When it comes to summing up a year in music, writers often look for lyrical soundbites to assist their memories. “Cigarettes and alcohol”, “twisted firestarter”, that sort of thing.
Yet when it comes to getting a phrase that will throw a blanket over 2009, “nothing is under control” will take some beating. It’s the work of Adam Freeland, or more specifically the band that bears his name – and which has far outgrown the reach of simply the DJ himself.
He’s pleased with how second album Cope turned out. “I think it is a real progression,” he says animatedly, “or it feels like that anyway. It’s a lot more song focused this time around, and I think it is more influenced by shoegaze and desert drone rock, because I’m a lot more into that sort of stuff now. With the previous Freeland album (Now & Them) there were slightly more in the way of guest vocalists, whereas this time I think because it’s Kurt (Baumann) on the majority of tracks, that’s what ties it together better.”
Listening to Cope, it becomes clear Freeland has avoided the standard guest vocalist clichs that sit around dance music albums, incorporating his guests into his own sound rather than the other way round. He approves of this notion. “The idea wasn’t to get guest vocalists just for the sake of it. These people are friends of mine, but the tracks weren’t about building a song around the vocal – most of the time it was writing the instrumentals and taking things from there.”
He elaborates. “Jerry Casale, the Devo singer, he wrote Only A Fool (Can Die), those are all his lyrics, while the concept behind Borderline was mine, although Brody Dalle sings on it. I told her the story of what the song was to be about but as soon I gave her the title and what it was about she just did it. With SoundPool they wrote the lyrics for Silent Speaking, which is more of a shoegaze track.”
Freeland is candid with his discovery of Baumann, and what he thinks the vocalist has brought to the band. “It’s an identity, simple as that,” he says. “I felt with the last tour that what we have now is a proper front man. Which is great, because I’m not a singer! The band bears my name but I’m usually stood at the back. Kurt’s got a great depth in his character and a great voice, which really helps us. As a performer he’s very charismatic, and it doesn’t hurt that the girls seem to love him! As I said, he brings a lot of continuity to the vocals.”
The process for writing and recording Cope was a long one. “I wrote three albums”, Freeland reveals, “a total shoegaze/drone rock album, which I realised was self indulgent and over the mark, and then a super electronic album which was too clubby – it’s what I do as a DJ. Then I realised I could put those things together, and that was my Eureka moment. The process took a long time, but the actual record itself only took about seven months to record.”
Though life in the band has become an increasingly major part of his life, Freeland’s love and passion for DJing has not diminished in the slightest. “They’re different things,” he muses, “and I find that people expect you to do just one thing and stick to it. I can’t do that though, I love DJing but I also write music that’s not meant to be club tracks. Both make the other interesting for me, because if I was writing dance bangers all the time I’d be bored. They’re not separate identities, just different elements. Looking back on it I was foolish to call my band Freeland, I admit, because it draws too much of a link to me rather than the band itself. It was a stupid thing – I almost called it something else and kind of wished I had!”
- Adam Freeland happily gives the baton to his band’s vocalist, Kurt Baumann.
A lot has happened musically in the intervening period between Now & Them, which is after all nearly six years. “I think obviously there’s a lot more cross pollination between rock and pop and electronic now, and I think that’s become a lot more acceptable. Before, particularly in dance music, a song would have been a female vocal, and now I think there’s much more balance. For me, the energy has changed from ecstasy culture to what we have now, which is an indie-electro thing. I think it’s more of a punk rock, alcohol energy than a deep, ecstasy energy.”
He considers further. “I think it’s totally fair to say that, because regardless of what you think about drugs they definitely influence music and cultures. It’s an energy change, and for me, being a rocker at heart, it’s very good to see.”
So is it fair to say the live aspect of electronic music has responded accordingly? “I think so. People realise now that it’s as important to put on a performance as it is to play the music. At some point in the mid ’90s people started facing the DJ at club nights, and after a while it was uncool to look at the crowd, let alone smile. Then some people put their fists in the air and that was definitely uncool, that was selling out. It’s clear that even as a DJ you are a performer, and you can put on a good show. People have realised that with electronic bands as well, and club culture was a reaction to that.”
Freeland’s Marine Parade label has had its own fair share of difficulties, which could be tied in chronologically with the demise of other labels in the electronic field. This one was slightly different, however. “I’ve always thought that musically we were turning it around!” he says defiantly. “Financially we had a tough spot when our distributor went under. They funded us a load of money, and we’d spent it. That made it kind of hard, because when they went down we had no money, but then their debt collectors came calling. There was all this logistical bullshit, but I don’t think that creatively we really stopped. We’ve got Evil Nine and Alex Metric on the label, and both are doing really well. We’ve got a good posse where we’re all really good friends.”
Freeland will be out on the festival circuit this year, but not before some touring in the DJ’s now home country, the USA. “We’re doing a couple of shows at Glastonbury”, he says, “and we’ve got a great slot on the Friday night in the dance tent. We’re also doing Glade, Get Loaded In The Park and the Secret Garden Party, as well as some festivals in Europe. Really with the band we’re just getting started tour-wise, and we’ve got the West Coast of the States to do before Glastonbury.”
So that’s all very well for the band – but how is Adam Freeland the DJ progressing? He mulls that one over a bit before responding. “I think a lot of DJs are styled in a specific sound, and have made that a specific niche, which means that haven’t really moved on that much. I guess I have a sound, but I’m always really hungry to hear new stuff, and that keeps you moving on. Your fans would like to know what they hear, I think, but I always like to keep it fresh. I feel like I’m always progressing, and am producing a lot, and a lot of what I’m playing is my own productions or stuff on Marine Parade. DJing shouldn’t be a job, it should be a passion!”