MOUTHY MAGAZINE ISSUE THREE
interview by Ian C Stewart
Seksu Roba is a post electro neo pop duo from Los Angeles. Sukho is the producer and music-making half of the duo. He explains the division of labor. "Lun*na Menoh does vocals and some writing as well. I do production and basically everything else. On a technical note, I don't program any of the music except beats. Everything else is performed live on synths and theremin and guitar and edited together. More because I'm learning as I go, not so much on purpose."
What up with the group's name? "Seksu is Japanese for sex," he explains. "Roba is Japanese for donkey."
And who made them want to start making music in the first place? "Bands coming out in the 90s like Tipsy, Sukia, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Cornelius, who were playing around with unusual sample sources and retro sounds basically showed that this kind of stuff could actually get released. That meant that there was an audience out there ready for kind of strange, but fun music. Before that, I was down on bands and making music. Then I met Lun*na and we both had an urge to do something new, something different from all the usual rock bands and traditional dance music artists. But the ultimate sign was when the technology became affordable to record CD quality music at home with a relatively low budget. That helped jumpstart the whole thing."
Describing his musical idols, Sukho continues. "For our new album Pleasure Vibrations, I won't try to hide anything. There are some direct influences from specific artists I respect, like Giorgio Moroder, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Cerrone, Patrick Cowley, Ennio Morricone, Edu Lobo, Cabaret Voltaire, Prince. Then there are lots of less direct ones like Michel LeGrand, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Afrika Bambaataa, and Serge Gainsbourg. My earlier influences are pretty broad and random. I used to listen to a freeform college station in Michigan while growing up and was exposed to so many different types of music. I realized at that point that as different as everything can be, it's all music and all part of one continuum. If you really love music, you can't just love one type of music, like rock. Otherwise you only love rock music."
"Seksu Roba started out sort of following those other bands but also throwing in some other sounds that we had always liked, like Malcolm McClaren'sDuck Rock album. We also were trying to emulate old Moog and lounge records like Perrey And Kingsley, rather than just sampling them. We gradually let go of sampling altogether and became more interested in synths and trying to write and make more dancey music. We haven't abandoned our retro interests but the new album definitely has a more modern sound. We started doing live shows after the first album came out and we realized we wanted people to dance! And we wanted to write songs people could remember and recognize. So we started experimenting and that's about where we are now. So far, the new, more dancey, post disco-y vibe seems to be getting good reactions so we hope we're on the right track."
"We'll probably continue working on our newer, more pop sound. However, Seksu Roba will always have certain common elements of elegance or glamour that have been there from the beginning. There's also a heavy film soundtrack influence that will always be there because I'm obsessed with Ennio Morricone. At every show we've ever done, I've played a theremin cover version of a Morricone composition."
Delineating their songwriting methods, he says "we're just experimenting. I'm interested in sounds just as much as songs. Maybe moreso. I spend hours getting good sounds on a synth, and that inspires me to write a good part. It's kind of ridiculous, like reinventing the wheel for every song. But that's the thing I like about electronic music, you can create your own instruments and sounds."
Seksu Roba enjoys performing live "anywhere there's a large, open minded crowd who's never heard us before. We like Spaceland in Silverlake, California a lot. Just played there last night with Cinematic Orchestra and had fun. It's a good atmosphere. People usually seem willing to accept us. The Troubadour isn't bad either. In Italy, we played in a big theater to a crowd of over three hundred. In Mexico City we played for a large crowd too, with Fantastic Plastic Machine, but I'm not sure how many exactly. Probably around four hundred." For live performances they don't rely on sequencers. "Backing tracks are on CD-R. We make up for this lack of technical impressiveness with lots of actual live performing of vocals and theremin and synth and nunchucks."
Recalling his strangest collaboration, Sukho recounts "the strangest, or rather, most interesting, have been all the live recordings and performances I've done with Damo Suzuki. He used to sing with Can. If anyone hasn't listened to Can, they're missing out. Especially when Damo was with them. All of the performances I got to do with him, some of which were released on CD, were just such great experiences for me as a musician and human being. It's all improvised. Everything, including his vocals. It sounds like it could be a disaster, and sometimes it wasn't so great, but many many times it was really beautiful and felt really special and magical. Damo calls it instant composing and he refuses to record in the studio or even write anything. He only improvises. I personally have not seen any other thereminists improvise in this way but I think more should! It's crazy."
Their current playlist is understandably varied. "We both like Mount Sims and Felix da Housecat. I also like Adult. and Miss Kitten, Peaches, some stuff like that. I saw Magas recently and he put on an interesting show. I still think Bertrand Burgalat is one of the better producers out there. He'd be great to do something with. I'm not the best person to ask since i tend to listen mostly to older music. If i could collaborate with anyone in the world I'd want to work with the great film composers still living, like Morricone, LeGrand, Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein. Or with a totally famous pop singer like Michael Jackson. Producing a Jacko track would be totally amazing! He's due for a comeback, but he needs the right producer. I'm available, Michael!"
When asked if there's anything he's feeling mouthy about, Sukho says "I have a lot of strong opinions about music but I'm afraid many of them are negative when it comes to the state of music today. So instead I'd rather be mouthy about positive things. There seems to be a lot more enthusiasm around LA lately about live music, which is really great. It seems like, for a while, it was kind of dead, but there are several bands around that are generating some excitement and buzz. Unfortunately, not enough original electronic artists, it's still mostly rock bands, but at least people are going out to see shows."
Seksu Roba's Pleasure Vibrations will be out in the US on Eenie Meenie and on Crippled Dick Hot Wax! in Germany in September.
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