block festival season (may---september) is that the packed calendar has given every publication with an inch of 'shopping' column an excuse to write a lazy feature on how to do FESTIVAL "CHIC". said piece will pull together dribs and drabs which look as if they've been scavenged from the bottom of sienna's 'scraps for windowcleaning drawer'.

i'm signed up to all the highstreet e-mailouts (whyyyy? farewell personal data) and so have been getting advice from RIVER ISLAND, urban outfitters, asos (of all places!) on what to buy before i p*ss of (and it p*sse* down) to 'glasto'/v/... - who has ever been to a festival (in this country) and found a sensible reason to wear anything other than knee-high wellington boots? (which is a trend in itself) bejewelled flipflops anyone?

beachwear i can fathom, wedding outfits - i suppose, festival chic - no.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

auf deutsch, bitte

...which reminds me that i also bought this. i'm going to attempt some kind of small flowchart to describe what was one of the best vogues i've seen in years (it helps that i don't know any german so am just going on the pretty pictures).
supermodel> claudia schiffer> naked> check
photographer> legend> mario testino> blankchequebudget> check
superhero trend> catwoman> fetish> mask> luella S/S08> check
sex> sells> check

and that was just the cover!