Zoot Woman are the Blake brothers, Johnny (lead singer) and Adam (drums and programming) plus famous dance music mogul Stuart Price (aka Jacques Lu Cont, aka Les Rythmes Digitales), three otherwise bog standard Reading lads (Reading is a big town with not much in it near London). The Grapevine spoke with Johnny about living in a world in which Electroclash is no longer the next big thing.
Grapevine: So seeing as Electroclash the “movement” has pretty much died a quick painless death (Fischerspooner bankrupted Ministry of Sound when the bottom fell out of the movement) how does your music fit into current scenes?
Johnny: We never think ‘this is going to work in this market’. First we got compared to Ladytron, we were too zoomed in to see it, but I can see it now, and the 80s thing. But it’s not about a current scene. We have very different influences and skills.
The third album will be different, we lost something on the second, the first was more nostalgic sounding, we were happy with the second but we went quite dark. The third is more positive, not in a cheesy way, but more optimistic. Really like many artists a lot of our songs are love songs. If that’s not too corny.
Grapevine: How did the Electroclash sound fare in other countries?
Johnny: In the UK the wave was short lived. At the end of the day you can’t blame people for putting us in that category. You know you are going to get placed somewhere, you can only stand by your songs, but it would be nice if we can outlive any scene. No one ever wants to say ‘we are going to make a commercial album’ but we want it to be accessible.
Grapevine: Where do you expect people to play your music?
Johnny: Well, I don’t know, an interviewer in Vienna said he had a few beers and a spliff and really enjoyed the music. I never expected that, I expected it to be listened to out in clubs.
But our album format isn’t quite right for the UK scene. It’s received better in the rest of Europe. In the UK, it’s Adam’s and Stuart’s Paper Faces remixes that are always played on the radio. I prefer the album versions. I like songs in a more traditional format.
Grapevine: You are way more popular around the rest of Europe especially Germany than in your home country. What do the Germans get that maybe not everyone else does?
Johnny: There’s a certain barrier lifted in Germany. I still think UK music is the best, but there’s more stigma attached to certain sounds in the UK. Although the Kraftwerk cover we did on our first album did make us look like we were taking the piss in Germany. It’s one of my only regrets, because after our first album I really got into Kraftwerk and realized we might have butchered it.
Grapevine: So you’ve just done Copenhagen, Vienna and Belgium – how’s this tour going?
Johnny: Can’t say we’ve had a bad gig. We are looking forward to Iceland, its somewhere we’ve never played before, will be interesting, I can’t imagine what the music is going to be like. But it’s going to be a short visit, which is the annoying thing with touring, but hopefully we will get up early and see the sights.
Grapevine: What can Airwaves expect?
Johnny: Silver suits! It is a show. The image represents the sound. It possibly overshadowed the music on the first album. We were trying to make an impression.
(In a brief aside, Johnny lets slip that the line up has been changed, in Stuart’s place there’s a new member Beatrice, who answered their advert on the Internet, playing bass and keys bass. Stuart is ‘busy’.)
Grapevine: Don’t the crowds expect Stuart to be there?
Johnny: Only once has someone shouted out ‘Where’s Stuart?’ I ignored him, as long as they don’t start chanting it!
Grapevine: The future?
Johnny: We’re interested in getting songs across to people, but there’s still something about Zoot Woman that doesn’t get across. A lot of bands say, “we want to be the biggest band in the world”, but why do they want that? The Stone Roses just wanted to be the biggest band in Manchester. I like that.
Grapevine: Do you just want to be the biggest band in Reading then?
Johnny: (Laughing.) Seriously, I’d like to make a mark on music. Zoot Woman can’t afford to be arrogant, we can be aloof and people say ‘who do they think they are?’ We want to make an impact on countries that haven’t heard us yet and the UK. I just want people to say about Zoot Woman ‘you’ve got to see that band.’
Grapevine: What is your audience like?
Johnny: 50/50 men and women, 20-somethings. You have to take your hat off to the people who come to our gigs, some of them look like they’ve made more effort on their outfit than the band.
Grapevine: If your fans like pretending to be you, who do you aspire to be like?
Johnny: Parents. No, em, The Beatles and Rolling Stones are a little obvious. I like Human League, The Eurythmics, Depeche Mode, but the current Killers album is my favourite, and we gigged with the Stereo MC’s who were brilliant. Who are we playing with in Iceland?
Zoot Woman will perform at Airwaves on Saturday, Oct 22 at NASA