Cut Copy started in 2001 as a solo project by songwriter, producer, and DJ Dan Whitford, who released the single 1981 and the EP I Thought of Numbers before drafting in other members to fill out his synth and sample-based sound.
Bassist and guitarist Tim Hoey and drummer Mitchell Scott debuted on Cut Copy’s first full-length album, Bright Like Neon Love, released in the summer of 2004.
After several successful singles were spun off the album (including Saturdays, Future, and Going Nowhere), Universal’s Island Records imprint picked up the trio’s international distribution in 2006.
Cut Copy’s third album, In Ghost Colors, debuted at the top of Australia’s ARIA charts in 2008 and was placed on a number of publications’ year-end lists. After adding a fourth member, bassist Ben Browning, the group released its third studio album, Zonoscope, in 2011.
Dan Whitford accepted to answer some of our questions :
Cut Copy stormed into the international music scene in 2008. But if we look at the history of the band it obviously started a lot earlier. Can you give us a little resume about your early days from the very beginning till the international breakthrough?
Cut Copy was basically the first name I gave to anything that I personally worked on in music. It started out as a home recording project while I was studying design at art school, where I experimented with samplers, drum machines and keyboards. Most of them were slow instrumental tunes using drum breaks I’d chopped up from old jazz and rock records.
As things developed I got more interested in pop music and synth sounds and began collaborating with other people to make tunes. There were about 4 or 5 different friends I worked with at different points, but when it came to working on the first album recordings, I gave a bunch of tracks to Tim to try recording guitar parts and from there the band was born. We later added his housemate mitchell on drums and my friend Bennett on bass. We were all crap on our instruments, but somehow that didn’t matter, it brought a really interesting energy when combined with the programmed synth stuff I’d already written.
There are many fine Australian bands in the music history, but it was not very common to see bands and producers in the electronic dance culture so far. Can you name few Australian bands act who influenced you or worth to recommend from the past?
The Avalanches were probably one of my biggest influences in the early days. Their record changed my perception of what was possible as an artist, particularly an electronic artist from australia which has traditionally seemed quite insulated from the forefront of dance music culture. I also loved bands like INXS, Severed Heads, Icehouse and Sleepy Jackson.
And your success opens many doors to fellow bands acts, newcomers. Pls. name few great Australian bands/acts who are also worth to get international spotlight in the future.
I guess our contemporaries, The Presets and Midnight Juggernauts have become quite well known internationally. But in terms of smaller acts, people like Knightlife, Worlds End Press, Das Moth, Nile Delta and Tornado Wallace are all doing really interesting things with the spectrum of australian electronic music. But there really are endless names I could mention.
What was the big idea behind Zonocospe ?
I wanted the record to really feel like a psychedelic experience, or an escape to another world. My favorite records have a lot of detail to them and atmospheric or conceptual sides to them that really reward repeat listening. And that was basically the goal in making the record. The idea of the ‘Zonoscope’ is something that we came up with after finishing the music. We thought it would be good to think up a new word to describe the viewpoint of this other world which you escape to when listening to the album. So this was the name we came up with.
How long did it take to record Zonocospe? From songwriting to the end of the mastering process?
It’s difficult to put an exact figure on it. I spent about 6 months at home getting the basic demos together and recording a lot of the initial synthesizer, bass and guitar stuff. Then we spent a similar amount of time (in periods) doing more finished recording with the whole band. I guess this was our opportunity to experiment a lot more with percussion and weird guitar effects amongst other things.
You’re based in Melbourne at the moment, do you think you’ll relocate somewhere else in the future?
It’s hard to say. I’ve always liked the idea of living overseas, but creatively I’ve always loved being able to feel a bit isolated here in Melbourne. It’s so that you’re not swamped in culture as can tend to be the case in big cities like new york or london. I think it’s really helped us find our own thing, rather than trying to sound like the latest thing that everyone is listening to.
While music in general is constantly evolving these days, I’d say dance music is one of the fastest – changing because of all the new technology and recording techniques. How has your music changed since you first started?
I think it changes all the time. Some days I go back to listening to things I liked when we first started as a band, other days I’m listening to something completely new.
We’ve definitely become more able to realize our ideas, where as in the beginning (perhaps because we’d never really learned to play our instruments) it always felt like a bit of a fluke if everything worked and sounded good. These days I think we know what we’re doing a bit more!
How does the band write songs? Is it a collaboration? Does everyone bring in their own pieces?
Usually I’ll write the basic demo ideas, then we’ll workshop them. There’s definitely collaboration involved with every track to a greater or lesser degree.
What is your favorite part about going on tour and playing live?
I think it’s just the energy you get from the crowd. Making a record is such an introverted pursuit, so usually by the end of making a record you’re craving some time on the road. And there’s nothing better than having an amazing show to make you feel like people appreciate all the hard work.
What is your favorite song off of Zonocospe and why?
I think ‘need you now’ is my favorite. It has some sort of intangible classic quality to it where you could imagine it as a futuristic house song or even an anthemic Bruce Springstein number. Architecture in Helsinki recently did a version of the track with completely new instrumentation that made it sound like Roy Orbison. I think it’s a good testiment to it’s timelessness.
To conclude with, Where are you answering our interview questions from?
I’m on a plane flying from Melbourne to Auckland.
Last March you were in Paris to promote your new album live, so what is the first thing you remember about France now ?
It was such a crazy trip. We were in Paris for less than a day. We are always disappointed we dont get to do more shows in France. It’s strange because we finished our first album there and we have many memories and friends there, but we never seemed to get booked to play there. I’m not sure why that is.
Can you tell me some words in French?
Salut, Merci, Supercool, enchanté.
Any closing words for TEEZ’FM listeners?
Salut tout le monde! Je suis Dan de Cut Copy. A la prochaine fois.
Thanks to Dan Whitford, Pascale & Modular
interview by Thierry Jaussaud